By Hannah Lee | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Like many of us, Aarav Parekh, who just turned 14, and his younger brother, Arsh Parekh, 12, spent hours early on in the pandemic parked in front of the TV. That meant loads of ESPN and the like for the self-proclaimed sports-obsessed siblings. After weeks of watching Stephen A. Smith share his own sports opinions, the brothers had an idea: Why not make their own show?
The “Two Brothers and Their Sports” podcast got off the ground in April 2020, and already the boys have recorded more than 50 episodes. The two opted for this media outlet despite a lack of any prior audio knowledge. Aarav and Arsh started spending their free time teaching themselves how to operate the equipment. (Nothing you can’t learn from a little Google searching and some YouTube videos, right?)
The boys, with the help of their parents, Zankhna Parekh and Selene Parekh, redesigned a bonus room in their South Durham home into a personal studio. The walls are now adorned with jerseys of their favorite teams, like the Dallas Cowboys. They’ve set up touch-screen laptops and a Yeti microphone at a table – their primary workspace – so everything feels and sounds professional.
“We wanted to educate young people like ourselves who are interested in sports,” Aarav says. “You always see the ‘Skip and Shannon: Undisputed’ show and all that on ESPN. But we wanted to do something from a kid’s perspective that other kids would enjoy.”
So far, so good. Listen Notes, a podcast search engine, ranked “Two Brothers and Their Sports” in the top 10% of most popular shows out of more than 1.7 million podcasts globally. The brothers’ show has also secured six different brand partnerships across various industries.
That popularity might come in part from the boys’ talent at taking the biggest sports news topics and making it digestible for younger listeners. But it also stems from the honest and, at times, critical conversations the two share about athletes and teams during their weekly discussions – even calling out Tom Brady in their debut episode. That element makes for an entertaining show.
“Tom Brady is amazing, but he won’t be able to get adjusted fully to the system until a year-and-a-half, two years … and after a few years I think his performance will decline if it hasn’t already,” Aarav says in the first two minutes of the April 14, 2020 episode.
They credit a lot of that confidence to the aforementioned ESPN personalities, who they listen to and watch on a regular basis.
“We thought, if they can do it, why can’t we?” Aarav says. “And if we have valid points – and we’re not just calling out Lebron James for doing something – then I think it’s appropriate.”
It is, of course, easy to criticize athletes from a distance; it’s much more difficult when you’ve got a professional on the other end of the phone line. But the brothers slowly worked their way up the ranks of athletic prestige, interviewing local athletes like UNC field hockey forward Dorrit Eisenbeis all the way to Denver Nuggets forward Mason Plumlee (who also attended Duke University) and U.S. World Cup winner Jessica McDonald.
One question, though: How the heck are two kids from Durham landing interviews with pro athletes?
“We’re using social media and the web to help us connect to these people,” Arsh says.
“And surprisingly,” Zankhna says, “the athletes have been responding well.”
Consider this a self-made internship for the brothers, who both hope to eventually work in the sports industry. Specifically, they’d like to keep doing what they’re doing, just on a larger platform. The dream is to eventually become personalities in their own right, much like those they’ve come to follow on ESPN and Fox Sports.
For the time being, Aarav and Arsh will continue riding the momentum they’ve built with their podcast. “These boys literally wake up talking sports, go to bed talking sports and talk sports everything in between,” Zankhna says. “I’m very happy they are following their passion, but most importantly, [they] have fulfilled their dream of being a source of entertainment to their peers during such a difficult time.”