The Turmoil at Jeopardy! Edition
S1: My hair, a few curse words in this one. Just a warning.
S2: Hi, I’m Stefan Fatsis Alyssa, Slate’s sports podcast, Hang up and listen for the week of August twenty third, 2021. On this week’s show, it’s a guest fast track and field writer Jojo Gretl joins us to discuss Sha’Carri Richardson’s boastful and then bungled return to the 100 meter dash over the weekend. Spoiler alert she finished dead last. We’ll break down Draymond Breeze revealing interview with Kevin Durant and what it says about sports and media with former player turned media member Rod Benson. And finally, Big Claire McNear of the Ringer fills us in on her blockbuster reporting about the offensive comments that brought down the guy who was supposed to replace Alex Trebek as the host of the Jeopardy. Josh Levine is off this week, but go listen to his podcast series, one year 1977. I’m the author of the books Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and Wild and Outside. I’m in Washington, D.C. Across the country in Palo Alto, California. It’s Slate staff writer and slow burn seasons three and upcoming season six hosts and future milk crate challenge champion Joel Anderson. What’s up,
S1: Joel? I’m good, man. How are you doing this morning?
S2: Don’t do that. No. Great challenge,
S1: man. We’ll see. And also, you’re an athlete. You should maybe give it a shot.
S2: There’s no way I saw one tick tock of a dude falling on his back and landing on those plastic crates. There is no way in hell you would. You would get me to do that.
S1: You just saw one, huh?
S2: That’s all I needed to see. I didn’t see the woman in high heels conquer the milk crate
S1: mountain look stuff. I mean, to be honest, there was a guy I saw Blunt at the top of the mountain of crates, and that’s what made me think if that guy could do it. I think I could do it.
S2: All right. Let’s get to the show. Actually, let’s not get to the show. Joel, you didn’t think we’re going to let you get away without talking about what happened in that trivia tournament on Bomani Jones’s podcast? Did you?
S1: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, I lost, obviously. But again, as I mentioned at the time, I mean, two of the questions were about baseball, one about hockey. I just thought they were coming already.
S2: I feel like I was constantly prepared for this. So you get the first question. It’s a baseball question. Congratulations. Who made the over the head basket catching the 1954 World Series. That’s kind of a gimme. Willie Mays. And then this happened. The Joel,
S1: which player hold a single game NBA record for three point field goal.
S3: This is counter to it and hold on.
S1: OK. If it’s one of I’m just going to give what I think is the wrong answer, but what. No, actually, it actually is the stuff you’re asking. Are you telling? Steph Curry, host Klay Thompson Thompson. I know. Oh, my God. Oh, man. All right. First of all, this is about being ambushed. Got to know this is going to happen this morning. But I knew it was either Steph or Klay, and I was like, it seems obvious that it’s Klay. And I thought it was counterintuitive. I was like, OK. It was like one of those deals. Do you remember hearing about how when the Celtics like Kevin McHale set the franchise record for scoring in a game and in the next game, Larry Bird came back and set the record the next game. And I thought that was what happened with Klay and stuff. And I got confused.
S2: You know what? All I’m here in here Joel is excuses because of the Klay answer or Nonanswer was bad enough. The next question, what’s the distance between the bases on a standard professional baseball field?
S1: OK, in culturally biased. OK, let me just say it’s got to be. Let me just get a lifeline. 75 feet, 90 feet, 30 yards or 15 yards. Was this the first one to get a little confused at how this. Yeah, it’s multiple choices were added by four. Seventy five feet, 30 feet, 30 yards or 15 yards. Seventy five feet.
S2: You really could
S1: have gotten this one right. We had two right answers in there. The answer is 90
S2: feet or
S4: 30 yards. So 30
S1: yards? Yeah, 90 feet. I’m really falling apart here. You know what I thought? No. Basketball court is ninety four feet. And I was like, you know, where does this one team home plate and first base Joel.
S2: You got one you got like 30 seconds now to explain.
S1: What I would say is that I was thinking, OK, a basketball court is 94 feet. Surely the distance between bases isn’t 90 feet. That’s what I was thinking the whole time. I was like, I know baseball players don’t run that far. They don’t look like they run that far. So I was just confused. And I haven’t I haven’t been on a baseball field in a number of years. So, again, I think it was culturally biased. Also, Howard, my opponent, Howard Bryant, questions. Yeah. Who’s great? But he got two questions about Boston related themes back to back. And he got a hockey question, which is right up his alley. So I just kind of felt like I got a little bit cheated. But that’s fine. You know, I mean, they can have their ratings bussed in to find out if they want. But I feel like Gabe Gabe, who is the producer of Bomani show, they were working against me. I think Stefan. I think, you know, oh, man.
S2: Conspiracy theories. All right. We’ve heard enough. Joel. Let’s get to the show.
S1: If you tuned in to the Prefontaine Classic this weekend, hoping to see the triumphant return of new American sprinting sensation Sha’Carri Richardson, you were out of luck. There was no triumph. But if you tuned in hoping for a good show and maybe a little drama, then you got exactly what you were looking for. This was supposed to have been the long awaited showdown between the Jamaican sprinters who swept the 100 meter medal stand in Tokyo in Richardson, who won two hundred during the U.S. Olympic trials but missed the games because she later tested positive for marijuana. Instead, on Saturday, the Jamaicans once again ran away from the field and were led by Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson. Herra, who ran ten point five four seconds for the second fastest time in women’s history. Meanwhile, Richardson lost in the hundred for only the second time all year, finishing dead last. Today, we’re joined by Jojo Gretschel, who has Covid track for more than a decade at places like ESPN, plus Flo Trebek in Myles split and who was a track and cross-country runner at Tulane University. Jojo is currently the managing editor of the Striker Texas, an app and website covering soccer at all levels of the Lone Star State. Jojo, thanks for joining us.
S5: Thanks so much for having me.
S1: So, look, you saw the meet on Saturday. What in the hell do you think happens in Sha’Carri?
S5: Oh, my God. I don’t I think I’m still not over it now that we’ve had two days to process it. It kind of makes sense. You know, she has had a whirlwind month after the Olympic trials, and it would be a really tall order for her to go up against these women. Not only, you know, the top three women at the Olympics this year, but stacked up against the best sprinters of all time. Elaine Thompson, Harro, who you mentioned, and Shelley and Frazier Price are two of the best sprinters ever. But it seems like all of the distractions around her marijuana suspension kind of took away a little bit from focus on training.
S2: I’m going to, on the other hand, this and say that the Jamaicans were attempting to peak at the Olympics clearway. The Olympics is the most important meet on the calendar this year. And Richardson, after her suspension, made it clear that she had six weeks to train and prepare for this this meat and Oregon. So if anybody should have been in peak form, it should have been Sha’Carri Richardson.
S5: Yeah. I mean, you would think she had all the time in the world, didn’t have to travel to Tokyo, didn’t have to deal with all the, you know, Covid regulations that those athletes had to go through. And definitely a lot of people who went to Tokyo came back and then came to Eugene. A lot of athletes talked about how difficult and fatiguing that travel was. So I do think that’s a good point. It does seem like her kind of newfound mainstream fame has given her a lot of different opportunities in the last six weeks that she wasn’t dealing with, you know, trying to be in a Kanye West music video, you know, doing an ad for like new headphones, sort of she’s just popped off and all these different things. I think she flew straight from the Olympic trials to like be on the red carpet at the Aspies, which, you know, all of that kind of adds up over time and definitely must have had a bit of an impact on her training.
S1: So she got out poorly. And I thought that at Brown, 20 meters, she realized she couldn’t win. Do you do you think that as well? Because I haven’t heard anybody say that. But to me, it just looked like I’m already behind and I’m not going to be able to catch up. Did you feel that way to you?
S5: Yeah. She traditionally doesn’t have the best start in the world. She just has great acceleration through the race. But we didn’t see that she was kind of, you know, even with the pack, didn’t get out super well. And yeah, about midway through, she just kind of was moving backwards. Yeah. I just didn’t have it. And it did feel like, you know, maybe maybe it’s a mental thing where she realized she wasn’t going to win or going to be in that top three spot event and figured, you know, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth because I’m you know, I don’t need her coming after me on Twitter. But it did seem like she. Yeah, she gave up a little bit.
S2: She finished six tenths of a second behind Thompson Harrar, which is in a hundred, you know, terms an eternity. And you watch the race. And it is kind of shocking. And I think Joel, you’re right, it felt like something went wrong. And she just realized I’m not coming close here. But the the thing that I and this is she’s a complex personality. We need to talk about her reaction to failure here. And maybe this is the time to do it. When she came off the track, she didn’t come off the track saying, I had a bad race. I got to get back in training. She came off the track, blow in fire. Let’s listen to her interview with NBC as soon as the race ended
S6: coming out today. It was a great return back to this morning. I wanted to be able to Covid before having a month to deliver all our Dilawar. I’m not upset at myself at all. This is my ray. I’m not done. You know what I’m capable of. Tell me if you want to talk a sheet you want, because I’m here to stay. I’m not done. I’m the sixth sense money in this game ever. They can’t nobody ever take that from me. Congratulations to the winners. Congratulations to the people that way. But they’re not done yet.
S2: Those are not the words of a woman who was feeling deflated or contrite. Or maybe there’s an insecurity coming out there for all of the hype over the last two months surrounding her. She might have been a little embarrassed.
S5: Yeah, I mean, that’s that that pure, you know, post race failure. You know, that’s a that’s a tough interview to do. Right. Like you don’t have a minute to decompress, get your feelings together. That’s that’s just that pure after race feeling, because I actually just watched her Mixon interview right before this, where she had calmed down a little bit. And she actually did a Sha’Carri apology where she said, you know, that was that was my raw feelings after that. And, you know, I respect the woman who won. Although I do think it’s funny, she still doesn’t mention anybody else’s name. And I’m not sure if you guys saw I mean, these clips are like making the rounds now, but the and Frazier Price like walks right behind her. She’s given that interview, gives a little side eye so funny. And then today, Sha’Carri actually made that her profile picture on Twitter. So I think yeah, I mean, this this poster’s interview was not a good look for her. That definitely doesn’t feel very sportsmanlike. But I think it’s all part of her persona, too. Right. She’s kind of created this. There’s just no other woman in the sport who is this, like raw and aggressive with her emotions and the way she talks about the sport and what it means to her. She’s very unique.
S1: Well, you know, it’s interesting you mentioned that she didn’t she doesn’t say the names of the other runners, because I think one of the more unfortunate developments from Saturday was that Elaine Thompson harassed poor performers, almost sort of overlooked. Right, because as we mentioned at the top, she ran the second fastest time in women’s history. And to your point, Jojo, you like she’s great. I mean, she won golds in Rio and Tokyo, run the second fastest times in the history of the 100 and 200, and could theoretically do it again in Paris, where she’ll be only thirty three years old. So can you put into context for us like how dominant Elaine Thompson Harris? Because like that that that performance sort of seemed to be the pinnacle of everything she’d been building toward in the last few years.
S5: Oh, yeah. I mean, no one else has ever run under 10 six except for Florence Griffith, Griffith Joyner, who’s the world record holder. And actually, I did a little bit of research on her 100 meter world record, which is 10 49. And there’s some a lot of people in the track world believe that that’s actually not a wind legal world record because there was like a faulty wind reading that day, you know, and there’s some track and field statisticians who work with like Ron athletics who don’t even count it in their record bookkeeping. So it is something that is a it’s controversial in the sport, whether it’s nine forty nine is real or not. And if you don’t count that time flogger second fastest time was ten sixty one. Which alane ran at the Olympics. So now to come out Ron 10 54. That’s not a time we’ve ever seen, except for one time in 1988, which may have been really when needed. So, you know, to go back to Sha’Carri. Competing against, I would say, the greatest sprinter of all time. You would you would see it halfway. Oh, wow. You know, she’s got a few. You know, she’s not used to somebody beating her by that much, so. But yeah, I mean, Elain, it’s sort of too bad that they didn’t interview her on camera right away after that race. And instead, you know, picks the girl who got last obviously is not happy with her performance. But Elaine should really get her flowers this year because you could argue that she’s the fastest woman of all time.
S2: And it does have to be from a little bit the Jamaican sprinters that there is all this attention on Sha’Carri. And look, Sha’Carri is milking this and becoming a celebrity, and she’s drawing attention to the track and she is compelling to watch. And marketers have certainly are attracted to her right before the race. NBC, in a split screen, aired her latest Nike ad in which she says, I’ve been waiting, waiting to show you that I’m more than a news headline, waiting to show you all why I’m that girl. Do you think that the performance here diminishes that at all, or do you think that, you know, this is America, man? The media loves out their athletes and celebrities and Sha’Carri Richardson is just getting warmed up?
S5: Yeah, I think it really depends what she’s able to do in her last few races of the season. After this weekend, watching that Nike video feels a little like, oh, this is a little you know, she couldn’t back it up. If you have a lot of talk, it’s great, but you have to back it up. So I think if she’s able to come out these last couple races over in Europe, the other Diamond League races, and she’s able to run some more like ten, eight and seven again, maybe beat the Jamaicans if. I mean, I don’t know if anyone’s beating Elaine this year, but to actually be competitive in a race, not get lost. I think that’s what she has to do. She she kind of has a hill to climb right now to prove herself.
S1: Yeah, I think that’s that’s that’s a good point, that she still has a long way to go. She’s really young. Like this is really her first international competitive year. Right. Like this is not is that like she she’s got a huge resume here and a lengthy resume where she’s been doing this for three or four years and has been through this before. And all of that seemed to kind of come together in the summer where maybe it’s not you know, this is maybe not quite fair to her. You know, she’s young. She hasn’t dealt with this this sort of defeat, the sort of attention. And like, you know, she can take this and learn from it. But I kind of wanted to pivot to and I want to see if you agree with me, Jojo, about who the best American women’s track athlete is and will be for the next decade. Athing Mo, who won the gold medal in Tokyo in the 800, and then on Saturday ran her personal best in that race and wasn’t even pushed, even though the entire basically the entire competitive field from Tokyo was there. Do you agree with me?
S5: Oh, yeah. She is the future of the sport. She’s just incredible, I think, to have that much expectation and pressure on her at 19 years old and actually live up to it. Is is so hard to do and just a testament to how immature of an athlete she is and just how much of a superstar she is, really, because there’s always kind of these young phenoms who come in and there’s a lot of hype. And once you reach that like Olympic trials stage, I think it gets harder to live up to the pressure, especially after having a long college season. But she’s incredible. The other thing about her, I think is great. I feel like she’s the perfect age for the next like two Olympic cycles because she’s only 19 right now. So Paris, 2024 and Los Angeles, she is going to be in her peak Joel.
S2: These are sort of different approaches to track, but we’re talking about track and Sha’Carri Richardson is is sort of feeding that. I mean, it does not hurt when there’s an athlete that people are paying attention to who’s, you know, putting up videos lip synching to Nicki Minaj saying it’s game time, bitches. I mean, that’s in a way good for the sport. And it sort of lifts all boats, I think.
S1: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question the Sha’Carri is good for track and field. There’s not been that many people that can draw attention outside of the small cohort of trek enthusiasts like, you know, Jojo myself. Right. So that Sha’Carri has even become sort of this pop culture figure is a testament to how great she is and how compelling she is as a personality. And the things that we see in her, the things that people say, oh, we need to send down these edges or whatever. I think a lot of that is youth and inexperience and trauma. Like she’s had a really difficult year. But I like anybody that would count her out over what happened on Saturday. I mean, that would just be silly. Like she just got her comeuppance by is Jojo said, you know, two of the greatest female sprinters in. Human history. Right. So I think that’s the thing that maybe Americans didn’t understand what they didn’t know how good the Jamaicans were. And you got a sense for like how good they were on Saturday. And that may have happened in the Olympics, even if Sha’Carri had gone right on and not been suspended in the first place.
S5: So, yeah, we were talking about this like it almost is better for the Sha’Carri brand. Everything all the craziness that happened, because it very, very much was like she’d go to Tokyo. And, you know, at that point, you know, you can be lucky to make the final and not necessarily medal against that field because it was a really tough field. So now she kind of has this big storyline following her. And with the age that she has right now, you know, there’s it’s the perfect time to be in top form as an athlete because there’s world championships the next two years, then there’s another Olympics. And she’s going to be in her prime for the next two Olympic cycles, whereas Celene is like 33 years old, Alain’s 31. So they’re not going to be here for all of Sha’Carri career.
S1: Jojo Gretschel Striker, Texas Silane Track Gretschel, thank you so much for joining us today, and we’ll have to have you back on when Sha’Carri inevitably makes headlines again, OK, for sure. Thanks so much, guys. And in the next segment, we’re going to talk about that interview between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant with former basketball player and current artist and columnist Robinson. Kevin Durant’s final game with the Golden State Warriors came in Game five of the 2019 NBA finals when he crumpled to the court with a torn right Achilles. It was a deflating close to a thrilling run when the Warriors won 74 percent of their games in two or three championships. The third one slipping from their grasp when Durant went down with his injury and the next off-season, Durant left the bay for Brooklyn to start his own super team with Kyrie Irving, and then later, James Harden. But one of the NBA’s greatest mysteries is why the Warriors dynasty came apart and how it came apart so quickly. Last week, the Bleacher report published a fascinating interview between Durant and his former teammate Draymond Green, to discuss publicly for the first time some of the reasons they’re pairing lasted only three years.
S7: Do you have any regrets about that, knowing that we probably would have won five more championships? No, I don’t have any regrets at all. I feel like we did exactly what we were supposed to do. And I wish you the three period, because that’s rare. And we were like right there. But I don’t have any regrets at all, because I feel like if we just stay healthy, the Nets, we had a great chance to finish in two. So, no, I mean, being hurt for a year really changed my perspective on everything that I was doing and everything I did before I looked at that time with playing with the Warriors is so special to me, but it was time to move on.
S1: So to discuss that interview and more, we’re joined by Rod Benson, a former college star at Cal Berkeley and professional basketball player who today is an artist analyst for the PAC 12 network and a contributor to Suffocate. Rod, thanks for joining us.
S4: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Right.
S1: Last week you wrote a column for SF Gate saying that the Green Durant interview might herald a new future for sports media. What did you see in that interview that made you feel that way?
S4: Yeah, I mean, it was just immediately compelling. And I think, you know, what I kind of realized is that the swell of attention it got from casual and, you know, more advanced fans, you know, they didn’t care that it wasn’t inaccurate. You know what they were talking about. They just it was just so compelling. And I think that, you know, sports media for a long time has really wanted to be accurate and get the scoop and get these things that may be true, but aren’t more compelling than just watching two guys talk.
S2: And I think that’s exactly right. Ron, what stands out in that interview is the level of candor. But I think you also have to start with the fact that Dre and KD are deeply introspective and thoughtful. What they say, regardless of platform, is almost always worth hearing. And they’re willing to share their inner emotions, which not all athletes are. That’s partly because they’re stars and they’ve got agency. You wrote in that SRF Gate column. They are above consequence and that means they have total control. So this quality of conversation isn’t always, I think, replicable. Not every player has interesting things to say and not every player feels comfortable saying them.
S4: Yeah, I actually disagree. I think, you know, having been in locker rooms over and over again, there’s no more interesting conversation than between the guys in that room because, you know, part of making it to that level on each level I’ve gone up. You see more of this is having a personality that can handle, you know, everything that comes with it. So, you know, most locker rooms I’ve been in, like some of the funniest, most interesting conversation happens there. And I think that the more, you know, especially the younger guys are seeing more and more like Anthony Edwards, who people just love to hear talk. And because he’s just not afraid to be himself like players I used to play with. It used to be.
S1: Well, don’t you think, though, like Alyssa, even from your piece, you said it was an interesting interview, not a welldone interview. And we know that that’s sort of besides the point, right. It doesn’t matter if it was well done, as you mentioned. But I mean, there are a lot of athletes that have podcast and, you know, are attempting to tell their own story that don’t make nearly the waves that this stuff does. Do you really think that like it could? I mean, I guess you I mean, you’ve mentioned that in the locker room, the dudes are compelling. But like, do you really think that, you know, even that there’s a market for so many? You know, I guess if I just said if Jeff Greene started a podcast you like, you think there’s a market for the Jeff Greene podcast?
S4: Well, I would say that, you know, while this one was particularly compelling, as you know, just the level of stardom that these players have, I think if, you know, Jeff Green won the NBA title this year and hit the game winner to do so. Yes, people would want to hear what he has to say. And part of it is also that the Warriors know dynasty came to an end in such a way that I think just people want to know more about that. But I would I would possibly just so many different versions that like I would love to hear like Pat Beverley interview Devin Booker. Right. Two guys you wouldn’t put at the top of the list. But as they were getting into it in last year’s playoffs, wouldn’t it be exciting to like Pat Beverley be like Devin Booker? Like how did it feel when I said this to you and have him give a real answer?
S2: Right. And. And this goes to and I didn’t mean to imply that athletes don’t have interesting things to say. I mean, I wangled my way into an NFL locker room as a player for an entire training camp and then wrote a book about it. And the most interesting players and the guys that I focused on were not the stars. They were the players who trusted me, whose trust I was able to gain, who opened up to me. So the value proposition to me has always been not who won last night’s game or who’s starting and who’s not. But the value proposition is understanding who athletes are, how they do it, and what they think and feel. And you’re right, the middle man doesn’t always allow room for athletes to express that. Is that right? And I think what you’re saying is that we were able to see more of that when you were playing than when you were playing.
S4: That’s exactly what I’m saying. And what I mentioned in my article is that, you know, I had consequences for this, but I did it anyway. And that’s one of the first people to do it. Yeah, people were compelled with what I had to say just because it was different. And literally, I write about my MySpace messages I was getting. I write about when I went to Indy, how great steak and shake was. I never had it. You know, things like that where, you know, just because it was like different people were like, man, like, we want more of this. And I wasn’t anywhere near the top of, you know, any sort of food chain. It just was a regular person’s life as an athlete.
S7: But over the course of the years, your answers to how you deal with the media has changed. Why is that? Is that just who you grow into? Is that because of the way they act with certain shit? Where did that? I felt like the media knew more than me. I almost had them on a pedestal of like they got more history, knowledge of the game. They more experience to me in this area of NBA. So once I started to get more experienced and realized, like, oh, not they can never be what I am. You know what I know or understand it the way I understand it, some of the questions even they didn’t seem so intelligent to me any more. People wanted to praise me more than I liked or hate me more than I like, make a big deal out of so much of the shit. I was just like, you know, this game is simple to me. So some of the stuff that your accent really doesn’t move me the way it used to.
S1: I try. I see you here shaking there. What did you what did you first of all, what did you think of him saying that? And I just even taken it back to your own experience. Do you think that that’s a commonly held belief or feeling in locker rooms?
S4: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot to unpack from what he said there. I would say from a baseline perspective, yeah, I think a lot of people agree with that. I think especially. I did like how he says that coming up, he just assumed that these people deserve respect, because I think every athlete feels that way. And that’s why we tend to be candid as younger athletes and tell. And I wrote an article like, we end up burned at some point for saying something, because again, when when a journalist is writing an article, usually the more compelling thing is negative, because we already assume the greatness of the athletes. I do think it’s interesting, though, that he also doesn’t say like he didn’t just start answering questions a certain way. He’s like known for being quite angry and being asked these questions. So again, it like it kind of goes back to the idea that he’s sharing new information, which is great and it’s compelling to hear like, wow, this is like an evolution of dealing with the media. And it’s also like but because of media members, not there. We’re not. No one’s asking a follow up question like anything from the victory machine. Is any of that true? Because if it is, it’s more than just well, you outgrew the media. It’s like you have a real anger towards being portrayed anyway. That’s not exactly the way you like.
S2: Right. So there’s this there’s this push and pull Ron. Right. You want as you write in your piece, you want good reporters who care about getting at the truth. And you said about this interview, I wanted someone to really get to the bottom of things and ask Durant why he and Green fought in the first place. I wanted someone to ask what Steph Curry was doing during this whole ordeal. So, you know, do you feel like there’s a place for everybody here? And it’s just that now we have these great athletes who know how to harness the media. Because, look, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant are really, really good at this. And let’s not kid ourselves like Dre knew how to give us some broccoli here. Headlines, you know, Steve Kerr and Bob Myers, the GM of the Warriors, fucked up how they handle the blow up between Draymond and Durant. But at the same time, that allowed them to get to the sort of deeper place. So, you know, how do you envision this going forward, the sort of balance between what the traditional media does well and what athletes are recognizing they have the platform an ability to do?
S4: Yeah, I mean, I guess what I really got, too, is that I don’t know if it matters. Right. Like I wanted all these questions answered, but I guess who cares? I still watched it. Celeste, we’re still talking about it, right, like the last dance. How many questions I have about the last dance, like the flu game, really? Like the guy just brought up a pizza, like, you know, we all watched was like the most watched sports documentary of all time, because, again, we’re hearing this person’s perspective. So as long as we are getting at what people feel is their best version, even if it’s, you know, cognitive dissonance in every direction, then it doesn’t matter. This is what will get and the journalists will still do their, you know, more deep dive stuff. And some of that will be compelling to and we’ll just kind of have both. Yeah.
S1: And so I thought that was this is an interesting conversation to have. Only a couple of months after we had Sam Anderson on the did that great profile of Katie for The New York Times mag. And I think that kind of goes speaks to the larger point here is that there’s sort of room for everybody. And Kevin Durant, he was very interested and Sam Anderson’s questions, and he seemed to take them as seriously as Draymond.
S2: But this is all about trust, isn’t it, Rod? Like if, you know, you told a story about how when you were an undergraduate and you gave a candid interview and it ended up just being sort of bulletin board bullshit. And, you know, Cody realized that he was dealing with a reporter who was smart, who was asked him interesting questions, and it gave him an opportunity to have an interesting conversation for a few hours. And ultimately, to me, that’s always what it comes down to. And it’s hard for, I think, young athletes especially to know whom to trust or how to gain that trust and tell it. And some reporters are just really shitty at at understanding that athletes are people to know.
S4: Yeah, I think I mean, trust is one version and I think the other version is consequences once again, because, you know, whether I trusted that guy in college or not, which I did trust him at the time, you know, there were consequences to what I said. And if, in my opinion, if a reporter is only seeking the things that will have negative consequences for the athlete, then of course, they’re never going to be trusted and they’re never going to get the kind of access that they’re looking for. But and I know so many athletes who feel that way, like I went to school of Marshawn Lynch, there wasn’t a person with a bigger personality who was more candid than him. And then he’s in the NFL and, you know, just here. So I don’t get fined. There’s a reason for that. He put up a wall because he’s like, I’m tired of getting burned.
S1: I want to ask all about this in terms of like just the news within the the the interview for a second, if that’s OK, because I’m not surprised that Draymond didn’t seem to take a lot of responsibility for offending KDDI or creating the circumstances that led to the blow up of the team. But like, what were you at all surprised at? Sort of Draymond is like, I’m going to laugh in your face and you guys are going to fuck this up, Poes. Maybe not. I don’t know, man.
S4: I we’re going to what I’m going to say is going to sound a little hateful. But every locker room I’ve been in that had someone like that, I hated them. I hate that guy. I hate that the coaches always like bend over backwards for that guy. Like, I honestly believe that like, again, they didn’t they didn’t dig deeper. But if I was KDDI and I saw the team, like still wanting to keep this guy around, I’d be like, OK, you made your point. This on for one game for all. If you think that that blow up that we saw publicly is the only thing. But Draymond Green does batshit crazy. If you’re wrong, that’s just well, if that’s public, the private stuff is insane. And I hate playing with that guy. And I’m like, I bet that’s literally just Cady’s like man. Like like you all cater to this at all. Like, I don’t want to do this. And he left.
S2: I mean, KD did say later and this was, I thought, a really good question. You know, Draymond sort of says like, you know, he goes through the sort of backgrounds of sort of everybody that that Katie played with, whether it was Russell Westbrook or James Harden or Kyrie or Draymond, and says that we all have chips on our shoulders and sometimes we all go too far. And Durant first says, you always went too far, but then he agrees. And I was sort of really interesting to hear how these guys sort of come to appreciate and understand each other when I’m sure in the moment, like you’re describing, it’s frustrating to deal with that guy.
S4: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s it’s a sign of an older player to have that perspective that Katie has, which, you know, I matured into that, too, in my career, where it’s like when you’re younger, you just kind of like this guy sucks. I hate him. Like I don’t want to play with this guy. When you’re older, especially when you’re older than the guy, you know, you start to be like, OK, I get why you’re the way you are. And I understand that, like, it’s hard to carve out space in this in the world in general, but in a locker room to get you know, Imagineer, if you’re a Carmello drafted to the if he had gone to the Pistons instead of the Nuggets, he’d be the fifth option instead of being on some team raise the first option. How does he carve out space? Why does Jamal Magloire this is true every time he used to grab a rebound in your mind before it went up, right. You had. It’s hard to get these things so you don’t get as upset when you see someone acting out. But I do think that him saying, Draymond, you were the worst of the worst means Draymond might be the worst in the league, actually. And I see that lately. It shows.
S1: And so I thought an interesting moment. And I don’t know if you I mean, it’s the moment that they highlighted when they promoted the interview, but I thought it was interesting in that KDDI agreed with Draymond that Steve Kerr and Bob Myers were to blame for the rift in the locker room. But I I’m kind of not sure how it was their fault because it felt like they tried to say, hey, man, are you going to apologize? Because like KD is important. We don’t want him to leave, apologize. And then he you know, he handled it the way he handled it. But then they said Steve Kerr and Bob Myers are to blame. I just I kind of didn’t see that. Did you all feel that, too? Because I just I didn’t I didn’t get where Steve and Bob Myers were to blame for this.
S4: I can understand each player believing that those people were to blame. And but I also think, again, without any follow up questioning, that it was for different reasons. The Draymond is being Draymond. He’s like, how dare you reprimand me? Like I run this shit and Cady’s like all you’re going to do is suspended, like get him out of here. Nobody likes this guy. I dearly I sincerely guarantee that there is some other level where he didn’t think just suspending Draymond for a game was a meaningful action. He wanted Draymond to fundamentally change his action. That’s just me reading into it. But if those two people aren’t going to put any pressure and they just let one man run this whole show with and just above, like real reproach, then yeah, I imagine that’s frustrating when you’re just way also way better at basketball than his first. Like, why are we doing it? We didn’t hear
S2: from the Steve Kerr vampires
S1: and werewolves. Right? I mean, there’s no there’s no reason for them to ever talk about this publicly. Right. Rod Vincent SRF, gay columnist, analyst for PAC 12 Network Professional Artists. Thank you so much for joining us today. Glad to have you on.
S4: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Straight discussion.
S2: Rod is going to stick around and talk to us on our bonus segment for Slate Plus Members. And coming up next, our interview with Claire McNear of the Ringer, about Jeopardy. Just days after Alex Trebek died last November of cancer at age 87, online sports books started taking action on who would replace the beloved Jeopardy host Ken Jennings. The record setting winner on the show was a favorite. CNN commentator Laura Coates and L.A. Kings play by play announcer Alex Foust also were named because Trebek had mentioned them in an interview once. And so were actor LeVar Burton and TV personality George Stephanopoulos and Anderson Cooper. You could not place a bet, however, on Jeopardy is executive producer Mike Richards, because, well, no one knew who he was. But after a month long break off involving fill ins from Aaron Rodgers to Dr. Oz Richards, who was part of the group conducting the surge, was announced as the new daily host of the show that lasted until last week when the ringer dropped a blockbuster story by Claire McNear that detailed not only how Richards pretty much stacked the deck in his favor, but also revealed a history of offensive remarks he made on a podcast a few years ago. Claire McNear joins us now in addition to owning the Jeopardy beat. She is the author of Answers in the Form of Questions A Definitive History, An Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy, which was published last year. Claire, congrats on your work. And thanks for coming on the show.
S8: Hey, thanks for having me.
S2: The whole saga is remarkable. First, for the public attention that it created around the game show and then for your unmasking of Mike Richards as an entitled doofus. Before we get into how you unearthed the incriminating audio and what Richard said, tell us who this guy is and how he wangled his way into being named to succeed Alex Trebek.
S8: Yeah. So Richards is somebody who, even before he came to Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune was was pretty well known in the kind of game show universe. So he’s 46 and has been working in TV basically his entire adult life and has hosted some reality shows. He hosted a couple Short-Lived game shows on game show network Jaeson, and he’s also done a lot of behind the scenes stuff. So a lot of production stuff. And his last job before he came over to Sony, which is the parent studio of Jeopardy, was he was the executive producer of The Price is Right and of Let’s Make a Deal, which he kind of helped revive. So he’s done these very, very big shows. But from talking to people who’ve worked with him over the years and we can get into all this, you know, it was made very clear apparently to most of his colleagues and employees that he really wanted to be in front of the camera as well. So he was hired by Sony to an overall deal in 2019. And then he became the executive producer of Jeopardy and A Wheel of Fortune, because our sister shows kind of share a lot of their production in 2020. So he had just become the executive producer when Trebek passed away. And then, of course, this guest host process kicked off. So, you know, I think he was well known among sort of wonky gameshow types. But he obviously, I think was was by far the least well known of of any of the guest hosts a season.
S1: So clearly, obviously, you’d been tracking, you know, who is going to succeed Alex Trebek for a while. And you’ve written about it up until, you know, last week. And I’m just trying to get a sense for when did this win? When did these podcasts come get on your radar? Because I’m assuming you were preparing to write a story about the new guy and everything that went along with that. And then it’s like this very random podcast. And we had 41 episodes from seven years ago, pops up. Jeff Probst had a daytime talk show, which I was cheering for because I like, you know, the average white guy host. I cheer for him to succeed because I feel like through his success, I could have some success hosting. So how did that get on your radar?
S8: Yeah, I mean, I would love to say I have some mysterious shadowy source in there, but unfortunately, it’s just I just I just Googled it to death. So, yes, I mean, it’s exactly what you just said. I was working on a story about the new guy, basically, like I had done some I done a lot of coverage over this last year of the guest host rotation. And I interviewed a bunch the guest host I’ve interviewed Mike a couple of times and just kind of about the inner workings of Jeopardy and what they were doing this season. And of course, I was covering the, you know, the search for a new permanent host. So once Variety broke that that he was in advanced negotiations for the job. And then about a week later, Sony officially announced him as the host of Jeopardy. And so, yes, I was just kind of working on a deep dive. And I was really interested in sort of what I was just talking about, his early television career and this kind of previously stated desire to also be a host. So it was through that that I just started looking into these previous projects he was a part of and. Literally on his Jeopardy Akam official bio, though, he also talked about it a lot of other interviews. It mentions that he hosted and created this, I guess, like comedy news show when he was a student at Pepperdine called The Random Show. So this was in the 90s. So I was like, well, I would I would like to see that that’s his first time in front of a camera. And I couldn’t find that because it’s from the 90s. So it’s not easily accessible. But this podcast that he hosted at the Price is right. Had the same name. So I found that and I started listening. And it became very apparent very quickly that there was a lot there.
S4: See, I don’t want to
S1: make this a political show. I know, because here’s the thing with Beth is that I know that you’re hard working and I know that you’re out there trying to get stuff going. Mm hmm. The dangerous side about the crack right you just took is that not everyone is like you.
S1: Mm hmm. But everyone can collect unemployment, which is why we have so many people on unemployment right now. Mm hmm. Which is why we have so many people on food stamps. Because what if you got unemployment and food stamps? You’d be like, good lord, I make you know what I’m saying? Was the show even good? Was the random felt like if you get if you get past like the racism and sexism and all the other stuff, like was it a good or entertaining show? Did you see any hint that that guy could replace Alex Trebek in that podcast?
S8: Well, I think those are different questions. So whether it was any good, it was sort of billed as the inside look at the prices. Right. And and after we we asked Richards for comment within a couple of hours, he deleted all the episodes and he he put out an apology for the comments. So we asked him about and he kind of has tried to play this off as a comedy podcast. And I don’t think that that’s an accurate depiction of what it is, because, I mean, so not only was he the executive producer of The Price is Right at the time they taped this on The Price is Right, said it in his co-host was his former assistant. His producer was his current assistant at the time. They would have like guests on the show come in, like Chrissy Teigen does an episode, and they talk a lot about the price is right. So I think, you know, if you were a big prices right fan, I mean, it did sort of work on that level in that it was like this very gossipy show where they would talk a lot about, you know, whatever special episode they have coming or kind of dish about the Emmys and what game shows they think should should be nominated. So, I mean, it does sort of offer a glimpse into that world that, you know, an executive producer is well positioned to provide. I, I don’t think I would keep listening to it if it were still being made today for a few reasons, one of which is a lot of the kind of problematic language. And they were talking about a lot of things other than the price is. Right. It ends up being a lot about like celebrity news and just sort of, you know, whatever they’re thinking of that day. So it’s very real. It’s, you know, your classic, very long, very ramble.
S1: Everyone’s going to wear one pieces and look really frumpy and overweight. Yeah.
S9: Now, that’s so funny because no one’s overweight,
S1: but but they all look terrible in the picture. They look fat and and like not good in the picture. It’s bad. Oh, my God. You look great. You look like a Sports Illustrated model. And then you’ve got One-Piece Malone’s on either side of you,
S9: which are just horrible. I can’t wait to meet my roommate because she’s literally going to be like, walk up to you and like a bag and be like, hey,
S1: hey, what’s up? I’m wearing a smock and my son and I’m going to give her a smack. You ready for some news?
S2: We know the clips that you pull out with good journalistic reason. Make it sound like, you know, it’s just like sophomoric morning zoo talk radio. It’s sort of Howard Stern Lite. Yeah. And to me, it’s just sort of another example of the sort of the tyranny of the unserious. But to have all of this associated with Jeopardy seems wrong. And it’s that disconnect between the sort of the image of the show as the intellectual, serious, Alex Trebek driven vehicle. And then you hear this guy that’s striving to be sort of, you know, the sort of dumb ass morning talk show host doesn’t fit.
S8: Yeah. So, I mean, to to go into what specifically we’re talking about in a little more depth. You know, he it’s kind of filled with a lot of sexist language and Iblis language and classist language. He uses a lot of kind of ugly slurs. He talks a lot in many, many episodes about women’s bodies and women’s clothing. And to
S4: the point
S1: where Beth got a job being a was in a booth. How is that right at CBS
S9: Booth, babe? I don’t think they used the word ho for that.
S1: What is the booth, babe? A booth. A booth slot is someone who dresses up in very provocative clothes. Well, she was she was in a white T-shirt contest.
S8: What I want to stress, having listened to all of it, is, is, you know, while I was I was almost praising it just now, talking about how it was an inside look at the price, right? No, it very much is dominated by this language. This isn’t like every once in a while in an episode he says this or that. That was sort of the mood and the tone. And it’s one that, for the most part is not equaled by anybody else on the show. It was really kind of Richards doing this. And, you know, it is clear to me that he was not playing a character or something. I mean, these episodes for they probably averaged about forty five minutes. And he talks about his family and he talks about his work. And he you know, they talk about the news. And it’s not it’s not like him just trying on this very occasional Howard Stern persona. This this was really I mean, you get you get the sense listening to a lot of it, or at least I did that. This was kind of the work environment there.
S1: Well, let me ask you a question. Have you ever taken a nude pictures?
S9: I’m not answering that question. Do you? Mike Richards.
S2: Answer it right now to your fans. Have you? I mean, I
S9: know I have it. Yes. You have not like naked. I’ve taken like cute pictures of myself that I. What does that mean? What does it mean? Was like so cute,
S1: like boobie pictures. Claire, you mentioned that, you know, it was clear early on that this was a guy that wanted to be in front of the camera as opposed to behind it. So do we have a sense for how well his episodes as guest host went? Because it’s not even clear, for instance, that anyone suspected that he was supposed to be among the group of guest host while he was guest hosting, correct?
S8: Yeah. So do we know how well it went? Yes and no. So the ratings on Jeopardy have been kind of slowly but steadily falling since Trebek death, which, you know, as as worrying as it is for Sony, I don’t think is necessarily like a super shocking development, because, of course, after you lose your legendary host, who is the face of the franchise, like, of course, those those ratings are going to drop off. But, you know, you would see throughout this guest host rotation, these these rankings, it’s like here’s how the newest guest hosted in didn’t their ratings and basically with only like a couple exceptions. And they were minor ones in terms of the actual numbers. Every single guest host was lower than the last. So Mike Richards was the second guest host of the season, and he had the second highest guest host ratings. So he followed Ken Jennings, you had the number one highest ratings. So, you know, I don’t really know what you can tell from that, because I think that has more to do with proximity to to Trebek than than anything. The thing that Sony and Richard’s giving a lot of interviews ASEP over the last year hyped, was that this search for the next host was one that was going to rely on analytics and data. And that, I think, through my reporting and through the reporting of others has has become somewhat suspect. You know, we from talking to people for this story that came out last week, it became clear I mean, he was intimately involved in just about every corner of the process. So Sony has said that once he became a candidate, he bowed out of this kind of search committee for the new host. But he was still the executive producer, so he was still the person training every new guest host as they came into the studio. He was the one literally in their ear telling them what to do or, you know, to do better or to stop doing. He was the one it has come out in The New York Times who selected the episodes to descend on to focus group. So, I mean, in theory, like your your very first episode that you ever tape, probably your first ever game show is probably not as good as your tenth episode or whatever it is. And so to have him involved in that process and in some ways to be the only person making those calls is, of course, a conflict of interest. So I think there you know, in my story, yes, we touched on the podcast, and there’s a lot there that is worth examining. And I think that has kind of dominated the headlines since he stepped down. But it really is also now clear that the the search for a new permanent host wasn’t really what it seemed to be, or at least not entirely. And I think that has fans feeling fairly betrayed.
S1: So, I mean, it seems like he emerges he gets named the successor to Alex Trebek. You write your story. It drops last week. What happened as soon as the story gets published for you, like the you start getting calls then or like how did you know? You get a sense immediately that like, oh, it might be over for this guy already.
S8: Well, so to get into the timeline a little bit. So we reached out for comment on Tuesday. And all those those episodes were pulled down on Tuesday night, though we had copies, of course, and we published on Wednesday. Thursday was the long planned first tape day of the season. And not only was it, you know, the contestants coming in for the first five games of the season because they tape a week’s worth of episode episodes on each taped day. They also had this kind of ceremony. They had planned to dedicate the soundstage where they filmed Jeopardy, rename it the Alex Trebek stage. And they had Trebek family come in, his wife and his kids, and they had all these like kind of Sony dignitaries come in and they clearly kind of wanted this to be this big deal, special moment, and to be, you know, the beginning of a bright new era with Mike Richards as the host. And he taped those five games. But what has come out and what I’ve been hearing from people is that, I mean, it was it was a very tense day on the set and that a lot of the staff had seen things that were in my story and they were very troubled by them. And so then Friday morning, they announced that he was stepping down and they canceled production because they were saying. To tape the second the second week week of episodes from the season that day, and they actually had all the contestants, 12 contestants who were going to be playing that day. And in many cases, I’ve been training for months and years for this chance. They got to the green room and then they were told to go home. So Jeopardy is supposed to start taping its next week of episodes this week. And we don’t know what they’re going to do. They haven’t said if they’re canceling production. They had said that they were going to turn back to guest hosts. They haven’t said who that will be yet, if it’ll be new people or if they’ll return to some of last season’s guest hosts. Right now, Mike Richards is still the executive producer of the show and of Wheel of Fortune. So, you know, it’s I think there has been some some outrage that if these things are disqualifying for him to be the host of Jeopardy, surely they must also be disqualifying for him to be the executive producer of the show. And, of course, the staff is not pleased either. So it’s sort of a weird thing that’s going on over there. And I mean, I frankly just feel for the contestants who who had no part in this at all, and they don’t get any vote about who who the host is. And suddenly this is part of their Jeopardy experience
S2: to finish up, Claire. I mean, this is really embarrassing for the legacy of this show, which, as you write about and I mentioned earlier, is sort of viewed particularly in a game show world is like this intellectual outlier. How much does this hurt Jeopardies reputation? You know, how does it recover the sort of the gloss of Trebek reputation?
S8: You know, there have been reports that the head of Sony TV is is now kind of in hot water over bungling this, because, I mean, he was one of the probably the deciding vote in hiring Richards to be the host. And you know, that they had not found this podcast themselves or kind of looked into all of this more certainly raises some eyebrows. I think that one of the joys of Jeopardy is what you just said, that it is this kind of place of like pure facts. And that’s all that matters. And it’s never been a controversial show and it hasn’t really changed that much. And, you know, it was just something you kind of spanned spanned American pop culture and American culture in a way that so few TV shows or anything does these days in the year. Twenty twenty one. And and that feels dented now. And, you know, I guess we’ll we’ll find out if it’s irreversible. Certainly is a show with a massive audience. And that’s not changing. It’s not like it’s going to be canceled next season. It’s all it’s going to be canceled three or four years. And I do think that there is a possibility that if, you know, if they hire somebody who is less contentious and it’s it’s hard to imagine them finding somebody much more contentious, frankly. And Richard’s exits as kind of ends this chapter for the show, certainly the show. And Sony will be hoping that this is a person who can provide some element of what Trebek did, at least in the sense of stability, who will be there for many years, who will not be making headlines all the time, who will not be sort of reminding people to like get on social media and yell their opinion about Jeopardy. Right. Which is never what that show has been and not what that show wants to be. So I think I think it’s possible this ends up, you know, just being kind of unfortunate blip in the show’s history. But but certainly I think it is the first time that it Jeopardy as this cultural institution does feel endangered.
S2: You know, I think one silver lining outcome here could be that it felt like with Mike Richards appointment, the show was trying to pivot to being a little less nerdy and intellectual, and this may push it back to its roots. Claire McNear writes for The Ringer. She’s also the author of Answers in the Form of Questions The Definitive History An Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy. We will post her excellent story about Mike Richards on our show page. Claire, thank you so much for coming on the show.
S8: Thanks for having me.
S2: Now it is time for After Balls. I want to get back to your trivia debacle, Joel not to humiliate you, don’t worry. Sure you did, but to celebrate one of the hard questions. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have remembered on the spot who the first goaltender was to shoot and score a goal in the NHL. I liked your reaction. First, I have to think of a goalie that Howard Bryant, who’s obviously going to win this contest, chimed in with the correct answer. It was Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers. It happened on December 8th, 1987 in Philly against the Bruins empty net goal with 12 seconds to go in the game. Let’s listen.
S3: Going to come back, flip it from their feitosa. What’s the shoot it for the open that.
S2: That’s pretty cool. Hextall wasn’t the first to be credited with scoring a goal. You, of course, know who that was Joel right?
S1: Was it Ed Balfour?
S2: It was who you guess?
S1: That’s my answer for every question.
S2: Every NHL goalie. Yeah. Now, the answer is Billy Smith of the New York Islanders in 1979. He was the last player on the islanders to touch the puck before a player on the Colorado Rockies scored an own goal into the empty net. Seven goalies have shot and scored after Hextall. The most recent was in January 2020. Actually, six goalies because Ron Hextall did it again the following season in the 1989 playoffs.
S1: The Great Ron Hextall. All right. Well, Stefan, what is your Ron Hextall then?
S2: I have now been to two live professional sporting events since the pandemic. The first was a Washington Nationals game in the spring when the stadium was a twenty five percent max capacity and seats were zip tied to prevent fans from moving around to empty ones. The second was on Saturday when I joined six hundred and fifteen other spectators at Catholic University in DC for a big game between the DC Breeze and the Raleigh Flyers of the American Ultimate Distcc League. Now, we’ve talked about ultimate Frisbee once before on this podcast back in 2017, when Josh and I interviewed David Gessner, the author of Ultimate Glory, a memoir about the sport. But we’ve never discussed the pros or more appropriately, the semi pros. The 11 year old Aiyu DL has 22 teams from Boston to San Diego. My favorite names are the Minnesota Wind Chill, which is a nice Midwestern companion to the DC Breeze, which honestly, if you wanted to be like regional specific, it should be called the D.C. Stael humid draft. But Breeze is pretty good because it connotes the desk riding on the wind. I also like Madison radicals, which I assume or hope was named for the city’s history of progressive politics and activism. Fox Sports two shows a weekly a Udal game draft Kings as a league sponsor. Players get anywhere from like 25 bucks a game, plus travel hotel and podiums to contracts for around fifteen thousand dollars and coaching a high school team or teaching ultimate Frisbee in gym classes. Now, I went to the Breeze game because I’ve known a bunch of ultimate players since they were kids, and a couple of them are now out of college and playing in the league. Shout out to Jake Radack and Duncan Fitzgerald and to two more players who also went to Wilson High School here in D.C. and are still in college and playing in the league. Jojo a.m., who had a ton of assists on Saturday. And Aaron Bartlit, the Breeze game had a distinctly minor league vibe. Cheap tickets. The concession stand was basically pizza and beer hanging, vinyl sponsor banners, a try hard employee with a Mike on the sidelines, tossing T-shirts and attempting to get the crowd to cheer. At one point, he shouted that the breeze is blowing, which given that the team was doing well, didn’t really make sense. Little kids in front of us, annoyingly, but forgivable clapping, thunder sticks. There were some deer grazing on the Catholic University sports fields behind the metal bleachers under a majestic summer sky. And once the sun set on what was a brutally hot day, it was lovely. Ultimate is played on an 80 yard field with 20 yard end zones. Players catch and plant a pivot foot. And in the pro league, they have a maximum of seven seconds to make a pass. It can be a little static. Games between good teams like this one tend to be dominated by the offense. But the athleticism is high. There’s lots of cutting, faking all out sprinting and dudes laying full out or scoring way high to make catches or blocks and the sight of the desk floating the length of the field during the pole, which is the equivalent of a kickoff. I find that very soothing. Anyway, this is a great game. Joel back and forth all the way, culminating in double overtime. The Breeze got the disk to start the second otey, which was sudden death, and they drove the field and scored to win twenty two twenty one and secure first round home field advantage in the UDL playoffs. Here’s how the ending sounded on the Lead League’s live stream. Now they’re close,
S3: now they’re close. Jeff? This is one of the double overtime. Shallow ditch.
S2: We all. It’s bedlam in
S1: D.C. Was it bedlam
S2: that might have been a strong Joel in describers are left for I don’t know, but wizards’ someday winning the NBA championship or like the January 6th riots, but a sudden death sports finish is always cool. Everyone was stoked. The ultimate players still say Stok. I don’t know. And fans lined up to bump fists with the victorious Breeze after the game.
S1: Good times. Yeah, man. Sounds like a good time was had by all. I mean, unless you you know, we’re not playing for D.C., of course. But, you know, I think the funny thing about it is that when you mentioned that you were going to this game over the weekend, I thought you were playing. Right. That’s how I didn’t have a lot of I didn’t realize that you could go pro at this. And so I was like, oh, okay. Stefan must just be. He’s moved from softball season to ultimate Frisbee season.
S2: But nah, man, I always sucked that Frisbee. I can’t throw Frisbee. Well, and you got to be like super athletic to to get one
S1: of these guys. What did they look like out there? They look like really good athletes.
S2: Some of them are like converted really good athletes from other sports. And that a lot of colleges, the teams will recruit dudes that, you know, played high level baseball, football, basketball in high school, but can’t play in college. So you get some really fit, strong athletes with huge ups and you got to have some huge chops to play.
S1: Ultimate up, sir. That did not I did not know that. Well, I must say, when I was in coach of the
S2: Breeze Black Dude, one of the one of the leading tacticians apparently in ultimate Frisbee, according to one of my friends, did
S1: not know. I mean, I remember when I was in college and I’d be walking back and forth either to football practice or to the college newsroom later, and I’d see people throwing the FSB around on the yard. And I was like, man, that looks like a lot of fun. I didn’t know. Did you go pro at it? Maybe I missed my calling.
S2: That is our show for today. Our producer this week was Alyssa Eeds. To listen to part shows and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate dot com slash, hang up and you can email us at hang up at Slate dot com and please subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson. I’m Stefan. Fatsis. Remember Zelma dating? And thanks for listening. Hazlet Plus members, welcome back. We are joined again by Rod Benson, columnist for the San Francisco Gate artist, former player. Rod, thanks for sticking around.
S4: Thanks for Keep Me Around.
S2: Our man, I looked up your your professional
S2: itinerary. Damn, you were a rim rocker and a big horn. You had your passport stamped in where? Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Dominican Republic. You had a 13 year career. You played in the summer league in the NBA. And in the I guess it was called the D League at the time. You stuck with it and you didn’t make the league. Was that sort of, you know, how was your sort of career arc? Was it frustrating? And, you know, if it fascinates me that athletes that are, you know, a have the drive to keep going when you’re moving every almost every year and be the the sort of, you know, recognizing that I’m playing because I love to play and whether I make the league or not. You know, that’s in some ways out of my hands.
S4: And looking back at my career, like in the last year or two, really just talking with my therapist, you know, I realized like I don’t I don’t think I ever really liked basketball like that. It wasn’t. And I think a lot of it’s I bet there’s a lot of guys like this, like, you know, it’s it’s not just me. What I what it was for me was that like the idea of proving people wrong or having like a goal. What’s the driving force? Not necessarily that it was specifically the NBA. It was frustrating, though, because at a certain point, I was definitely good enough to stick on a roster like I was I was in training camp with the Pacers. And no offense to anybody there. But I was I was doing damage like every day. We went to Beijing and played the Nuggets and, you know, in like eight minutes, I had like 10 points and six rebounds and two steals or something like something crazy that was like the talent is there. And the reason I didn’t stick was because I was I had a voice. And, you know, I didn’t fit this in the article, didn’t really fit. But I guess I did it slightly. But, you know, the second day I was with the Pacers, they called me in like Larry Bird wants to speak to you. And I’m like, oh, damn. Like I’m getting sent home already because Wylder, things have happened. Like Eric Musselman sent me out before we even went to Summer League. I was like, so I’m used to this. But like. Talking to Larry Bird, I always describe it’s like in my position, it’s like someone who works at McDonald’s being asked to talk to Ronalds, it’s like why like why does he want to talk to me for bringing me in? And he’s like, look, you you know, we had the Myles of the palace. Jamaal Tinsley shot himself. He goes this long list of things. And he’s like, so while you’re here, we’d prefer you don’t do any writing. And I was like, oh, yeah, OK, I mean, of course I said yes, but it’s interesting that that’s how it was compared. And that’s what really was the frustrating part for me is that, you know, I’m actually getting twenty eight points to twenty eight boards and a daily game. And you’re calling up the guy who I just gave it to. So because they were afraid of the writing stuff, and so I just didn’t do it anymore.
S1: When did you first suspect that your voice and a desire to have a public platform was working against you and your career? Did you ever like that that happened earlier or did it happen when you were in the room with Larry Bird?
S4: It was probably my second year when I was doing real numbers and I was, I think, second team, all league or something like that, and led the league and rebounding. You know, my agent would send me emails that he would send a GMC for me, like Bshe, Semyonov or something. And it’s funny. I mean, I don’t know if every agent does this, but maybe because it’s like I was a deli guy, he’d like write these long emails like about how I should get signed. And he’d be like, yeah, he’s averaging one rebound every like two point eight minutes, which is like better than Dwight Howard. I’m like, you know, Dwight Howard’s in the NBA like it. But so he sent me an email saying, send the responses where they’d be like, yeah, we’re just not sure if we can like bring on a guy like that. You know, other media outlets like, you know, Bleacher Report was in its infancy, like this other one called like hardwood paroxysm. All these like ridiculous upside. They would do deeper dives and kind of be like Rod Bennett is getting blackballed. And so all this was happening at once where I was like, yeah, I guess I mean, I guess I am Mike. It seems pretty obvious to me that. And from another perspective, like when you’re the last guy on the roster, they don’t want you to potentially be the biggest headache, because I would be more popular than half the team just because Yahoo! Had such a big readership reader base. So. Yeah, well, I don’t know. It all happened at once.
S2: Yeah. You were writing at the time for Yahoo! Which, you know, this was in the late 2000s. You were overseas or bouncing around, right? Still around the fringes of the NBA, going to camps. And I guess it’s that story about the Pacers is kind of jarring. I mean, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised in any way. But I and Joel and I both have like a visceral reaction when we heard you say it. I mean, what was it like for you to hear that? I mean, I know athletes want to just make a roster and will do and say anything to please the people controlling their futures. But damn, that must have hurt.
S4: Yeah, it didn’t hurt because the game when you’re in that situation, you’re so focused on Mike. Yeah, I’ll do the thing like no, I was never one of these guys like who was like. Making a big fuss or be angry about it, but, you know, I sometimes my Facebook memories come up and it’ll say like, you know, you tweet that you wrote this like 15 years ago or something, and it’ll be like, man, I’m tired of not being on a roster or something like that or like my time is coming. And in those moments, I would feel like, you know, am I making the right choice? And I think I settled that. Yeah, I don’t have any regrets. And one one thing that happened was right before I gave up on the and went overseas, you know, Turner sent me a cold email. They wanted to like wanted me to host a show for them. You know, I didn’t I didn’t end up accepting it because when I went to Korea, I was just going to make like triple that money. But, you know, it was stuff like that. I was getting cold emails from like Neil Brennan, who was a writer for Chappelle Show. Stuff like that. So the writing stuff was bringing in a different type of success for me. And like I said, I never truly like loved basketball like that. So, you know, it just kind of felt like I was following my calling. And maybe it wasn’t to be, you know, a millionaire, but it was to be just who I am. And if that was a consequence, it was. And also, I should add, like I believe I opened a lot of doors for these people to have this, like normalized athletes having a voice. And then three years after I left, the NBA had like social media awards. And I was like, OK, I come off like I missed like three years. That’s I what
S1: I kind of want to go back to the beginning, because you said that you realized that you never really loved basketball. So how did you get into the sport in in and get so good that, you know, you get to the point that you’re a professional basketball player without that love?
S4: Right. Yeah. Well, again, like I love competition. I love out duling somebody. You know, I think that there are some guys who just legitimately love the work, like they love to just shoot a thousand shots a day, something like that. When you combine that with talent, you get Kobe. When you have one or the other, you have a guy that you’re like, man, you should be better than this, like because there’s a lot of guys who don’t really love it. This is true. The only reason I even played sports really in high school, so I only played one year of varsity basketball, was I just thought having a Letterman jacket made you cool. And I went to all white high school during like the American Pie era, where it’s like I just wanted people to like accept me because they really didn’t. And it really didn’t work either. Although my first jacket I got for I was for volleyball and I was like like on the Olympic track for volleyball type. Good. And, you know, I got my Letterman jacket and no one cared. And I was like, OK, I’ll just get better and I’ll just keep getting better and better at this thing because it’ll bring me the social rewards that I want. And if you don’t think that’s like 30 percent of athletes, you’re lying to yourself. Like the social rewards for doing this thing are great, which is part of the reason people say shut up and dribble, ignoring that these are still humans. And if they do need social reward, that that, you know, there’s other things they need to work on with themselves. But this is the reality that you get something back from it,
S2: because in many cases in it’s sport, the sport to I mean, the guys I hung out with on the Denver Broncos hated playing football. They liked the competition, they liked the game. They hated everything that went around it. And that ended up being the theme of what I wrote. You hit that point and you wrote about this during the Olympics in connection with Simone Biles. You describe this, the team you played on, was it in Taiwan or in Korea? Tell us about the sort of the end for you when you woke up and realized like, man, I’m 13 years into this and this is just this is crazy.
S4: Yeah. Well, after that team is when I started Mike, my retirement plan, like I was fortunate enough to like still be wanted. I was like, OK, three years, because in Korea, they have a rule that you can only play. I mean, really changing the rules, but know only American can only play for a team for up to three years. So when I left that team, I knew I’d sign with another team and I’d have three years. And I was like, I don’t care about this at all anymore, but I’m making good money. I need to plan to get out. But you’re on that team. It was just like every day was miserable and we were good. We were the best team there was like which again, shows it’s like not about like people think winning just cures everything. Like above Kevin Durant still left you. I want to be there for five years. If you’re miserable doing that, then you’re just going to want to stop. And every day we woke up and it was just like Groundhog Day with the exact same thing. And if I ever acted like it was Groundhog Day, the coach would essentially reprimand me. And, you know, I eventually got fired from this team because, you know, I didn’t want to go back early, which they wanted me to do. I’m like, no, the contract doesn’t say that there’s an option for them to pay me more money as like the MVP of the league and the champion. I thought like, yeah, they’re like, no, I don’t want to pay you more money. And I was like, OK, well, I’m not coming in early then. Definitely not. And then when we started training camp, you know, it was just like. Man, just like the condition Jones’s Jones’s team, there’s one drill where they have to like one guy spots on either sideline and one guy takes off running in, the other guy throws a ball up ahead and you have to catch it and make a layup and then take it out and. Well, and when you’re passable, you have to run to the other sideline two and come back. You have to do it like eight times or something. It’s a Joel. It sucks.
S2: I’m the lead here a little bit, Roger. Fair description of this. This is the Olsen Mobius Phoebus team. Yeah. Yeah. We play our home games four hours away from our apartments and slept in the dorms early part of the Honda plant.
S4: But what I’m saying in this story is that in this drill, like all that is true and in this drill, one day I was taking a little slowly. And the coach got mad and he was like, essentially, Karrine, like you need to run one hundred percent. So the next time I run a hundred percent and I dunk instead of laying it up and I just take the ball and I kick it like I just lost it. And the entire Korean media was like I was getting I was getting messages from random Koreans, like usually clearly using Google Translate. Please tell me you didn’t kick the ball. Please tell me you didn’t really kick the ball. It was it was so disrespectful, especially in Korean culture, to like challenge someone older with a better title. And that was that was the moment where it was like, yeah, I really could go never playing basketball again from here, from not kicking up the ball. But I stayed with it for three more years because it was like when I change teams also, then my other team was just so much better. But yeah, that that one team that I mean. Yeah, every day was miserable.
S1: Wow. Yeah. I want to ask you a couple nerd basketball questions real quick, if that’s OK. Yeah. All right. Best player whose ass you kicked.
S4: Well, one’s going to be I’m going to say two guys. One is kind of cheating because in the summer, these guys don’t take it that serious. But Brad Miller, I was getting Brad Miller work in Sacramento back in like 06, like when I was like super young. But part of that was like I was playing with a lot of effort. And he didn’t really, you know, just just walking around. I would say on the other side, probably Roy Hibbert, again, when we were in Pacer’s camp every day, I was like, I’m not joking, like giving him work. Now, it’s not to say that he wouldn’t give it back. Sometimes he speaks like four inches taller than me. But coach would stop practice like repeatedly and be like Roy, like no respect to Rod. He’s going to be in the NBA one day. We love him. You don’t stop him from beating the shit out of you. And I’d be like, yeah, if you feel that way, Sindy, my guy. What do you mean? And like Frank Vogel was the assistant coach. And that’s why I love Frank Vogel. You know, he was like the third assistant, a fourth assistant. He’d bring me inside every day and say, like, you’re doing all the right things. You are talented at this game. I’m not a decision maker, but I would have you in a heartbeat. But I was giving him work every day.
S2: Flip side, who owned you?
S4: So many guys. What do you mean you still Ron bets? I’m not you know, the the the in high school and Aiyu, you know, like I said, I only played one year of varsity. So the I was volleyball all the way. And then between my junior and senior year, I switched. And did you know you basketball. But I wasn’t on a good team. I was on a terrible team from southeast San Diego. That was like, I think the bad news bears or something. And like I had never played varsity basketball, so I was like very bad. I got better eventually. But, you know, we played we had played at the Adidas big time, which at the time was like the biggest like a tournament. And before the game, our coaches, like, he doesn’t know shit either. You know, it’s just a dude from the hood, basically. Like now he’s like a community leader, but back then he’s just a guy. So he’s like, oh, yeah, we just you know, they got some guys are supposed to be top 50, like, don’t worry about it. We don’t even know who they are. We don’t we don’t care. So I just matched up Hyatt’s. I’m like, oh, I got the dude with the beads in his hand. So I was like, it looks kind of girly. And I was like, you know, probably a bit homophobic at the time. I was like, yeah, I’ll guard him. He’s like, we’re the same height. First play literally, like, I don’t know what happens. All of a sudden he got an alley oop. And I’m like, how do that? I get screened.
S1: Yeah, he had
S4: nine he probably had 19 dunks, but only nine counted because we kept fouling the guy, throwing the alley oop lost by 16. And that person was Carmelo Anthony. It was just such a. He’s like, oh, he’s just a top top 50 guy. Don’t worry about it. Just match up. Yeah, the guy with the beats. I got it. Like with
S2: Robinson. Thank you so much for coming on the show. We appreciate it. And Slate plus members, we appreciate you, too. We’ll be back with more next week.