S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hello I’m Josh Levine Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen. This is Slate’s sports podcasting up and listen for the week of September 16th two and 18. This week’s show. MATT BROWN of SB Nation will join us to talk about California’s Fair Pay to Play Act the bill that could at last allow college athletes to profit off of their names images and likenesses. Joe Drape of the New York Times also be here to discuss the pushing up of a positive drug test for last year’s Triple Crown winning horse justify. And finally former NFL offensive lineman Ryan Callahan will be here for a conversation about his new memoir My Life on the line which he explains what it was like to play in the NFL while in the closet.
S3: Joining me inside Washington D.C. studio is Stefan Fatsis author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello Stefan. Hello Josh. It’s a tough day from here in the studio especially for me.
S4: Some of our older NFL players going through a rough time as of time are recording this Ben Roethlisberger at for the air with an elbow no feel for that guy. Drew Brees potential thumb surgery and his future Adam banditry at the time we’re recording this. We do not now. Terry’s fate but he just missed two extra points. He talked ominously about making an announcement could be done so he could 46 years old.
S3: Some would say that he had a long and productive NFL career Hall of Fame career. I would just choose to focus on his late career struggles and say that that’s how we should remember him. No stop that blasphemy.
S5: But in the NFL since 1995.
S6: Well your idol so everybody be gentle. Stefan it’s a rough day for him.
S7: Last week the California state legislature unanimously passed a bill the Fair Pay to Play Act that would allow NCAA athletes to get some cash in their pockets. The bill which is awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. He has 30 days to sign it. It would not let schools give athletes money directly but it would allow athletes to be compensated by outside entities for their use of their names images and likenesses. Bernie Sanders and LeBron James a classic duo have come out in favor of the bill LeBron said it would allow college athletes to responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create the NCAA for its part has called the legislation unconstitutional and harmful and said it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics. Joining us now is Matt Brown of SB Nation. He wrote about the Fair Pay to play act in his newsletter last week that newsletter is called extra points. That’s great. You should subscribe. Matt thanks for joining us.
S8: Of course thank you for having me.
S7: Let’s start Matt by explaining what this bill would allow college athletes to do. This will also serve as a brief summary of what the NCAA currently does not allow them to do so for instance get their own shoe deals get compensated for their likenesses being used in video games. Coach at basketball camps or lacrosse camps or swimming camps during the offseason for pay. Is that basically the right idea.
S8: Yeah essentially the right idea that the current status quo right now is that an athlete can’t get money for anything even something very trivial. You know someone giving them two hundred dollars to help pay for dinner outside of some very specific circumstances. They’re not they’re not able to get that. They have myriad restrictions on whether where they can play and this bill allows student athletes potentially with a few restrictions then to be able to get compensated by outside entities. I think it’s an important distinction to school itself it’s not cutting the check. This would be for outside interested parties whether that is a shoe company or a videogame company or perhaps something substantially more local like you know Bob’s Ford dealership in Tuscaloosa Alabama.
S9: Right. And that’s the great misinterpretation here you know on the on the opposite side of this argument are the sky is falling people who say that oh this is going to lead to bankrupting universities and what are you gonna do and you have to pay everybody and what’s the golf player going to get when the football players getting. But this is merely the next step and a really small step in my has dimension toward the acknowledgement of some free market based principles for college athletes.
S10: Yeah I just don’t have a whole lot of patience for a lot of the sky is falling crowd. The feedback that I hear a lot from college sports fans is oh my gosh if this happens only the wealthy and powerful programs are gonna be able to find people to cut checks for their athletes right. Like there’s there’s unlikely to be a car dealership next in northern Illinois that’s going to go pay a linebacker 100 grand. But surely that might happen in Alabama and Auburn. And you know to that I think well I mean maybe but it’s not like this college athletics is a sport with a history of parity anyway like the album and the Alabama’s. You’ll have states there getting the best recruits whether we’re paying people above the board or not. All this does is is potentially take a little bit of the underground economy and bring it above board.
S4: Yeah and what sports economists or non sports economists will tell you is that actually injecting more money would increase parody that for instance like the Yankees before free agency actually won the World Series more often than they did afterwards.
S7: And the thing that I found so interesting about this in California is anytime Matt when our country is riven by partisanship. This was a 72 to 0 vote. You have like free market people and civil rights people come in together and you know the thing that I often find is that when people who don’t follow college sports all you have to do to radicalize them is tell them about what the rules are that are currently on the books and they’re like wow that is insane. We can’t stand for that. And that seems like what has happened in California.
S11: Which leads me to wonder like who are the people that continue to sort of adamantly defend the NCAA as monopolistic and cartel approach to college athletics. When I saw NFL season. Right. But when you tell them you know it’s like again like these are in their real lives. They’re either like free market defenders or they are civil rights activists like you just pointed out. And yet the myopia that develops around college sports is really staggering in its in its in its strength.
S10: You’re completely right. It’s very interesting to me that I feel like attitudes about this have changed very quickly over the last decade. You know I think if you had asked sportswriters or a lot of college sports fans in the late 80s and you compared them to you will if people are thinking now that there’d be a huge change in now you’re right. Not only is it really bipartisan in California you have a relatively conservative U.S. Representative from North Carolina who has been proposing some of these reforms. And we have statehouses in Colorado in Washington most recently in South Carolina that have brought some level that the exact lot of proposed bills have differed from California a little bit. But challenging the current status quo.
S8: And it’s not just from progressive Democrats it’s from conservative Republicans. I am as well I imagine that if you’re able to get into deep into SCC country and convince people that this would help their programs you’re going to find people making all kinds of philosophical changes. We joked about this at Northwestern when some players are contemplating unionization like this might be the thing that ends right to work in the south right if people realize that this might help their football teams. You know that might that might change him some opinions in statehouses.
S9: What historically has happened with these sorts of issues is that the NCAA puts up this tremendous fight. It’s going to destroy college sports. No one’s gonna have any money. We’re going to have to cut schools and we’ve already seen athletic cut cut sports rewards seeing athletic directors say that in the last week. And then there is this period of negotiation and compromise where the NCAA gives a little bit so incrementally. You know in the past it’s been more food allowances for athletes after Shabazz Napier said that he went to bed hungry and then it was these stipends form for playing.
S12: And now we’ve got you know in this case we’ve got the NCAA Mark Emmert the head of the NCAA really sort of exercising this terrifically convoluted logic to justify not giving athletes the rights to their names image or likenesses. But I think the California bill and the legislator Nancy Skinner who wrote it are actually pretty smart here. They’re delaying implementation until 2023 which gives time either for legal challenges or more logically for college sports to come around and be able to sort of slow walk the change.
S8: I think that’s that’s exactly what’s going to happen. You know right now there’s already Nancy Dublin working group of athletic directors and university presidents and you know folks associated with the sport on not just the Division 1 level but all the way down to Division Three who are studying reforms to like this policy. And I believe that they’re supposed to make an update in October and you’re right that what this does and I think it’s very important this is happening in California right. Because the NCAA L.A. has just come out and said listen this is going to potentially impact your ability to participate in NCAA ballet tournaments here we might have to kick some of you some of the schools out and maybe if it was Delaware or Vermont or some smaller state that doesn’t have that clout that proposes maybe density ballet would’ve been able to strong arm which they’ve been able to do historically but California has so many schools so many schools that are enormous brands that if you tried to kick all of them out I would imagine CBS who has the heart you know broadcasting contract with the NCAA basketball tournament or capital one or some of these brands are going to have some follow up questions. When you mess with the money that really forces the NCAA to make some changes here. So we have we have a couple of a couple of years where I would imagine that there might be some additional tweaks to this law and to other laws that might come up here. But I would be blown away if by 2023 we don’t if not much earlier we don’t have a system that will allow football basketball players and others to be able to have some semblance of likeness rights.
S4: There’s some similarity here to the fight over vehicle emissions standards and California kind of setting policy for the nation getting out in front of the show and kind of forcing the issue. And you’ve seen with the vehicle emissions standards that federal agencies are trying to you know strip California of its right to set a standard. The Department of Justice might get involved. Do we have a sense Matt of whether the NCAA is going to try or will be able to say that like California like you don’t actually have the right to set policy for anyone or anything and just try to get this taken off the books if near some signs.
S8: I’m sure they’re going to try. I mean my understanding is that the NCAA ablaze has floated this argument that the California bill might in fact be unconstitutional and you know I think to what degree the interstate commerce clause comes into effect here I think is outside of my pay grade as a jokey sports blogger but I’m like one of the three that’s not an attorney but many of the economists who were involved with writing the California bill said like this is ridiculous. I think there’s a story up right now at the American Prospect that kind of criticizes that constitutional argument. So certainly they’re going to try. I don’t think that’s especially likely. And to the extent that the NCAA can be successful in getting to fix this legislation I think will depend on what additional pressure from other state houses they get. You know if the big population center state like Texas or Florida or maybe somebody in the Midwest advances something very similar. I don’t really see a way that the NCAA I can just kind of put their fingers in their ears and pretend like it’s not happening.
S13: The NCAA isn’t stupid either I mean they’ve been embroiled in anti-trust cases they’ve been embroiled in the O’Bannon case. I mean the more likely have come here is that the lawyers that the NCAA craft logical solutions that get some sort of control over the way that athletes use their name image and likeness in your newsletter you quote a law firm you quote sports economist. You know there are ways to do this right. Make sure that the money you get from any sort of likeness rights it goes into a fund or there’s some connection to education. There are ways for sort of you know to reach some sort of compromise here so that the athletes do get compensated.
S8: But the NCAA can retain for now its imprimatur of amateurism and equality and the sausage making process here is what’s really going to be fascinating to me because I think a lot of really credible people have advanced this argument that likeness rights are a civil rights issue. You know every other student on campus is able to monetize those rights and so virtually any abridgement of those rights is would still be a civil rights violation no talent telling somebody that you can always sell your likeness rights to the car dealership and then not get paid until unless you graduate especially if you’re trying to pursue a professional football career where you might not graduate anyway.
S14: Maybe that’s not fair trying to cap the amount of money that you might that you might get that if it’s a civil rights violation that’s not fair either. I have a suspicion that many of the lawmakers or people who are involved in actually crafting this policy might not be so ideological in their approach to making these changes here. But I imagine that any kind of compromise is still going to be criticized by I think a lot of people. Do you still have it. I might be a generational thing but a lot of people who don’t want to see any changes at all and some folks who I think are going to see any kind of abridgement as being a concern. I imagine you’re going to see something where the ANC of Lincoln could walk away saying like this is still tethered to education. So it’s actually OK I don’t know if that’s going to be where this issue finally rests.
S1: Right. I think that they’re going to try to do that whether they succeed or not. Open question.
S4: Yeah I mean Matt you said in your post that you don’t view that you’re not as hard line on this issue as maybe some people are where you know if the compromise that comes out here is all right let’s tether this does education in some way. Let’s cap the amount that college athletes can receive let’s restrict it in some way. I think you would put yourself in the category of like all right. That’s better than the current system. That’s better than nothing. But there are a lot of people and I think maybe I would put myself more in the hardline category that’s like compromise never that would be better than we are today but would still constitute an absurd abridgement of civil rights to use your own terminology against you.
S7: And I’m not settling for that man.
S11: Especially when when you look long term it is inevitable that college athletes are going to get paid. And this is all a gradual slow walk toward compensation. And I think real compensation whether it’s in five years or 10 years or 20 years or 50 years. College athletes are going to get paid for their value and their contribution.
S4: Well then maybe it’s a strategy question matters is a compromise position actually delaying the inevitable and we should just push to get it out of the way. All in one shot.
S14: You know I think some of that might depend on what kind of additional leverage can be placed upon the NCAA. Here in the next two years you know if if South Carolina if that if that proposed bill and that one is interesting I think because that would actually give schools the ability to cut some checks you know granted not massive ones but additional stipends if other states are following them and you’re able to really kind of push us from a position of strength and by all means you know go and get the absolute best deal you possibly can if you’re going alone or mostly alone. That is a strategy question and maybe that kind of goes into how you feel about the best way to to go after progress generally. Do you prefer it incrementalist approach or you try to get the single biggest thing you possibly can. I certainly I sympathize intellectually with the argument that we should have no restrictions. And I would probably have some significant changes to what the NCAA blight is as an organization maybe that’s fine. I maybe it maybe I’m just a little bit more skeptical. Having studied the history of this organization the history of the sport here for a little while there’s not a ton of examples where there’s been really rapid change very quickly. They simply have to just drag their feet on everything and we’ll see how quickly they’re able to get to get those feet tracked so let’s actually think about some hypotheticals of how this might work.
S4: And we talked about how a lot of the objections here are absurd and just counterfactual. But let’s say there is a little bit of a free for all and you know a player at LSU you know gets five hundred thousand dollars for some no show job that’s like actually a fake endorsement. He sounds like one autograph for a rich person. It’s considered an autograph signing. I mean this like proliferates all around the whole country like that I think is the thing that a lot of people would object to say that it’s a farce that it’s becoming more like professional sports like what do we say to that and what do we think about it. I mean I personally have no problem with that at all.
S11: But I’m willing to acknowledge and met that other people would disagree and then to add to that the New York Times did a piece about this before the bill was finally passed and it added that sort of speculative graph like what if a quarterback reaches a marketing agreement with a casino or a marijuana dispensary. So you know some concern trolling I’m concerned trolling too.
S10: Yeah I mean on one hand I could see the idea of trying to limit potential sponsorship groups away from maybe controversial companies like a strip club or wanted to you know the dispensary or something. But you know those are generally things that are collectively bargain. Right. And if athletes don’t have that ability right now and so if you’re going to restrict that ideal you’re giving them something in return. My my my question my follow up questions if someone is complaining about this one I want them to articulate exactly like why does that bother you. You know did the fact that there’s a left tackle LSU making two hundred thousand dollars. Well clearly his value is that did you think. How specifically does that compromise the sport. The other thing is these things have been going on for almost 100 years. You know this is one hundred fiftieth anniversary of college football and you can go back about 140 years and you can find people at Princeton and Yale and at Chicago get it. You know there were bagmen these interactions are still happening now rather than having it you know put out on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. It’s there were these discussions are happening in message boards and on Twitter but they’re still happening and the bags are still being dropped. We’re still able to enjoy the sport. So if someone is saying that my ability to enjoy college football depends on me not knowing about that money even though that money is still being exchanged I don’t want to interrogate that a little bit more. I don’t think that changes the power dynamic or what makes the sport particularly interesting.
S15: Yeah. And I think that in addition to all these hypotheticals we also need to focus on for instance the USCF kicker who was ruled ineligible because he had a YouTube channel and that’s like selling ads or monetizing videos on YouTube channel. So I guess it’s a question of like do you fear something that could potentially happen in the future where like the negative outcome is players get money or are you offended by the fact that nobody in any realm of college sports weather and big time sports whether they’re famous or not. Can you do anything as a compared to other students like you can’t teach us when less than if you’re a swimmer. Like what. What are you. What offends you more.
S10: Yeah. And it’s honestly it’s that second thing I feel like we don’t talk about quite as much in this conversation. Certainly the star basketball player or the elite wide receiver is going to be a big beneficiary of this. And that’s great because the value of their labor is important. But you know a group that I think I don’t think we talk about as much are especially women athletes or people who are participating in Olympic sports that I think have greater marketability and value for their likeness rights than maybe we might think.
S14: You know there’s there’s a decent chunk of people who I think are really good women’s basketball players who especially in college markets that aren’t in major metropolitan areas would be able to get nontrivial amount of money for it for cutting some of these deals certainly. You know people who are who are popular and successful in Olympic sports get at the very least you know charge some money to go to parties to be you know Instagram influencers or you know some of these things here on campus. And the idea of anybody who is not getting any money getting even just a little bit of money away from the spotlight. I think that’s that’s a big positive here. And if you if there’s a lot of concern trolling about the status of like swimming or golf or some other sports in the event of players getting actual money.
S10: I think if you think about it that way like oh actually this is still good for those athletes too.
S4: MATT BROWN Is that has been Asian his newsletter is called extra points. We’ll put a link to it on our show page. Matt thank you very much.
S16: No problem. Thanks for having me.
S7: Last week the New York Times published a story with a rather self-explanatory headline justify failed a drug test before winning the Triple Crown. In that story Joe Drape wrote that the horse should not have run in the 2018 Kentucky Derby if the sport’s rules were followed the rules weren’t followed though and justify which tested positive for the performance enhancing drug or the possibly performance enhancing drug scopolamine was allowed to run became the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner and had its breeding rights sold for tens of millions of dollars. Joining us now to discuss is Joe Drape. Welcome back to the podcast Joe. Thanks for having me guys. Let’s step through the facts of the case Joe justify tested positive for Scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby in April 2018.
S17: What is scopolamine and what do we know about its ability to enhance performance in a horse Scopolamine is a drug that can act as a Bronco dilated which means it clears up your lungs it increases the rate of your heart beat and it makes you far more efficient in case you’re after that. It’s also plant based poison that can be found in gyms and weed which sometimes gets mixed up in hay and feed. But you know that rarely happens in horses or humans don’t go looking for gyms and read weed because it smells terrible and it tastes worse.
S18: Yeah you actually quoted someone in your story saying that I think it has to come from intentional interventions not from this accidental ingestion of gypsum weed.
S17: Yeah well I get Rick Sams who ran the drug testing lab in Kentucky for seven years and he said at the rate it was found which was basically 300 nanograms per milliliter that that was really high almost toxic. And it suggested to him that somebody did administer it for the edge for the performance enhancing edge.
S4: All right. So the body here that fielded the positive test was the California Horse Racing Board. This was a race the Santa Anita Derby in California. So based on the protocols what should have happened when this horse tested positive and what actually did happen.
S17: Well when he justified tested positive they should have immediately started an investigation because this one just a run of the mill positive. This was the Derby favorite trained by the most famous horse racing trainer in America if not the world. And really importantly he needed to win or finish second in that race to qualify for the Derby five or six years ago. They switched to a qualified system where you get points for winning big races justify was a late starter no horse had ever won the Derby without start as a two year old since 1882. He hadn’t run he’d only run two times before Santa Anita. So that was sort of the crux of it.
S18: He had to win to get his ticket punched to Kentucky the Racing Board waited like three weeks to notify Bob Baffert that that justify had tested positive and at this point it was less than 10 days before the Kentucky Derby. Baffert gets that notification and yet keeps the horse entered in the race. Reading your stories it strikes me that if you’re Bob Baffert and the owners of justify you have to look at this and be concerned that this is going to go public at some point. Wouldn’t the prudent decision and the safest course of action both from a public relations and a potential legal standpoint have been for them to withdraw this horse from the race.
S17: Well absolutely it’s the cliche is true the cover ups always worse than the crime. They could have cleared this up. They’ve cleared up drug cases similar to this in the past within 30 days. No doubt they slow walked it. They drag their feet. He had a right to get a second drug test which he did but that didn’t come back until after he won the Derby. That is May 8th May 8th. The executive director of the California Horse Racing Board says we’re going to file a complaint and hold a hearing and then it disappears and that’s quite sorted to your question of. Tell me about this board. This board is made up of people who own horses as well. In fact the chairman of the board was a guy named Chuck winter and he employed Baffert as a trainer. So you had all these entanglements between the members who sit on the board who you know quite frequently employed trainers and jockeys that they’re there to regulate. In this case you had Chuck Winter who was the head of it and he is a friend and a I guess owner employee relationship with Baffert. So you know that makes it even look worse than it happened. So you know it disappears May 8th and then all of a sudden in an executive board session in August August 20 3rd they vote unanimously just to say this didn’t happen. And you know that’s how it came out. Somebody dropped me the documents that showed this chain of custody and how this was handled. And you know Rick Baker who is the executive director of that board said in his five and a half years they had never handled anything like this in an executive session.
S4: So yeah if you read your stories and some of the coverage that it’s kicked up Joe I don’t think anybody. No matter what you believe about whether this drug was administered intentionally or unintentionally I think we can all agree that the process here was really weird and wasn’t transparent and then otherwise I think we’re kind of in a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Stefan you mentioned wouldn’t the prudent thing have to withdraw the horse from the Kentucky Derby. Well no. If in fact this was an accidental dosing if it was contamination Baffert and the owners of justify had the right to get another sample taken another test on and the results of that didn’t come in until after the Derby. Now the question is once that second test comes back positive after the derby is there now so much momentum around this horse in horse world like we have a Derby winner we’re going for the Triple Crown where at that point it’s just nobody is incentivized to be like yeah this horse might have been given this drug intentionally and illegally we should really check on that except nobody’s incentivized except that you know that if this gets public that the fallout is gonna be so dramatic that it will be just another black mark on the eye of the horse racing business.
S11: I mean there is no upside for arguing after the fact after justify wins the derby after justify wins the Triple Crown that oh this was a mistake. Don’t. But what do you mean there’s no upside. They saw the breeding rights for 60. Well I mean there’s no public upside and look where we are now. I mean this horse and Baffert Bedford’s reputation feels like it is potentially ruined except for the fact that except for the fact that this is such a closed small world that and that right Joe. Drug Administration use of performance enhancing drugs has been going on for decades absolutely Stephan and this is a sport that’s already circling the ball right now.
S17: Animal rights activists have in its sights yet sturdy horses die after there and Sam and Ida they’re taking on all kinds of other sports all kinds of other entertainment options. They have a terrible reputation for not a fair play and a level playing field. So you know you have all those factors weighing in on them. And you’re right everybody. Nobody’s denying that he tested positive and it should have been addressed sooner. Now was he trying to get an edge or not.
S19: What I find curious is Baffert who will talk to a ham sandwich never talk to me on the way up. I’ve known the guy for 30 years since this thing is broken nobody’s really come out with evidence that said okay this many horses were tested and they found this all they have said is that there may have been a handful of others that they retested some things and only the Baffert horse tested positive. But there are some indicators that it could be contaminated. You know this is just a bad time and a bad look to be less than credible. And this stuff gets out. People do feel aggrieved and they do want to have the complete truth out there and so they come to somebody like. So it’s unfortunate for a gazillion reasons but it really does give a indelible black eye not only the sport but there’s only 13 Triple Crown winners in history now they’ve got it two words like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. So everybody can argue about do they deserve to be in the hall or not.
S4: Well there’s just a long long history in the US and in other countries of covering up positive drug tests you know. So it’s not in horses and humans. It’s certainly not unusual or surprising or atypical for something like this to happen and not unique to horse racing. Let’s mention Baffert lawyers defense after your story first story came out show W. Craig Roberts and the third said that justifies positive tests had been the result of environmental contamination commended the California Horse Racing Board’s handling of the case. You said that Baffert never reached out to you. You’re. Are you totally convinced that the environmental contamination thing is bunk.
S20: You know I can’t speculate. I’m reporting on this. But they’ve had more than ample opportunity to provide whatever which now they’re claiming was a four month investigation. Some evidence of something and they are not doing that. What they have said is because there was no complaint filed the statutes say they can’t come at 10:00. You know if that’s the case I guess it’s unfortunate. Now you know again let’s not argue we can trot out experts my expert says it was put there intentionally there’s they really actually haven’t produced an expert but they say it’s not.
S21: But you know we wouldn’t even be having that conversation if they would have followed their rules called foul when it was foul come out and said look this has happened.
S20: We’re investigating. We’re going to pick up the pace here. You know it seems to me that you need or want a clear clearer convict somebody in a timely manner with this much at stake reputations the Kentucky Derby the Triple Crown it just seems the California Horse Racing Board should have been acting a little more urgently a little more transparently.
S13: It also seems like the California Horse Racing Board’s actions have now opened a gigantic can of worms justifies owners against candidates candidates. There are lawsuits being contemplated by other horse owners including the runner up in the Santa Anita Derby where justified tested positive. Nick Ruiz is the owner of the horse that finished second there and he said the rule was there. It’s just real disappointing how we have different sets of rules for different people there in Santa Anita the horse tested positive.
S11: Why didn’t anybody know about it until now and beyond that you know Joshy said 60 million dollars for justifies breeding rights. I mean I’d be wondering what justifies shooting. You know maybe they’re not so great. Maybe this is a horse that is not going to be you know firing other Triple Crown winners and that’s certainly part of the risk they’re run in here.
S21: The cynical view of the game which people share and you know they’ve kind of earned it is that this is an industry where fast bucks and swift deals and winks and nods happen quite frankly. You know the fact is nobody is going to know justify is a good stallion for another four years because that’s when they hit the ground. He’s getting one hundred and fifty thousand a pop right now that may go down. We’re know a little bit more next year. They just lower the price a little bit. If people were pushing back on it it’s just the erosion of credibility of an already troubled sport. That just makes this a serious misstep.
S4: You said in one of your later pieces that if justify if it had been accidental still the process you know the opacity of it and the appearance of potential impropriety has cost justify an unquestioned legacy. And that seems true again no matter what you think just the the board and its actions have really made it such that this horse the 13th Triple Crown winner will always be seen as suspicious.
S21: Well yeah there’s going to be an asterisk next to his name. I mean you go look at Wikipedia right now. They’ve already edited there. They’ve opened themselves up to I mean I can imagine I understand the governor of California is looking into horse racing board and thinking a whole new way to configure it. You know it’s not a good look to have the fox guarding the henhouse and that’s what we have going right there. And you know honestly if that horse if everybody was innocent they did a disservice to Bob Baffert and justifying his owners because they’re the ones who have cast the aspersions on this and Baffert was found in 2013.
S4: There was a previous board action he was criticized for giving horses all horses ones that didn’t need it a thyroid hormone and seven horses died in his care. You know Stefan you had mentioned this will be a stain or a black mark on Baffert all of that happened and you know it’s not like we were talking about it on this podcast. I think people outside of the horse game really know about it. And so I think given his stature given the history it would be totally I think there is a 0 percent chance that this well you know drum Baffert out of the game if that earlier incident didn’t. Does that seem right to you.
S21: I think you’re right Josh. I mean I think this is an insular world. You want to win. There’s a lot of money at stake. They’ve looked the other way and the incident you’re mentioned in the seven courses drop dead suddenly in his care over a 16 month period. The did a long investigation said they didn’t he didn’t do anything wrong but said something was wrong. They basically just didn’t assign blame to him. He’s had incidents in the past. A lot of traders have you know my original piece. I point out that you know they’ve used off brand drugs for decades. I mean they’ve used VI aggro frog venom cobra venom all to get them to run faster in the mildew in the environment. It’s sort of like if you go to a casino you probably deserved to lose money and that’s what horse racing has become right now.
S22: To be clear none of the stuff you mentioned was I think specifically a tribute to Delta. No I’m not on this.
S4: None of this but and also in that 2013 investigation it was found that he hadn’t violated any rules or regulations of the California board.
S18: And maybe that’s somewhere to wrap this up. Joe Bill Finley and the thoroughbred Daily News says that you know the general media and I would include us here as not being Josh and me as not being horse racing experts. We’ll look at this and say this is a stain. This is a problem. Findlay says it’s complicated. The likely conclusion he writes is that the horse wasn’t intentionally drugged. There are questions about whether Scopolamine is as harmful or as even a performance enhancer and that the picture this creates might not be fair to horse racing are you sympathetic at all to that conclusion.
S23: Joe I don’t I’m really not. It’s I’ve seen this circled wagon mentality for years. And if it’s not performance enhancing why is it banned. Why is there a rule that says if you’re caught using it you get disqualified and you give the money back. I mean it’s on their books. You know it’s there. Nobody’s denying it was there. Nobody’s denying the rule was he was supposed to be disqualified and the money returned and that wouldn’t have got him in the Derby. So you know I’ve watched these sort of mental gymnastics go on over the years. And honestly you and I and Josh we’re in the mainstream media and they use it just like people use it in politics. I mean the mainstream media means work informing people who may not be total horse people but they have a right to know what goes on too. And when you break it down to its elements rule was broken a drug was used and the investigation was covered up. And that’s pretty simple.
S4: And I think people are interested and have the right to know that Joe Drape writes about horse racing and other things for the New York Times he also wrote the book American Pharoah about a another Triple Crown winning horse trained by Bob Baffert Joe Drape. Thanks for coming on the show.
S16: Thanks guys. OK.
S15: I wanted to let you know that we have a bonus segment for the Slate Plus members and unsaid Slate Plus segment we are going to talk with Ryan Callahan.
S7: You’re going to hear from Ryan and our segment coming up. We’re going to talk to him about his memoir about life as a closeted player in the NFL. Really good conversation. We had a lot more to talk about so we extended it to Slate Plus Johnny here that you’re not a member. Sign up for Slate Plus it’s just thirty five dollars for the first year.
S5: You can do that at Slate dot com slash hangout plus Ryan Callahan had a plan he would play in the NFL until he couldn’t any longer. And then he would kill himself. He built a cabin in the woods and stocked with firearms. He wrote a goodbye letter for his parents. He planned out the day down to the leather couch he would lie on and the gun that he would use without football. Callahan believed he couldn’t live with the secret that he had carried since he was a teenager that he was gay. Callahan played six years as an offensive lineman with the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. He describes his ordeal in a new book My Life on the line how the NFL damn near killed me and ended up saving my life. It’s a memoir of the emotional havoc of being closeted in the NFL and of the brutal physical consequences of playing football. Ryan Callahan joins us now. Hey Ryan. Hey guys thanks for having me on. The story is harrowing to say the least and it’s really painful to read and incredibly sad because you just want someone to come along and help you. But it’s also entirely understandable because of the worlds that you were immersed in as you describe them this conservative part of northern California where you grew up a family of tough man and tough talk. End of football. Do you remember making a conscious decision to try to hide inside of football. Of all places.
S24: Yeah absolutely.
S25: You know growing up I think everyone kind of goes through different stages where they realize or admit that they’re gay to themselves and then everyone has a different attraction to females and I was never from day one that I knew I was different attracted at all females. Like a lot of guys try to do it try to date women as cover. I just I didn’t think I could do a good enough job selling a female and using that as my cover. But you know I knew that I could do it with football. So that’s the route that I chose.
S15: One of the saddest things for me in reading this Ryan is like you’re clearly you know you get the sense as you’re reading the book that you’re very smart and thoughtful and sensitive guy and one of the things that you did as a cover was that you were an asshole like you talk about how you were mean to your classmates that and then you saw younger kids once you became really good at sports as tends to happen that you know best jocks become the popular kids and younger people look up to them and you saw people who were younger than you like in high school kind of take after you and be jerks to like that. It was incredibly sad to hear.
S26: Yeah. You know a lot of people guess the words projects their insecurities and their self-hatred and others and I did the same. I was always afraid that I was about to be outed and I made the conscious decision that OK I have to be a stereotypical tough guy.
S25: And you know I can’t I can’t be weak and emotional. So I had a lot of victims my bullying along the way from young high school all the way through college. And I’ve tried to do the best I can to actually apologize to people that I know that I have. I realized that words matter because it was people’s words that affected me growing up and drove me so deep in the closet. So I definitely feel bad for some of the things I did.
S18: And when you say the words that drove you deeper in the closet you mean being around a sort of culture of homophobia and hearing homophobic language in your family and in your community.
S26: Yeah. You know as a child you look up to your parents and people you love and if you hear these people using the word faggot or not having anything nice to say about gay people at all. I had a lot of family in San Francisco they’re all from the Bay Area. Quite a few of my relatives were firefighters during the AIDS epidemic and I just heard countless negative things about gay people and you know as a child you’re you know you’re different. You know you’re gay and you hear the loved ones saying these things and you think they’re talking about you. And that’s exactly what happened to me. You know that’s why today I really try to reach parents and tell them and just watch what they say is. Your children are listening.
S27: One of the things that really struck me was as you make your way from high school to college at at Cal where you were you know the offensive lineman of the year in the conference and then into the NFL you’re going through this kind of personal torment and I don’t really see or don’t really believe that there are other folks in the locker room who could really understand stand you. On the other side. You’re also going through the kind of torment of playing football and the pain and the injuries and the pain killers and that is actually something that everybody who plays the sport can relate to and is going through that same pain. Was that something that you were aware of that you’re having these kind of two separate battles one that you really could share with anyone who played football and one that you couldn’t.
S25: I never really separated you. I was also never quick to talk about myself or my problems. You know it’s like you said football players athletes in general are no stranger to painkillers. I was on another level. I was an addict. I was a jockey. But you know it all starts by one injury you getting prescribed one pill. But I didn’t feel like I had anyone I could look up to at all or that I could relate to. And I really didn’t re-evaluate the situation I was in yet.
S13: And I think that part of it the sort of hiding within the NFL you describe it sort of easier than hiding in college or in high school where you had to sort of create this elaborate ruse about who you were you could get away with not dating anyone in the NFL because your teammates were married or had found or girlfriends or were you know you could say as you did that you had a girl back home and you could sort of just focus on the professional part of it especially when you were in New England where so rigorous and everyone was sort of pulling on the same words and going in the same direction and appreciated the the the success at the same time.
S11: You also acknowledge that you know football is pretty miserable that the NFL is this miserable place. And what struck me is that the NFL kind of served this different central purpose for you it was a way for you to hide your sexuality but otherwise you had a pretty normal. If that’s the right word NFL experience you were your body was ravaged by injury your career was cut short because of injury you weren’t treated well by medical personnel over the years. I do think it’s interesting. I do think it’s important to understand just how brutal it is to have a player tell us how brutal it is. So tell us exactly you know run through your your injuries and surgeries for us to put that into context. Yeah.
S26: I think first off people need to realize the NFL is a business before anything else. And like any business there they’re trying to make money and going into the NFL. I got drafted having three previous shoulder surgeries along with some other injuries and then I get to my first year in New England when I was starting I injured my neck pretty badly I ended up losing feeling on the field losing feeling to my extremities on the field and something like six weeks later I guess it was I ended up coming back and playing you know well one example I talk about in the book of how the NFL is a business where they cut my jersey off me when I got injured that time would I end up coming back months and a half later I had that same jersey sewn up you know that’s what 200 bucks but it all adds up to them. So after that my final year before my last in New England I injured my left shoulder again didn’t practice defensive line drill and I knew it was hurt I had had multiple surgeries on it before and initially the doctor tried to tell me nothing was wrong with it.
S28: I knew that was a lie.
S25: So I got an MRI and once again he told me nothing new is wrong with it. Well a little word there knew it was kind of a catch there where he wasn’t technically lying. So we have a strong union in the NFL and I spoke with our union rep Mike Vrabel at the time was.
S29: Awesome human being.
S26: And Mike reminded me of my my rights and I took advantage of those getting the treatment I needed and then the team admitting something was wrong and then I was able to have surgery with my doctor back in California. So that injury and then so I spent three years in New England and then I went over to Kansas City where I ended up getting I started again and then I tore my left groin after that left groin injury. I was out for weeks and that’s when the painkiller problem really kicked into overdrive because at that point I had had a positive test for marijuana.
S25: So I wasn’t allowed to smoke weed. But I could take all the painkillers I want. So I was abusing painkillers after that groin injury. And then I tore my left shoulder again and that was really when things started to spiral out of control. So after six years in the NFL which I played double the average which is great even though I don’t love football and football was just a cover for me I’m still proud of that fact that I played six years and doubled the average. But I did put my body through hell. It was the emotion that really more than anything. It was a trainer for the Chiefs David Price that recognized I was I was spiraling out of control. I knew my career was over and my whole plan all along was sports. Then my life after football because I didn’t think I could continue living especially living as an openly gay man and being older high basically.
S24: So he noticed I was really abusing pills. He didn’t know why but he recommended I go speak to someone and that’s where the subtitle of my book comes from. How the NFL to end their guilt and save my life because it was all the pills and everything that happened with the NFL at the same time it was the professionals that are employed by these teams that recognize the issue that sent me to get the help that that I needed.
S13: Yeah I got contradiction that the league basically banning pot helped turn you into a drug addict and the ready availability of vicodin oxy Dilaudid and other drugs you needed them to kill two kinds of pain you needed them to kill your physical pain but also the emotional pain that you had been carrying with you for so long right.
S24: Yeah it’s a manual and he’s taking a painkiller knows that they give you a little euphoric feeling and know after a few days of taking one pill an hour long it no longer has that same effect.
S29: So you have to take more and more if you want the same pain relief. But for me it was that euphoric feeling that painkillers opioids give you that I craves it makes you not feel like yourself. And at that point in my life I would do anything not to feel like myself. And you know that that’s what quickly turned me into an addict.
S27: So as you said the trainer kind of recognized that you were spiraling didn’t know why you end up speaking to a psychologist. And that conversation was that the first person in the whole world that you had ever told that you were gay.
S29: Yeah. So he set me up with Dr. Wilson and I sat with her for months. I was really you know obviously dodging questions and you know I only agreed to see her because I thought telling David no would just raise more questions and I ended questions. So I went chatted with her. But after months of her breaking me down and I think I finally believed that she could never tell anyone. So that was the first time I ever said the words I’m gay. And the first thing she did was stand up give me a hug and tell me that I wasn’t the first football player to actually come out to her and immediately telling her even though I know she can’t tell anyone. Then finding out you know really you’re not alone which I suspected there were other guys but just that close of a relationship. You know that’s a huge weight off the shoulders. But that was just the start. You know I was I was concerned about family and loved ones.
S27: So it’s not just like a very kind of clean and neat path for you after that it’s not like you say I’m gay in this room and then it’s all kind of sunshine and rainbows and then here we are. You know years later what was the pathway like for you to kind of get to acceptance and to a place where you felt happy and healthy Yeah.
S29: That was a long road. So I came out to Dr. Wilson and then immediately in the next day or two I came out to my best friend who was living with me at the time. Brian was a high school buddy. Totally straight guy. And he just he lived with me for while I was in the NFL and helped me out. So I came out to him. At the time I came out to him he said I love you buddy. It’s all good. And that kind of started the process to other people so I made that plan to head out to California to tell family the people I was most worried about so I headed back to California and long story short told my family and all of them were were OK with it. You know it took my dad a little bit of time to come around to the idea. I think that at the time when I first came out I might have been a little unreasonable expecting him to just totally be fine and accepting about it. You know from the very beginning now he was never able. He just was quiet and I act like I didn’t tell him for the first year or so. But he also spent twenty nine thirty years insuring me as a different person. So you know it takes me a year that’s that’s fine. But I am and then I start to come out to other friends and things have been getting better and better and you know I think that whole first year year and a half after it came out. I had even tried to date guys. You don’t go from hating your life perfectly fine overnight. So I focused on me and today things are great.
S13: You’re actually very complimentary about the culture of the NFL. By and large in relation to sexuality you say you never heard the word fag in an NFL locker room the only homophobic comments that you actually relate in the book come from your former coach in Kansas City Todd Haley and you yeah you kind of discover that your fears were self-inflicted about the league and the responses after you came out your ex teammates front office executives especially Scott P. only who was the general manager in Kansas City who seems like he was an amazing human being and one of your great supporters Patriots owner Robert Kraft even even Roger Goodell the commissioner of the NFL they’re all supportive. Michael Sam didn’t stick in the league when he came out before the draft. He was selected but he did not make a team. Are you optimistic that opening an openly gay player can survive in the NFL now.
S29: Yeah. Michael Sam didn’t make a team and had nothing to do with him being gay. You know it’s just talent. I’ve said this over and over recently with Brian Russell coming out a guy has the same. I’m a firm believer the guy has the same opportunities as he does the day before he comes out it’s the day after I tell these guys that they’re play on the field is going to have to speak louder than the media. But if they really want to do it they can do it and don’t use coming out as an excuse for not making a team. You know the NFL has taken steps to publicly show their support for the community which which is big for them. You know they have such a huge impact on society as a whole. And just the culture of America around the NFL is you know it’s a ridiculous impact. So yeah. Phil to do things like sponsoring New York Pride Parade and actually drawing attention to it this year that’s huge.
S27: I understand they have to be careful not to alienate fans but it’s good to see that the steps they are taking to help that next player who is closeted and thinking about coming out we should mention said Zeigler who co-wrote the book with you the proprietor of out sports and you know sports has done a really great job as far as visibility is concerned that’s where you publicly major announcement on a story on our sports a couple years ago and over the years they’ve published so many stories of whether it’s professional or college or high school athletes coming out and really showing everyone how normal it is to be a gay athlete and and playing sports. And yet you know we talked about Michael Sam. It just seems like there’s been a little bit of backsliding in terms of visibility and the pro sports. We had Jason Collins as an active gay player and then B.A. and now he’s retired and you know there’s nobody in the NFL who’s currently playing and is out NBA Major League Baseball. I’m wondering if you think that. There is something going on here that would be an explanation for it for the fact that there’s nobody active when there was before. If you just think it’s kind of a blip and that will change soon.
S29: Yeah I think just what I mean I can assure you there’s plenty of closeted athletes specifically in the NFL. So it’s just going to take something to get to get someone to come forward and feel confident enough and come out to the NFL you have such a short amount of time to make as much money as possible and you know when you’re when you’re closeted they give a hard time not seeing coming out as potentially jeopardizing your career even though I don’t think that’s the case and actually maybe argue against that if you look at guys like Kenworthy who is that most sponsored Olympian was because he was gay. So if anything it might help. But you know there’s there’s things the NFL still can do with maybe give guys confidence that they won’t we won’t be jeopardizing their career. You know maybe if they do guaranteed contracts or something like that but it’s only a matter of time.
S5: Ryan Callahan is a former NFL player and he’s the author with Cyd Ziegler of my life on the line how the NFL damn near killed me and ended up saving my life. Ryan thanks a lot for coming on the podcast.
S16: Thanks Jeremy guys.
S22: And now it is time for after balls. So I found a story about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Stefan publican very concerned with civility. Not particularly concerned with Donald Trump and his civility but very concerned with civility. More broadly there’s a story on them a hot world Herald about a confrontation that Ben Sasse had at Nebraska football game and at Nebraska football games apparently for four decades. Ben Sasse has worked as a vendor selling something called runs is. Are you familiar with a runs. No. A runs is a yeast. This is Per Wikipedia. It’s a yeast dough bread pocket filled with a filling consisting of beef cabbage or sauerkraut onions and seasonings runs as can be baked into various shapes.
S3: So is a half me interact angle around a square or a triangle. So these are sold in Nebraska like Nebraska and banana. Yes in Nebraska and banana there’s all the Nebraska football games. Ben Sasse sells them at Memorial Stadium currently serving as a senator.
S22: Yes somebody came up to him and is like you’re horrible as people sometimes do. He is like. I will no longer be selling runs us because someone came up to me and said they did not appreciate how I dealt with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. So thank you for being so uncivil and ruining Ben Sasse this time. He will no longer be selling runs as Stefan.
S11: What is your runs on a lot of questions before we get to my runs I wasn’t getting paid. The sale runs this was you get my charity obviously. How dare you insinuate such a thing. So he was donating his pay to charity or it was doesn’t work. Not much. It’s probably like seven twenty five an hour.
S22: So he was selling them and then you would make money from selling them and then they would go to Oh.
S11: The proceeds from the sale of the runs is OK. All right. What’s your runs up Stefan. Last week Steve Paolo Zollo of the football Web site P F F tweeted a clip from Thursday night’s Carolina Tampa Bay NFL game. In it one ref marks the ball what appears to be just short of the yellow first down line on the screen tosses it to a second ref who places it a foul ball length ahead of the original spot. This is SCIENCE Palin’s low road. It’s a pretty hilarious sequence Joe has Nancy pointed out how the first ref moves the ball up a couple of inches for no apparent reason. Then the second official does his magic. What a performance. I chimed in that the first official walks away before the second one can see where he had marked the ball. Other comments included absolute joke. So stupid clown show no excuse for this and the science of being awful at your job. Well we were all wrong as a couple of commenters noted once a first down is indicated. It’s accepted practice for officials to spot the ball at the top of the nearest yard marker which makes it easier to determine whether a team subsequently makes a first down. In this case once the ref signaled the Carolina First down the ultimate spot was immaterial but it’s still kind of remarkable that the NFL hasn’t invested in technology better than the naked eye and two poles connected by 10 yards of chain to locate where a ball is marked and whether a team has achieved a first down.
S15: Wait wait a second. I feel like this is earth shattering news. I mean the earth isn’t that fragile that it would that it would shatter but like even if you’d get a first down like the one in three quarter yard line they’ll move it up to the one according to some things I read.
S11: Yeah. If it’s between the hashes they will often move it up to the next hash which I can’t imagine if it’s right in between the two hashes. They would go all the way up like that but like this one was just short of the hash and they move the nose of the ball up to the end of the hash.
S15: Yeah. I mean I’m sure you’re going to get to this but in a league so regimented the idea the notion that this would be permissible it is an outrage.
S11: I’m not going to get to that actually. So let me continue. So kind of crazy that we don’t have a better system for marking the ball and for first down. And the reason that we don’t. It’s mainly because while they may not be precise as New York Giants owner John Barrett told The New York Times in 2008 there is a certain amount of drama that is involved with the chains in a comprehensive story in the ringer in 2017 Roger Sherman noted that the chains date to 19 0 7 before a touchdown was worth six points and a field goal was worth three. Since then there have been many attempts to build a better mousetrap a better first down marker actually a wheeled apparatus in 1929 a surveyor thingy in the 1950s there was a laser beam in the nineteen seventies. My personal favorite however is the darker Rod the digger Rod. That’s one word dicey k e r o day that was often written as two words Decker rod or Decker hyphen Rod the dick a rod was invented in 1970 by a retired aerospace and automotive engineer in California named George Decker.
S12: The unfortunately eponymous device was based on the idea that the football is never more than two and a half yards from a five yard line attached to one end of the dick a rod was a rectangular sort of croquet wicket thing with rubber feet that was placed on the five yard line beyond the spot of the ball a sliding pointer on the rod then was locked into place where the ball was marked. You move the croquet wicket and of the dick Rod 10 yards downfield and voila precision Dicker believed that the dick rod not only was more accurate than chains it was safer to players running out of bounds could trip over the chains the dick Rod was held upright between measurements the Decca Rod debuted in a few high school and college games near Los Angeles in 1970. Business booming for Dick Rod inventor. The L.A. Times reported in 1972 that year the device was used in the college coaches All-American game. The big break though came in 1974 when the dick Rod was adopted by the upstart World Football League. I was 11 then I don’t remember the Dick a rod but I did love the team names and the helmet logos you had the Hawaiians the WAFL had a team in Honolulu. The Detroit Wheels the Shreveport steamer and the Memphis s men loved the Memphis s men WAFL games aired on an independent sports programming syndicate called TV s television network. The inaugural broadcast got off to an inauspicious start when play by play announcer Merle Harmon called the New York star’s team the New York Jets. Harman’s color partner was a former NFL running back and good ole boy named Alex Hawkins and the WAFL rotated other ex players and celebrities into the booth including retired NFL stars Alex Charisse and Gale Sayers and the actors Burt Reynolds and McLean Stevenson of MASH. Jane Chastain a Miami sportscaster who later that year would be the first woman on an NFL broadcast also showed up in a WAFL booth for the opener. Though the third wheel was my idol George Plimpton a recording of the first half of the game survives. Let’s listen.
S30: Here in Jacksonville Florida I saw hot steamy night four minutes and nine seconds to go in the first half the New York sharks lead run rather the Jacksonville sharks lead the new york stars by a score of seven to nothing. Hell you were talking about that international orange.
S31: They have been on that action line. It’s also the color of the stripe around the nose and tail of the football. They’ve got a yellow football is which comes up on the quarterback’s hands I’m told Palomino golden yellow color is not that National are closely watching you to see the catch the regular night.
S30: I’m going to Georgia to homework on the colored ball and the yard markers. I still haven’t explained that.
S12: I have no idea what the action line was but according to news reports Plimpton in the second half which we don’t have a recording of did try to explain the dick A-Rod but only mumbled a lot and said little one sports columnist wrote another columnist noting Plimpton is patrician accent quoted him calling the dick A-Rod an invention which does away with the whole idea of change. Sadly for the dick A-Rod the WFLD dropped the device for the 1975 season. The Dick A-Rod was a good concept league president Chris Hamilton said. But there’s nothing like that chain being stretched to measure a first down. That’s what people want to see. What people didn’t want to see was the WAFL the league folded midway through that 1975 season. George Dicker told The Seattle Times two years later that he didn’t know what happened to the WFLA. Dick rods. He did say that he was paid all five thousand dollars that he was owed. I still think it’s an excellent piece of equipment. Dicker said. Of course it takes a little intelligence to use it. You’d be surprised how stupid some of those officials were. George Decker everybody.
S27: Josh what’s your runs a credit to our guest Matt Brown for this idea as he tweeted last week about the phenomenon I’m about to describe. You might have gotten a whiff of it yourself. You’ve heard a male basketball coach at an introductory press conference Travis steal when he was announced. It’s the new coach at Xavier in 2018 thanked his wife and called her quote the best recruit I’ve ever signed.
S22: Heath Schrader of McNeil state said that his wife Kim once you meet her you’ll realize she’s the best recruit I’ve ever signed will weigh it of LSU thanked his wife saying she’s my best recruit and also works at a retirement ceremony as when you can’s Jim Calhoun said his wife Pat was his best recruit ever. Or what about a Hall of Fame induction. Here’s Tom Izzo in 2016 recruiting my wife was like basketball recruiting I got a lot of no thank you’s At first I kept pursuing and finally had my first date the first day we won that first big ten championship as an assistant. It’s not just basketball coaches at ERs are on in 2014. He refers to Kelly as his best recruit Minnesota’s Jerry Kill on signing day 2014. My best recruits drinking coffee in the back here. Rebecca. She’s going to play slot receiver for us a good sense of humour. When he was a finalist for the Broyles award as college football’s best assistant in 2018 here’s Jay Bateman of army. I want to thank my wife Heather not me. Yes. Best recruit ever. Andy Hutchins in SB Nation and two thousand 12 wrote a piece pegged to Colorado football coach Mike McIntyre at his introductory press conference saying he actually asked his wife Tricia to stand up and said looking at her you can definitely tell I can recreate get it because she’s hot Andy Hutchins described this as hot wife theory and his definition of hot wife theory is that as a coach you have quote the ability to convince women to enter into consensual sexual life partnerships then that is cited as evidence that you can convince 17 year olds to choose to play football for you. James Franklin is another one who did this and then he also mentioned the all time champion and proponent of hot wife theory is Lane Kiffin. Lane Kiffin had talked about how his wife Layla was evidence that he was a great recruiter because she was blonde etc. and then he took it one step further in 2018. He did an interview with CBS Sports and he said of his offensive coordinator for the Atlantic Charlie waste junior quote He’s got a beautiful wife. How did Charlie get her a look at assistant coaches wives. It tells me if they are good recruiters or not. This piece SB Nation aggregator that CBS sports interview and they noted that at the time that he made this comment Lane Kiffin had gotten divorced. There are a couple of different tropes here. So his wife wanted to transfer. Yet he was able to come up with a list of different people that she could not marry if she chose to marry them. She would have to sit out a year. So there are a couple of different tropes here. There is the. My wife is super hot probe so you can obviously tell that I can recruit quote unquote five stars. There is the not done necessarily that my wife is super hot but the my wife needed to be convinced to even go out on a date with me. Trope and so I am thus good at convincing recruits. There was a W. Hamilton eastern Kentucky basketball coach as soon as she walked in the restaurant. I knew I was going to marry her. I had to convince her that a long distance relationship was going to work and that was tough. That’s why I always say she’s my best recruit. The thing that’s most obvious here to me a few just put those different tropes aside just the kind of lack of imagination and life experience like. I got married and also the only other thing that I do is recruit. So Brett Bill Hemmer who when he was a coach in Arkansas in 2016 describes recruiting in Florida. That’s where I cut my teeth of the recruiter. I’ve signed over 80 players from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. I’ve signed 20 from the west side of the state as well and my wife is from Tampa the best recruit I’ve ever had in that piece for SB Nation in 2012 and he had Hudgins noted correctly that hot wife theory is objectifying patriarchal and hetero normative. We’re not gonna be able to do anything about that today on this podcast except maybe pointed out. I’m sure of the basketball and football coaches that are listening right now we’re gonna immediately change their behavior. But the one thing I can do is point out at least one example of script flipping that I was able to find PJ flack currently the football coach of Minnesota. You may know him as the row the boat guy. The catch phrase his wife Heather flack did an interview with a Minnesota fan site gopher hole in which she was asked. Tell me about you two. How did you meet. She was asked by the Minnesota fans go for a whole I repeat go for all Heather Flack says. We met in Kalamazoo through a friend that kind of set us up. It was one of those deals where we went to dinner and it was love at first sight. I recruited him a bit. He is my best recruit thank you.
S11: Got a black pre-emptive I think on Heather flax part. That’s the. Can’t use it now.
S22: It’s like a college football meet cute rom com on the poster.
S2: They were each other’s best recruits or we recruited each other. A love story that is our show for today our producers Melissa Kaplan and patches and subscribe or just reach out to Slate dot com flash hang up. You can e-mail us at hang up at Slate com. You’re still here. You might want even more. Hang up and listen if you heard our segment earlier with Ryan Callahan you might want even more hang up and listen. In our business segment we talked a bit more with Ryan about his life in the NFL.
S32: Most people have no idea what happens after you retire. You played three years in the NFL. You bet. You have to play four years five games like that. Just to qualify for retirement.
S2: Here that conversation joint play plus just thirty five dollars for the first year.
S33: Sign up at Slate dot com bust for Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers only baby. And thanks for listening.
S27: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Back with us is Ryan Callahan Ryan’s book is My Life on the line. Everybody check it out. It is excellent. Ryan thanks for staying with us. Yeah absolutely guys.
S15: So you’re on the Patriots. You’re on the Patriots the year of the undefeated regular season. Obviously people are going to be interested in the experience of what it was like to play in that franchise that year and with Bill Belichick was it kind of easier to be on the Patriots stuff and I think you alluded to this earlier just because of the relentless focus on like organizational dominance and success just like easier to fit and that kind of mode.
S26: Yeah I mean the day they expect greatness you know I think every team should aim these athletes so much money but they do such a good job of preparing you. And you know just maximizing every minute that that you’re around the facility and on the practice field and you know I think one big difference between the Patriots and other teams is the guys in that locker room. I truly believe that they’re going to win and they have a chance of winning every week. And that’s kind of step one.
S9: And you played some that season. I mean that was another injury year for you but you had one sort of memorable game right against Michael Strahan on the New York Giants at the end of the regular season to preserve the 16. Now you didn’t play in the Super Bowl when the Patriots lost to the Giants and you’ve got some conflicting emotions about that don’t you.
S24: Yeah I mean I so I started we guess as week 17 but it was the last game of the regular season straight and and I played really well and I did play in the Super Bowl but it was just special teams but still played. You know you know you don’t go to the Super Bowls money you don’t do that. It’s a really long season and you know to go winning every single game and then you lose the Super Bowl that it is deflating as you can imagine. I’m thankful I got to go there and experience that play. There’s guys that played 20 years that never make an AFC championship game. So I’m thankful for it and I definitely understand what it takes to get there.
S25: But I don’t have that same relationship with football as a lot of guys do. So maybe it wasn’t as special to me.
S27: Well I’m just offended that Stefan claim that you didn’t play in the Super Bowl. I’m offended on you.
S1: I should have said started again. Yeah. Yes. Especially as a special teams veteran. Yeah exactly. I apologize on behalf of all my special teams. I was protecting you.
S15: You were curious to hear about your experience after coming out and you know you had in a very short period of time you had gone from literally never telling anyone that you were gay to being somebody who was known as like a V or one of the gay football players. Maybe explain kind of who you heard from after you came out. I’m also interested and just like becoming like a public figure who’s known for for it for being gay.
S4: Like how did that just transform your life.
S24: Yeah. When I actually linked up with Sid at our sports to tell my story he did a good job of preparing me for what potentially would come as far as media demands and individuals reaching out my advice. So I was ready and I also spent quite a few years between coming out the family coming out publicly to where I think I was on a on a firmer ground to stand on and speak from.
S26: So I had a pretty good idea of what was to come back in 2017 when I did that. And you might have been a little more than I expected but you know that’s that’s great. You know the whole goal was to you know reach someone that can relate. I didn’t have that person that I can look up to and you know felt I could relate to and so I was happy to be someone that guys felt comfortable reaching out to and you know I know I know that I’ve been able to have a positive impact on quite a quite a few people straight and gay guys. So I plan on continuing to use this platform that that I haven’t been able to build to give back to the community the charity you know it really sounds Ryan like after said published your story you were blown away by the reaction.
S18: I mean you described in the book thousands of e-mails people reaching out to you kids that were closeted reaching out to you. How did that affect you and the way you sort of you know in your in the process of accepting yourself. How did that sort of play into that.
S24: Yeah it was great to hear from all these people and I think the most impactful person I heard from was a parent a father who had previously disowned his son after his son came out to this father saw my story and his email to me was telling me what he did to his son and how much he regrets it now how he’s going to go back and try to make amends to things and you know stories like that really make it all worth it. That’s an all too common experience for people in the community and having impacts like that. It’s it’s awesome. I only hear from a couple but I’m sure that there’s been more and they’ll continue to be more.
S34: It’s the Ryan Callahan foundation supporting talented LGBTQ youth here giving scholarships right yes we’re getting scholarships mentorships you know every dollar that I make from the book goes directly into the charity.
S24: Every penny I get from different speeches and stuff all that goes into the charity. Know I just I didn’t feel comfortable profiting off my sexuality so I just stick it all the charity. Give it back to the community first scholarships well we’ll be next year. There are some kinks and rules to be worked out with the RNC to a. They love rules. So I got to sort those things out. But I look forward to teaming up with some other charities like you can play there. They’re an awesome charity that helps try to keep youth in sports no matter their their sexuality. You know there’s a lot of small charities out there. They’re trying to do their own thing and I’m gonna fan of teaming up and seeing if we can have a bigger impact that way.
S13: Now we should probably mention too that one of the reasons that you’re able to do this and don’t have to have the sort of conversation about whether I should keep this as profit is that you have a right to reach a settlement with the NFL. You have to sue the league to be declared totally and permanently disabled and you do get an annual payment from the NFL a settlement payment. You talk about this in the book a lot and it really is another thing that I think people need to better understand like how difficult it is for retired NFL players to get disability payments or even get their medical needs covered.
S24: Yeah most people have no idea what happens after you retire. You you play three years in the NFL. You basically get nothing. So you have to play four years five games like that just to qualify for retirement.
S26: Well my basic retirement at six years at 60 years old would have been like thirty five hundred a month which is you know really nothing. And we have to file work comp like anyone else because it’s a job so every shoulder surgery that was work comp so I had attorneys and that’s deal with that. Things have gotten better. You know these guys that played in the 90s then they really weren’t treated fairly and then they’re trying to get their share now. But you know through the new collective bargaining agreements and our strong union we’ve had different programs in place that we can apply for. Now it’s very tough to win which it should be. But I hired a great attorney that the union recommended and I went through the different steps. And four years later I won. They call it total and permanent disability which takes place of the regular pension. And then I also won my worker’s comp but you know quite honestly I could give that up tomorrow and make more just doing speeches and stuff talking about my story. But I don’t want to do that.
S27: You’ve heard from other players after you came out publicly and and because of the book I’m sure. What do you tell guys who are going through her might be in the league and going through some of the same stuff that you went through.
S26: Yeah I mean every guy is different. Some have families some don’t. Really I just try to be here and then give my advice you know it sounds cliche that you know it’ll be all right. It gets better. But you know that that really is the truth. And to try to put into words how good it feels to actually come out and be able to live your true life and be able to be honest with everyone you know. So I just try to tell guys that just step back and try to look at things in a positive light. You know I when I was closeted I was so consumed with myself and so doomsday scenario if I ever came out that I never stopped and thought that it would be OK. So I try to get guys just Oz and take a couple of steps back and really think about the potential positives of it really the impact that they could have by coming out.
S4: The book is My Life on the line. Ryan Callahan thank you so much. All right guys thank you so much.
S6: Thank you. Slate Plus members will be back with more next week.