The Mystery of Kyrie Irving Edition

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

S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of January 19th, 2000 and twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Chad and he and the other winners from the NFL’s divisional round. We might spare a word for the losers to also discuss the Brooklyn Nets, James Harden and Kevin Durant and their absent teammate Kyrie Irving. And finally, we’ll review HBO’s unauthorized two part documentary, Tiger on the Rise and Fall and Rebirth of the Golf Legend.

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S1: Apologies for the cliche. Stefan Fatsis is off this week. I’m still in Washington, D.C. I’m still the author of The Queen, host of Slow Burn Season four. With me, as always, from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, the host of Slow Burn, Season three and Season six. Coming up, Joel Anderson. Joel, I’m sorry that my Internet is not cooperating and you cannot see me this week.

S3: This is a real change. I usually get to see Josh’s face every week and it’s not happening now. So I guess I have to blame the National Guard. Actually, let me blame Antifa like everybody else. I guess antifa to blame for me not seeing Josh.

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S1: Also joining us this week, we’re happy to say Damon Young Damon is the founder and editor in chief of Very Smart Brothers, senior editor at The Root, the author of the excellent memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker. Damon, great to have you. And if Antifa is the reason that you can’t see me, but also is the reason that you’re on our show this week, that I think we got to give our hats off to Antifa.

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S4: Yeah. Yeah. Sponsored by Antifa. I appreciate that.

S3: And next weekend, slate of conference championship games, the NFL will potentially roll out a dream quartet of quarterbacks. We’ve got Tom Brady here of the six Super Bowl rings. And now on the hunt for his first with the Tampa Bay Bucs, there’s Aaron Rodgers, who’s only won one with the Green Bay Packers, but who is generally acknowledged is one of the best to ever do it. Then you’ve got the matchup in the AFC where up and comer Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills will face Kansas City, home of the reigning Super Bowl champs and the presumptive heir to the goat, Pat Mahomes. Of course, dreams don’t come easy in the NFL. Mahomes is currently in the concussion protocol following a hard hit in the third quarter of the Chiefs win over Cleveland. And neither Brady nor Allen really covered themselves in glory in the divisional round wins last week. Rogers is pretty much the only one who earned his marquee billing, throwing for two hundred and ninety six yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Rams. But as reductive as it is to the game, it’s hard to advance this far without a quarterback at the level of these four. This is a good group and they should be great games. Now, Josh, I’m sorry to say that your favorite team and favorite quarterback came up short because the forty two year old Drew Brees cooked on Sunday. But do you want to use this opportunity to rightfully complain about how the Saints didn’t turn over their offense to Taysom Hill?

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S1: So I am sorry that you can’t see my face right now. I just want you to imagine what I’m looking like, because as I tell you the following job before I before I answer that question, I want to just want to remind you that old man, Ben Roethlisberger, through four interceptions and the Steelers lost to the Browns. Oh, one Steelers finished the year winning one of their last six games. Wow. That the Steelers and the Browns split the two games they play during the regular season and that when you, Joel Anderson, added all this up, your conclusion was that the entire NFL playoff system was unfair and does not determine the best team. So now we’ve got this new set of facts. The Saints beat the Bucs twice in the regular season, including a thirty eight to three thrashing on November 8th when Drew Brees went twenty six for thirty two with four touchdowns and no interceptions. So now you want me and our listeners to believe that the same guy who went from nearly perfect to totally unplayable in just two months, or is it may be possible that it’s hard to come back from 11 broken ribs, a number you have previously stated that you weren’t sure even existed in the human body? It’s a lot of ribs. I do know new plus the Saints were up by seven. They’re driving in the third quarter when Jared not Drew Brees. Kirk fumbled and said Tampa up to tie the game. Is it unfair that Jared Cook fumbled? I wouldn’t say that a Tampa dude did punch the ball out. Is it random? Possibly. Did Drew Brees play poorly? Yes. Should he retire? Probably. Does the NFL playoff system determine the best team? I will defer to you guys on that one. I’m just here to report the facts.

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S4: Well, you know, I think that there is a there is a thing here and I say this as a forty two year old man, it takes an effort for me to get out of bed in the morning, particularly in the winter. And I think that when you have these old quarterbacks, you can you just can’t discount the importance of weather and how like for Ben Roethlisberger, who’s thirty nine I guess, but has a one hundred and thirty nine year old body performing outdoors in Pittsburgh in the middle of the winter, it just does that thing to you where everything hurts your hands or sore. It takes longer to recover. And so the quarterbacks that we the old quarterbacks that we see that are doing well, Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay. You know, Drew Brees, he came back with a thousand broken ribs, but he was in New Orleans, OK? And so if you if you have one of these aging quarterbacks, it’s important that you surround him with hot weather, because we’ve seen like even with even with Peyton Manning when he was in Denver, I mean, he won the Super Bowl, but he was terrible. And he and I guess the year before, when he was in a dome thrown like fifty five touchdowns, I might be getting my numbers because they might be. No, he wasn’t.

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S1: He was in Denver for that, for the megatonnage. OK, well, he was younger then.

S4: He was younger and also at least a year younger. When you when you first encountered the cold weather, as old as an old man, you get that shot to your system. So you’re good. You’re good for the first year. And then after that shock wears off and you realize, holy fucking shit, I am old, it is cold, I’m supposed to be here. I need to be on a Barcalounger watch and Criminal Minds blanket instead of out here trying to throw a pass against a pass rush and trying to get up after hitting the hitting the turf and it’s cold and my fingers are cold.

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S1: So what you’re saying is the Saints are lucky they didn’t have to go to Green Bay next week.

S4: The Saints are lucky. You don’t have to go to Green Bay. And Tampa Bay is lucky that they’re that they’ve played the entire season in Tampa Bay and. Tom Brady is smart, he knew that, you know what, I can’t deal with this New England winter again if I don’t continue to play. I already do the hyperbaric chamber thing. I already do the gluten free thing. So I need to do the heat thing, too, in order to extend my career.

S3: So this is what I think. So you may be on to something with the weather thing, but also is a 42 year old man. What I would say is that my body is not going to be the same day to day that you just can’t there’s nothing there’s nothing that I can count on physically on a day to day basis. Like some days I’m going to have good days. Some days I’m going to have bad days. Now, complicate that with coming back from an 11 rib injury, OK? And I can only imagine that, yes, the Drew Brees was compromised in some sort of way. But this is what I mean, that’s actually the risk you take. I mean, in addition to the fact that quarterbacks are obviously, you know, playing a very violent game, he’s an old man. The same said we’re going to roll the dice with this dude this year. And it’s not like his performance against the Bucs was totally out of keeping with the way that he played this year. I mean, Drew Brees finished thirty fourth, the thirty five quarterbacks, an average depth of target this year. So if he played bad, if he played poorly, if he wasn’t able to complete passes to the boundary this year, that’s just in keeping with what he had done all year. Good, bad ribs or not, you know, so I just think that you can’t count what he’s done the last three years.

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S1: I mean, he can’t throw the ball deep down the field anymore. And so if you’re compromised in that way, you can’t additionally be compromised. Right, by being injured. I mean, he’s been getting by on kind of timing and guile for years now, and it has hurt them in the playoffs before. But, you know, I just have a hard time believing that a team that’s been good enough to win forty nine games and the regular season, the last four years with a new alarmed quarterback is somehow, you know, the game doesn’t change so much in the playoffs. The only thing that’s different in the playoffs, Joel, as you’ve pointed out, is that if you lose a game, you can’t play anymore. Like that’s that’s the issue. And maybe that’s maybe that’s the point, is that when you’re old that you’re more likely to have that one bad game.

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S3: Well, you’re more likely to have that bad game. And then you also have the accumulated damage of a season behind you. So like the older the older you are, the later you get to the season, the more beat up you are, the more likely that sort of performance is going to happen. And I mean, it happens every year to weak arm old quarterbacks. And it just happened to Drew Brees. Yeah, sure. I mean, the Saints over the course of the season were a better team than the Bucs, but like by the end of the year, is that true? I don’t know. I mean, it’s something to consider is that both the Saints and the Bucs at thirteen and five right now, you know, they both won thirteen of eighteen games right now. So how much better are the Saints than the Bucs, really? I mean, who’s to say. But I mean, they’re roughly equivalent teams and you know, the Bucs just happened to get the better of them that day. I mean, Tom Brady has eleven good ribs. For all we know.

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S4: He probably ended up getting an extra rib. The TB twelve factor. Yeah. When he dies, whenever they do an autopsy like they did with Secretariat, they saw that his heart was like the size of a turkey. You might discover that Tom Brady has like seventy two ribs or something, but just that extra number of ribs that allows him to breathe at a higher capacity, I don’t know. Nothing would surprise me.

S1: The guys who actually got hurt this week where the young quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, who both got concussed and missed, you know, the majority of the second halves, other games, Jackson’s Ravens lost Mahomes as chiefs won. I mean, Joel, this would not have happened. Andy Reid said as much after the game that if the concussion protocol wasn’t in place, then Mahomes probably would have gone back in the game.

S3: Do you think so? Because I mean and I hear that, but for everybody that saw the play that he got hurt on, so he goes down and we’re just like, man, he fell down. Kind of awkward, but nobody thinks that it was the sort of hit that would keep him out of the game. And then he tried to get up and it was clear that he was unsteady on his feet. So I’ve been watching football a long time, and I know that the way that we treat, you know, head trauma and concussions has changed a lot. But I don’t think in my lifetime that I’ve seen a players stumble in the way that Pat Mahomes did and make it back into a game. I’m open to being wrong on that. But I can’t remember a guy being like, oh, I’m trying to get up. Oh, God. And then, like, collapsing in the arms of his teammates and then making it back out there. So I don’t know. I mean, maybe Andy Reid, you know, he he’s seen a lot more football than I have, but I can’t imagine that in any year. Nineteen ninety two thousand twenty ten, twenty twenty. That a guy who took a hit like that and got up like that would be able to get back in. And I’m sorry, I don’t know. But the thing that I would say about that play to man is that Pat Mahomes already had a foot injury, Doug. I’m saying, like Kim, keeping the pitch on that speed option was exactly what the Browns want to do. It just opened him up to unnecessary danger. And I know there’s a piece of me that’s like, well, you don’t want to criticize play calling play by play because it’s a mosaic and you decide what to do depending on situation, context, all this other stuff. But the play the Pat Mahomes got on, man, it just really I’m just surprised that they were willing to sacrifice him in that way because it just seemed like it seemed like there wasn’t an option that was going to be so good that it was worth risking him, you know, exposing himself to the defense like that.

S4: You know, I’m reminded, I guess, at a point that you made last week about the NFL or about the NFL and the playoffs don’t necessarily anoint the best team. And, you know, I guess the NBA or any any sport that has a series, you know, has more control over that, where you play more games and the best team is the one usually wins. But, you know, in these games, it is the healthiest, the freshest team, the team that has the buys. And those are the teams that for the most part end up winning. And so a team like a team like Kansas City, which, you know, even though the Steelers were undefeated for most of the season, Kansas City was the clear best team in NFL for the entire year. Who? Buffalo will come at you, bro? Yeah, well, Kansas City was a clear best team in Buffalo can come and get it. I don’t matter. It doesn’t matter. But they were the clear best team for most of the year and they almost lose that game. And they didn’t lose because of like a fluky rule. That is a good rule. I’m not going to argue against it. But again, it’s a circumstance that’s unique to football, not just NFL, but the circumstances unique to football. And so I don’t know. I guess what I’m saying is the best maybe there should be a separate designation for, you know what this what? The best eight. Yeah. This was the team that actually won. This was the healthiest team. This was a team where the quarterback was able to walk at the end of the season where we didn’t have all the top linebackers and receivers on injuries. Are this is the team that actually crossed the finish line?

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S3: Let me ask you all the questions in those games with the young guys got hurt. Pat Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, it actually in sort of unbelievably in the example of Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs, it didn’t really change the outcome of what happened. Right. Like I mean, Lamar Jackson gets hurt in the game against the bills. The guy was already sort of cast, you know what I mean? Like, the Ravens did not look like they were going to be competitive or that they were going to come back, even with Lamar playing in for the Chiefs. I mean, they held on they were the better team and they held on. It’s like maybe the chiefs win by a few more points if Pat Mahomes is healthy at the end. But for those of us that want to see good football in the next round, they want to see the better team rewarded. They survived, even though, you know, I mean, it was right there for the Browns fans. It was right there for the Browns. And they just, you know, they just couldn’t they came up short in the end.

S1: And the point you’re making is that if Taysom Hill had been healthy than the Saints would have won, you know, you know, they had him. And if they had him in there as a change of pace look bad, it couldn’t have hurt.

S3: I mean, the quarterback that threw the best pass and that same Bucs games was was Jameis Winston through Watson and that it was the best part of the game.

S1: It helps when the guy is running down the field completely. But I do not dispute that. That was that the best part of the game? Yeah, I think that with Mahomes situation, it certainly helped that they had a huge lead because they almost blew a nineteen to three, you know, nineteen to three lead. But yeah, we should talk about the play at the end where the chiefs, instead of punting, instead of running a quarterback sneaker or handing it off to the running back, throw it kind of sprint out pass with the backup quarterback Kenny to Tyreek Hill. It was a play that nobody was expecting. It was a play that clinched the game. Joel, you said, I think that you’d never been more surprised by an individual play call than that one.

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S3: Well, I mean, even Tony Romo was surprised. Right. And this is this is how shocking that the guy who predicts every play, the guy that predicts every play with shock. And just for the record, according to pro football reference, it seems to be the only time a team has had the lead with the ball on their own side of the field and thrown it on fourth down in the final 90 seconds of a game. Right. So, like, I was shocked for a legitimate reason. Most even if the data is on the side of the team going for it on fourth and one or throwing it on fourth and one, in that circumstance, it never happens. So that’s what was so shocking about it. I don’t know when you saw it. I mean, I just I about fell out of my chair. I guess I’m just used to coaches doing like with your boy Tomlin just putting, you know.

S4: Oh, yeah. And I was about to reference that because it’s easy to armchair quarterback and, you know, to criticize coaches from where we’re sitting. But I do think that there is an epidemic of in this exist through. Outsports of coaches not trusting their team and we practice this, we have the people on a team who can do this thing, so let’s just trust our guys to make a play to just to complete a pass, you know, instead of instead of giving the other team a favor and giving you the ball. You know what? I have trust in this backup quarterback. I was like Chad Hynie trusted Chad, not trusting Chad Henney. I have chosen Chad here. I remember Michigan. Yeah. I forgot where he was after Michigan by Michigan. It was Jaguars quarterback. Yes. Like some great days at Michigan. Yeah. And he can complete a pass. So why not just trust your guy to do that again and again? And he really gets this has his reputation for being somewhat of a maverick in regards to NFL coaches. And what it just comes down to is that he trusts his guys. It’s like, what’s the point of order, practice, time of all that fucking, you know, preparation? And, you know, they sleep, eat, drink and shit football. If you’re not going to trust your athletes, your players to do what you’ve instilled in them for the entire year to do. And again, it goes back to the Steelers game with Tomlin. I love I love Mike. I’ll I’ll be if he passes away before before I do, I’ll be a pallbearer at his funeral if you get that privilege. Like I love Mike Tomlin. But, you know, Steelers have all the momentum in that game. Two weeks ago in, you know, fourth down was at fourth and two. Yeah. Fourth and two and three. Something like that at the 50 yard line and have all the momentum and you punt the ball and that that ends the game. Yeah. And it’s just a circumstance like, you know, just trust your guys, trust your guys to make a play instead of and what a punt ends up doing. It punts away to trust. OK, instead of trusting my guys to the game two yards here, I’m going to give it to the other team. And now I’m going to now I’m going to trust that we can stop them and trust that we can recreate this exact same scenario in ten, ten minutes from now. Because, again, best case scenario is they get the ball back and then they have the exact same thing to do. They had the exact same thing. Thirty two or fourth and two. And so why not just front load the trust?

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S3: Well, I guess here’s my thing. And Josh, you tell me. I mean, I guess another thing is that even if you fail, I guess I’m not too concerned at Baker. Mayfield is going to beat me, you know? I mean, if you fail, I mean, you know, Andy Reid is saying, well, you know what I mean. It’s still Baker Mayfield on the other side of the ball here.

S1: Well, you got to take all that stuff into consideration. And I think when we talk about risk, there’s a risk, a kind of flattening out to different things. Like I think we can all agree that if you’re willing to do what the chiefs did there, you’re going to surprise the other team, just like you surprised Tony Romo and Joel Anderson. And the chance that you’ll succeed if you willing to try it is extremely high. Yeah, the way that we should talk about risk in this case is that in the very small chance that you fail, you’ll look really stupid and you will give the other team a short field and a chance to win. But I think it’s the you’ll look very stupid. Like if you lose in that way, you are calling all of the attention on yourself and directing all of the blame towards yourself. And you need to have job security and a bit to be able or willing to do that. And you need to, like Damon said, just kind of have confidence and trust in your guys. And I think it’s really important to explain. Peter King had this in his column that read Pat Mahomes Chad Heny and offensive coordinator Eric Benami had met before the game and gone through all the plays that they liked on Fourth and Short. And they had decided on this play that they really like this play. They were confident in this play on the sidelines, reads Benami. You ready to roll? The enemy said, Absolutely. And so then they called it. And it’s so it’s back to the thing about trust. Like if you talk about a thing all week, you decide you like it and then you get in the game and you’re like, you know what? I don’t have the guts to do it. That’ll tell something to your team if you stick with it. And the most pressure packed situation that tells them something to. And I just also wanted to tell that story to make it clear to people that Eric PenName is partly at least partly responsible for calling the plays.

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S3: Yeah, no, I mean, everybody gave Andy Reid the credit, you know, after the game. And I was like, yeah, I mean, you know, Andy Reid is that is his offense, but he doesn’t do that all on his own. And it would be nice if people would recognize the role that Eric Benami plays in calling that offense and, you know, taking those sort of shots. We know that he’s a part of that. And it would be nice if people recognized. Every now and again.

S1: OK, I want to preface this next segment by saying we recorded it before Kyrie Irving came back to the Brooklyn Nets, which happened on Tuesday, he explained his absence by saying he just needed a pause and he said that he had personal and family things to deal with without getting into specifics. So we recorded this next conversation before any of that happened. On Monday night in Brooklyn, the Nets beat the Milwaukee Bucks, won twenty five, one, twenty three and the best game of the NBA season so far. Wow. Kevin Durant made the winning three off a pass from his new teammate, James Harden. Harden is averaging thirty three, thirteen assists and nine boards in the two games since coming to Brooklyn via trade from the Houston Rockets, he seems to have gotten a surge of energy. Seems just like in better spirits, better shape. It’s just he he needed that fresh Brooklyn air. Anyway, the Nets are now the favorite to win the Eastern Conference, and that is without Kyrie Irving on the floor for the last two weeks because of unspecified and I quote here, personal issues in the Nets are now the most fascinating team in the NBA. There may be more fascinating than the entire rest of the NBA combined, but let’s start with Kyrie, who you’ve written about thought about a time you basically have a Ph.D. and Kyrie Irving. Nobody in the organization or outside of it seems to know when or if he’ll be back. What are your thoughts on what’s going on with him?

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S4: So my friends are also aware that I’ve written about Kyrie extensively and they consider me like some sort of Kyrie whisperer if I’m in his inner circle and I can read his mind. And so I’ve been asked this question repeatedly over the last two weeks and my answer to them is to say, I’m going to give you this. I have no fucking clue what is happening with him right now. But I will say this, and this is something that I guess who wrote the piece for Slate last week about Kyrie Jack, Jack Hamilton, Hamilton Hamilton, and he made this point in the piece, is that Kyrie kind of represents, I guess, this fundamental, I guess fundamental difference in how we regard sports and how sports is kind of split off from the rest of how we regard society, because I do not think that Kyrie Irving should be playing NBA basketball right now if he has some sort of mental health issue or some sort of emotional issue or just isn’t feeling up to what’s ever happening. But no one should be playing NBA basketball right now. I mean, no one should be playing. Yeah, and that’s that’s a point that I think that gets neglected in this whole conversation about, you know, about him and about the season is that the season should not be happening. We have games getting canceled, games getting postponed. Players, people who have lost their entire family to covid like Karl Anthony Towns now have covered. And we have no idea what the long term effects are going to be. I mean, there’s all this talk about whether athletes into shape or whatever, and it’s like that is actually the reason why they should not be playing, because these are people whose bodies are these finely tuned instruments. And if something is off a little bit, you know, like I could deal with, you know, I hope it L.A. fitness two or three times a week back when we weren’t on outside punishment because of the pandemic. But I could deal with OK, as my longest one lung isn’t working the way it was before or my blood pressure’s a little high or something like that. But someone who has to play eighty two games against the best athletes in the world. Doesn’t have those same sort of doesn’t have those same sort of considerations, and so I think the larger issue with Carrie is that he is reacting in a way that any normal non athlete person would, because what we do know is that he was upset about what was happening in Washington, the white supremacy, insurrection or whatever. And so that happened. And then his best friend on the team misses a whole week because of the covid protocol or whatever. And I could see that affecting a person. I mean, it’s not I know Carrie has is this this narrative of Carrie being crazy, kooky, Carrie, but that is actually the normal way to react to all this shit that’s happening around him.

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S1: Right. The only sane man in a crazy world is what you’re saying.

S4: And Carrie doesn’t do himself any favors. And I as a person who, again, who who leases property on Carrie Allen, I’m frustrated as a fan because he is actually he was actually having his best season. And if he says artistically in the seven games that he’s played, he was the best point guard in the NBA this year, averaging twenty seven, seven and six hasn’t missed a foul shot yet. This year is shooting forty from three fifty from the foul line. Real time plus minus. I think he was thirty the entire league. And so, you know, a frustrating thing with being a fan of his basketball game is that all the other shit that surrounds his on court activity is obscuring it. And so you just want people to focus on the basketball and you can’t because he is not playing basketball right now.

S3: I agree that on the whole, that like playing basketball under these circumstances at this time in our country, it largely seems to be irresponsible. But that’s a decision that, like all of these professional sports leagues and athletes have made, and they’re not going to miss any games because they can’t afford to miss any money.

S5: So, yeah, Kyrie is very high up in the union. They have a CBA. He decided he wanted to play. They want to be out there, they need to be out there like the money they need to make money. If the NBA doesn’t play, it’s a huge problem. So I mean while I sympathize with Kyrie man, a lot of those guys need that money, they need to be out there. And plus your careers only last so long. Like you only have so much time to capitalize and play while you’re, you know, capable of doing it. So getting out there and playing is an important thing. But I think the thing for me when I think of this Kyrie’s situation is that I do think something is going on here. And I think it’s telling that the nets are being very careful about what they do and what they say about Kyrie. So I know that the dynamics between franchises and superstar players are different now than even they were 20 years ago. But if the Nets thought that there was some malice or serial negligence at play here, I think they would take a harder line stance against them in public. Right. And that’s not happening here. Like Sean Marks, the GM, Steve Nash, the coach, have been supportive. I saw an interview with Jarrett Allen back when he was a member of the team, and he spoke almost tenderly about Kyrie. Right.

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S6: And you see, the James Harden had no qualms about joining the franchise. Kyrie’s there. He wanted to go there. So if there was some sort of like problem or if there was some sort of internal turmoil, the nets are doing a really good job of pretending that it’s not happening. They’re just saying, Hey, Kyrie needs a break and we’re giving it to him.

S1: The thing that’s so fascinating about him is that and Damon, you wrote about this really well in a piece like last year, is that there’s a way in which you can kind of cherry pick different sets of facts about him and tell totally different stories that make him look like the most thoughtful person in sports or like somebody who would be a horrible teammate that you’d never want to spend any time with. I mean, he spent, you know, one and a half million dollars to pay the salaries of WNBA players. He apparently that this just came out like but George Floyd’s family, the house, he’s like so committed to the causes that he cares about and was really outspoken, you know, during the bubble about how it might not be responsible for the league to be playing and raise really smart and important points and was kind of smeared for it in the media really unfairly. Then, on the other hand, in this recent couple of weeks, spell like he’s spotted Marcellus at a club like at his sister’s birthday party, which seemed like not a smart thing to do. There’s a story out last year in ESPN where Jackie Macmullan wrote about how he’s unwilling to communicate with coaching staff and his teammates. And the one anecdote that really stuck with me is that he refused to take off his hat during a photo shoot and instructed team staff to Photoshop it out. Damon, is it fair to say that sort of like the ideas or what Kyrie Irving represents, what he believes and what he stands for is great, but maybe like being around him all the time may not be the most fun experience in the world.

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S4: I mean, that’s that’s a possibility. That’s that’s definitely a possibility. I think we also have to remember that Kyrie has had the misfortune actually of being caught in the crosshairs of probably the two most passionate and powerful, I guess, parts of NBA fandom in NBA media. On one hand, you have people who are obsessed with LeBron James, his legacy, and people whose it seems entire waking life is to make sure that LeBron is given the proper reverence. And then you have people connected to Boston, the Boston Celtics, that all in all of the sportswriters and all of the, you know, the media companies that have a connection to that. And so Kyrie has been a person who did LeBron wrong and did a Celltex role. And when you do that, you have all of these forces, these big powerful forces and very you know, and the people who could construct and repeat narratives coming at you and LeBron thing, for instance, like the general sentiment behind the Kyrie or even Cleveland and even LeBron, is that he you know, he couldn’t stand being a no to LeBron. He was unhappy. You wanted to get out. He forced his way out. And that that is one way of looking at the facts, but you can also step back and say, well, the Braund tried to get them traded like that. That literally happened where the Cavs tried to get him traded. There was a trade in the works and it was like a two or three team trade where the cars would end up getting Eric Bledsoe and Paul George. And this is after Kyrie hits the biggest shot and Cavs history after they win a championship. And also, he knows that LeBron wasn’t staying in Cleveland. It’s like, so why would I want to stay in a place? One you just trying to get me traded in to you. You’re out of here anyway, and you’re going to leave me on this team with fucking Kevin Love and and J.R. Smith in Cleveland. Yeah. Yeah, true.

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S1: Just imagine how annoying Kyrie must be to want to trade him after he hit that shot.

S4: But with that part of the he wanted to get rid of it. He wanted to get away from LeBron. No LeBron trying to get him traded like that part gets gets forgotten about when that conversation happens. And even the Celtics did you know the first which is generally regarded as like this disaster from day one. But his first season to Boston, they were the best team in the league. They at one point they won eight straight games. He was in the MVP commerce that he won the one, but he was one of those in the conversation people. And then he got hurt. Sixty games into the season. They were already number one seed and they continue being the number one seed and then go through to go to playoffs and play well. But it wasn’t a complete disaster. It’s just that last that final season in Boston. And then the playoffs were were terrible and they lost to a team that was better in them. That was a bad matchup and was better than them. And he ends up leaving. And so, again, I think that the whole Kyrie’s situation, it’s a I think it just is a prime example of the power of narrative where there are like you were saying, Josh, there were so many different takes that you could that you could have based on the data in front of you about Cory’s career, about his, you know, his relationship with teammates. And depending on your perspective, he can be the NBA’s greatest villain, which he seems to be right now, or he could be some sort of misunderstood and moody person who just happens to be great at basketball. And I you know, my sentiment kind of shifts more towards the latter. Particularly when you consider the things that he’s accused of being OK, not taking your hat off, who gives a fuck about?

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S1: That’s the most important issue for me is you’ve got to take your hat off.

S4: That’s the sort of thing that comes out when people are trying to paint a picture.

S5: But wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. So let’s let’s do admit, though, man, like, it does not seem like Kyrie is a great co-worker, right?

S6: Like, well, I have sympathy for the issues the Kyrie is going through right now, the issues that Kyrie are sympathetic to, you know, like the social issues that he is interested in and supports, like I’m with him on all that stuff. But in terms of hey man, show up, be on time, be accountable like you know, just be here and like don’t start no shit. It just doesn’t kind of seem like that is something that he is really good at. You mentioned the Cavs that like, you know, Braun tried to get rid of him. Well, you know, the Cavs suffered too much after he left like they went to the finals again and lost the next year. Right. He went to Boston that first year where he was hurt. And then the young boys, you know, Tatum and Brown went to the conference finals, lost to the bron, and then and then they ran it back the next year and they were worse. Right.

S3: Then he leaves and the Celtics were good again. You know, they were still, you know. Well, I think they still lost in the semis. But they look I think they lost in the conference semis. They lost to Miami, they lost to Miami, and they got by a Raptors team.

S4: That was bad. Yeah. And so that part of it, I think, again, you could just look at the facts and you could have that take away. But again, even thinking about that Celtics season when they didn’t live up to expectations. But yeah, Kyrie was a part of that season. So it was Gordon Hayward who was terrible that year. But get shoehorned back into the starting lineup. You know, in Jaylen Brown was coming off the bench at the beginning of that season to make room for Haywood. You had Terry Rozier doing a season long pout about playing on time. He hit Marcus Morris on that tape to who would literally get in a fight on the sideline. So you had just a volatile mix. And Kyrie is not like a leader. He’s not the sort of person that’s going to put, you know, that is going to put a cap on all of that and just tell the guys like, you know what, let’s rally around.

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S3: He’s not that type, but it doesn’t seem like he wants to be that guy, though, right?

S1: Like, excuse me, he wanted to be the number one guy on a team. Right. I mean, I do know that.

S4: No, no. Actually, when he when he requested to leave Cleveland is where he wanted to go with San Antonio. That was that was his number one choice. You did not choose to go to San Antonio. When you’re asking to leave Cleveland, if you want to be like he would, you would like he would have been like, you know, send me to Phoenix. So I’m going to Sacramento, sent me to Minnesota, send me send me to the Knicks.

S1: He wanted you to think that he wanted to go to San Antonio.

S4: Yeah, but his his choice when he was when he was traded was to go to San Antonio. And again, this is this is this is a thing that is a verified thing where he wanted to be a part of a system, you know, with a great coach.

S1: Let me end by framing things this way. I’m curious for your response to the straw. Well, first of all, the Celtics lost to the Heat on the conference finals last year. So let’s give them some credit for making the conference finals. But think about Kyrie versus Harden Harden at his most disruptive, like when he was in Houston and was basically conducting a sit down strike on the court in the last few games before he left was more more disruptive than Kyrie has ever been. But when Harden is like all there and wants to play like that guy is all about basketball like all about being on the court. And some of this is just injuries and luck, although Kyrie does to seem like he has kind of a fragile body. But Kyrie Irving has never played more than seventy five games in a season. He’s played as many as sixty five games just four times in nine seasons. Harden has played more than seventy five games five times and he’s played more than sixty five in ten of his eleven seasons. So Harden is at once and in my view, more disruptive but also more reliable. And getting back to something that Damon said, it does feel feels like Harden is like kind of a little nutty in the ways that are actually beneficial to a to a basketball team. Whereas Kyrie’s quirks are like the quirks that, you know, he’s more of, like a solo artist and more like maybe not a great co-worker. Like he is a guy that, you know, his particular personality or viewpoint or maybe not as conducive to being in the NBA.

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S4: Well, Josh, I want to say really quickly, too, it’s like I think that we can separate the quirkiness from injury because he it’s true. I think the biggest the biggest issue, I think with Kyrie’s career, forget about the quirkiness. Forget about the locker room stuff. Is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a long stretch of time where he’s had all these injuries, it even goes back to his time at Duke, where he injures parts of his body that it even existed. And and so that has been a recurring theme for him throughout his career. And I think that that when he is not injured, then, yeah, you you take what he gives you. You take the twenty seven points a game, the highest risk that he does not turn the ball over heat like he. For a person who has the sort of reputation for his game that he has, he never turns a pall over. So you take that and when he is playing, when he is actually on the court, he is good. This is this time right now, these last two weeks have been the only stretch of his career where he has been out. And it wasn’t injury related because when he plays, he plays well and that has been a thing. And so but to compare him to Harden, Harden is Harden is his game. He doesn’t just have like his opponents game. He has a wants body. Like, I don’t know how someone with that body is able to produce the way he does and also not miss any time because he either never gets injured or he’s able to play with injury in a way that few people in professional sports history have been able to because, yeah, he is he is extremely reliable. And that’s that’s one of the greatest things about his game, is that he just either doesn’t get hurt or he’s able to play through it in a way that few other players are.

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S1: On this week’s bonus segment for Slate plus members, we’re going to talk about whether star athletes should get the covid vaccine early, could help with marketing the vaccine and start a class war. When? When, baby. On the first episode of the Hang Up and Listen podcast, which was way back on July 6th, 2009, I talked about going to see a golf tournament here in the D.C. area. It was the first and only golf tournament I’ve ever been to. And the only reason I went is because Tiger Woods was playing in it. Tiger won that weekend. I talked about how incredible was to see him up close to watch tens of thousands of people watching him and have him perform better than anyone ever had under all that scrutiny and pressure. A little more than four months after that, Tiger crashed his car into a fire hydrant and all of his affairs in the photos and the sexts, they all got spilled out into the world. HBO’s two part documentary, three hour documentary, Tiger covers all of that. The Success on the scandal, Tiger’s complicated relationship with his father, Earl, and his relationship with race. Joel, it’s a legitimately epic story. Crazy highs and lows and tortured, probably emotionally stunted hero at the center of it. What did you think of how this documentary told Tiger Woods story and did it do that story justice?

S3: It’s funny you mention those texts, the sext, by the way, because I convinced my wife to watch it with me today and we got to the end of it. She was like, hey, I thought I thought we were going to cover the text. And that had come up. So she was she was very disappointed about that.

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S6: But so to me, the documentary felt like an awful lot like a really sweeping redemption story. But in light of like the last few years, it just seems absurd that Tiger would have ever needed to be redeemed. So, like it’s like watching that documentary, it was like this quaint little reminder of our lives before everyone realized that that that sort of public facing morality is all a farce. And I think we’re a lot more cynical about our celebrities and athletes now. And in some ways, that’s good, because I don’t think Tiger or anyone else should have to go through what he did. And you see some of that in the documentary. Like it’s because like a lot of people, for instance, I’m retroactively offended by the idea that Tiger would hold a press conference to address his infidelity, which was really meant to be reassuring his corporate partners. Right. Like even in that press conference, he apologized to them before he did his wife and family. But like the scene in the documentary that highlights this the most and sort of left, the biggest impression on me was that Masters press conference with Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne, who chastised Tiger for his failures, he said something like, it’s not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us and most importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children. And like those comments are outrageous and out of line and they really don’t hold up to scrutiny given what he said about President Trump. In twenty seventeen was sportswriter Christine Brennan asked him about Trump’s own comments about women in his very close association with golf. And Payne said, I’m not the one to judge how Trump’s other remarks may have some influence on the game of golf, which is where my interest level resides exclusively. So like just in that short amount of time, we see that all that morality play stuff is bullshit and it just kind of read to me like this public whipping of a very bad little black boy who disappointed us. And so the documentary really didn’t comment on that piece of it. But like, that’s what I took from it. I was like, oh, everything that we thought, like these supposedly hard lows and these failures of Tiger really had, I’m like, come on, really. It was like in retrospect, it just seemed like totally silly to me.

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S4: It felt surreal watching that documentary because it and I was trying to figure out exactly why in a daze. After a while I was thinking about it. And I think what made it surreal in a way that the last dance, for instance, wasn’t is that the last dance was about obviously Michael Jordan’s career. But his career is over. It’s done. He’s done plan and Tiger Woods is still out there playing. And so we have this documentary about a person who is actually still in his still in the middle of his career. Now, he’s not a prime anymore, but it just felt like almost like a like like a eulogy in some capacity for a person who is still living. And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that where I’ve seen documentary sports documentaries about like a specific team like the Fab Five, for instance, or Iverson to his stretch in Virginia when he had the legal issue. But in terms of a documentary about a career that is actually literally still happening, I don’t know what you’re supposed to take from that, because documentaries are supposed to be encapsulating narratives, you know, driven things that exist at the end of someone’s career. And so I guess when Tiger’s career ends, is this documentary going to be a part of the next documentary about him?

S1: Right. I thought it was not particularly artfully done. Like, I don’t think this was a great piece of filmmaking, but it was useful as a reminder of the things that Tiger has done and gone through and how he’s been talked about and covered and draw the point that you picked out was the one that stood out to me as well, that moralizing statement from a chairman of a golf club that had traditionally not allowed black members or black players at the tournament. It’s just kind of remarkable sanctimony and I think maybe more than than you did. I think that that was included in the. OK, to make Billy Payne in the Masters look as bad as they actually were, like, you don’t put that in there if you don’t want people to have the reaction that we had and in my view, OK, but I’m just trying to think back to my own response to that press conference that Tiger held to apologize for his affairs, which is just a bizarre statement to make, like a press conference to apologize for your affairs, just like the fact that that happened. And maybe maybe I would have felt differently now. But back then and I wrote about it at the time, the thing that struck me about it, Joel, was how phony Tiger seemed. And he had four kind of financial gain. And as you alluded to, for kind of corporate reasons and corporate interests, he had cultivated this image of being a squeaky clean family man and kind of exploited that image. And the way that he talked about it at the press conference and the way that he hugged his mom and stage managed and refused to take questions like, OK, don’t have the press conference. But if you do just the way that he did, it seemed like, you know, the exact opposite of introspective and just seemed more about protecting Tiger the brand. And that’s just a conflict that has come up throughout his life. And also in this documentary is like, who is that like? Is there a real person there or is it just this, like, robotic dude who’s been trained to be this particular way since birth?

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S7: That’s a really interesting point, because I wanted to ask you all this, like, do you feel that you know anything more about Tiger as a person at the end of this? I felt like it was more a commentary on the way that we saw him in the way that he was covered. But even the people that they interviewed in his life that were ostensibly close to him, it just didn’t seem like they knew very much about the guy.

S1: Well, these were all people that had been exiled from his life and that this was not authorized. Tiger’s agent came out and said, like, this is like horrible and salacious, just like the book that it was based on. But like Damon, imagine a documentary about your life where the talking heads are the girlfriend that hates you. Right. The interview, your old all your exes.

S4: Yeah. I mean, if if that happens and they all just say, hey, this guy was just really obsessed with writing, like, OK, I’ll take it out. That’s the worst thing. Yet he doesn’t really like Kyrie Irving and he did the right thing. So yeah, I saw the comment that this was like a salacious thing, but I’m watching it and I think that, you know, a thing like this exists for people who are not diehards for like you’re you’re just regular HBO person who watches TV and watches documentaries because there were no new revelations from this. And I’m not even a person who I’m with a person who knows a whole lot about Tiger or who has followed his career to that capacity. But there were no new revelations in this documentary.

S1: What about the mean letter that he wrote, his first girlfriend?

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S4: Oh, yeah. OK, so he is either obsessed with golf. He’s treated he treated his ex when he was twenty one or twenty two year old. He was just saying, wait a lot of twenty one or twenty year old. Twenty two year old. I mean who gets letters. Yes. I mean at least he wrote a letter. You didn’t have ghost right. You didn’t just miss a date in an next season, it’s on TV. So he did write a letter. Good, good handwriting to and and so I just I don’t know. I did not learn anything. My wife was watching it with me. She learned some stuff about him. But there was nothing in this that was salacious, that was socialistic, that was anything to be. If I’m Tiger, I’m like, OK, this this shows that I’m obsessed with golf. And then I had some affairs and then people were weird around me and I just want to play golf and be left alone.

S3: I think that that goes to Josh’s point where you mentioned that Tiger seems phony and it could be that, like, he has put this wall up around himself in a way so that people don’t actually get to know who he is, that we don’t actually get that. There’s no that there’s not a chance for any authenticity because he even Earl Woods, I mean, he built him up. He wanted he said he was going to be as great as Nelson Mandela and all these other, you know, legends. You know, Gandhi, Gandhi. Yeah. Yeah, right. And so I was like they were always they were always focused on building him in in a public image, but not necessarily giving us a window into, like, his internal being, which is fine.

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S7: I mean, I don’t think that we need to know anything. I don’t know anything about Michael Jordan. I didn’t I didn’t know much about Kobe. I don’t know really about like LeBron. I mean, they want to sell you the artifice of intimacy with these celebrities and athletes, but it’s just not possible.

S5: And so we see it as phoniness. But like that is. Just that is them keeping their distance, but the thing about Tiger that was interesting to me is that it seemed that the people close to him didn’t actually get close to him either. I mean, Steve Williams sitting here talking about, yo, I didn’t you know, I never thought the tiger would never call me back again. We were buddies. And then but then they talked to Rachel Uchitel, who was like, oh, when Tiger spent time with me, he could really be himself. And finally, you know, he could really let his guard down. And then she gets, you know, it just it just felt like all of these people had moments and moments with Tiger, but that they never actually got close to him. And maybe that strategic on his part or maybe it’s just not. He’s just a guy that you can’t get close to and to both your points.

S4: You know, I think what we’re reading is inauthenticity is actually just a lack of anything there. Like maybe there is nothing really to get closer to. And we assume that he is a lot more complicated than he actually is. And he everything we know about him is that he eats and sleeps golf and he likes blondes.

S3: And that is and maybe that is it a lot more in line with the Perkins way of line, you know.

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S4: All right. Well, he likes blonde and blonde, Jason, and maybe that’s just it with him. Maybe there’s like there’s nothing else out there. And we’re trying to find these, I don’t know, these nuggets of personality or something to kind of anchor us, to pull us into his orbit to see what else is there. And, you know, I don’t I’m not convinced that there’s anything else.

S1: You know, I do have sympathy for him, though, because he was never allowed to be a person. Like even his dad transformed him into this icon. Like to have even your own family talk about you in the way that like in in the most insane fan. Yeah. Would describe you. That has to work for you from a very early age. I mean, he’s on the Mike Douglas Show, you know, from when he’s too I mean, the most telling interview moment. And the whole thing is like when he was asked by a sportscaster and he must have been two years old, like, do you like to play golf and Tiger? Because I want to pooh-pooh like, this was a this was a guy who, you know, that that was an authentic and he was like asked to perform and to be this person, to be this like, you know, untouchable, legendary golf guy from the time he could talk. And so he was never able to develop as a normal person. And he did have the eyes of everyone in the world on him. And so it’s hard not to you know, it’s hard not to for me to have sympathy for somebody who grew up in that way.

S3: I hear you, Josh, but wait a minute. Hold on. Like, first of all, it was so with the understanding that, no, he did not become Gandi. He did not become Mandella. Right. But was Earl Woods wrong about the impact the tiger would make in golf and everything else? And and and given that, like, what is normal, you know what I mean? Like, what is I mean, Earl Woods trained and built the greatest golfer ever, which was his goal. And it seems to be something that Tiger enjoys. And yes, he may be stunted in some other ways, but what is actually normal? You mean because there’s a lot of people that don’t get to be billionaires and like they don’t get to do what they love and they also don’t develop an internal sense of self or an authentic bearing, you know what I mean? So I guess, like, that’s true.

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S1: I mean, I guess what I would say is that, like, Tiger became probably the greatest golfer ever, even if he doesn’t beat Jack Nicklaus records. But he didn’t really change the world or even change the game of golf. I mean, if you look at golf now, like the faces are just as white as they’ve always been, he didn’t change golf the way that the Williams sisters changed tennis. That’s not necessarily it’s not at all on him, I would say. But like Earl was successful in creating this amazing, beyond amazing golfer. But if you look at the world now, twenty five years later, is the world really all that different because of Tiger Woods and his role in it?

S4: His change was in the demographic or in a diversity, but he definitely changed the way golf was played where like even if you look at how those guys are built, that these are athletes. I mean, they’ve always been athletes. Right. But when Tiger started, hey, I’m going to list I’m going to you know, I’m going to have abs I’m going to be on the cover of Men’s Health when he brought that to golf. And you look in you saw the golfers before and you see the golfers now. It was like, you know what, in order to compete, we need to be in shape, too. We need to have we need to be able to look. We need to. So I do think that he you know, I think the change that tiger that. Brought golf was more of a war of how the way the game is played in the way people prepare, which is which is an important change, but the but the but the larger light, it’s not Ghandi, Damon, it’s not Gandhi. It’s not Gandhi. But he did change the game.

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S3: I just had to think of this very low bar it that goes back to the last dance. And it’s like these two these two dudes like Michael Jordan changed his game and became dominant by deciding to lift weights and like Tiger Woods changed golf but decided to do push ups is like, oh, nobody else thought to do this.

S4: A previous book, but that tells a story about my dad played college ball and they would have double hitters sometimes with NBA teams or whatever. So they played one game. Didn’t NBA team play the next game? And I remember sitting in a locker room, but I guess the Cincinnati Royals and how surprised he was at halftime when you came into the locker room and he followed them all drinking beer at halftime of the NBA game. My dad my dad’s not like ninety, maybe seventy two years old. So this wasn’t that long ago.

S3: Right. All these do so Phil Mickelson, the Cincinnati Reds, like babe.

S1: Damon Young, thank you so much for sharing stories of beer in the locker room and for being on the show. We appreciate it. Yeah.

S8: Thanks again for thanks for having me.

S1: And now it is time for after balls and Joel, you mentioned, Jenny, your wife being disappointed that there was not more sexting and the tiger doc.

S5: Yes, see, that’s I think that’s what she actually was hanging in for.

S7: And it never came up. So HBO, you fooled us.

S1: So I don’t want to disappoint you. So I think we should honor in this weeks after balls, Joslyn James, who is a porn star who released text messages that she received from Tiger Woods on the website, sexting Joslyn James Dotcom. You’ve got to appreciate. Wow. The nose for business there, Joel.

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S7: Yeah, I mean, people did use their own websites back then. Didn’t Tiger make an announcement on his website back then to his very quaint era?

S1: Yeah. Tiger would only released statements on his website. Part of the reason people were upset with him refused to take questions from the press, all just driven by an interest in Web traffic. Anyway, sexting Joslyn James. You know what? I might disappoint Janay, because this is a family program. I’m not going to read any of Tiger’s alleged messages. Oh, actually, I’ll just read one. Yeah. Just please, I have to leave for an appearance at four thirty, but I will be back at seven thirty for dinner and lots of dessert with you. That’s kind of sweet, though.

S7: I mean, I assume he meant like, you know, like some tiramisu or something like that.

S1: I actually did a piece for Slate back then and we were very strong on the The Tiger Beat in 2009 and 2010, where I filled in the other half of Tiger’s sex with Joslyn James. We can we can release that on our show minutes, but but basically making the point that all of Joslin’s messages were totally innocuous. And anyway, it’s probably funnier, I hope, funnier to read than to describe. But I’m going to stop talking now. Joel, what is your Joslyn James?

S3: Well, I was hoping we could get more into your sexting Mad Libs. But and I should clarify for the record, I don’t know who Joslyn James is today.

S9: But anyway, so my Joslyn James, it’s a tough time to be a Houston sports fan. Everyone hates the Astros. Deshaun Watson, once off of the Texans. And as we discussed earlier, the Rockies just traded away their second best player in franchise history, granting James Harden his wish to leave that sinking ship. Friend and friend of the show, Jessica Luthor, sent me a piece from Texas Monthly’s Dan Sullivan that summed up the collective misery. It was headlined Houston is America’s Saddest Sports City, Part Infinity.

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S5: And who’s to say maybe that’s hyperbole, but it’s clear that Houston sports fans could use a little hope. Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope to offer, but I did learn more about the time the Rockets almost traded away their best player in franchise history, which we now know would have been a disaster. So let’s go back to February nineteen ninety two. The Rockets had fired head coach Don Chaney and replaced him with former player and longtime assistant Rudy Tomjanovich. Houston was just a five hundred team that year and on its way to missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years. That best player accumulation was carrying a heavy burden on this particular team and he was breaking down physically. He had missed a couple of weeks earlier in the season with an irregular heartbeat. And in March, he said his hamstring wasn’t doing too great. Olajuwon missed a game against Seattle on March 19th of that year, but when Dream said his hamstring wasn’t healed and that he couldn’t go on March twenty first, two days later against Sacramento, the Rockets accused him of faking it. Specifically, General Manager Steve Patterson said Olajuwon was faking it as a contract negotiation tactic, and they suspended him for five games, a penalty later reduced to three. As you might expect, Dream wasn’t too happy with the rockets, he told the media. I have my track record and it speaks for itself. Management has its track record that speaks for itself, too. That obviously wasn’t meant to be a compliment, and he wasn’t wrong. Not long after owner Charlie Thomas bought the rockets in nineteen eighty two, he traded away MVP Moses Malone to Philadelphia rather than sign him to a new contract. The rockets were so bad the next couple of years that the NBA changed the draft to a lottery system. After Houston won the number one overall pick in consecutive years, the owner, Charlie Thomas, did little to improve the team around his stars, Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson and the Rockets gradually fell apart, leaving Olajuwon without much help. Dream said he had no faith in the rocket’s front office, specifically that Paterson, the GM, didn’t know what he is doing, which had some truth to it. If you followed Paterson’s career in the 30 years since an example. Here’s a headline from an ESPN dotcom story in 2015 covering his two year stint as the athletic director at the University of Texas. He just put us through hell. So, yeah, Dream had a point. He also said that he wanted to trade. The fans should not look at the foolishness of management. Olajuwon said. They have defamed me, but I have my obligation. I have a contract. People who know me know what kind of person I am. Somebody had to show some class. And I mean, he just does great ether at the front office.

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S6: I get no respect for him. And he just dismissed them with so much I mean, so much gravitas. It was just amazing. But but anyway, Dream went right back to being dream in the final ten games of that season, averaging twenty three points and twelve rebounds a game.

S5: But he kept up his trade demands through the off season, and the Rockets reportedly considered deals with the Clippers in the heat. The heat package would have potentially fetched Rhône cycleway. Glen Rice and Steve Smith. That’s not bad, right? The Clippers of the Rockets talked about swapping dream for Danny Manning and Louis Vought, among other players. But one hold up on that trade. According to the Houston Chronicle, one source in L.A. said the Clippers would rather have a twenty two year old Stanley Roberts than Olajuwon, who will be thirty this season.

S6: And if you ever wanted an example of why the Clippers were punch line for so long, there you go.

S5: The Rockets didn’t reach a deal with either team, but the Chronicle reported that off season that dream being built was as close to a sure thing as there is. Predictably, Dream was still mad. He reported for training camp in October. Maybe even matter, he said. I don’t want to get down in the mud with this team, but in my country, which was Nigeria, there is an old saying that staying silent is the best answer for fools. Charlie Thomas, the Rockets owner, has been a coward, standing behind the organization and letting Steve Patterson do the dirty work. If you were me, would you want to be here? Of course not. They’ve insulted my integrity, but I know that ultimately the truth will come out. I think it is better for the city if the new owner is interested in winning. It’s so obvious that Charlie Thomas’s only interest is to sell the club and make money. Olajuwon was still on the team for its season opening two game series against Seattle in Japan that year, and it was on that 14 hour flight to Japan that Olajuwon rebuilt his relationship with Charlie Thomas. It was the first time they had talked since Olajuwon publicly called him a coward. And you know what? Dreams stuck around and had the best season of his career to that point averaging career, best of twenty six points and three and a half assists to go along with thirteen rebounds and four blocks. By March, the Rockets had offered him a new twenty six million dollar extension that he accepted. I’m glad this is over with, he said. And that’s quite a damn turnaround dream. Finish second to Charles Barkley for MVP that season and let the Rockets to a then franchise best. Fifty five wins in its first playoff series win in six years. That season became the foundation of a two year championship run known as Clutch City. This started the very next season. See Houston. Sometimes it’s possible to walk back from the ledge. You really can make it work with a belligerent superstar. And if Charlie Thomas did nothing else in his time as the Rockets owner, he stuck to his guns and turned down bad deals and secured the foundation for the only championships I ever experienced as a sports fan. And that seems worth honoring, especially after Thomas died Friday at the age of 89. As it turns out, dream was also right about Thomas wanting to sell the rockets to. For more than a year, Thomas had entertained a number of offers for the rockets, including one from a group that included M.C. Hammer and Evander Holyfield and another guy who also later went bankrupt. I’m not making that up, but in May of nineteen ninety three, about a month after the season, Thomas sold the team for about eighty five million to a Florida businessman named Blessed Alexander. Thomas, a born salesman in a car dealership guy knew a pretty good deal when he saw one. He bought the rockets for just ten million dollars just eleven years before, and the guy who’s off Alexander had to beat to buy the team from Thomas, a local restaurant tour and minority rockets owner named Tilman Fertitta. That’s the guy who just traded James Harden. And unfortunately, I don’t have anything nice to say about him.

S1: So, Joel, I just looked it up, Hakeem Olajuwon is not on Cameo Yo, but how much how much would you be willing to pay to get like a polite etha ring from a king cam?

S7: Oh, man, I would pay it if he wants to do this, like somebody set it up, I would I I do think Daryl Morey listens to this show, by the way. I don’t I don’t want to talk out of time, but maybe he can get this to dream. But I would pay a thousand dollars. I mean, if he would just if he would call people foolish, you know, if I could just get him to call my enemies foolish, I would. That seems like an experience I’d be willing to pay a thousand dollars for when it came.

S1: Would look at like the long list of enemies that you sent him. He might ratchet up the price. But, you know, I think I can get to that when we get to it.

S7: Somebody get on this. I think he lives in Jordan now. The country I mean, there’s only one Jordan you can live in us. Right.

S3: But so if somebody can make that happen, I would love to set it up.

S2: All right. In the meantime, that is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan, Stelzner Pasha’s. And subscribe or just reach out to Hislop dot com slash hang up. You can email us anything up at Slate dot com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to read us on Apple podcasts. Thank you to Damon Young for sitting in for Stefan Fatsis this week for Joel Anderson. I’m Josh Levine, remembers MBT and thanks for listening.

S1: Stay safe. D.C.. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members and Joel, there was a piece in The Wall Street Journal last week by Louise Radnofsky and Ben Cohen asking the question, should professional athletes get the covid vaccine early? There are a couple kind of competing viewpoints that are expressed in here by different public health folks. There’s one guy, Harvey Feinberg, who said celebrity sports figures could play a very constructive role with vaccine hesitancy. I could imagine a campaign that enlisted professional sports. Let’s get everyone back in the game because we to know if Harvey should maybe stick to the School of public health.

S3: But the point being, that was not at the top of his head, I would imagine. So you should give him some credit for that. That wasn’t bad.

S1: I thought he also said when it’s your turn to take a shot, I mean, this guy this guy’s got bars. Yeah, it’s pretty good. And then there was another public health expert, Sertoma, member of the study committee for the National Academy of Sciences. And this person said if the message is that I, a multimillion dollar football player, can’t wait my turn in line, that is a strong message in itself. And that seems to be what the sports leagues, NBA, NFL in particular, the message that they’ve they’ve heeded like they would love, I think, for all their players to be vaccinated. But I think they also recognize that from a PR standpoint, it would look really bad for them if the players got the vaccine before your 90 year old grandma.

S5: Right. Right. Yeah. I mean, I guess the thing is, is that we all live in the world and we live in a world in which we have said that it is important for athletes to get back out.

S9: There is a show that America is somewhat on the path back to normalcy. Like that’s part of the argument for getting them back out there, that this is a needed distraction, that they in some ways are performing a public service by actually playing these games. For us, it’s all TV content now because very few people are able to go to games. And so, I mean, if they wanted to do that, if they wanted to use players as a way to broadcast to people and to indicate to people that the vaccine is safe and that you should take it, I mean, there’s is a case to be made for that. Also, we like I said, we live in the world. We know that rich, connected people have a much better shot of getting vaccinated than the rest of us. Right. So I don’t I mean, I guess they can do it if they want to or not, but I mean, I don’t. Do you think anybody would be moved by LeBron James getting the vaccination? I mean, how many people do you actually think that would move in the direction of taking it or not?

S1: It’s a good question. I mean, there’s an analogy to be made with the more than a vote campaign. Right. And other similar activist campaigns that players and leagues have undertaken in the last couple of years. I mean, the difference there is that when LeBron James and other athletes were saying is that everybody has this right and this duty to vote and elections and you should exercise that right. Whereas in this case, it’s a slightly harder message to toss out there because of the equity issues in play. I mean, there’s obviously equity issues involved in voting as well. But there is this rightful sense that if you’re rich, if you’re well-connected, then you can jump the line. I wonder I mean, the article doesn’t mention it, but is there some middle ground? I mean, it I think it is effective and it it’s been done in the past and different public health campaigns where you had like President Ford and, you know, getting, you know, shots on television during his presidency, a vaccination campaign and in 1976. I think there is some power and like doing it on on camera even. But could we have players being like, you should get vaccinated and we’re going to wait our turn and the people that should be getting vaccinated are like older people. And this is particularly important until they get the vaccine to communities of color that have been hardest hit here. Like, could could we just do that?

S5: Yeah. I mean, there’s something to that and you know what I mean.

S7: It’s not like the NBA is without high profile people who are eligible for these shots. I mean, they have Gregg Popovich, you know, they’ve got Mike D’Antoni, you know, older guy, you know, people around the game that could get at the front of that.

S1: And I mean, I would imagine Bill Russell like retired legends.

S7: Yeah, absolutely. Magic Johnson, who is also played his role in a public health matter before. Right. You know. You know, and you could argue that him going through HIV.

S9: I don’t you know, I don’t know if there’s some sort of tangible way to change to measure people’s attitudes around HIV and AIDS. But it I think it’d be sort of undeniable that, like, magic did sort of change. The face of HIV and AIDS and in the way that we looked at the disease in the 90s and, you know, maybe, you know, he and other people, Michael Jordan, who I think is almost 60 years old and, you know, they said all these other guys that are out there, they could still play a role in that.

S7: So, yeah, I mean, I do think that there is a role that the NBA and others are the high profile athletes could play. But yeah, I mean I mean, I don’t know. I could go either way on it. Right. Because like you said, I mean, we we know that there are people right now that have access to the vaccine that a lot of us don’t have. And, you know, I think maybe the thing the mistake is that the way this all got started is when Charles Barkley said it on air on inside the NBA, the NBA players should get the vaccine first because they play so many taxes and like so maybe they need to work on the messaging. Like, that’s not that’s maybe that’s the message that they should be promoting to people. But there is an argument to be made that they could be playing a valuable role here.

S1: Yeah, Charles Barkley often says things that you would not want to put in a public service campaign. But like the NBA is now, you know, as we talked about earlier, like being totally irresponsible in the way that they’re handling the pandemic and just kind of wanting to push through it. I mean, it may we’ll talk about this in a future show. But, you know, all these tennis players, including NameA, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, flying to Australia to play in the Australian Open, there are some positive tests on the flights that these players took. And you now have scores of players that are in quarantine for two weeks in Australia, not allowed to practice, not allowed to leave their rooms. And the players are like, what the hell is going on like? Were were fancy and famous, and we have access to it. I mean, not everyone is saying this, but like Djokovic, for instance, was like we should be given private homes with courts and all of this in Australia. And all the health ministers are like, you’re staying in your room. You’re like, not special. These are the rules. You knew that these were the rules. And that is what a kind of rational response to this virus is. And when you contrast it to the NBA, that’s like six players from the Wizards test positive. Maybe they’ll practice tomorrow. Let’s keep let’s keep this thing rolling. I mean, that to me, this past week was just such a clear line of demarcation. And so to imagine that, oh, there’d be a PSA where LeBron would say take the vaccine and then like that would be the NBA being responsible. Right. That that seems a little off.

S3: Yeah. Like it doesn’t like the NBA really is not in a position to, like, set the public, you know, like if if if this if this campaign happened in April 20, 20, then maybe the NBA would be in a better position to like, you know, take the lead as a model for Americans.

S7: And like, we’re taking this seriously. And you should, too. But, you know, here we are almost a year later. And it’s clear that like like a lot of people, they were very scared when this first got started and rightfully so. But then, as you know, we progressed further down the line in numbers are worse, like things are undeniably worse around the country in the pandemic. But people have just gotten used to it. And we live we live and die with it now. And the NBA is no exception to that. And so, yeah, I just I don’t know, man. I mean, like I said, I don’t I don’t feel passionately about this one way or another. But as somebody who just spent the past few days trying to arrange vaccinations from my parents and in-laws, I mean, everybody knows that this is a mess. And I don’t think that it will affect things one way or another. Like, it’d be better if they you know, if people took an example from people and, you know, Mitch McConnell got his vaccine, you know, how many people did that effect? I just I don’t know if there’s any real correlation between, you know, modeling the right sort of behavior and people digesting that information and going out and getting their vaccines. I just I have we have no idea. We don’t know if there’s any connection. And so, I mean, we’re out here to just sort of bounce around, hey, would it be really important if Devin Booker did a did a campaign if people in Phoenix got to see it? Maybe. Well, maybe I will get my vaccine now. I mean, we just we have no way of knowing.

S1: I like the direction that this is moving where you’re like, all right, what if it was Chris Paul? All right. What about Devin Booker? Right. Killed Bridges just like determined based on individual players. But I think the one point you made that’s totally right is that this is almost both too late and too early at this point. Like the thing that NBA players or anybody could help counteract is vaccine hesitancy. And OK, maybe we’ll get to the point where everybody who wants the vaccine can get it. And if we get to that point and there’s hesitancy, then maybe that would be the moment for these kind of public service campaigns. But we’re not there yet. We’re at a moment where people who want it can’t get it. I mean, maybe you need to put it in the pipeline. So it’s available when it’s when it’s really in terms of public service announcements like. Yeah, like the NBA should have. And the NBA was like kind of out in front of this and 20/20. But like, this feels like maybe a thing we can revisit a little bit down the line this year. And then Bay has other covid related problems right now that it needs to focus on.

S5: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, if there were if there was a national rollout and everything was organized, it would be great. But that’s not where we’re at. But I assume that as long as we want to talk about how fucked up this all is, will be plenty of opportunities to do it coming up.

S1: Thank you, John. Thank you. Slate plus members, thanks. We’ll be back with more for you next week.