S1: The following podcast includes explicit language.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of May 10th. Twenty twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the upcoming NBA play in tournament. Why LeBron James it whether it’s here to stay. We’ll also discuss the latest brouhaha over fighting in the National Hockey League and whether the sport’s bloodlust is ever going to go away. And we’ll assess what NFL wide receiver Dick Metcalf proved by finishing not close to first place in the hundred meters and a California track. Meet him in Washington, D.C.. I’m author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four on David Duke, also in D.C.. Stefan Fatsis is the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan. Josh with us from our West Slate staff writer, host of Slow Burn Season three and the upcoming Season six, Joel Anderson.
S3: Hey, Joe. Hey, what’s up, man? How y’all doing this morning?
S2: Doing OK. Feeling like I don’t exactly know what to small talk about. And I was just hoping no such thing would develop organically.
S3: I have two things then because we have we had a chance to praise you for your contribution for the piece that ran in Slate. Stephanie, did we talk about that last week? We we catch up on that now. I don’t think we did about, you know, about Josh’s great piece that he wrote with Molly and Susan Matthews about what to tell the people. Yeah. Molly Olmstead, do you want to tell the people what that was about? Because it was a great I mean, it just it kind of just changed the conversation on Philip Roth, the biographer and the last few weeks. And Josh was headed that up.
S2: Thank you, Jill. Yeah. About Blake Bailey, who taught eighth grade at the school in New Orleans where a lot of my friends went. I did not go to that school, but when I went to high school, a lot of the folks that I became friends with had had had this guy as a teacher. And we tried to give a full picture of what it was like to be in this guy’s classroom, both for the people that he would later allegedly kind of prey on, but also for the folks who were just kind of there and in his presence. And I was really proud of how the piece turned out. And thank you for bringing it up.
S3: It was fantastic. That’s probably not the small talk you intended on having at the top of the show. No, that’s
S2: more medium talk, maybe big talk, but happy happy to discuss it.
S3: Yeah, well, there you go. I’m glad we could get it in. So congratulations, Josh, Molly, Susan, rest of the Slate team. It was a great piece. And if you are a Slate reader, you should check it out for sure.
S2: Last year in the NBA bubble, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Memphis Grizzlies one twenty six to one twenty two in the league’s inaugural playoff play. In game was a close game. It was fun. It was competitive, and it allowed us all to have a little bit more Damian Lillard in our lives. And so it was no surprise when the NBA expanded the play in concept this year, the top six teams in each conference are locked into the postseason team. Seven to ten in each conference now have to square off to make it into the real deal playoffs. With a week to go in the regular season, the number eight Hornets and number seven Celtics would play in the east with the winner making the playoffs. The loser then having to play either the Wizards or the Pacers for the final Eastern Conference spot in the West. The number eight Warriors would play the number seven Lakers in an extremely juicy Steph versus LeBron playing match up. Tasty, very tasty. The winner of that game would make the playoffs. The loser would again face a win or go home game against either the Spurs or the Grizzlies in a less tasty matchup, one must admit, for the final Western playoff spot. Given the Lakers precarious position here, it is perhaps unsurprising that LeBron James recently said about the plan, whoever came up with that shit needs to be fired. And so I posed the question to you, Joel Anderson, does who ever came up with that shit need to be fired?
S3: I can understand why LeBron might feel that way. And he probably has more influence on getting somebody fired among the player ranks than anybody else. But I actually think that person should be promoted from coming up with the idea itself to successfully convincing the league and its broadcasting partners to implement it. Like this is evidently an obviously compelling stuff. You’re watching teams play hard late in the regular season for playoff positioning as opposed to outright tanking or sitting players to prepare for the playoffs. Like most years, you don’t get a game like you got the other night with Anthony Davis going off a forty to a. 12 against the sons, you don’t get teams usually playing that hard this year because they’re trying to, you know, rest up, get ready for the playoffs and there’s actual stakes attached to these games. And I think that’s for all of us who watch basketball or NBA fans. In recent years, we sort of fretted about the diminished importance of the regular season. Right. Like tanking has always been a problem. And there’s probably not much you can do about somebody like the Thunder, which, you know, is bottoming out and needs to do something with all of his draft picks. But, you know, the Sixers have gave up on being competitive for years. You know what? The Warriors signed KDDI. It effectively made the regular season meaningless for a number of years. So the NBA has had to come up with ways to appeal to fans. And this is pretty good. And it also pushes back in a year. I mean, I don’t know about you all, but every time I want to turn into watch an important basketball game this year, there’s always somebody missing. You know, to be like Joel Embiid is out Kawhi is sitting out this game Bron is out so at least they’ve figured out a way to make some segment of the regular season games entertaining, compelling, meaningful, leading into a playoff which you know the NBA is all about the playoffs. That’s what most of us tend to care about. So they’ve they’ve figured out a way, I think, to make us care about it. And to me, that seems like something worth rewarding. If you’re NBA employee number forty two or whatever, whoever, I think that’s,
S1: you know, look no further than Washington, Josh, for a great justification for this format. You know, Russell Westbrook and the Wizards have been on an incredible tear there, like thirteen and three. They have gone from also ran to in the playoffs. As of right now, they are the number nine seed that has been really great for fans in Washington and also around the league. You know, you turn on the NBA network or ESPN and you watch a game that includes Russ trying to not only break Oscar Robertson’s career record for triple doubles, but to get his team pretty much single handedly because Bradley Beal has been a little bit hurt and it’s not been carrying them the way Russ has to get them into the playoffs. That’s been great. Or you turn on any Warriors game and to watch Steph Curry. You know, Josh, you said it’s been appointment viewing and it’s even more so because they are playing for something in a season that they might have not been contending at all
S3: time stuff in. Josh, have you watched a Warriors game since that segment appointment viewing? Have you watched Steph Curry in the Warriors play since that segment? I have not. Mm hmm. OK, proceed.
S1: OK, the other point that I
S2: haven’t really watched any NBA game, so it’s not like I’m excluding him.
S1: But for fans who are interested in making
S2: highlights, I have been watching I’ve been watching the highlights. I’ve got I’ve had other things going on, John. I’ve been
S1: you know, I’ve been busy, wrote a story with
S2: my dad, my journalism, with my journalism.
S3: OK, are you guys turning it on me now? You said it was I mean, if disappointment, watching disappointment, watching
S1: the other the other point I want to make before we move on is that that adjusting the playoffs not just for TV, but for the reality of the size of leagues and the history of the way the NBA in particular has managed the playoffs is a good thing. There have been 16 teams in the playoffs since nineteen eighty four. Making this adjustment is a smart thing to do at a time when viewership has been down and the idea of of of regaining relevance or changing things up to gain fan interest, particularly given what’s happened the last two years with the league and the country and the world, is a smart thing to do. The NBA has always had a glut of teams making the playoffs going going way back to its founding in the late 1940s. This is nothing unusual to say, OK, we’re going to have twenty teams out of thirty make the playoffs. I looked back. They were years in the early years where six out of eight teams make the playoffs are twelve out of seventeen or eight out of ten. Having a lot of teams in the playoffs is nothing unusual. So that should not be a knock on the in tournament.
S2: You I mean, the kind of elegance here is that you have a format that allows every team in the league that’s not like explicitly trying to lose to have a chance to be, quote unquote in the race while also having fewer teams than there were before actually be locked into the playoffs. And you’ve got to be careful with your terminology, Stefan. I know you’re I know you’re big on being careful on terminology, but you said the Wizards are in the playoffs. They’re not actually in the playoffs. They’re in the plan position. But you don’t you’re not actually in the playoffs unless you secure one of those top eight seed. Oh, starting in this place. In this plan, Rand,
S1: I that is that I don’t buy that if you make the playing around, you are in the playoffs. So you does not make the NCAA tournaments because they play that blame game.
S2: I’m just saying that’s not how the NBA considers it. Like the Grizzlies didn’t make the playoffs.
S1: That’s how I consider it anyway.
S2: All right. Well, you’re out on an island. That’s fine. You can be
S1: there. I’d like it here.
S2: But it is, I think, a good thing to have players and teams mad about not making it in or potentially not making it in or not being able to coast their way. And which is, you know, what the situation is with the Lakers. They obviously won the championship last year. They’re obviously one of the best teams in the league. When healthy, they finished they started the year twenty one and six and have only struggled because LeBron James and Anthony Davis have not been healthy all year. And so you can actually make the argument, Joel, that this expansion and these planned slots are actually more forgiving to a team like the Lakers as opposed to punishing them. I mean, they’re kind of in this like middle ground purgatory area where it’s unclear whether this is going to benefit them or harm them. But if, you know, if LeBron and Aid had been out for even longer than the Lakers, the Lakers could have still made it into the 10th slot where they would have been out. It’s just like unclear in a given year whether this will be, like, bad for the injured teams or good for them. But it just it feels like LeBron is reacting in the way that you would predict him to respond. And it’s like actually a positive thing for the NBA that a team and a player would be angry about still making it end, but like not in the most desirable position.
S3: Yeah, I think that
S2: they still have a chance. They write ins, right?
S3: I think every year it’s going to be different. Right. And I think that, like, maybe there there will be another case, like let’s say that there was a much larger gap between the seventh and eighth seeds in the ninth and tenth seeds, like, let’s say there was a six or seven game gap between those teams. Then you might say, well, you know what? The play in the play in tournament doesn’t really seem necessary this year, because why would you have these significantly worse teams in the running for a playoff spot? Why would you want to risk that? But, you know, you know,
S2: it’s got Lakers and I guess either one based on the position now, either the Lakers or Warriors will definitely be in, but it’s not going to be great for the NBA. And a hypothetical scenario in which really bad teams that have records that are way worse than the seven and eight seeds just get lucky or get hot and like knock out a really like a marketable team with stars. That is better. Like, there is a scenario in which this would get, like, really criticized and people would like one. Well, cancel the tournament.
S1: Go ahead.
S3: You’ll know. No, well, I’m going to say Lakers versus Warriors is the game that everybody wants. Right. That sounds really cool in a vacuum. But like, God forbid you knock out one of those teams and then you replace them with the Grizzlies are the Spurs. Then it looks a lot less cool because now you’ve got to at least watch four more games of a team that nobody really wants to see.
S1: But what I what I like about this is I like two things, especially. One is that it does it does devalue the ability of teams to just sit there at seven or eight, you know, some shitty team with a sub five hundred record automatically getting in it. It reduces the sort of the reward for just being mediocre and finishing eighth. So you’ve got to do something to get in. Like does it really matter whether it’s the eighth, ninth or tenth the best team in the conference? They all kind of suck. They all are going to finish at five hundred or below, so let them figure it out and make the playoffs. The other thing that’s nice about this is that it’s a way of expanding participation and expanding the playoffs and creating interest without creating a lot of playoff creep. You’re not adding another best of five or best of seven series that’s going to prolong this in July. This is a you know, the one and done aspect to this is good. You should be, you know, sort of like the wild card game in baseball. I’m fine with that. Now, you don’t finish and you don’t win your division in these tiny divisions. Play your way in. And it’s entertaining for fans and that’s who we’re playing for.
S2: It is interesting that baseball terms that a wild card game and consider the considers those full playoff participants. I don’t know why I’m on such a terminological. Here, but it is like it is just like a labeling and branding exercise, because in baseball, I think. I think the way that the NBA has actually branded it as better and smarter because in baseball it feels like you’re not actually a full playoff participant if you make it in as one of these wildcard teams, lose the one game and then you’re out, it feels like you’re being lied to as a as a fan. Whereas in this case, I think they’re being honest. It’s like, OK, you’re not a full playoff participant. You just have to play this like totally separate, like lower tier round of games to make it in to the real thing. But I do think this is important to understand as marketing, because the leagues are doing this because they want inventory of TV games that people will want to watch. And so it’s like, OK, people want to watch game sevens. What is like how can we create a game seven without it being a game seven? We make it like a single elimination win or go home type game before the playoffs even start. Like it’s a clever construct of a thing that’s like how can we it’s not like tricking people into watch, but how can we convince people to watch games between teams that aren’t that that great? This is the way to do it. And I think it is actually like a good product, like we saw that in the plan game last year. Like, I don’t think people will tune in to a warriors. Like there’s going to be like the NBA tricked us, like, how dare they convince us to watch this, like single elimination, like LeBron versus Steph game.
S1: Oh, mean it’s a it’s a it’s a meaningful game for both of those teams who if the Lakers don’t get healthier and look, the Warriors aren’t that good anyway, could conceivably lose in the first round of the playoffs. So now we get to see them play a super meaningful game. And I like what Anthony Davis said on after after the Lakers won on Sunday night against Phoenix. He said he likes this, that this has given them motivation. This is giving them some challenge, given how poorly they’ve been playing because of injuries and and they were facing this prospect of not making the playoffs at all.
S3: Let me give let me do just do a moment of devil’s advocacy here, though, right? The NBA regular season is normally eighty two games. It’s seventy two. Right. That’s already sort of a representative sample of. A season, right, I mean, these teams play 72 games, they end in the position that they’re in, and now you’re saying, well, the regular season just isn’t quite enough to determine who should be in our postseason. And let’s play a few more games. Like, obviously, it’s a great TV contrivance. It’s good for fans. It’s good for, you know, interest. But in another way, it does sort of devalue the regular season just a tad because you’re saying, look, I know we play all these damn games. Everybody already says we have a very long, regular season and maybe we should think of ways of shortening it. But actually, it’s not enough to determine who should be in our postseason.
S1: And no man like you, you don’t finish seventh, don’t finish eighth, but
S2: you’ll enjoy, as you’ve argued, the teams themselves have already devalued the regular season by
S1: sitting, everyone
S2: sitting, everyone resting players. And so this is you know, you could argue that by forcing teams into the structure, the NBA is saying you should value the regular season more and try harder and try to win these games. And that way you’re not in this play on round. Also, no team seeded below number six has ever won a championship. And so I think what they’re saying is this is just a way to create more interest and excitement among a group of teams that has a history as our guide has zero percent chance to actually win a title. So what’s the harm?
S3: I guess I guess the thing is that one day we’re going to we’re going to look up and eventually we’re going to say, man, why are we doing this to these teams? I mean, if you’re your seventh or eighth team, that’s I mean, we don’t have to, you know, sort of, I guess, diminish a team for finished seventh. But I think you could just literally be the seventh team. We might not have anything to do with whether or not you took the regular season seriously or not, whether or not, you know, you’ve been giving, you know, load management to players or whatever. You may just be a fairly mediocre team or you may be at an extremely loaded conference. There’s been years when there have been teams, particularly in the Western Conference, there was a year with the seventh seeded team won forty seven games. That’s a really good basketball team. But you’re punishing them for not being great. And I’m just like, well, all right, that’s cool. But why would you I don’t know. I again, I get this is some devil’s advocacy. I’m for this for the most part. But I can I can understand why the players themselves may look and say, hey, why the hell are you doing this to us? Like, we already play a lot of games.
S2: I think we just need to wait for there to be like a really bad outcome of the kind that we’ve described, either like the ninth and tenth teams have just way worse records than the eighth seed and like make their way into the playoffs regardless. Or the Lakers missed the playoffs this year. And the NBA is like, oh, we got our fun high ratings at the expense of the Lakers just being out. And then we’ll see what kind of stomach the league and its teams and fans have for this.
S1: Well, I think at that point, the league will just change the terminology so that the Lakers will have made the playoffs by finishing where they finish.
S3: Hey, you know, the NBA has gotten used to the Lakers not being in the playoffs. I mean, they missed the playoffs six times this past decade. So, I mean, it’s not that uncommon for them not to be in it, too. By the way,
S2: up next, we’re talking about fighting in the NHL.
S1: Yes, it’s true, we are about to devote an entire segment to the sport of ice hockey, but instead of discussing one of the best offensive seasons in league history, Edmonton’s twenty four year old Connor McDavid reaching one hundred points in just fifty three games. The first player to do that in twenty five years, or Toronto winning its first division title in twenty one years, or the weirdness of the covid condensed fifty six game season that has Canadian teams playing only other Canadian teams, or even Alex Ovechkin becoming an investor in Washington’s women’s soccer team. We’re going to talk about the latest example of the NHL stepping on a rake by failing to duly punish a repeatedly violent player for behavior that targeted the heads of two opponents in one ugly sequence. The player is Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals. And last week, Wilson punched a prone, defenseless New York ranger in the back of the head and then moments later flung another ranger to the ice after ripping off his helmet. Wilson has made a career of dirty behavior, but there doesn’t seem to be any cumulative effect this time. The NHL issued a five thousand dollar fine, but no suspension. But it did find the Rangers two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for having the temerity to criticize the league’s decision. Josh, I think there are two things here that make Tom Wilson an interesting and big story. One is that the NHL looks ridiculous for finding a team that issued a statement 50 times as much as a player who sucker punched one dude and body slammed another. The other is that and we’ll get to this. The attention exposes how anomalous players like Wilson are becoming in the NHL, but how the league is still hanging on to what’s left of its culture of violence.
S2: So whenever you talk about this stuff, I think that people that are in hockey and that follow hockey will have a tendency to say, you just don’t understand the culture of the sport or you don’t understand the history here. But I think as an outsider, a couple of things are clear by analogy. Number one, the fact that the NHL fined the Rangers two hundred fifty thousand dollars and fined Tom Wilson five thousand dollars and the Rangers fined was for publicly calling out the NHL for its failure to police this violent behavior. It’s just classic retaliatory behavior like what you see in any organization, like when someone complains of sexual harassment and gets fired. I mean, it’s like there are obviously some nuances. And that analogy isn’t perfect. But it’s impossible to look at what the NHL has done in this past week and feel anything other than that, like they’re punishing the wrong team or they’re punishing the wrong group. And they’re it’s not just that it looks bad. It just shows a kind of rottenness of the culture of the league that they did this. The other thing is that the guy who’s in charge of determining suspensions is a former like enforcer who is known for just like fighting and getting a lot of penalty minutes. The guy’s name is George Parra’s. I mean I mean, can you come up with a more like kind of classic fox guarding the henhouse type situation? I mean, the argument that they make, it is like, oh, he’s been you know, they’re in the trenches. And so he understands, you know, he can see it on both sides. And the teams and the players respect him. I mean, just like how stupid that idea or is that argument. And I think the two things are connected, right? This idea that, oh, we have this precious kind of culture and you can only understand it if you are in it and if you like, punched, you know, had blood in your mouth or or whatever it shows. I think the fact that Paris is in this position and the fact that they’ve meted out punishment in the way they they did the culture of hockey has changed. Fighting is down. But there is still this fundamental like clutching on to this culture. And, you know, Joel, I think this like idea that like, OK, will change a little bit, will change a little bit. But there’s still like some fundamental, like, kind of nails grabbing on to this thing and just like refusal to let it go
S3: well in, maybe I’m going to, you know, zig where you zagged here. But it seems to me here that maybe the issue is that fighting and that it’s actually just Tom Wilson, who, from everything I’ve read about in the last few days, he’s just a dirty guy who is a threat to other players on the ice. The video that I watched him punching that guy on the head, that’s not a fight. That’s just a dirty play. Would be a dirty play in any sport, you know what it actually reminded me of? It reminded me of when I dove into the back of Troy Davis White’s neck in a play, and I was just like, wow, they allow that. Like, the fighting is less grotesque to me than with Tom Wilson was doing that.
S2: But other things, like all of us, I think, would agree with that. Anyone who is not like a hockey obsessive would agree with that. But then if you like, read all these articles and stuff and you put together like a lot of of notes on this that were really informative. But like people will say, like, oh, you don’t understand that he was defending his goalie and it was like in the crease. So that makes it OK. I mean, if you watch it, you’re like, that is totally insane for you to believe that. But like a lot of people feel like, oh, you’re just you just don’t understand or like you don’t know the history or like this kind of play. It just like feels like people who follow the sport are like too close to it to really see
S1: what’s actually going on. And when you mention Josh the George Paris and how this ruling was reached and the ruling was reached, that he was only fined five thousand dollars, which is the maximum that players can be fined by the department of of of infractions or whatever it’s called, the
S2: department of punching people in the
S1: back of the head come into this into the collective bargaining agreement. But yes, it was like all incredibly picayune. It’s like this is a scrum. These things happen during a scrum. He was all he was protecting the goalkeeper because the player who’s the back of the head of the player whom he punched, that player had appeared to kick at the goalie with his skate while he was lying in a prime position, yada, yada, yada. So the question becomes like, at what point does the NHL just say, enough of all of this? The NHL has become much more fluid. It’s become much more an offensive game. There are a lot more players like Connor McDavid, who I mentioned at the top, who are artistic and big and talented. And the game itself, you know, fighting is getting is getting eased out of hockey over the last 20 years. I mean, it really has the data, backs it up, backs it up, roster development backs it up the way teams are constructed now. And so to some extent, Joel, you’re right, this is a Tom Wilson problem. It’s not a hockey culture problem because Hockey’s culture has changed. But there are still players like Tom Wilson. And Tom Wilson is not an enforcer. He’s not a goon. He is not on that team, just a fight. He’s a talented player. They just signed him to a thirty million dollar contract. He’s had two twenty goal seasons in the last few years. He plays regularly. He’s not like a third line guy. But there is a history in the NHL of players like Tom Wilson who are good, but also seem to have some sort of screw loose where they turn a routine encounter on the boards in the crease in the center of the ice into a violent one. They know where the line is. They know what refs are willing to do and they know what penalties the league is willing to assess. And Tom Wilson pushes that every time he steps on the ice. There’s the threat of something happening every time he’s on the ice stuff.
S3: And you need to fight with this guy that wrote this sort of outrageous piece almost twenty years ago. When you’re talking about fighting, he said, time to get over it. The NHL should embrace its inner fighter and admit that FIALKOV. So I read that on a journal and that the next cowardly, cowardly Spears acrostic play right away with the knuckles. Yeah, I
S1: don’t think I
S3: would I would have caved.
S1: In my defense, there isn’t much defense. We didn’t know much about concussions and brain injuries. And second, that was the culture of the NHL and the big problem in the NHL then and to some degree now is that without retaliation, teams would target the best players on on opposing teams and there be more slashing. There would be more tripping. There’d be more going after the talent, the skill guys by players who were on the roster only to mete out punishment. But reading that now, it’s like, holy shit, you know, wow, could I have been dumber and more naive about the reality of the sport that I played when I was a kid?
S2: The Capitals posted a tweet, then deleted it at Capitals chooses violence after the Wilson hit. That was an interesting moment in the history of social media for them to do that. So if this is a Tom Wilson problem and if the particulars of the problem are that he’s not a gun and so the team isn’t going to send. Put him away because he’s too good at hockey for them to want to punish him, they’d be punishing themselves. If they punish him, then, you know, you have two options. The option that the NHL seems to be embracing here is let the players deal with it right on the ice, as we all know. What’s the solution to somebody who, you know, is a bully? You punch them, you just punch them harder and repeatedly. That’s that’s what we were taught. And what what what could go wrong? They’re just more people punching each other in perpetuity. That seems to have been that philosophy for decades. Doesn’t seem to be working. But like that, that seems to be what they want to stick with is like, all right, our hands are tied. There’s a collective bargaining agreement. We can only find a 5000 dollars. It was in the crease below blubbery. So let the player deal, let them, you know, punch each other until, you know, which
S1: is what the Capitol did two nights after. Yeah, yeah. Like at the drop of the drop of the puck at the beginning of the game, three fights broke out. They were premeditated, similar to what we used to watch in the NHL.
S3: Aren’t we encouraging this? We essentially encouraging this by talking about hockey only when the fights happened, like if if if fighting was actually bad for hockey and it was bad for the game and they didn’t want it in there, then like, you know, we would never you know, this would be something that it would I don’t know, I just kind of feel like we reward them for this sort of behavior. But sometimes I disagree
S1: because I think that this isn’t about fighting, first of all, and because it really isn’t. I mean, the fighting numbers there are the fighting numbers are down to like it’s point one, eight fights per game now. I mean, it is it’s incredibly low. The both the total number of fights, a number of fights per game are at historically low levels. You have to go back to the before the like the 60s and earlier
S2: the way it Stefan, it’s not about fighting except the for me, the reason that I knew about this in the first place is because everyone on social media was like, what’s going on with the Rangers and the Capitals all dropping their gloves at the start of the next game. And they’re starting to fight each other like the Jonas. Right. Like the reason that we’re talking about this is because of that kind of choreographed like this would have stayed within hockey land if Wilson had just like nearly I mean, the guy’s out for the season. If he had just body slammed that dude, that wouldn’t have risen to the level of like national news story. The thing that called attention to it was like this like ritual of them settling their dispute because the NHL wouldn’t settle it for them by dropping the gloves and just punching each other at the start of the next game. It is about fighting.
S1: It’s not about the propensity of fighting. No, it’s what a player like Wilson brings to the sport. He created this. And, you know, I think that it’s important to discuss sort of like, what can the league do? Greg Moshinsky? I thought it brought a really good piece on ESPN about this last week in the NHL. And we Shamsky writes that that the issue now is that Wilson’s antics stick out and he attributes that to an identity crisis that the NHL is having. He says that the league is in a purgatory right now, stuck between the violent physicality that the league was built on for decades and the speedy offensive majesty of its current galaxy of young stars. It wants to be both. It is frequently neither. And Gregg says, go all the way. You know, fighting has been down. Teams don’t sign, you know, the enforcer to put on the fourth line. Let’s go all the way on the skill side. Play for Harden for at all times the way they do in overtime. Get rid of offsides, change the rules so you get players like Tom Wilson out of the game entirely, disincentives franchises from needing or wanting someone like him.
S3: Let me can I, can I be the person that’s going to say something? They’ll probably upset a lot of people, by the way, because I don’t think there’s any I mean, the obvious thing to say here is somebody who is not a hockey fan is to say, I think that the culture of the sport is allowed to thrive like this. This particular piece of it is allowed to thrive because the majority of the players are white, like in the NFL. Vontez Perfect has like a terrible name, like even the players. Like, that’s outrageous. And Brunson’s perfect. He was suspended twenty two games in eight seasons. Right. And there’s only 16 game seasons in the NFL. That compares to Tom Wilson has missed thirty games in six years, which is like a drop in the bucket. Right. And it’s just considered a part of the game and everybody gets to do it. But there’s just no way that people would accept this if this is the NFL or the NBA. But in hockey. And I would. I would add in baseball where they’re allowed to throw the ball at people’s heads and stuff like that and hurt people in a way that sort of stuff is not permitted in the sports where the athletes are majority black, but in it, in hockey in particular, it’s just a part of the game and everybody is OK with it. We laugh at it and it doesn’t have the same appearance of malice that it does. When the player
S1: suspended a pitcher 78 games for taunting someone last week, no punches were thrown. The NBA outlawed fighting after one of the most gruesome punches you’ll ever see thrown. And when it came back with the malice at the palace, it was down
S3: to my Kermit Washington. OK, here. Yeah, I was talking myself. I was like, I didn’t think, oh, I was going to say anything. I think Jermaine Pitch was that hard on that fan, that the game isn’t that bad.
S2: The player that Tom Wilson is most reminiscent of, I think in recent years as Grayson Allen, he’s a guy who helped lead Duke to a national championship as a freshman, was a really good college player, made it to the NBA on the strength of his shooting ability and to some degree, his all around game, but is known for tripping people, fouling people flagrantly, seeming to have very little control over it, always kind of insisting that he’s going to change and then never quite doing it for people saying that he’s dirty and him getting very petulant about it and his teams and coaches kind of defending him. But I I think where that analogy sort of fail, like I think that there’s a lot of similarities there. But I do feel like even though Tom Wilson isn’t again, even though he’s not only a fighter, there is just this culture that valorise is that behavior in hockey. Whereas with grace now, people are just like what is going on with like what is the deal with this guy? Like, it’s just really weird. Whereas in hockey, it’s like not really that weird that there’s a guy who’s like, good at scoring goals and also punches people. It’s like it it maybe is an outlier and like, OK, you’re telling us like, OK, it’s just the Tom Wilson thing and he’s like fighting is down, whatever. But it’s like if you told me and I didn’t know that this guy exists, like there’s a guy who’s good at scoring goals and also punches people, I’d be like, OK, that seems kind of normal. Like doesn’t seem super weird to me. And so I don’t I don’t think we can just say if Tom Wilson was like, you know, banned from the game forever, like there would still be some cultural issues, there would need to be dealt with in hockey for us to say that, like, OK, everything seems like cool now.
S1: I mean, it’s it’s not it’s not dissimilar to what we continue to still here with the NFL. You know, we’re waiting for somebody to do something that results in someone dying on the field. You know, when he flung around our Temmy Panarin of the Rangers and threw him to the guys without his helmet on, that dude, it hit his head on the ice instead of his shoulder.
S2: Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s where I think you’re wrong in saying that we’re giving the NHL attention that it wants. I mean, like a lot of the stories that get national attention with the NHL or with guys getting hit on the boards and like nearly paralyzed are like, you know, things that I think the league is unhappy for for people to be looking at and talking about.
S3: Does anybody play hockey video games anymore? Do either of you
S2: all since NHL 94 and say, you know,
S3: I was just going to say that? Well, anyway, I guess like the issues, do they still have fighting and hockey games? One of our listeners let us know because like, obviously, the NHL leaned in heavy on that. And of course, I’m playing video games like this is twenty five years ago, so I don’t know. But they used that. I mean, that used to be a sales strategy for the game. And I think that obviously this benefits them in ratings terms. Like, obviously, the hip you we’re talking about the Tom Wilson did is bad, the the fighting that happened in the game after the line brawl. That’s good for them. And I don’t think I think that’s hard to argue against.
S1: Is most important to look at here is the way the response to Tom Wilson has been pretty universal. In spite of what you said, Josh? I think we heard from former NHL enforcers who said that this was bad. John Scott Wilson crossed the line. He called it gutless, terrible hockey. And that could have bad consequences for players being allowed to do whatever they want. In the scrum, another former enforcer, Matt Cooke, said that Wilson looked like a toddler having a fit. And Cook went on to say, this was the most interesting thing I read is that when he behaved that way in the league, he actually was forced to change by his team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. And he said that it I looked at like fifty hours of video. I had long conversations with coaches and front office people on that team. And I actually. He tried to change and there were still episodes after that where Cook was involved in a dangerous place, but he did change the way he played. And what he said here is that personally, I don’t think Tom’s reached the point where it’s grabbed enough words, grabbed his attention enough to cause him the desire to change. I mean, Wilson stood up in the penalty box and was like flexing without his jersey on after this all happened. So if it’s not just about Tom Wilson, it’s about the message that Tom Wolfe isn’t going to hear and that front officers are going to transmit to other players. You know, if the NHL is not going to be the force here to change this overnight and to allow this to continue for another decade or two while it continues to peter out of the game, you know, it’s going to take other people to recognize that this is the wrong way to play hockey. And the players are aware of the consequences of their playing to their to their to their heads and their futures.
S2: I just want to say one other thing, which is that it’s a convenient narrative for all these people to say that this is just one bad apple. I mean, it’s like police unions saying that one cop is bad, like then you don’t have to take a closer look at if it’s only a Tom Wilson problem and if all of the old, like, goons are being like, oh, yeah, that’s that guy, that’s the issue, then, OK, you don’t need to look more closely, examine the whole kind of culture of the thing. It’s like, OK, the barrel’s fine. Just get rid of that bad apple.
S3: And our next segment, the fastest podcast in the industry, talks about another fast guy, Dick Metcalf.
S2: On Sunday in Walnut, California, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Dick Metcalf finished last in a 100 meter heat at the USA track and field golden games in distant open. That was to be expected. Metcalf is a football player and a 230 pound bound one that he is going up against a field of professional sprinters, albeit not necessarily the guys that are going to be representing the US in the Olympics, but professional sprinters nonetheless. But the consensus coming out of the event on Sunday was that Metcalf, who ran a 10 three seven in the hundred, did better than expected. And so what do you our resident expert on sprinting and football and football players sprinting make of DKA Metcalf’s performance on Sunday?
S3: Well, I had a lot of thoughts, obviously, but you know, who was probably most pissed yesterday, whoever Ole Miss his track coach was when Dick Metcalf was there on campus, because they’re like, hey, why don’t you have all of this zest for sprinting when you were here in Oxford? Right. But I mean, how could you not be impressed? I mean, the fact that Dick was willing to go out there and run against professional sprinters, knowing the odds were long, says something about him and his competitive spirit, like, I would never deny that. Like just the attempt to do it is amazing. And considering that this is a guy who hasn’t competitively sprinted since high school where he was good but not great, I think he ran a fourteen point eight nine in the one hundred and ten meter hurdles and finished second in his classification of Mississippi in high school. That’s pretty good, but not great. I mean, to run a ten, three, seven and not have run a competitive hundred in years. That’s unbelievable. And let alone a two hundred and thirty pounds like that, you know, from getting down to start, from being able to maintain your form to all those other things, that’s just like that’s not supposed to happen. What he did is not supposed to happen. I thought he’s got like a ten, five or ten. Six to run at ten. Thirty seven is absolutely amazing.
S2: I think Otto Bolden, the former Olympic sprinter and now NBC commentator, predicted he would run like a ten, seven or so. And it seems like, Stephon, everyone who kind of knew anything about this thought he would do worse than he did then he ended up doing.
S1: And this is minimal training and coaching, correct? I mean, let’s all remember that people who do athletic things professionally spend their entire lives training to do these things in the space of a few months. Dick Metcalf went on a track with top sprinters and turned in a credible performance beyond credible, remarkable performance. I’m like, yeah, put it into context. Three seven is like doesn’t make the top twenty thousand hundreds in history. But you looked at him a standing next out of Bolden and standing next to each other, like whoever he was doing the interview with animals like, holy shit, you forget how big NFL players are.
S2: Nobody has ever forgotten how big Dick Metcalf has. If you’ve seen that photo of him in the weight room,
S3: I mean, Dick Metcalf is big compared even to NFL position, you know, big
S2: compared to like Mr. Universe contest.
S1: But to take that body and put it on a track and, you know, after practicing for a few weeks on how to get out of the blocks, how to accelerate through the middle part of the sprint and how to close and still be hanging with the people in his heat was incredible. And it’s, you know, I mean, it made me think of like what other athletes have tried to do, this sort of step out of their preferred sport that is a year round job and take a crack at just doing something after training for a little bit and doing it beyond. Incredible. Can we think of other ones recently? I mean, Carli Lloyd kicking in a practice?
S2: Well, the classic maneuver here is to just push a bobsled like that’s what really got did. That’s what Lolo Jones has done. But, you know, the thing that I found so interesting about your first answer, Joel was talking about how this was really kind of brave and respectful of DK Metcalf, because there’s a version of this. And I think maybe the version that I was expecting or that other people were expecting was like. OK, it’s almost it’s almost disrespectful as a guy who’s really fast as a football player to be like, oh yeah, I’m faster than all these people and and this perception that I’m sure you’ve heard in withdrawal of like, how hard could it be? You just like running in a straight line, like
S2: so isn’t there like a version of this where it’s almost like he’s dissing these people by going out onto the track and being like, I can beat all of you guys?
S3: I think he went out there with a lot of humility and he seemed to after the race, like talk about like I just wanted to I’m showing respect to these guys, like they were very good. And I just wanted to see and keep in mind, in a way, it was the US, ATF that extended the invitation because the genesis of this is a running down Budda Baker in that football game, you know, that incredible run down on an interception. And everybody was like, holy shit, Dick Metcalf is amazing. And something the US
S2: like over twenty two miles per hour, which is one of the fastest sprint. I mean, if you watch that play that highlight where he runs down Bootmaker and that’s like how important context is. It’s like when you watch that you’re like, I’ve never seen anyone run this fast in my entire life
S1: wearing ten pounds of
S3: equipment. Right. Right. Like maybe it would have been fair if all the other sprints yesterday it had to wear like a helmet and shoulder pads, thigh pads and whatever. Right. And maybe that would have even things out. But yeah, I mean, I think that it was respectful and it’s you know, I you know, I mean, they allowed him to compete. He gave a credible performance like he finished last, but he just barely finished last. Like he got
S1: edged at the time. He ran faster than two guys in the other heat. Yeah.
S3: Yeah. So, I mean, I you know, I don’t like that.
S2: Do you feel running without pads or just like running on a track versus running on a like when you had like a breakaway like running for a long touchdown. Did you feel as fast as you did running on a straight away on a track, or can you tell that you’re faster when you’re like wearing spikes and when you’re like, oh,
S3: you definitely feel a lot faster on a track with fewer clothes, you know? Absolutely. I mean, and I think the tell of that is everybody, when they run forty yard dash is at the NFL combine, they’re basically wearing underwear, you know what I mean? Like it. You really do feel a lot sleeker. My track coach used to say aerodynamic. Like I you know, I cut my hair and everything and just anything to shave an inch a millisecond off of your time. You really do feel much faster. So, yeah, yeah, I think it does matter. But I don’t know man. I mean for Dick Metcalf to run a ten three seven is so I think I was looking at some of the times like if you ran that time he would be among the top 85, 90 sprinters in NCAA track. That’s pretty good, man. I mean, again, as we said, these are people that have given their lives over to running track and for him to just step out there and do it like that, that’s incredible, man. I don’t I mean, I guess the thing is, is that it makes me wonder. With the other really fast guys in the NFL could do right? Like, that’s the next step, isn’t it? Like what Tyreek Hill do. What would Henry Rug’s do with Henry Rug’s around four to seven in the 40 the NFL combine last year, like what could these guys do given the opportunity to train and run against these, you know, running in a fast heat? Because I also think running against fast people makes you faster,
S1: which all what I really liked about this was and this is what you alluded to, Josh, is the the the Dick Metcalf is not a jerk. You know, it was clear all along that Dick Metcalf respected the craft of being a sprinter. He wasn’t saying, oh, man, I can go out there and make the Olympic team. He was saying, I want to try saying that actually he needed faggotry. I mean, I thought that it’s sort of like he was so humble after the after the fact. I mean, but, you know,
S3: because he because he got humbled.
S1: But that’s not to say that if he had if he has the if he could train and lose 30 pounds. Right. Of muscle, maybe Dick Metcalf could be a a top level sprinter. But the fact that he was willing to try but not do it as sort of a half assed way is what I mean. He didn’t just say, like, I’m taking my pads off and going to run one hundred and compete with these guys. He did spend time training. He was respectful of what it would take to get good at this. He’s also like such a phenomenally gifted human being that he was able to do this with minimal training.
S2: So the NBC Sports Olympic site had a list of the fastest NFL players for 100 meters. And a lot of it is like track guys. I think maybe all of it is track guys who also played football as opposed to football players who moonlighted and and track. I mean, a guy that I have a very close personal relationship with is a trend in holiday said that I watched him on TV a lot, ran a ten flat and legitimately was trying to make the Olympics and is like five foot five and, you know, played a little bit and they would run gadget plays for him at LSU, but like was mostly a kick and punt returner. And like that dude, you could tell like something different was going on when he would get, you know, in the open field on a kickoff. But like, you know, on the list of guys here, like, you have to go down to Darrell Green, a number eight on this list, who ran a ten point zero eight to get to a guy who was like a legit like he’s a Hall of Famer. And so, I mean, he might be the most impressive. Oh, yeah. Ever in terms of being a legitimate beyond legitimate all time great NFL player who could have potentially been an Olympic sprinter if he had just done that. I mean, he almost maybe could have been an Olympic sprinter, even just in his NFL career. I mean, Joel, does watching him, did he strike you as a guy who has different o- other people on this
S3: deal in one way? You know, the other thing about Darrell Green is that when we were younger, there used to be the NFL’s fastest man competition. And so Darrell Green wanted a I think a couple of times, maybe two or three times. And it was clear that, like Darrell Green was that dude like what I think of fast NFL players and in history, or at least in the course of my lifetime, I think Darrell Green, I’m sure if you’re older, if you like my dad’s age, you probably think of Bob Hayes. Right, because Bob Hayes was sort of the the sprinter NFL guy of his generation. But I always think of Darrell Green is. Oh, man. Like that is for as long as he was in the NFL, he was the fastest guy and probably could have given a credible made a credible sprinting career of it. And I mean, just actually looking at that list that you shared with us, Josh, you know, starting with Jim Hines at nine nine five and going down to Trenton Holliday at ten flat like those times, if anything, put into stark relief the distance between an elite sprinter and whatever it is the Dick Metcalf is doing. Ten, three, seven is a great time, especially for 230 pound guy. It wouldn’t have even got Dick Metcalf on the medal stand at the at the Texas State Championships in 100 meter dash this past weekend. Like, that’s I mean, that’s how fast fast people are, people that are running track. That’s how fast it is. So I like what Dick Metcalf was extremely impressive. Do not go out there thinking that shit like that’s just not something that can happen for most guys.
S2: Look, here’s a here’s a question that I think a lot of people might wonder. It’s that why are the people that were in the top three and the Texas high school you meet this past weekend, why don’t they play football? Is it that they’re not good at football or is it that they decided that, oh, we’re just like we want to focus on. Entourage, because that the idea is like the way that capitalism works is like you’d go to the thing that is the most remunerative, and if you’re that athletic, then like, could these people be really good at football or is for some reason they’re not good at football. And so they have to settle for just being amazingly fast and doing it on the track.
S3: I definitely think it’s two things. One is that just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you’re good at football, because I mean, the thing about football that makes you good is not a straight line of speed. It’s like lateral quickness, you know, being able to take a hit, you know, running with pain,
S1: using your hands
S3: to catch a ball, using your hands. Right, exactly. And then also I think that, you know, there’s a lot more opportunity in football. There’s so many more football scholarships than our track scholarships. Just because you’re really good at track doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to get a good a good scholarship or scholarship somewhere else. Like if if you’re if you’re if you’re a great athlete in high school and let’s just say that you’re marginally competitive in sprinting. Let’s say you run a 10, three and 100 in high school, but you also have football offers. Well, you have a much better you can probably go to LSU or you could go to Texas or, you know, a big school and play football as opposed to like try to hack it out and go to, you know, Midwestern state and Wichita Falls. Whatever I can remember, it’s always tough is appealing. But nevertheless, you know, I’m saying, like, you go the route you might have to take and the distance to the money and track is so much further than it is that if you go play football. So I think that’s why people ultimately make that.
S1: And I think that like someone like Trenorden Holiday sort of shows just how gifted you have to be at two things to do them extremely well. I mean, turned on holiday playing, you know, ran in the Olympic trials in 2008 and then stuck in the league for four years, four seasons. And that’s very different from some of the other guys on that list who in the 60s and 70s and early 80s were drafted or signed as a sort of gimmick. Right. The fastest man in the world. Let’s put them in pads and see what they can do. That was the case with Jim Hines. That was the case with Bob Hayes. That was the case of Willie Gault,
S2: basically every Raiders wide receiver of the last.
S1: And we don’t see that so much anymore because of specialization in sports so that the football players are better than they were 40 and 50 years ago. And the track stars are better than they were 40 and 50 years ago. It’s much more competitive. It’s you know, it’s not it doesn’t translate. You can pick any of those guys that that Dick Metcalf ran against on Sunday and maybe sign him to a contract and bring him into camp. It’s not going to work. There’s too much competition. Too many players are
S2: better well trained. And holiday was considered a gimmick in football. Yeah, like he had a hard time getting a scholarship. He only got a scholarship at LSU because he went to a camp with like a friend, like he wasn’t even invited to the camp and they saw how fast he was like, all right, we’ll give you a scholarship because he was so small. He got, I think, pushed more into the track side of things because that he wasn’t considered as legit. But I guess another question for you, dollars let’s say college football, just like shut down for a year, not for a pandemic, but shut down for a year. And like every fast college football player just got pushed into track and like got like elite sprinting, like training. Would some number of these football players, like then become the US Olympic team?
S3: Yeah, absolutely. I think well, maybe not the US Olympic team, but they would be
S2: they to run faster than DK Metcalf, right?
S3: Yeah, right. Right. And I was just reading about this the other day. Sean Taylor was, you know, the late Washington football team. Safety was a big sprint champion, you know, and I mean, this was a much more common thing even twenty years ago, that football guys also did both. Deon Sanders ran track in college. You know, there are a lot of guys that that used to pull it off. So I definitely think that if they got that sort of training. But one thing to keep in mind, too, is that like like like Stefan was talking about in terms of specialization, they’re not very mynor not not very many elite athletes or elite sprinters that are heavier than two hundred pounds. Like maybe one of the biggest ones that I can think of in my lifetime was like Linford Christie. He was a great sprint champion. I think he was maybe he was a silver medalist in one of the Olympics out of U.K. and he was like one hundred and ninety pounds, you know. I mean, but he looked big, like he looked huge, but he was only 190 pounds. And so, like, that’s the other piece of it, is that the way the guys are now, like the trainings are just so different and they depart from each other in a way that they didn’t used to. So it would take a while, but they would need that year just to get down, to lose weight, get to start training, get the technique work, just to be able to compete at the level of these guys. They could do it, but it would just be really, really I
S1: mean, you saying Bolt is the outlier in everything when we talk about. Track, right? He was 65, he was over two hundred pounds and I just Googled because I didn’t remember, but he did get offers to try out the NFL.
S2: I mean, and he the NFL combine record is four to two in the 40. And a few years ago, after he retired, U.S. Ball ran a four to two in sweats.
S1: Drescher’s, I think.
S2: Yeah, it’s it’s a different, different, different caliber.
S3: Don’t you also don’t you also I mean, one other thing is like one reason sprinters probably wouldn’t want to play football now is that we know a lot more about concussions today than we did 10, 15 years ago. We’re going to put your
S1: head on the line of what Bob Hayes couldn’t make any money running track. You can make more money running track today.
S3: And after the break, we’ll go into after bawls.
S1: And now it is time for after balls in our conversation about the NBA playing tournament, I mentioned how the league has modified its playoff formats pretty dramatically over the years for its records. The NBA counts three seasons of the Basketball Association of America, the NBA, from 1946 through 1949. And they did some weird playoff formatting there. Nineteen forty nine fifty, though, is the first season under the name NBA. There were 17 teams, 10 of 12 were from the bay. Six were from the older National Basketball League. And there was one expansion team. 12 of those teams made the playoffs and George Michael Minneapolis Lakers won the title, beating the Syracuse Nationals four games to two. But I’m not really interested in the playoff format that year as I am in the teams that were in the original NBA, there were three divisions. The Western division consisted of six teams, all of them from the NBL except for Syracuse, plus the expansion team that I mentioned. All right. So a little trivia, Josh. Joel, can either of you name. Two of the teams in the Western division, I mean, I’ll take one honestly, Fort Wayne,
S2: Fort Wayne,
S1: Fort Wayne, what
S2: for? Wayne Piston’s, Cincinnati Royals.
S3: Huh? Hmmm, OK, let’s see.
S1: You ready for your first
S3: clue, Boston Braves, I don’t know, in
S1: the Western Division, your first clue is that one of these teams has a franchise in the current NBA.
S2: Kansas City Kings in
S3: the No Man
S1: and their current name,
S2: huh? OK, Minneapolis Lakers, the Rochester Royals just named jazz, old timey teams these.
S1: Here we go. Ready? You’re here. The six teams in the Western division of the NBA in 1950, St.
S3: Louis, St. Louis Hawks. OK, right.
S1: The Indianapolis Olympians. Who? The Anderson Packers.
S3: Wait, Anderson and what St..
S1: I’ll give you if you can get the state, then we’re in great shape. Indiana. They played they had an offensive Native American mascot and they played their home games in the Anderson High School Wigwam. Actually, three teams in this division had Native American nicknames, the tri cities Blackhawks. I’m not sure which three cities were in the tri cities, the Sheboygan. Washington football team name, except it was two words, not one Waterloo Hawks. Wow. And the Denver Nuggets.
S3: What imagine that road trip. I mean, for everybody else. By the way, gone from Anderson to Denver. Wow.
S1: Josh, what’s your Anderson Packer?
S2: Last week we had Ben Lindbergh on the show to talk about the year of the pitcher in baseball and what should be done about it. In the intervening seven days, the pitchers have only gotten more terrifying in the minors. Red’s prospect, Hunter Green threw 37 pitches at one hundred miles per hour or greater in a single start, with his fastest pitch clocking in at one hundred and two point six. The Mets Jacob de Graham gave up one run in one hit and five innings on Sunday, increasing his season iara of zero point six eight and John Means of the Orioles and Wade Myle of the Reds, both through no hitters last week, meaning there have been four no hitters already this year. That’s one point three percent of all the no hitters in major league history in just over a month.
S1: Does that include the seventh inning no hitter? There wasn’t a no hitter. It does not. So there were five
S2: actually just saying that there have been four no hitters this year or five doesn’t quite capture it because we’re very close to seeing the twenty fourth and twenty fifth perfect games in Major League history. Carlos Redan, no hitter last month, was nearly perfect, but the White Sox pitcher hit a batter in the foot in the ninth inning and the aforementioned John Means got even closer to perfection. The one guy that got on base against the Orioles starter actually struck out. He made it to first because of a wild pitch on that strikeout. Only time in history that he dropped third strike cost a pitcher a perfect game. This was not the closest any pitcher has ever gotten to a perfect game without it being a perfect game. In 2010, the Detroit Tigers Armando Galarraga retired the first 26 batters in a row before umpire Jim Joyce called the Indians Jason Donald Seyfert, first on an infield grounder replay, showed Donald was clearly out. It wasn’t even that close. But replay review is not yet a thing in Major League Baseball, so nothing could be done about it. Galarraga, as you recall, murdered Joyce, but a judge ruled that he was not guilty by reason of that bastard, costing him a perfect game. No, actually, Galarraga was famously a very good sport, he said after the game of Jim Joyce, nobody’s perfect. And he handed Joyce the lineup card before the next game. General Motors gave Galarraga a Corvette. Jon Stewart awarded him a medal of reasonableness at the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity or Fear.
S3: That just sounds horrible, but go ahead. That’s fine.
S2: Galarraga and Joyce actually co-wrote a book together called Nobody’s Perfect for which I award them minus 50 sportsmanship points for noncreative title. I also just discovered the singer songwriter Dan Bern immortalized Galarraga and Joyce in song. Let’s take a listen.
S3: Joyce and Galarraga, just another just another perfect game. No Joycean.
S4: Right now, twenty man up, twenty six men
S3: down a game of his career at twenty seven. Yes, Jose blew the call. Now going down your salaries for a year or two, no matter who, you dug deep for that one.
S2: But did you hear that last lyric to drown your sorrows for a year or 10 years? Oh, I
S3: did not hear that. But that’s what poetry
S2: little did Danberg now. But 10 years after that blown call, 10 years precisely in May 20 20, Galarraga did an interview with Cody Stephen Hagan of the Athletic. Galarraga is now 38. He finished his career with a record of 26 and thirty four. He told Stephen Hagan, I had something in mind. I will share with you that something was a question. How can Major League Baseball give me the perfect game? Oh, because it was perfect, right? So there was talk at the time about overturning the call, retroactively, giving Galarraga the perfect game. But it never happened, never really had a chance of happening. There was actually a survey of one hundred players done at the time. Only 13 percent thought that overturning the call was the right thing to do. And to the extent that history is relevant here, it goes against Galarraga in 1959. Harvey Haddock’s through twelve perfect innings before he gave up a bunch of baserunners and lost the game in the thirteenth. For three decades, Major League Baseball actually considered that a perfect game, but they took it away from Haddock’s in nineteen ninety one, saying that a perfect game has to be completed and be perfect and its completion for it to count to which Haddock’s responded in nineteen ninety one. It’s ok. I know what I did. That statement is what makes the Galarraga case so interesting. In 2010 he said essentially it’s ok, I know what I did and he was rewarded for it. He got the acclaim, the admiration, the Corvette. Now he’s saying it’s not OK because I know what I did, which is fine if he feels that way. But it doesn’t quite fit with the let bygones be bygones image. They got attached to him a decade ago. And so the lesson here is check in with people who say, I’m not mad. Actually, it’s funny to me every ten years or so to make sure they’re still not mad and that it’s still actually funny to them because their answer might change and it might surprise you.
S3: Isn’t it better for him this way? Like I mean, we know that, like what he did is more memorable than pretty much all, but like a handful of no hitters. Right. Like I mean, I, I don’t I feel like he’s more famous for doing this than if he had actually thrown a known hitter. To be honest. You’re ruining your name. Big Cat. That’s his nickname, right? He’s the big cat. Yeah. Big cat. You’re ruining your name. But you should just fight this. Now, this is a different
S2: I think big cat was Andre
S1: with Andre
S3: Skoller. There were that many Galarraga in Major League Baseball. All right. Well, I. I apologize. I guess he wasn’t as well known as I thought
S1: I’d say that that he played it perfectly. He got all the sympathy and the Corvette when he needed it and now was really going to pay attention when he bears his soul,
S2: should he lose his medal of reasonableness. That, I think, is what everyone everyone wants to know.
S1: He probably already sold the Corvette, man.
S3: Oh, that’s too bad. I thought, you know, I made a mistake. I thought that he was the famous Galarraga in Major League Baseball. I got it wrong. I thought that that this thing had actually distinguished him, but maybe hit it not so, you know, whatever you need to feel. OK, Mr. Galarraga, I think you should pursue it because it’s your life and you’ve got to be the one to decide if this is OK or not.
S2: That’s our show for today, where we’re providing free therapy for all. Galarraga, our producer this week. It’s Margaret Kelly. Natasha. And subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, dot com. You can email us and hang up dotcom. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show to rate and review us on Apple podcast. You’re also supposed to let us know if they’re still fighting in hockey video games. Don’t forget about them. For Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis, I’m Josh Levine, remembers Aliabadi. And thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members on Thursday, the Los Angeles Angels, which I guess is what they’re calling themselves these days, designated Albert Pujols for assignment, which is baseball speak for kicking him to the curb. Pujols is forty one. He signed a ten year, 240 million dollar deal with the Angels in 2011 and has been a below average player ever since. This after the first 11 years of his career, where some of the best in baseball history, not an exaggeration, and where the foundation for what will certainly be a Hall of Fame career. Stephon Pujols, the great player, has been overshadowed by Pujols, the horrible deal for a long time now. It’s kind of the quintessential, quote unquote, bad contract in baseball and one that arguably changed the sport
S1: for many years. It’s been since the Los Angeles Angels have been just the Los Angeles Angels.
S2: Josh, I don’t know, were they in the NBA Western Division or whatever?
S1: They’ve been just the Los Angeles Angels since twenty thirteen. Yeah, the contract changed the sport and it mystified, like, I think what’s most mystifying is that that Albert Pujols went there and basically from the job was not the same player. And I’m one of those baseball fan observer watchers who wonders why that happened. Would that have happened had he stayed in St. Louis or had signed with the Marlins who were offering him 10 years similar two hundred dollars million contract? And it’s one of the, to me, saddest parts of, you know, one of the saddest stories in modern baseball. And we can’t really know why Albert Pujols is production plummeted.
S2: Agent injuries, agent injuries.
S1: I mean, he was thirty one, you know, I mean, it’s it feels it feels like a it feels maybe it’s just disappointing that it happened. And look, it hasn’t stopped Albert Pujols from hitting more than 600 home runs or getting more than three thousand hits. But it feels like it’s been this slow drip since he got to Anaheim. And maybe it was coincidence, but it sort of just feels like these two the two chapters of Albert Pujols career, you know, Albert Pujols career, rather, can be divided into these two distinct eras
S3: where he was rewarded that money at a time when baseball players were suspiciously good late into their 30s. Now, you know, and like there was reason to believe that maybe he might, you know, produce at a higher level for a longer time than he did. And like you said, he fell off of a cliff almost immediately. And I should say, like I’ve been to a few Angels games over the last couple of years, and I would go and I would always be like, oh, shit. Albert Pujols plays with Angels against it. I just like I didn’t I totally forgotten about him still being an active Major League Baseball player. So, yeah, it’s just I mean, as sad as it is that he was designated for assignment, I think the second chapter of his career is actually almost been even more sad that it’s kind of come down to this. And I don’t think it will ultimately overshadow the way people think about Albert Pujols. Like he’ll still have the homerun numbers. He’ll still be a Hall of Famer. People in St. Louis. I think we’ll probably remember him fondly. I don’t know. I mean, it’s been a while now. And I mean, he didn’t leave under the best of circumstances, but
S2: they’ll remember him fondly. You think, OK, he he was great there and they won World Series, et cetera and so forth.
S1: They made the postseason seven times when he was there.
S3: I mean, you know, I mean people I mean two
S1: World Series, two World Series.
S3: It’s not like fans are like rational, you know. I mean, he left and has been gone for a long time. And I just wonder if they’re like, see, we you know, you shouldn’t have left. This is what happened. Look what you get. You know, I don’t. But maybe you guys are right. Maybe baseball fans are more reasonable. These are the best fans in baseball, of course, in St. Louis. So surely they will welcome him with open arms.
S2: So he never tested positive for steroids at any point in his career. He started before the real testing era, kicked in in the mid 2000s. But perhaps one could argue that the precipitous decline in his career and the fact that he is aged in a more kind of like traditional way would mean that he was clean or would suggest that he was clean as opposed to I mean, we don’t really know either way. But Ray Ratto and defector, I think, made an interesting argument, which is that Arte Moreno, the Angels owner, saw this from the very beginning as like a marketing deal, and that he was trying to purchase prestige for his franchise. And so that there’s an aspect of this that, like, he kind of I guess he didn’t get what he paid for even in that respect, but that they weren’t necessarily just trying to get Albert Pujols, the baseball player, that they wanted this guy to confer legitimacy and to, like, get a bigger TV deal and to get more fans in the stands, which I think that’s probably true. But I think in baseball. With maybe maybe the exception of the Cubs, people just want to go and see a winning team like there’s no kind of universe, Stefan, in which Albert Pujols was bad. And people like we’re like, oh, that’s so great that the Angels have this really bad version of Albert Pujols. Like, we’re going to go out to the ballpark and enjoy seeing him kind of like struggle to go out to first base like this. It always needed to be like a good baseball on field move for it to make sense for the angels.
S1: So it looked like it was going to be at the time. I mean, that was the expectation. I mean, yes, the angels were competing and are still competing with the Dodgers for fans in Los Angeles. And I can’t remember the particulars, but the TV deals in that market are completely bizarre and and have been the subject of litigation over the years. So I’m sure Arte Moreno was trying to lock in some marketing value. Of course he was.
S2: But the angels are never going to be the Dodgers, just like the Clippers are never going to be that like forever.
S1: But every franchise and team owner thinks that they can magically change the fortunes and the perception of their franchise. And that’s what Moreno clearly was trying to do by signing pools. I mean, even look now, I mean, look, Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and might end up being the best player in the history of baseball. But he’s playing for this team and he is, you know, quasi invisible.
S3: Oh, so hell, Tony, I mean, they’ve got another great player there. And it’s like they’re not the Dodgers, right?
S2: I mean, those players are two of the most marketable in the game. And so the reason that they’re marketable is because they’re amazing and they do things that other players don’t do like. That’s that’s the way that. Right. That you’re marketable in this sport. But with Pujols, I mean, the thing that’s so crazy about him and I tweeted about this the other day, is for the last 10 years in a row, every individual season, his batting average on base percentage and slugging percentage have been worse than his career averages. The level of consistency at being at being not good is really remarkable. And that’s the thing you mentioned, Stefan, is that it’s just so rare, even when you do have a decline in your career, like that’s normal, but have the decline be like this specific and stark and to be like consistently amazing and then consistently bad like you would expect, especially in baseball, where the results can kind of vary a lot from year to year. Joel, you would expect to be like, all right, he was like mostly good and then was like mostly bad with a little bit of bad sprinkled in before and a little bit of good sprinkled after. But just like it’s hard to think of a career like this that has just been so specifically divided and also specifically divided when he left to this other team and got this money, like it’s just so hard to think of a way that the angels could have been like more boned by that.
S3: But I think they definitely thought that. Right, that this was going to put them over the top in their division at the time, that they were a competitive team at the start of this deal, and that it would make, you know, they might make the difference, that it might elevate them into playoff standings and give them a shot at the World Series. And so it was always going to be bad at this point in the contract. Like, I think everybody understood this is going to be a bad deal from like 2017 on or whatever. Right. But they just didn’t understand that was going to be a bad deal starting from 2011 or 2012, but it just didn’t do what they hoped to do. And I think I mean, I guess, you know, man, the allure of the game is amazing because, you know, it doesn’t seem Albert Pujols hasn’t been baffled by this. Like he hasn’t been you know, it’s not like he’s going to walk away from the game gracefully and be like, well, you know what, like, I have been playing that well and I want to go home and kind of preserve what
S1: remains below the Mendoza line is that he was batting 198 when they when they when they released
S2: a lot of a lot of his peers in the game who are no longer playing. David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Adrian Beltre. We’re talking about how disrespectfully he was treated. And Pujols, I think, thinks that he was being treated disrespectfully.
S3: But like all those dudes, I mean, I hate to say it. I mean, you know, all the guys that came to his defense, you know, I mean, they’re all in Albert Pujols, Dominican, all the all of those cats that came to his defense of Dominican, you know what I mean? And I’m not saying that that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a valid
S2: because he’s a he’s a national hero. Right. I guess the the place where you draw the line is like they respected him enough to pay him the two hundred and forty million. It’s not like he’s not getting the money. And he was on that team kind of starting and playing long beyond when a player who didn’t have that contract. In the name would have been on the field, it is I guess it is like mildly surprising to me. Like on the one hand you were like, of course he thinks he can still play and thinks he’s an everyday player. But there are examples of plenty of examples of guys who’ve been like, yeah, I’m just not as good as I used to be. When I retire. It’s like it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to say something like that or somebody say something like that, would it?
S3: Pujols want to happen, I guess, you know, like getting mad at Joe Maddon and saying he didn’t want to retire. Like, what do you think would do you all think that he what do you think? He still wants to be out there and hit below two hundred and look like I mean, clearly I mean, he thinks he can still
S2: think he thinks it’s just like he’s on a ten year cold cold streak maybe.
S1: I mean he just needs a few more swings. Correct. The problem,
S2: I do have some sympathy for him because it’s like I think he was slowed down by injury and he was this great player. And it must be hard for him to not be able to have that ability. But like. I hate to just keep bringing up the money because, you know, he he earned that contract in the way that baseball works. It’s like you do get paid for what you’ve done in the past rather than what you’ll do in the present. And it’s like not I don’t begrudge him by any stretch getting that money, but it’s hard to feel bad for him.
S3: Oh, you
S2: don’t feel bad for him at all, even as I’m like I can understand where he’s coming from.
S3: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely no reason to feel he got paid. He’s going to go to the Hall of Fame. He got to live in L.A., you know, for I mean, there’s
S1: not what he didn’t get. I mean, if this mattered so much to him for his I mean I mean competitively, but also maybe for personal reasons. You know, maybe he wanted the farewell tour. Maybe he wanted the Derek Jeter treatment where you go to every stadium and they give you a rock. Well, the way
S2: you get that, as you say before the year starts,
S1: that I’m retiring. But that’s what I was about to say. Like, if that’s what he wanted, then the sensible move here would have been for him to announce that I’m going to be this is going to be my last season. And maybe those conversations were had. You know, would it surprise you if the Angels Front Office tried to persuade him to do that or if his agent persuaded, tried to persuade him to do that, or members of his family tried to persuade him to do that? I don’t know Albert Pujols personally and I don’t know what his thinking has been about his own performance. I mean, maybe he’s just completely deluded into thinking that I’m just, you know, a few swings away from getting it all back again. Or maybe he just likes being a baseball player and doesn’t want to let go of that. That’s a completely understandable feeling, too. But it is kind of sad, right? I mean, the way athletes and their careers, you know, we all we do remember that. And I’m sure this is not the way Pujols wants to end his career and whether that means that maybe the cardinal signed him for a ceremonial series. So he retires as a cardinal or he ends up in Chicago and he’s reunited with Tony La Russa. Something probably is going to happen here to give him the dignity of a retirement. You know, baseball is also a cruel business. And maybe this is just it for Albert Pujols and this is the way he goes out.
S2: Well, I think we should just be honored to have our Onestop on Albert Pujols retirement or so. Here’s a rocking chair, Albert.
S3: Albert, if you really cared, you would have gotten a PDS like they used to do back in the day. But, you know, saying I think that that’s you probably shouldn’t you probably should have invested in a better plug because whatever whatever it is you’re using and it’s not it’s not helping you right now.
S2: On that note, sorry, sleepless members, thank you for your membership. We’ll be back with more next week.