S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor. This is Hang Up and Listen for the week of October 5th, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about how Jimmy Butler maybe got the Miami Heat back into the finals against the L.A. Lakers. The NFL is also dealing with its first coronavirus outbreak. And we’ll look at how they are doing. We’ll also discuss the insanity of the baseball playoffs. Eight games in a day under five hundred teams, the Korona, Marlins and so forth. And Chantelle Jennings of the Atlantic will be here for a conversation about the WNBA finals, where Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird have led the Seattle storm to a two zero series lead. I’m the author of The Queen, host of Slow Burn Season four.
S3: And I’m in Washington, D.C., also in D.C., author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic, Stefan Fatsis. Stefan, are you prepared to lie to the American people about your health?
S4: Yes, actively. I’ve got videos lined up, all set with that. We’re taking some photos this morning and a change into a white shirt for that.
S3: Just make sure that you lie in a way that makes the American people feel comforted. That’s what we’re here to do.
S4: I’ve got a black Escalade parked in front, so we’re all set.
S3: Joel Anderson with us from Palo Alto, a Slate staff writer and the host of Slow Burn Season three. I’m actually concerned about your voice, Joel. As you as we know, you’re hoarse from heckling Texas Longhorns fans all weekend.
S5: Oh, well, I mean, you know, they brought it on themselves, bringing that we sitting to Austin.
S2: How many years out of how many years is it now?
S6: Let’s see. So TCU has owned the Longhorns six of the last seven years. So Texas is not back.
S3: By the way, just so you know, how do you this is like a bigger philosophical question, but it’s sort of around the overrated chant because it would look better for TCU if Texas was actually good. Right. You don’t want to say, oh, they beat Texas six or seven years because Texas is horrible.
S5: No, I mean, of course, people try to diminish our ownership of this series since we’ve joined the Big 12. But I mean, I would remind people that Texas has never been as good as everybody has said they were since desegregation. So, you know, their heyday is when they were the last all white national championship football team. They have it. I mean, other than the Vince Young years, they really have underperformed throughout the last 50 years or so.
S3: So you’re think of Texas as a morally righteous cause. It’s not just for fun. It’s fun.
S5: Oh, no. I mean, I think, you know, they are. Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is it’s about more than the game.
S7: Josh Understood.
S3: On Sunday night and the NBA baseball, Jimmy Butler scored 40 points with 13 assists and 11 rebounds and leading the outmanned Miami Heat to a 115 104 game three victory over the Lakers. Credit to Mark J. Spears’ for pointing out that Butler is the first player ever to outscore, rebound and out assist LeBron James in a finals game. The Heat are still down two games to one in the series. But after the game, Butler teased the fact that Heat Center Bam Adebayo, who’s been out since the second half of Game One, could return for Tuesday’s game. For Joel, the series is getting at least a little bit interesting and all credit to Jimmy Butler for making it that way.
S5: I’m glad that the Heat put up that last and last night because the last night. Last night. Yeah, I’m glad. I’m glad that they did. And we’re recording this Monday. So the game happened the night before. Right. So I’m glad that they put in a little work. They put in their half. So we get see a little bit more basketball because up until then it was looking like one of the worst NBA finals that I’d seen since, you know, maybe I mean, one of those finals where the Lakers played the Nets, maybe the Spurs versus the Cavs, that the first LeBron team that made it to the finals. But, yeah, Jimmy Butler, sort of a fascinating player to me because I remember hearing a few years ago, way back when he was with the bulls, that based on it, I can’t remember who it was, either windshear a plus or minus, that he was essentially the most valuable player in the league. So effectively, the bulls had the biggest drop off of any team in the league where Butler was off the floor and this was, you know, four or five years ago, which mean they had bad teammates. Yeah, very bad teammates. I think they were barely a 500 team at that point. But tell me what Jimmy Butler does. Well, like that makes him a great player because he doesn’t have a great handle. He’s not a great shooter. It’s not like he’s physically overwhelming. So whenever I see Jimmy Butler play, I’m like, how is this guy making himself so effective out there? There should not be a case in which LeBron and Anthony Davis are on the floor together in Jimmy Butler is the best player on the floor. I don’t know how that happens, but, you know, I don’t necessarily believe in all that grit and toughness. But he may be one of the rare examples of a guy where it actually is true that his drive and his grit and his hustle and all that sort of stuff helps to make him an elite player.
S4: He’s the exception that proves the rule. Right. He’s the kind of athlete that works really hard and suffers no fools. And that’s a difficult combination. And I think it’s impacted the way that we view Jimmy Butler. He’s had an itinerant career. This is his fourth team in his nine year career. It’s also his fourth team in the last four years. And, you know, maybe his personality is why he’s had an itinerant career. He has no he has no patience for bullshit. His last stops in Minnesota and Philly in particular, seem to have included players whose bullshit or lack of interest in learning or working hard. He just couldn’t abide or had coaches that he didn’t respect. And maybe we can get into that a little. Maybe other players would have worked to change. But that’s not Butler. And judging by what he has said in interviews during these playoffs, Miami doesn’t seem to have players or coaches that he feels the need to publicly disdain for their work ethic or their responsibility or their competitiveness. And that’s probably made him a better player on the court.
S3: Well, sports are weird, right? Because in any other industry, if you’re as elite as Butler, as he’s in the top one percent of basketball players in the world, maybe even probably in the top one percent, you could pick your team, you could pick your employer and say, all right, I play like this, my personality is like this. I’m going to go to the place that fits my style and my personality. And it’s not weird to think about that. But the fact that Butler has sort of forced his way or played his way to Miami, which culturally and in terms of the coach, Erik Spoelstra and the teammates, seems like the place that fits them best. And the NBA, he’s seen as being difficult in the context of professional sports and professional basketball. And so I think that’s important to understand. And Joel, I think you made a great point and that it’s dumb to talk about players having grit and well and perseverance, because we know that with very, very few exceptions, people have made it to the NBA because they work harder than everybody else and because they have grit and perseverance.
S8: But, you know, you hear stories about like that famous practice when he was with the wolves, where he took the third team and destroyed the starters and didn’t even score. Right. There is something like there is something different about this guy. And you have to have a baseline level of skill, like he’s a good shooter in the post, a baseline level of athleticism. He’s shown to be a very good passer. In this area, it’s like you need to be alerted, all that stuff, and but there is something about him that even among his peers distinguishes him in terms of his attitude.
S5: I think I’ve mentioned here before, one of my favorite podcasts is The Knuckleheads, which is hosted by Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson. You know, they were famous in the early 20s playing with the Clippers when they were still bad, but still have really good characters. And Jimmy Butler went on that podcast and talked a little bit about his path to the NBA. So he’s from I saw it was listed as a Houston suburb, Tomball, Tomball, Texas, which is just outside of Houston. It’s really not a suburb or maybe it is today. But back then, that was the country. And so he’s from an area that sort of way off the map. It’s not an athletic powerhouse. They’re not known for anything in particular. Then he went to a junior college and he went to Marquette and, you know, he kind of like scuffled his way into the NBA. And what I remember him saying in that interview on the podcast was like, I can’t go back to Tumblr. You know, he had an extraordinarily difficult upbringing. And, you know, a lot of NBA players have that. A lot of professional athletes has that. But it certainly has been as much a part of his journey that, you know, we heard about him being basically abandoned by his family at a very young age and kind of, you know, bouncing around. And so you you know, obviously it helped to create a guy who plays with the sort of desperation that we saw last night in game three where I mean, you know, to to do what he did against that team, to be outmanned. That’s one of the best finals performances we’ve ever seen. I mean, it calls to mind what LeBron did in game one against the Warriors last year with a loss. Remember, he had like a fifty point triple double and they still lost.
S9: And also what LeBron did in the finals when Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving got hurt, right? Yes, 2015. Yeah. And the Cavs went up to one and eventually lost that series four two. And I think we all think that that’s what’s going to happen to the heat here. But to say that the only comparison in terms of what Butler did is what LeBron did, I think goes to show you how good Jimmy Butler is.
S4: Yeah. And the kind of player that I really admire, the kind of athlete that you admire. I love athletes that are just don’t want to play that game any game. So it’s just I want to be fucking good and you better be along for the ride with me and I will make you better. But you’ve got to buy in and you have to have the same attitude that I do.
S9: And Jimmy Butler has that somebody who you might admire from a distance, I guess because we all like to think that if we had a co-worker like that, then we would get along with them because like, oh, well, they would appreciate me and not appreciate like maybe maybe we need to have more self-knowledge. Like, I don’t know if Jimmy Butler would like me.
S1: He is a strange dude. I mean, this coffee thing and the bubble where he’s like charging his teammates 20 dollars for four lattes or whatever because he’s got his own he’s got his own logos on those coffee cups.
S4: They don’t pay for themselves.
S5: It’s true. And he keeps Mark Wahlberg hours to write the Mark Wahlberg is his buddy. And he like apparently he adopted Mark Wahlberg’s daily routine, which involves getting up at two thirty in the morning and going to bed at seven thirty pm.
S1: In my notes, I wrote down the whole Mark Wahlberg workout schedule. But just back up for a second. He’s like genuinely very good friends with Mark Wahlberg and said that the reason that he works out early in the morning is because Mark Wahlberg did so. And so we think about, you know, Joel, I don’t want to diminish Butler’s upbringing and the fact that he took this the difficult path to the NBA. But like by his own admission, he didn’t work out really early in the morning and really get after it until he met Hollywood celebrity problematic cultural figure Allburn Marky Mark.
S5: Man, you don’t get those abs, you know, just by slacking off, you know what I mean?
S1: Two thirty a.m. wake up to forty five a.m. prayer time, three fifteen breakfast, three or four days to five fifteen workout. I won’t read the rest of it, but bedtime is seven thirty pm. So are we to believe that he has never actually seen Jimmy Butler play his in bed. It’s out there. Something here is a mess.
S4: Sunday afternoon games are for Mark Wahlberg.
S5: Well wait a minute. If Mark lives in L.A., then it’s possible that you could see that in the tail end of the games on the East Coast.
S1: Gracepoint, this is East Coast bias. On that note game for Tuesday, we really broke it down.
S5: That’s right. Do we even talk about Anthony Davis? Yeah, he had a bad night.
S10: I mean, I think, as you said, it’s hard to maybe the fact that it’s hard to imagine Jimmy Butler being the best player on the floor when LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the floor means that Game four will go differently. But I do think of Bam! Is back like the series. Will turn for the Lakers on, like more great Anthony Davis games, and it’s going to be like the series where Anthony Davis kind of proves his greatness. And so he just needs to not have shitty games like he did in game three. And the Lakers will be fine.
S4: As we speak on Monday morning, the New England Patriots should be landing in Kansas City to play the Chiefs on Monday night. They were supposed to play on Sunday, but the game was postponed after Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and some dude on Kansas City’s practice squad tested positive for the coronavirus. According to reports, the Patriots latest round of testing turned up no positive. And then the team boarded two planes, one for players and staff who had contact with Cam Newton and one for everybody else. Joel, when I heard about the transportation plans, the first thing I thought was this is a sequel to that movie, Con Air covid Air. The NFL this past week faced its first real Korona crises. The Tennessee Titans remain shut down after racking up around 20 positive tests. And then the Newton saga. How do you think the league is handling all of this so far?
S5: Well, I wish that we had the ability to cut up all of our audio from earlier this year when we talked about, well, they’re doing OK, but let’s just see what happens. You know, it’s really easy to give them credit for doing well until something happens. Well, here we are. Right. So I guess starting off, I’d say that the NFL is doing about as well as you can expect of a league that hasn’t committed to a bubble concept. Right. So there’s been four weeks of ball there and not really had a mass interruption of games. You know, when we caught on TV on Sunday, football is on. So by that standard, they’ve done OK. But in a time of like rising infection rates and death rates around the country, it still just strikes me as irresponsible to continue pressing forward in this way. Like, I just I mean, so their solution is to break the team up into two different planes, fly them there as if those people are not going to come in contact with anybody else along the way on the way to their hotels and to the stadium. Right. Like they’re going to have a plane of potentially infected people, go through the airport, go through the hotel, go through all this routine that it takes to get to the game. And then when they get to the game, they can’t even I’m certain they’re going to be tested multiple times after this. Right. But that’s still no guarantee that somebody won’t turn up positive later. And like to me, that’s why I’m like, why are we still doing this?
S3: So the guy on the Kansas City practice squad is almost quarterbacking legend Jordan Tamou. He’s a person.
S4: He is a person. And I’m glad you’ve acknowledged his personhood, Josh.
S3: So here’s a concept that I’m still working on. This is more a question for for Joel, because I think Stephanie had no shot here. Do you remember two lane wide receiving Legenda Markazi?
S5: No, no.
S1: No matter what it is, you did play you did play in the in the NFL. Also played for the Calgary Stampeders. I’m going to develop the concept of Mark Zeno’s paradox that you’ve got the plains of the maybe it’s not exactly half, but you’ve got the two planes, so you’ve got the covered plane and uncovered plane. And then maybe half of the players on the non covid plan will get covid and you’ll send them back on multiple planes and then half of them. And then you’re like, we’re going to run out of planes at some point if we’re going to have to keep dividing that. They covered a non covid players into separate traveling parties. But I think, Stefan, there are two different ways you can look at this. Number one, the fact that you have to divide the players into two planes suggests maybe you shouldn’t be playing this game. And so you would argue that the NFL doing this is irresponsible and shows a kind of recklessness. On the other hand, you have what we saw in the Saints Lions game where the Saints had one positive test from the fullback, Michael Burton. They retested every one. They had the team up until some players up until 3:00 in the morning. It was determined that it was a false positive, which is something that you’ll get if you’re doing this rapid testing. But they would have, it seems, canceled the game if it turned out that it was a real positive. And so that suggests that maybe they’re they’re taking this stuff kind of seriously. Am I right to see mixed signals here?
S4: Yeah. I mean I mean, according to the CDC, the incubation period for for coronavirus recommends a 14 day quarantine after exposure to a positive case, period. So the doughnut hole, as Mike Florio on pro football talk called it, is that the NFL doesn’t know who is potentially contagious at any given moment. So some of those people on the covid plan on covid er might have been contagious on Monday morning and some might not have. And similarly, some other people that Cam Newton perhaps came into contact with also might be latent and still contagious. Bill Belichick on Friday last week said in a news. Cam does a great job of connecting with everybody, whether it’s his teammates, his receivers, guys on defense, other people in the organization. Oh, my God, Cam Newton is a super spreader. He’s worked so hard and he’s going to contaminate the whole bad Patriots team.
S1: Well, this is a notion, although, I mean, we’ve seen this with the Titans, that it started out with one case and then. Right as tends to happen now, there are lots, lots more than one case. And I think the interesting thing here to think about Joel is that it’s analogous to what we’ve seen in colleges where administrators blame students for having parties and say, oh, like this would have been, you know, we would have been in great shape and have been totally normal if not for these crazy students acting like students in a way that’s totally predictable. And so this kind of like discussion and investigation of like who it was on the Titans that broke protocol, like, I understand why you’d want to know that and look into that. But it also feels like the NFL trying to say, oh, it’s actually not our fault that this thing that’s entirely predictable that we put into place is happening.
S5: Right? Well, I mean, the thing is, is with any protocol, the protocol is only good. It is the people that adhere to it. Right. And we know that it’s just very difficult to adhere to protocols just in the course of our regular life, just us as regular humans who are not in the NFL, who have no compelling reason to leave our homes or do anything else. People still get infected along the route of just being human. And so, yeah, I mean, the NFL can say, well, hey, you weren’t supposed to stop at a convenience store. You know, you are supposed to go to this charity event or whatever.
S3: I think that is that sort of was the originating event was the Raiders went to some event and were wearing masks.
S4: Yeah. The Titans suspect that an assistant coach who was photographed not wearing a mask in close contact with players may have helped spread it.
S5: Yeah, and I mean, the thing is, Jon Gruden got fined for not wearing his mask on. You can look at any football sideline on Saturday or Sunday and see all sorts of potential moments where they could be spreading virus amongst each other and to people in the greater community. It actually, if you go back to college football at SMU this weekend, they had to dismiss fans from the end of what you know, from one of the areas behind the end zone because they weren’t observing social distancing. So it’s just I know that people think that these protocols are supposed to work and that if people just follow the rules, that there won’t be any problems. But I mean, we have seen that these protocols just don’t work like I mean, they can under really extreme circumstances or that they need to be constantly monitored and changed, which is what’s happening in the NFL.
S4: They’re reevaluating the kinds of tests they use, the re-evaluating where players are going to be allowed to go and what they’re going to be allowed to do. But there is going to be a gigantic hole. It’s just it’s not solvable unless you solve it the way the NBA solved it and the and the NHL solved it.
S1: And the WNBA, WNBA, soccer leagues, I mean, it totally works if you’re willing to play your sport not on planet Earth and just play it in a biosphere. But if you’re if you’re in if you’re in America, then it’s not going to work. It’s like a pretty simple dividing line.
S5: And also, I mean, the Titans had 18 positive test over those six days, right? I think that’s where we were at last was we have the think is we just sort of take for granted that a positive test means that a person is going to get better and they’ll be able to return to action. Like you’re taking a tremendous chance with somebody’s health, long term health as well. Like maybe they’ll recover enough in time to play, but we have no idea, like, what the long term effects of these this disease will be. And we’ve got 18 people that have been exposed just on that team. That in and of itself is reason enough to me to say, hey, maybe we need to reconsider the purpose of this. Like maybe this is just not the year for that. But I know that I’m extreme on this point.
S1: And I can I could understand if people think that I’m crazy, you’re setting the edge like a good defensive end. That’s good. That’s important to do. Well, you know, you’re raising the much more important point. But the other point, which a listener pointed out to me, which I think was a good flag and I’m glad they did, was that like we talk about Russell Westbrook being so shitty, you know, he had like a crappiest game ever in that in the Western Conference semis, which he kind of did. But also he had had covid. And so we’re not really incorporating or at least I’m not alone myself like this.
S3: This idea that like, you know, when you get this disease, you’re not just going to come back like a week later and be awesome necessarily. I mean, some people genuinely don’t have symptoms and have a mild case and probably it doesn’t affect their performance. And some people will have a tougher case and there will be lingering effects and we don’t necessarily know who that is. But it’s just funny, I mean, again, owning it myself, that I just like have not incorporated that into my brain, that that understanding.
S5: Who’s to say that Cam Newton is going to be regular when he gets back? Right. I mean, not only are the Patriots most likely they’re going to throw Brian Hoyer out there against Patrick Mahomes. Right. So count that as an L.. But when Cam comes back, how do we know that he’s going to have the same lung capacity and everything else that he had prior to this? We just don’t know.
S4: No, no, absolutely not. I mean, Cam Newton posted on Instagram in that, you know, that typeface that looks like Cyrillic, that he will take his time to get healthy. And that’s an acknowledgement that nobody knows how much time that’s going to be. And Cam Newton would be smart and the Patriots would be smart to, you know, stay in there and his equivalent of Walter Reed and not get in that limo and drive around until he is better. And the NFL is probably going to have to start figuring out ways to adjust the schedule. There were reports that coaches, some coaches were calling for the league to cut the season to 12 games. But the fact that the NFL went ahead and reschedule the Patriots Chiefs game just two days after all of this feels like it’s taking some risk. I don’t quite understand why this game couldn’t have waited longer to make sure that there was a longer duration of negative tests on both teams like the Titans game did right after the 12 game.
S10: Thing is interesting, but I think the NFL is going to have a harder time conceptually with the idea that, like, this is a year in which you just don’t have to play every game, like in baseball. Even the shortened season is long enough where if you miss a handful of games or it’s like, oh, we’ll just use a winning percentage, it’s fine. Like right in the NFL, the the like. We all must play every game, you know, both for revenue reasons and just because there aren’t that many and every game is as important in determining who’s who’s the best. I think that’s a harder hurdle to get over.
S4: Yeah. And I would add before we finish that, that report about the 12 game season, one of them that I saw was from Mike Florio also. And he added that the coaches are also suggesting putting teams in hotels for all of the remaining games in the season. Good luck.
S9: By the time you hear this, the divisional round of the baseball playoffs will be underway with the dreaded Houston Astros from the vile city of Houston with their nefarious planning cheating ways. Why are we taking we’ll be taking on the ground is just trying to get you engaged. So before we move forward, so easy to beat before we move forward, we must look back to the bizarre spectacle of the 16 team opening round of this year’s playoffs, which featured the first two playoff teams in history with losing records, the Brewers and those naughty Astreus, the fatso’s era flashback of afternoon games on network television Sunday. September Madness. Spectacle of eight games in a single day. Stefan, the baseball playoffs have never looked like this before.
S3: They might not look like this ever again, although we can talk about which stuff the league will try to carry forward. But what have you made of the pandemic baseball postseason?
S4: First, I feel obligated to respond to your ageism. Josh. Yes, Ball has had plenty of afternoon playoff games in your lifetime. I did some research on network television, on television. In fact, there were no mass on that on network television. In fact, there were afternoon World Series games as recently as 1986, a mere thirty four years ago. And I. And you were a sentient being then, probably rooting for the Mets on a weekday, weekday weeknight? I don’t know, weekday weekend. There were day games in the World Series.
S5: In your lifetime, I will very much agree that this is very much it seems like an 80s phenomenon, because I remember baseball being on in the middle of the day as a kid and it seemed like a very regular thing.
S4: Yeah. All right. I will concede, though, that I was around and probably watched the very first nighttime World Series game, which was in 1971, Pirates Orioles game for 63 million people tuned in, 54 percent of American TV sets in use at the time. Watched that game. That’s crazy, man. I know I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the pandemic postseason is not going to draw those kinds of numbers.
S3: There’s not a lot going on in America entertainment wise. I mean, let’s be honest, not a lot of TV channels.
S4: There was yes. And I was fine with the team. First round, usually it’s 10, 60 baseball games compared to a hundred and sixty two do not feel like a reasonable way to settle who is playoff deserving, who’s not. So why not let some sub five hundred teams and who cares? I think it was also fine only in hindsight because the best of three first round results delivered good best of five second round match ups, both in a baseball sense and a narrative sense. So you’ve got the cheating Astros, the team with the player that first fingered them, the A’s. You’ve got the Yankees on the Rays who don’t like each other. You’ve got the Dodgers and the Padres who have the best players and some of the most interesting young players in the game. And then you’ve got the Atlanta team, like without against the covid Marlins. These are all east against east and west against West matchups, by the way, which is weird.
S3: No fly over series in the second round here, the covid Marlins still, you know, we’ve been talking about how this disease can leave you ill and not up to peak performance for a long time after this team like has all these players test positive, doesn’t play for a long time, is considered to be actually quite bad going into the season and like a thousand to one odds and started off bad in the West.
S8: And now they’re just like and nobody’s like, you know, no star players that are really known to the American people. How many Marlins can you name? I love Sixto Sanchez. I mean, what a great baseball name. He’s the best six thousand six Lizcano. I mean, unbelievable in Sixta. And somehow this team and like classic Marlins style, just like manages to pull success out of there. But and like the most bizarre way possible.
S5: Yeah. I mean, I guess I kind of like the Spiderman, you know. I mean, they they got sick and then from the illness, they gained new strength. Right. But, you know, as somebody who’s admittedly not much of a baseball fan and somebody who admittedly does not watch very much baseball, I think this is kind of cool because we already know that baseball postseason doesn’t actually have that much to do with the regular season. Like it’s a really bad way of determining who the best team is. Right. So of one hundred and sixty two, game sample helps you to determine who the best teams are. Then it stands to reason that five and seven game samples are not going to do a very good job of, you know, letting those great teams emerge because all it takes is one hot streak, a couple of hot, you know, two two decent pitchers, and that can totally flip a series. It won’t tell you that much about who the better team is. We’ll just tell you about who had the best pitching matchup up. Right. So, yeah, I mean, I just don’t you know, the Astros were cheaters. You had a losing record. They were cheaters in a sport that’s not known for cheating at all. Right. I mean, you know, everything we know about baseball is that everybody is above board and everybody is reputable. And nobody would ever imbibe substances or use anything that would give them an advantage in the game. So that’s the first time that ever cheated, you think?
S8: What did you think of what Carlos Correa said, the Houston shortstop? I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now that feels like a guy who’s after your heart?
S5: Yeah, I mean, I love that. I mean, I just I mean, here’s the thing, man. Dobbie Ojai’s. Yeah. I mean, you know, OK, sure. You could say that they cheated, they engaged in some sort of cheating. Fine. Whatever. So presumably that’s over now. Right. Like we, we think that that’s been corrected then kind of a garbage can in the stadium. You’re right. Yeah. Got so bad they were quite bad this year. So I mean. Well I mean but now they’re in the divisional round, you know what I mean? So, you know, I guess it’s poetic justice for everybody. The thought that it was all the result of cheating.
S4: And here the Astros are again and takes this all the time from Joel to care about baseball is the Houston team that was accused of cheating earlier on in the playoffs.
S5: I might just drive up to Oakland in my Astros shirts just over the next couple. We shouldn’t be outside in public, just for the record.
S8: But I a drive drive, all it all it takes for Houston is just a shortened season and covid and an expanded playoffs. And they’re right back in that game. Yeah. Justin Peters wrote a good piece for us at Slate willing to on our show notes. And Justin, we’ve had him on the show before. He’s a part time Wrigley Field beer vendor. He’s been doing it for four decades. And he went outside Wrigley for a game, one of their series against the Marlins. Stefan and I didn’t know what what he was going to find and he didn’t know what he was going to find. But when we signed the piece and you could argue there’s a version of this where it’s like, OK, no fans are allowed in the stadium. There might be like some sort of irresponsible gathering outside where people like it’s a stadium in a neighbor. And people want to be around it and the Cubs are like, you know, the three seed and they’ve got they’ve got a shot at this. And he went and there was nobody there. And he said it was just totally depressing. And we were talking afterwards about what is this say? Is it because and you know where he landed. And in the piece, I’m curious if you agree, is that it just felt like even though they’re playing in Chicago and Oakland is playing in Oakland and Houston is playing Houston, it just doesn’t feel real like it feels like they’re playing in some off world colony and that the season is just like happening someplace that, you know, is not in our neighborhoods, it’s not in our our cities. And it just didn’t occur to people that, like a game is being a playoff game is being played in this city where we would be going in a playoff game. But I don’t I don’t know. Does that make sense to you? It just struck me as like kind of maybe appropriate, but like odd and a little eerie that you could go outside a stadium and it’s just like a total ghost town.
S4: Just it’s just really lovely. And I think it demonstrates the way that baseball is different. You know, the NBA put the players in this bubble. But not only that, they played the games in non NBA arenas. So you’re going in. You’re knowing that it’s not in the normal place that these games should be played. Baseball has been playing inside these gigantic stadiums and in places like Wrigley or in Fenway Park in Boston, in a few places that have foot traffic around them that are part of an urban life, it’s going to seem even more disjointed. You know, the way Justin described it, the games were broadcast from this uncanny valley with all the people that give live baseball its warmth and character, fans in the seats, vendors in the stands disappeared. And I think that’s the big difference here, that we’re seeing a sort of Pleasantville like situation in baseball. But it’s being staged in the actual places where the games are normally staged. Maybe it’ll feel different in these next round of the playoffs, which are being played in neutral stadiums in a quasi bubble for the players.
S5: Yeah, and you guys would never believe this, but I did once cover baseball professionally in my life at having to cover I think it was back when the Astros won the National League and they played the Cardinals just like the one time you covered a hockey game. No, I actually covered the Astros all year for two seasons when they said when they had Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte at the leader, their rotation. And so I went to see an earlier era of Astros cheating. Come on, come on, get out of here. They learned it from the Yankees. But anyway, so what I would say is I went to these games when it was back when it was minute made, I think it was Enron field and or maybe it was just like, all right, I’m all right. I’m not doing a great job making the case for Houston as a city, not being of ill repute and then going to Busch Stadium. And there is something about postseason baseball and having fans there that is special. Like I said, I haven’t looked at this a lot, but I can’t imagine that this doesn’t feel extremely strange because I think the fans in postseason baseball are such a big part of the tableau, such a big part of the landscape there. And without them there, it just seems like it would be really hard to generate a lot of tension in the same way that you get in seasons where there are fans there and there’s these four home fields. Right.
S4: And one of the ways that the broadcasts generate tension is by zooming in on fans at critical moments. Yes, and I hate that. And I’m hoping that Fox does zoom in on, you know, the cardboard cutouts of fans, because I think that would be great.
S3: I mean, the game of the postseason so far was the one in which Fernando Tatis Jr. hit two home runs and his teammate, well, is also a two home runs in a game against the Cardinals. Eleven nine win for the four. The Padres and Tatis flipped his bat and some amazing, great energy and excitement. But it would have been better with the crowd going apeshit when he had this some runs. There are going to be some fans in the stands when the games go to Arlington, Texas. Perhaps due to Texases views on public health, there will be eleven thousand five hundred tickets available for each game in the National League Championship Series and the World Series and the forty thousand capacity Texas Rangers Stadium. And it’ll be the first neutral site World Series ever. And so we have that to look forward to, I guess.
S7: Or not. Or not.
S5: Over the weekend, the Seattle storm took a commanding two lead over the Las Vegas aces of the WNBA finals, Breanna Stewart scored twenty two points to leave the storm within one more win of a championship in their second in three years. Steward or Stu, as fans call her, has returned to form so much more quickly than anyone could have expected. The twenty eighteen WNBA MVP ruptured her right Achilles tendon while playing at the Euro League final in April. Twenty nineteen. Yet here Stewart is little more than a year and a half later going off with thirty seven points and fifteen rebounds in game one of the finals. Our next guest, Chantelle Jennings of the Athletic, wrote after that game that quote, Stewart has turned this season, one that had countless reasons to be stagnant and to one in which she is more dominant than she was in twenty eighteen as the MVP. The storm can complete the sweep Tuesday with a victory in game three. Shantelle, tell us, please, how is Breanna Stewart better than she was before?
S11: I think you have to look at a few different aspects of her play. And obviously part of that is their individual play. Right? You look at her stats, they’re improved from where they were in twenty eighteen. So very basically there’s a good answer. But I think you also look because it’s a team sport at the team perspective and the benefit of twenty nineteen for the storm team was that they were without Suban or Breanna Stewart and so they all had to raise their game. Players who hadn’t started before became starters. Everyone else raised their play. And then you bring back to that Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. And so not only is she better than she was, hungrier than she was, she’s now surrounded by players who have more experience on the floor. And so I think that has just elevated the entire storm team.
S12: This is a really deep team, but also with a couple of superstars. I mean, you saw in game one with Souper that the classic two point sixteen assist stat line that we all love and you can’t get sixteen assists unless you have teammates who are making a long shot. I mean, they’re making threes offices. It wasn’t like these were all all layups. Although Bird was doing a great job of setting up her teammates, she is in the position of being a player who has super duper old for her sport and yet still younger than me, which I find extremely upsetting. But can you talk a little bit about Super eight? And it seems like athletically she’s really, really it’s not like she’s slow and just using guile. Like it seems like she’s she is in pretty peak form right now.
S11: Yeah. She’s one of those players. And I actually wrote about this this week as well. She turns forty in a few weeks. I think it’s something like two weeks, she’ll turn forty. And sort of everything that’s happened this season has come with that sort of asterisk like she’s playing so well that did that for someone who’s almost 40. She’s she’s leading this team so well, DataDot for her age. And I asked her at the beginning of the season if you could only have one version of yourself, sort of the early 2000s version fresh out of UConn, young bounced back, no problem, Supergrid or the super of late, who misses games for injuries. And she wants to clarify not for age related injuries, just professional athlete injuries, but sort of this this version of Suban who takes longer to recover, who is almost 40. She was kind of hard pressed to the side. She said there’s a sweet spot, but maybe the younger version. And for me, I would take the older version. She’s smarter now. There isn’t a play on the court she hasn’t seen. There isn’t a pass she hasn’t made and she is surrounded by excellent shooters. And to get an assist, it does take two players. But she is playing so well because of her mind. And she has said for a long time that as long as she can sort of keep up with her quickness, with her speed, with her strength, her brain is always going to be her advantage on the court. And I think in year seventeen in the WNBA, especially what we’re seeing in this finals performance from her, like she is the smartest player on the court on Seattle, has historically been one of the dominant teams in the WNBA.
S4: Going back to the start of Sue Bird’s career almost twenty years ago. And that time she was dishing passes to Lauren Jackson and now it’s Breanna Stewart. It’s you know, the league hasn’t been twenty plus years is not the NBA in terms of length of a league. But we are seeing now like this is a franchise that has managed to sustain itself. How has it been able to do that? Is it simply a matter of like, oh, we you know, we ended up with Breanna Stewart and Super or is there something different going on with this team?
S11: Well, you look at sort of the composition of their roster and they’ve done a lot of things right. They’ve also sort of lucked into some situations. They got to alloyed is the number one pick out of Notre Dame and year that they weren’t sure if she was going to come out. As you make the Gore is Australian, one of Lauren Jackson’s proteges, they they saw her. They’re great at finding talent and they’re great at developing talent. And again, I think it’s when you have that team atmosphere, when you can put players on the court who works so well together every. One’s level is raised, and it’s not just those number one picks like Sue and Stuart, you have someone like Alysha Clark, who one of the best three point shooters in the WNBA, the only unanimous pick on the coaches, all defensive team. She came out of Middle Tennessee state. She was a second round pick, but she’s developed into this all league caliber player that no one wants to face. And so they’re just smart. They do a lot of things right. And even in seasons, when you think how could they pull this off like last year when they don’t have a bird and they don’t have Stuart, they still finish 18 and 16 make the playoffs. So I think it’s a culture thing. I think it’s a depth I think it’s a talent thing. It’s sort of all of it together.
S5: It’s worth mentioning that for all the good things we’ve said about Seattle, that they’re the second seed here. Right. That it’s the aces that are the top seed and would presumably have been the favorite here. But obviously they’ve fallen apart. And I’ve watched them of the game, too. And that game was close until maybe midway through the third quarter. Right. What’s going on with the Aces and why are they coming up short here right now?
S11: Well, what’s going on with least this is the storm. Yeah, they are the number one seed. It was right up until the end. They had to win out their final three games in the last four days, the season to get that number one seed. And in the game that clinched Las Vegas, the number one seed over Seattle, neither Stuart nor Bird played. And so they got the number one seed. And the WNBA is a little bit different than the NBA in terms of seeding. And they sort of recede after every round and how the playoffs work. And so we don’t need to get into all of that. But Las Vegas and Seattle were very close. And now in the playoffs, a lot has happened. You have a Vegas team that had to play five games against Connecticut, a team that was under seeded at 7C because they started out their season so poorly, whereas Seattle finished Minnesota in three games. And so they had so much more time to recover. And the regular season, they played twenty two games in 50 days. So it was like game off, game off, game off from the beginning of the year. I said, you know, I think whoever’s the last team standing, healthiest, freshest is going to win this thing and coming into the finals. That was absolutely Seattle. But what makes Seattle so good is their defense. They take teams out of their game plan. And you look at Las Vegas, they like to get to the free throw line. They don’t shoot a lot of threes billion because thought is a trip to the free throw line. You get one point six points per possession without running any time off the clock. And they have taken half as many free throws as they normally do against the storm. And they’ve taken twice as many, three pointers. So they’re sort of settling for these shots that they don’t normally take. And they’re shooting pretty well from beyond the arc, but they’re just not in the flow of their identity as a team.
S4: Well, they’re also I mean, they’ve gotten this far without Liz Cambage, the Australian who decided not to play this season, and Kelsey Plum, the point guard who got hurt six woman of the year on that team, also got hurt this year.
S5: And Hanby, right. So she’s out.
S1: They’ve still got the MVP. Wilson is a lefty who takes a strong to the rack, got a shot at Wilson. But it just seems like, as you said, this is a team that has maybe reached their ceiling and is up against a fresher and better opponent. And I was wondering kind of on that subject, like another thing that Will determined and has determined which team is going to win the WNBA title this year is like which team has the fewest star players that opt out either for social justice reasons or for, you know, like Olina Delgado did for for health reasons? There’s been a lot going on in this league, and I think fewer of the great players in the league are in the wabble than decided to be in the NBA baseball, for instance.
S11: Yeah, there were a lot of opt outs and there were a lot of medical exemptions. You noted the two for the Aces. And I think almost in that way, it’s sort of ironic that this twenty, twenty Aces team is kind of like the twenty nineteen storm team where people didn’t expect them to make it as far as they did, because to thirty start players from a season ago went with the team. But I think that’s why Joe Wilson won MVP this year, because she really put this team on her back and led them to the finals. Angel McCoughtry played really well late, especially after Derrick and B went down. Las Vegas has in addition to sort of their normal, you know, get to the free throw line, draw fouls, get opponents in foul trouble. Gameplan, they have the strongest bench in NBA history. They average thirty five points a game off the bench. They have players who were starters last year coming off the bench. And Bill Laimbeer uses that very schematically to sort of bring energy into the game. And I think we’re also seeing not just that short in depth for their team right now against the storm, but they’re just out of sorts. It’s not their identity. They’re used to having more coming off the bench. And every player is now being forced to do a little bit more because of that.
S1: Joel, we’ve talked about the NBA, the tension between wanting fans and the media to focus on the social. Justice initiatives that are so important to the players and the on court stuff, and it seems like in the WNBA, a lot of the conversation and the coverage has been on that of court stuff. I mean, you saw Breanna Stewart wearing the vote, Warnock, I’m sure, supporting dream owner Kelly Loffler, his opponent in the US Senate race. And it seems like I don’t know if if we then feel like the Encored stuff is getting short shrift because of that, or is this what the players want? Is the kind of coverage that we’re seeing, what they’ve been aspiring for? I mean, Joel, I’m interested in what you think.
S5: And Shantell obviously I’m interested in your take to I mean, yeah, I mean, I the thing is, though, said we can talk about this in a second about, you know, sort of the viewership. Right. Of the WNBA. But to the extent that people have been paying attention to the WNBA, I think that’s taken more of a priority. It it’s like an elevated part of the conversation in the WNBA, even more so than the NBA. Right. Like the NBA had to have a strike for that, for those conversations to not just be part of the background, but with the WNBA, it’s sort of been centered along with the game. Like I don’t think you think of the wabble and what they’ve been doing this season and this abbreviated season without thinking about the racial and social justice activism, etc., that sort of your your take on what’s been going on?
S11: Yeah, I think that’s completely right. I think this season you can’t talk about the WNBA without talking about their social justice season, which is what they’ve called this from literally the first game of the year. They dedicated the season to Brianna Taylor. They had ahead of every single game. Thirty six seconds of remembrance for a different black or brown woman who was killed by state violence. They took shot clock violations and games this season to inform their fans about the US Census. Like this is a very active and conscious. And now, you know, I believe that the season they really became organizers with how they’ve directed their followers and their fans and their viewers to vote. You know, it’s not just vote Warnock. They have been directing Zoome calls with Michelle Obama and Stacey Abrahams and Kimberle Crenshaw, who founded the African American Policy Forum. Throughout the entire season. I’ve talked with players since they left the bubble about sort of the mental and emotional and spiritual strain of the season. And everyone that I’ve talked to said, you know, as hard as it was to play twenty two games in 50 days, the harder part was sort of the activism and the organizing that happened off the court because it never stops. This is a league that is 80 percent black women and so they are fighting their fight.
S5: Yeah. And I thought that was really watching the game yesterday. And I watched some of the games over the course, like seeing Brianna Taylor’s name on their jerseys is actually sort of jarring in a way, because it in terms of the legal process that has been determined, you know what I mean? Like, there’s a narrative that that case has been resolved, whereas the WNBA has said, nope, not quite like this is something that we still believe that deserves your attention and deserves your righteous outrage. Right. And it seemed that was sort of interesting. And yet I would also argue, too, that the WNBA man they have brought in, like you said, Kimberle Crenshaw. Right. Like they’ve brought in people that are actually engaged in these issues in a way that I’m not sure that the NBA has, which is not to like offend them or diminish the activism that they’ve engaged in. But I just remember when the Bucs, you know, decided to walk off the court, they were struggling to figure out who to call. They want to call the governor. Right. You I mean, it wasn’t like, oh, we’ve got somebody on the line who who we’ve been dealing with these issues. They did that. And I don’t know if you were on that same call where Kimberle Crenshaw had set up with some of the other mothers of women who had been killed by police violence or whatever, like they actually have an ongoing conversation and ongoing activism in a way that I mean, it doesn’t doesn’t seem the NBA has going on. The NBA is trying to set their own things up. They’re not actively it doesn’t seem like they’re engaged in the same with the WNBA is.
S4: And I think it’s important to point out that the WNBA sort of set the table for a lot of this four years ago when they began protesting and they wore t shirts in defiance of their league’s orders and forced the league to back down about what they were permitted to do on the court. And that’s continued pretty much nonstop. I mean, Maya Moore walked away in the middle of her brilliant career to advocate for a wrongly convicted felon who got out of prison in July. This has been thematic and central to the WNBA, and it’s extended to fighting against one of their own owners, one of their own team owners, Kelly Lefler. It’s been pretty dramatic and pretty consistent.
S11: Well, and I think the important thing to note about my more stand, it was for Minnesota Lynx players who after Flandreau Castillo was killed in Minneapolis, they held a press conference. They wore shirts that said Black Lives Matter that had Flender Castile’s. Name on it, and there were off duty police officers working as security guards at that game who walked off the job, this was before a Kaepernick ever took a knee. And that’s not to take away from anything that Colin Kaepernick has done. But I think so often in women’s sports, in history. Right. Women’s leadership sort of gets overlooked once a dude does it. Black women’s leadership gets overlooked once a dude does it. And Maya Moore is a player who, as you said, walked away from this MVP career, you know, she will even was sort of part of her career. She played. She’ll go down as one of the greatest ever. And it took her freeing a wrongly incarcerated man from prison to sort of have her name on the front page of newspapers and websites and on the tip of people’s tongues. And so but we look four years ago, July twenty sixteen, I believe it was those four players. It was Rebecca Brunson, Samona Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and my first up. And they said enough is enough. And players got fired that year by the WNBA. So I think that’s another thing we have to talk about is that ultimately those got revoked, but sort of the stance of the league and how they have the league itself. And Kathy and Gilbert, the season coming in as a first year commissioner, how she has also sort of supported the players in their activism, in their organizing this year. I don’t see another league in the world that is as informed, as active, as conscious as the WNBA shuttle.
S5: Thanks for joining us for this segment. And actually, we’ll just continue the rest of this conversation and our bonus segment for Slate plus listeners. So thanks again for coming in and make some time for us.
S13: Thanks for having me.
S3: Now it is time for after balls and one of the stars of the wobble has been the aforementioned jewel Lloyd’s mom, the Seattle Storm players mother Gwendolyn. You can follow her on Twitter. Not only can you follow her on Twitter, you should follow her on Twitter. And let’s listen to this clip. You’ll understand why.
S14: The clock struck one hour and the fine was finally here sooner or later, the firestorm. Our team is looking strong. We got. What’s for the stars, just like the count is one to 10. We want to read.
S15: With the storm he just wanted.
S9: Gwen Lloyd versus I mean, maybe you could get like a versus battle with a mom of one of the Aces players. It’s actually kind of a sweet story. Joel Loyd has talked about how her mom didn’t know much about basketball when she was growing up and has actually taken a huge amount of interest and initiative in learning the sport.
S3: And it’s not like a typical kind of relationship that we hear about in the media, like you hear about the kind of like sports mom supporting the son or like the sports dad supporting the son or the daughter. But like the mom supporting the daughter is a cool relationship and one that we don’t hear about enough.
S4: And also the sports parent who’s not an overbearing asshole and you know, and has taken charge of their child’s athletic career from the age of six. It’s heartwarming to read about a parent who lets their kid play and become great. And it’s shocking to hear. Actually, it’s really surprising.
S5: And the movie Love and Basketball, I mean, one of the storylines is the the heroine, the best. The woman who ends up playing for the L.A. sparks her mother actually as a homemaker and doesn’t know much about basketball, but she doesn’t actually even attempt to know much about basketball. And it’s sort of awkward anyway.
S3: So, yeah, there are representations of this relationship in the media love and basketball finale.
S1: And Josh, what’s your Gwendolen Lloyd on Sunday in Arlington, Texas, big day for Arlington on the pad, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys lost to Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Cleveland Browns. Forty nine to thirty eight, Dak threw for a career high five hundred two yards on a career high. Fifty eight attempts. He has nine hundred and seventy four yards passing in his last two games, breaking the not very famous NFL record for most passing yards in two consecutive games. I’d give all those yards back for a different record, Prescott said after the game. I care about one stat and that’s to win. So when we don’t do that, no other stats matter. So he’s clearly doing the like. I don’t care about numbers thing, but I’m choosing to interpret this a little differently. I’d give all those yards back for a different record. I think he’s talking about Norm Van Brocklin, single game record of five hundred and fifty four yards passing in a single game. Whenever an NFL quarterback gets close to five hundred yards, I get extremely excited thinking the day may have finally come for sixty nine plus years. It never has. This was 1951. Norman Brocklin 554 yards. There have been twenty four, five hundred yard passing games in NFL history. Ben Roethlisberger has the most with three two guys got the closest to the record, throwing for five hundred and twenty seven yards match job. And Joel Warren man. Yes, redemption for Houston finally positive. Yeah. A positive moment for Houston in the podcast. Tony Romo did it on the fewest attempts. Thirty six for a five hundred yard game. Jared Goff. Sixty eight attempts were the most in quarterbacks who’ve thrown for five hundred yards are just thirteen and 11 after Dak Prescott, the Cowboys lost on Sunday. Then Brooklyn’s Rams did win. Back in nineteen fifty one, they beat the New York Yankees fifty four to fourteen. It was the season opener and Van Brocklin was actually filling in for starter. Bob Waterfield in that performance did not win Van Brocklin the starting job. He’d start just one more game that season. Tough break four for Norm Coleman. Judy Battista has the best story about the game. She wrote about it for The Times in 2011 and included the following fun facts. Van Brocklin broke the existing record by eighty six yards. He was six one and one hundred ninety pounds and quote, despite having stubby fingers, despite having stubby fingers. I mean, this is a different time. He was a physical passer with a powerful arm. His completion, that percentage that year was just fifty one point five percent. The average this year for all quarterbacks is sixty six point six percent. The New York Yankees were one nine and two in nineteen fifty one and their pass defense was the worst in the league. But according to the Los Angeles Times is right up of the game. Van Brocklin might have had even more yards, except that the Yankees secondary covered well, which seems like it must be extremely inaccurate. So belated negative review to the L.A. Times writer who expressed that opinion. All right. Now to the question that has haunted America for generations. Why has no one broken this damn record? You think it would have been destroyed by now, given how much better teams are at passing and how much more conducive the rules are to passing, the average team now throws for 250 a game. Prescott’s cowboys are throwing for 400 a game in nineteen fifty one teams averaged just one hundred and sixty three yards passing and Van Brooklands Rams led the league behind. Bob Waterfield throwing for what was then a crazy two hundred and sixty seven yards per game. So here’s one. Theory about why it hasn’t happened back in the 1950s and for a long time after that, you could beat the hell out of receivers, there weren’t illegal contact penalties. There wasn’t holding. There was an interference that meant it was harder to get open. Yes. But it also meant that players did not result in penalty yardage and penalty yardage is not passing yardage. Consider that in week one against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Saints had one hundred and forty nine yards worth of pass interference. Penalties called against them. So in a world without pass interference, who knows how many of those would have been completed? Maybe none of them. But maybe a world with less penalty yardage is a world where there are sure fewer passing yards per game on average. But maybe there are a handful more outlier games where the passing yards do pile up. Here’s another theory for why it hasn’t happened. I think this is a better theory, actually. I’m not sure I believe what I just said, so I just wasted all of your time. But I do believe in the following, which is the easiest way to throw for a crap ton of yards is to do it from the beginning to the end. You totally dominate the opposition, as Van Brocklin did in nineteen fifty one and Judy Battista wrote about that game, there was seemingly no concern about running up the score. But now Social Convention is to sit on the ball if you have a lead, but because it’s considered polite and so your quarterback doesn’t get hurt. And so if you have a crazily successful first half, you actually reduce your chances of setting this record. So that leaves just two possibilities. You can try to break the record if you fall way behind like the Cowboys did on Sunday, and then you need to throw to catch up. But in that case, your opponent can drop a million people into coverage, force you to throw short. And they’re also going to try to kill the clock so you don’t have the time on the clock to pile up big yards. The other option is that there can be a shootout in 2015. Drew Brees threw for five or five and Eli Manning threw four six touchdowns in a game. The Saints won 52 to forty nine at the buzzer on a fifty yard field goal. If that field goal had missed, Kai Forbath had just done a solid and not kick that through. The game would have gone to overtime and Brees might have actually set the record in that game. So who could break this record? The record for major college football? Seven hundred and thirty four yards in a game. And that’s actually shared by Patrick Mahomes Texas Tech and Connor Halladay of Washington State. A little bit of disparity in pro success there, but I think the Texas Tech part there is actually more important than the Mahomes because the chiefs are probably too good to have a chance for this record. But Joel, Patrick Mahomes has coach back then, Cliff Kingsbury’s work here. He’s now with the Cardinals quarterback, Kyler Murray Collier. Very good at throwing. They’ve got DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the league. They’re not that good. They’re doing a little better this year, but they’re going to be playing from behind and playing a bunch of shootouts. So that’s my prediction. Kyler Murray will break the NFL single game yardage record if Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t get fired, Kingsbury needs to stick around long enough to give Tyler enough chances. Another Texas kid who picked football over baseball all the way, Matthew Stafford, five hundred yard passer, just listing people who are from Texas.
S5: All right. Sunny Detmer, by the way, the father, the the father, the passing offense in Texas who died a couple of weeks ago. I think he was like seventy six father of Ty Detmer in Koy Detmer, although I did not know that. Yeah, he just passed recently.
S7: All right, Joel, what is your Gwendolen? Lloyd.
S6: So I think I’ve made it pretty clear on this podcast that I don’t think we should be playing college football right now. Right. I think, you know, or football of any sort. I’ve been pretty clear about that. You’re on the record. Yeah. Yeah. But, you know, the SEC has persisted, college football has persisted. And on Saturday, third ranked Florida hosted South Carolina and the Gators won thirty eight to twenty four. What interested me wasn’t Dan Mullin. Kyle Trask, who I would like to note was a backup quarterback in the Houston area and somehow went to school and is starting and dominating now, which is crazy. And I’m less interested in what they did to Will Muschamp, even though it’s funny to see what’s happening of Retread Will Muschamp. But before the game, the Florida Gators tweeted out a cardboard image of my old, dear friend in the stands of a swamp. And the tweet reads, We’re glad we could save a spot for Asaph. ESPN in the stands with us Gator Band as a tribute hashtag Go Gators. So I don’t know if we’ve talked about this here before, but it Asaph was a very good friend of mine. We were colleagues at ESPN for a couple of years and nobody in my life that I’ve known for such a short amount of time became as close of a friend. He was part of the drumline at the University of Florida and went on to become a college football reporter of some repute and talent. He worked his way up to ESPN and we were on the same ESPN dotcom team. And he was working his way into doing the TV and everything else, right, and he man, as you can see, I haven’t prepared this, but I’m just kind of speaking off the dome here because it means a lot to my heart. But, Ed, you know, man, he had so much life ahead of him. He was so talented, one of the most beautiful people you could ever meet. And it was a few months ago he passed away on his fourth birthday after suffering from complications from pneumonia, which compounded previously undetected stage for non Hodgkin’s lymphoma and his lungs. And I can just tell you, as somebody who it was a really busy time in all of our lives. But, you know, Ed was just a really happy go lucky sort of dude. And so when he got sick, we were like, oh, man, this is really serious, what’s going on? And then all of a sudden, just like that, he was gone. And we had a lot of plans this year, man. He had a lot of plans. He was supposed to have gotten married in March and his lovely fiancee, Katie Patro, in New Orleans. And we were supposed to have been there and for all sorts of reasons, this year has not gone as planned. But one thing I know for sure that is bad is 20, 20 has been it would have been so much better with Ed. So it’s here that I should mention that people the University of Florida, in addition to having that tribute for him at the game with his cardboard cut out on Saturday, that there’s also a memorial fund for him at that college of journalism. So if you are interested in honoring the life of my friend and his career, you can make a donation to the Off Memorial Fund at UFS College of Journalism and Communications and send it to P.O. Box one for four to five. Gainesville, Florida. Thirty to six for attention gift processing. And just please note, is that Ashenoff Memorial Fund? So anyway, thank you, Florida. I don’t think you should be playing football, but if you’re going to do it, you did it the right way on Saturday.
S7: Thanks to all, and we’ll put the information about the fund on our show page so people can find it there. That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. Listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out. Go to sleep. Dot com slash hang up. You can email us at Hang-Up athlete dot com for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine. Remembers our mobility and Atash off. Thanks for listening.
S12: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, listeners and Chantelle Jennings of the Athletic is back with a Shantelle. Thanks for sticking around.
S11: I feel so excited to be here for the Slate plus listeners. This is a special honor.
S12: Oh, my God. Well, we’re all thrilled to be here for the Slate plus listeners and to have you back. There’s a bunch of stuff that I wanted to ask to keep the conversation going before because there’s just so much interesting stuff happening with the WNBA. First thing is that I think we need to note that the Las Vegas Aces went on strike. They they didn’t play in a game a couple of years ago because of this, like, horrible travel situation that the league put them in where they ended up in this like twenty five hour journey. And they kind of took the lead, like to advocate for themselves and for other players and teams in the league and saying that, like, you can’t force us to like play a game like 15 minutes after we landed that at the airport, like fighting for their own labor rights, in addition to fighting for civil rights. And so that’s kind of when the Aces first came across my consciousness was in this labor fight. And so I think we need to take note of that.
S11: Well, and I think you also in addition to that, we earlier in the episode talked about Breanna Stewart’s Achilles injury. The only reason that happened is because a lot of WNBA players have to go overseas to play during their off seasons to make money during these careers because of the pay in the WNBA. And so I think there’s a lot of labor issues, but especially like it’s been really interesting, I’ve already talked with players who are already abroad. The WNBA season hasn’t ended yet. And I’ve talked to folks who are currently in Turkey training with their other teams and even the rookies who’ve had this insane year where they didn’t get an NCAA tournament. They had this virtual draft. Their first WNBA season is in the bubble. Their season ends. They’re home for seven to 10 days. And their agents call and say, you know, the team wants you. And so there’s a lot about the WNBA that because we don’t talk about it as much that people don’t know. But it is really fascinating and maddening and crazy.
S4: Well, and I think that that fact, Shantelle, contributes to the idea that these that the WNBA players are in some ways risking a lot more when they choose to make their activism a part of their careers. They don’t have the financial leverage that NBA players do. They don’t have the freedom to spend their offseason devoted to something other than playing basketball. So I think when you when you put the sum of what these women experience as professional athletes, I think it elevates the nature of their activism and their commitment to it.
S11: I completely agree. This is my first year covering the league. But I’ve I’ve obviously followed the league. And what these women do day in and day out is really impressive. What they’ve done this season. Again, not to keep harping on this social justice season, but the mental, emotional, physical toll of the season for so many of the players was it was crazy to sit in these press conferences and listen to women. You know, they take questions from, OK, so the defense, blah, blah, blah. Here’s the defense question. Now, let’s talk about this, about the lieutenant governor of this state. Now, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about qualified immunity. There aren’t other leagues that, you know, I’m aware of where sort of you have everything from qualified immunity to free throw percentage talked about in an eight minute interview. And it was sort of every single day for them this year. And it was, again, 80 percent black women. A lot of these women, what they shoulder on a daily basis. I was speaking with a player who had left the bubble after the season ended. She didn’t leave early, but and she said for the first time in her life, she experienced anxiety in the bubble. She started having heart palpitations. And because it was just everything was heightened, they had to stay within one square mile. They had to play all these games. And then they chose to do the social justice activism and work as well. And they have the Social Justice Council, which kind of leads them. But every player also, you know, different teams and players had their own individual initiatives. The Chicago Sky had a group called Sky Takes Action, where they donated again out of their own salaries, money to a fund that is supporting, I believe, the Chicago bill fund to help protesters pay their bills. And so, like, it’s so simple to say, but just like the season was a lot, it’s just a lot for so many of these players. And to watch them and listen to them was really impressive.
S5: We didn’t even get a chance to really talk about the wabble, which is the IMG facility in Bradenton we’re bringing us, which is not necessarily a garden spot of Florida. It’s somebody who live not too far from there for a few years. But how does the WNBA think it went? How did the players think, you know, the wobble went, so to speak? Are they are they impressed that they pulled it off? Are they like, man, that was kind of shitty. I don’t want to do that again.
S11: So from a very basic level, health and safety was the number one priority. The WNBA up to this point. It is Monday at noon Eastern time. There hasn’t been a single positive test in the bubble and the bubble. So from that perspective, it was a success. I think there’s other ways you can look at it, sort of the injury numbers and the number of ankle injuries specifically that we saw this season. They had again, and a lot of athletes felt this as you go from quarantine, where you’re in your apartment or your house. And then they had two weeks and market, I believe, or one week in market before they came to the bubble for a two week pre-season. So you kind of go from zero to one hundred in the course of three weeks and then you have your two week pre-season and then you play twenty two games in 50 days. Because of that schedule, no teams practice during the regular season. They practiced during their games. And so I think even in that regard, you look at the quality of a shorthanded ACS team and, you know, this very deep Seattle team, the quality is still really high. So I think even in that regard, you know, physically and mentally, I’m sure the players are exhausted. But the quality of play has been really impressive this season. And so I think it was a success. We’ll see. Kathy and Gilbert, the commissioner, moving forward. You know, they’re already sort of starting to plan for next season. But, you know, what is time and the mix? So how can any of us plan for anything? But I would say in terms of putting a season together, give the players a little bit of time to to decompress from this. And I think they’ll be happy with how everything went.
S16: So the I wanted to limit the number of people in the wabble. The players are allowed to bring, you know, partner. So like Megan Rapinoe is in there cheering on her partner, Sue Bird. But there’s only one member of the media there. Holly Rowe, the sideline reporter for ESPN, like Rebecca Lobo and Ryan Rocha, are calling the finals remotely. And you’re not there. You were not given the option. The athletic wasn’t given the option of of sending you there. And in this year, when the WNBA is such a great story, when there’s so much going on in the league, on the court and off the court, and I think there’s a huge amount of media interest and fan interest and even non fan interest, just people who are like, what’s going on with with these women? What are they doing?
S4: And I think more people watched on TV, more people watched on TV.
S16: But also people are like, what’s the deal with this, like Kelley Lefler situation in the VA? We’re not kidding. There’s just a lot of interest. It seems counterproductive to me for the WNBA to not allow journalists to go into the wabble. And again, I understand wanting to limit the number of people there for public health reasons, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
S11: Yeah, I mean, obviously, I’m biased. I’m a journalist. If you’re never going to see me being like, yeah, I actually would prefer to have a zoom press conference than to actually be there. So, yeah, I wish I wish we could have had at least the option to go into the bubble. I wish that, you know, maybe even like a like a pool reporter situation, I don’t know. But the WNBA for a long time as a league and people within the league have I don’t want to see complain because it’s also true. Right. So they truthfully complained that the WNBA doesn’t get enough coverage. But I think as someone who was a reporter that didn’t report on the WNBA for a long time, I placed that blame on people who didn’t hire WNBA reporters, write the newspapers, the websites who didn’t have full time reporters on the ground. And that’s still a problem. Don’t get me wrong, more reporters should be covering not just the WNBA, but women’s sports, because it only gets four percent of national coverage. But there’s also blame to be put in the hands of the league like in a season, as you stated, where there’s so much interest, where people want sports so badly, it does feel like a missed opportunity, whether it’s the league, whether it’s team PR, whether it’s agents, whether whoever it is to sort of understand the number of eyes that are going to be on players and teams this season specifically and really leading into that and doing as much as they can when there is such a vacuum for sort of like, oh, my gosh, give us sports, give us sports.
S9: You know, it feels as though this season could have been more even I mean, if we’re going to be crass about it, the two things that you just mentioned, the fact that there aren’t that many people covering the WNBA means there wouldn’t have been that many people that even wanted right. To go into the bubble. So why not let in the people that did want to go?
S4: I mean, it would have been how many national reporters would this have required, sort of creating additional slots for six, eight, 10? I mean, it seems very shortsighted, to use your word, Josh. For the WNBA to not have realized that this would be not only good for the amount of publicity and coverage of the games, but also good for encouraging more media to cover.
S11: Well, in the frustrating thing is so more games this year were televised than ever before, but the only games that had a sideline reporter were ESPN affiliate games. So if the game was on ABC or ESPN, Holly Rose there. But if the game was on CBS Sports, there was no sideline reporter there. You had two people calling the games from their houses and no sideline reporter. And so, you know, if a player left sort of the I think they had two cameras as well, like there weren’t even enough camera angles, just as a viewer, not even that’s not a journalist complaint. That’s just a viewer complaint, the limited television angles. So if a player left the floor, they were gone. And if it’s a CBS game, you have no idea what’s going on, at least during the playoffs, which all of the playoff games have been on an ESPN affiliate station or ABC Hollyrock is there. And so she was able to provide context. And she is great at providing context. She is great at those postgame interviews and sort of bringing the energy of the players to the viewers. But there was specifically this moment where Melissa Thomas, who’s a forward for the Connecticut sun, she has played most of her past few seasons, I believe, with two torn shoulder Abram’s. So this is a crazy injury. And you use your shoulder obviously a lot in basketball. It’s relatively useful. But so she has these torn shoulder labrum in both shoulder and she hit the ground at one point and she’s sort of writhing in pain. She’s kicking the floor. This is such a tough player. We never see this from her before. She goes back to the locker room and she comes back afterward. And Holly had said, I don’t know if it was that game or the next game. You know, I talked with other players who were who are near that room, near the locker room, and they heard her screaming as they popped her shoulder back into place. And those are the sort of observations as reporters that you make. Right. And if Holly hadn’t been there, we would have had no sort of insight into where Melissa Thomas went between her first quarter injury and when she came back in the fourth quarter. And I understand, again, you want to keep the bubble as secure as possible. But those are also sort of the storylines that bring the new fans in, like the quality of play in the WNBA has always been, hi, this is you know, there’s twelve teams, there’s twelve roster spots. These are the best hundred and forty four basketball players in the world. So if that’s not going to bring bring people in, you have to bring the storylines, you have to meet the players, know the players and the teams and have these rivalries. And those are the sort of things where, oh my gosh, Alissa Thomas doesn’t have two functioning shoulders. She had it popped into place in the middle of a game and then walked out with a shoulder sling. Like that’s the kind of stuff that builds an audience. And I think without sideline reporters, without reporters in the bubble, that was stuff we missed this year and stuff that we won’t know of simply because there weren’t reporters there. That’s my reporter’s soapbox.
S1: Chantelle, we’ve really been enjoying your WNBA coverage on the athletic people. Should check it out there. And we will be watching the end of the WNBA finals this week. Probably going to end in three.
S4: I think you’re right. She’s a little bit painted. All Big Ten defensive player of the year.
S1: There we go. Slate plus members, thank you for your membership. Will be back with more next week.