S1: Slate Plus members, it’s survey time, which means it’s your chance to tell us what you think about Slate. Slate podcasts and Slate. Plus it’ll only take a few minutes. You can find it at Slate.com slash survey. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen, this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of March 9th, two thousand and twenty on this week’s show, The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen will join us to talk about the escalation of Corona virus fueled cancellations in sports and how upcoming events like March Madness may be affected. We’ll also interview Cohen about his new book, The Hot Hand The Mystery and Science of Streaks. And we’ll discuss. A week of chaos in New York basketball. Spike Lee Beef with Knicks owner James Dolan and the Nets fired their coach, Kenny Atkinson. It’s a multi beef week in New York. Beeves.
S3: Joining me in our D.C. studio, Stefan FATSIS. He’s the author of the book Word Freak. And A Few Seconds of Panic there. Stefan, looking forward to being socially distanced from you in the weeks to come.
S4: We’re about, what, four feet away from each other? I think it’s a good distance as I back away from the microphone.
S5: I welcome in from Palo Alto, man. There were always socially distance from geographically, but not emotionally. Joel Anderson, he is Slate staff writer dostuff slow burn season three will not be appearing at South by Southwest. This happened since last week’s show.
S6: Yeah, man. We had plans to be in Austin and then we canceled that. We canceled before they canceled the whole thing. And I think that’s really what tipped it over. I think, you know, I think you can’t fire me.
S5: I quit. Sonari.
S7: Right, right. The only person matter a few of my art, but I think they’ll get over it.
S5: It’s sad, though. I would have loved to have you. It’s up by Southwest. Stefan, what would you like to tell us about the state of coronavirus in America and in sports?
S8: Well, one event that wasn’t canceled was the Scrabble term. And I played in Charlottesville over the weekend. 22 hardy, brave scramblers gathered with clean tiles at my admonition.
S3: You are the one telling people to clean their tiles.
S4: I was bleach and I put it in the sink. Someone suggested bleach, soap sink, wash those bags. Those things are skanky, man.
S3: People don’t clean them from skanky tile bags to where you’re gonna take us. All right.
S8: Well, we talked about coronavirus on the show last week and whatever we said, it wasn’t alarmist enough. On Sunday, a day before it was supposed to start, the big Indian Wells tennis tournament in California was called off. More and more events were being held without fans. You Ventas beat Inter Milan, two nil in an empty stadium in Turin on Sunday. Then on Monday, Paris police announced that the Champions League round of 16 game this week between PSG and Borussia Dortmund would be played in an empty stadium. The French league is going largely families for at least a month. The Premier League in England is preparing to do the same. That reality is now reaching America. Over the weekend, an NCAA Division Three men’s basketball tournament game was played in an empty arena in Baltimore. And according to a report from the Athletics Shams Tharani, the NBA has told teams to get ready to play in cavernous buildings. LeBron James was asked about this on Sunday, and here’s what he had to say.
S9: We play games. Well, the fans impossibly high in play. The fans in the crowd. So I play for my team. Most players will play for the fans. That’s what moves on the ball. So pressure of the arena of any kind playing so they could do what they want to do for sure. I never played a game when I started playing ball.
S10: Ha ha. Right after that, a reporter noted that this has happened in Europe with the reporter, cited riots and stuff. Apparently unaware of the latest news to that, LeBron replied. This ain’t Europe. Bad news for LeBron. The Corona virus does not care about American exceptionalism. Ben Cohen, you’ve been covering this stuff. LeBron seemed to forget that most fans don’t watch games in arenas, but on television and the networks pay the league a lot of money to broadcast games. But second, isn’t the right answer here. Like everyone else, I’m concerned about the spread of this virus and we as players will do whatever it is in the best interest of public safety.
S11: Well, I am not LeBron’s media advisor. However, I do think you can make the case that maybe the best thing that LeBron could do to serve fans is play basketball for people to watch. When we are stuck in quarantine at some point in the next few weeks.
S12: Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think that players are you know, it’s like all of us. It turns on us at a different pace and at a different time. What’s happening here and I think what you said about American exceptionalism in your intro is exactly right. Is that growing up here, you think that things that afflict places around the world can’t necessarily happen here, whether it’s war, whether it’s disease, and the spread of this virus is showing us that it doesn’t risk. It borders, it doesn’t care how important your game is. It’s coming for us, Stefan. It’s going to be here. And the fact that Indian Wells was cancelled was a really big shift. This is the fifth major in tennis. It is a tournament that has enormous financial ramifications for players. Not that we’re going to necessarily, you know, cry for professional tennis players, but these torian professionals, this is a huge amount of their year can make or break your year. And it’s also a tournament put on by Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, who built this tennis like paradise is what they call it, this enormous facility. It’s a huge deal to just turn around. And Cancela, not just empty stands, but not having it at all. And Ben, this shows, I think, what’s going to start happening if this tennis tournament, this huge event, can be canceled, then I think that really opens up a possibility that anything could be canceled in American sports.
S11: I think that’s right. And reporting on the Corona virus for the last few weeks to me has almost felt like watching the Titanic head for this iceberg in slow motion. Like we know it’s coming and we know it’s going to be very painful and cause severe disruptions here. And yet I don’t think people have really wrapped their minds around it yet. Like this has happened in Asia and Europe already. They’re playing in front of empty stadiums like they have canceled games. And there is nothing about the United States or American exceptionalism that makes us immune from this. I was talking to my colleague Josh Robinson, who covers soccer for the Journal in Europe and is based in Paris. And he was telling me, like PSG and Dortmund getting canceled. I mean, PSG has Neymar and Barbet, right? I mean, these are huge international superstars. What he told me was that, you know, there were 45000 people who are coming to this match and there are people in Paris who buy season tickets for PSG simply for the Home Champions League matches. Right. Like they’re not going to watch PSG beat up on, you know, bad French soccer teams. They’re going to watch PSG play Liverpool and Dortmund and the teams that they will play in the Champions League. So this is a huge deal. And from what we’ve seen, Asia and Europe appear to be like two weeks to a month ahead of the United States. And it just would not surprise me at all to see these types of drastic measures coming here at what appears to be like maybe the worst time of the sports calendar for it to happen. Right. The NCAA tournament kicks off in 10 days. We have the masters of the Boston Marathon.
S8: We have the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, major league baseball season opens.
S11: Exactly. And I don’t think it would be as a huge deal if baseball were to play like in one hundred and twenty game season instead of 162 games. However, like, what does the NBA do? The playoffs are about to start. We don’t know if games will be postponed or canceled or like if Josh is beloved, pelicans will get to the seed. If they’re not allowed to play, I mean, these are not like the most important matters in the world right now. But for the leagues themselves, there are these really thorny competitive issues that still have to be worked out. And I don’t think anyone really knows how they will be worked out.
S12: Well, to be clear, the PSG Dorman game is going to be played. It’s just not going to be played in front of a crowd. So, Joel, I think the question for the NCAA now is March Madness comes in for the NBA and every other league is. Do we cancel games? Do we play them? Not in front of a crowd, despite what LeBron says. How do you feel about just this phenomenon of playing games with no fans in the arena?
S6: You know, we sort of talked about this before. At this point in American history, games are largely TV product.
S13: Is that a fair characterization to say that it’s not something that you tend to experience in person at the stadium? So maybe this is a look at what the future is, because we’ve heard some of the ideas that, you know, stadiums and arenas are going to be smaller in the future and that maybe athletes will be playing on a soundstage and it’ll be a largely television product that we’ll see that way. And maybe this is sort of a glimpse into that future. And maybe, you know, we have opportunity to see what it might look like if only a hundred essential staff are there and they’re putting on a TV show essentially. Right.
S8: I think LeBron’s intent to go back to his comments are it’s a nice one. I play for the fans. That’s what I care about. I get revved up when I go into an arena and I hear everybody cheering. And that’s a wonderful sentiment. But the reality is that, again, back to this idea of American exceptionalism. This has happened before in Europe and on very rare occasions in the United States. It’s happened in Europe largely because of fan violence and racism and punishment for teams to deprive them of revenue and deprive fans of the opportunity to watch games. And in the United States, it’s happened on very rare occasions, usually because of natural disasters. And in the one case in Baltimore, a Major League Baseball game a few years ago was canceled because of rioting in the city. So I think what’s going to happen, Ben, in. If it hasn’t already. Especially right after LeBron’s comments is that players in every sport are going to be getting a memo from management, from their team presidents and from leagues explaining the severity of the situation and what they as spokesman for the league need to do. And when it comes to the NCAA, is, Josh, you brought up and Ben, you’ve been talking to people. I imagine at the NCAA there’s a second layer of concern here, and that’s travel. Universities are clamping down on what its employees are going to be allowed to do, attending conferences, doing anything formal on campus. So will universities allow teams to travel to play in league tournaments or in the NCAA in the coming weeks?
S11: Yeah, I think that’s a fascinating question. I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. I was at the M.I.T. Sloan Sports Analytics conference over the weekend and it went off without a hitch with thirty five hundred people there hours after M.I.T. banned gatherings of more than 150 people. So all of this is happening very quickly and in real time. My colleague at the journal, Louise Radnofsky, talked to Brian Heinlein that the chief medical officer at the NCAA over the weekend. He thinks a worst case scenario is that it’s played behind closed doors. So it sounds for now, as of Monday morning, that the NCAA is not planning to cancel the tournament entirely, which might be great for us if we are stuck at home watching TV in a few days and like having excuse to watch Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournament. But one of the curious things I think about the tournament that makes it a little bit different from the NBA is that the tournament is played at neutral sites. Right. They’re not home crowds. The NBA playoffs like you. The whole point of the regular season is to try to get home court advantage for the playoffs and to get a game seven at home. And if there are no fans there, that takes away the edge of home court. So these are trivial matters, right? Like it’s worth pointing this out. Like whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers have a home game in the Western Conference semifinals in two months is not what anyone is really spending their time thinking about. But it does sort of cut to the core of sports. And it’s not quite an existential issue, but it’s a really tricky problem. I think smart people are going to have to spend a lot of time thinking about.
S3: I was interested to learn that the NCAA has a chief medical officer. Does news to me. I think it was also Brian Burke, the ESPN analytics guy on Twitter, saying an understanding that this was kind of glib, that it will be interesting laboratory if there are no fans and stands, it’ll be a test of home field advantage and how it actually is derived, because I think the best research shows that the reason that home field advantage exists to the extent that it does is the influence that it has on referees or umpires from the home crowd. And so would the refs and umpires still like know where they are geographically and feel compelled to give the home team good calls. Even if fans are yelling at them. Also, if Bill Raftery yells onions in an empty arena, will anyone cry? These are the questions the tri men solves. But Joel, like NCA chief medical officer, again, a test of how much the NCAA actually cares about student welfare.
S6: We’ll say, yeah, it’s really interesting. I mean, I live right around the corner from Stanford and Stanford has canceled classes on campus.
S14: You know, through the end of this quarter, which amounts to like essentially another two weeks. But within the institutions of higher education, then already thinking about the health of their students and like what the risks are in terms of putting them in a situation where there may be, you know, a potential for infection. Meanwhile, we’re talking for the athletes. We’re saying, well, hey, man, we’ve got to figure out a way to get you guys to play. How can we make this happen instead of what might be best for them as athletes? And some of that is, you know, they don’t have a union. They don’t have anybody necessarily advocating for their best interests. Right. To your point that you made a good point, that when the March Madness, like nobody gives a damn about the fans, like you watch those games, there’s barely anybody covered a regional here last year. There’s hardly anybody in those arenas. You won’t notice anything if you’re watching the games on TV because there’s barely anybody of those stars most in time anyway. Right.
S11: The neutral site games are played in NBA arenas essentially. Right. But the thing that’s really interesting to think about is will they play the final four in a football stadium in Atlanta, which already is problematic. Right? We’ve seen that playing in a dome that seats a hundred thousand people does not always lead to the prettiest basketball. Now, what did you do that in a dome for 100000 people in which one hundred thousand people are not allowed to show up like what? They just shipped the final four in Atlanta to the Hawks arena, like what exactly they would do here? You know, I I do think you’re right. There are not a ton of fans. However, we’re getting to a point where bringing 20000 people together, like is not the greatest idea from a medical standpoint. And so I. I do think there are really hard decisions for the NCAA, so it’s a good thing that the NCAA has a great history of making really hard decisions.
S15: Well, if we go back to the NBA, I mean, we ask players, they’re fairly compensated. And so it’s a totally different calculus. But they play on Christmas for our entertainment. We ask them to be away from their families to entertain us when we’re with art families. And Stefan, you are saying, right, that this is a service that athletes can provide the people, if they’re at home, stuck and can’t go out. This is something that will be kind of a needed tonic or bomb for the American people as they’re stuck at home hating their loved ones and significant others.
S8: And I think that’s the message that they’re going to be getting this week and next week, that there has to be a united front here. The players have unions. Players are compensated. Players will be expected to play. LeBron James just can’t say I’m a plan. I mean, I’d like to see how Adam Silver, the commissioner, would respond to LeBron James effectively going on strike because he’s not playing an arena filled with fans in the middle of a pandemic.
S12: I think he’ll get the message. And also just this notion of exceptionalism, I think we should. And there I think there was a note in your journal piece band about when San Francisco puts up this notice saying no more large gatherings at the Chase Center than fancy new arena in San Francisco. The Warriors have a game with 18000 people the next day. So Indian Wells is canceled in the Coachella Valley and California, but different places are having different responses. And when I think you see NBA teams or MLS teams and Seattle defying the local rules and the best advice about what should be done there is this sense, I think, among the general public, how serious really is this? And I think it’s the sports teams do think they’re different or they’re special and that they should play by different rules.
S11: To be clear, San Francisco’s guidance is only a recommendation for now, right, to cancel or postpone large gatherings. However, the Warriors have a game Tuesday night in a center that will be interesting to see what they happen. I thought the most interesting thing that happened on Saturday was that after the Warriors released that Steph Curry was out with an illness on Saturday night, there was so much panic that they had to issue the second press release saying that he was tested and he was diagnosed with Influenza A. Like this whole press release saying Steph Curry has the flu and it’s not corona virus, which is excellent news, if you like, watching Steph Curry play basketball. That I thought was a really interesting sign of the times that just the fact that they had to release a second press release saying that this is flu like we still do get flu, we get colds. Right.
S7: Just in the course of doing this segment, I realized I had tickets to a concert at to say center and two Saturdays that really have to figure out will they be allowing us to show up to that thing. So keep us posted on that.
S4: One final note. Johns Hopkins lost to Penn State, Harrisburg in the empty gym, home gym, 1 0 4 to 96 and double overtime. First piece of data.
S3: All right. Good to know. One of the greatest hot streaks I have ever seen came in 2009 in a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes. We’re going to talk about LeBron James again. We’re obsessed that night. 24 year old LeBron scored 16 points in two minutes. Want you to listen to how that streak ended. Here’s the call. Shooting just as we’ve seen by. Yes, yes. And is not. Oh, I love that video so much. Full link to it on our show page. But we can all relate to this. Joel at a track meet for 10 year olds Stefan and his tile bag, we’ve all had the feeling we could do no wrong. Every move we made was the right one. We’re in the zone. We had the hot hand and Joel’s case, the hot foot in nineteen eighty five. The scholars Tom Gilovich, Robert VALONE and Amos Tversky, they published a paper arguing that everything we thought we knew about streaking this was wrong. It was called the hot hand in basketball on the misperception of random sequences. They argued that what we thought were hot streak for actually just random noise, that the hot hand did not exist. That was statistical canon for three decades. But it’s not anymore. Now our new understanding of the hot hand or in the interest of humility are new. Possible understanding of the possible hot hand has lots of implications for how we shoot our baskets and live our lives. Ben Cohen, your book on the subject is called The Hot Hand The Mystery and Science of Streaks. You’re still here. Congrats on the book.
S16: Thank you. I can’t believe I wrote a whole book on this. I really should have just released that YouTube video and tried to make money that way.
S3: If you watch that video, Ben, of LeBron scoring 16 points in two minutes or you watch Psion, Williams, Williamson make for threes in a row or Klay Thompson score thirty seven and a quarter, it seems unfathomable to suggest that the hot hand doesn’t exist. And if you talk to players, they’ll all tell you that the hot hand exists.
S16: Yes, that’s right. And if you were to ask me, given my experience playing terrible J.V. basketball about fifteen years ago, in one quarter of one game, I scored more points than I had in my entire career combined. I would have told you that the hot hand existed as well. Not until I read that 1985 paper, which is really this classic paper in the canon of behavioral economics because of what it found, which is that there is no such thing as the hot hand. Now something amazing kind of happened after that paper came out, which is that it is so unbelievable that many people just simply refused to believe it. You know, we’d all felt the hot hand. We’d seen the hot hand for ourselves. And now here were these brilliant psychologists coming along telling us there was no such thing. But as you mentioned, some of this has changed in recent years. And this is really why I wrote the book, because it was just really alluring to me on a story level to have something we all thought to be true, only to be told that it wasn’t only to realize that maybe it actually was. And that is, you know, what I really wanted to explore while writing.
S8: Well, what was the evolution? What were the first signs that people, while respecting the original work, were having second thoughts academically in terms of the study? Not like asking Reggie Miller how he made, you know, scored all those points to beat the Knicks at once. But on a serious intellectual level, raising concerns about the academy’s perception about this research and the existence of the hot hand.
S16: I’ve always considered my conversations with Reggie Miller to be a serious intellectual exercise. So I don’t know about you. But what has happened in recent years is that, you know, ever since this first paper came out, there had been hundreds of papers that called it into question and went looking for the hot hand because those authors to believe that, like there had to be such a thing. And if only there were data to actually show that. Now there is some of that data. So the first real paper to come out that changed my mind about this came out in 2014 and it was from a team of Harvard undergraduates. So not grad students? Not yet. Justin’s not professors, but, you know, kids in their college dorm. And what they were able to do was get data from the high resolution tracking cameras in every NBA arena.
S11: This is this system that is known as sport view. And it has kind of changed the way that NBA teams can do data analysis. And the reason that all of this is so important is that we all know that when someone has the hot hand, it warps the behavior of everybody around them. Right. You have the radio announcer calling for LeBron to take a Heat check. Everybody knows that LeBron is shooting his teammates. Him the defense most important. Right. And so what happens when you are hot is you take harder shots, you take riskier shots, longer shots, just crazy or shot that probably have a low probability of actually going in. Right. And what you were finally able to do with this walkthrough data is control for that shift in probability. And this first paper showed that when you actually control for that shift and when you take all of these variables into account, when someone had backhand, you are not less likely to make your next shot. You’re actually slightly more likely. Now, this is not the huge exaggerated fireball of our imagination that comes from NBA jam, but it shows that maybe we weren’t crazy for all of those years to think that there was such a thing.
S7: The access and the ability to have more data is what sort of buttress the argument that there is a hot hand, essentially.
S11: Yeah, essentially. And the curious thing about that is that. Nineteen eighty five. Paper, not the hot hand actually use the best data that was available back then, the data just wasn’t very good. But the reason they were able to write that paper in the first place was that they got the data from the Philadelphia 76ers. They had this unusual statistician at the time named Harvey Pollack, who was actually known as super stat. And in the early 1980s, he was the only person in the NBA who was keeping track of shots in the order in which they were taken. So chronology of shots, this seems like really primitive. And it is now. But at the time it was cutting edge. And that is actually the data that buttresses the first paper about the hot hand. So this data that is available now just simply wasn’t available to Gilovich full on diversity in like their wildest nerdiest wonkiest dreams or else they would have used it because they did at the time.
S17: The funny thing about this is that.
S3: You have the it’s part of this genre of economists or social scientists telling us that everything we think we know about the world is wrong. And it’s funny to imagine if this paper had never been written, would we have all just gone along thinking that the thing with it was right was it was actually right and we would have been right. I mean, it’s also part of the genre, like Tim McCarver was kind of ridicule. Does the, you know, old player who didn’t know what he was talking about? Who’s just yammering in the announcer’s booth? And one of the things he talked about was the importance of pitch framing. And Rob nyers has talked about this Saber metrically inclined ESPN writer saying that he thought McCarver was full of it. And then it turned out decades later that McCarver was totally right and pitch framing was super important. And so there’s been maybe this larger trend in sports of athletes and their observations about what happens when they play being kind of pooh-poohed and dismissed. And then maybe when we have better tools and are better able to see what they can actually experience than it turns out they were right.
S11: I think that’s interesting. And it’s probably right. I mean, I think the thing that is curious to me about the hot ad and the reason I wrote the book is that I think that reasonable people can still sort of disagree about it. Right. Like there are very smart people on both sides of this debate. And, you know, all of these papers that have looked at the hot hand, I think are really admirable. Like even if that 1985 paper is not quite as right as we once thought it was and maybe shouldn’t be the sensation that we always thought it was. It’s still really interesting. Like they did find something that I think is true. Right. Which is that we do see patterns where they don’t exist and we invent causes to explain them sometimes and we should be cognizant of that. So, you know, I think part of the fun of the hot end and really the mystery of it is that we can kind of toy with these ideas for ourselves and figure out where we land. Some parts of this book you might agree with, other parts you might not agree with. But I think that’s the whole fun of playing with the idea.
S8: Well, and the idea is so, so ingrained in how we think about sports and how we process sports. And one of the anecdotes sequences that I really liked in the book and I think this was in the excerpt in The Wall Street Journal that we’ll link to on the show page is your examination of the creation of NBA jam, which you mentioned that a little earlier, and how the hot hand was deliberately sort of embedded in the game. And then in subsequent games at the same game design or produced and how it influenced Steph Curry, you draw this direct line between NBA jam hot hand Steph Curry. Oh, I can make these shots. I have the hot hand. Basketball is changed forever.
S11: That’s right. The designer of NBA jam is a guy named Mark Turnell, who was this prodigy video game designer. And when he was growing up, there were three things that he loved. He loved basketball and he loved video games and he loved fire. He was actually a bit of a pyromaniac. And what happened when he grew up was that he combined his three childhood loves into the bigger hit of his life. So when I grew up playing NBA jam and I am almost exactly the same age as Steph, he’s about two months older than I am. So I understand his frame of reference like NBA jam was everywhere when we were growing up. Like it would have been very hard. If you are a basketball fan and not play NBA jam, let alone if you were a basketball fan whose dad happened to play in the NBA and was in the NBA jam. So like of course Steph played NBA jam. We all did. But what I did not realize when playing NBA jam is that it was one of the most lucrative successful video games ever made. It made like a billion dollars in quarters in its first year of existence, like everybody was obsessed with NBA jam. And what I think is that Mark Trommel single handedly brainwashed a generation of impressionable young minds into believing that there was such a thing as the hothead. Like, of course, if you take three shots in a row and make them, you’re going to make your next shot. And I think the cool thing is that, like, you know, not only to Steph Curry believe in the hot hand, he actually behaves as if he believes in the high and which is what everybody in the NBA does. And I tell this story in the book about a game against the New York Knicks in February 2013 in which a few amazing things happened. Steph Curry scored fifty four points, which is the most points he scored to this day. He made eleven of the thirteen three pointers. He played all 48 minutes. It was kind of the game that was the epiphany for him, for the Warriors, for the fate of the whole NBA. And maybe the most amazing thing that happened in this game is that Steph Curry scored fifty four points and the New York Knicks actually won.
S18: That’s great. And Mark Jackson was his coach. You talk a little bit about how circumstance has a lot to do with it. Alma, if you would tell people little bit about how it came to be that Steph ended up having the green light that night because that it was actually sort of fascinating to me, too, because I mean, he’d been on the team and you mentioned in the book that before that night in Madison Square Garden. He had averaged only 18 points a game, is that right?
S11: Yeah, he was like, fine, right. He had this amazing run at Davidson that we all remember for most of his life. The through line of his basketball career was that people just didn’t really believe that he could be as great as we now know him to be. Now, if you were to ask him, like, did you know that you were going to get hot in the garden that night, you would say, no, of course not. Like the circumstances of that game were very bizarre. So the Warriors played in Indiana the night before they got into a fight that Steph actually has a role in. If you go back and watch the video clip, he’s pretty involved in the fight. The problem is that he charges Roy Hibbert and Roy Hibbert is seven foot two and weighs a lot more than Steph Curry ways. And he kind of just brushes him aside like like he doesn’t even belong. And so for his entire life, Steph Curry is great. Disadvantage had been his size. Right. He was too small to really be a star basketball player. However, for this one night, it was his improbable advantage because he wasn’t big enough to do damage in a fight of NBA player. So the Warriors fly to New York that night. They wake up. A couple of their teammates have been suspended. Steph Curry has been fined thirty five thousand dollars and never has anyone been so fortunate to lose so much money. The Warriors are down a few players. They have no choice but to sort of unleash Steph Curry. He ends up playing forty eight minutes that he does not come out of the game, which seems impossible now, given the way that NBA players have their loads managed. Right. And they and they generally played between like thirty and thirty six minutes. Here is a regular season game in February in which Steph School plays all 48 minutes. But the most incredible thing about all of this to me is that Steph Curry was always on the second bus from the Warriors Team Hotel on road trips in that game. And for a reason he can’t remember. He takes the third bus, which he says he never does. And what happens when the third bus pulls out of the team hotel? It gets pulled over by New York City cops on the way to Madison Square Garden. So he’s on the wrong bus. The bus gets pulled over. It’s late. His warm up routine is rushed. He says he has no idea when the hot hand is going to happen, where it’s going to happen, why it’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen. But once it does happen, he understands that you have to embrace it, which I think is a really fascinating way to think about it once it does happen. You have to embrace it.
S17: Every game since then, he’s made sure that the bus gets pulled over by New York City cops.
S15: You can’t you can’t mess with success. Joel, question for you. So we think of the hot hand in terms of basketball shooting. It’s the most intuitive. And also, you know, we see it in these games, like what staffer LeBron or Klay? Did you feel like in football there could be such a thing as a hot hand for a running back? Does that concept transfer in all sorts of realms of sports experience?
S19: Yeah, I think that definitely can be moments when you feel something where you feel different that the game is moving slower and you’re sort of feeling your way through it. And I mean, I’m not by no means was I a great athlete. But since Ben had his junior varsity basketball story to tell. I mean, you know, I’ve played in football game before without as a running back was like, oh, wow. It does feel like no matter where I go, no matter what I do, I’m going to be able to fund the whole game at the ball. You know, just to get the give me give me the ball. In fact, there was a game I thought goes, I can be Al Bundy for a second here at our homecoming game. We were down but touchdowns. And I told the coach on some of us like, hey, man, give me the ball. I got about like 20 carries in the second half. And we won. We ran for close to 200 yards. But a little bit so anyway. Yes. But in that moment, that’s nothing that I we’ve never done like myself. I was never the kind of person that would ask the coach to give me the ball for whatever reason. But in that moment, that night, I felt like I was in a zone. That’s the only way that I can describe it. And like my memories of that night are not very vivid. I just felt like I was very dull, numb. And it was just, you know, the game just kind of came to me. So, yeah. So when Ben was talking about having that moment in junior varsity basketball, you know that anything I threw up, it was gonna go in. That’s the same thing. And then you hear runningbacks talk about that all the time while you’re here. Quarterback even say, you know, look, I I’m making throws tonight that I would normally be able to make or even if you run track, like there’ll be a time that you’ll go through a run. You know, here’s what this feels different. My body feels like it’s beyond its capabilities.
S8: Right. And I think, like you said, Joel, you mentioned the word zone. And Ben, the hot hand really is the psychological state. It’s this place where you believe that you can do something because you are so attuned to the moment and there’s an overlapping influence. Is that what you discovered? Is that what the research has shown?
S11: Clearly, there is a psychological change that happens, right. I write a little bit in the book about flow states, but whatever you want to call it, like, we do feel that. However, I want to ask you a question, Steph, because I know that you are just dying to tell us your Scrabble hot hand story over there. So let us have it.
S10: My. Personal favorite hot hand story is actually kicking a football, and I write about it in a few seconds of panic. It was in practice and I just made one at 30 and then 32 and then 34 and then 36 and then 38 and 40.
S4: And I decided to stop because it was like, I am not blowing this moment. This is like I am in the place I wanted to be for a year learning how to do this. And I have achieved it now and it’s time to walk away.
S15: That’s a question I actually had for Ben, is when you talk to athletes, do they say that when they realize that they’re hot, that it stops? Is there something about understanding that you’re in the zone that makes you fall out of the zone or does it vary by person?
S10: I think for amateurs, it’s like I’ve. For me, it was like, I’m not fucking with this. Like, I made it to 40 or 42. And if I screw up now, it’ll ruin the moment. But I think for professional athletes, for real athletes, for Joell athletes, you know, you want to keep going, I would think. No, Ben.
S11: Yeah, I think you do want to keep going. However, the terrible thing about the hot hand is that it ends right. We all know that it ends. And that’s, I think, why Steph Curry said you have to embrace it because like, you know, that this magical feeling is not going to last and you don’t want to do anything to imperil it while it does last. I should say like the consequences of Steph Curry taking a shot from thirty five feet when he feels hot. They’re pretty low, right? Like you missed the shot. That’s the thing. And if you’re missing the shot in a February game against the Knicks, Madison Square Garden. It’s not a huge deal. Now the psychologist who use basketball to study the hot hand. We’re not only studying the hot hand. They were studying human behavior, but their work has great implications for many things beyond basketball. So in the book, I write about a farmer, actually, and an investor. If you believe in the hot hand when you are making decisions about how to allocate your resources on a farm or how to invest your money like there can be real consequences to that. It’s not missing a shot. It’s like betting the farm and losing and going broke. So I think it’s important to think about like there are certain environments that allow for a hot hand and there are other environments in which believing in the hot hand can actively punish you. And I think the crucial distinction is one of control. Like when you feel like you have agency versus when you’re at the mercy of chance, really. But this is some of the stuff that’s important to think about.
S15: Even if you do believe in the hot hand, yeah, the implications here are wide ranging and you write about Shakespeare in the book and all whole number of other things. People should check it out if they are into sports. But you probably are if you’re listening this podcast or if you hate sports and listen this podcast because you hate yourself, you will like the book as well. It’s called The Hot Hand The Mystery and Science of Streaks. It’s by Ben Cohen. Ben, thank you so much for coming on the show.
S11: It’ll make for excellent quarantine reading. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.
S15: Want to let you know that in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members in our goal to talk about LeBron James and every possible segment, we will discuss the Lakers big weekend. They beat the Bucks and the Clippers are looking like the best team in the NBA. But are they really, truly, do we believe that deep in our souls? We’ll discuss.
S18: Big weekend, the Mecca. It all started last Monday at Madison Square Garden with super fans. Spike Lee showed up to watch his beloved Knicks play the very great and awesome Houston Rockets. Lee said that he use an interest on West Thirty Third Street for nearly 30 years, including as recently as the week before. And it’s an entrance typically reserved for media employees and the disabled. But on this night, this last Monday, LEIGH was told he had to leave and re-enter somewhere else. Well, LEIGH didn’t take too kindly to that, and it led to a heated confrontation. So here he is explaining what happened on ESPN. First take that next day.
S20: I’ve been using this same entrance for 28 plus years. The employees entries on three third street. Yesterday, last night, I go in my ticket, get scanned, I’m in.
S21: Well, you know, the elevator going elevator, an elevator. Also, people have that ticket scanned also. And elevators not moving. And the security company said we need to get off the elevator. I said, for what? So we were we could speak about a NASA man getting out of elevator. So it’s no five minutes than if Alison Elliott, because they know I’m not going. Elevator, get on the elevator. As you know, people know the garden of floors on the fifth floor. They got to 5.
S20: And wait for you like it is rain on the Macy’s deal assumptive. And they said, you, this guy, security guy, they’re all this comes to the top. He says, Mr. Lee, you have to leave Madison Square Garden.
S21: They wanted me to lead the garden, walk outside that out the Thirty Third Street and players sweat came from walk outside and come back on thirty first street. And I said, I’m not doing that. First of all. You scanned my ticket. You can’t scan a ticket twice. Also, I know that once you leave a sports arena event, you can’t come back in. So I don’t trust these guys. I’m not going for the okey doke. Also, why are you taking a perp walk? For what? Let me just get it will only be let get it. So I said I’m not leaving.
S20: Then and then they said, we want you to leave.
S21: The Gari I put my hands behind my back and I said, arrest me like my brother Charles Oakley.
S20: Then I get that guy. There’s some brothers I know. I grew up in Fort GREENE, Brooklyn. Spike me, brother. Better, better, better. They said Spike. It’s some crazy stuff, but if we take you on the elevator and go to the sixth floor at our side, going off the sixth floor will walk you to your seat. I said bet.
S21: So hat time dollar comes over to me and says we need talk as to talk about what we need to talk. I said, Mr. Dolan.
S22: I don’t want to talk about nothing.
S21: I mean, coming to his interests for 28 years plus Wednesday. Historic event, the world’s most famous arena mascot. Gordon, they had a Broadway. They took To Kill a Mockingbird and had a famous the eighteen thousand New Yorks to the Public Kids amazing event where they go in the ploy and tricks.
S20: That was Wednesday. So they want to change this whole new policy talk about. And they thought they’d never say when that thing changed, so. Why not call me not? If we might mind the parties to do was ask a nominal price for Nick tickets and I one day late.
S18: My phone is ringing off the hook that kills me every time I hear it. Like eventually made it to his courtside seat that night and at one point he shook hands with Knicks owner James Dolan, a gesture shown in a photograph that was tweeted through the Knicks public relations account the following day. And it was accompanied by a statement that read, He is welcome to come to the garden anytime via the VIP entrance. Just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim agreed to last night when they shook hands. That sets bike off. And that’s why he was at ESPN the next day. Now he says he won’t go for the rest of the season. Of which there probably isn’t much left. Possibly because of Corona virus, but also because the Knicks are probably going to miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Probably. All right. All right. We never know. Anything is possible. R.J. Barratt’s, a nice looking rookie. Things aren’t great in Brooklyn either. As the Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and the Nets agreed to mutually part ways on Saturday Atkinson room with the Nets since 2016, compiling a record of one hundred and eighteen in one night. That’s a bad record. And it’s also misleading because he generally became widely known as one of the better coaches in the league, especially after last season when he led the starless nets to at 42 and 40 record in a playoff berth. That was enough to convince star free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to side with the nets of the off season, heralding a new era of Hoop and Brooklyn. Well, now look at them. Threat has played all year. He’s still recovering from Achilles surgery. Kyrie’s up for the year with a soldier injury and missed most of the year. The Nets twenty eight. Thirty four. Better than they have any right to be, but still a disappointment. And now they’ve lost their coach. Josh.
S12: Which fan would you least want to be a fan out right now with the Nets of the Knicks watching Spike on First Take was really interesting because he kept invoking his childhood and the fact that his dad would take him to games and he named, you know, players like Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley, but also more obscure guys that I had never heard of. Just to kind of express his bona fides as a Knicks fan. He was in the stands for the Willis Reed game in 1970. Like all of this stuff. And the point that he was trying to make was the team belongs to the fans. James Dhol, Leonard, nobody else, no matter how horribly it’s mismanaged, they can’t take that away from me. And he’s a Brooklyn guy. But he says he’s not going to move over to the Nets because he’s always rooted for the Knicks. And, you know, on the one hand, it’s admirable and there’s a truth to it that the owner shouldn’t really influence your feelings about the team. On the other hand. As Max Kellerman, I think pointed out, Spike has given them about 10 million dollars in season ticket money over the years. And if you’re telling an owner or a franchise, no matter what you do, I’m gonna be loyal to you, then that’s not exactly a great message to send either. And so back to your question, Doyle. I think I’d rather be a Nats fan and that in the short term, until Dolan sells the team, because we do have these kind of childhood memories and associations that lock us in and lock us down to franchises that are horribly mismanaged, even if we’re not personally maligned or impugned by the owner of the team.
S4: Yeah, it’s hard to overcome your childhood associations though, and Lee is about as admirable as anyone has ever been. To have stuck with this team for the last 20 years, basically while they have sucked and been mismanaged. It’s not just the sucking, it’s that they’ve been embarrassing.
S15: It is fascinating to me. Just back to the money thing that he’s the most famous fan in the NBA. I think now that Jack Nicholson is not going to the Lakers games any longer. And apparently he’s paying full price for his tickets. They have been paying that $300000 a year. You would think that he didn’t pay for tickets. I would’ve been my assumption.
S7: Oh, you want to get into that kind of presence? Like, I guess this is a testament to how much money Spike Lee makes every year. A thousand of it. I was kind of surprised. I spent 10 million dollars on Knicks tickets over 30 years. That’s amazing. Yeah, right. Good for him. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And it’s funny, he mentioned Charles Oakley in that clip there and they interviewed Charles Oakley.
S6: And Oakley said something to the effect that the Knicks are like a plantation. And he said that, well, they don’t have to convince James Dolan to sell. They can strip him of ownership like they did Donald Sterling in the Clippers. And I was like, that’s really interesting. It’s a little bit crazy in some ways, because James Dolan hasn’t necessarily done anything to have this team taken from him. But it is something that you would think the NBA would want to nudge him out of there, right?
S8: Well, I think that I think that this has come up with Adam Silver and David Stern before him. I mean, I know it’s come up. There have been stories about requests being made or the league actually looking into the behavior of Dolan and his management of the franchise. I mean, it’s not that different from financial mismanagement in other franchises, whether it’s the Wilpons in New York and how they’ve been pressured to find a buyer for this team.
S4: These leagues aren’t dumb. Adam Silver knows that having a functional franchise in New York would improve the overall state of the NBA. It’s not as important as maybe it was 30 years ago or 40 years ago. But having a good team in New York would really be a terrific thing for any sports league. Nobody wants the team in New York to suck.
S5: It’s много for the NBA.
S15: And you know, the reason that Kevin Durant went to the Nats or Kyrie Irving went to the Nazis because the Knicks or such a disaster.
S8: Yeah. Joel, I don’t even mean suck on the court. I mean suck as a franchise and be embarrassing. Be a drain on fandom and public perception of the NBA because it does rub off when the owner of this $5 billion asset has mismanaged it so grossly on and off the court for so long.
S3: There’s nothing more hilarious, you know, that it’s gonna be great when you see the news that the Knicks have released a statement like when the Knicks ever win. The Knicks have released the statement is like an event. Then you know that something has gone terribly wrong. I mean, the Charles Oakley thing was he’s like a franchise legend, kind of the heart and soul of the franchise. And he gets in an argument with security and they they bring him out in handcuffs. Like these are the things that happen with the Knicks. And they bring in Steve Stoute and Leon Rose to kind of reshape or refashion the franchise. I think it was Steve Stoute went on first take and is talking about like he is basically running the player personnel department or implies that he is. And then it turns out that that’s not true. So even when they try to like do things that will make them more appealing, the fans are more appealing to players that turns out to be a disaster. And everything just goes back to ownership.
S12: Joel, like there’s no solution here. There’s no, like, people that you can hire or bring in that are going to turn this thing around if you don’t change ownership.
S14: It’s interesting because I think if you like. So we have to believe. NBA legend the way that Patrick Ewing got to the Knicks, that that’s the belief that there was some nefarious. Lottery ball chicanery going on that ended up with Patrick Ewing getting up at the Knicks tonight. I kind of go back to your guys. I like what if Zion had ended up with the Knicks? I’m trying to think, would it have been a disaster? Would it have been a great thing? Because the belief for a year or so was that the Knicks were in position to draft Zion. They had enough opportunities in the lottery to get him that, you know, they were one of the top two or three teams that had a shot to get him and they ended up third. But if Zion it ended up with the Knicks man, I’d makes me wonder if there would have been more of a push to get Dolan out of there, because that is an asset that you cannot waste. You can’t waste Zion in the league with the ownership and management like that. And I just wonder if that had gone differently. The Knicks would have gotten everything that they wanted instead of nothing.
S17: Right now, it’s a really great point. Yeah, that would have been fascinating to see.
S15: And with the Nets, you have a new owner there, Joe Sye, and you have a coach, as you noted in your intro, who is respected by pretty much everyone in the league. And we had thought there was respected by players as well as, you know, other coaches and and writers did lead the nets to this 42 and 40 record last year, built the fabled culture that all teams want to build. And that allowed the Nats to, you know, be an attractive destination for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And now the reports suggest that it was the players, it was the star players who didn’t want Atkinson there who decided that that they wanted another coach. And there is. It seems like this recurring conflict in the league where you have a set of teams. Who is Kevin Arna Vets who said this on the Zach Lowe podcast?
S3: You have teams that are quote unquote, cute stories, ones that overachieve, ones that don’t have stars that get bounced in the first round or maybe the second round of the playoffs if they’re lucky and they play well and they pass the ball. And, you know, they’re they’re fan favorites. And we love to watch them play. And they don’t ever win in the end because they don’t have the stars. And then you have the teams that have LeBron James or the teams that have Kevin Durant. And there are the teams that end up winning. And maybe you don’t need that cute story or the good culture. You know, the analytics people really love and respect. What you need is the coach that gets along with LeBron or that gets along with Katie. And it seems like maybe those things came in conflict here.
S8: And because it isn’t. Isn’t that an argument? Joel, that’s been made before in the NBA that these are grown ass man and that what they need isn’t a motivator of talent, but someone to let them know that they are respected and implement schemes and play design that players are on board with.
S23: Kenny Atkinson is known as a good player development guy. I don’t think he’s like that, right. He’s not like a John B line where he is telling them that they suck and that they need to, you know, play hard. Right.
S8: So it’s that balance between developing the younger players, but knowing how to get along with the with the veteran players.
S6: Right. Yeah. I guess that sort of thing gives those we’re talking about to notorious like curmudgeons, but people that they’re out even cancers, but they’re guys that have a difficult to get along with. I mean Kyrie lasted in Boston for one season for you.
S24: Could you imagine being quarantined with Kyrie Irving? Well, first of all, why would his theories be about what was causing the Crown a virus? That could be interesting, but Kyrie Irving is maybe the most notorious guy in the league as far as being somebody that it’s hard to get along with.
S15: That is weird. And that once things to be kind of catered around him.
S13: Right. And Kevin Durant, I mean, he’s a guy. He obviously had a lot of success with the Golden State Warriors. But I think it’s fair to say that ultimately that time together was a disappointment and that he didn’t seem fulfilled at all. But what should have been the ideal basketball situation in the history of basketball?
S7: And it still didn’t work out. And so when he comes to the house and it does work well and worked out. Yeah. And what does he seem happy for having the success that he had? I guess that’s a different question. Who can define happiness? Really? That’s a fair point. That’s fair. That’s fair.
S5: What is what is joy? What is happy?
S3: Who’s to say? But in the NBA, it’s like one of the realms in human experience where. I’m not saying that Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant are assholes, but in the situation where a star player is an asshole, they’re going to get their way even if they’re wrong. And even if they’re wrong, they might end up being right. If the metric we’re judging it by is winning championships, like you’re not going to win a championship with unhappy superstars.
S15: There’s no such thing as a great culture with unhappy superstars. And, you know, LeBron won with Ty Lue, LeBron one with Erik Spoelstra, too. So it’s not like they don’t respect a guy who didn’t play in the NBA, even though that is often what sad that LeBron isn’t going to want to play with Frank Vogel. Jason Kidd is just gonna take over at some point. That’s not necessarily true. And it’s just hard for us to know without having access to locker rooms and without having access to reporting on how these players actually feel like when their resentments are going to come up and how these things are going to shake.
S8: And what’s especially curious in this case is that Kyrie Irving played 20 games this year and he’s done for the season. And after having surgery last week and Kevin Durant’s obviously was not playing at all this year. So whatever was happening there.
S10: And like you just said, Joss, we really don’t know and reporting would help shake this out. Was it a combination of these two guys that aren’t on the court forcing out the coach? Was it some other factor, other players that Atkinson wasn’t reaching, wasn’t getting along with? We just don’t know right now. And it just seems incredibly weird and strange.
S24: And back to the question about which team you would rather support and root for. Like the obvious answer is the nets. But on the other hand, the nets have been kind of this empty vessel, right? Joel? I mean, they are re-branded when they move to Brooklyn. I’ve got the great court, though. They have the great court. They play Biggie on the P.A.. Who wouldn’t want to play there? But they’re just kind of creating this franchise out of nothing. Riley and trying to appeal to fans and trying to appeal to players. And it all just feels kind of subject to change on a moment’s notice. There is no kind of bedrock whether that bedrock is good or bad.
S12: There’s just like nothing that exists there. It just feels like it’s in a constant state of like flux and trying to convince us that it’s real and solid and that they’re building something there. And maybe they’re not.
S14: Actually, I’m not sure that I would rather be a Nets fan, because like you said, I mean, they don’t have a history or they’re there that you can sort of grab on to and make you feel like, oh, this team has a legacy and a history and something that like you want to root for. Maybe this is because it is my childhood and my first experience with the NBA championship came against the Knicks when the Knicks actually meant something in the NBA. Right. And I’ve read about Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett and all these guys. And like that does mean something. And if you’ve ever watched a game at Madison Square Garden, it is different. I was sort of skeptical of that until I actually went and watched the game for myself. And you even know that because you watched other NBA players and how they light up and the experience they talked about playing there. So it does mean something a little bit different to be a Knicks fan. The way I think about it is that the Knicks are always sort of starting from the ground up. The reason I think people sort of still invest in them is that they never get beyond the foundation. Like it’s all they’ve never really built a home there. But there’s always a chance for something else. I feel like the Nets have maybe sort of cast their lot with a couple of dudes, too. I mean, we got one guy that’s coming off of a very serious injury and another who’s a well-known locker room cancer, who hasn’t shown that he can lead a team on his own. So I’m not quite sure that it’s that clear cut. I might rather be a Knicks fan than a Mets fan even right now.
S8: Yeah, well, no one should be staking their fandom on the likeability and behavior of owners and that that’s a problem here. I mean, Joe TYhe seems to be an improvement over the Russian oligarch Prokhorov, but Joe Tsai also was the guy that basically threw Darell Morey under the bus and throughout the party line that we need to be respectful to China about what’s going on in Hong Kong. So pick your poison.
S4: But, you know, maybe just sit it out and decide in 2023 which team you should support.
S6: The Rockets, of course.
S15: Now it is time for After Balls and Spike Lee. Let’s get back to him for a minute. He really made his imprint on the NBA with those commercials with Michael Jordan. The character was Mars Blackmon and was based on Spike Lee’s character, Mars Blackmon from the film. She’s gotta have it. Joel, you’re telling us when we were not. Rolling that you saw. She’s got to have it. Which came out in 1986 when you were a small child.
S7: Yes. Yes, I did. And school days, I was a big Spike Lee fan and fan of simulated sex as a preaching.
S17: And you said that your parents did not explain to you what it was and she’s got to have it.
S25: Yeah. No, I just saw basically it wasn’t a romcom, but I just I just know this is a movie of romance and people dating. I didn’t I didn’t kind of connect all that together so much later. But I think that’s probably where my parents thought it was sort of harmless for me to watch because like, who can at eight or nine years old, sort of wrap their mind around what’s happening there on the screen?
S15: You know, a romance. I like that. So Mars Blackmon character and she’s got to have character and Nike commercials featuring Michael Jordan. And after my namesake, Stefan, what is your Mars Blackmon?
S10: Apologies for missing this last month. But my old Denver Broncos teammate Jay Cutler had some thoughts about my favorite sport team handball. Let’s listen.
S26: I do want to get a team together for the Olympics.
S27: They have like it’s I think it’s handball, but it’s basically like a little ball that you throw around and then throw into a goal. So it’s like soccer. Yeah, indoor soccer with a ball you throw, you should play that. You’d be right. Handball would be so sick if you started, if you like. There’s there’s a US team, but like I want to go and do that. Yes. You just on missiles.
S26: I think if it was you, Patrick, Mahomes and LeBron, just how many players playing handball like 8 on schedule time. So it was you three against eight players from any other country. I think we won. I think we I guarantee we. You put a team like win gold.
S27: Yes, guarantee. I would absolutely agree with that. Yeah. Just just from pure like arm speed. I don’t think there is in other countries and just some really big guys going back. Right.
S10: Pure arm speed throwing missiles. Jay Cutler offered up those scorchingly uninformed handball thoughts on pardon my take on the podcast in late January. For the record, there are seven players on a handball team, not eight. And the goalkeepers are not big old slow dudes. Cutler’s comments blew up because this is perfect sports. Judd Catnap Pardon my take interviewed a former Spanish national team player, which went about as you’d expect it would go, but it was reasonably respectful. And they drafted a team of former guests. Dan Lieberthal played the Cutler clip on ESPN as highly questionable panelist Dominique Foxworth, who also was on My Broncos team. The 2006 Denver Broncos have strong opinions about team handball. Dominique Foxworth weighed in.
S28: I’m sorry if it’s disrespectful to handballs everywhere, but I’ve watched that game before and I feel like it’s not like this is soccer and it’s not a big deal here. I’m sure handball is a big deal somewhere, but no one is an 8 year old. I want to play handball. You know who plays handball? The people who couldn’t make it in soccer couldn’t make it in football. Couldn’t make it in basketball. So I know it’s completely disrespectful to all handball about that, but I don’t care. Gonna be in your mouth. Oh yeah. All eight of I’m gonna be in my medicine.
S10: So me, Jay Cutler and LeBron, I’ll go in with everyone in all of this contrived Murken this predictably aroused the handball community a handball goat. Nicola Car Abiotic of France tweeted at Cutler and Foxworth, I’d be glad to give you my Olympic gold medal if you beat my team. A top German club invited Cutler to come train Luca Doncha. Much of the Mavs who played some handball growing up in Slovenia tweeted at Foxworth No chance. People don’t know how hard it is to play handball. I especially enjoyed an episode of The Uninformed Handball Our a podcast hosted by three Irish international handball players.
S29: Here’s one of them making fun of Jay Cutler after coming all the way back from the European Championship. I saw people put their bodies on the line playing games two days in a row, giving it their all. And then some guy whose name I only heard before, I’ve never actually seen never seen it need to seen it. I wouldn’t want to recognize his face. Jay, Jay Cutler saying that if these people walk around throwing a small ball. Could you imagine me unleashing missiles? I was just like, oh, my God, where is this? Go on here.
S30: And here’s how he described the pardon. My take.
S29: Episode two dunks sitting on a couch talking to Jay Cutler.
S10: Two dogs sitting on the couch talking to Jay Cutler would indeed have been an excellent title for that show. The Irish dude sounded mostly sad that a relatively famous athlete in America’s most popular sport would ignorantly diss their own sport.
S30: For the record, I would not now and did not when we did this on this podcast in 2011, draft Jay Cutler for my USA team handball dream team. I do think that a younger Dominique Foxworth could have been an excellent handball player. A spokeswoman for the USA team had. Ball Federation said it tried to get Foxworth to work out with a local D.C. team there. If that does go down as it happens, a dozen or so current and retired NFL players were in Hungary last week with a charitable group founded by NFL players called American Football Without Barriers. That spreads the gospel of the gridiron around the world. Todd Gurley of the Rams, Kenny more of the Colts, former name of the year, Bart t.v.’s Mingo of the Texans. They were all there. And guess what they did? They practiced and played with a handball team in Budapest. There is video. And based on what I saw, Nicholas Carr bodices gold medalists safe dribbling and passing a little ball and leaping in a clutch of defenders to shoot it at a small goal or not. The video confirms instantly transferable athletic skills. I talked to Gary Barnes Edge, one of the founders of American football without barriers, who played tight end for the Panthers and the Browns from 2008 to 16. He admitted that the handball workout was tough, but he also said that because the game combines the quick bursts of football, the constant movement of basketball, the throwing of baseball and the conditioning and ball movement of soccer, American athletes could easily be good.
S4: He’s right. We’ve talked about this before, except for the easily part.
S30: It would take years to train pre-existing top athletes to play handball. Well, fortunately, though, we have years, eight years. The twenty twenty eight Olympics are in L.A. The U.S. handball team automatically qualifies. Sure, Jay Cutler will be 45 then, but I’m sure he’ll still be fire and missiles.
S15: Thank you for unintentionally explaining my favorite headline of last week, which was Barque t.v.’s Mingo Fires Cannon and.
S23: I don’t know why he wasn’t hungry and I still don’t know why he was firing a cannon, but at least part of that mystery is solved. He wasn’t firing handballs.
S8: That was not cannon like on the court. I watched the video.
S17: Unrelated jaw. What is your Mars Blackmon?
S31: Hopefully you’re reading slate.com earlier this week and came across a post written by samour Colloff about chart-topping Houston rapper Meghan G with two E’s stallion in her lawsuit against former Major League Baseball player Carl Crawford. The story is about how Megan filed a lawsuit against the record label for which Crawford is the CEO and it’s a pretty standard music industry dispute arising.
S6: Music artists accuses their record label of essentially trapping them in a bad deal. And the star of the stories making probably best known for popularizing the term Hot Girls Summer, which happened last year. And she just dropped a new E.P. on Friday. You can Google our Cure app on Spotify and follow on Instagram and get a pretty quick sense of why she’s become a star.
S32: Does she get it? Does she get it? I can’t handle thinking he’s a player. He’s a member.
S6: It figures that no matter what happens with her lawsuit, Megan Zey with two E’s stallion will be around for a while. Carl Crawford, he’s actually been around for a while. And as a native Texan, I just want to relish in his brief high school football career for a moment. Let’s start back in the Fifth Ward of Houston, where he was born and raised. And if you can’t tell by the name, because rarely does a nice neighborhood get tagged with the term ward. It was a rough area. Crawford pulled off something. In retrospect, that seems impossible today. He stopped then. Jefferson Davis High School on the north side of Houston from becoming a national punchline. For years, Davis High School fielded football teams worthy of its namesake for nineteen eighty five to nineteen ninety three. Jefferson Davis lost every single football game that it played. That was a national record 80 consecutive losses within two years. Davis was in the playoffs. That was cross’ freshman year on the football team. And he was the quarterback and he was more of a runner than a thrower allegedly running a four point two 40 yard dash in his senior year. He had twenty plays of more than 50 yards, and the powerhouse of the day was convinced that he could do the same thing in college Nebraska. It was then Cornhuskers coach Frank Soldier that signed him and fully expected Carl Crawford to compete and beat out Bobby Newcomb and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Erich Krauss for the starting job. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Crawford into Major League Baseball draft in 1999 and was a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays that launched a career where he was a four time All-Star. And it ended in 2016 with the Dodgers. Doesn’t needed him for assignment. With about 30 million remaining on his contract. But it’s hard not to think about what might have become of Karl if he hadn’t stuck with football. Even Frank Stoltze thinks about it sometimes. In a recent interview with ESPN so much now, the coach at Ohio University said he thought Crawford could have been a star there. Quote, We thought he could really fit everything. We wanted to do, in fact, his ability would have allowed us to do a number of great things, so it said soulard said this as he had a guy who won a Heisman Trophy winner. Keep that in mind. So that said, the one thing that Crawford couldn’t do, that he supposedly could play basketball at UCLA. For years, there’s been all these stories that Crawford had a scholarship offer to play basketball at UCLA under Steve Lavin. It’s even in his Wikipedia page today. It’s not true. And way back in 2012, not long after you signed with the Dodgers, Crawford tried to correct the narrative. He said UCLA never offered him, though it’s understandable why people believe that they did. Crawford could seemingly do anything. He was a great High-School quarterback, an all star baseball player, and now apparently a hell of a hip hop talent scout. And let’s just hope that this former hot boy of summer can reach a reasonable agreement with the hot girl of last summer, Carl Crawford.
S5: Men. I don’t know any of that. I didn’t know. I didn’t I didn’t know that he didn’t have a scholarship at UCLA.
S7: So, yes, he did. Any story that tries to sum up his athletic career, it said he had a scholarship offered UCLA. That’s not it.
S23: Now, I will never make the mistake that I didn’t realize that I didn’t ever make. And that is our show for today. Our producer this week filling in for Mr. Kaplan is Rosemary Bellson. Listen to pashas and subscribe or just reach out. Go to Slate.com, slash hang up. You can e-mail us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. For Joel Anderson and Stefan FATSIS, I’m Josh Levine remembers. I’m Obeidy. And thanks for listening.
S15: Now it’s time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. It was a big week end in L.A. Friday night. Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the best record in the NBA and the best player in the NBA. Some say reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo Sunday the team that many, most, many, some consider the title favorite the L.A. Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Los Angeles Lakers beat them both.
S17: Joel. Lakers are no longer a cute story for talking about cute stories versus championship contenders have been pretty skeptical about the Lakers chances to beat the Clippers, so maybe we should start there. This was a really, really fun game. It was a game that had the fabled playoff intensity and it was one that LeBron James and Anthony Davis took control of.
S7: I, too, have been skeptical of them. Just because LeBron is 35 and the Clippers have this very deep team.
S25: I mean, my transferral would probably be a 19 and 9 guy on some close to playoff team, and he’s probably their sixth or seventh best player right now. So I thought the depth and all of the links that the Clippers have, the perimeter defense between Kawhi and Paul, George and Pat, Bev and everybody else, I was like, oh, that that would overwhelm a two man Lakers team. But Sunday afternoon, I mean, the Lakers looked like they didn’t have any problems with that. Now, I don’t know if Avery Bradley can play the way that he did on Sunday for, you know, four games in the playoffs. But all they need is a little something from a third guy, whether it’s Kuzma or Bradley or whoever. Even Rondo, even though he was usually a disaster, had like two minutes of like competence on Sunday. If they can just get somebody else like they did that night, then maybe they can be a little bit better than I thought they were gonna be, which isn’t bad. Like I thought that maybe they were the second, maybe third best team in the West. But after this weekend, it’s hard not to think that they’re the favorite to come out of the Western Conference right now.
S4: I mean, it’s the first week of March. But if it does nothing else, these two games over the weekend make you excited to watch these teams play in the playoffs on television, because no one’s gonna be going to the arenas, of course. The question then is whether LeBron will still be up for those games. Right. They’re playing an empty of the. That is the fair question.
S17: Well, question we talked about this when we talked about Xi’an last week, but I was so impressed with LeBron in that game and the command that he had over his team and his own game. And we’ve said it innumerable times, said his ability to take rosters that are perhaps incomplete or not as fully realized as those of other teams is amazing. And this year, he has a guy and Anthony Davis, who is maybe the best teammate that he’s ever had. You can have an argument about peak Dwayne Wade, but still around them, they just can’t compete on roster spots. Three through twelve with the Clippers. I mean, the Clippers, as you are saying, Joel, they’re able to put out a lineup of five subs who can. Keep up with LeBron and Anthony Davis. And when LeBron leaves the court for the Lakers, it’s just always a disaster waiting to happen.
S10: It’s statistically demonstrated at this point like, yeah, oh yeah.
S17: Plus minus is the biggest in the NBA. And with just Anthony Davis on the court against NBA competition, the Lakers are a net negative. And with LeBron, they’re a huge net positive. It’s the same with the bucks. If we go back to Friday, Giannis barely plays compared to other stars. He’s not even at thirty minutes a game I don’t think. And the Bucks are still a huge positive when he’s off the court. And so you’d think that they have another level that they can go up to. And Giannis is playing more minutes in the playoffs, but the Lakers just always kind of seem on the verge of falling apart and they haven’t ever this year. And you know, Avery Bradley can’t do that every game. He can’t do even close to that every game. And I think over a seven game series, the Lakers reserves are going to fall apart and it’s not going to work for them. And the question is just can LeBron take on an inhuman workload and stand up against the one team, I think in the Clippers in the West that can stand up to them in terms of throwing defenders on him either. I really don’t think that they can. I think it’s going to be amazing and fascinating to watch them try.
S8: Hey, Joel, do you think that this was sort of the top of the sine curve for LeBron’s regular season and now it’s time to start preparing for the playoffs?
S23: They have an insurmountable lead. So, yeah. Right.
S8: So is it time to to load management? And let’s just get to the.
S7: So the second or third round of the playoffs, I think that’s probably the right thing to do. But, man, I’d like to see Josh’s point earlier. They are a disaster when he’s not there. So the issue is, how bad are they willing to look? Go down the stretch and manage his time? I don’t know how competitive they can be if he he only plays twenty eight thirty minutes a game. Right. So that’s sort of the catch all. I mean would you know, they could save him, but they could also have a really bad month going into the playoffs and you know, their reasons for not wanting to have that happen either. I was thinking about this, though. The Lakers have to have so much go right to stay in a game like even it gets like against the Pelicans the week before. It just seems like they’re barely holding on. Like there’s clearly a better team, but they need LeBron to be playing at his peak. They need Anthony Davis to be doing his twenty five thirty point like thing. And they need something else to happen from somebody else. And like, that’s just not going to happen in the playoffs. So, you know, you’re gonna have a night. Will LeBron shoots, you know, ten for twenty nine or something like that. And it just seems like that’s going to be really difficult. But on the other hand, Kawhi doesn’t look good. He just moves very rigidly and labored. And he’s been, you know, like he looks right now like he did at the end of the playoff run with the Raptors last year. And I just I wonder if there’s something else going on with him that will make it so that the Clippers are not able to compete. Because the thing about the Clippers is that for all that talent, they still need their stars to be their stars. And if Kawhi can’t be Kawhi, that I don’t think they can beat the Lakers.
S24: Yes. The end of the playoff run where Kawhi was so rundown that the Raptors won a championship and Kawhi just looks mechanical. A lot of the time, I think even when he is healthy, it’s like we usually talk about players looking mechanical as a pejorative. But I think for him, it’s just like because he does seem so robotic off the court. It’s just like kids program to destroy and to kill. I think the issue with him in the game on Sunday was just that his threes weren’t falling. I didn’t I didn’t look to me like he was really struggling physically. And they have been managing their roster and have the ability to manage their roster where guys are gonna be arrested for the playoffs. And I think their top eight guys and only played together 10 times all year. The thing with the Lakers, I was extremely skeptical of this roster and the way that they had constructed it. But it turned out, I think, to be constructed really well when LeBron is on the court. And the issue that the Lakers have is they don’t have guys who are secondary creators, whether in the second unit or just, you know, when LeBron is taking possession off guys who can create their own shot like Kuzma played well, he’s not that guy. And the Clippers have the second unit with with Lou Williams and Monterey’s Harrell. That’s unstoppable. So they don’t need Kawhi and Paul George to score thirty eight every game to win because there are some games where Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams are each going to score 30.
S7: And so you think so? I mean, I still think that. I mean, they’re a good team and they’re a good story. But like the reason that anybody thinks that the Clippers are gonna be worth a damn, it is because of Kawhi pressure.
S24: You know, it’s like Kawhi is going to have to be great for. When a title, but in those minutes, when Kawhi isn’t on the floor, you’re right. They’re not going to fall, but they’re not going to fall behind in such a way that they can’t recover. And I just love that we’re disrespecting the box like that. I think as the nation’s mission, it has been all year. We’re just not going to talk about them. They have one of the greatest point differentials ever.
S33: And you know, that game on on Friday, Yanis didn’t have his best game. He had a little like knee issue where and how he’s going to sit out a couple of games. And that is it’s interesting. It’s like the combination of cute story and superstar and one team. They have a great coach and Mike Budenholzer, who’s always made whatever teams he’s with better. And they have a really good system defensively. They’ve got a lot of great guys around Dianis. And yet it’s just gonna be fascinating to see how they handle the playoffs and see how Giannis handles it.
S7: It’s funny you said Giannis didn’t have a great game, but I think he went like thirty to twelve and six, you know, like he was amazing and it still felt like yeah, he had an off game because I watch some of that game too, and it still felt like he’s not quite imposing his will on the game in ways that you sort of expect him to. And I just think that the doubts that we have about the Bucs are all on Khris Middleton and whatever happens after that. Right. Like it’s like, do you think Khris Middleton is a legitimate all star? The way you answer that question determines sort of what you think about the Bucs and what their capabilities are. And in a seven game series against another league team. And I think a lot of people are still dubious about that.
S33: Any year when the ratings have been down for the NBA, I think Zion being back has has helped. But these games were appointment TV. They were events. And I think it’s going to be, you know, in a year when Durant and Perry have been have been out, the Warriors are no longer a thing. It’s really shaping up to be the most interesting playoffs that we’ve had in many years. And I’ll be watching, Stefan.
S8: Yeah, well, it all proves that when you have some of the greatest athletes in the world, you can rearrange what uniform they wear. And ultimately, there’s gonna be a story that’s going to captivate us because we want to watch them play.
S3: I mean, which of these guys would make the best team handball team? That’s that’s what we’re all thinking. Stefan LeBron, for sure.
S4: Joel, did you watch LeBron throwing the football around with the Lakers a couple of weeks ago? I did not. I did. He alone of them looked like he could play any fucking sport he wanted. Some of the basketball players, you would laugh at them on a different field. They look uncoordinated and gangly. And it’s like you’re a professional athlete.
S7: Look, LeBron was a two time all state wide receiver in Ohio, which is ridiculous to think that they allowed him to play football in high school. But yeah, he like he could have been a defensive end in the NFL.
S15: You know, maybe we’ll be in quarantine next week. Either way, look forward to podcasting with you guys. And Slate Plus members will be back with more for you from somewhere next week.