S1: The following podcast includes explicit language, including, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. I am Stefan Fatsis and this is Slate’s sports podcast, hang up and listen for the week of December 6th, 2021. On this week’s show, we’ll break down the College Football Playoff and ground ball at Brian Kelly and his family moving from Notre Dame to LSU. Radford William Davis of Insider will be here to discuss the Major League Baseball lockout and also his fascinating story about Major League Baseball using two different baseballs last season. Finally, we’ll talk about blowouts, for which it was a big week led by the OKC Thunder, losing to Memphis by an NBA record. Seventy three points. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and Wild and Outside. I also once was detained by police in Albania during a reporting trip. Josh Levin is also in D.C., is the author of The Queen. The national editor of Slate and the producer and host of One Year in 1995. Hey, Josh,
S2: I just can’t arrest the image of Foghorn Leghorn getting arrested in Albania. I don’t know if that’s what you wanted me to be thinking of, but like you kind of you were really dropped a bunch of sort of fodder on us there now.
S3: Do you what I’m saying on Twitter here?
S1: Albania, uh, doing some reporting for The Wall Street Journal. I was doing a piece about Albania’s Olympic team and I did another another story while I was there. This was after the fall of communism and I was wandering around the city and I was taking pictures and I took a picture of what turned out to be a government building and a cop car pulled up and forced me to get in and detained me in a police station for a couple of hours without letting me call anybody. Wow. I think I went through my hotel room to.
S3: What was your what was the detention room like, did you have like access to anything? Was that when I just imagined where their snack room?
S1: Yeah. There were no snacks. I remember that the walls were yellow. It was pretty grim.
S2: One year, 1995 Albania.
S1: I’m certainly prepared to do that. Peace. But a better one year was Christina King Kong of Richie’s Episode three last week about a reproductive medicine scam, women’s frozen eggs being used without their consent. Listen to it. Listen to all of them. It was terrific. What’s up next?
S2: Thank you. And yeah, Christina did an amazing job with that. Next up is our producer. Evan Chong has a story about the first internet site or one of the first that went viral. It’s really fascinating story about something that folks don’t remember. So look out for that this week.
S3: I just can’t believe that in 1995, you missed out on Stefan in Albania, and then you didn’t cover my senior year of high school football in 1995. So there’s just a lot that’s left out. I guess it speaks to how you know how pivotal and important that year was that those two important stories didn’t make him.
S2: So we create as a kind of pointillist portrait of the year. And then when all of the dots are there, people see the Albania and the senior year of high school. It’s all it’s all kind of there between between the dots.
S1: That was Joel Anderson in Palo Alto, California. Hi, Joel.
S3: Hey, good morning, y’all. Yeah, I will say one year in 1995. Very good podcast.
S1: Thank you. Good questions. Good podcast. Segue Alert. Slow burn. Season six, The L.A. Riots. I am now all caught up Joel Episodes three and four about L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates and about Rodney King’s life were gripping and infuriating, and it’s really impressive work. Congrats.
S3: Well, I don’t want to take you no credit for it. You know, like a typical running back. I want to thank my teammates the offensive line, you know Gabe Josh himself, Jason, Ethan, Sophie, Jasmine. It’s a team effort. Stefan and you know, we don’t I don’t do anything on my own here. You know, I can’t get 100 yards, one hundred thousand downloads without them. So it’s, you know, big. You know, I’ve got to get a credit to my team here,
S2: but I will give credit to Joel,
S1: give credit to all teams. I just checked when I was in Albania. Actually, it was 1996. Oh oh God, one year in nineteen ninety six coming. So we’ll keep that in mind.
S3: My freshman year in college so we could just keep it that, you know, if we wanted to keep along the path of my life, there’s still an opportunity here.
S2: The College Football Playoff Committee, sadly, has left us with little fodder for one of America’s favorite pastimes whining about the College Football Playoff committee. No. One Alabama vs. No for Cincinnati. Number two Michigan vs. Number three Georgia both straightforward picks for the semis given this weekend’s results, and so we cannot complain about a poor underdog group of five team getting left out for the umpteenth time. Go Bearcats and Joel. We can’t really say much about Bama being in that number one slot after the tide in their freshman quarterback, Bryce Young beat the ever loving crap out of what had been an indomitable Georgia Bulldogs defense in the SCC title game. And all that after I’d said repeatedly that this was, by Alabama standards, a mediocre team, which I guess goes to show how high Alabama standards are.
S3: So nobody will believe this. But before kickoff, I was leaning heavily toward Bama, and this is why I do think that’s something to the idea that teams have to be tested somewhere along the way unless they’re truly world beaters, right? And I can even refer to my record. I was the only person at ESPN.com in 2018 to pick Clemson to beat Alabama in the Championship game. Just so you know, I have a record here of going against the grain, but they
S2: pick the Giants against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
S3: You know what, I well, I mean, I don’t have anywhere to pick it, but I it didn’t seem implausible to me. But you know, the thing about Bama is Bama had just pulled the rabbit out of its hat against Auburn. Did you pick
S2: Rocky over Apollo Creed?
S3: Well, I think I went with the colour. Yeah, that’s fine. I’ve got the little. I did not pick the little giants, but no. So Bama had pulled this rabbit out of the hat against Auburn, barely held on against Arkansas, pulled out an ugly win against a terrible LSU team, Josh that isn’t even going to a bowl game this season. And that’s to say nothing of the local
S2: issues going to a bowl game against Kansas State, the Texas Bowl on January 4th. And you’re going to be there. We’re going to be there.
S3: Oh, wow, really? What are they like the other five and
S2: six and six they beat?
S3: And oh, that’s right, that that wasn’t supposed to happen. Well, anyway, speaking of A&M, you know, Alabama lost to them and usually while losing a game in college football is fatal to your playoff hopes, there’s something to be said about having your back up against the wall. What’s it like? Meanwhile, Georgia hadn’t won a game by fewer than three touchdowns since a 17 point win over Kentucky at home. And I watched that game, and the final wasn’t even as close as the score. So I just think when I come back to Saturday, it isn’t to say that Georgia was overrated or the Bama was a little underrated. It’s just that Georgia was able to overwhelm everybody else all year with that athleticism, its depth, its intensity. And that’s not the kind of stuff that’s going to work against Bama. Bama has five stars, two in four stars. And, you know, so once the game settled into something of a normal pace and you realize, oh, Georgia’s never played against someone, against anyone as fast as Jamison Williams all year, the best quarterback gets played all year. Who is it? Was it Hindon hooker at Tennessee? K.J. Jefferson at Arkansas both signed college football quarterbacks. But guys that are going to grow Go Pro and something other than sports. So you know, the best team Jordan had faced before last Saturday was either number 19 Clemson, number 22 Arkansas or number 25 Kentucky. And so again, that’s not to say that Georgia was overrated, but the Bulldogs took a step up in class on Saturday, and it showed.
S1: Does that mean that Georgia should have been left out? Is there any argument
S2: Stefan no complaining or no, I’m
S1: not listening to me. I’m not complaining. I’m just asking a question. I think you make a clearly were the third or fourth best team.
S3: I mean, I think there was a legitimate argument for it. I don’t. I mean, I think that they are still one of the four best teams in the country. But looking at their resume in retrospect, I mean, what’s their you know, what’s the what’s the impressive win they had all year?
S2: What’s their season long? What’s their season long dominance? And there is something impressive about what they did to these teams who were not amazing. But there’s a reason that there aren’t that many one loss teams in the country like it’s hard to beat a bunch of teams that are good and not great, and to do it by as much as they did is really impressive. But who they remind me of is that 2011 LSU team, which used the dominant defense to destroy a schedule except for the nine six regular season win over Alabama. But they were just like completely suffocating and against a much better schedule than this year’s Georgia team. I mean, they beat Oregon that year. They may be Georgia, and that’s easy championship game. I mean, they were amazing. And then in the in the title game against Bama, their offense just could not do shit. And literally,
S3: when they got Blake,
S2: they barely crossed the 50 yard line. And so it’s it’s one of the well-known sayings in college football. Joel When your quarterback is Stetson Bennett, the fourth, that means your quarterback is Stetson Bennett, the fourth. And when they got behind, they’re just not equipped to come back. And, you know, Bryce Young has showed all year what kind of quarterback he is. He’s not been great in every game. He wasn’t great against LSU, but it just seemed like this was the formula to beat Georgia to get ahead. And, you know, hold on. But it’s not like there’s not a formula to beat a high powered offensive team. I mean, you saw what Michigan did Ohio State. It’s not like this Georgia team is like uniquely like every team can be beaten. Alabama was beaten. It’s just that Georgia got exposed by and you said it exactly right. Joel Bay, like the type of team that can be the type of team that they are.
S1: Does that mean that we are looking at a rematch in the finals? I mean, do you believe based on what you’ve seen of Georgia, that they are a better team than Michigan who is peaking like it? Absolutely the right time. I mean, they dominated Ohio State. They utterly destroyed Iowa in a very sort of sneaky, methodical way. It was only 14 to three at half and it ended up forty two to three. But it was not like there was any chance that Iowa, who seems to like punting more than anything else, was going to get back into that game.
S2: I was telling our friend, Ben Mathis slowly Joel that that semi, the Georgia Michigan semi, could either be a classic game between two teams that play really well, like really similar to each other. Or it could just be an absolute garbage like ten to three a game that nobody wants to watch. I’m curious to see what what it’s going to be, but like Michigan is also a team that if things don’t break their way as they’ve been, they might be kind of ugly to watch in the second half of a game they’re losing by two touchdowns.
S3: Right? Yeah, I mean, I guess, who do you think is better equipped to win that style? A bully ball? Right? Michigan can inflict its will on, you know, the Northwestern and the produce, the Indiana’s of college football, but doing that at Ohio State? Yeah, now not. But see, the thing is, Ohio State wasn’t Bully Ball. So like, I mean, they’d we’d already seen them get beat up by Oregon who who’s been getting, you know, got its ass kicked two weeks in a row, right?
S2: I mean, you would think before this Alabama game that Michigan would have absolutely no chance of cramming the ball down Georgia’s throat. That seems like more of a possibility. But yeah, I don’t think it doesn’t seem like there’s any way they can do what they did to the their Big Ten opponents in Georgia.
S3: And remember, the game against Ohio State get all of the deserved praise for beating Ohio State. You know, finally, you know, get slaying that dragon that was really favorable for for Michigan, like they got that game at home and terrible weather, even though Ohio State sort of ran, you know, they still threw for a lot of yards, compiled a lot of offensive yards. Those conditions were not favorable to them if that game was played on a neutral site somewhere else. I’m not certain that Michigan wins that game in quite that way. So do I think that they can beat a team that seems to be a more athletic, faster version of themselves on a neutral field? And that seems like a tall order, but maybe they will. I don’t, you know, I don’t want to, you know, rain on our Michigan friends parade, but I didn’t see anything in them this season that indicated to me that they were an elite team. I thought they were a good team. But this is a different this is a step up in level, and I’m not sure that, you know, they’ve they’ve seen anything like what they’re going to see against Georgia.
S1: Really? You didn’t think that, yes, the Ohio State game obviously was played at home in front of one hundred eleven thousand local fans, but they kind of dominated that game. You know, people were saying Ohio State could have ended up number one if things had broken their way, if they had beaten Michigan and Alabama would be Georgia. We’d probably be looking at Ohio State number one.
S3: But that’s kind of the problem with college football is that we can’t really tell who’s good because they don’t play similar schedules. We don’t know. You know, it’s just really tough to do the strength of schedule thing. But I mean, Ohio State had a very good offense at a point during the season and still, you know, ran it up against Michigan at points. But I mean, again, in their big game of the year, their big showcase of the year they got bullied at home by Oregon, who we’ve seen in obviously Oregon. The Oregon of November is not the Oregon of September, but for you to get your ass kicked by Oregon. Now, in retrospect, seems to tell us that maybe Ohio State wasn’t quite as good, but they kind of got to skate on some of these games. And I think they they even played not all that great against Tulsa, for instance. So, you know, I’m not saying I don’t mean to denigrate Michigan, even though it’s coming out that way. I’m just sort of dubious about their prospects in that sort of a game against a team with. I mean, we know it’s not even a question. Georgia has better and bigger athletes than they do.
S2: But Joel, if Ohio State had B in Michigan, you would say, Oh, they got tested against Tulsa and Oregon, and that’s why they came out and were so good at the end of the season because they got tested like Bama did and looking like crap against Auburn and LSU. Be consistent, man, be consistent.
S3: Of course you’ll do anything. You’ll do anything to denigrate Alabama and to undermine their dominance. I would.
S2: I would never. I would never. Well, so it’s up to Cincinnati and Michigan to prevent an SEC rematch that the country does not want to see. And just very quickly on the Cincinnati before we move on to the coaching staff, this will not be a referendum on schools like Cincinnati. It’s just one game. They do not have the talent, you would think to stay with Alabama. They have a good defense and they have some good skill position players, so it won’t be impossible for them to win. And Alabama hasn’t played great in every game, so you
S3: consider this one of their best offensive players in the NFC Championship game. John Mackey the receivers. So they’re
S2: viable. So. So it’s not impossible. Alabama’s going to be a massive favorite, but like the thing to say about this is just let them. Play the game like why that there’s no reason to say Cincinnati and teams like them have no chance, so let’s not even try. We’re letting them try.
S3: I’m going to curse. Who the fuck can stay with Alabama like bama beats? Everybody says they won’t prove it.
S2: Prove anything. If they lose, just they’ll lose like everybody else. If they lose, and maybe they’ll win, right?
S1: Well, I was going to say the last thing is that, look, this has been more than 20 years of waiting for this to happen, and I don’t think we should overlook that. I mean, I wrote about this for The Wall Street Journal in 1998, after Tulane went undefeated and the the Tulane’s president lobbying to change the rules when the BCS was formed. So this is like an important achievement. I don’t know or recognition or willingness on the part of the college football establishment to actually let this happen. And I think that’s worth noting. And look, if they lose forty two to nothing, it’s going to renew calls for, you know, they shouldn’t have been there, blah blah blah. But it’s not really going to matter ultimately, when they expand to 12 teams anyway. So at least that happened once before it will happen on the regular Stefan.
S3: Let’s just think of them as if that does happen. Let’s just think of them as a Big Ten team like Michigan State or whoever else that gets their ass kicked in the semifinals by Alabama. And it shouldn’t reflect poorly on the rest of the league of the rest of the teams in the Group of five. It just means they played the number one seed on a neutral site. I mean, Bama kicks everybody’s ass under those circumstances, so it doesn’t have to mean everything. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to acknowledge that Cincinnati had a great season and deserves to be here.
S2: So right after we recorded last Monday, LSU hired Brian Kelly from Notre Dame, and then a few days after that, he had an introductory thing at halftime of an LSU men’s basketball game. Jeff Darlington on Twitter compared how Brian Kelly said one particular word to his Notre Dame players. A couple of days earlier and then at halftime of that basketball game, let’s take a listen.
S4: What’s incredible 12 years of my life for me and my family being here, Notre Dame? It’s a great time to be a tiger. I’m here with my family and we are so excited to be in the great state of Louisiana.
S2: I would love I would like to welcome Brian Kelly and his family to Louisiana as a fellow Louisiana and with a southern accent. It’s just great. Great to have him here. Do you want to interrogate me about this? Hire Joel? How are we going to do this?
S3: Well, I mean, first of all, I mean, you know, it is kind of funny because. Louisiana has a Louisiana accent. It doesn’t have a southern accent, so I like I don’t know, can we hear you
S2: say family Stefan and I have already said it.
S3: You both as a family? How did that sound? That did it sound? That sounds.
S2: It sounded like you sounded like yourself.
S3: I mean, I’m I have a non-regional accent at this point. I’ve lived around a lot. But let’s talk about whether or not you’re happy to have Brian Kelly as your head coach because my theory is that. Just on football merits, this is one of the best coaches in the country that was on the market that we didn’t know. You should be happy if you like, if you if everything aside, like if you just put aside that he’s sort of a loathsome person, which has never stopped anybody from enjoying a head coach before. But how do you feel now that you have landed the great Brian Kelly?
S2: It’s the great question. Yeah, from a wins and losses standpoint, from a program building and program stability, on-field standpoint, the guy has won everywhere he’s been. You can’t really argue with the record. He seems just like an absolutely miserable person, like somebody that you would not want to spend any time with if you were a college football player or just like a regular human, any and any sort of context. But there seems to be a very strong correlation between miserable people and people who are successful as coaches and in college football. And so if the thing that we care about as fans is our teams winning games, then it is hard to argue with the higher Stefan, although I personally would prefer a coach who I did not think was a miserable person. It’s totally understandable hire, given who succeeds in this sport that we all love so dearly.
S1: Well, isn’t it also a perfectly predictable hire in terms of who the people who support these programs want to hire? He’s old, he’s white, he’s rich, he’s establishment elite. And as we saw at the basketball game, he’s a transparent phony. So who does this serve? Similarly situated alumni and boosters, the donor class, not the player class. I mean, college coaching is kind of a Ponzi scheme, right? You hire a big, safe name, juices the donations for a couple of years. You hope there’s some success limited or or longer. And when there isn’t, you know, and the coach shows up on Instagram shirtless in a hot tub with his rebound girlfriend, you pay him off and hire the next big name. The players keep coming. The donors always don’t need a fix.
S2: Very moralistic there from Mr Fatsis. So Notre Dame did not go out and hire another Brian Kelly, they promoted their young, black, very respected and beloved defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who had come from Cincinnati actually before this. And let’s listen to what the Notre Dame players thought when they were introduced to their new coach.
S3: What I want to do now, OK, is your brand new head football coach.
S2: That was really great to see and hear Marcus Freeman is in his 30s. He is very handsome man, first of all. The most important thing to note, but he is just, you know, revered in the sport as incredibly smart grid and scheming up defences again has succeeded everywhere he’s been in gets like one of the premier jobs in college football at a pretty young age, and Joel, like Notre Dame, clearly won the press conference here. But as I said before, our miserable son of a bitches do well as college football coaches and just because his players love him and just because I think he’s the kind of guy who should be getting a job like this, that’s no guarantee the Notre Dame is going to do any better under him, you know, wins and losses wise than it did under Brian Kelly.
S3: It’s tough to imagine and not to be, you know, negative or whatever, but it’s tough to imagine that he will have a better day than the one he had when he was just announced to his team there. Now, you know, I have a friend of mine from back home who played linebacker at Notre Dame in the 90s under Lou Hopes. And you know, he’s in constant conversation with all of the X’s or whatever, and they’re like, they’re so excited that they cannot wait to get Marcus Freeman there. So it was a very popular hire, but the only thing that I would say is that man, people really sort of overlook how good Brian Kelly was and what he actually did there. You know, at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly had to recruit athletes who are not only willing to take calculus but pass it as a freshman. Right like that is an institutional barrier that most elite college football programs don’t have. And I’m just trying to imagine a guy in his first job having that as an obstacle ahead of you trying to maintain that, that culture, that Brian Kelly established there, that winning culture. And it just sort of makes me worried. Like, I mean, you know,
S2: David Shore succeeded with those restrictions at Stanford for a while, but that program’s kind of fallen apart.
S3: Yeah, I mean, it’s just really hard here.
S2: It’s just hard to maintain, even if you’re one of the best coaches in the country. If you have
S3: any kind of academic standards in major college football, it is going to be a problem. And eventually you’re going to hit a cap because there’s only so many fast mean great football players who are willing to go to class in the way that you need to at Notre Dame. That’s just the bottom line, and that’s going to be something to Marcus Freeman’s going to have to deal with. Maybe he can recruit that. Maybe he’s charismatic enough that it won’t matter. But you know, the history of Notre Dame, the recent history of Notre Dame suggests that it’s not as easy as people think it is and Brian Kelly the reason that he’s so he was so he made so much money right now. And LSU went and got him is because he was the exception. Like, that’s that’s not supposed to be the rule at Notre Dame.
S2: Of Next Bradford, William Davis on the baseball lockout.
S1: In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Major League Baseball drastically overhauled its Web site, erased from view like a disgraced apparatchik and a Soviet Polit Bureau photo where images of players and news about teams in their place, stock photos of baseballs and empty fields and headlines, including were these the worst or best jerseys ever? And Reliever traded for Sam Hall of Famer? Twice. What all that means is that the lockout is on, with ownership imposing a shutdown of all baseball related activity. No free agent signings, no trades, no team. Supervised workouts, nothing. Bradford William Davis joins us now. He’s an investigative reporter for Insider and co-hosts the Baseball Prospectus podcast Five and Dime. Welcome to the show, Brad.
S5: Yeah, thank you for having me.
S1: Our pleasure. We definitely want to discuss your fascinating investigative piece on Insider last week about MLB using two different baseballs last season and how that affected play. But let’s start with the lockout first work stoppage in twenty six years of labor peace. No baseball activity, but lots of blow aviation, especially from the owners. What are the key areas of disagreement between players and management?
S5: Oh, man. Everything is to try to wear it right. But the main things are, of course, economic concerns. Players are upset that most of that. Pay doesn’t correlate with production. And the most likely years of a player’s production, which are, you know, the younger years makes sense for anyone who follows sports or anyone who’s ever tried to like, you know, run a lap and the throws you. You are a better athlete in your 20s than you are likely to be more productive in that during that time period. However, that is the time where you make the least amount of money that is structured for a reason. Players are often manipulated with their with the way their service team works, meaning that they’re allowed to not allow. Major League Baseball teams are allowed to keep them in the minor leagues, which they’re where they’re paid like peanuts, essentially for an extended period of time. Beyond their career and a natural ability to perform in a big league level so that they can have extra control over their salaries and and prevent them from competing for agency little earlier, they are, you know, so they’re so they’re arguing over, you know, how all of that free, free agency compensation works, how quickly you can reach free agency. That seems to be a significant turn for the, you know, for the players. Of course, management’s line is that that these are necessary. Restrictions, you know, so that teams both big market and small market teams can compete. That is, of course, debatable. I’m not going to, you know, front on where my line here is. But, you know, but I can’t say that, you know, management has not shown a sturdy record of their accounting. You know, as far as what money they’re actually making in, they’re just kind of like seeing it as oracle faith. You should trust us that in that we really need to pay you guys less.
S3: What I would want to know is how how likely is it that they’re actually going to miss games now because, you know, I got to admit I’m, you know, I don’t follow baseball so closely, but I know that the baseball season doesn’t start until April. Right? So we have quite a bit of time. So at this point where you stand right now and following, you know, the negotiations, how likely is it that there will be any games actually missed?
S5: My gut says hello, and that’s also basically some players I spoken to as well. And I think their big one, the big reasons why I’d say it’s low is actually because of the pandemic. They I think both players and owners understand they need baseball back. Given the significant losses that kind of everyone incurred in 2020, it was only a 60 game season, which means that players salaries are prorated to 60 games and given that there was no gate revenue. And you know, it was, that means that there was significant losses on the management side as well. I suspect that there is going to be a desire for like, you know, for something to be worked out. However, I think that you know that Rob Manfred, the Major League Baseball commissioner, chose to install a lockout as a negotiation tactic. It’s not necessary to be clear like, you know, that defensive lockout stuff is as rhetoric and pretty nasty rhetoric, in my opinion as well. But it is something that you know that that they are using to speed up negotiations on their end because I think they do want to, you know, play games soon. They just want the players to withdraw some of the things that they’re asking for.
S3: You mentioned that you said that they lost a lot of money in the previous year, but they also have been really guarded around their books. What is the like? How do we verify that these Major League Baseball teams have actually lost the money or suffered the losses that they claimed they did because of the pandemic shortened season?
S5: All we have are like Forbes estimates, the Braves are owned by a publicly owned company, so we have a little insight into raising the World Series defending World Series champions now. Yeah, they’re owned by Liberty Media, so we have a little insight and just into their stuff. But like otherwise, it’s all just kind of like, you know, again, Forbes valuation estimates and pretty much like, I think twenty nine or twenty to thirty teams or were valued in the, you know, at least over a billion, you know, with that, I think the Marlins being like nine hundred and fifty or something like that million dollars significant, you know, these are very either moneymaking institutions. They might have had a one year dip. That is what I’m conceding, you know, a potential one year dip that is leading some people to feel, you know, it’s a cry for, you know, but but now over the last 20 years, maybe longer, you know, every sort of external the available economic indicator point Susan Levin growth.
S2: So for all the conversation about the divide between big market and small market teams and there is massive payroll divide, there’s more parity in Major League Baseball than in other major professional sports. If you look at just who wins championships, there’s been maybe 15 different teams that have won the last 20 World Series or something like that. And so I’m curious, Brad, if you feel like actually the economic system in place in baseball while being unfair to younger players and, like you said, being very tenuous in terms of the correlation between compensation and production, if the like systematic underpayment of younger players actually does help the smaller market teams compete and, you know, field teams that are able to beat the Dodgers and the Red Sox and the Yankees.
S5: I mean, it probably does to some degree, in my opinion.
S2: But to say that like that means that that system should stay in place. But it’s just like, Yeah, it’s an interesting question.
S5: No, it’s a great point. The point Josh like if you’re making, say, the league minimum, right, which is a lot of money, of course, for all of us journalists, podcasters, which is, you know, making the buy in. I think five fifty is like the current current. No, I was thinking about that. But point is like about half a bill. That is something that is essentially free from the perspective of a big league team because you have to field a roster of at least 26 people, you know? And so they get out there and they can make any, you know, from from five, 50 or whatever to infinite, you know? But as long as you have, you know, twenty six guys being five fifty. You had you have your team, which so which so effectively, if you have a good player in those first three or four years of their of their of their career making that league minimum, you are cashing out as far as like actual production relative to their to their income.
S2: It’s like having Russell Wilson on his rookie contract, you know, which they did when they won the Super Bowl.
S5: But of course, you know, the difference is between with a lot of NFL teams and not to say the NFL, the NFL economic structure is good either. But what they bought they frequently do in the NFL is they like, you know, is if you have a decent quarterback on that rookie contract. A lot of times, you know, teams will immediately start spending lots of different skill positions or, you know, or to shore up the lines and everything to make that playoff run right then and there because, you know, they realize surplus value in Major League Baseball. They just kind of like, you know, don’t pay anyone hope for the best.
S1: And they collect, yeah, revenue sharing from the wealthier teams. And one of the one of the union’s big complaints, justifiably, is that too many teams are either tanking and not spending money or just operating on a year to year basis where they’re not going to spend and they’re pocketing the revenue sharing money and where it comes out in the wash, I think, is not just the underpayment of the younger, talented players, but you sort of combine that with the fact that teams have been less willing to part with huge amounts of money for older players in the way that they did in the 80s and 90s and 2000s and overall. And this kind of surprised me. The average major league salary has fallen six percent in the last four years, five years, and the median salary is down 30 percent from 2015. That’s shocking in a sport that has continued to expand its revenue base in the last decade.
S5: Right. And if you and we read any headlines, inflation, you know, is is not sinking, it’s rising significantly. So when so big, so big market salaries aren’t what they used to be like. A hundred million dollar contract, of course, is a substantial amount of money, and I’m happy for anyone who’s able to sign that. But one hundred million dollar contract in 2005 is not the same as 2021. You know, it just is. Not when you consider, you know, the rising amounts of revenue and likely profit that all these teams are, you know, are facing when you see, you know, oh yeah, this guy signed for X amount of money that is much more of a steal than it once was given. When you consider, you know, the money that in all likelihood exists in the game, I believe. I think I want to say that is either Derek Alvin or Bobby Montano from the Yankees blog. Views from the engine 14st was criticizing the actually the Yankees again, you know, the the famously like, you know, expensive and lavish Yankees for running a payroll that is effectively lower than it was in the mid aughts. Now again, the team’s been good of late, but they’ve also passed on a lot of different, you know, marquee players at needs. You know, a team needs out of a sense of a fear of having to spend to, you know, spend too much money into the luxury tax, you know, and and lose draft picks and pay some sort of some sort of money towards, you know, small market teams. So even big market teams are trying are acting with like a de facto salary cap at this point. And and we’re seeing that in, you know, in the quality of the team and the lack of interest in players that clearly fit, you know, the needs of some of these big market franchises like the Yankees and Red Sox, who famously traded Mookie Betts away just a year after winning the World Series of them?
S2: All right, let’s move on from baseball, the sport to baseball’s the balls. You have a really amazing scoop, just incredibly well reported right on an insider about baseball’s and yeah, tell folks what you found.
S5: Yeah, so thank you, first of all, I. Major League Baseball used to live in baseball’s plural. That is the finding. There is a fantastic astrophysicist named Dr. Meredith Wills, who has been studying baseball construction for the last few years. And she noticed a quirk even in as far as last year that baseball seemed to be being manufactured in like two different ways. Some with higher sensor weights, the center weight being like this, the the yarn wrapped like caulk and rubber like pillar of the baseball. Some of the lower center weights and as a business unit understands that, like heavier white or ball, you know, in certain ways, going to like, you know, weights, different forms, outcomes, you know, more homeruns, less homeruns, hard hit balls to get harder or less hard or whatever. And she noticed that they were quite this interesting saying, you know, in our report, she studied about a hundred and fifty or so baseballs from multiple parks across processes and found that, yeah, they were, you know, there was basically a ball in a ball B and they were being distributed across, you know, across the league. That’s kind of crazy enough. It’s hard to imagine, like, say, like the NBA using two basketballs.
S2: And to be clear, the players didn’t know about this. Nobody that you interviewed in baseball knew that this was happening.
S5: And we’re talking players. We’re talking rookies, we’re talking veterans, we’re talking scouts, talking coaches, and I’m talking from executives every single person I spoke to. You know, all all said that they were under the assumption that there was going to be one baseball this year
S2: because Major League Baseball had said there was going to be one baseball this year.
S5: Yeah, like what would you think? Like, Oh yeah, it’s going to be baseball’s.
S1: Did you get a sense, Brad? Whether baseball MLB Central New York knew or was tracking how they were distributing these two differently constructed balls? I mean, they seem to say in a statement that, oh, it was pandemic and production issues and supply chain issues. But I didn’t get the sense also that there was a firm denial that, hey, we were actually doing this deliberately,
S2: like we were running a controlled experiment that we weren’t telling anyone about.
S5: Right? No. Major League Baseball owns a stake in Rawlings, their baseball manufacturer, with the explicit intent to have more of a say in how to be held baseball’s manufactured. That’s yes, that’s for packers how I was reporting back when it happened. They, you know, Rawlings, you know, has the full ability to understand exactly where, you know, where balls are sent. I don’t have. You mean a study like Dr. Wilson’s does it? It’s not, doesn’t. It doesn’t have this sort of level of scope to really like assess whether or not a disproportionate amount of ball A or ball B went elsewhere. You know, went one place or another. That’s just like me on the science, and I be humble about that. But but but given that Major League Baseball does have the ability to know exactly where the ball is go, it does open. You know, those kinds of questions.
S1: Because each ball is marked, the inside of the weather cover is labeled, you know, the provenance of the ball. So you can trace what the construction history is exactly.
S5: And to your point, when you look at the when you look at the batch codes, which which are essentially like would all like, you know, receipts that can be translated into the rough date. The baseball was actually manufactured, Major League Baseball was producing there and the older version of their baseball, the one that they’d actually said that they were moving away from before the season began in 2021 and the old design many months. I think as late as the latest ball we found from with the older design was in August 2021, so that that doesn’t really hold up. You know, as far as the explanation that it was just COVID supply chain, you know, Gibraltar or whatever, like whatever hell sort of reasons for mixing balls this year or so. So that makes sense.
S3: So, right. So the league said that they told the union, but your information reporting seems to indicate that the players themselves don’t know and in a manner of speaking to sort of bring it back to what we were talking about earlier. I mean, this is a labor issue, right? If the league doing this is sort of an abrogation of trust between, you know, themselves and the front offices, right?
S5: Right. So so one of the things I actually brought up was, you know, it was a sport example to the NBA. So back in 06, you saw Miami. You may remember this, but Spalding, the NBA’s former ball manufacturer, switched from, like, you know, organic materials like synthetic ones and every player hated it. I think only a few players were allowed to even test it out, and anything goes during the All-Star Game. So it’s kind of like a rushed kind of thing like, OK, here’s some new ball straight out and then these moves to that. And it was so it was it was such a big deal that not on every level, from foreign players to like front offices that Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, actually commissioned a study to figure out how about how the balls are affecting, you know, the NBA that year and the NBA, the national basketball. Association there, Union filed a grievance with the NLRB for not being included sufficiently on the move to these new balls because they were really upset, and so that scar still remains so much so that when the NBA moved from Spalding to Wilson going into this year as far as their official ball manufacturer, even though they apparently attempted to bring the players, a lot more players are still complaining about that. And three pro and last I checked, I think NPR did you know to report about this? Three point percentages are down pretty significantly. So how much more is, you know, our ballplayers, you know, being held out of about Major League Baseball ballplayers, which is like being held out of, you know, of any sort of real input as to whether or not there’s going to be, you know, one ball or two this year going to be upset about this. And I’ve had, you know? Including, you know, the people comment on a record like dozens of current active players expressing either their bewilderment, confusion or anger that this happened. So it’s nothing serious. I wouldn’t call it a first order issue given the money, you know, stuff not coming first, but it is amazing that they are actively talking about.
S1: Well, it is a money issue because if you’re a pitcher giving up a home run that goes 10 extra feet or you’re a batter, that’s, you know, hitting the ball that doesn’t go 10 extra feet because of the kind of ball that affects your performance and your statistics and what you’re able to negotiate.
S5: And yeah, right. And if you have and if there is any sort of inkling that that any one guy, a disproportionate amount of one ball versus another, like, you know, that may maybe even worse, you know, and that’s what players who are speaking to me for the story we’re actively speculating on.
S1: Bradford William Davis is an investigative reporter for Insider, where he will post a link to his piece about the two baseballs on our show page. Brad, thank you so much for coming on the show.
S5: You all thank you for having me.
S1: Coming up next, a look at sports blowouts. In sports, there are bad games and then there are bad games. You know, who had a bad game last week, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday by a score of one hundred and fifty two to 79. The seventy three point margin was the biggest in NBA history, which is impressive because the NBA has been around since the Truman administration. Tonight’s not necessarily who we are, the coach of the Thunder’s said afterward. Josh it’s been a feast. Days for blowouts. England’s women’s soccer team beat Latvia 20 to nothing in World Cup qualifying last week. A few days after Belgium beat Armenia 19 to nothing in the same qualifying tournament. Before we get to that and how we feel about blowouts, generally, we should examine the thunder bed sharing a little bit more closely. I’ll start by pointing out that Thunder forward Jeremiah Robinson Earle had a plus minus of minus fifty six in just twenty three minutes, which silver lining was only the second worst plus minus in NBA history. Shout out to Manny Harris, who’s minus fifty seven in the Cavs 112 57 loss to the Lakers in 2011 remains a safe at least until Monday night, when the Thunder play the Detroit Pistons.
S2: So in mild defense of the Thunder, Shay Gilgeous-Alexander was not playing Josh Getty although not playing.
S1: So this is a play for Memphis.
S2: This is a tanking team that was tanking even more than they wanted a tank and the Thunder have, you know, they’ve they’ve had some decent games this year and they’re not like one of the worst teams in NBA history or anything like that. And if you look at the records for teams that have gotten their asses kicked in, the NBA like the previous record was the Heat, the 19 1991 92 heat losing 140 880 and they made the playoffs. They had Glen Rice, so there’s hope for for the Thunder. There’s actually not hope for the Thunder, but you know, what can we say about this game? Probably not much, but what I will say about blowouts is that I love the hell out of them. I will tune in no matter what the sport. If there’s like a score, if there’s like a 70 nothing happening in college football. If there is like, you know, 100 to 30 in college basketball, I will be there. Let me know and I’ll be there and I get upset if the margin begins to erode. Like, I just want to see more points. And it doesn’t. The context doesn’t even matter to me, like it’s obviously there’s no kind of shame and rooting for a professional basketball team, an NBA team to get beaten by the most points ever. But I will admit Joel, I’m not super proud of it. That like if an Armenia is getting getting beat, I’m all I’m all in for that Tim man.
S3: I mean, you are. You are Charles Barkley Fatsis, Angola. You know what I mean you. Speaking of incredible. Yeah, for an overwhelmed opponent. Real quick. I think Jeremiah Robinson Earl has previous claim to fame, was being the son of the great Lester Earl and hang up and listen fans. Check out Google Lester Earl to know why his name was one of the most notorious in college basketball history. But, you know, so I think we’ve talked about this briefly before. I love a blowout. If my team I’m rooting for is involved like, I will watch that shit start to finish. Enjoyed every bit of the way. I don’t really care to sit in for a game for teams that I don’t care about. Then somebody is getting their ass kicked like that. I have a lot less interest in that. I want to see a competitive game in my free time. And if one of the teams isn’t up to the challenge, it doesn’t show up on a particular day. Then I just I have very little interest in that. All right.
S2: Look, we’re obviously not watching Thunder’s Grizzlies from start to finish, but Joel, if you had heard during the fourth quarter like, Hey, the Grizzlies are up seven, they could be setting a record. You wouldn’t turn that on for sure.
S3: Guess I’d be like the Grizzlies seem to have that in hand. OK, I’ll read the box score or I’ll see the wrap up on Sportsnet or whatever. You know, whatever. Instagram some Instagram highlight account and I’ll pretty much get it that way. I don’t need that to check it. I mean, Stefan, would you say to me TV because I sort
S1: of like history being made? I mean, we love to you know what?
S2: What if it was, Oh, Texas A&M is down seventy seven and nothing to Oklahoma? Would you check in on that? Well, so you know, what’s the over under on Johnny Jolley references in the segment?
S3: Oh no. Well, you know, I actually covered that game. I was in the stands. I was in the press box for that day in my great line. I was like a twenty five year old reporter. I was like, You know, Texas A&M couldn’t have won even if they had the 12th man on the field. But it was a pretty good line, right? Yeah, good luck, right? So yeah, I was in the stands for that game, that stance, the press box.
S2: Did you enjoy
S3: it? That was fascinating, because those were two fairly evenly not evenly matched, but they’re both sort of powerhouse programs and nobody saw that coming. The thunder are bad. Like, that’s not I mean, they’re not, they’re not, you know, the worst team ever, but they’re not a good team. There’s no reason to check in and watch Oklahoma City Thunder basketball. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the reason that you tune in to watch OKC Thunder basketball, that you really don’t give a shit about basketball because I’m just like, how interesting could that actually be
S1: until you’re too hung up on who’s participating and whether it matters, as opposed to just the spectacle of a team losing by 73 points? And I think that’s the Rodger Sherman of The Ringer has a great piece that he wrote in 2017 in which he created a blowout matrix. He is a fan like Josh of all blowouts. He opposes mercy rules. He opposes the idea of teams letting up, thinks he should play to the end, and that the taxonomy like, I think that the games that you would appreciate Joel fall into Roger’s category of the beautiful blowout where, as he writes, the most sporting thing that a team can do is to continue playing sports to the best of its ability until the rules indicate to stop. That’s what happens in the beautiful block out. The exact score doesn’t matter. What matters is the winning team giving maximum effort for as long as it can and having a fantastic time doing it. And his archetype for that category is the USA beating Angola. Do you remember the final score of that game? One hundred and sixteen to forty eight? I mean, don’t think that that was fun to watch the Angolan team even enjoy playing in that game.
S3: Wait, you guys think that those games were fun and retro? I don’t remember anything about that dream team, but for the fact that they were dominant and they were on the, you know, the medal stand covering up their, you know, their Nike air quality first, their Nike or the Reebok Insignia,
S2: it was Jordan covering up the Reebok.
S3: Yeah, yeah. Like, I didn’t. I mean, the spectacle of the dream team was sort of cute at first. And then slowly but surely, you’re like, Oh, this is not actually, this is not worth investing my time and watching, you know, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan beat up on, you know, whatever you developing nation that just fielded a basketball team a few years ago? I just didn’t. I didn’t find that to be compelling. And look, if you guys enjoy it, that’s great. But I assume we all have a finite amount of time. And you guys are tuning in to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder lose by 70. Have you watched any other Oklahoma City Thunder games?
S2: I think I watched when they maybe felt like Lakers schadenfreude reasons because Lakers definitely struggled with the with the Thunder beyond beyond struggled. But there are some games on this Rodger Sherman list Stefan that I think even I the heartless Josh Levin would have to look a little better. Askance Australia 166 Marshall Islands three in basketball. Yeah, like that. I might wince that a little bit. The last time we had this conversation, I think, was the US Women’s National Team 13, Thailand zero and the World Cup and like. I’m going to whisper here. I enjoyed watching that, I like, I enjoy them, kicking them, kicking their ass. And so 13 to nothing and women’s soccer in the World Cup is like that. You know, for everybody being like, Oh, they shouldn’t have been celebrating, that definitely didn’t bother me. But one sixty six to three. Australia, Marshall Islands. That seems like it would go a little bit above the limit.
S1: I mean, I was. I, as I recall, did not appreciate the U.S. women celebrating goals 10 through 13 because they were playing the equivalent of like a shitty high school team. I mean, so yeah, those games Joel
S2: who was more disrespectful. The U.S. women’s national team scoring a bunch of goals and treating it like a real game. Are you calling Thailand a shitty high school team? I would argue that you’re being massively disrespectful to the nation of Thailand.
S1: I think they shouldn’t have scored the goals. I said that like celebrating gold 10 through 13 by like sliding on your knees to the bench and like, I mean, look, after scoring once you’re scoring, once you’re in the top. I think when Slovakia, once you’re scoring
S2: the goals, you should celebrate the goal
S3: of unsportsmanlike behavior. I’m sorry.
S1: Thank you, Joel. You’re with me on this channel.
S3: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, come on.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think Slovakia want to beat Joel is like in favor
S2: of NFL taunting penalties. Come on at the
S1: Olympics when I can’t beat Bulgaria. Eighty two to nothing at the Olympics in 2010. In women’s ice hockey, I don’t think they were celebrating the 64th and 78th goals.
S2: Yeah, I don’t feel like I have context for is not being a hockey fan of what that would look like. I can imagine, I guess a little bit.
S1: I looked at that, well, look, I looked at a little of the footage and it looked like the Bulgarian women couldn’t skate and the Slovakia playing hockey some stuff for years makes it difficult. That was that was that was absurd. And that was the point that came out this week after England beat Latvia 20 to nothing. It was that visually playing each other. This is pointless. So when you know, Texas A&M loses 77, nothing as you said Joel, that’s fine because these are two teams in the same friggin conference or whatever that are, you know, top division one schools that are going to play each other. But when you have the control over allowing, you know, the Bulgarian women’s hockey team into the Olympics or were deciding that teams like Latvia should play in a qualifying tournament before they’re allowed to play the best teams in the world to get into the World Cup, that makes more sense. So that’s where, yeah, those blowouts aren’t to me, aren’t quite as interesting. But well, you know, it’s two NBA teams or two D1 football teams or two D1 basketball teams.
S3: Yeah, I’m there to say I think the international international play is so weird to me because things are so differently weighted like some, obviously so many teams, so many countries have different resources and you know, whatever and and do player acquisition and all sorts of interesting ways. And so it’s really hard. But like so my line, like you said Stefan like professional teams, major college teams, fine. But like once you start getting below that and it starts to get to be, you know, FBS team playing a 16, particularly when they play at HBCUs, like that really bothers me when you get to like high school or use youth sports or whatever, and then you start getting lopsided games. I just have very little interest in that. But, you know, I can’t deny that. Yeah, I mean, there’s some schools that I don’t mind if they get to ask because some teams like if you tell me University of Texas is losing about 50 points in any sport, I probably will tune in. You know, if you know there’s the Golden State Warriors somehow found themselves getting to ask beat by 30 points on a weekend game. Great. But, you know,
S1: just like if you want to choose value, this was my point. Like, it’s news when an NBA when one NBA team beats another NBA team by state news. But it’s news. When the UConn women beat Concordia by 60 on a Wednesday night, which happens all the time in women’s college basketball, or when one high school team runs up the score against a team of newbies, you know that that is different. Yeah.
S3: Did you all see that? I mean, it was a couple of months ago when a school, a team in L.A. beat another high school team one hundred and six to nothing and kept scoring touchdowns late into the game. Like I, I just, you know, who gets anything out of shit like that, you know, I just I don’t I don’t understand. Like when when the U.S. women’s soccer team is rolling up goes on like, who is really benefiting from that? I don’t like this. Tell me how that is actually interesting. You know, the
S2: my understanding is that young women in America are inspired by that. That’s what that’s what I’ve been told.
S3: OK, well,
S2: but there are certain high school athletic associations that have rules that, like coaches, can get suspended if they win a game by like more than 42 points or something. I mean, once you once you get below college, then it’s just a different set of rules and expectations. And there’s like safety issues, especially in football. We haven’t addressed, I mean, I think one dividing line here, like you mentioned, the players not be able to skate like if you don’t know how to play the sport only equipment. That seems like you’re not really getting anything out of it. But with like the soccer team England beating Latvia and Belgium beating Armenia, it’s like Latvia and Armenia are like good at certain sports. It’s not like they’re like countries that only have like 10 people. And like, not that many people maybe play. Not that many women play soccer in that nation, but it just doesn’t seem to me absurd that England would play Latvia in a sport or, like San Marino, is always getting beat and it’s like European qualifiers, but it’s like 10 nothing. England San Marino like, look, does it develop the English team and really test their mettle? No. But is there something kind of cool about the fact that England has to travel to San Marino occasionally and like a qualifier to play a game? Yes. And does it like really harm anyone?
S1: No, no. And they’re like a billion. They’re like a billion other game. Those games, they’re like put up like five or seven nothing. There’s a difference between a bunch of amateurs from San Marino or Monaco playing a legit European nation in soccer versus a country that has 200 women playing the sport, which is the case in Latvia. Most of them who like have jobs or go to school in the case of this England game that I read a piece in the Guardian that said that a number of the Latvian players were unable to get out of work or school to travel.
S3: Oh my God, that is Denmark. I mean, come on, man. Yeah, it is different. It is different. This is the LSU in you. This is what this is not coming out. You’d like to beat up on grambling or something. You want to see how many times I’m
S2: going to have to say, Look, before you people will let me talk. So the Latvian and Armenian teams know they’re not as good as England and Belgium. This result is not going to be a surprise to them, and it would shock me if it was any kind of like disappointment that will follow them for a day, a week or the rest of their lives, like in 20 years. You think they’ll be like, Oh, I was so humiliated that I lost this game where they’d be like, That was cool. I got to play against the England women’s national soccer team. It’s like the idea that there is harm being done here seems extremely exaggerated.
S3: OK? Josh this is what I would say. I mean, OK, you’re right. For the most part, nothing ever happens. But sometimes people get mad in games like this. And you know what I mean? Like, I mean, sometimes you don’t want
S2: to see a bad
S3: I’m just saying, like, some people are not willing, they’re willing to take an ass whipping up to a certain point. And then, you know, have you ever have yourself ever played pickup basketball in a neighborhood that you’re not comfortable playing before you get up on somebody? And it’s just like, you know what? There be some cost to pay for winning this game in a certain way. So I think, you know, sometimes people get mad and you know, there might be a price to pay next time next time
S2: Alex Morgan goes to Thailand
S3: to see.
S2: And now it is time for after balls. The men’s basketball team at Division three Yeshiva University beat the college at Old Westbury 105 77 on Saturday, extending to 46 the longest winning streak at all levels of men’s college basketball. Though they’re still six wins behind the 52 game streak of the D3 women at Hope College, Yeshiva University is a private Jewish institution in New York City. The school observes the Sabbath. Its teams are known as the Maccabees. They’re ranked number one in the D3 poll, and they have a star player, Ryan Tyrrell. He’s a six seven guard senior. He averages twenty eight a game. He put up 51 last week against Manhattanville. He wants to be the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA. If he makes it, he would join Duncan Robinson as the only guy in the league now who played D3 basketball. Although Robinson did finish at Michigan after starting at Williams College, here is a clip of Ryan Daryl from a recent interview with CNBC.
S6: For all the doubters and people are saying that Jews can’t play basketball. We want to prove them wrong and, you know, really set an example for all the kids. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, doesn’t matter who you are or what, what you believe in, that you can succeed in life.
S2: All you people out there are saying Jews can’t play basketball. All of you people and I, I’m just appalled my fellow Jews. I want you to go into this after ball feeling inspired to Stefan. What is your Yeshiva Maccabee?
S1: After my after ball last week about sports musicals, a few listeners wrote in about other shows, none of them were Broadway productions, but they’re all way more compelling than Rocky the musical. So here’s a follow up after ball Joel. You said you’re not a musicals guy, fell asleep and lame is etc. But listener Rob Kimbrough told me about a musical written pretty much for you. It is a Houston sports musical. It’s called Old Stories, a tale of baseball and love. It was written by former Astros pitcher, manager and broadcaster Larry Darker, and
S2: you had me until it was about baseball.
S3: Larry Daryl, Huh? What is it? Let’s just talk
S1: about Astros lore. The story in old stories is of a fictitious major league team’s quest for a pennant in nine. So not Astros,
S2: not the Astros.
S1: This is falling.
S2: This is falling apart before
S1: the cops
S3: let the man talk about Houston Josh.
S1: Yeah, well, I not done Joel and I’ll shut up. Shut up. Listen, Josh, be quiet. Durocher starred in the musical and had a couple of performances at the Spring Branch campus of Houston Community College in 2009. Rob Kimbrough, our listener was connected to the show he directed to stage readings of old stories the year before, Rob said the darker was quote, a really great collaborator with a deep love of both baseball and musical theater end quote. And a nice guy. As for the show, he said, hands down best musical written by someone who’s thrown a no hitter.
S3: I look Iloilo board, Ducker man. He’s a nice guy. I didn’t I cannot confirm his love of musical theater if they’d ever come up before, but you know, very nice guy. Now I’m interested in that.
S1: There you got Joel. You’re going to stage the revival. All right. The next step down don’t.
S2: We didn’t talk last week or I don’t know if you’re planning to this week, but we had Daryl Morey on to talk about his sports themed musical.
S1: Remember that? Yeah, small ball I forgot about? Was that a musical or just a play? I think it was a musical. It was a musical. Oh, I apologize. The Daryl Morey for leaving him out of this after a while. But now he’s in the after ball. Josh Josh look that up while I continue to talk. All right. The next musical I found is called Fantasy Football The Musical. There’s a question mark in there. It played at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2009. Got a little pub at the time. It’s set in 1991, a fantasy football origin story with characters including Grown Bill Synods and fantasy guru Matthew Berry. Here’s a cut from sports and religion sung by the show’s then 24 year old creator David Ingber.
S7: You can go to church and I will go to Fenway Park. When the rain comes welcome, a punch goes on and you just build an arch. But the
S4: signs are certainly clear
S7: your you hold your best friends near to you. Feeling like we.
S1: All right, listener Matt Testa emailed with links and video doing all of my work for me about Nagano, the opera Nagano tells the heroic story of the Czech ice hockey team that upset Canada and Russia to win gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The music was written by a Czech composer, Martin Smolka, and the libretto was written by a Czech playwright, Yaroslav Dutschke. It debuted in 2004. The star of the story is the Czech goaltender Dominic Toshack, who stoned Canada’s Brendan Shanahan in a penalty shootout to win the semifinal two to one and then blanked the Russians in the final one to nothing. Martin Smolka, the composer, told Radio Prague International that because fans were calling Josh God, the creators of Nagano, the opera had his character sing in Latin. They cast the forwards on the team as tenors because tenors are usually the heroes in opera and forwards are usually the stars in hockey. But since Toshack was the biggest hero, they made him a countertenor and even higher singing range. All right, let’s listen to the diminutive hoshiki character thwarting a giant Canadian in a Mario Lemieux shirt.
S7: Conjured up, up, up, up, up, up, up, they got it up.
S3: Where’s the music scenes the
S1: Canadian railway turns back at critics.
S2: Critics call it a great show for Joel Anderson to fall asleep.
S3: I just want to read some of the music was
S1: right in other scenes. The Canadian goalie turns back a dancer who’s dressed in all black because he’s the puck and a Czech player whacks the dancer puck past five fallen Canadians into the net. A reenactment of Yuri Schlager, his goal in regulation, which in real life sounded like this.
S4: So to pay to go. Oh.
S3: Seems more appropriate for soccer.
S5: Yes, go.
S2: Do you think that guy thought Stefan, do you think that guy thought he was auditioning for A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
S1: I am like, no, every different underdog sports moment deserves an opera after hearing that. All right. Finally, one more listener, Robbie Hudson, made the most serious addition to this canon King Kong, a remarkable 1959 South African musical based on the tragic true story of a heavyweight boxer named Ezekiel Dlamini, who rose to fame in the townships but wound up killing his girlfriend and then drowning himself in a labor camp. The show was a collaboration among black and white South African artists. Black composer, white librettist and lyricist all black cast of 70. The singer Miriam Makeba was the female lead the trumpeter, Hugh Masekela, played in the orchestra. Nelson and Winnie Mandela watched on the opening night in Johannesburg. The show played to multiracial houses around South Africa for two years. It was a flickering moment of creative hope. Amid the repression of apartheid, King Kong was labeled an all African jazz opera, and the music is terrific. Here’s the title track sung by Nathan Mott Deadly King Kong Big Govan Cape
S4: Town The King Kong harder than gold King Kong. Not any ape down. That’s me. I’m in King Kong.
S1: And here’s Miriam Makeba singing a song called Back of the Moon, back
S4: of the Moon Bus Back on the Moon, but talk she been into
S7: orbit in the back of. Rest, boys. The back of, you know, does me bending driving rain
S4: this spring
S1: after it smash success in South Africa, King Kong had a six month run in London in 1961, but it didn’t make it to Broadway. It was revived in South Africa in 2017, with some new characters, songs and boxing scenes. I’ll put some links about King Kong, including a five page spread from Ebony magazine in 1961 that I turned up and the other musicals in our show page. And that’s it. I promise never to speak of sports musicals on this podcast again.
S2: I could see, like just based on that short description there being like a really cool movie about the making of the King Kong music LSU. Like, yeah, like we had that Invictus movie about South Africa. I would much rather watch the like King Kong version of like art being made in an apartheid,
S1: and the story itself is really fascinating. I mean, the actors had to sort of be housed together. They were basically picked up every night when they would leave rehearsals to go back to their wherever they were staying. So the production was this tragic story of apartheid, and the show itself wasn’t this, you know, this uplifting, also tragic story, but uplifting in the way it was created and the people that were involved in it
S3: sounded very grim to me. But, you know, maybe I’d be willing to give it a chance. That didn’t sound that bad. So between that, the Larry Darker one and the Czech Miracle on ice rip off, you know, get some decent offerings here.
S1: What about Daryl Morey, what do we find?
S2: I would refer people back to the segment we did with him before Daryl Morey had his all
S3: just in this. Apparently that’s is that what? No, I looked it up.
S2: Shea Serrano did a whole piece reviewing it. You might recall Stefan that one of the gags was that these you know that the people on this, this island signed Michael Jordan to play on their basketball team. But it’s not the actual Michael Jordan. It’s just a guy named Michael Jordan. There’s a song called Sex with Giants. I looked it up.
S1: I looked it up like this. Sorry, I can’t believe I forgot that we’ve done so many shows.
S2: Josh We’ve we’ve done.
S1: We’ve done too many. That’s our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendix. Listen to past shows and subscribe. Go to Slate.com. Slash Hang up and you can email us at. Hang up at Slate.com. And please subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Josh Levin on Stefan Fatsis. Remember Zelma Bailey and thanks for listening.
S2: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. On Saturday, Jackson State beat Prairie View A&M in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. This wack Championship football game was twenty seven to 10, capping off a pretty amazing regular season for Jackson State. Their first swag title in a while and they’ll be playing in the Celebration Bowl against South Carolina State. Some are 18th in Atlanta, and why are we talking about them? Because their head coach is Deion Sanders Joel and it’s been an amazing season. He overcame the fact that the Joel Anderson campaign to get him hired a TCU did not really get off the ground. He got past that one. Coach of the Year award and has elevated this program, gotten national attention and it the Deion to Jackson state thing has succeeded in a way that I just did not think was possible at all. It’s gotten so much better, and I don’t know if that’s because of a failure of imagination on my part or because Deion has for now at least exceeded my expectations. So curious about your thoughts on Jackson State and Deion Sanders head coach?
S3: Yeah. In terms of proof of concept, I mean, it’s worked, right? You know, you bring in a fairly famous former player and use him to gin up, you know, interest, local interest and media coverage. And that translates into recruits and transfers all of a sudden paying a little bit more attention to you. And so in a way, you know, Deion is sort of at the forefront of this new, you know, version of college football that we’re in, where we’re athletes can avail themselves of the nil rights, where they can use the transfer portal to go to a better situation. You know, as often as I can. And yeah, I mean, I just I did not think that it would go this well. The thing is, I never thought that winning would be a problem. Like I didn’t foresee him winning in quite the way that he has already. I didn’t think that winning would be the issue with Jackson State. My concern about Deion was more about what he was in it for and particularly at HBCU. Like, I mean, people have asked me, Oh, you wanted him at TCU, you know, what was the problem? You know, he was a Jackson state, and I’m like, what? The HBCU football mission is totally different than TCU. Those boys aren’t there to win football games. The HBCU mission is fundamentally different. They take kids that may not have had an opportunity to go elsewhere and bring them in and to help them get through the college experience like that. It’s the connection that those boys have with their schools in their communities is totally different than you would at a FBS program. But in terms of
S2: Deion Sanders, his resume is starting this charter school academy. Yeah, and Texas prime prep that, as the New York Times said in its story on Sanders over the weekend, was engulfed in financial missteps and academic strife and collapsed after nearly three years. And so the idea that Deion Sanders would be the guy to kind of. You know, an act that mission that you just described does
S3: seem misguided, and it’s still something to pay attention to. Right, right. But yeah, Stefan Brian.
S1: We don’t know how this is going to shake out. Like, you know, we just don’t. I mean this we will see in two or three years if there are any recriminations or any allegations raised about how he put this together. But certainly, it appears he’s saying the right things. I mean, he said to the Times in which was a terrific story. I thought if no one goes pro, I don’t feel like we won. If our graduation rate hasn’t increased, did we win? My thought process to winning embodies a whole multitude of things. It’s not just games. I mean, maybe Deion Sanders. I mean, look, Deion Sanders was always known what to say. He hasn’t always said the right things, but he certainly knows how to manage media. He knows how to manage image, he knows how to manage appearances and what he has brought here. It seems to me more than anything, is that his name value carries a lot of weight with players. He got 19 transfers to come here. 11 of the highest rated recruits in program history, according to that times piece, the number one recruiting class in the FCS among FCF schools this year. Deion Sanders King bring people in, so they should win the effect of that. In a place like Jackson, Mississippi is interesting. I mean, the 50 60000 people going to see Jackson State play football and that’s an audience. It looks very different from your audience at Alabama or Georgia.
S3: Yeah, no. I mean, that part of it is is great. I’m happy the Jackson State gets to enjoy that. I mean, Jackson State is one of the most legendary programs in college football history. They have more, they have more Hall of Famers than most SEC schools like. For people to remember like that, I mean, they have a proud tradition. It’s good to see them back on top. But what are the lessons from the status of Walter Payton? Yes, but but what are the long term? You know what is going to be the long term outcome here? And that is always the thing. Is Deion going to stick with it is you got to play by the rules, such as there are rules anymore in college football. That’s what I’m more interested in. And I think that’s, you know, remains to be seen. I mean, but just think about like Deion has like these associations with like Barstool Sports, for instance, right? Like he has a podcast and all this other stuff. And I’m like, that’s not the stuff you really want around HBCU, let alone Jackson State. And so like, I don’t do
S2: you watch the Britney Renner Instagram video Josh.
S3: I did. And yeah, and that’s just
S1: I’ll explain that to our listeners who may not know what it is.
S3: OK, so great. So Britney Ridder is an Instagram model who recently had a child with a Charlotte Hornets player named PJ Washington, and they had a very public falling out where he’s accused her of using him. So on and so forth. And Brittney Renner is like notorious, like she dated Colin Kaepernick. Whole bunch of other people in the past. Right?
S2: And James Harden, Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons.
S3: Yeah, she’s famous. She’s she’s famous. She’s famous. And so Deion brought her in to quote, educate his players about the game.
S2: So just about how the game is played,
S3: right, how the game is played, and I mean, the thing is, is like those dudes in Jackson State are not going to have access to Brittney Renner’s OK, like, that’s sort of a dubious, you know, concept in the first place. But also like I I don’t think I need or want Deion Sanders talking to young men about how to treat women in what relationships between men and women are supposed to be. We can go through his own history. We go to anybody’s history. But like the fact that he led with that and thought that that was appropriate to do on a college campus doesn’t speak quite speak well about how he’s running that program.
S2: It was a little bit less. I will only say a little bit less weird once I read a little bit about it, which is that Renner actually went to Jackson State and was a soccer player there. So it’s like not like the conversation was a little bit weird, but like the fact that she would be connected to it was like maybe a little bit less outlandish than it seemed from the jump, but like, OK, let’s talk before we go about what the kind of next phase and what this means is like. Eddie George is now the head coach at Tennessee State, another HBCU, and it’s been said, I think accurately that that is an outgrowth of the Deion Sanders thing, his interest in the school’s interest. And so there are two ways this could go. I mean, there’s like it’s a it was a beautiful thing to see 60000 people in the stands for that game. And so this is proof proof of concept that you can instigate interest both, you know, interest from players, but like legitimate community interest in this program and a program like this. And maybe that will happen at Tennessee state too. But also, you know, the the potential negative here is just like bringing in celebrities to run these programs. And then what happens?
S1: Well, as long as they hire staffs of people that know how to coach football and other sports and also people either bad, bad or a my program is run on an educational and recruiting side.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with reaching out to former NFL players. I mean, there’s a bunch of failed sons that are running college football programs as it is like trophies. You know, I mean, like it’s it’s like, we don’t know who a lot of these people are. And at least the one thing you can say about Eddie Jordan Deion Sanders, they have a demonstrated expertise at the sport of football in a way that a lot of people don’t. So. I mean, yes, that’s fine. It’s just that how how into it are they and are HBCU is going to be used for is a jumping off point or a launching pad for all of these careers, which is in some ways it’s fine. But I kind of hate the idea that HBCUs are being used in this way, that they’re sort of pipeline for the bigger schools and guys use it to build up their credibility and brand name. But but on the other
S2: hand, I mean, like Deion Sanders would not have gotten the chance, I think, to be the head coach at Florida State where he went to school. But maybe he would. Maybe he would now. But like I think of Tyree, Matthew is said openly that he wants to be the head coach at LSU someday. What LSU hired tiOn Matthew seems extremely unlikely, given who who they just hired. But like, maybe there’s a path for former NFL players and the Deion Sanders is showing that wouldn’t have been there before.
S1: Well, the two sides of this are is Deion Sanders getting hired in Eddie George, getting hired, preventing a black head, a black coach who has been an assistant at some program who has the desire and ability to become a head coach from getting a job? Or is it going to facilitate the hiring of more black head coaches at particular firms in and outside of HBCUs?
S3: Right. And there’s only been in the last. I think in the modern era of football, there’s only been one head coach of an HBCU program, one black head coach of HBCU program that has gone on to coach at the one, the one a FBS level. It was Willie Jeffries all the way back in in the in 1979. So, yeah, if Deion comes in and kind of cuts the line, yeah, I mean, it’s good in some ways, but it’s bad in another because it portends really bad things for black. You know, just unknown black players that want to get involved in football and they don’t, you know, where is their path? They’re not going to get the Deion path.
S2: Really interesting. And we will presumably be talking more about Deion Jackson State in the weeks we
S1: didn’t even mention that Deion brought his kid, who was a top rated quarterback should aspect, right? Yeah. And the guy that the Player of the year in the swank one of those transfers was from Florida. I mean, he was a grad transfer from Florida. So, you know, if it lifts up also the quality of these programs, great.
S2: Thank you, Stefan. Thank you. Thank you, Slate Plus members, we’ll be back with more next week.