S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of December 7th, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the most recent humiliation of the windlass, New York Jets, and whether those rascally jets will win in the end. We’ll also discuss the Rockets Wizards, Russell Westbrook, John Wall Swap, whether it’s as sad as I think it is. And finally, we’ll speak with runner and activist Russell Jenkins about his quest to save men’s college track programs, which he describes as the only sport in the NCAA where schools cannot profit from black athlete labor.
S1: I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four. Also in D.C., Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. How’s it going? Stefan Good. Josh, how are you doing? So well with us from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer Joel Anderson is the host of Stober in Season three and upcoming season six on the L.A. riots. Hello, Joel. Good morning. So perfunctory chatter there, I think I’m just going to call it out for what it was, but the reason for it is that we’re going to now get into some animated back and forth about the big hang up and listen news for next week, which is, Joel, you’ve been working on a special podcast on Michael Jordan’s time with the Washington Wizards. It’s basically what the last dance left out and did that documentary series with the ninety eight bowl season and then pretended like Jordan never lets them up again. Yeah, but he did.
S3: He did. It’s the last last dance as we’ve been unofficially calling it. And yeah, me and Melissa, who is our great producer for this podcast, putting it together right now. You all have talked me through talking under a blanket and moving into a studio. And there’s been a lot of work over the last few months, but I think it’ll be really cool. And we’ve got like a lot of great voices, you know, should I say some of the names of the voices of the names. OK, Rachel Nichols, who used to work at The Washington Post when Jordan was there, we’ve got Adrian Thomas, who played for the Wizards when he was there.
S1: Brendan Hayton is the star of this.
S3: Do you think he has some really good audio clips? Yeah, absolutely. You know, Brendan Haywood, Heidi White. So we’ve got to we’ve got a real front line, a good front line for this podcast, real strong.
S4: We get into the paint, but it’s a lot of good stuff about what Jordan was like off the court, on the court as well. And it’s like a smart revisitation of the criticism that he faced back then and some of the reasons why his time in D.C. might have been misunderstood. I really learned a lot from it.
S3: Yeah. Thanks, man. Well, you were right there with all along the way and stuff and presumably is listening a little bit to it over the next couple of days. So, yeah, no, man, you know, it’s one of the things I would’ve been really excited about this year to get an opportunity to work on this. And yeah, I think people are really going to enjoy it just in time to whet your appetite for basketball season, which, you know, get started here in a few weeks.
S1: Yeah, for sure. And stuff. And folks will see this in their feeds next Monday in lieu of the usual hang up and listen. But Slate plus members will get something extra, which will be a conversation among the three of us about this podcast about Jordan with the Wizards and about what everybody is going to hear. So if you want to hear that conversation among the three of us, which will be like, I guess your Joel, Josh and Stefan dose for the week, then you need to be a slate plus member, which you can do at Slate dotcom slash hang up. Plus, that’s where you subscribe if you are not currently subscribed by promise to use it.
S3: I’ll try to wedge and take some help for our listeners.
S5: So we need that every week. That’s going to be a separate podcast someday, right?
S6: On Sunday, November 6th, 1970, at Shea Stadium in New York, Darryl Armonica of the Oakland Raiders threw a 33 yard touchdown pass to Warren Wells with one second remaining for a 13 13 tie. That with the extra point by 43 year old George Blanda became a 14 to 13 win on November 6th, 20 20 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders threw a forty six yard touchdown pass to Henry Rug’s, the third with five seconds remaining for a thirty twenty eight lead. That with the extra point by twenty five year old kicker Daniel Carlson became a thirty one twenty eight when time is in fact a flat circle. There are no excellent reports on whether the 1970 jets blitzed eight players in a cover zero defense. That’s man to man coverage and no safety help photos indicate otherwise. Two jets collided in the end zone with rookie cornerback Early Thomas, whose name I always loved, accidentally tipping it forward to Warren Wells. But that’s what the twenty twenty Jets did, according to ESPN. Over the last fifteen seasons, in two hundred and fifty two pass plays in similar situations scored distance and time. This was the only time a team had used that alignment. After the game, Derek Carr said, I couldn’t believe they all out blitzed us. I was thankful. In the long run, Jets fans may be thankful to gangrene is on twelve and on a glide path to own sixteen and the number one draft pick, presumably Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Before we talk about whether the Jets are tanking for Trevor, let’s discuss their spectacular hilarity. Josh, it is rare to see a single play that so perfectly encapsulates a team’s futility and perhaps its history as this one.
S4: Yeah, I agree with you, though. It seems impossible to disaggregate the play from the Jets larger project here in the conspiracy theories about how they’re trying to lose and trying to get the number one pick and trying to get Trevor Lawrence, because ultimately for the franchise and for Jets fans, it was better for this to have happened than for it not to have happened. The whole thing makes so little sense because the Jets made a big comeback to be in position to blow the lead in the end. And yet there’s no logical reason why you would have done what the Jets and their coordinator, Gregg Williams, did on that last play. You laid out the history Stefanov 15 years, 250 to pass play is where no team has ever thought that this was a good idea to send everyone and leave.
S1: Henry Rug’s with his four point two seven Joel Anderson, ten year old Esq speared one on one with an undrafted rookie. I mean, it is like ludicrous, but that’s what they did. So what we’re left with is to think either this is the dumbest thing that any team has ever done, which jets. So that’s in the realm of possibility. Or they’re like. So clever in terms of how they’re trying to lose these games that they were actually trying to win it until the last five seconds.
S4: Joel, which of these explanations makes more sense to you?
S7: I mean, I, I can’t imagine.
S1: Can I also say but before you start like that, one of the the Jets safeties, Marcus Marcus May, called out Gregg Williams after game was like that was a bad play call. And so it wasn’t like the the guys on the team are like, you know, you don’t you don’t usually hear that from a player calling out a coach in the immediate aftermath of the game.
S3: Right. So, I mean, we know that Gregg Williams is the one that made this blitz call. So it’s not a surprise that it was stupid. Right. And, you know, that is the Saints. You know, that is a Saints franchise. You know all about the bounty gate of Bountygate fame.
S4: Gregg Williams of Kill the Head and the Body Will Die fame, isn’t it?
S7: Also the Gregg Williams, also one in 15 as a head coach as well.
S4: One year it is the bill’s head coach and did not have a very impressive record. Yeah, he I think three and 13 was his worst year ever, but he’s had a very good and long run of success as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, dating back to his days with the Houston Oilers. You know, this dude has been around for a long time.
S3: Football’s changed a lot since the Houston police were around. And maybe that’s that that’s sort of a testament to how long he’s been in the game. And I understand what Gregg Williams is trying to do there, that you don’t want a guy to just sit back there, you know, pick around and get what you want. You want him to rush him. You want to rush Derek Carr, who’s not great at handling pressure and make him make a bad decision to get rid of the ball ahead of time. But I mean, you had, as you mentioned, undrafted rookie corner who ran a four or five eight at the combine against the guy who is the fastest dude at the combine this past year.
S7: And it’s just like I mean Marcus Maye is right man. You don’t often hear coach players say this explicitly, but it’s really on Gregg Williams, man, like you can’t put guys in that position and I don’t think so. To answer your question, Josh, I don’t think that they did that intentionally because there has to be a more dignified way of losing than that.
S4: Well, and Gregg Williams and Adam Gaist, the head coach, are going to get fired like they don’t have any reason to want to be part of this tanking project. And the players like the way the tanking works, like players are trying their hardest. And it’s just like the front office or whoever puts a product out on the field that isn’t going to succeed. But the players aren’t trying to lose.
S3: Right. You put out a product when you’re trying to take you put out an undrafted free agent rookie corner who runs a four point five eight. Right. And you’ve got a fifth round pick opposite that guy starting there. And then and then in the secondary, the only guy with more than nine games of experience is that safety that called out, you know, Gregg Williams. So that that’s how you take you just have not enough talent and you let that overwhelm you. You wouldn’t, like, put something like that on tape and have people, like, actually question your football intelligence, which is what Gregg Williams and Adam Gaist did.
S7: And I mean, yeah, I mean, it looks stupid. It looks so stupid that you would think it was intentional, but it was I mean, I have to believe that that was unintentional, that they did not want that to happen. They did not expect that to happen.
S6: Right. Because it’s all predicated tanking in the NFL is predicated on believing a system wide conspiracy theory, tanking on individual players. It’s predicated on believing that coaches want to lose and that players are instructed to lose. Emmanuel Latrelle, the former linebacker in the NFL, had a Twitter video where he was laughing watching the last play and says the Jets were directed to lose this game. And there’s no other explanation. Yeah, I don’t buy that at all. I mean, Gregg Williams wants to continue to be employed in some capacity in professional football. And those Jets defenders want to have jobs going forward, too. They don’t want to be part of this because they’re not going to be part of the rebuild. A lot of these guys, there’s no incentive for them to lose on purpose. So this to me was just an arrogant coach saying, fuck it, we’re going to do this, this is going to work. We’re going to surprise them. And this is the like just throwing the cards in the air and hoping that three aces land heads up on the floor.
S4: I mean, on the one hand, that’s true. Like this was the most Leeroy Jenkins moment in history. But on the other hand, it’s like what Gregg Williams does every time. And so it’s not like it was even that unpredictable. And Gregg Williams is known for recklessness and arrogance.
S6: And it’s in your playbook. This makes sense.
S4: It’s like him being himself.
S3: And again, I would say this and I mean, it was stupid. Like like there’s a. And the defense is, don’t do this in the NFL, but the idea that he did something that was so unorthodox, so out of the box, I can understand saying maybe this will catch them off guard, you know, maybe, maybe maybe they won’t be expecting it and maybe he’ll throw the ball away. Maybe we’ll get to the quarterback. But that that’s the thing.
S1: It was unorthodox in the direction of manliness. It was like, right, we’re going to shoot everybody because we’re so tough, right?
S6: Yes. I can see there’s a conceit, Joel, that this is going to surprise them. You know, you said that you want to catch them all.
S8: We’re going to surprise them with our surprise play. We always run because we’re Gregg Williams.
S6: The smartest play in the situation is to set everybody back and bat the ball down in the end zone that has the highest chances of success.
S3: No. Right. And for all of this, I mean, for all of this this blitz he called and going after the quarterback, nobody registered a pressure on that play. Like, that’s the that’s the embarrassing thing. It’s like you did all of this and you didn’t even you didn’t even ruffled their cars, feathers, you know what I mean? Like, he just got a chance to get the ball off clean.
S6: The other the other embarrassing part was that they had one guy sort of sit in the middle of the field keeping an eye on Derek Carr, passing by as if Derek Carr was going to run 60 yards to the end zone, though.
S9: So we mentioned Adam Gase. He came over from the Dolphins with the reputation of being an entirely undeserved reputation, being some quarterback guru. And then Ryan Tannehill became like a really great NFL player who got a massive contract immediately after leaving Adam and going to Tennessee. And now here, you know, the entire reason that you have guys come and run your franchise is because you have this promising young quarterback in Sam Darnel. These twenty three comes out of USC, has all the talent in the world, we’re told, and now gas is seven and twenty. And he said in the sixty four thousand dollar pyramid category of things, a coach says right before he’s fired, I came here to help him help him develop his career and we haven’t been able to do that. So, you know, this is like another thing that you never hear people say. The Jets are like leading the league in this category, like a coach who presumably wants to be employed and because it’s the NFL and he’s white, probably will be employed again like five minutes from now. But, you know, he’s a quarterback guru saying I took a really talented quarterback and now he’s worse. Like, that seems like a pretty startling, if accurate admission.
S7: Yeah, I mean, that’s the really disappointing thing, because it sort of highlights the idea that when you get drafted into the NFL, the situation you’re drafted into can determine the course of your career.
S3: The arc of your career is much like your actual talent. Right. And you could just look at Sam Darnell and say, oh, that guy’s never had a fighting chance. Like, we don’t actually know how good he is because they’ve not surrounded him with enough talent. They’ve not surrounded him with a schematic advantage, you know, to use the parlance of the deer. Charlie Weis. So, yeah. So I mean, that’s my hope for Sam Darnell, is that he gets to start over somewhere else, that he gets the, you know, I guess the Teddy Bridgewater reboot, that he gets to go back up somewhere for a year behind, you know, an experienced veteran and then get a chance to start under a smarter, better coach and a better run franchise because they really you know, they’ve really ruined him. And I had a chance to see that when I covered the Houston Texans many years ago when they had a David Carr and it was the same deal, they just got him beat up. They didn’t you know, they did not protect him. They did not give him enough talent, although they did have Andre Johnson, which, you know, that’s you know, if that’s that’s talent. Right. But they didn’t give him what he needed to succeed. And we’ll never actually know if he was any good. And my hope for Sam Donovan that he gets out and that Trevor Lawrence never has to play a down for Adam case, which I mean, that’s obviously not going to happen.
S6: And this is one of the counterarguments and criticisms of tanking in the NFL, too. If you’ve got someone like Sam Donald, whom you want to develop and you are either deliberately or sort of on the sly, rolling out an inferior product in hopes of getting a number one draft pick while you’re squelching his development and you’re putting players at risk. That was the case with Carr in Houston. That was the case with Tim Couch in Cleveland when they were awful and he got beat up and sacked constantly and never developed. And there have been other examples of that in the NFL, too. And it points out the differences, I think, in tanking in the NFL versus tanking in, say, the NBA. I mean, tanking has gotten a sort of if not a terrible reputation. It’s sort of, you know, desirable in some corners, you know, the Sam Hinkie glorification, the Astros, the Cubs. But it doesn’t work quite the same way in the NFL as a bunch of writers have analyzed in the last few years.
S9: Mechai, back then, the right tackle for the Jets rookie was apparently put into a game in week four when he was injured and got more injured. And so. There’s even precedent for players being put in danger on the 20, 20 Jets team, it’s not just notional.
S3: That’s their most recent first round draft pick man. Like that’s an institutional problem where you’re not protecting your assets, you know what I mean? Like, that’s like if you’re Trevor Lawrence and you’re looking at that, you’re like, why would I want like, I can get rid of the coaches or whatever, but that same institutional framework is still there. Why would I want to go play for them?
S9: And this is a team that is so incompetently run and the leadership at the top is so misguided that it lends itself to conspiracy theories. I mean, Bill Barnwell wrote much earlier in the season that the best thing for the organization might be to keep Adam Gates around through the end of the year, given that the overmatched coach hasn’t come close to winning a football game this season. And it’s hard to think of another reason why you would have had guys around if not to like lead the march into the the cellar and into the number one spot in the NFL draft. But this is a front office that gave an enormous contract to Le’Veon Bell, the running back, and then released him and got nothing in return. They did the same thing with Trumaine Johnson, a defensive player. The owner of the team, Woody Johnson, has been Trump’s ambassador to Britain and he’s off there doing whatever one does is Donald Trump’s ambassador to Britain. And so you have coaches, general manager ownership that either seems checked out or really clearly not just bad at their jobs, but the worst at their jobs in the entire league. And so that, I feel like, is the transition to if you’re Trevor Lawrence and you’re looking at this, do you refuse to go play for this team if they draft you?
S6: Doesn’t Trevor Lawrence have the option of going back to Clemson for one more year?
S9: Yeah, he can. He’s a junior and I mean also eligibility. I mean, every player in the NCAA gets free eligibility. So even if even if he was a senior, he could go back.
S6: Right. And that would be the ultimate jetzt outcome, wouldn’t it, for them to go in 16 and then Lawrence, to take one look at this and go, yeah, I think I’ll go play Alabama one more time.
S9: That’s what it’s what they deserve, isn’t it?
S6: Yeah, it’s completely what they deserve. They’re an embarrassment.
S1: Why would you, as the best and most marketable talent in the sport want you obviously wouldn’t choose to go to the Jets. You would be forced to go there because they draft you. But he doesn’t have to go there if he doesn’t want to.
S3: I guess you could be if you’re Trevor Lawrence, you could say, well, I’m me and I’ve won everywhere I’ve gone. And that’s in New York. And if I win in New York, if I win for the Jets, then I will be a beloved figure in the game for forever. You know, that’s one way of looking at it. But I also don’t think as a quarterback, first of all, if you’re a great quarterback, you’re going to be great no matter what. And you’re going to get the attention and the accolades no matter where you play for the most part. And it’s never been a bad thing for any quarterback to refuse to go somewhere. You know, it worked for Eli Manning. It worked for John Elway. I can’t think of a time in which this has backfired, where guys like you guys suck so much that I just can’t I can’t risk my career, you know, on how bad you are. So if I were Trevor Lawrence, I don’t you know, he doesn’t have to go back and play for free at Clemson for another year. He can just say, you know what? You can do whatever the hell you want, but I’m not going to be playing for you. So you can just sell ads on Instagram. That’s right. That’s right.
S4: We can take advantage of his name, name, image and likeness. Well, like Jim Kelly is a as an example, I didn’t remember until I was just just doing research for this this very discussion, which is he refused to play for the bills, went to the USFL than the US.
S3: You know, we play for in USFL, by the way, the Houston Gamblers. That’s right. That’s right. Go ahead.
S1: And then when the gambler ceases to exist, he’s like, all right, I guess I’ll go to Buffalo now so he can always just do that, you know? But preventing him from playing for the Jets years down the line. Stefan, when when we were talking about the risks here, we didn’t mention the most recent number one pick. Joe Barra went to the Bengals and they’re like an offensive line and he now has a torn ACL screwed up knee.
S3: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s that’s half of nothing. That’s a football thing, though, you know. But if you’re offensive line, he was getting killed back in the season. But David David, you’re craving for David Carr, but not for Joe Brown. You know, I mean, you know, I mean, having a few seasons, OK, he was right.
S6: But he’d also been sacked nine million times. The optimists view is that the Jets fired the general manager. They fired the head coach. Everything is starting fresh. And Trevor’s Laura Lawrence’s agent says, let’s take the money and go there and take over in New York and make them into a good team in five years.
S8: I think you’re going to say Trevor Lawrence’s agent gets named the the general manager get help to NFL team.
S6: The NFL is structured for teams to turn things around quickly. The Jets have been incapable of doing that, of course. So if you’re feeling. Optimistic and that I am going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback and I can do this, then maybe you say this is a challenge I’m willing to accept. That’s pretty naive.
S3: But you like Baker with Cleveland, you know what I mean? Like Baker, like right now. Sure. He wanted to go to Cleveland and look to work right now. Yeah.
S4: Yeah. When I was going to say is the last two teams to go winless, 20 Lions made the playoffs in 2011. Twenty seventeen Browns are going to make or looks like they’re going to make the playoffs in 2020.
S3: So that’s not a long time. Jets twenty twenty three. Yeah, it could happen, you know, I mean, you know, shout out to Kent O’Brien and Freeman McNeill. You know, I know Jets fans are overdue.
S1: All right. I’m just seeing this from Adam Schefter. And I don’t know if you guys have seen this. So we’re recording authentic first reactions to some Jets news per Adam Schefter, John Stefan Jets fired DCI Gregg Williams Pursehouse, huh? Oh, man. So apparently they weren’t happy with the with the zero blitz. Right?
S3: I mean, you can’t have that guy back in that locker room after that. So good riddance, Gregg Williams. I’m sure he’ll be. I’m sure you want him back in the locker room.
S1: Descension. You don’t want the team to come together and bond over this rational decision making.
S6: Clearly, this decision was made after they heard what Rex Ryan said earlier on Monday, dumbest call I’ve ever seen being around the thing for fifty eight years.
S8: Wow. I know you’re going to say I’m really dumb ever. And I’ve never done anything this dumb as somebody who’s dumb. I know. I know. There’s a time and place covers zero.
S5: That’s sure in it. It’s just stupid. Pretty much sums it up. Rex Ryan, good job.
S1: John Wall, the superstar former number one pick, is one of the fastest, if not the fastest guy ever with a basketball in his hands, he’s coming off a year in which he averaged twenty three point one points and ten point seven assists per game. And Russell Westbrook, he just had one of the best years ever in pro basketball, thirty one point six points, ten point seven boards at ten point four assists. Yeah, the dude averaged a triple double this trade wall for Westbrook straight up with a draft pick thrown in. It’s not arguably the biggest in NBA history. It is the biggest full stop books will be written about. It plays staged operas, son sports television networks programmed from now until the sun explodes. And that is I would have described John Wall for Russell Westbrook three years ago when Wall had just led the Wizards to the Eastern Conference semis. Westbrook had won the MVP award for the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’re also young then, and so were they. Three years younger, to be precise. Now Wall is thirty and headed to the Houston Rockets. Well, hope to come back after missing a season and a half, did a heal surgery and then a ruptured Achilles Westbrook is thirty two, moving to the Wizards, his third team in three years after his partnership with James Harden flamed out in Houston. Joel, this trade for me is a reminder of how Immortals can become mortal very quickly in sports and for a lot of NBA fans and writers. While in Westbrook are no longer even talked about as players, they’re quote unquote bad contracts that need to be offloaded so their teams can have a chance to compete again. And now the Jets can get the number one pick in the draft. It I’m I’m still in the last segment. But your thoughts?
S3: Yeah, I mean, there’s a piece of this that affects the teams that we can talk about in a minute. But, you know, one thing that’s been really interesting that I thought about is this has happened is how like NBA stars can’t really enjoy earning the super max salary anymore. Like, if you’re not if you’re if you’re not if you’re not LeBron, if you’re not, you know, Anthony Davis, if you’re not one of those top five, six, seven guys, then the minute you signed that contract, you become an albatross and people start referring to you in terms of the money a team owes you rather than like the actual value that you bring. Any one team. Right.
S1: You know, just thirty five earning thirty five million dollars a year. It’s just not as fun as it used to be.
S3: Yeah, it’s just I mean, you know, it’s a major bummer. I’m sad when when I earned thirty five million I’ll said is that, you know, John Wall has done more for DC than any senator ever has shot up to Mike Pesca, like Mike Pesca. But no, but yeah. So yeah. I mean, I think that’s kind of the thing is that once once these guys sign these contracts and if you’re not LeBron, if you’re not Steph Curry, it becomes an anchor around the team. And so you’re looking at a situation where, you know, the moment that John Wall signed a contract, the moment Russell Westbrook signed a contract within a year, it’s like, oh, man, those are bad contracts and we’ve got to be able to do something with them. We’re gonna have to move them. And so you end up in a situation where the Rockets ship Russell Westbrook to the Wizards and the Wizards, John Wall and nobody and everybody thinks it’s sad. These are still two good basketball players, but we’re weighing it against the money they made when they tallied those numbers that you you mentioned in the intro, Josh, as opposed to like what those guys might be able to bring today, they’ll still probably be good basketball players. Like nobody thinks that Russell Westbrook or John Wall or bad basketball players. But the way we look at it is that, oh, man, those guys are hugely overpaid and they’ll never be able to justify the value of that contract once per dollar.
S6: Yeah, not great yet that except that with these two players in particular, they’re really different arcs here. We wouldn’t be saying this about John Wall if he hadn’t torn his Achilles tendon and hurt his heel, we probably would still be saying this about Russell Westbrook because he’s been on three teams in three years and there have always been questions about whether he elevates the overall quality of a team or whether he is on the court, an albatross, despite his numbers, despite the fact that some of his teams have done really well, despite the fact that some of his wingmen have also performed really well on the court. So there are two different storylines around max contracts and what happens to players when they get to age 30 with or without injuries.
S1: The other thing about while and Westbrook that’s kind of nuts to think about is they’re two of the most amazing players in terms of speed, athleticism and combining that with like getting their teammates involved, like averaging more than ten assists per game, like they’re the total package in terms of what you would want on your team from an array of skills combined with being entertaining. And so they’re like Boxoffice Droz. They’re great, you know, in the.
S3: With individual highlights, a couple of the surliness motherfuckers you’ll ever want to see play to write like this, they snarl as they play, basically good snarls as well.
S1: And just, I guess the bigger issue that I keep circling back to and Joel, you are circling this a bit as well, is just the kind of even if you’re not sad for them because they’re making lots of money, but just the unfairness of the way that aging works and in sports and how players who are so remarkably skilled and give us, like, so much like amazement as we watch them can be talked about as if they’re garbage just within a couple of years when they’re past their prime. And as you noted, even when they’re not past their prime, not necessarily past their brand.
S6: But that’s the thing here, isn’t it? We’re the assessment of this trade is less about on portability than it is about some other characteristics of these individual points, about how well it’s about how we’re all general managers now. Yeah. And it’s you know, in Wall’s case, it’s about injuries. And we don’t know what he’s going to look like when he comes back. And he’s been superseded by Bradley Beal is the focus of the team in Washington. And in Westbrook’s case, it’s about, well, he sulks and hasn’t really complemented or led the teams that he’s been on in recent years to great heights in the Western Conference that is stacked in a playoff run. That was going to be impossible no matter who he was surrounded with, unless he was on, you know, the Warriors during their peak years. So Westbrook actually had a pretty good season last year for a 32 year old. I mean, again, small sample size short your average. Twenty seven points. He had eight rebounds, seven assists. He shot better from the field than he ever has in his career. And yet we’ve diminished them because of the uncertainty in Wall’s case about how he will rebound from his injuries. And in Westbrook’s case, because of advanced analytics and the perception that he’s not worth it.
S1: The advanced analytics of being the worst shooter in basketball.
S3: Yeah, and a terrible defender, too. And I think to think about Westbrook is that people are reading a lot into how badly he played in the bubble, which I mean, does demand some context, because not only did you know, like a lot of people, he was coming off of an extended absence, but he also like had contracted covid and we still don’t know. We still don’t have a way to sort of like hold in our heads that, hey, man, covid can affect even elite athletes in their performance. We don’t know how yet. But the last time we saw Russell Westbrook, he was a he was a fucking mess as a rockets. And I was like, man, I don’t want Russell Westbrook bad ball in his hands anymore, which is something you would never think you would say about a guy like that. But like that’s how he looked. And so I think that’s what people are judging it on.
S7: But I mean, if you like, as a Rockets fan, you have to think that this is just, again, another contract.
S3: You know, James Harden signed one of those super is he was the third guy to get one of them. And you have to think that this is all just a prelude to whatever, you know, it’s its first a move to placate Harden to see if they can get him to want to stick around. Right. And that’s sad because he’s not going to want to stick around. Right. Russell Westbrook didn’t want to be there. So he’s like, hey, fine, I’m fine with John Walters. I want what come. So they’re going to see if that’s going to work. And then when that doesn’t work, this is the, you know, a milestone on the way to whatever the next iteration of the team is going to be it. Right. And so, you know, it’s pretty clear that the rockets are in decline and that they’re not going to be a better team is as much as I like John Wall, as much as I want to see John Wall play, nobody nobody can argue that John Wall is a better basketball player than Russell Westbrook, and especially now. Right. Would you just hoping is that it’s a good fit that John Wall wants to be there and that maybe they can tinker a little bit and maybe the rockets can make some noise. But I mean, you know, that’s all hoping the rockets did not win the trade. But this is not about winning that trade. This is about rebuilding the foundation there one way or another.
S6: And then what if you’re the Wizards, you know, what are you hoping for? You’re hoping that Westbrook can compliment Bradley Beal and not be a total ball hog and volume shooter whose numbers are terrible. And at the same time, this is a team that’s got some young players that look pretty promising. How effective can he be in bringing them into the game?
S10: Well, there’s this issue in the NBA, I think more so than in our other major professional sports, where there are certain franchises that are on a long term path to, at best, being a playoff team that has no chance to win a championship. And we’ve talked about this in the context of the process Sixers and just this kind of cultural belief that if you’re not first, you’re last, that if you’re not on the path to winning a championship, then it’s better to like bottom. Go out and try to lose on purpose than it is to go for the succeed and like maybe get into the second round, as the Wizards did at their best when when John Wall was there. But so that’s the question then. If you’re the Wizards, it’s like, OK, you get Westbrook and like in your best case, you’re like the seven seed in the east and like, what are you doing?
S1: OK, maybe what you’re doing is you’re going to be in the playoffs and be entertaining and like in in a place where, you know, as you’ll get into and the Jordan pad next week like that is not the norm to be like entertaining playoff team in D.C.. I don’t necessarily have the sense that that’s what the goal is of the franchise. But like, that’s what they’re saying is like where we’re saying our ceiling is the seventh seed. But if that’s the outcome, it’s not like the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of sports. And I also just want to ask Joel, what is the fill in the blank on this progression? Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, who’s next is like Clyde Frazier.
S3: Yeah, Steve Nash. I mean, where where do we go now? Well, you can even precede Chris Paul with Dwight Howard in this chain. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I guess we could we haven’t really had a swing person yet, so maybe, you know, like George Gervin, but no, but yeah, it’s just, you know, high volume guy. He’s still in his prime. Yeah. Got a guy that can’t get along with James Harden. And you know man a few years ago when the Rockets broke up, James Harden and Chris Paul, my theory was that, man, make those guys work it out because, you know, this always happens. I’ve been a Houston Rockets fan long enough to remember when Accumulation one wanted out of town and like the early nineties, and they just held on to him. They made it work and then they won two championships out of it. And I think sometimes teams just throw in the towel a little too early. And so, like now to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, just let him be let him be a little bit man. They’ll figure it out. I think they’re adults. So you have a point now where James Harden didn’t want to play with Chris Paul and or Chris Paul in one play and James Harden then Russell Westbrook didn’t want to. And now we’re with John Wall. But we’ve like progressively got worse players at each stage of the game, you know? So it’s just like I guess like, you know, who you know, I don’t know. Is it going to be, you know, Ricky Rubio or somebody like that? I don’t know.
S6: The trade that has to happen is John Wall for Kyrie Irving. Oh my God.
S1: I just wish that would that would reverse the trend of the players getting worse every time. All right. I think I would like to be self indulgent here and this segment on a story that I don’t know if you know this, Stefan, you definitely have not heard this one to all. But if and if you do know, Stefan, it’s such a long time ago that maybe you’ve forgotten. But in 2010, I did a freelance piece for Men’s Health about John Wall, which is like one of the few freelance sports things I’ve ever done. And also like one of the only times I’ve ever done a piece where I, like, hung out with a star athlete and wrote about it, which is just a very weird experience, grew into some fancy hotel. I think it was like the Ace Hotel in New York. And I had like breakfast with him and like his, you know, team was was at a table like a few tables over. What did he ask? Like, what did he have to eat? I do not remember. But let’s say pancakes, eggs and pancakes, you know, and it’s not the lead of the story, which I just called up.
S3: And I pointed that it was going to say, is he the chef salad?
S4: Please, please do not please do not read from that. I’m sure it’s bad and I’d be embarrassed. But like young guy, no one coming out of Kentucky, like the probably biggest story in the in the NBA come into the NBA that offseason. It was like, you know, he was the man. And so I’m sitting here at this hotel in this booth with John Wall, and a guy comes up to the table, as somebody does when you’re like with a celebrity. And he goes, this person. Are you Josh Levine? Right.
S1: Well, I was like, yeah. And he said, I love your podcast. I shit you not. This is like one of the only times I’ve ever been recognized in public as the voice from hang up and listen. This is like a year after we started doing the show and the guy came up and said to me while sitting with John Wall, I love your podcast and then walked away. Wow. What did John Wall think of that? I thought he probably thought it was like a come on. It was like I was playing a prank on him and like, trying to make myself look cool. But I like I don’t remember who this person was. I did not set it up. It was one of the stranger things that’s ever happened to me. But that is a true story.
S3: So you’re right to hang up. It’s like that. If that if that was you. If you’re that person, if you’re listening, because I would love to know you are. But what made you want to do that?
S6: I think you’re selling your story short, though, Josh, because at the end of the story, it does include the John Wall workout because of Health magazine. OK, Crunchyroll. Medicine ball throw plank work at walk out.
S3: He made all that. He’s not doing. I think we should include a link to the story. We will we will link to it on our show page. I would not deprive our listeners of how welcome you to Houston, John Wall, if you ready to you know, if you need any advice on where to go, eat, live, whatever. Hit me up if you happen to hear this, because, you know, Turkey, turkey, like Turkey, like we can go start there, James. I probably already took you there, to be honest.
S6: You know, it’d be great if you guys went out to breakfast, though, and some dude walked up to you and said, Are you Joel Anderson?
S3: Oh, man.
S5: You could have.
S7: The cancellation of the 20 20 men’s basketball tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic was a financial catastrophe for the NCAA. March Madness generates more than 70 percent of the more than one billion dollars in annual revenue. So instead of distributing 600 million to over twelve hundred schools, the NCAA was forced to reduce its payout to two hundred and twenty five million. That triggered a wave of cost cutting measures by athletic departments. Last month, ESPN pegged the number of NCAA sports programs cut since March at three hundred and fifty two, and it’s entirely possible that there’s been a lot more since then. Amid this unprecedented loss, a former Princeton runner, Russell Dinkins, noticed that those cuts disproportionately targeted men’s track teams and a profile of Dinkins that ran in the New York Daily News last week. He pointed out that 92 percent of black male Division One athletes are in football, basketball and track. He said if you could track, you’re cutting one of the few sports where black athletes take advantage of athletic opportunities, which provide a distinct pathway to admissions. Russell Dinkins is our guest on Hang Up and Listen today. Thanks for joining us, Russell. Thank you. So in the past five months, you’ve worked to save men’s track teams at William and Mary Brown in Minnesota. Now you’re working on Clemson. And let’s listen to a clip real quick from a video promoting your campaign there.
S11: So in keeping with their tradition, Clemson is exploiting black labor for its own benefit. College athletics should be about educational opportunities to be a sport. However, by cutting tracks, Clemson is saying one thing. We only value black student athletes if we can make money from them.
S7: Russell, do you think these cuts at Clemson and other schools are targeted or just an unfortunate consequence of increasingly difficult decisions?
S12: That’s a really good question. I do not necessarily know if they’re targeted or not. You know, that’s not necessarily something that I’m really focused on. What I’m focused on is the impact. And so whether or not it’s targeted or not, the impact is that they are cutting their only non revenue producing black athletes and it’s not even close. When you look at the percentages of Minnesota University, Minnesota, which was slated to cut both turn out their teams, they were going to be cutting 75 percent of the entire revenue producing black athletes at Clemson. They’re slated to cut to seven percent of the non revenue producing black athletes and cutting black male athletes, rather. And by cutting the men’s track team, Clemson in particular will be cutting three percent of their total black male population at their entire school. And so the impact is pretty stark.
S1: Yeah, Russell, those numbers are really stark and worth flagging because when we watch college sports, the things that get watched most often are men’s basketball and football. And there are a lot of black athletes in those sports. But the majority of NCAA Division one college athletes are not black and it’s 67 percent of the athletes are white. Is that right, Russell?
S12: Right. So 67 percent overall. So when you include all three divisions, if you just focus on D, one is about sixty one. Sixty two percent. Either way, it’s still really high. And then some of these sports that some of these schools have not been marked for cuts like at the University of Minnesota and Clemson, baseball in particular tends to be very, very homogenous, tends to be about 80 percent, 70 to 80 percent white. And at both University of Minnesota and at Clemson, both of their baseball teams, at least for the twenty, nineteen, twenty twenty season, were almost exclusively white. And these teams in both cases lost more money than track and field. So this isn’t necessarily to to blame baseball, but just to say that the schools, when they note financial difficulty. It doesn’t necessarily rain to be completely true when they are not cutting a sport that costs them more money. Yes, baseball does produce more revenue than track and field, but its expenses are higher. So when you take the resulting balance, the the leftover money or the amount of money that’s being spent on baseball at the end of the day is more you know, there’s a greater loss of about two million dollars plus loss. That is something that needs to be considered when we’re having these discussions, when these schools are looking at these cuts. And my view is that these schools really don’t necessarily need to engage and most of these schools don’t need to engage in these cuts if they decide to allocate the resources in different ways.
S6: I think what you’re driving at is that schools need to be put on notice here. You say in an editorial that you wrote an op ed you wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune how these schools aren’t sort of being conscious of what they’re doing, that they’re propping up sports that are predominantly white in terms of the athlete base and not paying attention to the very few sports that are predominantly African-American that are not revenue generating. Right. So you get the sort of same phenomenon that you see at a lot of universities that pay a lot of attention to getting in athletes in squash or fencing or other predominantly white sports when they could be devoting more resources and effort and attention to recruiting more African-American athletes and athletes of color.
S12: Right? No, I mean, that’s a that’s a great point. Yes. So we need to focus on is not necessarily intent. I think a lot of people get hung up on that. Right. Are they intentionally racists? Are they doing this out of any sort of target malice? And, you know, my view is that that’s not necessarily what we should be focused on. You know, whether they’re intending to do this or not. The impact is one that has a distinct racial outcome and or an outcome that is a racist outcome. You know, just to say it plainly now, people may say, well, you know, these other sports are going to it’s out there. Yes, that is true. But when you break it down, track feels that she cheapest participating in high school. It also has the largest participation numbers, which include male or female participation with over one million high school boys and girls participating in track and field also and schools, one of the few sports remaining where you can literally just participate on your high school team and get recruited. You can just participate in your high schools. You know, Dormi, to try and meet most of these other sports in college are pretty neat. And in order to get into college, you need to be a part of sports leagues or travel teams need to have sports consultant. You need to go to tournaments. All these incur a financial cost. And so there is a barrier to entry. There is a price tag associated with a lot of these college scholarships for a lot of these other sports, because one of the few sports that actually doesn’t have that barrier to entry and to go just a little deeper, the way that you get recruiting and track and field, track and field, almost all the meats throughout the country, track meets track competitions, the results apply to a national database so a coach can easily see, you know, if you’ve ran a bath time or if you jumped far, you jumped high. That same sort of system doesn’t exist for a lot of other sports.
S3: In some ways, this is personal for you. I mean, you are a former college runner, a champion runner, a black man as well. How did you kind of come to gradually understand the impact these kids were having on black athletes? Because that’s I mean, you know, I was in college and I you know, I was an athlete. I didn’t know, you know, but if they cut any one sport in which they were not necessarily talking about doing in the 90s, there was no way to know, like, you know, what was the reasoning behind things. So how did you just instinctively know or did you instinctively know that black male athletes were being disproportionately targeted here? Did you have conversations and that sort of come out or how were you just so attuned to the idea that this was affecting black athletes, black nonrevenue athletes at that? You know, that’s a really good question.
S12: I mean, I read a lot of outlets like Slate and, you know, so I just had to work on familiarity, but I just had a feeling that, OK, when Brown University presidents cut their track team, I have a feeling that this is going to have a outsize impact on black male athletes in particular. And so I then, you know, did some research and I looked at the rosters at Brown and then saw, OK, the track team has more black people in it than the crew, lacrosse, soccer and baseball teams combined. And they were going to be adding sailing, elevating sailing and track field’s place effectively. And the sailing team.
S3: That’s hilarious, by the way.
S12: It’s and the funniest thing is the university hired a consulting firm in order to help them make this decision. I was like, who? Who’s getting paid way too much money to make a super decision? I’m sorry. You know. No, no. And me and my unemployed self at the time, because I had just got laid off. And if I had enough time to do research and write by an op ed, I think I was able to figure this out and about a day’s worth of research. I understand how people who are supposed to that’s supposed to be the profession are working with universities in the higher education space and spent however many months and got paid, however, many hundreds of thousands of dollars gave a recommendation that led to such a poor decision.
S4: So Brown, when they announced these changes, said actually that finances didn’t have anything to do with it. Their stated rationale was that they had too many sports programs and that they wanted to do this to ensure that the ones that were still at the varsity level were more competitive. And they said that diversity was an important factor for them. And then when you and others called them out for this decision, they reversed it. Do you think that that’s an example of a school recognizing their mistake when they were called out? Like, do you think that it was like a screwed up process? You know, the consultants did a bad job or whatever, and then it was all like it all ended up well in the end. Or do you feel like it’s not kind of as rosy as that storyline would suggest?
S12: You know, I do want to give credit where it’s due. I mean, they made a mistake, but they did, of course. Correct. And they did. It did so rather quickly. So a week after I pinned my article and media, they reversed that decision and then their announcement, they actually admitted that they did not realize the impact that cutting track would have on diverse opportunities. So I do give them credit for acknowledging that fault. And, of course, correcting in that way the other universities, University of Minnesota. And when they marry, when they say that the teams well, Minnesota didn’t have a press release at all. They kind of sweep it under the rug. Woman marries was a little bit more complicated because the ad left or may have been asked to leave. And then it was a new ad that came in and then all of the sports that were cut actually were reinstated. And so there wasn’t necessarily an explicit reason that I saw that noted the press opportunity is being withheld by cutting a track and field. But, you know, they did say all the permits got cut, which was pretty great. Minnesota’s actions kind of similar to something that Brown did. And let me explain. So Brown, when they initially announced that they were cutting the sports, they said that they were doing so to improve competitiveness, but also to improve the diversity amongst all the sporting offerings at the club and party level. They instating that they were banking on people just kind of ignorant, frankly, ignorance about how sports and college work. And it kind of conflated a club. Sport and varsity sport club sports are not sponsored by the athletic department. They do not get institutional funding. And it’s been a significant way. They do not get admission spots, whereas varsity athletics does. So the men’s track team is going to be demoted to club, which would have, in effect, diversified the club offerings. And so when the university said that they were going to be this decision would help to improve diversity, that was what they were talking about. But they were really hoping that people didn’t necessarily understand the nuances between club and varsity athletics.
S6: What seems manifestly ridiculous here, of course, is that the cost of running a college track program at the varsity level is basically a rounding error in a football budget at a place like Clemson or even at a place like Minnesota. And this is, of course, but it’s different than William and Mary, right? It is different and it’s different. Brown I mean, Brown had thirty eight varsity sports, the most in the country, I believe. So you have this there are different issues that each of these universities I mean, I think at the at the big schools of the criticism really should be that they should be supporting all these sports. You could you could you could easily continue to fund track at Clemson. It seems to me, while making some modest reductions during this crisis time of the pandemic in football and at the other schools. You know, we had a conversation on the show a few weeks ago about UC Riverside in California, considering eliminating all Division One varsity sports and moving to a club system. It’s really incumbent on the universities. They could still admit the same level of student and athlete if they chose to, but they choose to use sports as a mechanism to admit students of color very often.
S12: You know, those are those are great points of view, a few things. So I think there needs to be a renegotiation of the relationship between sport and college and how these universities view the role of sports at colleges. And too often we colleges look at especially the top five schools, look at colleges, look at sport as something that needs to pay for itself when in actuality we know that there. Only a few sports that pay for themselves, it’s football, men’s basketball and at select programs, women’s basketball at certain places, and then a few other programs at a few different places like ice hockey pays for itself at each other, but barely. They were in the green by about fifty thousand dollars, you know, so not an extreme amount of money, but they do pay for themselves. But most other sports do not pay for themselves.
S4: You know, it’s possible to make the argument that, OK, track programs aren’t making money. So if we’re being like, you know, called a capitalist, then let’s let’s cut them and just put in things that the generate money. But there’s also it’s also possible to make a critique of this from the opposite direction, which is that the athletes that are making money for these schools are predominantly black men’s basketball and football players. And that what you’re asking for is a transfer of money that those athletes generate to, you know, whether it’s a sailing team or a gymnastics team or a track team, all athletes that aren’t generating revenue. So why shouldn’t we be arguing that that money should just go to the football and basketball players that are making it like why should it go to to track athletes who aren’t making money for their universities?
S12: That’s a great question. And I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. I think that the these football and basketball players should be getting money for the value that they are generating. At the same time, I also think that these universities should take it upon themselves to supporting programs that afford diverse opportunities. And because here’s the thing, people will say, well, track me to pay for itself. So most other sports in college do not pay for themselves. So what happens is that the football like you’re not asking for track to get special treatment.
S4: It’s just like the same treatment that other sports.
S12: Yeah. I mean, these other sports are getting subsidized by the football and basketball teams and they are majority white. And so you have a wealth transfer currently happening where these black football and basketball players, overwhelmingly about 60 percent of the NCAA D1 are mossback players are black and about 50 percent of the football players are black, which is an overrepresentation because black people are about 13, 14 percent of the US population total. That money that they’re generating is going to being spun up in coaches compensation, being spun up into lavish, palatial locker rooms and facilities upgrades, and is being spun up into helping to bolster these majority white, mostly affluent sports programs at these universities. And so I’m saying, OK, there are two things that need to happen. Why do we need to figure out how we can help these athletes get their value, get their worth, and they’re worth more than just a fifty thousand dollar or seventy thousand dollar scholarship if they’re producing, you know, a hundred thousand dollars of a value per student to the university. But then also, since the value that they’re generating, it’s currently helping to support majority white programs. At the very least, that value should be used to support the only black students who are on this campus or on these campuses who do not produce revenue for the university. Because let me be clear, what is happening with these universities are effectively saying is that if you are a black student athlete, you do not make money for us. We can cut you because we do not find you valuable. However, most of our Western athletes who do not make money for us, we view them differently. The relationship that we have to them is different. We view that it is important for them to have an education, be a sport, and that they’re having the experiences they’re not asked to pay for themselves and the way that, you know, these black athletes are being asked to do.
S3: I think we can put a pin in it there. Obviously, the ongoing fallout from the pandemic and the economic crisis will be an ongoing issue in college athletics and will bring Russell back to talk about it, especially if we can save the Clemson men’s track team, which is his ongoing project right now. So you can follow Russell. It is advancing Dink’s. Is that your Twitter handle? That is my Twitter handle. Yes, it is. This is that because you dance guys, I’m surprised you didn’t go with running things, but, you know.
S12: Yeah, so I used to in college, I always dance and between the workout reps to keep my mind off of the pain that was about that. So that’s that was my nickname from my college teammates.
S3: Oh, we’re real superheroes. OK, so where you can follow Russell the Dancing Dink’s. Russell, thanks for joining us today.
S12: Thank you guys for having me so much.
S13: Now it is time for after bawls this past year and pretty much every year recently has been a tough one for sports journalists, with outlets getting shut down and jobs getting slashed. A lot of people we’ve had on this show and will continue having on the show have lost work. The latest round of cuts came to ESPN last week, and one of the people on the layoff list was Sam Miller. You know, Sam, if you’re a longtime listener of the show, he was the editor in chief of baseball prospectus. He’s the co-author with Ben Lindbergh of the book. The only rule is it has to work. And for the past four years, he’s been a baseball writer for ESPN. One thing people say about writers is that there’s nobody else out there like them or there’s nobody else out there doing work like they do. And that cliche is almost always not true. But in Sam’s case, there is no better descriptor. His brain does not work like other people’s brains. And the results for baseball fans and non baseball fans are totally delightful. When I think about him, I think about the piece you wrote in twenty eighteen about what would happen if a baseball game went 50 innings, five zero innings.
S9: We actually had him on the show to talk about it and we’ll link to that segment on our show page. What I love about that piece is how seriously Sam took that question as he takes all of the ridiculous questions that he can try to answer. There’s a subhead, for instance, deep in the story that reads Stage four, we start to question our cruelty as spectators innings forty five to forty nine. Then it goes on to discuss research on dance marathons of the 1920s. So I’m here to praise Sam for that piece, for everything else, and also to make the point that this is a cruel business just like many other businesses. And here’s to hoping the next year is just a little kinder to all of us. Joel, what is your Sam Miller?
S7: Sam Miller. So last week, Joseph Dougherty of the Houston Chronicle tweeted out the twenty twenty football schedule for the University of Houston. And I’d like to say that Joseph’s tweet is the perfect capsule of the chaos that’s befallen the Cougars while trying to play college football in this pandemic. So the tweet reads as follows. Rice canceled. Washington State canceled. Baylor canceled. North Texas cancelled. Memphis rescheduled. SMU rescheduled. Tulsa canceled. SMU canceled. Overall, the three and three cougars haven’t played a game since there. Fifty six to twenty one win over South Florida on November 14th. The season finale is scheduled for Saturday in Memphis. But at this point, who knows what that game is actually going to happen tonight? Right. It’s all a sign of the turbulent times. But for me, it’s also a reminder that the Cougars have been banished to the minor leagues on the same day as Joseph Tweet. My friend Sam Kean Jr. and Dave Wilson published a story at ESPN Dotcom about the demise of the old Southwest conference, which ended twenty five years ago with one win, Houston taking going to seven in one race. They used to be able to if you’re if you’re young, just so you know, it used to be able to tie in college football. OK, so two seventy one race and across town by you. Bucket rivalry. Texas versus Texas A&M was supposed to have been the final game in Southwest conference history. You know, this matchup of ranked rivals vying for the last conference title. But instead, Rice tried to stick it to the league officials and it scheduled the kickoff against Houston to take place 90 minutes after the Texas and A&M game began. Just, you know, a good bit of pettiness going out the door. So a listed attendance of twenty eight thousand four hundred, which didn’t even have filled the seventy thousand seat stadium, was treated to a barn burner. Chuck Clements through to fourth quarter touchdown passes and added a two point conversion with one nineteen left to give Houston eighteen to seventeen lead. Rice missed a thirty eight yard field goal. College kickers right. With twelve seconds remaining to seal the Cougars victory, the lead of the AP’s write up of the game. The once glorious Southwest conference went out in style. I mean, yeah, sort of. OK, but it’s the Southwest conference was going out. The Big Twelve was coming in. Houston was supposed to get an invite to join the big twelve, a new mega conference with big TV money. But that’s when the Texas politics took over. Texas governor and lieutenant governor at the time, both Baylor graduates and Democrats. If you want to know how long ago this was, lobby their alma mater to get in over Houston. And that was that. Baylor was welcomed into the big twelve and Houston was banished to the conference USA. Meanwhile, Rice, SMU and TCU were join the Western Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Wack. But the University of Houston deserve much better. And let me explain more than any other major program in Texas, if not the whole south. Houston is responsible for the desegregation of college athletics in nineteen sixty four. Houston, which was the. In playing as an independent became the first major college football program in the state to break the color barrier, and that’s when it signed Warren McVey to a scholarship. Houston also signed its first black male basketball players that year, Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney. Hayes and Chaney led the Cougars to consecutive Final Four berths in football. Bill Yeoman pioneered the vier offense and turned the Cougars into a force, making them a mainstay in the top twenty five. Eventually, their rivals in the state took notice and welcomed them into the Southwest conference in nineteen seventy six. And guess what? Houston won the Southwest Conference in its first season in the league. In fact, Houston won the Southwest conference in three of its first four seasons. And remember, at this point, Darrell Royal is still the head coach of the mighty Texas Longhorns and isn’t too far removed from a national championship in 1970 just that quickly. Houston had flipped the balance of power in the league. As Houston started its decline as a football power in the 80s, the Cougars rose again in basketball and played and lost in the national championship game in consecutive seasons. Nineteen eighty three and eighty four. But this time, allegations of cheating and other improprieties dogged Houston in the rest of the Southwest conference. At the end of the 80s, Jack Party brought the running suit to Houston and thrived under the specter of probation. But eventually, NCAA penalties and the increasingly fractured Southwest conference took their toll on the program. As many people who listen to this show, no, I’m a Houston native and I grew up rooting for the Cougars. They were the hometown team. They were the first team to break my heart and why I’m trying to rationalize my disdain for Jim Valvano even to this day. Imagine how it must have felt for a young black boy to root for college program who welcomed black athletes before everyone else and whose biggest stars had been black men, Clyde Drexler accumulation, Carl Lewis, Andre, where Don Chaney even stuck around and became the head coach of the Houston Rockets. That sort of stuff wasn’t happening in Texas at Texas A&M or anywhere at that point. Really, the Cougars meant something to me and lots of other people in that part of the world in ways that went far beyond the games. But when the Southwest conference left them behind in nineteen ninety five, the Cougars never really recovered. They spent the next seventeen years of Conference USA before moving to the American Athletic Conference in 2013. And sure, they’ve had a few moments since then. Did you know the Cowboys football team has gone thirteen and one twice in the past nine years and that the basketball team is currently ranked 10th in the nation? You know, shout out to Kelvin Sampson. Hope springs eternal for a revival in Houston, but it’s not the 80s or 90s anymore. Don Chaney is retired and seventy four years old was just blows my mind, I think of Don Chaney being 74 years old and the Southwest conference is never coming back. That’s sweet about the cougar schedule. Canceled, canceled, canceled is a reminder of the pandemic and how it’s ruined so much in ways that seem unfair. But the thing is, it will end and college football will return to normal or something like that. But with the end of the Southwest conference did to my team, the Cougars, that’s forever.
S5: Baylor, Baylor, dastardly.
S1: That’s my response to your wonderful and heartfelt after bother’s Baylor shaking my damn head at Baylor.
S7: They’ve done so much and done so much wrong.
S6: Baylor, Stefan Baylor, also rice giant football stadium at Rice, concrete man concrete.
S3: That concrete bowl 70000 have hosted the Super Bowl in nineteen seventy four now.
S1: Yeah that game it’s like the perfect Joel Anderson college football game like the BitBucket Houston bragging rights on the line and also just extreme pettiness, whatever we can do to stick it to the hole with obscure quarterbacks.
S3: That’s right. That clemetson I can’t remember the name of the right quarterback, but I know he couldn’t pass.
S2: That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. Pfitzner Pasha’s. And subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, slash hang up. You can email us and hang up at Slate Dotcom. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and reviews on Apple podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine, remembers Aliabadi, and thanks for listening.
S1: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members and Joel game of the year in college football this past weekend. And it wasn’t LSU Bama, it was so far from LSU Bama.
S6: What was the final score of that game? Did Bama get to 60?
S1: So it was 10 to three in the second half. Bama won by a touchdown, but the game of the year was going to be coastal Carolina Liberty. They’re going to send, you know, game day for this big matchup between the Chanticleer and Hugh Freese’s Liberty.
S7: Joel, who you’ve you’ve written about the flame or the flames? The flames, I believe, plural.
S9: And then, you know, go figure like Liberty had covid cases and their program with given how that school has that, the seriousness with which they’ve treated coronavirus. That was the shocking headline of the season. And so at the last minute, here come BYU. They send the equipment truck cross-country from Provo to the East Coast for this like bizarre, only in twenty twenty made for TV match up of undefeated teams. And it ends up going down to the final second. Like what better statement about like the state of sports in the state of college football in twenty twenty. Joel, that like this game that didn’t exist before Wednesday turned out to be the best game of the year.
S3: Yeah, man. I mean, you know, I guess if it was going to be a weird year like this, that had to be sort of the game of the year, a program, even the most diehard college football fans among us had probably not seen coastal Carolina play more than what, you know, a handful of plays this season. And it was pretty cool. Like to see that field and to see BYU do that, put that together. It’s the sort of thing that we’ll probably never see again in college football. And for it to kind of come down like that, it was pretty dope. And also they fought a lot, man, you know, I mean, there was like a couple of fights at BYU, you know, notoriously one of the more dirty college football programs and the like. I feel like I like it then, you know, BYU, it that’s not unfair of me to say. Right. Like, I feel like BYU has a pretty well deserved reputation for being on a I mean, I think Taysom Hill fairly like.
S8: Well, a yeah. I mean, you know, sometimes God has his warriors, you know, sometimes. So I did I mentioned in that intro that coastal Carolina one on a tackle like a oh man. A very attractive and kept nice and ask. Yes, yeah. Oh you tackle at the one yard line. Yeah. Yeah. That’s an underrated way to end a football game. That’s that’s always a good way to end. It sucks is the Oilers fan.
S3: I wasn’t excited about that and but yeah. No I mean I think if anything it shows you why I like schools don’t do this though. Why. Like why. Like they don’t schedule games haphazardly because BYU like I mean I know they have the anywhere, any time, any place motto or whatever that they’ll play anybody but they ruin their undefeated season. Kind of a nothing man, you know.
S4: I mean, like I guess they had to support the fact that they like went for it rather than like sit at home. Oh, no terrible schedule.
S3: I think that’s great. But like I mean, you know, they were moaning and complaining and people were like, man, BYU, they’re undefeated, you know, ten or not, you know, and number thirteen in the country. Will it take for them to get into college football playoff conversation and like they resisted playing a game? Did not a lot of other people would be willing to play nobody. This is why teams don’t do that. You don’t schedule games within a week, you know, powerful lower division schools, because that’s the kind of shit that can happen. And I don’t know if BYU is necessarily better than coastal Carolina, but like, nobody wants to hear anything about the the mitigating circumstances as to why they lost that game either.
S6: Joel, I admire your ability to get this far in this conversation without noting that they did all of this in the middle of a fucking pandan. Oh, yeah. Right now, apparent reason, like, what the fuck are we doing? We’re now scheduling games on Thursday. Yeah. For Saturday. And having are like truck drivers go across the country and then we’re boarding a plane to get from Utah to South Carolina to play a football game in front of fans.
S3: Yeah, they’ve just beat me down. I’m just I just accept things now. Right.
S4: It was because of like a zero point one percent chance to get in the college football playoff. What could be more important than that? I mean, look, there’s obviously the, like, rational way to look at this, which is that college football should not be played this year. The point that I want to make, just as a little bit of a respite from that usual conversation, is that like maybe there’s a lesson here for college football years when there is not a pandemic, which is that we’re always treated. I mean, and Joel, you know this to like the specter of like nonconference games being announced that will be played in like 2014 like that athletic directors are scheduling these games like literally decades. Before they’re going to be played, the schedule of which takes like, you know, seven plane flights and one hundred thousand dollars in expenses to arrange and, you know, the previous craziest year in recent college football history was twenty seven when, like, everybody was losing and LSU made it to the title game with two losses and played Ohio State.
S9: Like, that’s a crazy college football here. It’s like LSU and Ohio State playing the national title game, like West Virginia was involved. And like Kansas, you get some like Kansas, Missouri and you get some can you get some Kansas in there as well. But like it does seem like in years in which it’s like not immoral to do stuff like this, there should be more like kind of flexibility. It’s not it’s not like Bill Connolly wrote a piece saying, like, they should do this every year, can’t happen, won’t happen.
S3: And the reason why is that if you all those people who have friends or whatever, like people spend a whole year or years in advance being like, oh, yeah, we’re going to play it all weekend around that game on that weekend in college football. And like like that’s why they don’t they don’t do it because they don’t want to, like, upset that sort of tradition or people, you know, make a plan.
S1: You know, if your argument is essentially you, they can’t do it because it’s just not done.
S3: Oh, no, that’s that’s the argument that college heard. It won’t do it because it would cost them a lot of money to do it. Right. It also college certainty. What are they what are they using their money for to pay men’s track? I mean, college football’s the money. Our money went every day, but whenever but whenever we get back to the point where fans can come to the games, they’re going to want to give people notice about the games that they can go to and allow them to plan ahead. And also like how you eloped and also elope.
S8: Right. You don’t need to invite people. Right.
S6: And then you’re arguing, Josh, for a like pickup system, scheduling in the multibillion dollar college. You don’t have a game plan, which I admire and I would love to see. But yeah. Good luck.
S4: So it got Connolly wrote about is that there used to be in college basketball, this thing called the bracket buster weekend where before this season started, it was known that the certain set of teams was in the hopper to play that weekend and they didn’t know their opponents. And then they would match up based on who was good that year, who is less good. And it was designed to improve teams tournament chances and made good TV games, and it did actually improve teams tournament resumes. And so why not put teams in the hopper like that in college football? And then when? Oh, it turns out BYU and coastal Carolina are really good. Let’s do a made for TV game and and, you know, match them up.
S6: All right. I mean, you could there’s nothing wrong with it would actually be a lot of fun for fans to see that on television. Joel’s point is people won’t travel because they won’t be able to. And the other part of that is that, well, it could make some sense in like. Yes. Schedule like an open weekend in November right about now where that would be, you know, what you would do. But you’re also you know, it’s it’s like you’re arguing for fun.
S4: The fans don’t travel. You could pitch it as like a retro twenty twenty game.
S3: It’s like, remember that calendar flashback, right? Yeah. I mean, I just also, you know, I mean, again, teams would rather complain about being locked on the outside than actually compete, you know what I mean. Like, oh except BYU. Yeah. I mean, you got to play Washington too, by the way. You know what I mean. Like, I think I forget what it was. I think they were concerned about, you know, the protocols and maybe BYU turned on the Washington.
S4: The reason that game didn’t happen was that if Washington had found a PAC 12 opponent, they would have like canceled on BYU. At least that’s what BYU said, that they couldn’t be 100 percent assured. If they agreed to the game, then it would be played.
S6: Yeah. So maybe coastal Carolina a. m.. They got big games coming up against Troy and Louisiana.
S3: Lafayette, who’s ranked I guess they’ve got two more games. We’re already in our second week in December. Like, I just. That’s absurd. They’ve got two more games scheduled. Yeah. I mean, in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of December, they’ve got two more regular season game schedule.
S6: Every time I see a team that has played like nine or ten games by now, it seems to me like, oh, they haven’t been paying any attention to any protocols.
S8: What BYU should have done is play Houston six times. Don’t they already play them when they did play them once? Yeah, they already might. Why not? Five twenty five more. Just get the game, the game number up. That’s what we need to create a bubble. He’s against BYU every weekend and say, well if we could we could talk about Ohio State and what they’re dealing with and you know, but well what are they doing? We want to save some of our college football powder.
S6: Whatever they’re dealing with, Josh, they’re still going to be put into the playoff.
S3: Hey, just just real quick, let’s just say that, like, you know, this week also illuminated to me the difference between a truly great coach and a coach. You had a great season. So like Nick Saban somehow in the middle of all this. As chaos reigns around, college football has somehow steadied his program and has like this juggernaut, this jacket, like a lot of these guys could have just gone on and opted out and played. You know, I just prepared for the NFL, but he’s just had this juggernaut. Meanwhile, at Orgeron, I mean, your boy just I mean, his program is falling apart and they’re the worst reigning champion since, you know, I mean, you know, TCU in nineteen thirty nine.
S1: It’s good company. Yes. Right. Yeah. All right. You’ve roped me in. One final thought before we close the show for the week, which is that the greatness of this year’s Alabama team and of Nick Saban in many years is like convincing guys who should really, really go pro or should maybe have opted out to actually play for the team. Whereas at LSU, NFL, like you, man, get those guys out, get them earning money. You know, you got guys like Jama’a Chase and terrorist Marshal Kari Vincent Tyler Sullivan opting out. So what you’re saying is that, you know, what makes a good coach, quote unquote, is having players risk to their health.
S8: And like Terence Marshall was all in until he realized he was like, fuck this. I’m not I’m not running for T.J. Finley anymore. That’s yeah, that guy is smart, right? Tasman’s like, I’m just going to go ahead and focus on my career. Thanks.
S4: Thank you, Terence Marshall, for all you’ve done for LSU football. And thank you, Slate plus members for all you’ve done to support our show. We’ll be back with more next week.