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‘Only A Game’ Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago, Only A Game made its debut from the studios of 90.9 WBUR in Boston. Today, in partnership with NPR, it remains the only sports show in all of public radio, and the only nationally syndicated radio sports program based in Boston.

Hosted since inception on July 24, 1993, by veteran NPR sports commentator and author Bill Littlefield, Only A Game has stayed true to its mission for two decades, covering the intimate human stories behind athletic achievements big and small, with topics ranging from Little Leagues to the big leagues, from the Super Bowl to soccer moms. During its one-hour program each week, Littlefield and the staff have continually put sports into perspective with intelligent analysis, insightful interviews and a keen sense humor. Recent guests include NBA Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Phil Jackson; author John Grisham on baseball; legendary baseball manager Tony La Russa, former Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden, and Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield; Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas; tennis greats Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, and Serena Williams; golfer Annika Sorenstam; and Pro Football Hall of Famers Larry Czonka and Carl Eller.

“From the beginning, Only A Game’s ‘secret sauce’ has been getting at the anatomy of what makes the celebration of sports special in all of our lives, whether you’re an athlete or not,” said Sam Fleming, managing director of news and programming, WBUR. “Nobody captures that magic better in the world of sports journalism than Bill Littlefield and the team at Only A Game.”

In the last 20 years, the show has featured in-depth reporting on issues that affect both professional and amateur athletes including concussions; performance-enhancing drugs; Title IX; and the impact of municipal funding for new pro sports stadiums. Littlefield takes pride in Only A Game’s commitment to covering women’s sports and participatory activities that illustrate the humanity sports can provide for all genders and ages, whether its soccer games in Spain or pick-up rugby games in Cambridge, Mass.

Only A Game also explores the little known corners of the sports world, capturing stories from participatory sports that lack the star power to attract attention from other media outlets. Over the years, they’ve covered everything from trampoline dodgeball to lobster boat drag racing. Only A Game also celebrates a mash-up of sports and poetry with its annual Super Bowl Haiku competition. Another consistently popular hallmark of Only A Game is the weekly sports round up with renowned Esquire and Grantland magazine writer and Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! contributor Charlie Pierce, formerly of The Boston Globe.

In addition to Littlefield and Pierce, the staff which is one of the longest running teams in public radio, includes Senior Producer Gary Waleik; Producer Karen Given; Producer Doug Tribou; and Technical Director John Perotti.

Only A Game airs on nearly 200 public radio stations across the country, reaching more than 300,000 weekly listeners. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Only A Game is planning a retrospective look at the show throughout 2013, including occasional archival audio highlights, updates on favorite past stories and interviews, as well as a live event in Boston.

In Greater Boston, Only A Game airs every Saturday at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 90.9 FM. Check your local listings for other Only A Game broadcasts, or simply download the podcast at http://onlyagame.wbur.org/.

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