S1: The following podcast contains explicit language, including the words, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is a hang up and listen for the week of December 13th, 2021. On this week’s show, we’ll discuss the nutty, controversial ending to the Formula One season and whether it was nutty and controversial enough to make us Formula One. Fans will also examine the opening months of college sports as name, image and likeness era and how they’ve changed the game for schools and for athletes. And finally, chess champion and author Jennifer Shahade will be here to assess Norwegian icon Magnus Carlsen latest World Chess Championship title. Our co-host Joel Anderson is off this week, I assure you he is busy finishing up the blockbuster season six of Slow Burn on the L.A. riots. Three more episodes to go out every Wednesday. Check it out here by my side virtually Stefan Fatsis. He lives in Washington, D.C.. He’s the author of the book Wild An Outside Word Freak and a few Seconds of Panic.
S2: Stefan Changing Up the Order. Some of the books
S1: going Quran,
S2: I like it. Yeah. How’s one year? Give us a little one year. Plus you’re being modest.
S1: It’s a great podcast. How could I? How could I say other? I would love to tell you that it was just average, but it’s it’s amazing what you can.
S2: What’s what? What can we expect this week? Josh.
S1: This week is part OJ absurd, that’s not really about O.J., but the O.J. trial is the big thing in 1995. So this week is about a DNA dragnet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and DNA and criminal justice in 1995. But enough about me completing our D.C. trio slate contributing writer Alex Kirshner. You can check out Alex’s podcast stylings on the College Football Show Split Zone Duo, which you should subscribe to.
S3: Alex Josh Stefan A pleasure to be with you. Thank you for having me.
S2: All right, let’s get right to it because everyone was tweeting and writing about it and because we decided to talk about it. I watched the climactic final race of the Formula One season on Sunday. It was in Abu Dhabi. I missed the first few laps and the announcer said something controversial had already happened in favour of the British legend Lewis Hamilton Sir Lewis Hamilton. The dude was knighted who had overtaken the only other guy with a chance to win the title. The upstart Dutchman Max Verstappen, then Hamilton led for a long time and everyone seemed to agree it was dull until with just five laps left in the 58 lap race. Another driver crashed and some way more controversial stuff happened and Verstappen ended up winning even after spending a half hour reading about on lapping. I was confused, but it was all very interesting because some people were celebrating and others were incensed, and Formula One mix everyone up, so you got to hear what was happening. It was fun. Alex, I assume you were not confused because like a lot of other people who watched the Netflix series Drive to Survive, you got into Formula One this year and wrote a piece for Slate last week titled The Formula One Championship is a dramatic Hateful spectacle. Set up Sunday’s insanity by explaining why this F1 season was a dramatic Hateful spectacle.
S3: Well, it was a dramatic Hateful spectacle because, well, let’s let’s just take it piece by piece. It was dramatic because after 21 races going into this finale in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Verstappen were tied with exactly three hundred and sixty nine and a half points. That hadn’t happened since the 1970s, where two drivers had been dead, even on points going into the last race of the year. It’s extremely rare in a sport that does not tend to have a lot of parity and where Lewis Hamilton is a seven time world champion who wins every year effectively for his Mercedes team. It was Hateful because it’s pretty clear that these two guys just don’t like each other at all and that their respective orbits do not like each other at all. Sometimes this boils over into very public view. They had a crash at a race in Britain earlier this year, where Verstappen was sent to the hospital after colliding with Hamilton. Hamilton got a penalty but won the race anyway and then celebrated, which made Verstappen really mad. He called it disrespectful. The team principals of these two teams basically the the chief executive type figures of these teams for Red Bull, which is the team for Verstappen and Mercedes for for Hamilton. Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, who are big Netflix stars, do not seem to get along all that well. There’s just a lot of mutual disdain, and it was a really kind of compelling head to head battle between the two best in the world at what they do. Who also clearly do not get along.
S1: And so going into this last race, as you read about in your slate piece, it’s tied which the chances of that happening or infinitesimally small given the amount of races given the amount of points at issue. And so you really have a once in a lifetime kind of, you know, race to the finish where that ends up with an even more dramatic race on the final lap where it’s really mano a mano and they like moved all the other cars out of the way so that these two guys go at each other. And this was incredibly controversial. And like Stefan, I don’t really understand what happened. All I know is that there were charges of conspiracy charges that this had been engineered in a way that subverted the rules. Kind of explained to folks what happened and then just what your take is on whether this was by the book or not.
S3: Well, after acknowledging again upfront that I’m new with this too, I’m one of the legions of the learning together who got pretty obsessed with this sport after watching the propaganda Netflix series for it. Full disclosure I mean, this show is designed to make new fans out of F1. It’s not really journalism as much as it’s entertainment, and it works on a lot of people, probably including me.
S1: Do you feel disappointed in yourself? A little a little
S3: bit, because the thing is, this is how we this is how we fall in love with a lot of sports these days. Like if you watch the NFL on TV and that’s how you fell in love with it, you’re watching propaganda for the NFL to like. Rights holders who carry broadcasts of major sporting events aren’t really like, Hey, let’s look critically at the sport’s place in society and let’s, you know, really interrogate what it says about ourselves that we’re liking them. And you can kind of see those examples when you hear NFLX booth announcers talk about the quote unquote off field issues of someone who did something horrible. Fair enough.
S1: All right back to the of the
S3: different form of propaganda that I think got a lot of people in F1. But the controversies in this race were twofold. The first thing that Stefan had mentioned earlier was that on the first lap, Lewis Hamilton had started in second place. Verstappen had started on pole in the first position, and Hamilton sort of lets Verstappen run him a little bit off the track and then cut a corner to get back ahead of Verstappen, which you can’t do. You have to stay on the track, and most people thought that Hamilton was going to have to give back that position to Verstappen, but he didn’t, and it was ruled that he had already given back whatever little advantage he got from it. That really made Verstappen and his team pretty upset. It was especially painful for Verstappen because and this is where you get into this true kind of F1 nerd stuff. He had started the race on soft tires, whereas Hamilton had started on medium tires. Soft tyres burn out faster, but you can grip the track better and go faster. So it was really important to Verstappen that he would start with elite. He did not. Hamilton takes this lead. This becomes really important for what? For what we’re talking about with the ultimate controversy at the end of the race. Because Lewis Hamilton, they both make one pit stop at different points in the race for a while, for a while. Verstappen is going to end up making a second one. Hamilton has this nice little lead, but he is on at the end of the race. Hard tyres that are designed to last him, the rest of this thing and kind of keep the tyres durable so we won’t have to stop again. He has a comfortable lead. There’s this crash with five laps to go in the race and when a car crashes in Formula One, you bring out a safety car that is, you know, a non racecar car and everyone slows down and kind of gets in a line behind them. And it is a chance for the race to basically tighten up considerably, and everyone kind of forms a neat queue behind this car. The problem for Verstappen was that so he’s trailing the race throughout Hamilton and Verstappen both lap a bunch of cars because they are so much faster than so many cars in the F1 field. And when the safety car comes out, this is in the fifty third lap of the race or so. Verstappen is only one place behind Hamilton, and typically speaking, the safety car would be a chance for him to really catch up. He had also used that opportunity to change out his tyres and put on soft, fast, fast tyres to maybe get an advantage on Hamilton. But the problem is that they’ve both lapped these cars. So there’s five cars that are between Verstappen and Hamilton, so Verstappen is in second place. But in terms of track position, there’s a lot of kind of there’s a lot of debris in the form of these other five cars in between him and the guy.
S2: He’s trying to help them during the safety
S3: car, during the safety car, you have to be in a neat line. The rules, as many of us became experts on over the weekend in F1, seem to be pretty clear that either all of the cars in this position that have been lapped or none of them are allowed to unlock themselves and basically go ahead of the safety car and get away from the competitors who at the who are at the proverbial front of the pack in first and second place in this case. That’s not what the racing director for the FIA, the governing body, ruled this guy’s name is Michael Masi. You might have seen his name tweeted about many times this weekend. He just lets the five cars that were between Hamilton and Verstappen that had been lapped. Go ahead. And there’s really not any clear mechanism in the rules for why he can do that. Other than that, he has overriding authority, which is the sort of quote unquote overriding authority he can do. What he wants, I guess, is the way that this was interpreted by
S1: the in the best interests of the game.
S3: Basically, that’s that’s the idea. And so he kind of freelances and says, OK, you can do that. There are also rules that suggest that by the letter of the law, the race which was at this point on the 57th lap, should not have been allowed to restart until the end of the next lap, which was the 58th lap. That’s interesting because that’s the last lap of the race. There can’t be more than fifty eight laps. The Mercedes team for Hamilton felt very strongly that the race should have been over. It should have ended under the safety car with everyone in the positions that they were in. Hamilton should have retained his position and that should have been that. Instead, this guy, Michael Masi, who’s in charge of the race, says We’re going car racing. This is what’s
S2: actually let’s actually listen to the clip of Michael Masi telling Mercedes boss the excellently named Toto Wolff just that. Go ahead, Toto. You need to reinstate the lap before. That’s not right, Toto. Yes, it’s called a motor race. OK, sorry, we went to car racing. That’s Michael Massie, I think, saying we went car racing. He wanted every chance to finish this race as a race. Right. So the question here is did Michael Max and this goes to the conspiracy theory that Josh alluded to earlier. Did Michael Masi, the head of Formula One, the director of this race, want this race to end in excitement? Yes. In controversy? Or did Netflix suggest that this thing’s got to end on a bang? Not with a bunch of cars going 30 miles an hour following, you know, some Honda Civic and the race being declared over?
S3: Yes, he definitely wanted that. That’s clear. There’s there’s no question I am. I am not an F1 rules lawyer. And it is hard, you know, hard to make the case that he could or couldn’t have had the authority to make this decision. But the by the book thing that would have been very easy to do would have been to just let the race end under the safety car. It’s tough for Masi because he’s kind of in a position where he’s playing God. Either way, either Verstappen and Red Bull are going to be furious, as are a lot of race fans who are just bored by this. If you finish the race under a safety car, or even if you do not let the lapped cars on lap themselves to clear Verstappen’s path up to Hamilton. On the other hand, if you do what Masi did, you are really, really screwing Hamilton, who by this late point in the race was on these hard tyres that had had a lot of wear on them. You let Verstappen close up to well within one second of him with a lap to go on,
S2: but he was actually closer to eight to 10 seconds behind with five laps to go when this accident occurred, which was almost insurmountable,
S3: effectively insurmountable. Unless Hamilton crashed himself, it was over and there was no chance. So obviously it’s a great stroke of luck for four Verstappen that this driver for the Williams racing team. Nicholas Latifi crashes. But it is an awesome stroke of luck for Verstappen that the racing director Masi says, OK, we’re going to have this race because the safety car allows Verstappen to basically close the gap completely. Especially considering that the race director tells all these lapped cars to get out of the way and clear the path for him. And Matt Verstappen was on a much softer, newer tyre, which makes you go faster in Formula One because you have a better grip on the track.
S2: I was very excited to learn that there’s something called Tyre Years 2008 Dawn Tyre Thing.
S3: The tyre thing is fascinating. I have been kind of deep and that’s playing the F1 video game with some friends. I mean, the strategy here, like, you know, how many times are you going to stop in the race? What kind of tyres are you going to put on? So you’re going to try to get, you know, the Matt you try to max out your speed while also taking care of the tyre so you don’t have to stop more than one time if you can avoid it sometimes, too. It’s there’s a lot of strategy involved, and it was tough for the Mercedes team because when the safety car comes out, the general school of thought is that is when you should pit and put on faster tyres. But Mercedes didn’t want to do that because if they had, they’d have given up track position. Verstappen would have done whatever the opposite was of what Mercedes did. He would have jumped out in the first place and then remember what we just said about how the by the book thing would have been for the race to just end under the safety car then? Lewis Hamilton quite reasonably could have feared that they would have finished in second place, which is where they wound up anyway. So it was really a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for Lewis Hamilton. And it turned out that Michael Masi, the race director when he was playing God, chose to play God in a way that made for drama and not just made for drama, but put Verstappen in like an obviously advantaged situation. Mercedes appealed this. They filed, you know, sort of grievances with the FIA. Two of them, and they were both dismissed. And I’d be pretty pissed if I were them. But that’s life. And this is what we get when we want sports to be entertainment. And when a bunch of us become obsessed with something because we watch the dramatic Netflix show about it,
S1: that’s going to
S3: spoil talking about it today. Would we be talking about it if it ended on safety car? Maybe not.
S1: I was going to say, you know, in one sense, we’re having a conversation about what happened and the final Formula One race in the season and the other case where just documenting one man’s descent into madness. I mean, you’re saying like, I I’m not really a big fan, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know that much. I just learned about it. Then you’re like, I’m playing the F1 video game, and I’m like doing analysis of the different like, so I’m not here to judge anyone’s arm, but I’ve made a life decision that like, I’m not going to get involved and tire softness or hardness, and it’s just become such a core part of my identity that I don’t care for it. Auto racing. I actually went to the Monaco Grand Prix for like a sleet travel series and as did not, didn’t understand it. And I enjoy it. It was very loud. So actually, it’s probably a better on trade or watch it on Netflix and actually go to a Grand Prix race, which I found just like aggressively alienating. But I can understand in my kind of generosity of spirit that this is a very interesting and dramatic sports thing. But I just keep reaching for analogies because that’s what my sports brain does, because I know nothing about the sport. I’m like, Well, that reminds me of the class action suit that the Saints fans filed after the pass interference and the Rams playoff game that there wasn’t called. And there is there is this. Yeah, just larger question in sports about do you officiate the game the same way in the last minute or five seconds sort of last lap as you do the rest of the game? Or do you like let the defense be a little bit more aggressive because as the official, you don’t want to quote unquote decide the game when in fact you are actually deciding the game if you call it differently. But I don’t know.
S2: Did you watch did you watch the Bucs bill’s game yesterday? The referees certainly had an effect on the end of that game.
S1: I certainly did. I did watch, I did watch that and I watched the replay of the last lap here. But it just did seem like Michael Masi was in the position where he, based on his ruling, was going to decide the game like no matter what he had decided he was. And it was so close at the end that he was basically it was basically like giving the thumbs up or thumbs down about whether, you know, the Gladiator was going to live or die. And you don’t ever like as a fan of any sport to be in a position where the official is just like has the ability to capriciously decide things in that way that just, oh yeah. On the one day, on the one hand, it was like a dramatic ending to the season and they got to race. And on the other hand, it was kind of a fait accompli once you decided what he decided, right?
S2: Because really, they didn’t really get to race because it was clear that that Verstappen was going to win with one lap of of even heads up, you know, racing.
S3: He had a big advantage because of the tire differences between himself and Hamilton. So it was not like you’re creating just a totally even one lap sprint. But to Josh this point, even if you were eight, probably should have counted for something from a competitive integrity standpoint that Hamilton beat this. Guys asked for fifty three laps until this Williams car crashed. And obviously, when a car crashes, you sort of have to slow things down because these cars are going at well over 100 miles per hour and someone could die. So I think
S1: that’s like a really unique thing. And or maybe there’s just something I’m not thinking of. Alex, where you can dominate, it’s not like you accrue points for leading laps in F1, right? It’s like now in basketball. If you had built up a 50 point lead, there is nothing that could happen at the end of the game. And, you know, with two minutes to go, that’s really going to change that.
S3: No, F1 is and you know, I think that other auto racing series are sort of. Special in this way that. When a car crashes, it tightens things up considerably when a safety car comes out, so you can’t overtake in those positions. And so of course, it’s still it’s extremely valuable to be in first rather than in second or third, because it’s really hard to get around people on F1 tracks. It’s, you know, extremely dangerous to try to overtake anybody on the track in Formula One and try. It only happens, you know, x amount of times a race after the first couple of turns, but it really, really put. I think the the race director in an unwinnable position here, because I think
S2: he did sound pretty pretentious in the way he was treating Toto Wolff, though, I mean, he didn’t seem to have any sort of regrets or any conflict about what he was doing. He was setting up a dramatic finale that it’s going to play well when Netflix resumes its series. And also, importantly, this is a sport that has had issues like other sports during the pandemic in terms of revenue. They want to expand the number of races next year with which drivers and teams are complaining about already. And F1 is also a sport. As you pointed out in your piece, Alex, that, you know, has a lot of dealing sort of like the IOC and like FIFA with these authoritarian governments. It’s not a moral enterprise. Here is not a moral enterprise, and its goal is to sort of re-establish its financial wherewithal. And the way this race ended certainly should help do that.
S3: From Massey’s perspective, I think he probably enjoyed telling Toto Wolff off the end of this race because this man has put up with a lot of shit from both the Mercedes and Red Bull teams. I mean, at the beginning of the race, Wolff’s counterpart on Red Bull, Verstappen’s team, berated him on what became live television for allowing Hamilton to pull off this maneuver, where he went off track and then jumped back out in front of Verstappen all year. The refs are worked heavily in this sport by these teams that want to get whatever little advantage they can over their opponents. And I think you probably hear in his voice that he was just a little bit fed up and he This is my race. I’m taking control of this. And you know, Toto, this ashtray, Austrian billionaire racing God is just going to have to deal with that. And he probably took some satisfaction in it.
S2: Coming up next, we’ll talk about NIL rights and college sports.
S1: Going from one immoral enterprise to another. The National Collegiate Athletic Association dates back more than 100 years, and for all those years, it’s been a bedrock principle of the NCAA that collegiate athletes competing in, said National Association not get compensated because, well, not for any good reason. But this year, that bedrock principle got chipped away just a little bit. We are now in the name, image and likeness era, which means that college athletes can capitalize on their on court or on field or on ice, or on whatever prowess. The NIL floodgates opened starting in July, and it’s been fascinating to watch how all different parties have navigated this new era. Players, coaches, teams, corporations, agents. Alex, you spoke to a bunch of athletes for a piece published on the website Global Sport Matters. And before we get into some specific cases just based on that reporting and best, not those conversations, what were some of your big picture findings about how NIL is working in practice now that we’re at about the five six month mark
S3: for the most part, and I am is working smoothly. It has not been a thing that has upended college sports altogether. It hasn’t, as far as anyone can tell, chiseled away at interest in the sport. This is something that the NCAA I had long kind of fear mongering about that, you know, the general public will just lose interest if college athletes are making any kind of money because they want these players you here for the love of the game, which was, of course, a very self-serving legal argument but has not been borne out. I don’t think by the first few months of name, image, likeness payments, the numbers here that we’re dealing with are, in most cases, not huge. You know, there are a couple of athletes who have certainly made hundreds of thousands to even the millions of dollars, most likely on name, image and likeness deals. But for the most part, the athletes who are taking part, which is seemingly well under half of college athletes, you know, they’ve done deals that have made them somewhere in the hundreds of dollars, and some people might turn their nose up at that and say, Why did we fight so much for things that are going to wind up with, you know, a relatively small dollar amount? But when I talked to a lot of these athletes, it was just really empowering for them to be able to do that. And you know, we all remember when we’re in college, a couple of hundred bucks a semester. Pretty cool. Does a lot of good for you. So I think that the athletes who have taken part have been pretty happy that they have had the opportunity finally to go in and cash out a little bit off of their names.
S2: And, you know, you said it’s a few hundred bucks, and that does seem to be what it’s averaging open doors, a company that’s sort of a clearinghouse for NIL deals, says that the average D1 athlete who made at least one deal earns six hundred and eighty six dollars before taxes. The two in three sixty eight dollars and thirty five dollars per athletes per athlete. The thing that struck me about some of your interviews and reading other stuff, too, is that, you know, we often, you know, we take a cynical approach to sponsorship and endorsement and money making. And for a lot of these athletes, though, these deals are empowering. It’s about, you know, the women’s lacrosse player who’s teaching at clinics and gets paid four hundred and seventy five bucks for an afternoon working with eighth graders or about the athlete that that you mentioned in your piece, Will Olmer, a lineman at Marshall, who’s a musician and had to perform previously under a stage name. And now he says, You know, I can be myself. And that seems really, I mean, sad that this is what the NCAA was reduced to telling an athlete who was good at something else that they had to hide what they were good at.
S3: Very much so, and a lot of athletes over the years have gotten beaten up on these grounds by the NCAA a couple of years ago, there was a kicker at Central Florida who had a thriving YouTube page and was ultimately made to give up his spot on the football team or the YouTube channel. He chose to give up the football because he quote unquote drew on his athletic reputation in those videos, which of course, he did. You know, the reason that this player had a YouTube channel was that he had some personality and that he was a good YouTube presence that audiences liked to to watch. But in order to keep doing it and to make money on that YouTube channel, he had to pretend that he was something other than a college athlete. He really couldn’t mention it at all, could not use any any part of his athletic reputation in his videos, or that would be a violation of the NCAA prohibition on players getting paid for the use of their name, image and likeness. That kind of thing was a stark and illustrative example, but I do not think it was alone in a vacuum. And you know, well, who you just mentioned. He described it as a really empowering thing that, you know, even now, he’d only done a couple of gigs because name, image, likeness came into effect shortly before the football season. You don’t have so much time to play live music gigs when you’re going through an FBS college football season, but it just was a weight off your shoulders that he could go into a bar and, you know, make whatever he makes to do a gig and play some country music and could just say This is my name. And the song that I wrote is by me. And that felt, I think to him like a significant relief from the way things had to be done before.
S1: I’m just crying. This is such a touching story. Thinking about, Oh no, I was actually just thinking about Quinn Ewers that the last Typekit. Yeah. I mean, we could talk. We could talk about all the wholesome cases. But the thing the thing that was most interesting to me is whether a lot of the under the table money in the sport was going to now be over the table because of NIL. And so I do not. I did not mean to belittle the Marshall linemen making money off of his of his music. But let’s talk about when you ask who decided to reclassify to actually go to college sooner. And this, he said the reason that he was doing it was because he wanted name, image and likeness money, which great like more power to him. So he is this top recruit in Texas. He ends up going to Ohio State, Alex. It’s reported that he’s he’s the fourth string quarterback at Ohio State, and he’s making more than a million dollars in NIL money based on the fact that he has this amazing prospect. Then he sits behind C.J. Stroud, which is an understandable decision because Guy ends up being one of the top players in college football this year. And then he just announces that he’s transferring to Texas, which has its own kind of massive NIL program that’s in progress here. So I guess it’s interesting to me that the kind of path that he’s taken and I don’t mean to like, say that there’s something wrong with that or like fearmonger scaremongering about it. But it’s just I wonder if you think that the Quinn Ewers case, Alex is going to be replicated. Is it a total outlier? Does it say something about how this is going to play out for the more kind of high dollar athletes in the future?
S3: I do think it’ll be replicated in two respects. One is that these days, if you are a good enough high school prospect, you are going to build an extremely lucrative social media following in some cases. Well, before you ever set foot on a college campus and that will affect your own decisions about how you manage your college career, it is probably harder to keep that money going forever if you are never getting on the field as a college athlete, and I absolutely think that it would make sense if that’s a factor hard to kind of determine in your worst case, specifically why. How much of that is a factor in this transfer? Because the truth of it now is that if you’re a four or five star quarterback in major college football and you’re not playing, you’re leaving in almost every case, you know, it is basically a sure thing that if you are a blue chip quarterback prospect and you are not playing, you have no hope of playing for more than a year or two that you’re gone. That just is the way that it goes. And I think it’s the way it’s fine, it’s the way it should be. It’s a
S1: ticking clock. You only got so much eligibility, right?
S3: Like you’re looking to maximize your career. And in his case, I’m sure be prepared for the NFL. The other part of it that I think is going to be replicated is that Texas has a program and BYU has one of these two. Miami has one of these two where more or less the booster communities in those schools are, you know, associated with businesses that have found ways to offer sort of group name, image and likeness deals to pools of players on these teams. And if you are on that team in that position or in some cases, just if you’re a scholarship player on that team at all, you will get a name, image, likeness deal that sounds a lot like. Pay for play, obviously, which is the thing the NCAA most abhors and says that it is worried about, and that will poison college sports. Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA who is sort of a human flak jacket for your favorite university president, said that the NCAA is looking into some NIL deals. And I don’t think you have to read too far between the lines to figure out that that’s the kind of deal he’s talking about. But I’m not sure that the industry can or will do a lot to stop it, because this is not really a great time for the industry to be making a big stink about athletes getting paid for anything. If you have noticed it’s been
S2: pretty affordable, reported that it was BYU and Miami that were being investigated by the NCAA. Matt Brown, who writes a newsletter about college sports, agrees with you that the NCAA is in a really weak position here. They were hoping that there would be national rules making by, you know, the federal government that would help to sort of level this market. Instead, we’ve got state by state deals, and now the NCAA is in this weird position where, you know, historically they’d be happy to play mall cop and and police these rules. But the entire tide of public opinion and the legal community is against them. It’s against the NCAA. People support the idea of college kids being able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness rights.
S1: Well, it is. It is basically pay for play, right? I mean, sure, there’s Miami and BYU deals and what’s happening at Texas. But what Matt Brown points out is that like these schools that were so far ahead in terms of offering big and ill deals like Miami, for instance, they’re like really far down in the recruiting rankings because they had a bad season, they had turnover with the head coach. It doesn’t seem Alex like college athletes are. If this is pay for play, it doesn’t seem like they’re that easily. But and just like going like, Oh, you’re offering 2000 per player per year and you’re offering like, it doesn’t seem like that’s a big determining factor and really reshuffling the recruiting rankings here.
S2: Well, does is it may be that it needs to be more significant money like this isn’t life changing money. Well, in either of these deals, it seems
S3: some things are a little hard to figure out about cause and effect in these cases. So BYU is a unique recruiting animal in college football because it is a Mormon school and that necessarily shrinks the talent pool that’s available to BYU. BYU has a lot of players who will come to their school after a two year Mormon mission and do not have the same conventional recruiting path that a lot of athletes do. Also was only been around for five or six months, so weighing how much it’s influenced their recruiting fortunes is difficult. Miami just had a very public, as you alluded to, coaching change where they basically fired. They basically hired a new coach without firing their own one. And then they technically did those two things a few hours apart, and they had a lousy season as well. And Miami’s recruiting has been sort of less than it should be. Some would say for a very long time, Texas is kind of a similar case where Texas is always going to recruit pretty well, despite not winning a lot for the last, I don’t know, 14 years or whatever it’s been. I think we’ll see over the long run. But the thing that I think is very unlikely to change is that the same schools that have always recruited the best players to find the best players are probably going to keep doing it. And it is hard to imagine and they are changing that only because it is hard to imagine those schools not getting on the train. If it is seen that this is working as a way to acquire talent,
S1: right, it is. It does seem like an opportunity for a kind of savvy and fast adjusting school that wouldn’t be at the top of those rankings to maybe come up with something interesting and innovative, which the big schools will then just instantly copy it just right. It doesn’t seem like the better resourced schools that have always been building the biggest weight rooms and the the best locker rooms and throwing the most money towards recruiting would somehow allow themselves to be outgunned and outmaneuvered in this new era. But it is. It has been fascinating to me, Stefan to see how fan bases have adjusted to the stuff being out in the open like there’s been a lot of conversation about like Texas is just buying players. Texas is cheating and it’s somehow, I don’t know. It’s maybe it was a more kind of convenient fiction or easier to deal with when it was when stuff was happening under the table as opposed to boosters putting together these deals. Maybe it’s it’s easier to kind of just pretend like you don’t know what’s happening,
S2: except who’s really complaining about. Housing fan bases, I mean, as soon as your school comes up with its own way to create an NIL deal that may be more attractive to recruits, I don’t think you’re going to be complaining about it. I think this is going to get. That’s definitely true. This is going to get baked in to the college sports network. It’s its modus operandi very quickly. And I think that, you know, given the seemingly lack of any complaint or outrage about this idea, generally that this is not something that’s going to wind up being super controversial. And like we talked about earlier, explains why the NCAA is being very, very cautious in terms of going after programs and the deals that they’re all instructing.
S1: Maybe we can end by just getting back to the ground level here. And one thing that I found really kind of smart and telling in your reporting, Alex, is that it wasn’t just that the NCAA banned athletes from, say, having jobs like a work study job that you or I could have. It’s that the actual mechanics and schedules these sports mean that even if you wanted to have a job, you can’t really have one. You don’t have the time. And so that’s why a lot of these deals kind of revolve around social media, which allows these athletes to kind of capitalize on their followings that they have, either from stuff they’ve done on the field or off the field. And it can seem a little like, oh, they’re like selling, you know, energy bars with like a Twitter, you know, linker or hashtag or something. But like, it actually is a kind of cool and interesting and smart how it’s shaken out to allow athletes to use what they have in a way to, you know, earn money that they deserve to have based on their fame and popularity.
S3: I think a lot of it, so much of it really is just about shifting the scales back just a tiny bit, just a smidgen in the favor of the athlete who is so much at the mercy of the school in so many respects in college sports. Whether that’s the time management that is imposed upon them, by their coaches, by their by their coaching staffs, whether that is academic requirements that put a great deal of classroom burden on them. Despite having, you know, a lot of travel, a lot of working out, a lot of actual game and practice time associated with your sport. There’s a lot of things that out your scholarship status in a lot of cases certainly is something that is in the control of your head coach. Name, image and likeness is the rare thing in college sports that is generated by controlled by. Revenue is reaped by the athlete. And just having that one little thing that is somewhat out of the school’s reach is, I think, extremely valuable, extremely empowering for the athletes who have been able to do it after years and years of not being able to do it.
S1: Alex, we’re going to let you go. Thank you for coming on today. Alex Kirshner, contributing writer for Slate, and he’s got the college football podcast Split Zanjeer.
S4: Check it out, Alex. Thanks, man. Thank you both.
S2: In Dubai last week, the handsome 31 year old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen wrapped up his fourth successful defense of the World Chess Championship belt that he won in 2013. There’s actually no belt in chess, though that would be pretty cool. Carlsen defeated the man bond, 31 year old Russian Yan Nepomniachtchi seven and a half to three and a half, winning four games and drawing seven more, which in chess is a total blowout. He pocketed 1.2 million euros. Jennifer Shahade. He joins us now. She’s a two time U.S. women’s chess champ and the author of Chess Queens The True Story of a Chess Champion and the Greatest Female Players of All Time, which will be published in March. Welcome back to the show, Jon.
S5: Hey, thank you so much. I’m so excited.
S2: All right. This match is going to be remembered for the longest game in World Championship history won by Carlsen after one hundred and thirty six moves, and also for incomprehensible blunders by Napo in his three other losses in my career, I’ve lost some stupid games, he said after the match, but not as many in such a short amount of time. The word that seemed to be in every story about Napa’s play was baffling. What happened?
S5: I think that when after playing so well for the first five games when he lost that exhausting 136 more game, it really suck the life out of him. It was so disappointing and having to play after that was very difficult for him and you saw him make some uncharacteristic mistakes. That said, Nepomniachtchi is known for making uncharacteristic mistakes, which is a weird thing to say about one of the greatest players in the world. But he’s known for being very erratic, right? So he won the candidates, but he’s also had some really difficult results, right? So I think that it wasn’t as surprising as it would be for another player for him to kind of like, have the wheels fall off after playing so wonderfully for the first five games
S1: before we kind of zoom out and talk about these players and just the state of chess in general? I was hoping you could talk and some level of detail about the one move that Nipper made that scene as the biggest blunder of the mall, which was just a simple move of a pine. Can you just in as much detail as you can explain to us? What happened and why this was seen in chess circles is just like the most shocking thing that someone has done in one of these games in a while.
S5: Yeah, sure. So the thing about chess is you’ve got the porn right, which is the weakest Jaspers, it’s worth one point each and there’s eight of them, and that’s kind of what you use as a system to determine how much all the other pieces are worth. So the most powerful piece is the Queen, and that really came into play in the game that Magnus one where he was using his minor pieces to feed a queen. But here’s the thing. There is the second weakest piece in chess is the knight in the Bishop, right? So that’s why they’re called the minor pieces. Because compared to the rooks in the queens, which are seen as the heavy pieces, they can actually easily be tracked. Right. So the knights and the bishops are both pieces that can be tracked easily, kind of for different reasons. The knights, because it’s kind of slow. So if you kind of circle it, it often can’t escape from the small amount of territory which is able to go on. The bishop can easily be trapped because it can only move in the diagonals. So if a diagonal gets cornered, there’s no way for it to like hop to a different diagonal or like the rook move along a line. So when Neville did, is he allowed his bishop to get caught in trapped by making a move that so he made this blunder five, which allowed Magnus to just play the move C6 so Magnus was able to push upon in a way that Magnus Nepalese bishop would never be able to escape from the diagonal.
S1: And this was recognized instantly by kind of experts and amateurs alike. You didn’t need a fancy chess engine to realize that this was a huge mistake. And how how rare is a move like that? I mean, what is it fair to call this like, shocking, unprecedented? Like what adjective should we be using here?
S5: Hmm. I would say that it’s definitely shocking for a player to make the move. See five, as Napo did, allowing Magnus to simply corner his bishop with like almost no pieces on the board in the end game. But that said, I do think that sometimes people let their tactical guard down and in games because Endgame is kind of the part of the game where sometimes the tactics get a little bit less intense and strategy starts to become more relevant so that for four players who are trying to get better at chess and who are listening to this, that’s something to keep in mind. Just because a lot of pieces are traded does not mean that you can let your tactical guard up. And that’s what one of the greatest players in the world Nepomniachtchi did against Magnus Carlsen, which really signify that he was no longer playing well in this match, that he’s no longer playing anywhere close to his level. Not only was he not playing like a super grandmaster, he wasn’t even playing like a master.
S2: And how much do you think this is just because of who Magnus Carlsen has become? He’s the biggest chess celebrity in a generation. He has attracted the sort of sponsorship and media attention that is not common in this world and playing him, I imagine, even for all of his challengers, is a psychologically demeaning effort, particularly after you’ve gone a game or two down.
S5: Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think that bill is as much intimidated by his financial and business success. But his chess ability and just the fact that he’s able to play so many moves without making any mistakes is very, very unpleasant. It’s like I when I when I used to train, I would not really play against computers. I would use computers to analyze. But playing them was just no fun because the machine never makes a mistake. And I’m sure that’s what it must have felt like. The play Magnus that you just lost the game, and now you have to continue playing this guy who’s just going to keep playing great moves. And even when he makes a bad move, it’s not going to be that bad. So it’s must be very, very stressful. And I think we saw the consequences of that, which certainly interesting psychologically, even though it made the Max this this awful blowout when you know it ended prematurely and we didn’t get as many games as we would have liked to see. But I think it also gives us something to talk about and understand the psychology behind chess that even the greatest players in the world when they’re up against the Magnus Carlsen are Garry Kasparov. They make huge mistakes that are uncharacteristic because of the psychological pressure.
S1: It’s interesting that you describe playing Magnus is like playing against a computer, because my understanding is that Magnus is himself an outlier in that he relies less on computers and chess engines and those sorts of analytical insights that they can provide than his competition that he prefers to use as intuition and what’s described as kind of a human touch. And when you would hear about that, for example, like in football, if you heard a coach. Being like, I don’t I don’t care what the analytics say. I’m just going to go with my gut. You would think that’s kind of a stupid person like that. That’s an idiot who like doesn’t really care about the insights of, you know, what smart people say about how the game is played. But when you hear that about Magnus, you’re like, Oh, maybe that guy’s got something figured out. It doesn’t seem like he’s falling behind the competition, even if they’re using chess engines more than he is.
S5: Well, I think there’s a couple of things there. First of all, a lot of his engine work is being outsourced to his team, and it seems that Magnus has been absolutely brilliant at, you know, getting the right teams. First of all, he’s been incredibly successful in the business of China. So obviously a lot of that has to do with who he’s partnered up with and who he is, you know, at delegated his business world to. But then also in in chess itself, he seems to have created incredible teams. And I think one thing that people have noticed is that he doesn’t always just pick the strongest players. So he’s not just picking like the highest rate of players who are willing to work with them. He’s really trying to find a combination of grandmasters that will work well together and have fun together.
S1: So people that play practice games with him or give him advice about how to and
S5: yes, they play practice games with him. And they also use the computers intensively like round the clock. So maybe he’s not looking at all those computer outputs 24 hours a day, but he has people who are and then who are like summarizing that data into him because he has like,
S2: What exactly are they looking for? John, is it particular to the opponent in a match or is it something more general about situational plays and things that may arise in any given game?
S5: I think a lot of what they’re looking for is they’re looking for moves that are really, really excellent. That might not be obvious to their opponent, who’s also using computer engines to analyze the exact same thing, and that seems really hard to do. But one of the things they’re also looking for is maybe a move that’s like not necessarily great objectively, but has a lot of teeth to it. So that if if you if I play it against you and you find the absolute perfect response, you’re going to get an OK game, maybe we’ll make a draw, but say 10, 20 percent of the time. You can’t find the right path and you are just going to get demolished by Magnus.
S1: It seems like if you have if you if you go with a move that is maybe 90 percent optimal, but the opponent isn’t prepared for it, and that might actually turn out to be optimal. And some like kind of strange why exactly?
S5: So you’re looking not just for the absolute best, most perfect move. You’re also looking for a move that has a greater chance of inducing a mistake from your opponent and that that actually has a lot of human to it. So there’s the combination of the analytics with the human and the psychological right. So you have to make a move that isn’t terrible because I mean, at the level of somebody like Nepomniachtchi, you can’t get away with that, but you also have to find that not terrible move that has the greatest chances of inducing a mistake. It’s very similar to what poker players are doing when they use analytical tools. So I think you see that like psychology and analysis kind of emerge, and Magnus is great able
S2: to be clear, is this happening now? This isn’t happening in real time during matches. We’re talking about preparation or are we talking about during an actual match?
S5: I think both. I think both. I think the preparation, absolutely. But even during a game, Magnus would certainly find moments where he could play two different moves. But and they’re both probably of around equal value, but one has the chance of inducing a mistake.
S2: I meant more like in terms of consulting during the match, you’re not allowed to consult your team.
S5: Oh God, no, no,
S2: no, no. Right?
S1: Just come on, Stefan.
S2: Come on. Just be clear for people, because one of the features of these matches is that, you know, the players walk away from the table for, you know, for long stretches of time
S1: to Brandon contemplative silence.
S2: You may not know that to brood, to brood to brood.
S5: Yes, that’s true. Some people think better standing up or walking. So, yeah, you’re right. It is kind of surprising to people who don’t follow chess that the players are not actually hovered over the board. Queen’s Gambit style, like with her head in their hands, the entire game, that’s only half the game.
S1: So in the previous World Championship match, there were 12 straight draws between Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana among the chess cognizant. What’s the kind of, you know, evaluation on this cycle versus the previous one? I mean, it seems like 12 straight draws would maybe not be a thing that anyone, whether a casual fan or an expert would like to see. But maybe that was preferable to this, which, as you said, just turned into a massive blowout where the challenger wasn’t really playing up to his level.
S5: So the match from 20 18 between Fabiano Cyrano Magnus Carlsen was extremely exciting because of the narrative, right? The first American since Bobby Fischer to play for that ultimate crown. And I think looking back on that match. Yes, it was a bit of a shame was 12 draws. But I think when you watch this match between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi, you have even more greater appreciation for how difficult it was for Fabiano Caruana to make those 12 draws. And I mean, in fact, it was close to just winning in the classical portion to winning one of those games, he was completely level with the greatest player of all time Magnus Carlsen. And now looking back at just kind of makes 5B look even stronger and people now maybe want to see him playing another couple of years, whereas this match. Sure, there was a lot of blood, and that’s kind of exciting that you get to see these mistakes. But we also cut the match a few games short, and I think people would have liked to see it go to the very end.
S2: I think the the thing that was interesting to me is that after Game five of this championship match, these calls were renewed that, hey, it’s become too predictable. Computer analysis is so sophisticated that all players understand almost every situation and there isn’t enough variance, and we’ve got to change the format, maybe away from the longer, more protracted traditional chess to more of the speed games that helped decide the Caruana that decided that Caruana Carlsen match. I mean, and Carlsen has been among those people that that have said, yeah, we got to do something different. But then this turned into a, you know, into a blowout. And it seems like that may have quieted down the worries that there are too many draws. But are there too many draws and does the format need to change them? Would it be better for viewers and observers?
S5: Yeah, I think so. I think the format should change to make it a little bit more likely that a game will be decisive. Absolutely. And the tricky thing with that is trying to you have these incredible players from all over the world and they’re going to be winners and losers when you make a change like that. Magnus Carlsen is obviously great at all formats of chess, rapid blitz, classical, so he’ll he’ll do fine no matter what. But there are some players who are just a little better at faster chess and some who are a little better at slower chess because it kind of rewards slightly different types of brains and preparation. So that’s the tricky thing because like my favorite of Fabiano Caruana, it’s probably more suited to like the longer time controls. So as a fan of Fabio, I’m like, No, I want it the long time controls. But as somebody who just wants to see chess is most popular as possible. I do think that it should move to a little bit faster to induce more mistakes.
S1: So Matt Gaffney wrote a piece for Slate that published on Monday morning, arguing a couple of things. Number one, Matt has been pushing for the sort of like grand slam style where sort of like in tennis, where there’s just a bunch of majors as opposed to this World Chess Championship format and system. But he’s also saying that the match that he wants to see is Magnus versus this 18 year old French Iranian star. Can you tell us a little bit about him why he’s kind of taken the chess world by storm? And are you similarly kind of excited to see a match up between him and Magnus? And you’ll notice I haven’t said his name because I want you to pronounce it Alireza Firouzja.
S5: Yes, that would be an incredible match. I mean, he’s recently broken the 20 800 barrier for those who don’t know the chess rating system. That means he is in a very elite club. Twenty eight hundred is not just a super grandmaster, it’s basically a world champion contender. You don’t make it to twenty eight hundred plus and not play for the World Championship one day. And this kid has done it at 18 years old, and he’s also incredible at fast time controls and a great attacking player. People are really excited to see him play.
S1: Do you describe him as a swashbuckling?
S5: Sure, swashbuckling, I mean, pretty much any A.. He’s all the adjectives for Russia. So yes, people are very excited to see him play against Magnus Carlsen. Will it be a two years or four years? I don’t know, but it’s a matter of when, not if.
S2: Last question for you, Jan, is that in the wake of Queen’s Gambit, chess has experienced something of an online explosion, more streaming, more attention. You’re republishing your book to take. I assume advantage of this moment is chess doing the right things to sort of capitalize on this unexpected publicity from the TV series? And did that sort of materialize? Do you feel during this world championship?
S5: Yeah, I mean, chess is doing so many of the right things in order to capitalize on The Queen’s Gambit boom. I think that a lot of people gave credit for the popularity of chess to The Queen’s Gambit Boom, which makes sense most popular limited series and Netflix Netflix’s history. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that the boom was kind of simmering in the background for many years. You have Chess.com, the Play Magnus Group. These two companies were kind of competing to make more and more exciting chess formats and chess offerings. And then you also had the open source platform Leech, as you had the St. Louis chess club, U.S. Chess. You had all of these companies who were working really, really hard to make chess more popular among both grown ups and children. And so all of the elements were in place when you had the show, The Queen’s Gambit, for things to really be explosive. And then, of course, the streamers are constantly looking for any kind of chess drama to create content for their fans. So it really is a perfect storm, I think, for the popularity of chess on the World Championship was in Dubai and that that created some controversy because of human rights issues in Dubai. So was that exactly like the perfect location and setup for the World Championship? I wouldn’t say that was perfect, but I think overall the year of twenty twenty and early twenty twenty one chess did almost all the right moves.
S2: Jennifer Shahade is a two time U.S. women’s chess champ. Her book Chess Queens, The True Story of a Chess Champion and the Greatest Female Players of All Time will be out in March. You can pre-order it now. Jan, thank you so much for coming on the show.
S5: Thank you for having me.
S2: And now it’s time for after balls. We talked in our segment about NIL about Will Almer, the offensive lineman at Marshall, who now can sing under his own name. His stage name Josh, was lucky bill before he was allowed to finally get paid to sing some country music. You can listen to some of his music online. Of course, I got this office is his Twitter. Here, let’s listen to him singing Tina at the Teardrop AM.
S4: I wanted to make it. Rather.
S1: Now, I have to say to that, you know what I have to say to that guy? Stick to music
S2: as opposed to football. How do you don’t even know how good he is? He’s a six year senior.
S1: Seems like he would probably be in the NFL if he was rather than being a six year senior and martial. But maybe he’s maybe he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. Do whatever you want, do whatever you want.
S2: Well, yeah, I mean, now he has the freedom to do whatever he wants. I found a story about about him in profile at the 2019 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla bowl. Ulmer also took the stage, winning over the crowd by playing country roads at the events talent show. Armed with a strong mullet and a country bluegrass sound, Ulmer is eager to make his niche in music just as he has on the football field. All right, Josh, let’s go with Tina at the Teardrop, in which your Tina at the Teardrop in.
S1: Last week we talked about blowouts like the Oklahoma City Thunder Record-Setting loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA. But was that game really that big of a blowout? I mean, the Thunder. Yes, they gave up 152, but they also scored 79 and based on a quick skim of the lowest scoring games in NBA Finals history. There have been 22 instances where 79 points would have been enough to win a finals game. So congratulations to the Oklahoma City Thunder on your NBA Finals hypothetical victories. We also, though, talked about blowouts, blowouts, games that are way, way less competitive than a 73 point loss. In his piece on blowouts or The Ringer, Roger Sherman mentioned an under-17 women’s basketball game from 2017 between Australia and the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands had 58 turnovers and made one shot. The final score was 166 to three. One explanation Stefan for that score is that Australia has way more people than the Marshall Islands and way better facilities. And that explanation would be accurate. That is a good explanation. Another explanation might be that the Marshall Islands just doesn’t really care about basketball. And that explanation turns out to be extremely inaccurate. In 2014, Trans World Sport produced a short documentary about the Marshall Islands obsession with basketball. Let’s listen to a clip from that doc.
S2: Basketball is played everywhere here. The sport is such a big deal, but when a new court is built, the country’s president, Christopher Lewis, turns up as guest of honour at the official opening.
S1: What you can’t see there? I guess you can’t really see anything. Is the president ceremoniously opening the court by hoisting up one of the more awkward looking set shots that you’ve ever seen? But that’s neither here nor there anyway. The Marshall Islands there in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, about 60000 people live there. It’s been independent since 1979. Before that, it was ruled by the United States, which took over the Marshall Islands during World War Two and then commenced nuclear testing on the Islands Bikini Atoll in 1946. If you’re looking for an absolutely horrifying example of American imperialism, if you’re in the mood for another extremely depressing fact, consider that the Marshall Islands perhaps more at risk than any other nation on Earth, from climate change back to a slightly sunnier part of our story. The importation of basketball came via the U.S.. The 2014 documentary is worth a watch to see locals taking joy and putting up shots on makeshift courts with rickety rims. The documentary does predict a elevation in the fortunes of the Marshallese on the court. That is pretty clear has not happened. The player featured in the dock is named Kyle Paul. He was a star in the under-15 ranks. He was a skilled guard. He was also at six feet tall, a giant for the Marshall Islands, which perhaps is an indication of why they might struggle on the international stage. Based on some deep Googling, it appears that Kyle Paul is now a pilot rather than a professional basketball player. But it seems very clear, even with all the challenges that the Marshall Islands is as facing basketball as that they’re not going to stop trying to compete, which is, I think, in the end, Stefan. Perhaps the best explanation for why they lost 166 to three to Australia and U-17 women’s competition vaccination is because they showed up and they’re going to continue to show up as long as international tournaments will have them. Now, you and Joel would say that they shouldn’t be allowed to compete because it’s embarrassing that like, oh, like
S2: when you put words in my mouth, these
S1: players are going to be scarred for life by having the chance to actually, you know, compete on the international stage.
S2: I would say six to three.
S1: I would disagree. I would disagree with that. But you can have your opinion now. There is one final explanation for why that game happened and for why they care so much about basketball. And The Athletic actually got added in a feature published just last month. The first two sentences of that piece, the United Nations recognizes 195 countries and 194 of those play football. From San Marino to South Sudan, Vanuatu to the Vatican City. All the nations on Earth have played an international fixture, except one Marshall Islands. So that piece, written by Jacob Whitehead, is about the quest to change that to maybe one day get the Marshall Islands on the field for a World Cup qualifier. The final score of which would probably be something like 166 and probably less than three. So maybe instead of looking at those basketball scores Stefan and seeing an insurmountable deficit, an embarrassing performance, we should instead see those three points or any points that the Marshall Islands scores on the court as a victory against FIFA and the sport of crats, an act of resistance by a tiny country that wants nothing more than to use its hands.
S2: They send athletes to the Olympics, you know?
S1: Not in basketball,
S2: not basketball of yet.
S1: They would love to. Maybe the three by three. You know, the Andre of three by three in the Olympics means that we could see the Marshall Islands playing basketball in the Olympics. That’d be very cool.
S2: That would be cool.
S1: Oh, would it be? Would it be cool?
S2: It would.
S1: Thank you. That is our show for today. Our producer, Kevin Bean. Listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out to Slate.com Flash hang up. You can email us at Hang up at Slate.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. For Stefan Fatsis, I’m Josh Levin remembers our mobility and thanks for listening. Now, it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members, fellow members say, out of the members, Stefan high members. So I was having a conversation with friends over the weekend and I was wondering if we could just kind of hash this out among ourselves. Stefan Sure, we know that certain sports are more remunerative than others. We can establish that we can stipulate that baseline tabulated. And one of the things that I find so interesting is like how there are stark differences between sports that you wouldn’t necessarily know if you didn’t follow them closely. So, for instance, the number 500 tennis player, man or woman in the world is not able to survive like on that unless they have a rich family or like, want to go into debt. I mean, it’s like not at all something that you can live on, but like the number 500 golfer in the world you can actually like, I think, make a pretty decent living playing that sport. And it just it seems a lot, but that’s just the way it is now. There are some things where it’s like if you’re the five hundredth best baseball player, basketball player, soccer player, you’re like a multimillionaire, but those sports are outliers. But the question that I had Stefan and I’ll spare you my analysis and let you kind of just hop into it is, let’s say you grew up kind of working class. You don’t have any, any money and it’s a total rags to maybe or maybe not richest how you go from this background to becoming the best athlete in a particular sport. Number one, you win whatever the championship is, which sport out of all of the like we can, we can determine what the level is like. Maybe it’s something that has to have a world championship, something that has to have like a lot of metal, maybe something in the Olympics. We can talk it out. But like what sport out of any of those that fit that qualification? Could you become number one, the best in the world and be the poorest, like, not make? Not become rich, not to have opportunities to capitalize on the fact that you’ve made yourself into the best in the world. You got you understand the question. Mm-Hmm. So let’s talk it out. What do you? Where does your mind go to first?
S2: Are we done well? My mind goes to games because obviously I have reason for my mind to go there. So are we including games that have world and national championships in them?
S1: I would say probably not, but it’s your you can. You can do whatever you want. You’re a free man.
S2: Because I would say that even if you included my game scrabble in this conversation, you know the guy that has won. Five North American championships and multiple world championships and even a French championship where he memorized the French dictionary in nine weeks, even though he didn’t speak a word of French. Has he made a living playing Scrabble? No, he’s probably made enough money that he’s made money over the years that you would sort of qualify him as a success, and it is supplemented his lifestyle and changed it. But it ain’t a salary, so there are a lot of, I think.
S1: All right. Let’s carve out minds for, all right, you’ve had your say on
S2: Scrabble and sports car. That mindset needs to be physical activity sports. Yeah.
S1: And so here’s another thing that I would say like, it’s obviously easier to talk about this in terms of individual sports rather than team sports, but like with another Fatsis obsession of team handball. If you are the best team handball player in the country, no other country in the world. There are certain countries where nobody knows about it. But if you’re the best team in all country and your player in the world and you’re in Europe, you’re going to be fabulously wealthy. So it can’t just be a sport that we, as Americans don’t care about, has to be a sport that the entire world basically doesn’t care about, which is hard to think through that question. So, yeah,
S2: that becomes hard because there you know, those sports like support draw. And what was that one that we did a kabaddi that we did a segment on? I mean, are there places in the world? Levin Hustle plays
S1: commander. I just remember that guy’s name. Good, good test of my my memory. The guy’s name was Kevin Hustle.
S2: Go ahead. He was he. Yeah, he had a memorable name, especially for Kabaddi. So there are going to be places in the world where some of these sports have some popularity and, like you said, can make some money. I mean, maybe even in those countries, they are remunerated pretty well. So isn’t there also a perspective problem here that as Americans, if we look at the best kabaddi player in the world and he’s making a living wage or better in the country, in a country where kabaddi is popular, that that’s OK. You know, I’m trying, I’m struggling to think of something. Let’s go a
S1: little bit more mainstream here. Yeah. So Olympic sports that are in the Olympic sports courts that are in the Olympics, I think one possible answer might be equestrian. The issue there is that you have to be rich to get into it already already. So that kind of disqualifies it. Oh, here’s
S2: one. How about how about rhythmic gymnastics?
S1: I actually looked into rhythmic gymnastics. I had the same question. The the woman who is the world champion, is Israeli. She’s like 21 years old.
S2: Yeah, she was great.
S1: She’s got a big following in Israel. She’s got like 200000 Instagram followers. Maybe that actually isn’t that much. Maybe we would expect somebody who’s like a huge Israeli star athlete to have more than 200000 Instagram followers. But like, that’s another issue is like if you come from a smaller country. Often it doesn’t actually matter if the sport is popular, like being the best at something like we all love when one of our fellow countrymen or women is the best at something that could actually elevate you to fame and stardom and like sort of like Lance Armstrong with cycling. I mean, he wasn’t a multi multi multimillionaire because Americans love cycling. It’s because America loves a winner. And so that can kind of change the conditions which which makes it more of a challenge. I think. You know, archery has began in Korea, you know, and Bhutan and share button. So the thing that I kind of gravitated towards Stefan. Mm-Hmm. Is. The steeplechase and track and field. Which is an enormous accomplishment to win the Gold Medal and that steeplechase, you got those big jumps. You got to be a great runner over long distances and are a lot of tactics in it. But I don’t get the sense that already in track and field and distance running, it’s not the most popular in the world and the marathon, it’s the glory event. They’ve got these million dollar prizes and that’s why you’ve seen the best distance runners gravitate from like the 10000 meters towards the marathon, because that’s where the money is. And so you’d have to think, all right, well, they’re gravitating away from the thing that’s less remunerative and less you get less glory. I guess they’re still going to be prizes in the Olympics and the World Championships. And if you win a gold medal, a lot of these countries will give you a lot of money. Maybe it’s like one of these events where it’s not. It’s like a distance that’s not contested at the Olympics or the World Championships, just like how Katie Ledecky was dominant in the 1500, and it was just like never in the Olympics until this last time. Maybe we need to find something like the world’s best 60 meter sprinter. Or maybe there’s like a steeplechase event that’s like a weird distance that’s not in the Olympics.
S2: Well, it could be something also, I mean, because gender plays a role here, too. It could be like the best women’s ski jumper in the world or I’m going
S1: to Google that while you to keep going.
S2: OK? Or what about like speed skiing still a thing, you know? Or how about like telemarketing there? There are competitions and telemarketing. I can’t imagine you’re making much money being the world’s best telemarketer, though. Again, this could be a European thing and that there is someone out there that’s yeah, making seven fingers telemarketing.
S1: All right, the number one race.
S2: How about race walking?
S1: That’s a good that’s a good idea. The number one female ski jumper in the world is Sarah Takahashi. She’s Japanese and she has 73000 Instagram followers. That’s not that many. That’s fewer than the rhythmic gymnast. I would have expected more from. Out of that. She’s won four World Cup overall titles seven World Championship Matt medals and a Winter Olympic medal. All right, should we should we? Google best race Walker. Mm hmm. Maybe I should Google that and you can Google one of your skiing things. OK, hold on. Do we entertain the people while we’re giggling now?
S2: Listening to this type isn’t isn’t enough.
S1: All right. Let’s see. We’ve got what makes a great race, Walker. That’s not super helpful. World records and best performances in men’s race walking. Let’s see. Kevin’s going to have to help us out and post production here with some with some music. Yeah, people are just going to enjoy playing along. We’re going to we’re going to tell ourselves that they’re going to be just emailing. And with all of their exciting thoughts on this, this topic, Yosuke Suzuki, they seem like another Japanese star in the field of race walking. Let’s see what they’ve got going on. How’s your progress coming?
S2: Stefan slowly, which is a good sign for telemarketers not making much money. Here’s the telemarketing World Cup, let’s say.
S1: Yeah, I don’t even see your suitcase Suzuki on Instagram. So I think maybe we have a winner just opting out of social media entirely. What about the name, image and likeness deals that that that they could get? They did win the Gold Gold Medal in the 2010 Doha World Championships in the 50km walk. So what’s your excuse for not being on Instagram did. All right, Stefan
S2: what’s wrong with these people who aren’t on Instagram, where
S1: clearly they clearly need to understand that we’re using it as a rough heuristic for their popularity? It’s not very useful to them. All right. So at this point, I think we need to open it up to to the listeners, to the site plus members. Email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. Let us know what we missed. Who we missed. What sports we missed. Sailing. It’s got to be something to do with sailing. How about sailing?
S2: Stefan is going to be a lot of cash floating around the sailing.
S1: That’s true. I forgot about that.
S2: OK, here’s here’s the. The 2020 women’s telomeric skiing champion Amelie Wenger Raymond Raymond, one thousand nine hundred and forty followers on Instagram.
S1: There you go. I think you. You kicked my ass. All right, so that’s our. Our leader in the clubhouse, then she looks
S2: pretty happy winning that trophy, though
S1: you can you can possibly put a price on that. All right, yeah. Email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. Let us know who he left out, and we’ll be back with more next week.