S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of September 28, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the NBA finals matchup between the L.A. Lakers and the Miami Heat. We also discussed the sad for LSU fans for opening weekend of college football. Plus, we’ll get into life inside the National Hockey League bubble. Finally, we’ll talk with a critic of big time high school basketball who presides over one of the nation’s top basketball programs.
S3: His father, Edwin Leahy of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey, featured in the new documentary series Benedikte Men and the author of The Queen of Slow Burn Season four.
S4: I’m in Washington, D.C., also in D.C., author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic The Pride of the Pelham Pelicans. Stefan Fatsis, congrats on your personal best in Scrabble. Thank you.
S5: Thank you for noticing 653 points in one game. It was a good game.
S4: Usually the personal best is from from one game you can’t add. It’s like my my my best bench press is my two top bench presses added together. Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.
S5: I mean, I did not note in my tweet that you read and saw that that my daughter had a six hundred and eighty eight point game last week, which I didn’t want to take any focus away from yourself.
S4: Now giving some shine to your daughter. I’ve given her plenty of shine. With us from Palo Alto, from the straight Jesuit Crusaders, Slate staff writer, host of Slow Burn Season three, Joel Anderson, who said over the weekend, and I quote, We decided to drive over there on seven p.m. yesterday in the house of enchiladas had run out of enchiladas.
S1: Yeah, that was really disappointing. I just kind of feel like they had one job and they couldn’t deliver. So next time, Bravo House of Enchiladas in San Jose, I would like I mean, at least give us a little bit more heads up before we head all the way over there.
S4: As our producer Melissa said before he started recording, it was just a house. The NBA finals match up, it’s set, the basic storyline is the same, I believe, from both an off court narrative perspective and an uncaught whatever non-negative perspective if LeBron old team, the Heat, not the Cavs against his new one, the L.A. Lakers is Nick Green wrote in Slate after the Heat beat the Celtics to make the finals. Miami was the original super team. Bring in LeBron and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwayne Wade. Way back in 2010. When LeBron left, the team came apart, but it didn’t crumble. The Heat have rebuilt themselves behind free agent signing Jimmy Butler trade acquisitions Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, draft picks Bam Adebayo and Tyler Hero in undrafted players Duncan Robinson and Kendrick none. The Lakers with LeBron and Anthony Davis and a roster constructed to support them, are playing LeBron era Heat style super team basketball and they’re a heavy favorite to win the title behind it. Stephon, I don’t believe the current heat or somehow morally superior to the old heat or to the current Lakers. Is there something pleasing about watching a team that’s balanced, a nonhierarchical where the star of the game, the best players are going to be different from game to game?
S5: I don’t know. Jimmy Butler is kind of a star, but he has bounced around and been neglected as a as a top tier star, partly because of his of the teams that he’s played with and the balance that he had on those teams and also partly because of his personality.
S4: Yeah, I wouldn’t say neglected would be my my first choice of L.A. with Jimmy Butler.
S5: Maybe not OK, but he has a really good player, even if he may not be in super team category, but there aren’t super players behind him. Yeah, you’re right. So we have learned about Tyler Hero rookie from Kentucky who for what? Thirty seven the other night, Duncan Robinson, you know, white Guy Williams College to start his career transfer to Michigan. Did you see the text that Marc Titus posted the other day that Duncan Robinson got in touch with him when he was at Michigan to ask him about going into media because he figured his basketball career was over? So I do think there’s good to be able to shoot. There is there is something pleasing about watching a team that you don’t expect to do. Well, I mean, it’s why we root for underdogs. And as you know, by NBA standards, this is an underdog team.
S4: Well, Joel, if we can talk about Stephon behind his back here for a second, I think the way that the heat are constructed, they are not a team that’s like Jimmy Butler is our star. And let’s all do whatever we can to support Jimmy Butler. It’s like Bam! Adebayo is our best player. This game, Tyler Heroes are about like they have different lineups in crunch time and depending on the game, depending on who’s playing well, it is like a traditional team sport kind of concept where it’s just whatever’s best for the team. And again, I’m not saying this to be like this is more moral in there, like showing us the right way to play it is just unusual and interesting to watch.
S1: Yeah, it’s an ensemble in the way that you think of that, that last Pistons championship team in twenty four. Right. Where there’s not one superstar, but there are a bunch of really good above average NBA players and they all take part equally. You just you never have any idea from night tonight who’s going to be the guy that gives you twenty five for thirty. And the thing that is moral, instead of comparing it to the way that KD went to Golden State or Bron went to the Lakers and brought Anthony Davis, the way I think about it is what’s moral to me is the way that they’ve done in comparison to say, like Philadelphia or teams that tank because Miami never gave up. Like after Brian left, they tried to to remain contenders. Pat Riley said he worked with what he had and that goes all the way back to making marginal prospects like Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside. He’d like to actually develop them and turn them into an asset that allowed them to build the team that they have now. They turn Justise Winslow and Deon Waiters into Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill and Andre Iguodala. Right. So it’s like the ultimate rejoinder to the process. And I think that’s worthy of respect, that Miami never tried to cheat its fans. It never tried to cheat the league. They always tried to stay competitive and now they’ve been rewarded for it.
S6: Yeah, it’s a great point. I mean, their first move after LeBron left was to sign Chris Bosh to a huge extension and then Chris Bosh wasn’t able to play anymore because of his blood clotting issues. And even that didn’t take them. Like, that’s the kind of thing where I think a lot of franchises like, all right, we’re going to be bad for the next five years. I mean, like that the Magic made the playoffs this year. But like, look at their, like, brethren in Florida who have been rebuilding and terrible for years upon years upon years and have had high draft pick after hydrographic and are in a place and then a state where free agents would conceivably be attracted to. And so you have to give credit.
S3: To the organization, I mean, Stefan, I feel like the heat culture stuff is super annoying, but if we just ignore ignore the catchphrase, they have a really good franchise and a really, really good coach who’s been able to strike the balance of like, you know, it generally has not gone well for LeBron coaches when LeBron isn’t there.
S6: But like, he’s a guy who’s able to command respect from these star players and like have totally different teams be successful in totally different ways. It’s pretty impressive.
S5: And he’s had tenure, for all intents and purposes. Pat Riley, as the president or whatever his title is of the organization, didn’t try to, you know, didn’t get rid of Erik Spoelstra after LeBron left and after the team’s success began to wane. And to follow up on what you were saying, though, about how they responded to LeBron leaving. I think it’s also important to point out, though, that what they play in the Eastern Conference and the Eastern Conference has not exactly had a lot of teams that you were terribly worried about going into the into the playoffs. There was always the opportunity for a team that retained some good talent, brought in some good talent to make a run in the playoffs. And I don’t know that this year is any different from that. I mean, they beat the boxes.
S3: Well, it is different in the fact that they didn’t have home court advantage as a five Susur and yet and the Bucs were going to be a historically good team.
S1: I mean, through the regular season, it’s not like, you know, they beat them.
S3: And that team was supposed to have been special and the bucks just weren’t the same after the hiatus. They were they were bad and they were great before.
S5: And the Raptors were not as good as they were last year, but they were still really, really good. And a team also that was built around not not a gigantic star, they lost their gigantic star.
S3: Yeah, it’s all true. I would like to just give a brief comment on that.
S6: Stefan mentioned the whiteness of Duncan Robinson, who is extremely white. But I’ve found that conversation around Alex Caruso, the Lakers, to be particularly interesting and like comparison to Tyler here. And so Alex Caruso is not only white, not only undrafted, not only described as being quote unquote, scrappy and likes to do the, like, nitty gritty work, but he’s also very athletic and is like jumping up and like blocking dudes at the rim and is like slamming. And I’ve found that announcers have a really hard time, like grappling with the complexities of Alex Caruso because like he’s more athletic, I think, than Tyler Hero. And he gets talked about like he is Delly or like he’s you know, here’s my theory, Joel. I think it’s entirely due to his patchy hair. Oh, I think that just like throws everything off because you do not see players in the NBA with hair like this.
S1: So then so is that is actively part of his bit because, you know, I was watching the game with my wife today. Shot up baby. Yeah. You know, like she was like that guys in the NBA, you know, I mean, like, look at his hair and it’s like that’s nobody looks like that anymore. The NBA, I don’t even know what people did in the 70s and 80s, but it’s not that’s not a hairstyle that people have. And it confuses people. Nobody that look, it’s been really difficult to think of any NBA player that looks like that with that head. And it’s been like a superstar. I’ve been athletic or something, you know what I mean?
S6: Credit to our colleague, Jackie Hamilton, if I can. But betray his confidence here, who was immediately able to recall the last NBA player with hair like that? Can can either of you guys some in the name?
S1: So if you five seconds later, why is it. Wait, hold on. Is it a white, white white guy played in the NBA for a long time who had hair like that? Kevin Cannata is that was that was that the thing you wrote I’m talking about?
S4: I have no idea who you’re talking about, but maybe maybe some maybe one of our listeners can translate that. The answer is Steve Blake.
S1: Oh, man. That’s all that kills me. That kills me.
S5: You know, 20 something male pattern baldness is not unusual. It isn’t. It isn’t the NBA either. It isn’t the NBA.
S3: Oh, you know who else did. What’s that guy’s name? Nenad. Chris Dich kind of had like an ESPN polling thing and oh Kosta Koufos Cosson like I’m I’m rolling with you really.
S5: I had this is like my like my Greek dude who played five seconds in the league.
S1: Yeah. Come on. Yeah. I mean I’m upset because I mentioned the comparison to Steve Blake in a text group earlier this week and not mad that I don’t, I can’t say and take credit for it here because you’re right, even physically he sort of looks weird in the way that Steve Blake kind of you know, I’m not trying to, but, you know, this is kind of the the body type and everything. You just don’t see it coming and then it does.
S3: All right. Before we move on, since we’ve got an action packed program for you today, Joel, what are your thoughts on LeBron? Obviously, and the Lakers are huge favorites here. It would be LeBron fourth title, I take it back.
S5: Kosta Koufos was in the league. For like a decade.
S3: Well, good for that guy. Well, just what are your what are your thoughts on this being, you know, this team, LeBron and like sort of how this is playing out for him?
S1: I always felt like maybe the last couple of years I’ve done the thing where I’m like, this is going to be the last time we see this version of LeBron, you know, where he’s athletic, the best player on the floor, still able to control the action on the floor. And now I don’t know anymore, you know, I mean, I wouldn’t have expected him to be this good at this age in especially under these circumstances, because the bubble is so weird from everything else. It’s like I keep saying, it’s a different season from the one that was postponed in March. And for him to still be here at the end after all of that, like, I just it makes me wonder if and when I’ll ever see a diminished LeBron more than anything. Like what would that look like? Because I just I don’t right now, we don’t have a view of what that might look like. Do you guys like look at him and see something that, you know what I mean? Like envision a weakened burn?
S3: I think we saw it last year when he had the groin injury and he was having to carry a lot more of the load of that team even in the regular season. I mean, the playoffs, Stefan, have played out so perfectly for them. They haven’t been extended in any of these series. LeBron has been able to play like in the mid thirties and minutes some games, which is unusual for him, like from the Cleveland days he was having to play, you know, just huge minutes every every game. And they didn’t have to play the Clippers, who are the team that was constructed perfectly to defend him and where he would have had to defend Kawhi or Paul George every game. And they ran they run into the Nuggets in this round where at the end of the series, it’s like Jamal Murray who taps out because he’s been going full bore in the seven game series and just turning into a superstar before our eyes. Jamal, Jamal Murray, 40 points.
S1: Yeah, he’s every game. I basically not literally, but I think that only buttresses my point about this being a different season, because I feel like Jamal Murray, this is like his, whatever, fourth, fifth year. Now, this is a different so in this context, maybe this is the leap year he took in the bubble. Yeah. I mean, it’ll still be weird because, like, do you think he’ll make an all star team in the West? I mean, or whatever. Like it, like he’s great. But then I’m like, man, will he ever get a chance to make an all star game?
S3: So I don’t know Stefan, but where do you fall? Is that like more circumstances that this has just been the perfect time in year four for LeBron at this stage in his career? And obviously we haven’t even mentioned Anthony Davis. He’s good. Or do you feel like he’s just a physical marvel and he will be doing this in three to twelve years?
S5: He a physical marvel, for sure. But at some point, look, he’s got almost sixty thousand regular and postseason minutes in his career and that will catch up to him. And while he was spectacular at the end of the Nuggets series earlier in the playoffs, he was not as good. He was not shooting great from the floor, from three point range. He improved, you know, he stepped it up when he had to against Jamal Murray, locked him down on defense, went thirty eight, fifteen, ten in the final game. And I think that’s what we’re going to start seeing. He’s he’s benefiting from having Anthony Davis with him. He can defer a little bit more than he used to. It is not all on him, but when he wants it to be on him, you know, his brain and his body can take over as as it did against the Nuggets.
S3: He’s shooting. Fifty five percent in the playoffs. Twenty seven points per game, ten rebounds and nine assists. If that’s like him deferring and a diminished state, then maybe the greatest basketball player of all time, which maybe he, in fact, is.
S1: Let me make a quick comparison before we go. You know, to tie it all up. You know who you reminds me of here? Reminds me of Shaq with the Heat, where Shaq was still probably one of the three five most dominant players in the league. But he he wasn’t quite the same. He couldn’t take over a game in quite the same way. But like how Shaq had Dwayne Wade, now LeBron has add who probably is the best, more more explosive player. And he didn’t have the burden of carrying teams in quite the same way, but it kind of feels the same to me in that way.
S3: On Saturday, September 26, the nine 19 a.m. Pacific, Joel D. Anderson tweeted, It’s a beautiful fall Saturday and I’m just disgusted with myself for not being able to turn away from this shit.
S6: Smooch on Saturday, September 26th, just after 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Josh Levine thought but did not tweet. It’s a beautiful fall Saturday and I’m just disgusted with myself for not being able to turn away from this shit a smidge. And now let’s take a look at the college football scoreboard. Iowa State thirty seven, TCU, thirty four, Mississippi State, forty four, sixth ranked and defending national champion LSU. Thirty four. Joel, congrats to both of our teams for scoring. Thirty four points to good. No, but back to your disgust. Given the TCU had not lost yet and you do not have ESP, although maybe you had studied the roster and had a sense of what was going to happen, I’m thinking your discussed had more to do with the fact that you could not stop yourself from watching these games. But what’s wrong with us? I’m not going to just put it all on you.
S1: Well, I anticipated my disgust with TCU. The quarterback that I didn’t even like isn’t even playing the season. So I knew that it was going to our prospects were pretty grim. But yeah, no, I’m frustrated with myself for endorsing this with my attention. I don’t think it’s right that the players are out there and that the universities and conferences and TV execs will benefit given the perverse incentives they have to keep these games going. But like it’s fall Saturday and I’m at home and football’s on. And it’s I mean, that is a muscle that I exercise every every fall. You know, I don’t know how to turn it off in college. Football is my favorite sport. And if it’s on, I’m probably going to watch, although I will say I trusted that because, I mean, it’s not like I was sitting up there watching central Arkansas, you know what I mean? Like, well, I kind of did I kind of watch I guess I didn’t I didn’t watch UTSA and a lot of those games just a little bit. I had a little of. So I don’t know. I mean, you you’re you’re like the TV was on and you just wandered by. Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, it kind of we I live in a household where we don’t watch TV. It’s just like on in the background and then like kind of was drifting gradually. You just sort of kind of gravitate toward it. So I knew coming into this Saturday that the TV was going to end up on those games. I just didn’t know how much I’d be interested in what was going on. And, you know, ultimately, it didn’t probably look all that different from the other fall Saturdays before you at least had something to theoretically be excited about until your team started playing, theoretically being the key modifier there.
S3: Yeah, for me, it’s more I do pay attention to what’s going on in other games, but a lot of the time it’s just like looking at the scores and like maybe turning something on if it’s like, you know, at the end of Oklahoma State, I was like, oh, something weird seems to be happening here at Kansas State, seems to be beating Oklahoma. So I’ll turn it on. But I don’t have it on all day. But yeah, I mean, the LSU game and games are appointment viewing for me and always have been and I guess always, always will be. But it is less fun when the team loses is the thing that I’m remembering. And when they go in more than six hundred yards passing not fun although deep Stefan DBU.
S6: Although Stefan I think we should really be praising LSU because winning during the pandemic season means that not enough of your players opted out. Maybe that none of your players took advantage of the opportunity to go pro and earn the living that we think that they deserve. So I think just good on LSU for not playing well during this season.
S1: We really connected at all, by the way, to maybe possibly all of the players having covid at one point this year. I mean, we didn’t even think about that. That’s a disadvantage.
S5: I was just going to say that I did not watch all of those games that you just mentioned. I did watch a part of the Mississippi State LSU game. My thoughts were these, what a lot of white mask wearing in the stands, sidelines you’re allowed to put to not wear your mask when you’re eating and drinking. The SEC might have some issues there, too. I thought what, you know, Joel just said about LSU maybe suffering from the fact that so many of its players had already had covid and were recovering, at least according to tattoed.
S3: And that’s what he said. And he said that that had covid. And so it was good that that would be a competitive advantage, thundering herd immunity.
S5: And the third thing I thought was that when did the Mississippi state trade for K.J. Costello? I didn’t realize oh, I knew he was at Stanford and was a pretty good quarterback and they had a lot of quarterbacks there.
S3: Joel pushed him out of power to push him out of power.
S1: He was so tired of talking to me at practice, so they just escaped. He knows I’m not going back to Starkville any time soon. Yeah, then he signed. A big contract with Mississippi State. I mean, you know, he gets the he gets to learn under the law the pricing genius Mike Lee, too. I mean, I’m sort of dubious about the idea that Mike Leach is this wonderful college football character. Right. But he plays one game in the SEC as a head coach and sets the record for a single game passing, just sort of putting a little chink into that armor that the SEC is somehow the defense is so good and nobody could ever run that offense in the SEC. We took one game for that to kind of fall away. Right.
S3: Sort of hurts when the best player on your team and in the nation who happens to play a defensive back isn’t able to play like a you know, that the last minute in front of you against the team does that the architect of the best passing offense and contraband hurts a little bit at times saying, OK, well, I mean, dude, next man up is what you would think, right? You would think. You would think. But I guess they just I guess they just weren’t tough enough to win against the Mike Leach offense.
S1: Can we all agree, though, real quick, though, that, like we all know intellectually that none of this matters, like this season is stupid. They get like nobody should be held accountable for what’s actually happening on the field under these circumstances. But I think emotionally we can’t like it’s hard to to get your head around that. Right, because I’m like, oh, man, this is really fucked it up, you know. Yeah.
S3: Yeah. And I think, like, obviously it’s a coping mechanism from the fan perspective to intellectualize it by saying that that it doesn’t that it doesn’t matter because the teams like Florida or, you know, whoever like played really well this weekend is like, fuck, yeah, this matters. This is the most important season in the history of college football. Like look at the grit and the perseverance and the toughness in the face of all this adversity and saving the country. OK, it’s going to be a really weird season for competitive reasons, for non competitive reasons. And like for all that we’ve talked about, the cancellations, postponements, the coming back. It turns out that now three teams are not playing at all. Back when it was like every team had canceled or we thought that every team is going to canceled, it’s now down to three teams that are not playing.
S5: Josh, what are those three teams that aren’t playing?
S3: So I will confess that we had to stop and do a retake because I couldn’t remember who they were. And when I when I tell you who they were, you’ll understand why I didn’t remember the three teams that are not playing college football. And they follow 20/20 vision and Division one and one Old Dominion. These are all teams that you play didn’t know are playing in the first place, Old Dominion, UConn and New Mexico State, they’re all in the Bowl subdivision.
S5: We’re not talking about, you know, one AAA champ.
S3: These are all teams that Joe would watch if they just happen to be on TV and only deal New Mexico state.
S1: And they had some pretty good teams a couple of years ago. Yeah, no. So what New Mexico state is an independent and so they probably presumably had difficulty building a schedule. Same with UMass. Right. Because they’re no longer in the league right now. Correct. UMass is going to try to play a limited schedule. Yeah, see, that’s the thing. This is what in the retake lifting the curtain here. You know, I was going I was like, why is UMass playing football? It doesn’t make any sense. Like they have nothing to gain. They’re not going to play in some sort of big bowl game. They’re probably going to get their ass kicked in every game the rest of the season. Like it just speaks to the illness that we’re all infected. We’re not covid just this, you know, that football is so deeply within our veins and so deeply within our, you know, our collective psyche that we we can’t we can’t turn away from it in the same way that these programs can’t give it up, you know, just like, well, we’ve got to be out there. Everybody else is playing. I mean, why would you be out there? UMass, it just doesn’t make what is it, UConn or UMass? We’re definitely leaving this end. We’re leaving that. And everybody should be quiet. Yeah, no, nobody should be playing UMass and UConn. We don’t even know the school. We can’t even tell you apart. The only I know that can be played at the one that’s not UConn. That’s right. All right.
S5: I think what y’all saying that nobody in the northeast part of the United States should play football.
S3: Give it up, man speaking speaking of sports that are not as deeply in our veins, although it’s an Steffen’s Vann’s a little bit as a hockey Stefán. There is a story about life inside the NHL bubble and I didn’t and run by Greg Moshinsky and Emily Kaplan for ESPN. And before that story came out, which is really good and interesting, I didn’t realize they didn’t allow any independent media inside the bubble. And there’s a lot of stuff in there like they talk to players confidentially. It’s like very odd situation. And I guess it sort of helps explain why there weren’t more stories about what was happening inside the NHL bubble, because they didn’t they literally did not let anyone tell the stories, except, I guess, for official state hockey media.
S5: No, I thought the story was fascinating because on the one hand, the NHL it’s worked hasn’t gotten as much attention as the NBA, but they’ve had, I think, no cases for the players and frontline staff. I think they’ve had a few cases for like the ancillary staff that do work that don’t come into contact with the front line players and staff. They did this in two cities, Toronto and Edmonton. And Hockey update game six of the Stanley Cup finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars is tonight. Tampa Bay is up three games to two. But the descriptions from the players and the comments from the players make you feel again like none of this probably should have happened. The sort of the psychological and emotional deprivations that these guys seem to have suffered in this bubble were pretty staggering. I mean, here’s one quote that I really like. You walk inside from your meal room right into the rank, then you get to the end of your second day. And it was like, I haven’t been outside, seen the sun or breathed fresh air in forty eight hours. They had no families. They had no real diversions on the part of the story. Josh, that was intriguing was that the NHL sold this as if it was going to be like a vacation. They they printed brochures with like pictures of people fishing and playing golf and the players ended up doing almost none of it like especially in Edmonton.
S3: Yeah. I mean, the players are like that fly fishing thing was a lie. They did not let us go go fly fishing. I mean, Joel, the two things that I took away from this story are the players felt lied to like the league sold. And and I think you heard this from NBA players as well like that. They felt like they were told whatever they needed to be told, to get them in this bubble so that they could have the season start. So that’s the one thing. And the second thing was the players saying at the end, we will never do this again and we might actually have to do this again in order to have sports still. But then even during the even in the process of like the kicker of this article, they’re like, we’ll never do this again. And then like, well, maybe we do it again and they of the playoffs. But that’s going to I think, Joel, that’s going to be the big tension. And all of these leagues going into twenty, twenty one is like knowing what they know now and having gone through this experience, what players ever consent to doing this again?
S1: Yeah, I mean, this is going to be this might be the new normal for this country, for the world, that the bubble might be the only way that we can pull these sports off. With any degree of certainty, you know, the college except college football, right, which is which has gone so great so far. Right. If anything, it’s funny you brought up college football because it makes me think if they’re going to lie to NHL players who have a union, who have collectively bargained all the stuff about, you know, the accommodations, the amenities, all these are things that they said they were going to do that did not actually materialize. And at the end, the players are like pissed off about it. Imagine what’s happening to college athletes, you know what I mean? But, you know, if if they’re going to light it in the face of these guys, you know, some are millionaires, some are not. But whatever if they’re willing to do that, this thing, I don’t I don’t think that that’s something that’s uncommon and that we probably will hear a little bit more about it, you know, come January or something like that. I would have. I would have.
S5: Oh, yeah. I think we’re going to hear about it as soon as the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup is hoisted in an empty rank with weird ambient sound being played through loudspeakers. They’re supposed to start playing again, you know, January. What’s what’s the start time for these leagues? You know, a couple of months off and back at it. It will be very interesting to see how these unions, which were pretty cooperative, you know, the spirit of getting these seasons played was enormous because the incentives were perceived as enormous. Will they be as cooperative now? I mean, you know, will the NHL need a guarantee of FLY-FISHING players to return that well?
S3: Well, Adam Silver has talked about wanting to play in front of fans and, you know, baseball, which we’re moving into the postseason this week. They’re doing this hybrid model of early rounds at the home stadiums as they’ve done all regular season and then bubbles towards the end of the playoffs. Like and maybe that’s what we’ll we’ll see in other sports, a hybrid approach.
S1: We’ll look at the NFL. Let’s look at the NFL. This past week, they had their first player to miss a game, the Falcons quarterback, A.J. Terrell, because he tested positive at a practice on Friday. Right. Well, he had already been at practice, you know. I mean, so like potentially other players have been exposed, even though they’ve been tested. This it’s just it’s just going to be real easy because we’ve talked about how well things have gone so far. But we’re really not that far into this. And, you know, the virus isn’t going away. Like even if, like, teams are handling it it well early, like, you have to maintain the same level of diligence and like discipline to pull this off. And I don’t know, man. We’ll see.
S5: Well, what we haven’t seen is an indoor sport attempt to bring fans back. And that’s the that’s the challenge. It’s going to be facing the NHL and the NBA and the WNBA over the winter.
S7: One final thought on hockey is that the ratings have been way down.
S3: It has not caused any kind of political conversation about is it because hockey players are not speaking out against China or anything like that? There hasn’t been any speculation there. I wonder why. I actually don’t wonder why, but I don’t think that it’s because hockey is bad or dumb or any reason. Like, the obvious explanation for this is that there’s just so much going on right now. And if you look at sports cumulatively, they’re doing great ratings if you just add everything together. But we all have to make choices about what it is that we watch. You know, maybe, Joel, you can get three TVs that you have on all the time just in the background, and then you could have everything on. But like, it’s just so obvious, like what is happening here that the audience for television, just as a standard thing, has gone down. And so the numbers are going to be down just naturally. And then there’s just a bunch of different things competing for our attention. And plus, there’s like the presidential debate happening on on Tuesday and the finals are starting next day. I mean, it’s just like an insane time to be alive. And so the fact that, like, the Stanley Cup finals aren’t doing that well in the ratings, I mean, the markets aren’t the traditional hockey markets like says absolutely nothing about the sport and its health. It’s just like this is what’s happening in the world right now. And like, that’s it.
S1: Think about how unfair it is for the WNBA, for instance. You know, I mean, like we didn’t even discuss that plan right in the playoffs right now. And, you know, they’re not getting the coverage. I mean, I think the thing is, is that everybody that returned initially thought that they were going to have the spotlight to themselves. Right. Like they’re like, oh, yeah, this is a great time to have a captive audience. And then everybody came back. And so now you have to make decisions about what you’re going to watch.
S3: On this week’s bonus segment for Slate plus members, we’re going to discuss the success or the potential success of American soccer players abroad and we’ll discuss why that success or potential success is so important to one.
S7: Stefan Fatsis. His self-worth, his self conception.
S5: Just a quick note of apology for the sound quality and parts of our next segment, we had some difficulties with the recording. The boys basketball team at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark has won seven of the last nine New Jersey state championships. It recruits top talent from around the state and prospective talent from Africa. It sends kids to D1 programs every year. It’s sponsored by Adidas. And yet, here’s what Father Edwin Leahy, the school’s headmaster since 1972, thinks of the sport. I like basketball.
S8: I like watching our kids compete. But I’m not a fan of basketball right now in this country. I think it’s a nouveaux slavery. I think it’s a new way of buying and selling kids of color up and back. But basketball is presented to these kids is the way out. And it’s an illusion. It’s not a way out for them. They have a better chance of being a neurosurgeon than they do about being a professional basketball player. Get a lot of this is not going to work, though. The ones who make it is good for them, but the ones who kind of get left on the side is disastrous.
S5: That’s from a new 12 part documentary series, Benedikte Man, which was created by our good friend Jonathan Hock. Stefan Curry is an executive producer and appears in the series as a presenter. You can watch Benedek Men on Quimby. Each episode is about eight to 10 minutes long. Father Edwin Leahy joins us now. Welcome, Father. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. The father said in that clip, you sound pretty disdainful. Nuvo slavery. And yet you’ve got this powerhouse program. You’ve got a powerhouse soccer program. One of the unstated conflicts in Benedict men is the way that the school navigates the moral and ethical problems in high school basketball. What makes Saint Benedict’s different? How do you justify even having a program?
S9: Well, we justify because, number one, it does provide opportunities for some kids, but it also those students who are players also can be a help to the other kids in the school, all of whom think they can be players, too. And so when you’re able to say, OK, you go try to try to be a player and go out there with those guys and see if you can do it. And it becomes obvious to two guys that they really don’t can’t play on that level. And then the adults can get involved and help to have conversations about discovering other talents that you never know you had because you were already pigeonholed when you were younger into thinking that the only thing you could do is play basketball. You didn’t know anything about fencing. You didn’t know anything about water polo. You didn’t know anything about crew. Because who tells kids in the cities, especially African-Americans and our crew team, when they walk with a show at a regatta, everybody thinks they stole the show because they’re the only African-American guys of color there at the event. Right. So how would they know if those possibilities exist for them? Because we all the society doesn’t put that in front of them. So, you know, kids think they can do is play basketball or football. We don’t play American football or be an entertainer of some kind. But in fact, that’s what professional basketball and football as entertainers. I always think about Bill Russell. You guys are probably too young to remember Bill Russell when he played with the Celtics and they won all kinds of championships. Somebody asked him once why he retired when he did. And he said, I woke up one morning and realized that he was running around in front of 15000 people, half naked playing a kid’s game. And I decided it was time to stop. I also asked them, he said, how many how many back up at that point? They will be said how many colored when they asked them. This played for the University of San Francisco. He played at San Francisco and they won two national championships in a row. And they asked how many how many guys of color play for San Francisco? You said two at home, three on the road in four or five or whatever were behind that song. But that was the world then. And the world hasn’t changed that much for the majority of people. You just have to look at the situation in the country now, right, that we’re living with that it’s still a disaster for people of color and especially young men of color. Because we worked with many white people, we worked overtime and we were we were professionals. We knew exactly what we had to do in order to maintain the the economy and the country of slavery. We had to neutralize or worse, destroy the African male because it was the African culture still to this day are so, so male dominated. Right. You couldn’t have a strong African-American male and have slavery. You had to destroy the guy. The males humiliate them. We did. We did. And we still do it in a lot of ways. So giving a voice to these to these young men and now young women, because they barged in on the place, but they’ve given a voice to these young men, is what we really work overtime trying to do and letting kids discover things for themselves rather than us imposing it. Does that make sense to you that helping them to discover other talents that they have?
S1: I’m just sort of curious. I would like to know where you got your race politics from. Can you just talk to me a little bit about the evolution of this? And were you sort of came to this revelation about what society did to black people and black men in particular?
S9: So we I ate between 60 and 70 to hear post revolution uprising. History is commented on in different ways here in Berkeley. In fact, now it’s always talked about about riots. It’s always about rioting. It’s the only word the news media, it’s rioting when white people do it. It’s a revolution. Black people do it. It’s a riot. So at any rate, our school closed because of all kinds of stuff in the city and the declining numbers of kids in the school. In nineteen seventy two, we lost 14 men from our religious community, from our monastery. They went to another place about twenty two miles west in the Monastir. So we were sitting here deciding what what we going to do. And I’ll make a long story short. We decided to do an educational venture 13 months later. On July 2nd, 1973, we opened an educational venture, but it was not St. Patrick’s Prep. We did not call it politics, but we tried that.
S10: We changed local with stationery. Why? Why and then why? The answer to why it became clear? Because most people and most people say, you know, I’m not I’m not racist white people, I’m not racist like one black friend and all that kind of stuff. Racism is in all of us. Why didn’t we call it? It had one hundred and four year old history. It was easy to call the people, the 14 men who left us, but those of us who stayed here, we’re the good guys. We weren’t racist. Well, why do you call respectively white racist racism? Racism is America’s original sin in all of us, of white people. It’s in all of us. Right. So at any rate, we don’t call it one night at a parents meeting a year or two in Khawam Senior LMB, the God of Karl and Junior was a student, a secondary one by the. We’re going to ask you a question. What’s up? So how come we didn’t have the same thing with its storied history, which is all of you? Now, let’s talk about the center. I didn’t have an answer for. I certainly don’t. I think you just reopened. So what we learned from that is what Bill Wilson knew when he started like Alcoholics Anonymous, which was to take the cotton out of our ears and stick it in our mouth, shut up and to listen. And people people may be poor, but they’re not stupid. So people we teach us in the community how we might be able to walk with them and accompany them through through life. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for 40 years. Folks in town and embraced us, put their arms around us and taught us how we might be able to be help because of our our influence, our leverage in the greater society.
S3: So how do you talk to the basketball players? You mentioned talking to the student body about how the stuff can be a delusion. But for the actual players on the team who are able to use basketball as a vehicle to get an education to maybe change their family situation. How do you speak to them about a thing that for most people actually has a delusion, but for them isn’t?
S10: Yeah. Well, one of the ones I speak to them by the people that we put in front. Mortel, for example, who happens to be a great coach, who and Jonathan got a great line from English. What we do here is an advanced placement course in basketball. So putting the best people possible in front of the kids so that they have a chance of achieving their their desired passion is one of the things that I can do. And then when I go to practice most days. And I go to most of our practices of all the various activities and and to encourage the kids and to encourage them and talk to them, give them a bad time to sleep, push hot shots, get some sometimes going and they go out of their minds over the encouragement. That’s what most of life is about, relationships. It’s just about encouragement.
S5: One of the things that comes comes out in the series is that, look, you’re not immune to the selfishness of of high school basketball, the scholarship pressure, the you pressure, the recruitment. The family is one kid in the in the series says I need to do my thing, get the schools. I want to look at me. There’s a father in the series who says we’re in the C.J. Wilcher business right now. When he decides to shut the player down for a season because got a bad ankle, you know, there’s a hole. You’ve got a hard ass coach. There’s still the pressure and the desire to win. Does that all jibe together? Is it the sort of the school’s philosophy that helps you feel like that works, that makes it different from your run of the mill basketball factory?
S10: Yes, I think so, because you walk in our front door or you see a sign that says, whatever, it’s my brother and my sister to me. That’s why that’s one of the struggles that Jonathan captured in telling the story, is that in order for us to be honest, we have to be willing to give up what I want for what we need. That’s how you go community and what’s been destroyed, the sense of community. That’s the struggle that any team given up. What I want to what we need. When you have people telling you you’ve got to make sure you get your questions, a conflict that goes on and then to see if it really pulls relief is when you see a shot, a 16 year old teenager become an asset. That’s and that’s what that’s what’s the sad part about it is that they become an asset to each other, to the handler, for the ACLU person, or even in some cases to their parent, they become an asset. Is I talk about the parents about this all the time. Is a million people that can be your coach or your agent is one person in the world. It can be your father and there’s one that can be your mother. So be his father, will be his mother, try to be his agent, somebody else.
S1: You know, can I say just a quick follow up on that then? Because, you know, it did come up and even Steph Curry, who I think is one of the producers, you know, position Saint Benedict as a, you know, antidote to today’s me first coach, everyth basketball. Well, let me ask you this. So wouldn’t it be easier for St. Benedict’s to to sort of pull off on that by not recruiting as many talented players? Because that was one of the things that I thought of. I was like, well, you’re sort of setting it up for there to be this tension between kids who rightfully are thinking about their future and the greater glory of the program, which doesn’t you know, that’s that’s awesome. But that also doesn’t do much for them individually. So why wouldn’t it be helpful to maybe think about team building in that way?
S10: Yeah, here’s the problem. In terms of me, I we we got this venture going back in seventy three and we had a basketball team. I went to a game and we we must have gotten beaten by seventy five points. I have to walk. At that point I thought I was going to throw up. I came back and I swore that day that I would never put guys in color in a situation where they get rolled over like that. But yeah, but in that case, a team of mostly white kids never told me that. So we compete pretty high level in all of our activities, whether it’s crew or fencing or whatever. So in order to do that in the world that we compete in, you have to have on that level. That’s kind of what sets my conscience. Sometimes I go.
S5: Father Edwin Leahy is the headmaster at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark. The basketball team there is the subject of a new series on Kibbie called Benedict Mann. Father Leahy, thanks so much for coming on the show.
S9: Thank you very much, Brian Todd. Appreciate your interest.
S7: Now it is time for after balls and Joel, you have the St. Benedict’s basketball alumni list up on your screen.
S1: Yeah, I do. There’s a there’s a bunch of them walk through that for us. All right. Well, they’re not all basketball players, but we can start out by saying that P.J. Carlesimo, his dad, is a graduate from there, like in the nineteen thirties. So, OK, you’ve got that. Isaiah Briscoe, Trevon Duval, who played his freshman year at Duke, Tyler Ennis, who else we got here? Oh, this is the one that kind of blew me away, I think blew us all the way right. J.R. Smith, St. Benedict’s graduate, NBA Finals, NBA Finals, Lakers. Twenty twenty eight. J.R. Smith, Lance Thomas, Samardzic Samuels. I think that’s the list I’ve got in front of me right now. I’m sure there’s one G. Gordon Liddy is also a Saint Benedict’s great. They’ll talk about that. Is that sort of Samuel G.
S3: Gordon Liddy, I feel like out of that group, the one that gave me the most remember remember this guy Vibe’s with somebody? Samuels Yeah. So why don’t we why don’t we honor him? He went to Louisville. Stefan What is your son?
S5: Samuels in nineteen seventy one. I was eight years old and very into the NFL, idolized Fran Tarkenton, collected many helmets from IHOP, ate TV dinners in front of this week in pro football that November. Forty eight percent of American households tuned in to the ABC movie of the week, Brian’s song. I almost certainly watched it then. And whenever it aired the next few years, I definitely cried. Everyone cried. I’m sure hearing Michel Legrand score still makes people cry. Da da da da da da. Brian’s song For Anyone Unfamiliar is about the relationship between the black Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers and his white backup, Brian Piccolo, who gets cancer and dies at the age of twenty six. It was based on Chapter six of Sayer’s autobiography, I Am Third. The book was published just six months after Piccolo’s death in June 1970, and Sayer’s was still in the league when the movie debuted. I watched Brian’s song after Sayer’s himself died last week. It mostly holds up the acting is good Billy D. Williams Assayas, James Caan as Piccolo, Jack Warden as George Halas. And most of the tear jerking scenes are understated, like Sayers famous speech in which he asks and NFL Awards banquet to pray for his dying buddy.
S11: I love Brad. And I like all of you to listen to. And tonight, Pitney’s.
S5: Please ask God to love him, but there’s one part of Brian’s song that does not hold up at all that is in fact difficult to watch and process today, and that’s the way it addresses race. Here, for instance, is a scene in which a reporter played by pioneering Chinese American TV anchor and soccer announcer Mario Machado asks Picolo about rooming with Sayer’s. They were the first interracial roommates on the bears, not by choice, but at the suggestion of a black coach, captain of the team. And they were just the second in the NFL.
S12: You’re Brian Piccolo Piccolo, P.I. Siciliano. You two are the only black and white player rooming together on the team. Any problems so far?
S5: She doesn’t use a bathroom because, you know, segregated washrooms, haha, when Picolo watches a Bears game from his hospital bed and sees Sayer’s chasing a bouncing ball, he shouts in frustration, Pick it up. It’s like the ball was wearing a white sheet. Talking to Sayer’s on the phone, Picolo says, They tell me you gave me a pint of blood and that explains it. I’ve had this craving for chitlins all day, but the most jarring scene is one in which Picolo tries to motivate an exhausted Sayer’s to do a few more leg extensions during his rehab from ACL surgery. Picolo calls him the N-word twice. Sayer’s isn’t angry or offended. He laughs convulsively. And then both men break down in hysterics. It’s mind boggling to think that this was on prime time network television and half the country was watching in. I am third, Sayers recounted other examples, Picolo, telling a waitress who asked Sayer’s his name that quote, They all look alike and quote, Picolo, calling Sayer’s the N-word when he watched him fumble on TV. But Sayer’s said that’s just how they were. The best thing about our relationship, he wrote in I Am Third, was that we could kill each other all the time about race. It was a way, I guess, of easing into each man’s world. It helped take the strangeness out of it. Sayer’s and Picolo weren’t oblivious to the times when Picolo was a star at all. White Wake Forest in 1963, he famously put his arm around Marilyns Darrel Hill, the only black player in the axi to silence an abusive geering wake student section. And I am third. Sayers described being arrested as an undergraduate at Kansas during a sit in at the Chancellor’s office to protest housing discrimination in fraternities and sororities after he became an NFL star. Sayer’s donated speaking fees to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and worked with Jesse Jackson on Operation Breadbasket, which used boycotts to pressure white businesses to hire black employees and buy from black suppliers. Brian’s song doesn’t mention any of that, or the nation’s convulsive political and cultural background of the Times. Instead, it uses a white guy dropping the N-word and his black buddy laughing about it as a way to acknowledge and diffuse in a sanitized, nonconfrontational way the racial tension in America for network TV in 1971 that was safe and maybe even progressive Sayer’s and Picolo, black and white, transcending skin color to share deep and genuine emotional bond. It was a good message. But 50 years later, it’s worth noting that while Brian’s song portrays the black guy as the beloved hero and loyal friend, caring, intelligent, respected, his heroism is in the service of the white guy who dies, for whom the audience weeps, and the black guy is the one who has to shrug off being called the N-word and laugh along with lighthearted or not racist jokes. It must have been incredibly tiresome for singers, and I am. Third, Sayers described another white bear’s teammate who used the N-word to mean the N-word and spread a rumor that Sayer’s was a militant because he had a black is beautiful bumper sticker on his car, a rumor that almost cost Sangers a business deal that didn’t make the movie either. Nor did this anecdote from the book. Sayers noted that he and Picolo began rooming together in the summer of 1967 during a team trip to Birmingham, Alabama. You can bet we didn’t have dinner together in Birmingham that weekend, Sayers wrote. We joked about it a lot, but we went our separate ways.
S1: Oh, that’s good. I guess I understand why I’ve never seen Brian’s song or why nobody around me has any particular affection for it.
S3: Do we have any sense of whether what Sayers said about Picolo in the autobiography is sincere or whether it was? I mean, athlete memoirs are not always the unvarnished truth.
S5: Yeah, I mean, I read most of the of I am third over the weekend and it really does feel like this was sort of the way that they were buddies. This was the language they used. And Sayers just went along with that and was like, oh, pechman pick, you got to stop that. But it’s really, really difficult to read and certainly to listen to now. But America was a fucked up place and remains a fucked up place 50 years later. It’s really striking to me that, you know, that made it onto network television and the message that it sent. I mean, as a little white kid watching that all as I mentioned to Joel before, we before the show, you know, what did that do? It sanctioned the use of that language. It was like that’s how black people and white people can get along. It was OK for white people to do that.
S1: I don’t know how Gale Sayers probably felt about Brian Piccolo, like, you know, for real, like we will never be able to sort of scratch the surface of that. But I probably would say this, given the circumstances in the time that probably was the nicest white person to Gale Sayers and that even under those circumstances, that is our show for today.
S2: Our producer is most Kaplin Telson, the Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, dot com slash hang up. You can email us and hang up at sleep. Dot com for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine remembers. I’m OBD and thanks for listening.
S3: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members and Stefan, this weekend was a big one for American soccer American soccer players abroad. Western McKenny started for Juventus in Syria and Italy in a big game against Roma, apparently didn’t play very well, but who cares? He was on the field. Maybe, maybe we should care a little bit. And then there are reports that Sergio Dast, 19 year old dual national Dutch American player, has a deal that is done with Barcelona, which is huge. And so along with Christian Plesac, Tyler Adams in the Champions League, this is in arguably the heyday for American soccer players in the best leagues in Europe.
S5: Oh, and you didn’t mention everybody else going to run them down. There’s another American at Barcelona who’s been in the their academy, Conrad de la Fuente. He’s 19, grana, 17 years old. Oh, yeah. Cheering Yeah. Claudio Reyna, he’s starting from Borussia Dortmund and Germany scored his first Bundesliga goal last week. You mentioned Tyler Adams. Defender Chris Richards debuted for Bayern Munich. Anthony Robinson debuted in the Premier League for Fulham. Just Sargent played 90 minutes for Evert or Bremen. John Brooks, he’s been on the national team. He’s playing in the Bundesliga. A guy got that transferred from MLS. Reggie Cannon is playing in the top division in Portugal. There are more players. Didn’t even mention Zach. Stefan, the goalkeeper, got his first start for Manchester City.
S3: I can only imagine, like if the Americans are doing this well, how how good the Trinidad and Tobago players must be doing in Europe, given that they beat the US and World Cup qualifying.
S5: They must be killing it, killing it, killing it. So, you know, the immediate reaction. And if you want to read more about this, Patrick Redford has a good piece in defector that will link to is that American soccer fans are irrational people because we want to believe that we should win the World Cup and that irrationality has been in existence for a long time, even when it was undeserved. But now now it really feels like it might be deserved. Like if not twenty twenty to the United States is hosting the World Cup in twenty twenty six with Mexico and Canada. And by then these players are going to be somewhere between 21 and 30 years old and there’s probably a few behind them by eight by 2026 that are going to be national team players. So it’s not unrealistic.
S1: Hope so. Do we like Serbia in basketball? Like basically, you know, we’re like over performing and sending our players, you know, across the pond. And now it’s like we take a lot of national pride and like have, you know, producing players and succeeding despite all odds here in America.
S5: No, that’s exactly the parallel. And the trick for American soccer fans has always been to accept. Not that it was hard to that you want to get better. You got to go to Europe. And the the you know, they’re still going to be players from Major League Soccer that are going to be on the national team. But now there’s a feeling that, oh, finally, for the first time in history, there are multiple players playing for not just one or two good teams in Europe, but from multiple teams in Europe, but not just good teams in Europe, but for Chelsea and Manchester City and Juventus and top teams in Germany, it’s really you know, it it makes me feel good. I don’t know why it makes me feel good, but it makes me feel good.
S3: Well, so, Joel, the thing to nationalism, national. Well, but it’s that but it’s also just this, like, baseline feeling of insecurity, an American priority that Americans who are fans of soccer feel just at a low level every day of their lives. Just this idea that, like we’re playing this game that doesn’t belong to us and we are impostors and that any form of validation like, oh, that’s like twelve year old is in the Barcelona Academy like that, that you get like a little endorphin rush. And I’m wondering if, you know, you mentioned like the dbu thing earlier, like there are all these like dumb kind of signifiers of pride that we have, whether it’s in our nation or our school or our city. Like for you, the thing that always comes up is you like mention anyone who has any, like, connection to Houston at all.
S1: We’re all over the place. Did you did you notice the day that this past week that it turned out that Houston has the most NFL players in the league? You know, we produced we had the most NFL products Houston does right now. Just go ahead. Continue. Yes, sir.
S3: Is that because of an inferiority complex? Are you a already complex? Houston, but go ahead. Yeah, it’s so. But is it because I don’t know, I can I can recover from that. Is it the is it that you want people to, like, know that Houston is out here and doing things like why is it is it are you, like performing that for the world or is it more for yourself and you just like and if other people happen to hear it, then that’s OK too.
S1: That’s a good question. Why are you really getting deep here? I don’t know about you stuff, but it just reminds me. I don’t know. I mean, maybe it speaks. It speaks well of me. You know, I’m from Houston. I was an athlete down there. And it lets you know that I well, you know, like, if Houston sucked and you and you’re from there, then it’s like I would find something. I mean, about you. I would yeah. I would say I’d be like, well, we had the best Tex Mex in the country or something like that. Or we do the Texas does the best barbecue. I’d find something else to have prior to World Cup of barbecue. Yes. Right. Yeah. So I guess yeah. I guess like I don’t know, I just have to think of with soccer though Stephanie, you help me so you know, I don’t know. And you too Josh. I mean you don’t have to care about soccer. You know, I understand like you know, like it’s not like soccer was a sport that was like huge growing up, you know? I mean, well, Stefan played in high school, OK, but like, that’s that a sport that you would you like when you were six years old, you were excited about soccer?
S5: Well, there wasn’t much to watch on TV. And I was six years out of The Spectator. There was a game of the week on public television. Usually Mario Machado, the guy mentioned my after ball, was one of the hosts. I mean, I think it was partly cultural. You know, I’ve Greek background. My brother played well. He was a good player. He played in college in the seventies. So I was always kind of into the sport. You know, we’d go to Greece in the summer and I’d play in the village with all the other kids. So I always felt a connection to soccer, but it was impossible to be a, you know, a fan of the national team. And that that thought didn’t exist in the 70s.
S1: Why didn’t you just root for Greece now? I mean, because that’s probably what I would have done.
S5: Well, I did. I mean, when I went to Greece, I still have a newspaper clipping of me interviewing the head coach of Olympiacos who was Greek American and actually coached the American the US national team for a time in the 1980s. A guy named Alkies Pantagruel. Yes. And there’s a picture of me and him in the paper. And the headline was like, you know, story of his life. American journalist interviews, Greek soccer coach. Oh, I was always into the sport. And the inferiority part is baked into being an American soccer fan so that it was, you know, people making fun of American soccer players, even in the ones that made it over to Europe, you know, so, you know, we’d make the World Cup and go out in the first round or even advance. But there’s always American soccer as a joke or, you know, it’s football and the word soccer, like all of those little jibes, particularly from the English, always bugged me as an adult. So this this promise of US soccer for the last three decades finally maybe coming to some level of fulfillment with all of the fits and starts that we’ve experienced. Feels good. And we were pessimistic. Josh, you know, when the US didn’t qualify in twenty eighteen and the player pool looked pretty bare and we’ve hired another American coach to lead the national team and that no one is super excited about. But the validation now and for whatever reasons, you know, because of youth programs or whatever appears to be tangible. And that tangible stuff is what American soccer fans hang on to.
S3: Yeah. And I think the other reason is that, first off, I think for me, too, and a lot of people who follow the U.S. national team is that it’s a safe expression of nationalist fervor because it’s not a sport that Americans dominate. And it feels like kind of less churlish an ugly American to like be really like pro America in this specific context at a time when, like being pro-American, a lot of other context feels like wrong and stupid.
S5: Which is why I think Josh also that I felt a little queasiness rooting for the the U.S. women at times because the expression of American dominance always hasn’t looked, you know, palatable or. Right. Comfortable for the first time.
S1: American soccer accurately reflects our standing in the world now, you know. Yeah.
S5: Yeah. So I wonder how we’re going to feel when we actually fulfill the promise if if you know, I think when I’m in Houston and Houston’s dominance in the NFL reflects its stature and you guys promise me that Freddy Adu is going to be good, I suppose I get excited about that.
S1: And that didn’t happen. And just what I mean I mean, I just I’m like, I don’t want to get burned it until we get chilian embrapa. That’s my dude. I like that. That’s my dude.
S3: You’re saying if we get one of them, then you know the bad news for the US, we’ll never get Chilian and buy back the stupid FIFA.
S1: One time transferal, hey, dream, dream, dream, play a large one, played for the dream team once.
S3: So, you know, anything’s possible. I guess maybe they could get him at an office. He could he could become a US citizen and change his national affiliation once. Right, Stefan? Now, I think that ship has sailed. Well, look, we’ll figure it out. We’ll get we’ll get the paperwork on.
S5: If it’s what it takes for for Joel to start liking soccer. I mean, maybe we can get Killen and Bobby to move to Houston.
S1: Oh, do it him, Barry. I’ll be down there together with sir.
S3: Thank you. Sleepless members will be back with more talk of jingoism and Houston next week, Bewell.