‘Vice World of Sports’ Host on How His Show Isn’t Really About Sports (Video)

Viceland series “uses a sports lens to really take a look at cultures, people and places you really wouldn’t normally get to,” Sal Masekela tells TheWrap

Last Updated: February 22, 2017 @ 9:13 PM

From covering extreme sports for ESPN, NBC and Red Bull to traveling around South Africa with his jazz singer father during the 2010 World Cup, Sal Masekela has seen aspects of the world that most viewers don’t even know exist.

He now brings that unique perspective to Viceland as the host and executive producer of “Vice World of Sports,” which airs its Season 2 premiere Wednesday night, and boasts the raw, no-boundaries reporting that viewers have learned to expect from Vice.

Masekela sat down with TheWrap’s Debbie Emery to explain why this was the natural evolution for Shane Smith’s media brand — and why you don’t need to be a sports fan get hooked.

“‘Vice World of Sports’ uses a sports lens to really take a look at cultures, people and places you really wouldn’t normally get to,” Masekela told TheWrap. “So you don’t have to be a sports fan to get engaged with our show.

“We try to tell stories about the culture and give people an opportunity to learn about the world,” he said, but without pushing an opinion on viewers.

While many of us won’t have heard of the locations “Vice World of Sports” visits, never mind be able to pick them out on a map, Masekela says there are some things that are common to all people around the globe.

“We all need to eat, we need to breathe, politics rule our life, religion is something that we’ve had throughout the ages and binds us, and then there’s play,” he said.

“There’s no culture through time that doesn’t have play as a central part. Whether you are in a place that has everything or one that has nothing — sports end up playing a central role.”

Despite having traveled to far-flung locations such as Cuba, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Argentina and Italy, it’s the stories closer to home that have most deeply resonated with Masekela.

“Last season, it was a story we did in South Dakota about the Pine Ridge Indian reservation — the Lakota Sioux people — about high school basketball,” he said.

“On the reservation, that is the sport — it’s like football in Texas. They are not traditionally very tall people, but they play such a cool, interesting style of the game built on speed, defense and the fundamentals.”

According to non-profit organization One Spirit, 90 percent of Lakota residents live below the federal poverty level, “It is a place that is challenged so much that you don’t know you are in America,” Masekela explained, “and we were able to look at that through basketball.”

For the second season premiere, the production crew followed a Pop Warner football league called the Boom Squad in Miami, “but it’s not the Miami that’s South Beach at Liv on Sunday night popping [champagne] bottles,” the host stressed.

“Literally seven miles away from there is a whole different Miami that I think people would be very surprised is so close to all of this opulence,” he said.

“It’s a very challenging place, but at the same time Liberty City produces a greater percentage of professional football players in the NFL than anywhere else in the country.”

Along with Devonta Freeman, the Atlanta Falcons running back who played in Super Bowl LI, notable former residents include T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown, Chad Ochocinco and Teddy Bridgwater.

“We wanted to find out why this little place that has so much less in terms of opportunity or structure, produces so much talent,” Masekela told TheWrap.

“Vice World of Sports: Rivals” airs Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. on Viceland.

Watch the video above.