The What the NFL Is Saying, and What the NFL Is Doing Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.

S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of September 14th, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the protests, the Tom Brady interceptions and everything else that happened on the NFL opening weekend. We also discussed Naomi Osaka’s victory and her outspokenness at the U.S. Open. And we’ll survey college football, the NBA, the Premier League and other stuff that caught our attention during one of the busiest weeks in the annals of modern sports. Unless I’m the author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four, I’m in Washington, D.C. with me this week, as he is most weeks, not all weeks, most weeks. Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan. Great to have you.

S3: Almost all weeks almost. And sometimes, though not here, not not to making it seem like you’re here all the time.

S1: No, not here all the time. I’m here sometimes. Most of the time. A lot of the time. It’s good when I am here with us from Palo Alto. We’re not long ago, this guy was a sort of Texas Longhorns burnt orange and his Slate staff writer and the host of Slow Burn Season three, John Anderson. What? Elijah Burnt Orange. What’s what are you doing? I’m just accurately reporting on the hue of the sky. Where and the West Coast.

S4: Oh, yeah. That’s so fair point. Yes. I mean, get all bad things can be traced back to burnt orange, although I will say it’s been more of a gray. So I guess something like, you know, but you know, Buckeye’s gray sky the last few days here, that’s an improvement.

S5: That’s the reverse.

S4: Tom Herrman going from Texas to still safe to go outside. So it’s so real.

S3: We’re really hoping for his Carolina blue. Right, exactly.

S1: Joel, you and I are doing a live event, online event, as all events are on Tuesday night, the twenty second. So next week, if you’re listening to the show on the week of the fourteenth, it’s going to be the first ever conversation between all of the slow burn. Wow.

S6: So me none of us have ever talked to each other ever before. Oh I’m sorry.

S1: You got me. You got all you got. Leon Nephi, who has the first two seasons, Noreen Malone, who’s doing the upcoming Season five on the run up to the Iraq war. Noreen’s going to moderate. It’s going to be really fun. Well, I’ll be chatting at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific Virgile on Tuesday, September 22nd, and we’ll put a link with more information in our show. Notes at Slate dot com slash hang up.

S7: Does it have one of those names like Slow Burn Palooza?

S1: So Leon’s show now is called Fiasco. So I was thinking it’s a slow burn fiasco, so we can go with that.

S7: The 20 20 NFL season began on Thursday in a stadium in Kansas City named for Native American imagery with a game between the home team, also named for Native American imagery and the visitors whose late owner, during a meeting in twenty eighteen about anti-racism protests, likened players to inmates. So it wasn’t, I suppose, surprising when some of the sixteen thousand or so fans who were allowed into the stadium booed a staged moment of silence in favor of. Let me check the league’s statement. The ongoing fight for equality in our country. Yeah, fuck that equality shit, boo. On the one hand, the NFL might as well have painted its end zone messages of end racism. And it takes all of us in even smaller, fainter type than it did on the other players.

S3: Locked arms and raised fists and knelt and sat and abstained entirely. During the playing of the national anthem, the Falcons and the Seahawks dropped to their knees after the opening kickoff. That is during the game itself. Cam Newton’s cleats said seven shots and no justice. No peace, Joel. We’ll get to the football, but let’s start with the civil disobedience. It’s been four years since Colin Kaepernick first sat down for the anthem during a preseason game. And I feel like if the NFL has learned anything, it’s that its cowardly campaign to blackball Kaepernick and undermine its players was utterly and internally shameful. Yeah, there were no fans in almost every stadium in week one, which eliminated more live booing and more stories, quoting fans saying that they just wanted their sports to be free of politics. But players protested and the handoffs and the sacks and the Tom Brady pick sixes kept coming.

S4: Yeah, I mean, I guess one way to think about it is if you want to know the NFL’s real values, think about who wasn’t taking part in opening weekend. So right in the middle of the kickoff of week one of the NFL, Colin Kaepernick tweets, While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about black life, they’re actively blackballing Eric Reid for fighting for the black community. Eric set to franchise records last year and is one of the best defensive players in the league. I mean, he he had to put that in there so that people could not make the argument that Eric Reid is no longer good, like the argument they did to make against Colin Kaepernick when he wasn’t invited back to the league. So there’s that for all the good talk, for all of the public awareness campaigns, for all of the end racism end zones, the NFL is still tacitly punishing two guys who have made public stands of the NFL’s own racism and and societal racism. And so it’s hard to take any of the NFL’s public stances on any of the stuff with any real sincerity. Unless they rectified that. Unless you saw, hey, they’re inviting Eric Reid back. They invited Colin Kaepernick back. They won’t do that. So people are always going to be skeptical of them. But I also wouldn’t read too much into the booing at Kansas City. And the reason I say that is because the demographic of people willing to attend a large public gathering amid a pandemic is probably going to lean in a certain political direction anyway. Right. So if I like if I had to guess the politics of someone paying to go to an NFL football game right now, I probably wouldn’t go wrong with someone who thinks that this is all a hoax or that BLM has gone too far. And it’s important to remember that the polling data of the last few months says that more people, the majority of people hold favorable opinions of Black Lives Matter. And that’s something that we cannot forget as we’ll see more fans and more pieces of people talking about, oh, I don’t want politics with my sports or anything. The polling data right now is what it is. It’s on the side of blame. It’s on the side of protest. And I would hate for that to get lost because a few yokels, they’re willing to go to seek the Kansas City Chiefs play on a Thursday night, decided to let off some steam to keep politics out of sports.

S8: Thing is funny because they actually do a pretty neat job of dividing both the players and the league of putting the, like, social justice messages before the game. So you actually don’t have to pay any attention to it when the game play starts. The announcers certainly aren’t talking about politics. And in my experience, once the game starts, they do have those messages in the end zones, but they’re pretty small and kind of blend in to the background.

S7: And you sort of they painted them like light green. It was like grass green, painted on white.

S1: So, you know, I think you have to get yourself into a real state of agitation to feel like they’re really shoving this in your face during the game.

S8: And so there are people that actually want to get themselves in that state of agitation. And those are the people that we hear from. But some. That really jumped out at me as far as the iconography and the and the ways in which the social justice movement manifest in the first week was that at the Vikings game, they had members of George Floyds family very kind of present in the pregame. And the way in which they had them present was that before home games, they have this enormous horn and they have people like come in and sound the enormous horn as a way to, like, ceremoniously kick off the game. And they had to Floyd’s family there and they had but they didn’t play the horn. They were just standing there. And there’s a moment of silence for George Floyd and for, you know, victims of police brutality or racial injustice.

S1: And so on the one hand, this is absolutely ridiculous. And it just emphasizes to me just kind of how overblown and silly all of this like NFL stuff is. We have this five billion dollar stadium open in L.A. and it just looks so gross and ridiculous, especially with no fans, to see this building, this like palace to access and just the enormous video board and no no fans. And it’s all just like so so NFL and then just kind of like self-importance and self seriousness. If, like, we’re going to put his family, like, next to the horn and not sound it. And that’s like the significant gesture we’re going to make as a league and a team. It’s just like so fundamentally ridiculous. And on the other hand, it is kind of meaningful in a way, like I’m sure it means something to fans of that team, just like how the the Saints traditions are meaningful to me. Like, I know all of the little things that go on when you go to a game at the Superdome. And so it’s like on the one hand, it’s ridiculous. On the one hand, it is actually like what these like small things are things that probably do have meaning to fans. And it’s not just an empty gesture. But I’m curious where you fall on that stuff.

S3: Well, what what can the NFL do? I mean, the NFL is built on all of these tiny little gestures that are designed to hook you. I mean, it is heroin, right? This is this is the whole point of something like professional sports is to get you to care about people running around and doing athletic things and having some loyalty to uniforms and other traditions that these teams embody. So it’s, you know, what becomes a meaningful gesture. I mean, it’s meaningful when the NBA says, all right, players, let’s take the day off. It’s fine. You know, we’re not going to punish anybody here. We actually support what you’re doing. But when the games are scheduled now and the players want to go on, it seems like it’s better than doing nothing. And this is where it becomes complicated. You know, should we criticize the NFL for printing and racism in light green paint in in the back of an end zone above like a ten foot tall chiefs painted in the end zone, or is at least putting it out there, this very passive league that has had great difficulty justifying its actions and supporting its employees in causes that they care about because they’re worried about networks and sponsors and the retrograde politics of their ownerships generally.

S1: Well, this is like what you are saying, all right? It’s like it is actually bad if that’s the extent of of what they’re doing, what they’re doing and they’re not doing the stuff that’s actually more meaningful.

S6: Right. Well, I mean, we’ve got very powerful people. And as we’ve, you know, recounted here ad nauseum, many of the owners are Trump supporters and have given money to his campaign or his inaugural staff or event. So we know where a lot of their politics lie. They’re probably not going to be aligned with BLM. So for them to gesture in the direction of BLM and racial injustice, I don’t want to say it doesn’t mean something because it does. They if at a minimum, it shows that the labor force of asserted themselves in such a way that they think that they have to make these gestures right or that they no longer can get away with not acknowledging these gestures or attempting to punish these gestures. Exactly. Exactly. Like, they can’t just ignore it. They can’t they have to be out front on it. Right. And in one way or another. And so I think that that is valuable. But on the whole. Yeah, I mean, the NFL is what it is. And, you know, I I’m sort of reluctant to hold the NFL to the fire on this because I think that if we take basically any workplace, any institution in this country and you put them under the microscope from the people at the top, like, you know, whatever the not masthead or the executive board or whatever, and you put them under the microscope like the NFL, you probably wouldn’t find that much of a difference in terms of politics in the way that they regard a lot of this stuff because. A lot a lot of what we’ve seen and the last three or four or five months has been symbolic, it’s been gestures, and maybe that’s because, you know, structural change is hard and it takes a while and, you know, it doesn’t happen in the course of a few months. But I mean, at the end of the day, the NFL isn’t so different from the rest of America. This is the way things work here.

S1: Yeah. That wasn’t just a Viking thing, I’m going to do a brief Segway into college football. Did you guys see that in the Duke Notre Dame game, the Duke D logos on their helmets wear black instead of white, and that the color change was made in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that made me roll my eyes out of the back of my head. So Vikings silent on you, but you’re not you’re not at the top of the list. But, you know, I did enjoy watching the Saints be Tom Brady. So I was able to separate politics from this, from the sports, from the sports there. It was a very odd experience being in it. You know, watching the game and the dome being empty. Cam Jordan did trawl Tampa Bay after the game and his fashion saying that it was like an empty stadium. It felt like we were playing in Tampa Bay, felt like, you know, we’re used to these that this sort of environment. But they really need to do something about that. The like a crowd noise. I know that they’ve talked with the NFL about having the kind of like local sounds and of every stadium and not sounding the same for every stadium. But they do the way that they have, like the cheering and the booing after the plays are over. It made me think that there was a penalty after every play just because it seemed like the crowd was reacting to stuff after the play was over. It’s just like it didn’t sound like it fell in the natural rhythms of the way that crowds work in these games. And hopefully they’ll figure it out more or hopefully they’ll be a vaccine so they won’t have to figure out more. But it felt I don’t know, Stefan, if if you’ve come up with like a power rankings of fantasy sports. But this felt weirder to me then than other sports.

S3: Yeah, I was going to say just that. And I think it might be that the bigger the stadium, the weirder it feels. You know, the basketball games, it feels like the NBA because I think the NBA is savvier about this kind of stuff in some ways. I think the NBA figured out by tinkering how to make it sound genuine. And I think we’re also our brains are kind of tricked a little bit into thinking that while they’re playing in a really small place in these sort of makeshift arenas and it looks like there’s some people there because there are some family members and there’s a bunch of you know, the benches look the same and the the the scorers table looks kind of the same.

S1: The NFL gigantism kind of works against it.

S3: It works against it here. And I think baseball, it’s like, well, you know, baseball stadiums only, you know, are never aren’t sold out day after day. We’re used to seeing, you know, seven thousand people in a baseball stadium. So the absence of a crescendo in the game seems weird. But NFL stadiums, we are conditioned to to those being thunderous at all times. And I felt the same thing. The first two games I turned on were our local games here in Washington. So it was the Washington capital F capital T football team on one channel and it was the Baltimore Ravens on the other end. It was just it was weird. It was dead. And every time I saw the stadiums, it felt empty and void of emotion and excitement. I was I mean, look, I wasn’t psyched to watch Dwayne Haskins, even though, hey, they won, but it just felt strange what the way Afghans ever do.

S1: He’s like the 8000 most objectionable, I think.

S4: Yeah. I mean, I guess that was sort of the thing. I didn’t quite know what to expect. And I think probably like me, the NFL is going to adjust their they’re going to adjust as the weeks go along. Like, I’m going to get used to the idea that there are no people in the stands and the NFL is going to get used to catering to people that are watching like we are right now. So I watch all games on RedZone, so I don’t watch regular NFL games anymore. So, you know, to be honest, like my viewing experience wasn’t hugely disrupted by that. But but one thing I would say, and I kind of was surprised that it did not get a lot of attention. I mean, the Cardinals, the forty Niners played in, like, poisoned air yesterday.

S3: Right. And like it was OK, maybe. Can you maybe, Joel, since you’re out there, explain to us what these thresholds are. I mean, the NFL said that its threshold for playing is like a two hundred in terms of air quality. Yeah. In Santa Clara, where the stadium is, it was only 170 or 180 or something.

S4: Exactly. Two hundred is like I mean, so the air quality that they played in was unhealthy. But like two hundred is like is another standard. And that’s what you really should not be outside at all. And I believe that’s when, you know, a couple of years ago when there were wildfires out here that necessitated the canceling. Of a bunch of sports events out here, like the Cal Stanford game was canceled or postponed a couple a couple of years ago because of air quality, over two hundred. And so, yeah, right. I live in the South Bay, which isn’t too far from Santa Clara, where the 49ers play, and it was about 170, you know, 170 to 180 all day. So it was bad, but not so bad for them to cancel the game. But for the rest of us, the people that live out here, they tell us not to go outside. They say it is unhealthy to do activity outside. And, you know, I mean, I don’t have an NFL players cardiovascular system right now.

S1: Can we can we do like apocalypse prop bets, like over under what’s higher air quality index or DeAndre Hopkins receiving yards.

S4: Yeah. Finish with yet like one fifty something at sixteen targets.

S1: He said he’s happy with Cayler and Arizona. My last football related thought before we move on is that everybody is for obvious reasons and we did it on last week’s show making a big deal of the like Cam Newton, Tom Brady comparison. It was really interesting to see, you know, people are like, oh, Cam had fifteen carries. That seems about like right there adjusting the offense for him. He’d only ever had one game in his entire NFL career with that many carries, which I did, which I didn’t realize, and 13 and 13 of them were designed plays.

S3: They weren’t busted playing.

S1: Yeah, they call designed runs on sixty five percent of the players, which was the most for the Pats since 2008. I think that the Bucs, the Bucks have a lot of talent actually. They think they’re going to be fine. Although Gronk looked really old and slow, he looked washed.

S4: I’m surprised he wants you know, I’d forgotten that he returned until the game was on yesterday.

S1: Gronk Yeah, I had he looked really, really old and slow. And I sad like he should not be playing and like and also not like it looked sad and like a kind of funny way, like like he really should not be playing football right now.

S3: One of the most moving things was him retiring and crying and saying, I heard a lot, you know, so well, and then dropping like fifty pounds and looking like a normal sized human and, you know, changing his diet and then to go back to being an NFL player had to be, you know, an unpleasant experience for him. That clearly is not completed yet.

S1: Well, anyway, all this is to say that I think it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the Bucs or the Pats or the Saints or the Saints. I’ll say is if the Cam Newton Pats experience was so unbelievable, why they only scored twenty one points. That’s all. That’s all I’m going to tell. I’m going to leave you out. But they looked pretty good.

S5: In the twenty eighteen U.S. Open final chair umpire Carlos Ramos warned Serena Williams after he caught her coach sending illegal signals from the stands. Words were exchanged. Serena was eventually docked a game. The crowd booed a lot. And Serena’s opponent, Naomi Asaka, who won the match, was kind of an afterthought. Left in tears during the trophy ceremony with Serena comforting her. Two years later, the 22 year old Osaka is in a much different place. Her three set victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final of the 20 20 U.S. Open was no less strange, though, given that there was no crowd to cheer her on. But Osaka is a star now, and she used her voice and her masks to convey a clear message during this Grand Slam tournament. Stefan, a little less than three weeks ago, Osaka chose to sit out the semi-final of the U.S. Open warm up tournament in New York following the Milwaukee Bucks decision to go on strike after the shooting of Jacob Blake and after Osaka chose to sit out, the entire tour decided to follow her lead for the open. She brought mask’s with the names that Briana Taylor, Elijah McCleen, Ahmad Aubry, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Orlando Castillo and Tamir Rice. That seven mask’s for the seven matches you need to win a Grand Slam tournament. She won them all, so she wore them all. And she explained that she did it in on court interview with Tom Rinaldi after she won because she wanted to make people start talking.

S7: Yeah, I thought this was the perfect distillation of sports in a time of pandemic and protest, individual sport, major championship, full focus, no distraction of fans in the stands. And even if staging this tournament and all sports is due mostly to TV rights and bills do and insurance clauses, I thought that like the NBA so far, the U.S. Open was an example of how the moment can be met. It was gripping and it was inspiring. On and off the court, Asaka looked totally out of sorts in the first set of her three set win over Azarenka. She said afterward that she told herself it would be really embarrassing if she lost in an hour, which was funny and self-deprecating, which now Misaka is. And then she started crushing and she won the match. But Joel, what was more impressive was a socker of the person. Josh, you said in that she’s in a much different place than two years ago. She’s a much different person. She’s harnessing what was labeled shyness or immaturity when she was twenty into voice and power. And she’s using it, I think, in a really genuine and smart way. And that’s come through in tweets and statements that she’s made. But really, it came through in that interview. You mentioned, Josh, with Tom Rinaldi. After the win, Renaldi tried to get her to explain the message that she was trying to send with her masks. She batted it back like a crosscourt winner. She said, what was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.

S4: Yeah. I mean, you know, Tom Rinaldi is standing in for the rest of America right there. Right. That I wish that Naomi had let it breathe just another couple of seconds just to let it sit there, because maybe Tom Rinaldi would have responded or maybe it just would have been awkward. But it would have the point would have been we already sort of like, what are people taking from these shows of solidarity, these shows of protest. Right. Because the people that. You know, I guess I consider myself a person that believes that racialized police violence is a problem in this country and people like me have been saying for years, this is what these protests are about, whether it’s kneeling, wearing t shirts, whatever else showing up in the streets. It’s about that. And we’ve made that clear over the last few years. The issue is the people that still don’t get it, they still think this is about the military or respecting the country or something like that. Like at what point are you going to come around and understand that that is what the protest movement is all about? Like that is that is the origin point, and that’s where we’re at right now. And so I like the idea that she threw it back, not just the terminology, but if the rest of the country for them maybe to think for a second, hey, what do these names actually represent? Like what are people trying to tell us? So I would have liked to have known that especially, you know, I mean, I don’t presume that the tennis audience is the NBA audience. Right. Right. So I think that was really important that she did that. I also just mean I really admire Naomi Hosaka. I mean, that seems like such a basic bitch thing to say. But I just you know, I think that she’s fantastic. And I also wonder about taking on that sort of weight at twenty two because there’s such a fine line between being young and naive and idealistic about the world like I was when I was twenty two. I was very ignorant about like all the things that were going on and then also having the youthful energy necessary for being an activist like she appears to. Maybe she’s not going to be an activist, but she’s engaging in some sort of degree of activism.

S7: She went out to Minneapolis and joined the protests with her boyfriend, who’s a hip hop artist. Yeah, yeah.

S4: And I mean, like you, that is the age at which people are sort of finding themselves and finding their voice and finding their politics. And so, man, I mean, she’s figured out a way to balance it in a way that like that is ideal. And it’s encouraging that she is the emergent face in tennis, you know what I mean?

S1: Yeah. Joel, I’m reminded of what you said about Jamal Murray when he made that postgame speech. He had the names on his shoes and was kind of similarly asked what they mean to him. And and I think it sort of hurt you to see him in pain, trying to explain what it meant to him and why this movement has meaning to him. And I think maybe what Naomi Asaka did here is the answer to that is like making the audience do more work instead of making black athletes perform their grief and perform like make the audience kind of understand where they’re coming from. It’s like she’s throwing it back at the people watching and saying, my message is pretty clear. It’s up to you to make the connections and draw those lines. And tennis is a really international sport. And so she has also spoken about how it’s moving to her to see people in Japan. You Google these names and people around the world try to understand what’s going on in America. And, you know, I mentioned at the top, she’s this you know, she was 20 years old in twenty eighteen. She was kind of an afterthought in that match with with Serena. But she’s gone past Serena Williams on the Forbes list of the highest earning female athlete in the world. Thirty seven million dollars a year. And it’s a reminder that because of, you know, half Japanese have Haitian. You know, she does have this like, massive earning potential because of the Asian market in particular. And she is somebody who has a platform all over the world. And it’s been a huge weight and burden on her, as she has talked about very openly. And she has this voice. Her literal voice is kind of often soft and meek and she’s very kind of self-deprecating and has talked about how she hasn’t given herself the opportunity to really appreciate what she’s accomplished. And it’s been kind of a weight on her. And when she won this match, she lied. She she lay on the ground for 20 seconds. And when she was asked about it, she said, I’ve seen other great champions do that before. And I wanted to see what they saw. I mean, she’s like a pretty deep person and a very thoughtful person, and she feels this stuff very deeply. And so Johal, again, to like the fact that we know that she’s a person who feels this stuff very deeply, the fact that she didn’t kind of perform her grief and her outrage in that way and was kind of more controlled, just like very impressive and and strong and smart of her.

S7: Right. You said self-deprecating. I think I said it earlier, too, but it’s also like self-assured. There’s a confidence there that she is really learning how to be as effective as you possibly can be while at the same time acknowledging the limitations of the platform of even the highest paid athlete in the world in that statement that she issued when she decided not to play in the semifinal of the run up to. And to the US Open, she said, I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport, I consider that a step in the right direction. So she’s got her head on straight. This is a smart woman who is growing into a role that maybe she wasn’t ready to embrace or fulfill when she was 20. But she seems to get it. She’s there’s no bullshit here. She doesn’t take herself super seriously. And I think that’s going to make her message more powerful to people that are willing to listen.

S4: I don’t want to read too much into anything here because I am new to tennis. You know, I you know, I’ve tuned in for a few Serena Williams matches over the years, and I watched the first two full tennis matches, you know, that I’ve seen in probably three years this past weekend. But I you know, Naomi gives off a touch of melancholy to me. And I don’t know I don’t want to you know, again, I don’t want to, you know, like pretend that I’m some sort of therapist so that I have some sort of insight to her character. But I do wonder about the toll of taking on that sort of public burden, especially so early, because, man, I mean, what a gift it must be to just go into the world and play tennis or just go about your world and just go about your life and do things without feeling like you have an obligation to speak up for the humanity of a broad swath of humans, you know what I mean? Or to have to be political, to have to be an activist and like that. It’s sort of an expectation that we would have, because I think that if Naomi Osaka set it out, that people would be a little bit skeptical of her in the way that they sort of are about Tiger Woods, you know what I mean? Like, Tiger Woods got to be popular in a totally different context, but people have always sort of held that against Tiger, that he is sort of said a lot of these fights out.

S1: And so Naomi Coco Golf has taken this on at 16.

S3: Yeah, yeah. And I just mean, it’s inspiring and it also just makes me really sad. Yeah. But there’s a simplicity, I think Jol to the to the way she’s doing it. You know, she’s not like quitting the tour for a year to work on political activism. She’s she’s sort of very subtly, I mean not subtle, but very simply integrating it into her job. And I think that’s really effective. She’s not pretending she’s someone that she isn’t. You can still tell that she is a quiet, self deprecating human being, but she has something to say.

S9: The point is, wouldn’t it be great if you could just do your job without having to integrate the stuff into your job?

S4: Yeah, like, I think she’s effective. There’s no question about that. And she’s she’s exactly the sort of person that you would want in that position. But it’s also just like, damn, man, I just wish she had the benefit of being able to play tennis. You know, Azarenka is not going to be getting those sorts of questions.

S3: Well, actually, Azarenka should have been getting some of those questions because she has sat out her political fight in her home country of Belarus. She’s friendly with Lukashenko, the kind of friendly, but she has appeared with him in public with the dictator Lukashenko. And there have been massive protests in the streets in Belarus for weeks. And I don’t believe that Victoria Azarenka had much to say about it.

S9: Well, so before the final, like one of the big storylines of this tournament was that there were three mothers in the final eight, which is the first time that had ever happened in a grand slam. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Fidan, a prank of a prank of is particularly interesting because it had been three years since she had even played in the tournament. And the only reason that she was able to get entry into the US Open was because of changes that were made because of Serena Williams, because of the push that Serena had made to like actually let’s have a maternity leave policy on this tour. And so if not for that, then I would have just had to have started back from zero. But instead, she had a protected ranking, was able to go to the tournament and play it amazingly well for not playing a tournament in three years. And, you know, you make a great point about Azarenka and Belarus, but I thought she had a really smart answer because all of these women are asked about what’s it like to be a mother? And you’re representing all mothers and you’re so what are you showing other mothers out there about being a mother? And Azarenka was asked how the different being a mother than before you had your son, and I should say for some background that she had a long custody battle and she was off to war for a while because she couldn’t leave the state of California. And so she’s had a kind of fraught several years.

S3: She she she hadn’t won a match in a year before the term before the run up tournament.

S9: So she’s asked at this press conference to kind of like boilerplate how is it different being a mother than before you had your son? And she said, I don’t know if I feel different just because as a mother, I don’t identify myself on the tennis court as a mother. I still identify myself as a tennis player. Me being in the quarterfinals, I didn’t get there by being a parent, I got there by being a tennis player. But it feels amazing that I can share this moment and hopefully be a good role model to my son. So this isn’t an idiot either. Like, that’s a good and smart answer and is one of the best ones. I’ve I’ve heard about this this question of, like, you know, being a mother on tour. And so I appreciated that.

S7: Before I move on to the men for a little bit, we should also get back cycled back to Serena because Serena, you just said Josh is responsible for helping change policies about mothers on tour. And at the same time, it should be acknowledged that Serena is also responsible for players like Naomi Asaka and Coco Golf and a generation of women players of color on the tour. And we saw the fruits of that in this tournament. And still there are these ingrained, you know, biases against her. Chris Evrard, who was one of the ESPN announcers, said at one point, We’ve had great leaders on the women’s tour, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and now it’s Naomi’s time. And I just think was what are you saying?

S4: She also said something to the effect of like it’s somebody that everybody can relate to or rally around. It was something along those lines, I think, that’s sort of coded. I don’t understand. What do you mean? You know, that that would have been a good time for the homeostatic would have been like, well, what does that what does that mean to you? Chris, what do you think?

S3: Our friend Gene Demby, Josh, noted that a lot of the black women players on the tour are using the infrastructure that Richard Williams, Serena and Venus, his father, helped set up. Does that does that make sense here? And like, how should we factor, you know, Serena losing in another slam semi-final or final semifinal in this case versus the sort of the legacy that she that you passed on to both finalists?

S1: Yeah. You know, women of color and women’s tennis, I think. Well, in my experience kind of view, this generation uniformly say that they were inspired by Venus and Serena and are also always very careful to note that it was Venus who is the first and has been kind of equally as important. But the star power on the tour and the strength of the women’s field is, you know, you can largely just point to the Williams sisters emergence as an explanation for that. And Serena played really well in this in this tournament and won the first set going away against Azarenka and then lost the next two sets. And it’s just been kind of grand slam after grand slam here where this has happened to her. And you kind of want her to get the twenty fourth title. It feels like it’s overdue and Stalder that she gets you kind of wonder how many more chances that she’s going to get. Obviously her legacy is secure no matter what happens. But it just seems like kind of at every tournament, it’s always it’s like always something that’s preventing her from from getting that that prize.

S4: Yeah. I watch that semifinal match where she looked great early and then near the end I was like, man, is she tired or she’s just moving slow. And it just it occurred to me it’s like, oh, Serena is like an old tennis player, you know? And that’s just sort of hard to overcome. You just wonder. I mean, I haven’t I didn’t see the other matches, but it just occurred to me watching Naomi and watching Azarenka move around in the final, I was like, oh, I didn’t see that sort of movement out of Serena.

S1: And Serena wasn’t moving great in the. Yeah, I mean, she she actually got better as she went along and like kind of strange or sad thing is that that first set against Azarenka was the best that she looked and the tournament by far. And then she went out and lost the next two sets before he finished with the U.S. Open.

S7: Let’s mention that Dominic team won the men’s final. He beat Alexander Vaira. He’s the first active player in his twenties to win a grand slam. The first player, the first new winner of a grand slam in six years. Is that right?

S1: Yeah, on the men’s side. And I think there’s been a lot of kind of talk about the fragility and in a sexist kind of not really coded way about like, oh, like a lot of times the women players, like, really struggle on their serve and they get really they get really tired. And that’s why there’s so much parity in the women’s game, because the top players are kind of mentally fragile.

S10: It’s like actually that’s not true at all. It’s just that the top three men’s players are historically great and never lose to any of these weaker players. And then in this tournament where Djokovic and, you know, hits the lines first in the neck and Nadal and Federer don’t show up and like, somebody actually has to win, that’s the role that somebody has to win this tournament. They just have players, like, actively trying to lose. They’re visiting like sixty eight mile per hour second serves Zverev and team both serving for the match and the Fitzcairn. Can’t get it done.

S3: It really looked like it was going to end in a tie somehow, like look like someone was going to collapse, but forgetting the actual tennis, Josh, I felt like I’m now ready to move on. I am ready for Team and Zverev and my board city pass and the Medvedev to move to the top of the sport and to be the focus of the sport. I mean, Team and Zverev had their own handshake. It was really cute, you know.

S1: Yeah. Like I said, like these guys. No, I’ll just end by saying I don’t I don’t say all of that to mock them for being weak or fragile. The point is that it’s actually just really hard. Like, it is really, really hard to do this to win a title like this. It’s mentally kind of torture.

S10: It was actually torture to watch that match because of how bad bad it was. It almost seemed cruel that it was being televised. And so I think you just get more of an appreciation for the men and the women who are able to win these titles. And his team said afterwards, I think it’ll be an easier time for me now that I’ve done this before. It better be easier because I don’t think we could all like, better to watch anything like that again.

S4: So this was a very busy sports weekend, and in this segment, we’re going to try to get to a bunch of it for me weekends in September. I mean, college football Saturday was supposed to have been the season opener for TCU and SMU, the renewal of an annual rivalry for something we in Texas called the Iron Skillet. Now, SMU won last year for only the third time of the last 20 years. So is it TCU alumni was gearing up for my horned frogs to correct the natural order of things. Also, I mean, SMU is best season in 30 years ended in like the Boca Raton bowl. So just guys settle down. Haven’t done that much. I should have known better than to get my hopes up because SMU versus TCU was postponed after a number of TCU football athletes and support staff tested positive for the virus. In fact, TCU, SMU was one of several college football games called off amid our ongoing pandemic, including Virginia versus Virginia Tech, BYU versus AMI and Baylor versus Louisiana Tech. Unfortunately, many other conferences and colleges haven’t heeded the warnings of TCU, which was managing a campus outbreak a week ago and went ahead and kicked off the first full weekend of the college football season. Josh, your favorite team is currently the defending national champion. Were you excited to see the season kick off again?

S10: Joel, I think I remember a couple of weeks ago you were saying that if this iron skillet game was played, then you are not going to watch, are you? Are you are pondering now? Watching. And now now that they’ve been is a complicated world. It’s a complicated process. The world is the world is always changing. Facts on the ground change. Our friend Ben Mathis. Lily, had, I thought the best comment about this first of all weekend of the college football season, which he told us all for the sum total of the NCAA football response to covid, is that there are games on all the same weeks as normal, but they all suck until September twenty sixth, which is a great one, I think.

S1: I think that’s what we are. I mean, look, I enjoyed seeing the Big Twelve really fall on its face. I always say losing the Louisiana region.

S10: Cajuns can’t overlook Arkansas state that the state losing Arkansas state, Kansas, losing the coastal Carolina, Texas Tech nearly losing to Houston Baptist. I didn’t know how to football program. I like seeing those storylines. I like seeing those games being played both for aesthetic and moral reasons. Not particularly. And all of this is happening all clear evidence that this is not going well, like BYU is like we’re going to win the title. We’re so awesome. We destroyed Navy. And then it’s like, oh, we can’t play our game now because all because not all of our team, because, like, we have all these covid cases, like Virginia Tech is like had multiple games canceled. They’re not scheduled to start until October. Now, it’s like this is not working.

S4: Well, what are we I actually don’t understand. Like, what are people playing? I mean, you know, just think about Kansas State or Iowa State like they gave it to the season, like it was already sort of a ridiculous prospect in the first place. Then you lose at home to the raging Cajun Ivy. Now, what what are you supposed to do it? I mean, in arrester, these games are going to be off in on the rest of the year. It just I just would like to know what’s happening here. What are you guys hoping is going to happen?

S10: Well, the thing that on the one hand, makes both the most sense and the least sense is that with all this happening, with all that we just recounted and we have praised the Big Ten in the PAC 12 for opting out of this nonsense, we now learn that the Big Ten is about to have a revote and once to actually seeing all this. We’re like, oh, here’s an idea. Let’s actually start the season earlier and than we had planned and let’s play in mid-October now. And just like all of these coaches and it seems like it’s really the coaches, at least as the public faces of these, the school staff are leading the charge in the Big Ten, whether it’s like day from Ohio State or Jim Harbaugh from from Michigan. And just being extremely adamant about let’s look at what’s happening now. We really need to be playing college football. We made the wrong decision tonight.

S7: It’s the walking. This back is is crazy, especially when the Big Ten made such a point of stressing that they were relying on science and relying on studies and looking at that early studies about myocarditis in athletes. And then forget the Big Ten for a second. Just go anywhere else where there are there’s an explosion of cases among students on campus, I mean, or where there are teams playing football that have sent their students home. I mean, all of this is adding up to, you know, it’s a it’s a cluster fuck. None of it makes any sense what we thought of college football.

S6: We always talk about how regional of a sport it is, but actually it’s as much America’s sport as anything else because there’s been a fucked up, like, inconsistent response all the way around. And they’re still trying to get through it. They’re just like, well, you know, I mean, there have been some outbreaks here, but we might as well try it.

S1: It’s like running the ball into the line on first. Down, second, down, third down, and then also on fourth and fifth down.

S3: Well, the conceit is that we’re just a sport like everyone else, right? That, look, the NBA is working and oh, look, baseball is OK. I know. Look, the NFL started and it’s just counting the realities of college campuses and college communities.

S7: They are not creating bubbles. Bubbles are working to the extent that they can. And when athletes have an incentive like the millions of dollars that they generate in salary or less, in the case of the women’s sports leagues, they can get it done. When there’s an infrastructure that has an interest in making sure this works successfully and and ways to control it, it can work. I can’t work in college football and we’re seeing that.

S4: I was thinking about this with Joshes team, for instance, like LSU has had a bunch of guys opt out like, you know, Jama’a Chase, you know, the best receiver in college football opted out. And I’m like, why is somebody that actual NFL prospects doing this? Like, why would you risk? I mean, there’s a there’s a whole lot at risk here. But you could get hurt. You could you could catch covid and develop myocarditis, which could affect your career. Who knows? But what why would anybody with any other option agree to do this? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

S1: Well, I think there’s this idea, like if you look at Trevor Lawrence as the kind of. Example, a one of somebody who shouldn’t be playing and is playing, and it’s partly, I think that program at Clemson and partly just a mentality that you can see across the entire sport in the entire country of just like thinking that opting out is capitulating or we’ve worked. I guess that the nicest kind of span that you can put on it and the most flattering spending put on it is like we’ve worked so hard to, you know, we deserve this. And I don’t want to let my teammates I don’t want to let my school down. But also, like, we’ve done everything you’ve asked us to do, we’ve been safe. And like, this is our reward and we want it. You know, that that’s that’s the the mentality.

S7: The reward should be that you’re safe, right. The reward shouldn’t be that you’re playing football. And the most disingenuous arguments, of course, have been from from athletic administrators and football coaches that, oh, the athletes are safer if we play because we can control their behavior. Well, they should just be safe. Whether you play or not, they can still follow the same rules.

S1: We have enough evidence to know that that’s that argument. Seem it has like it seems like it might plausibly be true, but we have enough evidence at this point to know that it’s not true. There have been outbreaks and all this not they don’t know what they’re doing, but a huge number of teams have had covid outbreaks.

S4: Yeah. They don’t know if they knew how to prevent these outbreaks, you’d think they would have done it by now, a bunch of other places. But I use a financial incentive to do so. Right, right. And I just would go back to a couple of months ago when we were talking about the nascent player empowerment movement where you guys were speaking up and they were going to hold coaches accountable. And, you know, even in the SEC, they’re saying we don’t see enough, we don’t see that you’re doing enough to protect us. And all of that just evaporated. Man, you know, we’re in the fall and none of it lasted. And that was always my my primary concern about that is like once you get once you get them on campus, once you get them back in the system, they don’t have as much of a voice. They don’t have as much power as we think that they do. And it’s just been sort of I mean, does that fair, though? Because I guess because the PAC 12 isn’t playing, I mean, the players you spoke to or I think that this is a totally I mean, I don’t want to talk about you know, I don’t want to exaggerate the differences in culture right out here out west as opposed to in the south or in the Southeast or in the Midwest or whatever. But I think that, yes, the PAC 10 did pull that off or the PAC 12 pulled it off. But on the whole, like I mean, we heard from a lot of other players that they would not they were concerned about the circumstances under which they were going to play. I would like to know what they’ve heard or what they have seen that makes them think that this is still a safe decision.

S10: All right. Let’s move on to the NBA, which is what I was paying a lot of attention to over those basketball. Yeah, there was since last we talked Giannis and the Bucks completed their tumble out of the playoffs They lost to the Heat Goodbye Giannis Maybe for the Celtics closed out the defending champion Raptors in a game seven late What’s not not forever. Not forever but maybe maybe in Milwaukee forever. The Lakers absolutely pulverized Joel’s Rockets and the Clippers are in the midst of a really bizarre meltdown. Dropping Games five and six set up a game seven against Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Not bizarre in the context of them being the Los Angeles Clippers because this is kind of classic Clippers. But given that teams don’t have souls and this is now seen as Kawhi Leonard, it is bizarre in the context of like, for example, the Kawhi Leonard career and and history and the amount of talent on this team. I kind of confused about what’s going on, but there’s going to be a game seven there. So the couple of things that I want to want to highlight in this lightning round of a segment, number one, Toronto Raptors, great job. Made a really far almost made it back to the conference finals after losing Kawhi Kyle Lowry. Kind of amazing, amazing player, amazing persona. There’s a photo I don’t know if you guys saw that for me was the the best still image of the NBA playoffs, which is in that like double overtime, game six, the Toronto one. There’s just a still image that shows there’s the Kairouan at the bottom of the screen. Toronto, one twenty five, Justin, one twenty two. And it’s Kyle Lowry standing next to Jayson Tatum. And Kyle Lowry has his finger inside Jason Tatum’s wristband. Just like just like being annoying for, you know, just like standing there, like just like poking him under the wristband. I love you, Kyle. All right. All right. Item number two on my lightning round. Russell Westbrook getting in a fight with. Rondos brother during the Lakers Reagan series, Rondo’s brother got kicked out of the arena from the family section, he apparently called Westbrook a bitch. I’m sure a billion worse things have been said NBA arenas. The problem is not a crowd, but the thing I wanted to highlight is that Rajon Rondo, whose brother is named William Rondo, which I just think is a hilarious man, but there is a William Randolph item number three, and this is about Joel’s rockets, the Daniel House thing. So Rockets six man valuable player in the Houston small ball rotation, which was, we were told, going to lead them to championship glory. He gets kicked out of the bubble from the reporting on this story was very strange so that we heard that there was the possibility that there had been an unauthorized visitor in his room. Then there were tweets like Sham’s Tyranny of the Athletic sent out a tweet. But this wasn’t in his actual story that said it was a female coronavirus staffer there was allowed into his room. Then there was reporting that Tyson Chandler was also involved. And then I saw a story on Yahoo! That said the covid-19 official did not implicate House but did say she had contact with Tyson Chandler. Tyson Chandler is was ultimately cleared and House was was kicked out of the bubble. So we don’t know what happened here, even though I’d imagine that there is like video and these players are like surveilled within an inch of their life within this bubble. I mean, the main question that we had and of the main question, but a question that we had going into this whole thing was how are the players going to have sex? That was that was kind of explicit in some corners implicit in others. The obvious implication here is that House was fooling around. He does have a wife and children at home. And so we don’t want to say that that’s definitely what happened. That’s definitely what a lot of people were assuming what happened. But, Joel, I gave you enough preamble here. We need your thoughts on Daniel. Has the rockets and all that has transpired here?

S4: Well, I mean, I would like to point out that the Mavs didn’t even advance to the second round and make it to the playoff bubble either. You know what? I didn’t stay long enough to need to need to get kicked out of the bubble. But I guess, like, what I would think is that, I mean, on a slightly less fun note, when you put the players in this sort of a bubble, it brings the occasion for there to be all sorts of invasions of privacy. And that was the thing that I thought about. It was sort of gross that we know this. Right. And making me feel bad now. Well, I’m sorry. Well, actually, no, I’m not sorry for making you feel bad, but sometimes you need to feel bad. This is not the sort of thing we would know under ordinary circumstances. But by going into the bubble, they’ve agreed. I mean, they they agreed to give up a lot to just go down there. And then this happens and it shows you why people may have had a lot of concern, because you give up a lot of control of your life. You could have a lot of control to the access and the people that have access to you in the news about your life by going into the bubble. And so it seems like a major privacy breach. And I don’t know that that’s necessarily fair for Daniel House. But I mean, the thing is coronavirus, it’s a public health concern and he’s responsible for so many other people.

S1: There’s no privacy and a public health crisis.

S4: Exactly. And so, I mean, I kind of go back and forth on that. It sucks for him. It sucks for his family. It sucks for the rockets. And as far as the rockets, man.

S1: All right. Now let’s flip it. OK, Daniel, Daniel has played for the Mavericks. Now let’s hear what let’s hear.

S4: Your commentary was typical, typical of an unserious organization. And I mean, you expect that sort of behavior out of a Mark Cuban led team. But I just want to real quick, I would like to memorialize this era of the rockets, because Mike D’Antoni just said that he’s probably not going to come back next year. And I know that, like, the rockets are a joke on social media, that people laugh at James Harden and they hate the style of ball that they played. But it’s worth noting that over the last four years, the rockets had the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference regular season, and they were the team that showed that the Warriors were not unbeatable, where everybody else could see that the championship to the Warriors in the previous years, they went ahead and challenged them. And I think that there’s some respect in that, Joe.

S3: I think losing doesn’t mean you’re bad. Losing just means that you lost. And that’s what I would like. Yeah. Are you banging the table with the Rockets participation trophy there? Yeah, I’m not I’m not against the participation of the rockets.

S1: The rockets showed that you can beat that the Warriors are beatable if you just don’t go for twenty seven on three pointers.

S4: That’s how they look. Let’s not forget the Chris Paul’s hamstring. Also played a role in the Warriors advancing, OK, that can’t be overlooked, I’m done with the rockets.

S3: The nights are really fun, man. Like the Clippers, Clippers, clippers. Nuggets come back from down to huge deficits again. Oh, wait a minute, though, Jamal Murray Jamal Murray was averaging 40 points a game in the previous series.

S4: What is he doing now? I thought he was Michael Jordan.

S3: What happened? Oh, yeah. He had twenty one points playing a real defense now. Well Nikola Jokic had thirty four. He’s playing a real defense too. There are fun damn team. I would not be disappointed if it’s not Los Angeles.

S1: Los Angeles I forget who noted that Nikola. Some someone on Twitter that narrows it down who noted that Nikola Jokic looks like somebody who is like given the power of being good at basketball by like a wizard, like he was just like randomly chosen out of the population of earth with the ability to play basketball is like oh I guess I can play basketball. This is interesting.

S4: Yeah. No I like, I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I mean the thing is it’s for the season to in the way that it should, it should be Clippers versus Lakers. You’d think that, you’d think that the Clippers will be able to get it together. But, you know, maybe the Clippers just aren’t as good as we thought. Like we’ve been waiting for them to like Voltron into this contender that never really has emerged in the way that we thought it would. And maybe maybe they just won’t be what we thought they were going to be. And I don’t know if that’s the result of the Clippers or if that’s a result of the pandemic and this weird restart or whatever. But, yeah, it’s just strange. Any team that loses under these circumstances, I don’t know what to take from it. I don’t know if it means anything. If you win under these circumstances, it definitely says a lot for you. But if you lose, I’m just kind of like, well, this was an unprecedented weird shit of a season. So, I mean, I don’t I don’t think teams like, you know, take take these losses too hard or take them, you know, take them to mean something greater because who the hell knows what this season actually meant.

S1: Stefan, we’ve been prattling on for a while here. I know you wanted to talk about the Premier League, but we’ll give you about 30 seconds.

S3: Go for your game. I watch the soccer game leads. Who am I after? What about a few weeks ago, back in the premiership, after six years had to play Liverpool in its first match. And it was like the best game of the weekend. Maybe the clips next game was better, but at least this was one on one. A final score was four to three leads came back from three deficits and the Premier League and Liverpool, particularly one going away last season. There are gigantic imbalances in payroll and ability. And Leeds was fun and they played aggressively and this game was just crazy back and forth. And now I am totally smitten by Leeds, even if I kind of was already because of, you know, their history. So there was a great game, four to three. It was really, really fun.

S10: Let’s roll right into after balls and Stefan, because I’m in a generous mood. I’m going to give you another thirty seconds to talk about Leeds. You stretch your legs a little bit.

S3: Thanks. One of the goals was scored by Jack Harrison and he played in Major League Soccer for a couple of seasons with NYC FC, which is the team that is owned by Manchester City here, is beaming with pride that he was in MLS.

S7: I am. He’s not American, though, so don’t get your hopes up, everybody. He’s not American. But I did not know that he came to America for high school. He went to something called the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Then he was drafted into Major League Soccer.

S10: He can’t be that good at soccer if he’s a European guy who came to America to go to high school.

S7: Gater, a national player of the year. See, the observatory doesn’t make mistakes.

S1: That’s their that’s their new slogan.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. So Manchester City, NYC FC, Manchester City signs them, brings them to England, loans them out to Middlesborough and then to lead. So he’s been with Leeds for three. This is his third season scores, a goal in his Premier League debut. Honorary American won’t play for the national team. Apparently he has cap tied to England because he played in some youth euro championship, though I read somewhere that he had gotten a green card in the United States. They should change these rules. We want Jack Harrison to be American. Josh, what’s your Jack Harrison?

S1: I’m hoping you guys saw the play of the weekend in college football and befitting the crummy schedule. This was in a Citadel South Florida game. Citadel was punting the punter, Matt Campbell bobble the snap in the end zone manages to get the pun away with in some way. This is impressive and intended to Matt Campbell. Unfortunately, in a play that I had never seen before in football, special teamer for South Florida, Omarion Collison caught the punt. In the end zone, so he had a punt return for a touchdown of zero yards and the punt was a negative 10 yard punt. Do you ever seen that before?

S4: Maybe in high school football? I feel like it’s a play that I’ve seen before, but only on a blooper reel. And I can’t recall if it had ever happened before then. But, yeah, it was fairly unprecedented.

S1: So it actually kind of happened in the NFL kind of. And I’m going to get into how and why and where it happened. But first, let’s listen to a clip of this immortal moment.

S11: Giants buffoonery struck again in the nineteen eighty five NFC championship when punter Sean Lanzetta took an astounding swing and a miss against the Bears and Denna from his end zone.

S12: Look a good feel.

S10: All right, so what happened there? It was January 5th, nineteen eighty six NFC playoffs, Giants and Bears. The game was at Soldier Field, 14 degrees. The wind was blowing 15 miles per hour. Not excuses, just context. Here is what Frank Litsky wrote in The New York Times. Sean Lanzetta, the punter, stood three yards deep in the end zone, took the snap and kicked more or less cutting words from Frank Litsky. The wind caught the ball and blew it to the right. Lanzetta adjusted and swung his leg. The ball brushed off the instep and trickled a few yards. Sean Gayle, a backup safety for the Bears, picked it up on the five and ran into the endzone for the touchdown, his first since high school. The play went as a punt of minus seven yards and a five yard punt return. I got a piece of the ball, said Lanzetta, but almost none of it. I think I got a piece of it that never, never, never happened to me before. So that was embarrassing for Sean Lynetta. But it was maybe not the weirdest thing that he was involved in that week. Let us go to the Chicago Tribune, January 2nd. Nineteen eighty six Giants punter Sean Lynetta, who has a three year, five hundred thousand dollar contract, has been accused of scalping tickets to last Sunday’s wild card game against the San Francisco 49ers. Lynetta allegedly sold twenty two dollars and twenty five dollar tickets for fifty dollars outside Giants Stadium and. Here’s the kicker, reportedly even threw in an autographed picture of himself. Oh, wow. How do you have time to be outside before the game? That is a great question, Stefan. This is not doing amazing work for the reputation of the special teams units and the NFL. You get this guy. He should be practicing his drops before the game. And so he’s out hocking auto autographed photos of himself and scalp tickets before the game.

S3: You got to make ends meet if we’re bunta. Three years.

S4: Five hundred thousand. I mean, that’s I mean, is that five hundred thousand per year of total over the three years? It seems like a total over three years. This is 1986 then last forever. Yeah man. I mean you got to do you’ve got to hustle on it on the edges there. I agree.

S10: So he wasn’t prosecuted for this. His teammates gave him crap for it. He came to practice and found his locker. This is according to the Chicago Tribune, found his locker decorated like a ticket booth with him on the floor so people could form a line of classic locker room high jinks.

S5: You know, sports funny, not actual funny. Lynetta played in the NFL for 22 seasons. This did not ultimately harm his career either the negative seven yard punt or the scalping incident. He played from eighty five to twenty six. He also played in the US NFL for three years before you play in the NFL.

S10: So he was actually the last former US NFL player to still be active in pro football. Seven time all pro two time Super Bowl winner. But we should always just remember him for that minus seven yard pun, I think it’s only fair I from Tecmo Bowl as well, by the way. So all the all the important things when asked about that punt a year later, he said, sure, it’s something I think about a lot. The fact that I’m reminded about it twenty thousand times helps.

S2: So Sean, his thousand one, just in case he forgot, that is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. Listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out. Go to sleep. I can’t hang up. You can email us and hang up and sleep. That comment for Stefan Fatsis. And for Joel Anderson. I’m Josh Levine. Remembers our mobility. And thanks for listening.

S5: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members and the only sport that is not being played right now. I checked all the other sports are currently in season.

S1: It is college basketball and not wanting to be left out of the parade of bad ideas that are getting floated in sports right now. Sorry, I don’t mean to prejudge just the parade of ideas that are getting floated sports right now.

S10: The coaches unanimously in one voice have declared that they want the two thousand twenty one NCAA tournament March Madness to feature every team, not in some sort of notional hyperbolic way, actually, every team. Three hundred and fifty teams they want in the NCAA tournament. Stefan, make Brabner name said, let’s give all the student athletes hope for a shot at the title. After all they have been through over the past year. Just seems very altruistic.

S3: Yeah, and forward to that first round game between Dartmouth and North Carolina. What do you think of this idea, Stefan? Oh, I love it as a as an idea. I mean, as far as performance art, the bracket, I mean, how much fun would it be to see forget Dartmouth, you know, the other D1 schools that you’ve never heard of playing Virginia and everyone writing about how Virginia, they could lose the first time out of three hundred and two hundred and fifty six seed takes down a number one just for it’s pure absurdity. And I love absurdity in sports. This would be fantastic. I don’t understand the logistics, though. Everyone is saying like this would be good because of, you know, we’re concerned about health and say I don’t understand the link between health and safety.

S1: The more teams play, the safer it is.

S3: It’s just more teams. It’s just it’s just me. Play one game in the round of two hundred and fifty six or the, you know, the knockout rounds before that. What is it. Three hundred and forty six teams total.

S1: I’ve seen three fifty, I’ve seen three fifty six. I somewhere once you get around three fifty the precise number kind of loses loses. Meaning Joel. I guess maybe one reason why this is I’ll just say this, the INS has already said it’s not happening. So we’re in the realm of of fantasy land here. But why don’t you indulge the fantasy and are you are you pro three hundred and fifty team NCAA tournament or Erkan?

S4: I mean, I just don’t know. I mean the tournament in and of itself is entertaining as it is, is kind of ridiculous on its face because it doesn’t help you to determine who the best team in the country is. Right. Like we know that a single elimination tournament, there’s too much randomness involved in it for you to actually make sure that you get the best team. So, I mean, I guess, you know, why not? Let’s see. Alabama A&M get it shot, you know? I mean, but, you know, maybe this might be the only way that the BCS don’t have to play a first four game, so.

S1: No, no, no, no, no. So Joe Leonardi with with some weariness, which is evident in his writing, was was pressed into duty to figure out how this this would happen, the ESPN bracketology did. He said the basic math dictates that one hundred and sixty six teams receive opening round bias. The remaining one hundred eighty would play ninety additional games to create a symmetrical field of two hundred and fifty six games, followed by a tidy eight round gauntlett.

S3: Oh wow. Yeah, but if you make it to the elite one twenty eight.

S4: Yeah. I mean I could totally understand why top high school recruits are considering Gleek. Now this is the sort of creativity that’s going into to keeping this thing going. I’m like, why the hell would anybody waste their time with this?

S3: Let’s go back to the coronavirus. Leonardi also said that this would increase the number of games in the tournament from sixty seven to three hundred and forty five.

S1: Seem like the I think actually Leonardi is wrong that the playing rounds, it would just be like playing around after playing around after playing rounds. Like I don’t think Duke is going to be in the round of two hundred and fifty six.

S7: What are the teams have to gain from doing this?

S1: So the reason that coaches would support this is that they all want to make the NCAA tournament, because I don’t I think I don’t think that they would get their their their contract bonuses for making the tournament. I feel like the schools would not would not let that fly. But they all just want to be able to say, like, oh, I led a tournament team and, you know, it’s it’s a feather in your cap. And also just like they don’t want to take on any risk themselves, like they want to put all the risk in other places.

S4: And so the notion of a season where you couldn’t possibly fail, like, how amazing is that? OK, yeah. I mean, I guess so. Like, nothing that happens in sports and the next year or two I. Consent means anything, so why not? I mean, you don’t I mean, this is what they want to do. I mean, I think they might as well just shoot for the moon because nothing that happens now counts.

S1: OK, well, it’s like I mentioned gigantism before, but there is this kind of universal idea in sports that more is better and bigger is better and more playoff games and more playoff teams. And it’s like, you know, oh, we have like a nice ice cream cone with to a couple of different flavors that tastes good. You know, it would be better is like an enormous tanker, you know, ship full of every flavor of ice cream and you eat it all in one sitting. Wouldn’t that just taste so much better?

S3: Yeah, that would actually be pretty cool. Can I, like, swim in the ice cream?

S1: Yes, you can swim in that. You can swim. I by. Thank you. Thank you. You have to be even if it’s a good idea, knowing that the EC coaches support it, you know that it’s secretly a bad idea. Right. Right. Something that something bad is going on. We maybe just haven’t quite figured it out yet.

S3: The reason there is charm in this idea is that it sort of resembles the FAA cup in soccer where the lowest division team gets a chance to play, you know, a better team and even play teams in the Premier League. And it’s also safe to do in basketball. Right. So Leonardi pointed out that Chicago state has averaged four wins per season over the last five years. They could play Duke and yeah, it would be one 101, one to forty nine.

S1: But they are not going to get in a game against Duke.

S3: They’re not asleep. But let’s say that it were actually there were five hundred and twelve teams in college basketball when you would start the tournament there. So you can do a basketball. I mean look like it’s not as if two fifty six against one would be any different in terms of the outcome, but it’s like safe. You can play a basketball game between a really shitty team and and Duke just more opportunities for the next guy on to get injured.

S1: That’s, that’s, that’s really, that’s all. That’s really all we need.

S3: Yeah. It’s a terrible idea, obviously.

S1: Joel, final thoughts on this amazing idea.

S4: I was actually trying to look up and see what league the Chicago State plays, and I haven’t figured it out yet. I guess, you know, that is one way to make it through. I would watch the NCAA tournament, you know, with wrapped in the first few rounds. I mean, those games, they do a really good job of making bad teams seem interesting. So, I mean, Chicago State, you know, welcome to the stage. I’m sorry. I’m still trying to look up and see what league they play in the back. No, they don’t want to play in the back.

S1: Are you serious? Realignment, baby.

S4: Oh, my God. That’s true. What? Oh, man. I mean, look how far we’ve come. I played in the back in my first two years of college football. We’re in the way. Shout out Carl Vinson.

S1: You feel a certain a certain allegiance to him.

S7: And in 2013, the Cougars made the college insider dotcom postseason tournament.

S1: So this has already been a boon to Chicago state, the publicity of them being touted as the worst team in the three hundred and fifty teams NCAA tournament. You can’t you can’t buy that. Can’t buy. That’s right now. All right. And as a reminder, the NCAA said this is not going to happen, but we’ll be back with more half baked and fully baked ideas from the wacky world of sports next week. Thank you, Slate. Plus members.