CROOKSTON, Minn. - On the University of Minnesota Crookston campus people know James Pogatshnik as a member of the Media Services team who is able to fix issues with projectors in classrooms, or help record audio in the sound booth. What a person may not know, is James has a whole life outside of the walls of UMN Crookston. Yes he is a bit of a minor celebrity who gets recognized by his voice on occasion while sitting at a bar or restaurant in Grand Forks. This is because of a podcast he hosts, along with friend Arif Hasan entitled “Norse Code.” The podcast is 420 episodes into an over eight-year run and it is an opportunity for Vikings fans to gather, listen, not take themselves too seriously, and share in community.
Pogatshnik first started out doing a different show with his friend Dusty. Eventually they had run into Arif Hasan, who had been James’ neighbor growing up in Grand Forks, N.D. Hasan was an aspiring Vikings writer, who was very into analytics. Those were the humble beginnings of “Norse Code”.
“Dusty and Arif started talking at a wedding and Dusty, the other fella I was making a show with, proceeded to tell him that we had a set-up in place that he could easily be plugged into in order to record,” Pogatshnik said. “At the time, all of the shows that existed the sound quality was terrible and the content wasn’t much better. When the opportunity came about to jump on this, he decided he wanted to do it.”
When Pogatshnik first started out with the show, he never imagined he would be on-air talent. He thought his main role would be as sound engineer, editing the podcast and putting it out on podcast channels. It slowly morphed from splitting hosting duties with Dusty, to James taking over the hosting role full time.
“It slowly but surely morphed into me taking on all of the hosting,” Pogatshnik stated. “By the time we reached that point I was ready to do it. I had enough time, where my kid was grown up a bit and I was able to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to run things.”
One of the most enjoyable parts for Pogatshnik has been the opportunity to travel around the country and meet fans and just have a great time. They have been to New York City, Seattle, and Baltimore to do live shows in recent years. And from those times have come very memorable experiences. On the Baltimore trip they went to a James Madison University football game, as it had become a running gag on the show. A key for James in all of it, is just having fun, and not taking yourself too seriously.
“The James Madison trip was easily the best thing that happened as a result of the content we put out,” Pogatshnik remarked. “The trip was gorgeous, the fans were amazing, the whole atmosphere was awesome. A lot of these shows try to take themselves a bit too seriously. I like the Vikings too, but I am not going to spend six episodes talking about why the coach needs to be fired. As the curator of the mailbag, and the person who directs the show, you can get stuck in that sort of rut and find yourself being more negative than you need to be or taking yourself way too seriously, when you didn’t really need to. It is just ridiculous listening to these rants on other shows. You can do that, but why? I want the person listening to our show to at least like themselves by the end of it. If we can help cushion the blow from the last particular Vikings season, where the team likes to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, then so be it.”
Another memorable experience that is still brought up by fans of “Norse Code” to this day was the longest cab ride ever that Pogatshnik and Hasan took from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to Harlem.
“We took a cab from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey over to Harlem in Manhattan,” Pogatshnik said. “That should have taken half an hour, instead it took three-and-a-half hours. It was the worst cab ride in the history of cab rides. That cabbie wasn’t prepared for what happened. When we made it to Harlem, we went into this bar and started recording immediately afterwards and just turned it into a content piece. I have had more questions about that cab ride.”
While the focus is on the Vikings, the Mailbag has become one of the most fun pieces of the podcast for James. “The topics range anywhere from relationships to beekeeping. People embrace the silliness of it. Why take yourself that seriously. We have a lot of fun with it.”
A big reason the show is able to be successful is the Patreon community that they have established. Because of that the show is able to be commercial free. It is because of their loyal supporters Pogatshnik and Hasan enjoy putting out fun content specifically for their fans on Patreon.
“When COVID hit, we decided to really crank out bonus material for them, whether it is just clips of us talking pre-show about everything but football or about the Vikings more specifically,” Pogatshnik stated.”It helped keep us afloat and reward those with interest in the show.”
If you want to have a listen to the zany and fun content James is a part of with “Norse Code” you can visit https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/norse-code-the-1-podcast-for-your-minnesota-vikings/id920144256.