S1: The following podcast includes explicit language not restricted to words, beginning with F, S, B and Q.
S2: Hi, I’m Stefan FATSIS, the author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. And this is Slate’s sports podcast, Hang Up and listen for the week of March 16th. Twenty twenty. On this week’s show, we will review the unprecedented near total shutdown of sports in the last week due to the Corona virus. Former NFL executive Andrew Brandt and ESPN commentator and former NFL player Dominique Foxworth will be here to assess the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, which was approved by players over the weekend. Soccer Hall of Famer Julie Foudy will also join us to talk about the latest developments in the U.S. women’s soccer teams equal pay fight. And finally, we’ll interview Teagan Hamlyn of Alaska Public Media about one of the few sporting events that’s still happening.
S3: The I did a rod sled dog race. Josh Levine is Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth. He’s taking the week off mostly to work on season four of slow burn, but also I hope to bask and bump elbows after winning the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. I’m going to say that again. Josh Levine, author of The Queen. CO-HOST of this podcast, won the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. That is just an incredible achievement and also totally deserved. And we are so, so proud of him. Congrats, Josh.. I’m on lock down in the attic of my house in Washington, D.C.. Joining me also on lockdown from Palo Alto, California, is Slate’s Joel Anderson, the host of Slow Burn Season 3. I don’t know if it’s going to be slow burn season 5 or season twenty five, Joel, but the coronavirus Trump Slow burn seems inevitable.
S4: Yeah, man, that seems like inevitable. Slow burn. I mean, I don’t know. They’ll probably be about three or four slow burns just based on the Trump presidency. And yeah, that’s true. So, yeah.
S3: Slow burn. Twelve. Thirteen, fourteen. Fifteen. At least we know that the franchise has a long, long life.
S5: Kind of a.
S3: All right, let’s start talking about some sports we’re all adjusting to a world without them. I was going to start listing stuff that’s gone March Madness, the NBA, MLB, XFL. But it’s really pointless, Joel. And yet it’s hard to let it go. The ticker at the top of ESPN is home page right now on Monday morning actually lists sports results. Maybe the tech guys couldn’t get it off of there. Maybe they left it on there for our comfort. Just to remind us that somewhere people are playing something. So in the interest of journalism, I am here to report that Atlas beat Toluca three to two and Liga and the X is the Mexican Soccer League. Mexico is taking a casual approach to the Corona virus right now in the Russian Premier League. Joel Sochi beat Krasnodar 2 nil. It’s weird and we are all very disoriented.
S4: I didn’t realize Sochi had its own team. I hadn’t heard that since the Winter Games.
S3: But. Right. Yeah. That’s why I picked them. There were three games, but I went with Sochi.
S6: Good for them. They still got they figured out a way to use some of those facilities there.
S7: But, you know, I wish there was a way to retrace our conversation from the previous week so we could just get a sense for our voices and the rise and tension and the gradual, you know, the gradual incursion of gravity in our voices. And we talk about this because we just had no sense that we would be here, that the idea of merely playing games would be in some ways an affront to a lot of people, the idea that things could be normal, that we could go on and continue to have sports and have games and things to watch and talk about on TV. And, you know, we were talking about that this morning that the NFL in the midst of all this. And although they admittedly have no games and seem to be pushing back on the idea that they’re going to have a combined event, this all sort of proceeding as if there’s not a global pandemic. You know, they’re they just you know, teams just signed the Tennessee Titans just signed Ryan Tannehill to a four year, possibly $180 million contract. People are talking about what Tom Brady is going to go.
S8: You know, this offseason and still like that’s still a ongoing topic. It is hard to believe that just the mere idea that the NFL is proceeding as if nothing is going on, even though they’re not playing games, is something that could be offensive.
S3: Yeah, we’ll get into that with Foxworth and Brandt, I think on a bigger scope for me. What’s really on my mind is that like the CDC on Sunday said no gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks. That’s mid May. I mean, sports don’t really matter, especially as these numbers escalate. And, you know, I know Josh, push back on me last week when I said that sports don’t matter. I mean, they matter psychologically may matter because it’s entertainment and they matter because we love them. But I think we’re going to have to start grappling with the idea that we just don’t know when sports will start again. You know, I saw people speculating on Twitter a year, 18 months that we just can’t fully appreciate what’s going to happen right now.
S4: Yeah, I mean, even the NBA, I think the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, earlier this week was talking on TV about potentially getting things going again in a month. And that just seems the way things are going right now. Absurd. Right.
S7: And I remember even, you know, when we had that conversation with Josh about, you know, sports mattering or whatever. There was a high school here in the Bay Area in San Francisco that are defending state champ and women’s soccer. And they were pulled off the field minutes before their final game. They were going to defend their championship and they were pulled off because of Corona virus concerns. And it seemed like a ridiculous overreaction. A lot of people argue that it was hasty and that’s just like a week ago. You know, we we really don’t have any idea how long this is going to go, but I just sort of marvel at the idea of how far we’ve come in just a couple of weeks. That continues to stick with me that we haven’t been able to sort of wrap our minds around the idea that, oh, things might not go back to normal, by which I mean we might not see games, literal games for a very, very long time. People play these games, people that can transmit coronavirus, people that can get infected with coronavirus, people that could die like I guess we were I remember last week I was looking at a video of University Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson talking about the tournament getting canceled. I was like, oh, man, Kelvin Sampson is at risk. Like he’s old enough that he falls within the category of somebody that if he got Corona virus, he could be seriously ill.
S9: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you sort of move beyond the realm of, hey, what what about our entertainment? And what about these businesses into the very personal realm? And that’s, I think, what’s obviously driven this conversation. You know, Rudy, go back testing positive and the NBA shutting down altered the entire landscape of how we should think about. Our future, not just sports future, but our future. But these leagues have to do something right. The NFL is just gotta sort of proceed as if there’s going to be a season in the fall. I guess the NBA owners met in the last few days. They’re coming up with with scenarios for how to restart the league. You know, maybe restarting in the summer without fans. How short should the schedule be? Do you want to not bump into the NFL season? All of this may be rendered moot. But that’s what has to happen. I mean, even the International Olympic Committee, the organizers of the Tokyo Games are still saying and this sounds a little bit like whistling in the dark at this point. The games will begin on July 24. That seems crazy to me.
S8: Yeah, I think it is crazy. And you know, well, actually, let’s back up for a second with the Olympics, because calling off the Olympics does not seem quite as outrageous for whatever reason to me. And maybe that’s because within our lifetimes we’ve grown up and we have an understanding that the Olympics are as much a political event as they are cultural one.
S7: So the US didn’t compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics or the 1968 summer? Well, some of the athletes didn’t compete in the 1968 Summer Olympics in 1984, 1984, the L.A. Games. The USSR didn’t compete.
S8: So we’re sort of used the idea that countries use the Olympics as a showcase for something more than sports. So it’s not implausible to me that the Olympics wouldn’t happen, but it would be cancelled because of a global pandemic. It’s up there that we definitely could not have seen. And yeah, I mean, who’s to say that we’ll be ready to anybody will be ready to resume this, because I mean, in addition to the idea that the games start in July, August, the athletes have to train in between now and then. And this I don’t understate like my gym just closed over the weekend, like they finally decided, hey, man, it’s too unsafe for people to show up here. Where are these people going to get an opportunity to go train? Where are they going to be going? Where they can keep up with their sport? I mean, I’m sure that millionaire billionaire, you know, athletes and industries can figure out some of that out. But the Olympics is a little bit different. I don’t know that your regular steeplechase person can just meet, go find someplace and replicate the conditions needed to train for the Olympics or your basketball team or your handball team.
S10: There are teams in the Olympics, too, where athletes have to congregate and play against one another in order to train the Olympian. Also, conversation about what we’re going to watch. ESPN still has a lot of programming time to fill and back to the idea of continuing as Zeph gonna show something. Got to talk about something. I mean, I turned on ESPN this morning and, you know, Steve naysmith was screaming at me about Tom Brady and Max Kellerman was doing the same. And they were very high volume, very concerned about whether Brady was better than Ryan Tannehill or Jimmy Garoppolo. So it’s got to keep going. They have to continue to feed the beast because they know that people want to watch that. And, you know, when Adam Schefter tweets that someone’s been franchise tagged on Twitter, which has been happening on Monday morning, as we’re talking, there are hundreds of comments, good or bad for someone’s team, whether they like it or not. ESPN has canceled all of its D.C. based shows for the moment, like pardon the interruption. According to Richard Deitsch of the Athletic put its early morning sports center on hiatus, Deitsch reported to keep people out of studios and keep employees from coming in. We don’t know what’s going to be on there. I mean, with television, at least, there is this backlog of movies and documentaries and old games that can air so people, you know, can can watch something during their lockdowns.
S4: Yeah. No, you mentioned that Adam Schefter, you know, the chef bomb and that stuff is actually sort of a relief to me. You know, I know that maybe it it does it kind of meet the moment, but it is nice to have something to think about or to watch on TV. That is not all. Cauvin, 19 News, you know. And so I think that sports in that way can play a role. But yeah, like the inventory. Where is it going to come from? I don’t know. But I mean, I think a lot of people have had, you know, the idea that, hey, show old games, sold content, whatever that ends up being. I don’t know how many times I could watch the 2005 Rose Bowl, but let’s give it a shot. Let’s see if I can watch it. You know, more than two or three times and then you can just kind of run, you know, run through games in nineteen eighty three, final four or whatever. I think they’re going to have to get creative. And I also think sports leagues are going to get creative too. I’m not in this world. I don’t play video games. I don’t do e-sports. But I’ve seen, you know, these streams of Devin Booker and everybody else playing video games. And I just wonder if some of that kind of stuff is going to fill in the gap while we figure out what comes next.
S11: That’s a fascinating idea. I bet there are a lot of people that will watch Devin Booker play e-sports. Seriously? I’m not being facetious. And you know, we’re talking about ESPN. But let’s not forget, there is an MLB network and there’s an NHL network and there’s an NBA network and there’s an NFL network. They have to fill time. Also, this is a multi, multi, multi-billion dollar problem for not just, you know, sports leagues, of course, the entire economy. But this is going to have ramifications going on for years in terms of salary caps and player pay and revenue sharing. If there’s not much coming in, there’s not going to be as much going out. There are some sports, Joel, that have continued the UFC ultimate fighting championship has not shut down. That was also on the ESPN ticker. Some fights from. From Brazil. I found one state basketball tournament in missoura is going on a college wrestling tournament. This one blew me away. Did you see this?
S12: Yeah, I did. That little small win, that was it. It wasn’t in Dallas, was it? Was it in the Dallas area? Do I have that right?
S11: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The National Collegiate Wrestling Association, which is a non NCAA body that was formed because a lot of wrestling programs had been cut partly because of alleged Title 9 issues. And they and this includes like Division 1 schools gun this thing. And they had this tournament that had hundreds of athletes. The guy, the executive director quoted as saying, I think a lot of this is driven by fear. When he was asked why he didn’t cancel the event.
S6: Yeah. No, I think. I mean, they had the Liberty University coach, which I mean, go figure. Say it from a philosophical perspective, do I think it’s overhyped? Yes, I do. So, I mean, like, we would not you know, we’re not dealing with infectious disease experts at that at that wrestling tournament or maybe they are some I don’t know, but at least the people that were quoted don’t appear to have much, you know, expertise or knowledge about the danger in staging an event where people are rolling around on top of each other, sweaty, you know, in a tight and in tights and in a tightly enclosed gym. It seems like exactly the sort of thing that you wouldn’t want, like if you could just take the analog of the advice of the experts and say, what’s the sporting event that is most dangerous under these circumstances? Wrestling seems like it would be up there. But that is going to, you know, thug their way through it, basically, which is just really weird. But that isn’t that different from what we’re seeing in the world as it is, right?
S4: I mean, if you are social media like I was all weekend, you saw people going out to bars, you saw people going out to restaurants. It took local governments and state governments saying, hey, you’re not allowed to do this anymore for people to be moderately responsive to that. And I think that probably is the same with the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national championships. If somebody had stepped in and say, hey, look, this is a bad idea, we can’t do it, they want it done it, but it requires strong leadership and clear advice. And that’s the sort of thing that’s been lacking all over the place, not just in sports.
S13: Yeah. Even in my little world, I wrote about a sort of dilemma that Scrabble players are facing about whether clubs and tournaments should be shut down. I did a piece for Slate over the weekend and the governing body for Scrabble in North America. The North American Scrabble Players Association has declined to shut it down. They’re leaving it up to local officials. The guy who runs the association I talked to and he basically said people should just be governed by what their local municipalities are advising to do. And my response was, well, every health expert in the country seems to be encouraging social distancing with some very specifics and whether or not there’s a formal shutdown in your local community. It seems that leaving the decision about whether to have even 10 or eight or 20 people get together in a small place and share tiles and bags and boards and breath, seems like a bad idea to me. And there there is Scrabble players who are physicians and there is a petition started by one urging the organization to shut it down. But so far, no mandate. Before we talk about the NFL, I wanted to let you know that in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members, Joel and I will talk about the death of March Madness. If you want to hear that and you’re not a member, you can sign up for Slate Plus for just $35 for the first year. And you can do that. Signing up at Slate, dot com slash Hang-Up plus.
S12: And what probably qualifies as the only sports news to break over the weekend that wasn’t connected to the Corona virus. NFL players on Sunday narrowly voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with NFL owners. How narrowly the votes for the deal no. 1019, four and nine hundred fifty nine votes against the proposal. A difference of only 60 votes. And consider that about 500 NFL players didn’t actually cast a ballot. So there’s gonna be lots of changes to the NFL as a result of this new CBA. Probably the two biggest. The ones you likely heard about before ballots we’ve been cast were expanding the regular season from 16 to 17 games and adding two more teams to the NFL playoff field starting as soon as next season. Whenever that starts, there’s also a lot of stuff that might go unnoticed by the casual NFL fan. There will be a bump in minimum salaries. There will be two more players added to the game day rosters. The players will get a slightly larger share of the revenue starting in 2021. And the legal stuff, suspending players for positive marijuana tests. It’s a big, big deal. But on social media and in regular media, opinions were predictably divided on whether this was a win for the players or another route by the owners. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs and share continued progress on player safety and give our fans more and better football. There they go again, conflating more football with better football. But anyway, we’re going to get into it for this segment. We’re joined by Dominique Foxworth, a former NFL player with the Broncos, Falcons and Ravens, a former president of the NFLPA. And he now talks about the league and a whole bunch other suffering ESPN. We’ve also got Andrew Brandt. He’s a columnist for Sports Illustrated’s EMEM QB, a former front office executive with the Green Bay Packers and the executive director of the More AD Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University. Thanks for joining us, Dominique and Andrew. So you guys are just kind of throw this out there. You all seem to have been skeptical of the deal for the players before they ever signed it.
S14: Why do you think of what they signed on Monday and what they’ve settled on?
S15: I don’t know. I would say that I was skeptical. I think the deal was interesting, though. If you want to put a positive spin on it from the players’ side, I think this is the first time you can look at all the major sports in the last decade. Plus, this is the first time that there has been financial gains on the players side.
S16: And you can’t get anything in negotiations unless you’re willing to pay some sort of price. Normally that price is a strike, a work stoppage or protracted legal battles. The price in this case is an extra game and it’s up to them. The guys are going to be subjecting themselves to the risk and violence of a game. It’s up to them to decide whether the price is fair or not. But I do think it’s generally we’re underestimating how expensive, I guess for lack of a better time it is to play one more football game. I know we’ve talked about how they’re reducing so my offseason requirements and they’re trying to reduce some of the practice and the intensity of some of the practices. But nothing equals an extra game. You can’t take away a preseason game and a bunch of practices and think that the wear and tear on these guys bodies, it’s going to be a net kind of net neutral at the end of the day.
S17: Yeah, I think I agree with Dominic in a lot of ways that the thing to me was not sort of the hot take winner or loser this deal. It’s just to me there’s an inequity ability about this where you have a massive concession by the players inventory and the owners want to grow the game. I get it. The game is limited at 16 games. The game is limited in this country. They want to be bigger and bigger and bigger and what better way to get another game. But I just don’t know how this became. At one point, I thought 17 games was a non-negotiable for the players side. Yet we hear now that 17 games became a non-negotiable for the partners side. And I just don’t think they got enough. If you sort of pull back and for the average casual fans saying, oh, what happened in that CBA, the headline is going to be the seventeen games and then the like extra playoff games where the second seed no longer gets a bye as well. And the headline for the players. Well yeah I don’t I extra minimal money as Tom mentioned, some some increases in pensions and benefits, some incremental gains on health and safety rules. That to me owners were going to give anyway. So it just seems like an inequitable deal. Give up that massive concession of an extra day.
S15: So, I mean, I would understand and agree with you the way it plays out would push back is you’re not accounting necessarily for the change of revenue.
S18: And while it can climb up to forty eight point eight is the high end of TV, money goes up to as high as they expect it to go.
S19: That’s significant. That’s billions of dollars. And I’m not arguing that this is a good deal. And I would say that I was a part of the last negotiations where the owners presented Aitkin games and that. Was kind of a deal breaker at that point. They presented 18 games and we were like, well, we don’t even need to talk. We’ll see you at the lockout. And they backed off of that. But I suspect that they were just trying to kind of move Overton Window in in that negotiation to prepare for the one that was coming up this time to make 17 games seem more palatable.
S20: So I agree with you that maybe it’s not enough. But the tough thing haven’t been involved in those negotiations is how do you get more? So that’s everyone who criticizes the deal. And I’m one who criticizes it. Also, like the real tough part is like where do you create any more leverage than you already created as a player?
S17: Back to non-negotiables. I just I mean, I saw in Thomas More Ted’s tweet about, you know, we asked for fifty three percent. I mean, listen, I get it. But if the owners say, hey, listen, no way, no how, we are doing a deal without 17 games. Now, maybe the players said no way, no how we’re doing a deal without, you know, all these increases that they got. But what if they said, no way, no how? We’re doing a deal without a 50/50 split. Now, again, the owners could say no. And then the fear factor, it’s not going to be a good deal. Next time it’s gonna get worse. And strikes and lockouts, I think there was too much of that. I mean, this when I talk to people about the deal, I hear so much, well, they would never stay together. There’d be a lockout. The owners would rub their nose in it. And it was never about. This is a really good deal. It was all about the fear if they don’t take it, which was frustrating to hear.
S21: Dom, you’ve been involved in previous negotiations. You were president of the Players Association. I was talking to one of our former Broncos teammates, my friend Nate Jackson, about the deal. And he pointed out what a lot of people are pointing out is the discrepancy between what low income by NFL standards players felt about this and what the superstar end of the league felt about this. This is a common, common outcome in these deals. The Top End seemed to be opposed, the lower end. Concerned about their careers, which only lasts two, two and a half, three years are more favorable. They don’t want to lose time to go to a work stoppage. Nate wrote to me, this means that the players money at the low end will last them seven years after they retire instead of five. And the owners will always be billionaires. Is the resentment between the superstars in the league and the rank and file problematic going forward?
S15: No. I mean, I’ve always kind of disagree with that characterization. I think it’s an easy one and I think logically it makes sense. But if you’re actually in those rooms, no one actually considers themselves rank and file. Like that’s not how no one entered this league with the expectation of making a couple hundred thousand dollars over a few years and then leaving having added two or three year career. Like everyone who was in the league now believes that they are just a chance away from hitting that homerun deal and getting that big contract extension. So it’s hard for me to imagine that any of the players and I know during my negotiations, so few of the players were caught up in raising their minimum salary and adding a couple hundred thousand dollars to this year’s salary. So, so many more the players and the guys who were second string and sixth round draft picks, even those guys were very concerned with what the free agency pool was going to look like, how the franchise tagging tags would impact them, because that’s why you enter the league when you’re 10 years old and you commit yourself at that point to making it to the NFL. It’s not so that you can have a four year career. And no one who is in the league like honestly thinks like, yeah, this is just going to be for years because there’d be a really bad decision. It’s a poor use of your time if you got to the league and only play for four years like that’s a lifetime’s worth of commitment for while hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not it’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s not enough to live your life. And it’s certainly not enough to validate the sacrifices that players have made to get there. So I don’t know. I find that characterization hard. I think it’s obvious and easy, but no one actually sees himself as that player. I don’t think their career is going to be four years or three years until it actually is over and they’re two years out and the phone stops. Right.
S17: I think if that characterization was true, Stefan, I just think then you’re saying, well, saw a thousand players or stars because nine hundred and ninety sixty players voted against this deal. And what maybe 20 of them are stars? I mean, think about that characterisation. So we have a deal in place for 11 years that the executive council was against, that the players reps were barely for seven to 14 one abstention and that the full populace of players approved by a few dozen votes. So this is not rank and file versus stars. The evidence is there that there’s deep division about this deal. And if the rules as dominoes better than anyone say, that’s the rules and it passes. Great. But there’s lingering feelings about this deal at all levels, perhaps. Yeah, I think up to superstar.
S15: I’m sorry to cut you off, but I think the people I’ve talked to, some executive committee members and some reps. Their issue with this deal is less so with the specifics of the deal as much as it’s about the process.
S22: So many of them felt like we were not up against or they were not up against a hard deadline like we were when we went through our negotiations, where if we did not take a deal this season, would likely we would we would likely miss four games at least, or we would miss some sort of games because we signed the deal in the summer before the start of the season. So these guys, I think, thought they had more time and then all of a sudden it was late on their lap, at least from their perspective. This is the deal. Take it or leave it if you don’t take it. Now we’re going to get locked out or we’re going to go on strike. And I think that’s what guys are angry about. That’s what they were voting no to, more so than they were voting no to the deal itself. They were voting no to feeling like it was. They weren’t involved in the process. And then it was slammed on their lap.
S10: Well, Andrew, was that a legitimate fear? I mean, they’re going into TV negotiations that obviously was driving the owners desire to get this done sooner rather than later. Could the players have have done what Dom is just suggesting, just said, well, pump the brakes on this and let’s renegotiate when we’re closer to the deadline next year?
S17: I think so. And I listen again. I felt what Dominique felt. I felt like a lot of people were talking as we were sitting here in March, twenty twenty one and not March 20. And the way this deal was framed, it was an early deal. So we’re a year away. And as I said before, what would happen if they turned it down? There seemed to be this sort of narrative that the owners would rub their noses in it like a dog who pooped on the carpet and never come back, pack up their briefcases and put a word still out there. I just think that’s not the case. I know there’s all this dissension between owners and players, but I just don’t see them ignoring the players for a year. If that happened and, you know, the TV deals were driving this and of course it’s all different now with the crisis. But what what did the NFL need to do these long term TV deals? They need one labor peace because no TV networks can jump in, fearing a lockout on two 17 games. And who holds the key to both the players? So I just didn’t understand this fear-based mentality about, well, you better do it now, because who knows? Again, we’re a year away.
S15: Yeah, I think the fear is certainly something that is not comfortable. But I think it’s something that even if it’s not generated externally, is something that the players feel. And again, I have my experience to fall back on. And Mike’s voice was different because we were actually backs against the wall. But guys aren’t willing aren’t necessarily interested in taking more risk. And I think the reason why some of the star players are more outspoken about it is because, frankly, they do have some financial security and whether the deal was going to get substantially better or a little bit better or still be the same. I think when it was time to make a decision and a lot of guys like, well, this deal is on the table. This means that I’m going to be able to continue to play football.
S16: This means that I’m going to get paid. And in their minds, I’m not sure it’s worth it. And I honestly logically, it may not be actually worth it to go back and put all that in jeopardy.
S22: And while you might be right, they might have more leverage if they did it that way, Andrew. They might also just end up where they were or end up worse off. And it’s just not worth it for them that they’ve sacrificed so much the course of their lives to get to this point. I imagine that they look at this and they like, well, this isn’t a time to to this time when I’m right on the brink or the precipice of getting all this money that I’ve been working for and having this opportunity and playing the game that I love. This is not the time to try to play hardball, I suspect. But that was the the calculus for a lot of the players who voted yes.
S17: Yeah, I get it. And just one more thing on the superstar thing. I just think to me it’s kind of the inverse. If Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt, Russell Wilson really, really didn’t care about everyone else, right. They’d say, yeah, take the deal. Sure. I’m fine. Either way, you know, take your deal. But but it’s the other way. I think you know them. Fighting for players that don’t have what they do. I just kind of look at it that way. Like they’re not saying. You know, it’s all about us. It was all about them. Take it. Sure. Fine. No problem with them. They’re on their way. They got their money. So I think that was framed the wrong way.
S6: Who’s responsible for putting that sort of pressure on the players?
S8: Because we talked about the idea that, you know, the players felt this pressure. And, you know, that this deal had to get done. Where’s it coming from then?
S15: Well, I would say that it’s something that we perpetuate in the media. But I think that’s something that the owners want to create.
S18: And everyone who was involved in negotiating this deal wanted to deal to get done. They felt like they were at the endpoint and they could get nothing more. And so they don’t want it to get pushed back to me and said, fix it. So I think anyone who was involved in negotiating, at least that was the feeling coming out of negotiations that the leadership of the union wanted it done. The leadership on the league side wanted it done. But some of the players saw that it was kind of thrown at them.
S17: Yeah. I mean, guys, you know, I negotiated a contract for the Packers for 10 years and I said, listen, this is very strategic by the owners and they do it. I did it on the team side all the time. You offer enough early money to entice a player to a long term deal and get cost certainty extending out on the individual players side. You give them X million dollar bonus. They jump in on a long term deal and you’ve got that cost certainty. Here they go to 65 percent of the players who are making minimum 65 percent of the league, we’re told, and offer one hundred thousand dollars. You know, that’s enticing. And sure, they’re not thinking about what the deal is going to look like in eight years when they’re out of the league. So I just think that was strategic by the owners. And again, back to the original point. Even with that, half the league said no.
S23: We’ve got a couple more minutes here, guys. I wanted to pivot to something that just happened as we were talking. The NFL announced that they’re going to hold the 2020 draft as scheduled April 23rd to 25th in Las Vegas. But no public events around the draft league seems to be moving forward with a semblance of normalcy here. Do you think they should be putting things on pause? Or do they just have to plan like any business would plan for the possibility that the season will start as scheduled?
S24: Know it’s Andrew. I’ve been critical of starting. Forget about the draft. Of course, they’re not going to hold a big public draft for them. You know, when the whole world is not gathering, I’ve been critical of free agency starting as we speak right now.
S17: I just I get it. We want normalcy. I get it. These free agent visits don’t involve a lot of public gathering. And I get it. Teams have to operate. But think about it. Teams are sent home. No one’s working. I mean, I guess you can do your GM can work from the basement and get his deals done. But this is really what the NFL wants to do now. I mean, by the time free agency starts on Wednesday, we may be in a national quarantine. Who knows? It just seems to me a lot. I get people want normalcy. People want to read about sports. But it just seems odd to be transacting the business week of the NFL. Business wise right now.
S15: Yeah, I understand that. It seems odd. I’m less offended by it. I.
S22: I get that it’s optically not a good look. You have been kind of making these million dollar transactions while there. The country is obviously going to be suffering individuals and the country at large from suffering financially because of the quarantine. However, there also like the argument that you made for normalcy. There is something to be said for having some sort of news out there that is not all doom and gloom because it’s it’s a tough time right now. And everything I turn on every podcast, whether it’s about movies or or sports or politics, everything is quarantine. Quarantine and quarantine. So I agree that it’s it’s not going to be pretty to see somebody sign millions of dollar deal while we are seeing small businesses kind of take a hit. But it also be nice to to kind of just for a second, they’ll evaluate how the Calais Campbell trades to the ravens’ is going to impact the BANSI playoff. Might it be nice to get back to that to some degree and have something that is not all this new? So this is one of those times when I feel happy that I’m not in one of those. I’m no longer in any leadership position to make those sort of decisions because I could see. I think I’d be more prone to just cancel it all because I’d be concerned about how it looks. But as far as a fan and a media member, I enjoyed seeing some rain and tornadoes do come across. And then thinking about what it means for Dak Prescott and not having to necessarily think about this pandemic for whatever five minutes I got to. Do that.
S24: Yeah, I see your point, too, I just think. I don’t trust that we’re going for right now. For those who don’t know, we’re going to we’re in this sort of tampering period. Teams can negotiate but not sign official contracts until Wednesday afternoon. I’m still not sure. Wednesday afternoons of Fogo, you know, we’ll just see what happens with the world.
S22: But as we sit here, our play of our free agent at this moment, though, I’d absolutely be excited about getting to that point. Like this is something that they’ve worked for. Free agency is something that they all and I remember when I signed my free agent deal, I was nothing like this going on, but I’d be so stressed out if I was getting to this point where I could finally get the opportunity or kind of cash in on all the hard work that I kind of committed to this game for most of my life. It’d be pretty frustrating. And that’s a minor concern, obviously in the in all of this. But I think it’s it’s just for my idea, my perspective as a player. It’s something that’s certainly crossed my mind. If I was in free agency right now, I’d be rooting against any sort of change. And business as usual.
S17: No, and I get that, too.
S24: If there was a way that they could, they meaning I guess us where media could report so and so sign with the Tennessee Titans or so-and-so sign with the Denver Broncos period.
S17: I think that may be fine, but I don’t know. There’s no way in God’s green earth we’re not going to see the numbers.
S14: Gentlemen, thanks so much for coming in, joining us on this very busy morning. Please stay safe, Dominique. Andrew, thanks for joining us. And hang up and listen. Pretty sure you have enjoyed it. Thanks, guys.
S25: Last week, before the final game of the she believes Cup tournament, the U.S. women’s national soccer team came onto the field in Frisco, Texas, wearing their Warm-Up jerseys inside out. You can see the four stars representing the four World Cups that the team has won, but only the outline of the logo of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Below them, the gesture was the latest protest by the women in their fight for equal pay. It came after legal documents revealed a line of argument by the federation that could have been typed by some misogynistic sports troll on Twitter. Playing for the U.S. men’s national team requires a higher level of skill and carries more responsibility than playing for the women’s team. Indisputable science, lawyers for the federation asserted, shows that the women who have again won for World Cups were inferior to the men who have won. BUPKUS Julie Foudy was on two of those World Cup winning teams. She’s also got a couple of Olympic gold medals. She works now for ESPN. Welcome back to the show, Julie. Thank you. Are the legal arguments prompted a stunning really, I thought, stunning backlash against the federation by players, by sponsors, by fans and by the end of the week. The federation’s president, Carlos Cordero, resigned. This was a remarkable set of events. And for me, duly reflected once again the power that these women, you among them, have as a cultural force. But I want to start with the legal briefs. I mean, lawyers are going to lawyer, but the argument that, well, this team can’t beat the under-17 boys national team so they suck is not just tone-deaf. It is absurd. I mean, what did you think when you read this?
S26: Exactly that the thing that kept coming into my mind is who at the federation thought this was a good idea and how does it pass so many people? And how if your general counsel, in-house counsel for U.S. soccer is a woman, does she think that is OK as well? Like how how does all of this get through? Because clearly this is months of depositions. And they had to have known that the line of questioning and the road they were walking down. To your point, lawyers are going to lawyer. Even if a lawyer is telling me tell he’s blue in the face or she’s blue in the face, that this is a great idea. And they’re trying to make this argument. There is not one person at U.S. soccer who says this is a terrible idea. Do you not see the optics of this in terms of sponsors and fans and players, of course, how they feel about it. So I don’t I don’t get it. I don’t get how it was such a miss. And no one there saw it.
S6: You know, Julie, I guess, you know, Megan Rapinoe is mentioned that, you know, there are these two players in the u.s.’s EFF have been at odds for a while. And these conversations can get sort of ugly. And there was a mention of a deposition not so long ago with a couple of players that sort of ventured into some ugly territory. But I’m just just curious, just from you, like, is it a surprise that they’d stoop so low as to make that argument in the first place, though? Because, I mean, it just seems patently insulting.
S26: You know, not a surprise, actually, because this is an argument they have thrown at us for years. It’s nothing new. It’s before it was. No one cares about women’s soccer. No one wants to watch women’s soccer. There’s no market for it for women’s soccer. And behind all of that thread was this idea that, you know, it’s very different because the men won a 15, 16 year old team could beat you. And and the men attract and there’s money and there’s a market. And so how dare you ask for more because it’s never going to be that way. So there was always that thread that was in negotiations going way back into my time. It was a very contentious relationship back then as well. But there was also a side of you as a player who thought, well, maybe it’s an unconscious bias. Maybe we’re just reading into this in the wrong way. And it’s not a full on, you know, misogynistic, sexist organization. And so the disappointing thing with this is it validates a lot of those thoughts we had going back years and that they were willing to to put that out there, knowing that the public would see this and sponsors would see this. I just again, I go back to who’s the adult in the room who says this is a terrible idea. You guys, what are we doing? I don’t know how they could do that.
S27: Angela Huguely’s, who was a player and later was head of the Women’s Sports Foundation and was on the U.S. Soccer Athlete’s Council that elected Cordeiro. And she said that. Sort of just confirmed the culture that has existed for, you know, going back two and three generations of players now, and I think for the groundbreaking teams like yours, Julie, from nineteen ninety one in nineteen ninety nine that won the World Cup, they’re always struck me that there was the sense of we’re going to get there, we just have to be patient, we’re doing our best. Look at how many people watched us. They’ve got to come around at some point. And this is what of course triggered the litigation by the players under the Equal Pay Act that no, we’re actually not there. The women are seeking almost sixty seven million dollars as part of this lawsuit and potentially millions more in backpay and damages. And I think the question now, Julie, is have the events of the last week sort of unmasking the U.S. soccer’s legal strategy and the blowback and now the ascension of a woman to succeed Carlos Cordero as as president? Cindy Perlow Cohn, who was also a player on the national team. Do you think that will actually change the dynamic of not just the case, but the structure of the federation vis-a-vis the women?
S26: Well, I think it’s great that you have a player and a woman that’s coming in as president. But let’s remind people that president position is a volunteer position. And what they expect of the president in a volunteer position is way beyond a volunteer position. I mean, Cindy right now is going to have to come in and do the work of a handful of people. I mean, that is a task that is a huge tall task. And it’s not her role to come in and purge everyone because she’s a volunteer president and there is no CEO.
S28: I think the first thing they have to do to right the ship is to hire a CEO. And. And they keep saying this is eminent. They’re going to fill this position. Dan Flynn, who is the prior CEO, announced his retirement a year ago. And so this has been an ongoing thing. And there was an internal battle within U.S. soccer if it would be someone from within. And so I think that got ugly as well. So you have clearly a leadership crisis happening at U.S. soccer with no CEO to kind of right the ship. So I think the first thing is they’ve got to get a CEO and.
S26: But I mean, the silver lining in all this is to your point is it’s a woman who’s played Cindy. She gets it. She’s lived this negotiating and contentious battle for a long time. And if I’m the players on the team right now of this current crop, at least you go, OK. Here’s someone who gets this. And mind you, she’s going to have to move mountains to get this done in time to to come to settlement before May. But finally, we’ve got. And I would hope the current team is thinking, finally we’ve got a player who gets it right. I mean, the question is, is how does the whole board miss this as well?
S29: And I think that’s something they’re going to have to address. They’re going to have to bring in someone to say, OK, how do we get this so wrong? How do we botch this? And I would have someone come in and do an overview and say, what’s going on here?
S26: How did how did this happen? But to get that done before May, because May is when the trial, when it’s got to go to trial, May 5th is when it’s scheduled to go to trial. But if if anyone can get it done, I think it Sandy is the right person with all of her background to do it.
S30: Julie, the question I have for you is, I guess a two part question. One. There’s got to be no way in hell U.S. soccer would promote someone who might hurt their legal position. It potentially costs them upwards of 67 million dollars. Right. That doesn’t seem likely. No matter how much of an ally she was to the woman’s game and was a player. Right. Like it. It doesn’t seem like that somebody they would put in that position to just sort of we’re chason now when we’re ready to make amends.
S31: Yeah. They don’t they don’t have a choice here. Joel, she was a vice president, got promoted automatically because of his resignation. So I think the question is, does U.S. soccer change its legal strategy? Are they forced to settle here because of how they screwed up?
S26: Yeah, I think they have to change their legal strategy at the telling sign is when, you know, Coca-Cola, VW, Deloitte. I mean, you go down the line, it’s they all said, what? What are you doing here? This is a brand that isn’t your most successful brand at U.S. soccer. And you’re essentially making this misogynistic argument about how they’re inferior. So they can’t continue down this course. And the thing that gets me to is, is there are so many villains out there that they could point to. You could say, look at FIFA and the market different from FIFA. And us, this is FIFA and they have made that argument, but it wasn’t their central tenet, I think, of their of their argument. Why not make them the villain and say, we would love to pay you more and we will pay you more, as they’re saying, with U.S. soccer controlled games. But FIFA is the bad guy here. And FIFA is the one who’s holding us back and make that argument. But they didn’t. They chose to go down this path. And I do think that they’re going to have to show too clearly shift gears. And I hope that they have time to do that.
S31: Meantime, the women just go out and continue to win tournaments. They won that she believes club their market power has never been stronger. All due respect to you, Julie, in the 1999 team, there are personalities on this team that are legitimate national sports superstars and they are the drivers of soccer in America arguably right now. I mean, I tweeted sort of half tongue in cheek the other day. You know, maybe we should be talking about a U.S. women’s soccer federation. Maybe this should be broken up and let them go out in the market and demonstrate how powerful they can be.
S29: Yeah. People have said that. And I’ve actually been dear friends with Billie Jean King, you know, heard her story so many times of them breaking away to form the women’s tennis tour and what they did. I’ve always been of the mindset that we could fix this and we could do this together.
S28: And that’s similar to, you know, when you store started an organization. I don’t think there should be a separate women’s division. I think they should be incorporated women into every single division of what you do, because then the whole company understands what you’re doing.
S29: But there. And so I still stand by the fact that we can get it done. But my goodness. I mean, this illustrates better than anything that there needs to be a purge in terms of the culture. Right. In terms of who they bring in. And that’s really the challenge right now is, is how do you get good people in there when it is such a mess and they have so many lawsuits, not just this one that they’re dealing with. I think the total number is about six right now. It’s been bad leadership with bad instincts. And so you’ve got to get good people in there. And that’s going to take some time.
S30: And we saw that damarcus Beasley Index McCarty also criticize U.S. soccer. And I was struck because I remember we talked about this previously about the idea that the men, the U.S. Mint, members of the national team, the U.S. soccer’s women’s national team, have been sort of missing in action through a lot of this battle over the years. But, you know, you finally had a couple of men’s soccer team players speaking up. Do you think that you’ve had enough support like that, you know, recently now that things are sort of shifting in the tide of sort of turning?
S26: I think it’s encouraging that you’re seeing more of them speak up. And I don’t think I mean, I think they’ve been advised to keep quiet, but their legal team. But I don’t think anyone is served if we’re not working in this together. It’s why I proposed. Listen, let’s go to a revenue share model where similar what we’re seeing with professional leagues is you take a percentage of that pot and all money goes into the pot. FIFA money, sponsorship money, broadcast rights, money, gate revenue, money. And the teams take an equal percentage. You’re not taking 100 percent of the pot. You’re taking a percentage of the pot because you still have to fund programming, youth development, Paralympics. Right. There’s all these other programs that U.S. soccer runs that you want to support as well. But the men and women take an equal share of that pot and people say, well, oh, the FIFA money is too big for the men’s side. Why should they share all that? Because I think you could argue right now that the sponsorship money that’s coming in from the women with their visibility and access far outweighs what the men are bringing in. So put it all into one pot, split it evenly. Get them all on the same page so that they’re not fighting each other every four years over a new CBA, trying to renegotiate new terms and keep up with the other team. They can get us all on the same page that we’re working together to grow the game together rather than right now. I feel like it’s a we want our piece of the pie and they want their piece of the pie. We’re not going to share and they’re not going to share. And then when the women do well, the men do well, and when the men do well, the women do well. And you’re in this together.
S32: Julie Foudy is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. She’s won lots of medals, too. She’s a commentator for ESPN. Julie, thank you so much for coming on the show.
S33: Thanks, you guys.
S25: That is the sound of some very good dogs at the start of the I did a rod in Anchorage on March 7th. Since then, almost every other sports event in America has of course, stopped. But the I did A-Rod is kind of the quintessential social distancing sport and musher, a team of sled dogs a thousand miles across the Alaska snow. So on they go. The current leader is Thomas Worner of Norway. He was about 30 miles ahead of the other 50 teams as the doggies hit the Bering Sea coast on Sunday. To get a handle on is a reporter with Alaska Public Media. She’s been covering the race and she joins us from Anchorage to them. Hey, thanks for having me. Well, I made it sound a little bit like the coronavirus isn’t an issue at the I did A-Rod, which isn’t true. The mushers are pretty isolated out there, but there is a big infrastructure around the race. So let’s start there. Alaska had its first confirmed covered 19 case on Thursday and schools were shut down until the end of the month. Did I did a rod officials consider halting the race.
S34: So race officials have said as of this weekend, they haven’t considered stopping the race to Nome. They have, however, made some changes. And we saw those changes roll out kind of rapidly starting Friday after Alaska had its first confirmed case of coronavirus under sort of curious to know because they mentioned a lot of these towns.
S35: And even though I think there was an update about a town that had had a dig, a trail around, because they were sort of, you know, closing up for a corona virus. But how much do these Alaskan towns depend on that? Did Arata there, like other economic fortunes, tied in any way with this race?
S34: Yeah. So, you know, communities along the trail are usually really excited for the idea to ride, to come through. There is potlucks. People, you know, kind of flock to that. The buildings that are up set up as the check points where mushers come in to eat and rest. They bring down food, they bring down drinks. There’s usually a lot of kids around who want to get autographs from the mushers or give them little gifts for the rest of their trail. So it’s usually this really excited, joyous time across Alaska as these mushers make their way to Nome. And in Nome, particularly, which is an old gold mining town in western Alaska, it’s a big deal and it’s a big economic generator. And that’s kind of what we should talk about, is we do talk about how the idea to ride is the, you know, kind of the ultimate form of social distancing when we talk about sports. Right. You mentioned mushers are traveling a thousand miles across a really remote rural parts of Alaska. But with them come this whole troupe of people and it includes pilots, veterinarians, volunteers, reporters. And that is what these communities along the trail have raised some concerns about, that there are just so many people traveling with the race that could be carrying Kovac, 19. And that’s why we started to see some of the changes, including, as you mentioned, two checkpoints in check to and new Lardo asked racers to bypass their villages completely. And I guess also, you know, important to note that these villages are really small. There’s between 200 and 250 people and they don’t have access to robust health care. So there are concerns about Corona virus spreading and not having the infrastructure to deal with it.
S25: I was reading a piece in the Anchorage Daily News about the village you mentioned Chuck Toolate. And it’s a lovely piece because of the residents sort of rally. They found an abandoned house or shed outside of town. They dug the snow out of it and they basically refurbished it so that the mushers and their teams could stay there and root rather than going through the small village. But the thing in that story, Teagan, that really like stopped me cold was how one woman who was quoted at a middle school teacher said her husband’s great grandmother survived the 1918 flu. And it really does just sort of strike you that. Wow. You know, you mentioned the lack of health care. These small towns are at peril. And and the people must be worried, too. Are the are the residents worried or the mushers concerned? I mean, were they finding out about this while they were out in the middle of nowhere?
S34: Yeah, they were. And, you know, we have to remember that the mushers started this race in a world that was different than it is today, at least in Alaska. That was different than it is today. We hadn’t had our first coronavirus case yet when the race started. Coronavirus hadn’t been labeled a pandemic yet. And so mushers as their. Racing, they’ve been learning about kind of just how significant the changes are that are being made across Alaska. In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus from, you know, closing schools to shutting down our public university system, at least in terms of in-person classes. So mushers is you know, we have a reporter out there, his name, Zachariah Hughes. He’s our trail reporter. And he’s been letting us know that mushers are reacting in a wide range of reactions or comments from. Wow. I cannot believe this is happening at too. Wow. I’m really glad I’m out here right now and disconnected from everything, too. You know, it’s important. Remember Thomas Warner, the front runner, he’s from Norway. So he right now is dealing with concerns about how to get him and his dogs home from Nome. We actually our reporter, Zach, talked to him earlier in the race and he said his wife decided to fly back to Norway earlier because she was concerned that she wasn’t going to be able to get home. So she won’t be at the finish line as she had planned and then to pivot to folks in the community and what they’re saying. I talked to the superintendent of the school district in the region on Friday, and he said, you know, we really hate to inconvenience everyone. We’re not happy that we have to shut our schools down to visitors and make these changes. But our health care system is just so tenuous and we really have to do our part to try to stop the spread of this of this virus, of Corona virus. So there was certainly concern from folks living in the community, certainly some disappointment of what they’ve had to do to adapt in these coronavirus times. But that’s kind of what we’re hearing so far.
S36: So it sounds like there’s a lot of concern, obviously, for the Corona virus and preparations for what might happen, you know, if it becomes a problem or if there are more cases that are discovered there.
S37: So is there even a lot of energy or enthusiasm or other race right now or like are people really paying that much attention to it up there like they would normally because of this, a very understandable distraction going on?
S34: Yeah, that’s a good question. I would say some people certainly are. There are, you know, a lot of die hard. They did A-Rod fans. And in some ways it does kind of like provide a nice distraction from the Corona virus reality that we’re all living in. So I think there are some people who are certainly still paying attention. But I do think it is, you know, muted to a degree because of all of the news about the in Alaska, about the state’s response to Corona virus. And, you know, also across the country and across the globe as all of these different precautions and responses are taken. So I would say there is still a level of enthusiasm and interest. However, it is definitely quelled a bit by the current corona virus climate.
S38: And, you know, more of the race ends. It sounds like they’ve basically shut down all of the sort of festivities after the winter crosses the finish line. I guess there’s a there’s a big event. There’s a basketball tournament and all that’s been shut down, which has to mute the excitement of the race and drive home the reality that everybody’s living. But I think we should end sort of on an upbeat note. And I really loved your profile, Teagan, of some of the dogs that are racing in the I did a rod dodge focused knucklehead mask of the teacher’s pet juk the life of the party. Who is your favorite dog? Lilith. Let’s go out on a sweet note.
S39: That is a good question. Yeah, I’ve been so I’ve been covering the race for this is my fifth year covering the I did right. I’m usually out on the trail this year. I’m helping from Anchorage. But every year almost we’ve been doing these dog profiles because we talk so much about the mushers. But there’s also hundreds of dogs out there and we find there’s nothing mushers like talking about as much as their dogs. Hard to pick, but I think my favorite dog profile is Sparky.
S34: Sparky was the sensitive soul and a dog on Ali Zirkle team. And if anyone has time, we have this. I did a pod podcast and you can listen to Zirkle explain Sparky’s personality herself. It’s very amusing. It’s a good respite during the Corona virus times. Sparky’s real name is Sparky. But he goes by Sparky Duda. He’s a six year old dog on Zirkle team. And what I thought was amusing was Zirkle talked about how Sparky needs a lot of TLC. He really needs a lot of talking, too. He needs a lot of massages and he really operates best if he just gets a lot of attention. So I think I like Sparky dude best.
S38: Don’t we all need a lot of attention on the. Can handle him. He’s a reporter with Alaska Public Media. To hear more. Some links to some of your stories, including the profiles of the doggies on our show page.
S40: Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. That’s our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate Dot.com Slash hang up and you can e-mail us at hang up at Slate.com. If you’re still here, I’m guessing you might want even more. Hang up and listen. In our bonus segment this week, Joel and I talked about the death of March Madness and what we are missing.
S41: It is sort of a seasonal national rite of passage, right, that we all sort of rally around this. We understand that, you know, people find community and selection Sunday, these online bracket pools that you have with officemates that you may never speak with otherwise, but you’re part of their bracket pool to hear that conversation.
S40: Join Slate plus four just to thirty five dollars for the first year. You can sign up at slate.com slash hang up. Plus for Joe Anderson on Stefan FATSIS, remember Zelma Obeidi? And thanks for listening.
S42: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members, Joel. Let’s talk about March Madness or anti March Madness or non March Madness. Not going to say March sadness, I guess I did just say March Madness, because that was kind of the saddest tweet, most obvious tweet of last week.
S35: Sometimes the most obvious comment is the most necessary one, the one that most accurately captures the sentiment right now. Yeah. No. The Double-A tournament. You know, they canceled it last week and it took Rudie go bear for them to understand that it was real.
S36: Nancy Double-A to that point had seemed to be leaning toward staging the tournament just without fans at the regionals and the sweet 16 elite, eight men at the final four, which would have been bizarre enough. But then, you know, within I think it was about a day or two, they decided to go ahead and cancel the tournament as they should. And I’m just sort of curious and I don’t I have to say that I’m speaking for myself here. But is anybody really going to miss March Madness this year? Has anybody been paying attention to college basketball like that? Like, do you have an idea of who the top four seeds would have been?
S43: Stefan, Dave, San Diego State.
S44: You know, I mean, I was aware that this was an unusual year and that there were some mid-majors near the top. Gonzaga, of course, was up there, too. But look, obviously, you’ve got a piece that’s gonna get published on Slate soon and you point out something that’s really true, that the top college basketball player in the country this year was a woman. It was Sabrina Ionesco of Oregon. But that’s not what propels March Madness. Joel, it’s it’s the tournament itself. And picking teams that you are interested in watching because of the name on the jersey and having some sort of rooting interest. I mean, I was going to go up to Boston to I’m a little embarrassed to admit this publicly and go to the Ivy League basketball tourney because I’ve been following my anti-modern panel all season while my buddy lives in Boston and we were going to go to the Games. So there’s that. You know, it’s that psychological connection to this event that the NCAA obviously has marketed the shit out of for the last 30 years and turned it into this multi-billion dollar colossus that we all are a part of.
S36: Right. And I mean, I and I don’t mean to under undersell it at all, because it is sort of a seasonal national rite of passage. Right. That we all sort of rally around this. We understand that, you know, people find community and selection Sunday, these online bracket pools that you have with officemates that you may never speak with otherwise, but you’re part of their bracket pool. And finding out who say, you know, Bryce Drew is you know, Bryce Drew, I believe he played a Valparaiso. I know I remember him specifically, but that moment stands out in particular. But play it, you know, mid-major players, players for major teams that play minor roles who become stars in that moment. And, you know, we sort of we’re going to miss out on that. And I mean, you know, it’s something to miss the NBA regular season.
S35: It’s something to miss golf tournaments, although I guess we’ll find out. I’m not a huge golf fan, but I’m sure missing the Masters will be something that will resonate to people. And another sort of way. But the idea that the NCW, a tournament could get canceled like this. It just really, really just hits you over the head. Like nobody cares if the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t play on whatever random Wednesday there is. But the opportunity to see Duke lose or to see Kansas go for a national championship or to see how Dayton actually fares against the big boys, that is going to be something that we would have been talking about, whether or not we cared about the players in particular or not. It’s sort of march sadness that that’s not going to happen.
S42: And yet for all of that, the NCAA was so on browned at the end of last week in terms of how they were approaching the potential loss of their of their their golden goose this year. I mean, Mark Emmert did a long interview with ESPN. And you mentioned up top when we started talking about this, that is that the NCAA thought they could still pull this off. And that to me is just like it’s just like, whoa, that’s very NCAA sort of like how the NFL is going forward with business as usual. Our sports colossus think that they are sort of bigger than society and it takes them a while to process the magnitude of events and it leads to some tone deaf decisions. I mean, even Mark Emmert in this ESPN interview admits he says, quote, We were completely convinced at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday that we could conduct the championship without fans by controlling the sites effectively, which is I mean, admittedly, how a lot of us were thinking. And it wasn’t until. They’re tested positive that armored said they decided to lock it down. But even then after that, they had conversations about possibly holding a 16 team event without any fans in one place. Over the weekend.
S37: How are you still thinking this after the NBA said we’re done? Well, I mean, I get it right and I don’t want to excuse them because college sports is inexcusable on its own merits. Right. But consider that the NCAA ballet makes eight hundred billion dollars each year from this television deal alone to broadcast the tournament.
S36: And that makes up more than 75 percent of their yearly revenue. So they are very, very dependent on this. And there are a lot of small, much smaller schools. The Lafayette’s the, you know, Colorado states, you know, schools even smaller than that. So a lot of HBCU use that depend on a little bit a cut of that money. That is not going to get it. I understand why they thought they might need to press ahead. But last week, again, there were a lot of us that had no clue about how dangerous this was going to get or how how bad things were going to get. Because I remember when we did the emergency podcast that night, that night before we did the emergency podcast, there’d been conference basketball games that were conference basketball tournament. We had played that night, games that were scheduled and that were being canceled while we were recording it. So, you know, this is a lifeline for them. And I understand why they sort of had to, you know, really grapple with what are we going to do here? But yeah, ultimately, I mean, this is, quote, amateur sports. The whole theory behind it is that they care about the players and their lives, their livelihoods and their health. And you can’t we couldn’t risk that in addition to that. Beyond that, you you’re worried about them getting infected and passing it on to people that are much less, you know, vibrant and viral than they are. Right. So, yeah, it makes sense why the NCAA push so hard. But in the end, they had to bend the knee like everybody else.
S32: Yeah, it’s hot damn now. You know, we have NBA players, baseball, minor leaguer, top-flight soccer players in Europe. Nobody is is is is going to be excused from from testing positive for the Corona virus. Joel, before we wrap it up, you know, you wrote about some things that you were kind of excited to see. And I want to indulge your loss or your ability to sort of time travel and imagine what you would be rooting for, had determined not been canceled. What would you what were you psyched about?
S35: Well, I definitely was looking forward to see Baylor be a number one seed and possibly lose to either 16 seed or lose in the second round to our eight or nine seed. And I say that, you know, as a T-C you fan, obviously, I don’t think Baylor deserves anything nice to happen to them. And I don’t. I’m not embarrassed to say it, but it would have been delightful to see them lose in a really crushing way. I was really excited to see what the hell Rudy Flyer, the Dayton mascot, was. And I know about you. I’ve not watched a lot of Dayton basketball or Dayton athletics of any kind over the last few years. And so I would have really loved to see that mascot, their head coach. Anthony Grant, who used to be the head coach of the University of Alabama for a few years. And so we would have learned all about that. Right. So those are two things in particular. And also, you know, Kansas is even though it’s a powerhouse program and, you know, one of the five, you know, I guess one of the five winningest programs probably in my lifetime. And they’ve even won a couple of national championships within my lifetime. They still have this sort of like little engine that could field them. You know, when it comes to like the Dukes in the North Carolina’s in the Kentucky’s, and they would have been a number one seed. They were the number one ranked team in the country this year. And I would have loved to have either seen them win or lose in agonizing fashion because it following Jayhawks fans on Twitter when they’re in the tournament is sort of a fascinating event in and of itself. And, you know, seeing them, you know, bite their fingernails and, you know, live in anxiety would have been a lot of fun. But I guess we won’t build us up to wait till next year, because I’m sure there’ll be, you know, number three in the country, twenty seven and five. And then you go down to the wire against the 13 seed in the second round at some point. So maybe, you know, we’ll get a chance to see that next year.
S32: There’s a very long story on the Web site of Dayton University about the creation of the mascot really fly Rudy Shriller. Yeah. You know, there’s a predecessor that was called Dean Bird. Which way? From a name that has not aged well.
S36: Yeah, I think that’s pretty cool. That sounds like a rapper, Cleaver.
S32: Yeah. Deeper. Yeah. Yeah. The Rudy though. Yeah. Oh, Marge to the Wright brothers. That’s why they’re called the Flyers. Dayton, Ohio. Yeah.
S42: Well, I’m scrolling and I’m still not near the bottom of the story. Why is that? We’ll post the you please. On the on the show page, by maybe 2021, there will be a college basketball tournament. But I don’t want to sound fatalistic or anything, but maybe there won’t be University of Virginia.
S35: They get to be the defending national champions for yet another year. So that which is just perfect. Was one of the ugliest, worst perform, you know. I mean, just they play such a ugly brand of basketball and they get to be the next champ for another year. Couldn’t think of a better cherry on the top of this shit sundae for college basketball.
S32: Joel, thank you as always. Thank you. Stefan and Slate Plus members. Thank you for being Slate plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.