S1: The following podcast contains naughty language.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor. This is Hang Up and Listen for the week of September 8th, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll be joined from inside the NBA bubble by The Washington Post’s Ben Gulliver. He’ll talk with us about the cratering of the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks and other happenings from the pro basketball playoffs. Tennis player Noah Rubin will also be here to talk about life in the U.S. Open bubble and top seed Novak Djokovic disqualification from the tournament after he hit a lines person with a ball. Finally, we’ll speak with Dom Cosentino of the score. But what to expect from the NFL this season?
S3: And yes, the NFL is starting this week on Thursday. Actually, I am the author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four. I’m in Washington, D.C. Joel Anderson, our friend and colleague, is off this week, but with me from his home office in D.C. as well, Stefan Fatsis. He’s the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan. Hey, Josh. So we’re going to talk about this and our bonus segment for Slate plus members coming up. But we were just talking off the air that this might have been the busiest sports week ever. I mean, at least since we’ve been doing the show, we’re actually trying to think of what sports are not happening now and could not think of it now.
S4: And it’s the combination of things that should have been happening now that are happening even though we expected them not to be happening. And then the things that we’re not supposed to be happening now because they should have been happening earlier in the year that are happening now. So, yeah, it’s a crazy confluence of too much going on.
S3: We could have done two other shows with stuff we didn’t talk about, but we will discuss how we’ve been consuming this busy time on the sports calendar.
S5: And our bonus segment on Sunday in Orlando, the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks beat the Miami Heat in overtime in game four of the Eastern Conference semifinals. That was a good thing for Milwaukee, certainly. But the overall basketball picture for the bucks, it’s still pretty grim. They’re down three one in the series. League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo missed most of that game with an ankle injury. It’s at least possible the fans won’t ever play for the bucks again. It’s possible his next NBA game will be for their opponent, the Miami Heat. Joining us now from the NBA bubble has been our Ben writes about the NBA for The Washington Post. He podcast’s about the NBA on the show’s open floor and my personal favorite, greatest of all time. He’s also writing a book called Bubble Ball will be out in May twenty twenty one if we as a species make it that far. Ben, thank you for being here.
S6: It’s my pleasure. And thank you for all of those plugs. You nailed every single one. I appreciate it.
S5: No problem, sir. All right. John Hollinger wrote a piece for the Athletic about how the Bucs demise in these playoffs is a complicated and nuanced story. But we’re all very busy people here, Ben. We don’t have the patience for French words like nuance explained to me. I’m an idiot who is short on time. Why have the Bucs gone from a historically great regular season team to a playoff flop?
S6: There’s a bunch of things going on. I think, first of all, they just never looked like the same team here in the bubble than they did during the regular season. Now, during the regular season, it was a juggernaut team. They were heading for records, the top seed home court advantage all the way through the playoffs. But once they got here, the vibe was just not quite the same. And we heard from some of their players early on, you know, should we even be playing? Is this a distraction from the social justice movement? George Howell was sort of loud and vocal on that issue. They had a couple of players test positive for the coronavirus, which delayed their arrival down to Florida. And I think that shook up, you know, their their chemistry, their cohesion. I think you also with their MVP, yanase, identical, but he had a brand new newborn baby at home who he was separated with for four more than a month. I imagine that would be a factor as soon as the Bucs were allowed to bring family members here, his girlfriend and baby were sitting courtside immediately the first day they were allowed. So I wonder if if that weighed on their emotions as well. But once they got on the court here, they’ve they’ve had a losing record. Their offense has not looked as smooth as it did during the regular season. Obviously, that starts with the honest himself. He’s struggled in the playoffs to be as consistent and dominant as he was during the regular season. And then I think there’s been real questions about their defense. Their entire strategy on defense is predicated around protecting the paint and giving up three point shots. The math pencils out on that for them. During the regular season, they had the number one defense before the shutdown. But here in the neutral site where everyone shooting the ball well were offenses are going crazy, where all sorts of role players are having their moments in the sun. The math has kind of changed and they’ve been outshot and kind of outscored in games both during the restart regular season and here during the playoffs against the Miami Heat as well. So I think that they’ve been slow to adapt. They’ve been slow to bring their team together and they just haven’t looked right. I think there is no way if you had only seen the Bucs play down here at Disney World. You would have ever guessed they were the overall number one seed.
S1: Is that a failure of Mike Budenholzer the head coach to make adjustments that he needed to make in this weird environment? Or is it some combination of other teams figuring out the Bucs weaknesses and exploiting them in this weird environment?
S6: I definitely put a lot on his shoulders. You know, Patrick Beverley had that famous quote, The bubble is what you make it. And you could even see that with media members like I feel at home. I’m ready for another bubble next season. And that makes me probably a weirdo. But I think I’ve settled in pretty well here and you kind of make the most of it. I know some of my colleagues were, like, dying to get out of here as quickly as possible, counting down the days and looking towards their freedom. It’s a real mental challenge. It throws your entire life upside down. You’re cut off from loved ones and all that stuff. And I think ultimately it’s the coach’s responsibility to bring their teams together. When they got down here, let them know what was sort of what the task at hand was, find ways to keep them happy and motivated and just sort of rebuild things after a long shutdown. I’m not sure Milwaukee ever did that. Their vibe just hasn’t been the same kind of goofy, happy vibe they had during the regular season at all. And in fact, you could you could see how wrought the the emotions got when they decided to walk out from their game against the Orlando Magic to protest the social justice issues. You could even tell from their quotes afterwards how sort of heartbroken they were. And so I think to a certain degree, coming into that Miami series, they just weren’t ready emotionally, psychologically and then strategically as well for that series. I think they were just really shaken up. And you can’t put that on Budenholzer necessarily, but I think overall the buy in factor you certainly can attribute to him. And then within this series specifically, there’s a lot of things you can nit pick. I mean the minutes management not playing his superstar level players Giannis and Khris Middleton more than thirty five or thirty six minutes in must win games not adjusting his defense in his lineups. Once it became clear that the other teams were shooting the ball very well and really just bombing from outside so he doesn’t really change things up. He just kind of lets that happen. In game one, Jimmy Butler is going absolutely crazy. He never thinks to change up his defensive matchups there. He just lets it happen. And and now they’re in one hole. There’s a lot of different things you could say. You know, budenholzer just being a little bit slow on the draw and being more reactive rather than proactive. And you can contrast it to Erik Spoelstra and Brad Stevens, who I both I think both had their teams down here with sort of a business trip mentality. We’re pulling things together. Both those teams, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have played very well here in the bubble. They’ve looked very steady, they’ve looked stable. And I think ultimately like that, that matters. And that’s why Coach Bud’s going to have a lot to answer for this offseason.
S5: So I guess there’s always the question of how much any of the stuff matters, even in a normal season. But in the context of the NBA, obviously, the entire purpose of it is to win a championship. But do you have a sense being in the bubble if and maybe it’s just hard to say, like maybe just all seems like ex post facto like and you’re drawing conclusions based on the results. But are you able to sense whether there are certain teams that are looking at this as like this is just like any other postseason, any other playoffs? Like it’s incredibly, massively important for us to win. And are there other teams that are like this is just a weird, unusual season? And if we don’t, you know, when it’s not like a normal year and we can’t we’re not going to be all broken up about it.
S6: It’s a great question. I’m glad you asked it, because we’re in the final eight round, basically. And I’ve noticed kind of a change in tone, just a change in every demeanor around the entire bubble experience. When they first brought the twenty two teams down here, there was a lot of teams and players who knew they had no shot whatsoever to win. Right. So you hear the reports about guys trying to order the the postman’s delivery to the bubble and getting in trouble for that and just, you know, all the other high jinks that was going on early on. And then I think there was a long period where it was all about the political activism, where guys were using every single interview, pregame post game, whatever it might be, to sort of get a message out. And here this week, now that we’re down to the eight teams, it’s been really strictly business. I mean, if you go back and watch a lot of the postgame press conferences, there’s very little mention of any of the whether it’s Briana Taylor or Jacob Blake or any of those kinds of issues that almost has gone to the back burner, completely off the off the stove. And it’s all been basketball. So I do think we have a really locked in basketball environment right now. The teams that are here sort of have that mentality of like, look, we’ve put in two months down in Disney World. We might as well get whatever we can out of this. And that’s sort of what you would expect. Now, is there going to be an actress? Are people going to treat this one differently? I mean, that’s obviously out of their their control. But the teams who are down here, I do think are really focused on on trying to see this thing through the finish line. And you can see that with just the intensity of the defensive effort. I mean, earlier in the playoffs, even the first round or back to the seeding games, I mean, we were consistently seeing just crazy high scoring totals. Lots and lots of shootouts. Right. I think you’ve seen a little bit more back and forth to play here over the last week or so, the Clippers Nuggets series has been absolutely compelling.
S7: And I think you’re seeing some of the things that you’re explaining here between two teams that are locked in, two teams that are playing defense.
S1: And the big example of that was from Monday night’s game, where Kawhi Leonard stuck his middle finger up in front of the rim and blocked Jamal Murray from dunking. It’s not clear to me that Jamal Murray had the right elevation and also the dunk there. So I think we’re giving Kawhi a little bit more. But damn, that was an incredible block. I mean, that series has been fascinating because it felt like, well, the Clippers have are constructed to win this. And we are now seeing that this Nuggets team led by Jokic This huge guy is putting up a real fight and it’s creating some tension. You’re seeing some criticism after the games from players. It does feel more like a real sort of intense series where both teams have things to say about the other.
S6: Yeah, let’s credit the Clippers fan section two because they brought a lot of people down, the wives and girlfriends of the children, and they’re very loud. They’re probably the biggest of the fan sections in the building. And so a lot of these playoff games, they’ve been played with intensity on the court, but just this weird flatness, sterility off the court. I mean, like, for example, this Toronto, Boston game five. I mean, that’s like a do or die pivotal game five. You know, one team’s going on to the conference finals. One team’s probably going home after that. And Boston comes out with this incredible performance. You’d imagine if that happened in TD Garden, just the entire place would be rocking. It’d be so loud or if it had happened on the road in Toronto, it would just be this really pained home crowd. And they’re trying to wrap their minds around the end of a season. And here it’s happening is empty, Jim. And there’s almost no response in the writers are left to kind of craft all the storylines, the narratives on top of this game. Right. But in that Clippers Nuggets series, yeah, the Clippers fans section is just very loud. The Clippers play to them a lot, which is nice. They look over and kind of salute them, which which adds an interesting element that’s new here. But the intensity is up. It’s funny, though, because the Clippers to me, they’re the deepest and most talented team and they are actually the team that has taken the longest to get serious about this entire environment. It’s like they could turn it on for quarters. They could turn it on for a six minute stretch. They might fall behind by ten or fifteen points and find a way to dig out of it just because they know they’re the best. I think they have that sort of swagger, even though they haven’t won a title together, they just kind of feel like they’re the Kings on the block. And we saw that against Dallas, where they were digging, digging out and making some comebacks. I think we saw that as well against Denver in game three, where they feel like they can flip the switch. I think their behavior and their approach is actually starting to drive Doc Rivers a little bit crazy, like he just wishes they would come out in sixth gear and and put some of these teams away earlier. But their ceiling is very high as a team. You know, it starts with Kawhi Leonard, not just the defense, but the shotmaking in games and his ability to get to his spots. Paul George, who took a lot of criticism earlier in the playoffs, has stepped up. It is really in a nice scoring group. He’s feeling well. And then you are starting to get there. The trash talk element which the Clippers thrive on. They want to be the bad guys. They want to be the the most hated. That’s sort of their goal. And and Patrick Beverley was just sort of needling Nikola Jokic last night in his postgame press conference, basically saying that he just flails and he’s trying to sell calls to the official and he brought Luchador charge into it, said basically they’re both just floppers essentially. And Patrick Beverley had an amazing ability to anger multiple fan bases after a game which they won. I mean, not every player can do that. He’s got a unique knack for it.
S5: I want to talk for a second about Lakers Rockets because I’m obsessed with two players in the series, both on the Rockets, PJ Tucker and Russell Westbrook. First of all, PJ Tucker is the best player in the NBA to we can we can speculate that second second of all, the worst thing that happened to the Lakers in game two was when Westbrook got his fifth foul and had to leave the game. Westbrook was so bad in that game and as soon as he left the floor, the rockets like unlocked the rockets, the rockets offense. Everything was flowing smoothly. Then he gets gets back on the court and everything just completely falls apart for them. Again, like the Russell Westbrook experience never disappoints over years and years. They count up and down. He has his ability to kind of take over a game and both good and terrible ways. Am I correct to be compelled by these two players on the rockets?
S6: Ben, I’m with you on both counts. So first of all, with Tucker, he’s the kind of guy who should have his jersey retired and a statue out front of the stadium for Houston. Like, I think when they look back on this era, obviously the fans like and respect Harden. But I feel like the one player who is actually beloved on this Rockets team by Rockets fans would be PJ Tucker and rightfully so. And it’s also funny because I think they’re one of the most disliked teams around the league. People don’t like their. Style, you know, they get down on Harden, is he a choker as Westbrook out of control, D’Antoni doesn’t care about defense like all those anti rockets tropes, but amazingly, PJ Tucker has. He’s the exception to every criticism. Everyone’s like always gives him a pass. He’s like basketball. Twitter’s Hall of Fame member, you know what I mean?
S8: The good question would be who’s the second most like player on the rockets?
S6: Oh, man. I think maybe, maybe, maybe I’m not sure. They have to be honest. I think it might just be PJ Tucker and the rest. But on the Westbrook point, I’ve had this maxim and people make fun of me for using it. But I say, you know, the best point guards and the best players, they they don’t play with purpose. They play with a purpose. In other words, they’re not just playing hard, they’re playing smart. They’re seeing the entire chessboard. They have an idea of what they want to do when they’re on the court. And game two, Westbrook had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do. As he put it after the game, he was just out there running around. I think it perfectly encapsulated the idea behind my maxim, you know, just being just, you know, running around at full speed, trying to make an impact, but really having no rhyme or reason to what you’re doing can be incredibly damaging. I was trying to rack my brains. I don’t know if you guys have played this hypothetical game. Can you remember a more damaging performance by an NBA MVP in a playoff game then Westbrook in that game? I can’t remember it. I thought he was actually the Lakers MVP because during that stretch when he had five fouls, they didn’t take him out immediately. And so LeBron, I hunted him like three or four or five possessions in a row, just getting basket after basket after basket. I mean, the entire game turned there. They squandered all of Houston’s momentum, not to mention the seven turnovers, many of which led directly to Lakers points. I mean, I think you could have a real conversation. Who was the Lakers MVP in that game, LeBron Anthony Davis or Russell Westbrook? I mean, it was like on that level of impact, you know, single handedly swung the game. So he’ll need to bounce back in the rest of the series. But I think if I was a Rockets fan, I would have already been very dubious of the Westbrook trade and the overall impact on my organization. I would have just preferred the stability of a Chris Paul and to try to keep their personalities aligned between him and James Harden again. Now you watch how things played out in that game, too. It would have made me turn the television off, frankly.
S7: Ben, you mentioned earlier that you’re kind of a weirdo for the fact that you like being down on the bubble watching on TV. I don’t feel like we really have a sense of how strange these games must be. What are some of the things that being there courtside or wherever they have you sitting will stick with you and that you are eager to write about in bubble ball?
S6: Well, probably the number one thing is when the guys run out onto the court, they have they now pump in the fake crowd noise. And so there there will be like less than one hundred people actually in the building and the guys will run out on the court and wave to the crowd as if it’s like a crowd of twenty thousand people. And it’s just sort of like this this fake symbol. It’s like I don’t know if it’s for the benefit of the television cameras or if they’re just doing it as a joke. I mean, it started as a joke, but guys have continued to do it. So that’s always kind of underscored things. I’ll remember a lot of the trash talk last night, for example, or even just talk between teammates. Serge Ibaka was so frustrated at Kyle Lowry for getting a technical foul. They were down, I think, twenty four points at the time, trying desperately to make a comeback. Any blockages? Shouts out, Come on, man, we’re losing. And he points up to the scoreboard and Lowry is kind of chased and he’s like, OK, I’m done. I’m done arguing with the officials. And you just get this very intimate look or glance at team dynamics or player referee interactions in ways that you would you never see otherwise. One of my favorite moments from the entire bubble actually involved Chris Paul, and everyone knows he’s always working the officials. And there was a moment where he had tried to complain and argue his opinion to an official that he hadn’t fouled LeBron James and the officials just really weren’t listening to him. So he came all the way down the court and sought out Monty McCutchen, who is like sort of the czar of the NBA referees, and he’s sitting courtside right in front of the media section at almost every game. And so essentially what Chris Paul did was he took his complaints to the manager. Right. He asked to to go up the chain of command. And he’s engaged in this long back and forth with Monty McCutchen about was it a foul? Did what did Mantic wasn’t, you know, Chris Paul right to be aggrieved? And, you know, ultimately it got so extended of a conversation, he came back after halftime to continue it and he wanted to approach Monty McCutchen by the bench and sort of continue this. And at that point, Monty had to remind him, like, look, because of our covid guidelines, I can’t come on to the court and you can’t come over here to this seat. So we need to we can continue talking. You can continue to make your appeal to the manager here, but we have to stay socially distant at least ten feet apart. And so, again, it was just the levels of all the weirdness where the media is actually able to hear this conversation going on. We have these guidelines that say you can go in this area, you can’t go in this area and just everything else on top of it. No fan noise to. Obstruct all of it, it’s just one of those situations where this will never happen again in a non bubble environment, and you just see people, I think, distilled down to their true essence in the bubble. I think there’s really no hiding here. You are who you are. And if you’re Monty McCutchen and you’ve got an open ear to play your complaints and you’re just a nice guy and you want to talk things out, that’s how you’re who you’re going to be in the bubble if you’re Chris Paul. And every single time a foul is called on you, you feel like you’re being wronged. Well, that’s who you’re going to be in the bubble, too.
S8: Are they not allowed to show the friends and family said, Stefan, have you seen it on TV?
S1: No. I mean, I’ve been wondering when I hear fan noise, whether it’s piped in or whether it’s whoever is sitting in the stands. And my assumption has been that it’s team personnel.
S5: But why wouldn’t they show the, like, family members then?
S6: So most of the noise you’re hearing on television will be piped in. There is a lot of piped in music piped in sound effect, and they actually have like customized music for each of reinsured customized sound effects from your home arenas to try to to your home team advantage the home court advantage. Right, right. And all the players laugh at that. They all say it doesn’t make a difference. I have no idea if it does, but they’ve ramped up the audio. It’s actually kind of annoying. I wish they would turn it down a little bit in the the arena. But every once in a while, I’ve heard from people watching at home that they will cut to the crowd section, just kind of tight shots of fans. I think part of the reason why they don’t do it more often is because it’s still weird, because we’re still only talking about like twenty or twenty five people. And I think there’s some teams, frankly, I don’t even know how many people they brought, maybe five. You know, it’s there’s been some games with the rockets where you’ll see Daryl Morey standing up and cheering for dogs and three pointers. And you look around and there’s nobody else in his section. You’ve got to feel bad for the guy. It’s like, come on, you know, get him some support on this and the cheerleading department. But, yeah, I think they’re trying to keep all the action on that court as much as possible. They really tried to create a stage, a television stage with the lighting, with the microphones that they’ve got picking up the sneaker squeaks and all that stuff to sort of, I guess, compensate for the other limitations they have, because these are very basic gyms. I mean, they would function very well as like a high school gym. Right, at a mid-sized high school. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of schools around the country that have sort of a more impressive like facility here than what the NBA is working with.
S5: Bengaluru writes for The Washington Post, has podcasts are open floor and greatest of all, talk the book, which you can preorder despite the fact that it doesn’t exist. It’s called Bubble Ball. Ben, thank you so much.
S9: Thanks for having me, guys.
S5: On Sunday at the U.S. Open, top seeded Novak Djokovic was behind in the first set to Pablo Carino booster when he smacked a ball into a Lions person’s neck. Djokovic didn’t hit the Lions person on purpose, but the rules are clear. If you hit an official with a ball or your racquet or anything else, you can get kicked out of the tournament. And after a short debate, Djokovic got defaulted. It was a bizarre episode and what’s been a bizarre tournament, one being held without fans and with quarantine rules that have been applied, shall we say, and consistently no. Rubin was in the U.S. Open bubble. He played doubles, losing in the first round with his partner, Nesto Escovedo. He’s also got a podcast of his own. It’s called Behind the Racket, and it’s part of a larger project to reveal what it’s like to try to make it as a pro tennis player to injuries, mental health struggles in the battle to make a living. Noah, thanks so much for being here now. Thank you for having me. So Noah Novak is the unquestioned best player on the men’s tour. He hadn’t lost all year Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal not playing in New York. He was an enormous favorite to win his 18th grand slam. And then he hits a lines person with a ball, which I don’t think any of us had on our 20 20 bingo card. What what did you think when you saw that or when you heard about it? And what did you make of the decision to disqualify him from the U.S. Open?
S10: You know, throughout this time, I think it’s pretty clear that they can they can mess up the rules and everything else. But if anything touches a lines person, even a ball boy at times, there’s no question. I mean, I’ve been a part of two Challenger tournaments, actually, where I’ve seen a racket hit off of something else, come down onto a lines person going actually minus miles per hour and they have to get kicked out.
S5: Those daring fighting in Charlottesville actually know what you’re talking about.
S10: Darren King and Charles are right there. And then my limited experience commentating a match was last year in Charlottesville again. And Michael Mo went to throw his racquet, hit a lines person, and that’s it. So it’s it’s so easy. I mean, as soon as he hit the ball, as soon as he saw where it landed, he knew it was going to happen.
S5: So actually, as somebody who’s seen this happen to lower ranked players, is it actually kind of a good thing in your mind that when it happened with the top player, there weren’t different rules that they just apply to consistently?
S10: Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen this done before. I’ve seen Nalbandian kick the side and then the wood breaks and it hits the lines. I mean, we’ve seen it done. This is the only rule that they stick to. No matter what happens, no matter who the player is, you can’t get around it. And especially this one. I mean, this one actually looked pretty bad. I mean, this is, you know, out of anger. A ball hit right to the neck. Can’t feel good. So this is one of those that you don’t really look at the video. You’re like, oh, might have been overly reacting to that situation. This this looked pretty bad.
S1: And the instant reaction was pretty much unanimous on ESPN that the rule was implemented correctly. Brad Gilbert VO did see the need to point out that Djokovic didn’t hit the ball overhand. He didn’t hit it that hard.
S4: He said he was flicking the ball in anger. And I just want to be clear here. When a professional tennis player decides to flick a ball, it’s going a lot faster than I would flick a ball the way that Djokovic did. Nothing was cruising. And clearly the woman was in agony.
S10: No, we’ve we’ve seen it done before where players are, like, kind of upset, but they just kind of I’ll use that term, flick a ball and it’s fine. It’s it almost on the arrival comes down and it hits you and everybody’s fine. Does it even feel a thing? This was a line drive that that ball wasn’t really had the trajectory of just going straight. So you’re looking at it and regardless of the intentions, ironic that there are no fans and still managed to hit somebody. But it’s this is the situation. And I guess the only person to beat Djokovic in twenty twenty had to be Djokovic.
S5: What was the experience like for you being in the bubble and want to get into the quarantine rules and have those kind of affected you? But before we get into the specifics of that, just you show up at the tennis centre, you’re there for a while and like, what is it like just being on the grounds? And as somebody who’s played in the US Open before, like, how do you compare this experience to past years?
S10: I mean, first I have to say how disappointed I am that my house is nine minutes away from the tournament hotel. So that’s tough. And I can’t get out to get the few things that I left at my place and forgot. But, um, yeah, I mean, the first few days are actually amazing. A dream come true. You know, for me, I’ve had so much pressure surrounding the week or two and even the week before the open, you know, getting texts from my third grade teacher saying, hey, you have any extra tickets? I was like, I don’t even have enough for my parents.
S5: So not dealing with that this year was actually pretty incredible for people who don’t know, you’ve been build’s for a long time as the best player out of New York since John McEnroe.
S10: This is my hometown. You know this. And I love playing in front of people, just not people. I know when it’s you know, I when I played Fed and Rod Laver, that’s fifteen thousand people I’ve never met. But it’s a little different when I there’s a thousand people I know every one of them. And they aren’t huge tennis fans. So if I lose a match against, like somebody 60 in the world, it’s like, oh, no, I should have had that one. Like, why’d you lose? And I’m like, this isn’t high school tennis. So it’s, you know, to not deal with that. Outside pressure was was actually really refreshing. And just to walk the grounds and not get the good old New York shoulder and the chest by accident or whatever else comes our way. It was nice. But then this is not open fault. It got boring. You know that I was there for ten days. There’s really not much to do is only so many times you can play mini golf. And I think they did what they could at times.
S11: But at Thursday, you only had about five hundred people spread out amongst all the practice courts, all the match courts and the grounds. There’s you can only when you look around, you see forty people around you.
S7: You were not pleased with how the tournament handled the protocols for players being removed. After testing positive for the coronavirus, a French player was kicked out. He had been around several other French players. And you were explain what happened. You were on the waiting list, right, to get into the singles drawer. What happened and what didn’t sit right with you now?
S11: Yeah, backpedal for a quick second. I mean, I praise them for how much work they put into creating this bubble. I mean, it was a massive undertaking. Sure. With that being said, the quote that we heard over and over and state, the tournament director said, we are preparing for positive tests as they should. I mean, this is you’re putting a lot of people from around the world in the same place. So here we are. And what player test positive automatically gets kicked out? Great. In my head, I’m like, I know people have spent immense time with him in close quarters. Then I was hearing rumors that there’s video of close quarters without masks. And so here I am thinking that I have a pretty good opportunity to get in. And this is because in normal years there would be qualifying and alternates. But there is no qualifying this year and the alternates can’t be from outside the bubble. And you have to be inside the bubble. And the only way to be and you have to be in the tournament and the only way to be in the tournament without playing singles is to be in the doubles draw. So they take the highest ranked singles guys from the doubles draw. So here I am in pretty good contention. My partner and I both in pretty good contention to get in through the contact tracing and knowing what would happen. But then Usted came out and said, working with the New York State Department of Health, we came up that we’re going to have a bubble within a bubble. And I was like, oh, interesting maneuver here. And I mean, long story short, it just seemed like they were paving their own path for success, that they were going to make this work, that there were top players that came in close contact that weren’t worth the risk of pulling out, that possibly, you know, losing those players would risk the tournament. And none of that sat well with me. I mean, here I am saying, you know, I’m from New York. I’m only I know what the rules are. covid is not new to us. We know that you can test eight times a day and the results might not prove positive until ten days later. Twelve days later. So, yeah, I guess they tried to move around. You can’t be in any common areas, but they’re still on the grounds are still practicing. They’re still going to their matches. We’re still in contact. And it seemed just like a tremendous disservice to everybody that put the tournament on all the workers that are working so hard, all the players that are here doing the right thing. And this is nothing against the players that came in close contact. But you pay the price. You pay the price of taking the risk of being next to somebody without a mask and all of this. So, you know, again, the players weren’t told this was going to happen. And then obviously we saw three days ago what took place. So we had a mannarino. His match was delayed about two and a half hours. It seemed like Nassau County either went back on the word or were confused about the original. Again, not a lot of communication was had with the players. So I can only guess from the knowledge I know and the information I know. So then we had all Danovitch got pulled out with our partner, who was a top top doubles team, and Mannarino, if Alexander Zverev would have been pulled out. So long story short, it just seemed like there pave their own path and made sure that no matter what happened, these players were going to play.
S5: Yeah. So the rules were inconsistently applied. I mean, as you mentioned, they allowed Mannarino after this like weird and long delayed actually play his match and then they didn’t.
S1: He was one of the French players that we’re in contact with Benoit, right?
S10: Yes. And to go back again.
S11: And the tournament before, which was Cincinnati and usually played in Cincinnati, was played at the U.S. Open this year, there was a physio that got tested positive and then his two players who came in close contact were immediately pulled out, Guido Pela and Hugo DeLeon. So there you go. You have two players that lost the opportunity to play in Cincinnati. It’s a lot of money and almost lost the opportunity to play in the U.S. Open. So another inconsistent move by the U.S. to say, hey, I guess we have to lay down the law here, but these seem like top players. So maybe we go or the US opens too big to make this judgment call. And I’m just like I mean, think a little bit more clear than that. Think about the larger picture. Why are we giving this? Is this wasn’t stopping the U.S. Open from going on. We would still be in the same position we are today. But why put sports on a higher pedestal than we are already? Make sure those players quarantine, make sure they’re healthy and make sure we can move on from this.
S5: Well, this is something that we thought would happen when all of these bubbles were created, whether it’s the NBA or the NHL or any other sports league. And it seems like, you know, based on what we’ve heard and read, that the bubbles have been extremely successful and that this was one of the first cases where it was really put to the test of whether when there is a breach and when there’s a positive test, are you going to follow the protocols? And, you know, you’re obviously self-interested here. Like it would have been a really big would have been a really big deal to make it into the to the singles. It’s like, you know, fifty thousand or sixty thousand dollars or something like that. So you have a you know, it’s a big thing in your career. It’s a big financial stake. And so and a big opportunity and a big opportunity. But I think you’re right, despite all of that, all that to note that, you know, it’s really hard when you’re put and forced to make a tough decision like this to do what you’ve said you’re going to do from the beginning and the US open us to whoever. They didn’t pass the test. But it’s a tough thing now.
S10: It’s not easy. It’s kind of been the icing on the cake. I mean, during the pandemic and what we’ve been dealing with, again, it’s just the cherry on top of making, quote unquote, tough decisions and not following through. It seems to be kind of their M.O. at this point between the seven entities that are tennis and the four grand slams. So it’s disappointing and it’s just proving that it’s time for change, time for a little bit of a evolution of sorts.
S5: So you’re involved in this movement to create a new players association. Djokovic is leading that along with Russia. So I guess how involved are you with it? And can you explain to folks what this new players association is and why, given all of the different alphabet soup that’s involved with tennis, why the need to start this new organization?
S10: Yeah, so, I mean, early in the pandemic, we thought that this would be the perfect time to enable change. You know, I started WhatsApp group text with one hundred and fifty tennis players just to pick their brains and speaking to the outside. And I found that there’s you know, if anything, we just need unity if we’re going to gain what is right for the players. Because just on a short term, players only get 14 percent prize money at the Grand Slams, seven and seven between the men and the woman. So that’s right there. Those numbers are very low compared to other sports. So, I mean, we’ve always I mean, between communication and safety, I feel like our needs are less.
S11: And there’s a lack there’s almost this hiding of fact where, you know, we’re the last ones to know about everything. They’re like, why did you find out from Twitter? I was like, I know when you guys know and it’s embarrassing. So during this time, we were pushing in different directions and there were rumors that Novak and Valchek were working on something larger.
S10: And people know that. I’ve had my differences with Novak in the past. I’ve spoken outwardly pretty aggressively about him during the Adria tour incidences and some of the things he was involved in.
S5: That’s the tour he put on in Europe. That was kind of a disaster with people testing positive for coronavirus. And it was he did not perform admirably in that circumstance.
S10: No, no, no masks, people hugging, players hugging and jumping around from country to country kind of spreading and they, quote unquote, didn’t know the situation at the time when we were five months into the pandemic. But, um, you know, what I will say about this is it’s scaring the ATP.
S11: It’s scaring them. I mean, throughout the full quarantine, we did not receive one full text message updating us, did not receive one full email from the ATP or any of the entities within this forty five minute meeting. Twenty minutes in, everybody looked at our phone and we literally had this like five paragraph essay MLA format citing sources.
S1: Hey, guys, watch out the MLA format part was really important and I’m sure made a huge impression on you guys. For those who aren’t sort of familiar with the structure of professional tennis, I think it might be important to sort of get into that a little bit to explain why a player run body might be necessary when the ATP stands for Association of Tennis Professionals. So the assumption to a fan of the game might be that, oh, it’s player run. That’s not the case. So what are you trying to remedy here?
S11: Yeah, we we have very little power. Again, the seven entities are the ones that control everything and amongst themselves, they don’t even work together. We’ve seen that Roland Garros months before just said, hey, we’re moving in September. We’ll take that slot over. They’re not really talking to anybody else so they can fight amongst themselves. But the people that actually lose in the long run, other players, we don’t have the safety net. We don’t have the revenue that we deserve to be getting from these tournaments like a US Open that’s bringing in X number of dollars. I mean, more, I believe, more than the Yankees and Mets making a full season at times. I’ve heard this, but so, you know, we are finding ourselves getting the short end of the stick. And that’s where something like this comes into play. At the beginning of the year, we signed something that enable us to play the first event of the year, which is usually Australian Open and the ATP. They name us independent contractors. They’re telling us that, hey, you guys are on your own. Basically, this is what’s happening. And they say we can’t boycott. They say we can’t protest, we can’t do anything. That’s what we signed to play these tournaments. So there’s really nobody to defend us. We’re on our own. They separate us from one another. And we don’t have power in numbers at all. We don’t have the strength that we need. So that’s where kind of this organization comes in. And again, do I trust Djokovic to possibly take me to that Holy Land? I don’t know. But again, we’ve got a text. Twenty minutes and everybody that I got a text on the ATP saying, be careful. This is not the play you want to be doing. So if we can scare them this much, it might be worth my time.
S7: And yet Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are not signed on to this. Do you understand can you explain what the the the differences here might be?
S5: And let me also add that Andy Murray has said he is skeptical because women players aren’t involved in the first photo of everybody who’s signed on to the EPA went out. And it’s just all men standing on a court, which is not necessarily a great look.
S10: No, no, not not the best look at all. The timing’s not the best. The look is not the best. There’s a lot of things that people are going to nit pick. And I totally agree. They are trying to get women involved. You have to just look.
S11: So the only thing I’ll defend Novak on which I never will usually is he tried to do this three years ago. Three people basically defended him. So at this point, again, they don’t really have bylaws. It was just who do we have to support us if we can move forward on this? So it was kind of like a prelim process. Obviously, they’re pushing it forward like they have all the things lined up in a row. And it’s perfect. It’s not. But I will say that they are strength is in numbers.
S10: So getting women involved would actually behoove us and we would push forward with them. It just it was just like, how many people do we have in the men’s tour? Can we get that done? We’ll speak to the women after the open. We’ll see how many we can get done. I think that’s what they intended. But there’s never a great time for this and there’s always something going to be wrong again. For me, it’s just can we scared the ATP and all the entities into saying, wait, will we lose these players?
S11: Yes, Federer. Nadal did not sign on. They usually are not on board with things like this. I mean, for Novak, it seems like this is his way of making because he’s not a fan favorite. He he knows he’s not a fan favorite in any way. He knows that regardless of being the greatest of all time, he may not be named the greatest of all time. So there’s a lot of chips on the shoulder. He says, well, maybe I can make an impact in the sport in another way. I’m hoping his selfish needs actually lead to positive change.
S5: So I’m going to stump for behind the racquet here for a minute. It’s something that you started on Instagram and it’s really amazing portraits of players like yourself, some top ranked players, a lot of folks that are lesser known to the average sports fan, talking very openly about what it’s like to struggle on the tennis tour, struggle with mental health, struggle with not thinking you’re good enough. It’s something that you’ve battled with yourself. So can you just kind of explain where you were like? What was the moment in your career when you were kind of low and decided that you wanted to share that and also wanted to have a venue for other players like yourself to share their stories?
S10: Yeah, I mean, I had a pretty smooth ride throughout my junior career, but getting into pros, it was a roller coaster. I was going up and down the rankings from injuries and whatnot.
S11: So, you know, I got to my career high of one twenty five in the world and I was still not happy, you know, I felt like. Not enough change the money I was the financial gain wasn’t there, the happiness wasn’t there, I was like, I’m one hundred and twenty in the world of what I do. One, I feel like I should be a millionaire. That’s first of all. Second of all, I feel like it should be a much smoother process than it is. And, you know, looking through the weeds a little bit, I was like, am I the only one dealing with this depression and anxiety? And that’s when I kind of spoke candidly to a lot of players. And no, I wasn’t once I really opened my eyes. I mean, there was alcohol abuse, depression, loneliness. I mean, you name it, it was there. It’s a really tough snowball effect of a sport where your financial loss, you can’t travel people. So you’re lonely and then you’re not playing your best tennis. So you lose again and it just continues and continues. So, yeah, I mean, I have a lot of downtime in tennis and usually that leads to negative thoughts. But I was saying how do I use this to positively affect some change in my sport and the people around me? And it was early. Twenty, nineteen, a little jet lagged after the Australian Open that three o’clock in the morning and came up with this idea and just wanted to allow players to share their stories on a safe platform, giving them the right of first refusal with their story. And then they have final say and, you know, just giving them a really safe place. And I had some really brave friends that didn’t really know what it meant to share their story, but they were the first ones. And here we are today after some great media appearances, which was incredible. And CBS Sunday Morning and then where we are now and working on some projects that I would never dreamed of working on. But in an individual sport like tennis, you have to know who these players are. You have to relate to them. And I think we lost this connection, this relation between the fan and the player. And we only know the top players. And it’s really disappointing because even the first story I put out was there next to us, Camuto, he has a speech impediment, he has a stutter, and he got one hundred and fifty messages. I only had like forty followers at that point. He got like one hundred and fifty messages saying I’m a new fan of tennis because my son has speech impediment and you’re giving him the motivation to continue. So it’s been an incredible journey and I’m really excited to see where it goes.
S7: You talk to most top athletes and you’ll often hear that what they do, what you do is a brutal slog. It’s a grind. It can be mentally harmful. It can be unrewarding. The financial rewards certainly don’t match up with the expectations or the assumptions of casual fans. And those casual fans are the same people that say, cry me a river. You guys are great athletes. You’re the best at what you do. How do you get. And I think that part of the value in behind the racquet is showing people the reality of being a professional athlete. Do you feel like that message? You know, whether it’s like a Sisyphean struggle or not, you know, do you feel like that’s the goal here or is it to give the athletes an outlet or is it to really get people to understand what it means to be a professional athlete, especially one who toils in a sport where if you’re not in the top 50 in the world, you’re not raking it in?
S10: Yeah, I think it’s both. It’s highlighting the aspects that we deal with that many don’t know at all levels. I think it’s very important. I mean, people are like, oh, it’s great that I’m starting to know these players from eighty to two hundred in the world and beyond. But just naming Bautista, you know, he played his best tennis, getting to twenty in the world with losing both his parents basically within a year and a half span. So you can look at that and then you say, oh, how do you not get the top ten? And I’m like, just look at what the guy has done. Look what he went through. I mean, appreciate that. You know, for me, after my CBS Sunday Morning piece came out, my parents got a call saying, I’m so sorry. We thought no one was taking care of your house and give you millions of dollars left and right. We apologize for assuming that this was the case and why you didn’t give to my charity that I had. And, you know, because people didn’t know. I mean, these were people that were one step removed from a close circle of mine, so. And they didn’t know. So how do I expect others to do so? I really took it upon myself. And still, do, you know, to really open people’s eyes to the realities of what we’re dealing with. And, you know, it’s difficult and it’s heartbreaking.
S11: And people are like sometimes their stories are really dark. And I’m like, I know, but that’s the truth. I mean, this this is what they’re going through.
S10: And I do plan on, you know, throwing out a few smiley faces on on the behind the racket page every once in a while. But you don’t get the same heartfelt emotions and relation with another player through Instagram if it’s not as heartbreaking as some of these are. So it’s there are humans just like us and like that whole idea that we’re superheroes and we should get through anything and we shouldn’t feel anything, you know, that has to be put to the side along with toxic masculinity. And this idea that we can’t share our emotions, you know, just changing that path.
S5: And then breaking that stigma a little bit, it’s behind the racquet on Instagram, there’s also a website, there’s a podcast, there’s a whole behind the racket universe.
S4: No, there’s merchandise.
S5: There is no good luck with it. Thanks for coming on the show and good luck on tour.
S9: Thank you for having me, guys.
S4: The NFL is scheduled to start its 20 20 season on Thursday, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are to host the Houston Texans a rematch of a divisional round playoff game eight months ago in which Houston led twenty for nothing and lost 51 to 31. Since then, a lot has happened. Tom Brady moved to Tampa Bay. Cam Newton replaced him in New England. The Washington team retired its racist name. There was a pandemic. It still seems kind of ridiculous that there will be a season. And I have a feeling opening night will just be the start of things that seem ridiculous about the NFL in 2020. Dom Cosentino writes about the NFL for the score. Welcome back to the show.
S12: Thanks for having me. It’s good to talk to you both again.
S4: So no bubble for the NFL. Too many people, too many logistics to put 32 teams in one or a few places. But covid-19 results have been encouraging so far. The latest testing for the seven days that ended on Saturday showed just one positive for a player and seven for staff out of more than 44000 tests. And with training camps over just six players out of twenty seven hundred are on the league’s covid-19 reserve list. I should point out, though, that NFL training camps basically are bubbles. Players are at the office like 14 hours a day. There were no preseason games, so no one went anywhere. The test will come when teams start flying and taking buses and staying in hotels and playing spittle flecked games. Dom, does this all feel feasible to you right now?
S13: I didn’t think so back when the camps were opening, in large part because of what that was right when everything was was getting bad for baseball, when they began traveling. And I think that that like you said, that’s still the wild card. But the one thing the NFL has got going for it is the daily testing they’re doing, which the players union insisted on. I mean, the players union really did a good job pushing the league to get some pretty specific protocols in place. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty with how that plays out. But I think the daily testing, which was supposed to end September 5th, but they they got the league to extend it into the season. You know, it’s a pretty good indication of how, you know, what the country probably could have done if, you know, we had a sort of universal testing program. But you’re right, though. We’ll see how that changes when they’re out in the world or in airports, hotels, taxis or limos or whatever, whatever it may be getting to and from games.
S14: So no preseason games. It’s a thing that I think players have been wanting for a long time. But I guess it’s a way to kind of like ease fans into the season. And so because there hasn’t been this, like, exhibition time, there haven’t been, I guess maybe as many stories coming out of training camp. It just feels even more kind of strange that the NFL season is starting this week. I was surprised. I think it was a few days ago. It’s like, oh, it’s this Thursday that there’s a game.
S5: Does this seem like it’s going to be a permanent change? Is this something that ownership will allow, just like no exhibition season anymore? Or are they going to try to to walk that back?
S12: I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far because the coaches love the preseason. They love the opportunity to figure out who can you know, who at the bottom of the 53 man roster or what undrafted free agent. You know, how they look in a game. And that’s something they still don’t know. They had to make the roster cuts on Saturday without any of that game knowledge. It’s one thing to have an entire squad scrimmage. It’s another thing to see what a player is like in a live game action going against an opponent.
S14: Well, they do have these sixteen player practice squads, though, so it’s not like they had to make you know, if you had to make a bunch of hard cuts in a previous season, like now you can make those cuts but still have the players stick around. And so is that a compromise like, you know, obviously with the preseason games there’s a heightened risk of injury. Players don’t like the fact that they’re being forced to take these extra hits in games that aren’t really meaningful and fans aren’t aren’t losing anything like these. Games are garbage to watch.
S7: Yeah, but don’t forget, this is also a bargaining chip in CBA talks. The the league is going to have the right to go to seventeen games from from sixteen in the twenty, twenty one season. And the expectation is that the number of preseason games will be cut to three from four coaches. No, these are useless. The last preseason game, the starters don’t play. The 53 man rosters have already largely been set. I would expect this to be cut to two in the very end, in the very short, in a very short time. And I think that that teams will use this summer as a justification for rolling it back.
S12: The ownership likes 20 weeks of season ticket revenue. And that’s the other factor in this for them, right?
S7: Because they just roll these into packages. Right. It’s not an optional thing. You buy season ticket, you have to.
S12: By these dog yams, right, so they’re still looking at 20 weeks of that revenue that they would want to hold on to in some way. So I think to Josh’s point, though, it could be that this is a compromise with the expanded practice squabs, the allowance for veteran additional veteran players like Josh McCown to kind of be on the practice squad, which wouldn’t have been allowed in the past. That kind of thing could help. We’ll have to see, though, and we’ll have to see how these games go. In the first few weeks, it’s been in past seasons, even with a four week pre-season, you know, the first couple of weeks of the regular season, which could be kind of sloppy. And so I would expect to see some of that certainly in the first month of the year this year as well.
S4: Six teams are so far planning to have some fans in the stadium. And I was looking at a chart that showed that the number of fans ranged from like six percent of capacity to twenty five percent capacity. And then there was an asterisk next to the Dallas Cowboys because Jerry Jones, you know, you probably want to get like 80, 90 percent into the stadium because Jerry Jones sports have done, you know, well compared to society in restarting professional sports. And the risk I see with the NFL is that owners may not pull in the same direction. And this business about who can go to stadiums and some of that has to do with local regulations, I think is going to become one of the wedges that we see as the season gets going. Does that make sense, Tom?
S12: Absolutely. I think, you know, what is the what capacity will Texas allow? And Jerry Jones will take advantage of it, whereas I think the Texans are, at least early on, are not allowing any fans at their games. You know, when they play in the same state, that will be something that’s going to play out in different ways. I’m not sure how much of an advantage it gives the teams, though, because, you know, we’re talking about a twenty five percent capacity in a giant stadium with teams allowed to plug in some some crowd noise up to 70 or 75 decibels. You know, it may not give too much of an advantage to teams, but if Jerry Jones wants to stick 80 percent capacity in his stadium, that that could be a big factor that favors the Cowboys.
S5: There’s going to be messages and then it takes all of us and end racism. The end racism message will end racism. That’s my that’s my prediction for for this this season. What are we going to see when we watch these games this week besides what’s what’s on the end zone? What do we know about protest plans? What have we heard about what the players will be saying and wearing and how Roger Goodell and owners are going to react?
S12: I think players and even some coaches will be protesting. Bill O’Brien has said that he plans to do it. He wants to go along with and that’s opening night to. Right. And they play Thursday night. Kenny Stills is with the Texans. He’s been very outspoken on this as well. You know, so but I don’t I don’t know that we can say where it’s going to go. I listen to the conversation you guys had with Joel Anderson a few weeks back. You know that just in the last two weeks. It’s it’s it’s difficult to predict what NFL players may do, given what the NBA players had done a couple of weeks ago. So I imagine we’ll see something the league has said it’s not going to to intervene. But again, Jerry Jones is a wild card in a circumstance like that because he’s already trying to to compromise and co-opt the possibility of protests. So I think, you know, no one can really say for sure what’s going to happen at this point.
S7: And the owner of the Giants, John Mara, also stuck heel, sort of stepped in it by saying, well, my personal preference would be that they don’t protest at all and don’t take a knee. I think the most telling question is going to be what owners do rightly teams. Some teams have been pretty forthcoming already issuing really strong statements and initiating concrete plans in certain cities. Baltimore, the Houston Texans, the Minnesota Vikings were to start their five dollars million initiative for various social justice movements in Minnesota just on Tuesday. The owners, though, are a bunch of people that have donated to Trump. Right these it’s not as if they’ve all been converted to the cause of Black Lives Matter. And how much of that tension is going to manifest I think is going to be dramatic. And will the players be willing to do an NBA style initiative? I think is also going to be really, really telling this is not a sport where collective action has been possible.
S12: Yeah. And, you know, and to what extent will certain owners attempt to co-opt or whitewash this or use end racism as kind of a branding opportunity for their teams just to give the appearance that they’re doing something about this when they are people who have access to politicians and people who can make. Or institute certain changes, will they do any of that or will it just be, you know, a lot of easy branding for the league at this point? That’s the fascinating question to me as this plays out.
S5: So Eric Trump tweeted on Monday, football is officially dead. So much for America’s sport. Goodbye, NFL.
S8: I’m gone. This was after in response to a story in The Washington Examiner about how a Cowboys player said that team officials had given the team the green light to protest during the anthem. So I don’t say any of this to imply that what Eric Trump is saying matters in any way. But the Trump administration has been ramping up kind of racist rhetoric in the last few weeks. And with the election in a couple of months, they are going to use the NFL to try to create a wedge issue to create to stoke this culture where we’ve seen it in the past. And I think it’s going to be incredibly intense and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on these owners. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Roger Goodell. And I think in turn there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the player. So it happens in week one might not end up being what happens in week two and might there might be pressure to have the protest end. There might be more protests because of the attempt to clamp down on them.
S15: It’s going to be fascinating to watch, given how things played out three years ago when Trump first attempted to make this an issue and there were mass protests and the league reacted the way it did by instituting an anthem policy that the union pushed back against with a grievance. And now all of the things Goodell has said this summer, I’d have a hard time seeing how he’s going to be able to go back on that if it were to get to that point and for the players to want to put up with it, that could be a galvanizing moment for the players. Perhaps if if Goodell tries to do an about face as the heat gets hotter as we get closer to the election.
S7: With this, you wrote a piece for the scoreboard, the basic message of which is don’t trust Roger Goodell. The players are hearing these things. He’s saying, I should have listened to Cap earlier. Black lives do matter. I support their right to protest. But when push comes to shove, this is going to be a you know, I don’t know if it’s a test for Goodell, but it could be his job on the line.
S1: He is employed by the thirty two owners. He’s not there to say the right things that fans or subset of fans want to hear.
S15: Yeah. And, you know, it was interesting around that time, Albert Breea reported that the the league and the PGA had done a focus group study of some sort that indicated that the Trump tweets were just that they were the Trump tweets. They would stoke things on the Internet, but they would disappear within it within a few days. And so that may have been why they were willing to stand down when after the players filed the grievance. But as Josh mentioned, now we’re in an election season. And so what will that mean? I mean, all of these uncertainties kind of, you know, are going to come bubbling to the surface here in the next month or two.
S5: So on the fields, Cam Newton has been named the starter for the Patriots.
S8: And Bill Belichick said something incredibly nice and complimentary things about him. And Tom Brady is obviously going to be the starter. And Tampa like this is going to be the kind of parallel stories that I think are going to get the most national interest this season. Brady in the Bucs are playing the Saints in week one. Like what are going to be some kind of things that we should look out for with those franchises? Like, obviously, the Patriots are not going to be running the same offense with Cam that they did with with Brady. And the Bucs are kind of people’s pick to make the Super Bowl or win the Super Bowl.
S15: Yeah, I think with Cam and and the the Patriots, you know, his health is obviously one thing. You know, he he has dealt with a number of injuries. It’s why the Patriots were able to get him on the cheap and he had lingered on the market for as long as he did. But the Patriots also had eight players opt out, including two of their best defensive starters. The Patriots issue is probably more of what’s around Cam, because one of the issues Brady had was the lack of talent with his receiving corps there as well. So just the Patriots roster as a whole is not the deep unit we’ve we’ve come to expect from them. So I think that’s the biggest thing to watch in New England. With Brady in the box, he’s actually got a lot of talent around him on offense. They’ve got a pretty good defense. I just wonder how, you know, he’s been so used to a particular system in a way of doing things and a way of responding to a kind of adversity. If things begin to go off the rails or it’s a bad situation, can they bounce back where he doesn’t have the support and the infrastructure that he had in New England? But because he certainly does have a lot of talent around him on that offense. And I think that defense retained a bunch of guys and they added Antoine Winfield Jr. to kind of shore up the back of their secondaries. So they’ve they’ve added it’s a very good roster, very good coaching staff down there, but a different environment for Brady, which is something he has not had to.
S7: Deal with for 20 years, yeah, quarterback news is going to be front and center. The two big contracts that were awarded in the off season, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, 450 million dollars over 10 years.
S1: Of course, that’s paper money. And Deshaun Watson, 156 million over four years. Also paper money. But they are indicative on a on a per year basis for guaranteed money. They are the number one and number two highest paid players in the NFL and of course, in the history of the NFL.
S15: Yeah, and, you know, both deals are there different in a certain way. They’re different in the fact that, you know, Mahomes went for the longer deal where he’s not going to get the opportunity to retest the market four or five years down the road in the way that that Deshaun Watson will and the way that both deals are structured. You know, it’s sort of a unique leverage quarterbacks have, whether there are these kind of rolling guarantees in place that are pretty much going to ensure they’re going to get most of that money in the early portion of that deal, even if they three or four years out, even if their performance begins to slip or a severe injury were to hit them, you know, you’d almost like to see the Kirk Cousins kind of situation where players of that caliber insist on fully guaranteed deals in the hope that maybe that would trickle down to other positions. But instead, what we are seeing is now that we’re getting 20 million dollar tackles and 20 million dollar edge rushers, the quarterbacks are raising the bar for the kind of money in that kind of structures that other players can get. But they’re still other plenty of other positions that aren’t benefiting from that, like running backs and even tight ends.
S1: Dom Cosentino writes about the National Football League for the score. Adam, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me, guys.
S16: Now it is time for after balls and our guest no, Ruben mentioned this kind of in passing and I also mentioned it in a blog post I wrote over the weekend. But one of the more notorious tennis disqualifications came in 2012 when a player from Argentina, David Nalbandian, was at a grass court tournament in England in 2012. He was in the final of this tournament, actually at Queens playing match, which he was leading this match and got mad, kicked an advertising panel that was only a few inches in front of a lines person. The advertising panel rammed into this person’s chin, which then started bleeding. This was not one of these edge cases, Stefan, where it’s like that. Did he flick it? Did he really? Yeah. This was an immediate dequeue here after the match, Nalbandian said, sometimes I make a mistake. I agree with, OK, it’s a tough moment and a final like that. But sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP playing so many tournaments today. I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes I agree and I do. But everyone makes mistakes. I don’t feel it had to end like that, especially in a final. There are a lot of rules and sometimes they don’t do anything. The rulebook is very big and I can tell you the ATP do a lot to the players and nothing happens. Hmm. Interesting, interesting perspective there. I had actually erroneously put in my post, Stefan, that Nalbandian kicked the Lions person, but I was corrected by a big Nalbandian fan on Twitter.
S1: So here’s your chance to apologize to Nalbandian.
S16: I apologize. I screwed up. He kicked the sign, but then ran into the the person shin, which started bleeding copiously. Nalbandian beat Roger Federer five straight times. We said we should not only focus on the negative things, a long and successful career when he wasn’t kicking signage. Stefan, what is your comment?
S4: Yeah, well, until the hubbub over Novak Djokovic getting defaulted, one of the crazier stories at the U.S. Open was the exit of my lanky, boyish Pete Bjorn Borg. Quaffed Patriota. Stefan, a city bus. You may have missed it, though, because the fourth seeded Greeks third round loss to born Patrick. And in 70 minutes after midnight on Saturday, zero and last on all that. But I went to bed with City Pass. I had two sets to one and leading in the fourth, things were already a little weird. At one point I screamed at his father, who was also his coach. You don’t know. And then things got nuts. City bus went up five one in the fourth. George held serve to make it five to broked city pass four five three saved two match points to make it five four and then serving it forty love City Pass lost three more match points. He’d blow one more six and all lose the set seventy five and then lose a fifth set tiebreaker. The match took four hours and thirty nine minutes so it ended at 1:00 10 a.m.. It’s just so, so sad, ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale said as the players walk to the net. Sad I think mostly because no fans were there to witness it, but also maybe in a show. Empathy did see Tsipras, the Greek tapped racket’s with Trawick, took off his sweaty shirt, packed his bag and walked bare chested into the locker room, where the very first thing that he must have done, because it happened at 114, was to pull out his phone, open up Twitter and write Greek voice. This is probably the saddest and funniest at the same time thing that has ever happened in my career since it was his reputation as a next gen social media star already was well established. He’s a shooter of gauzy photos and sacher and videos and a Twitter and Instagram are of utterly earnest and sentimental self-help book thoughts. Are there any golden untold secrets in life? He wrote in July. As it turns out, there were ten. No three know when your sad season is over and you just need to stand up and dance. Seven Build the brand that is you. Nine Refresh yourself before you wrap yourself. This one didn’t make the top ten, but he tweeted it a couple of weeks ago after singing karaoke with some other players. Do something that scares you every single day. Last year, Stefano’s tweeted this classic I like me better naked. When you put clothes on, you immediately put a character on clothes, on adjectives that indicator’s. When you don’t have any clothes on, it’s just you raw and you can’t hide in July while on vacation and make a nice hashtag meagerness wolfpack. He posted an Adidas promo video that he’s in one more year of training, hard of sacrificing time with friends and family of. Focusing on one single goal, one more hasn’t stopped me before, and it’s not going to stop me now. So back to this is probably the saddest and funniest at the same time thing that has ever happened in my career. I feel like neither city bus nor his social media team had the time to craft that one. So it had to be him city bus unplugged. And it was exactly true. I mean, on the one hand, he gagged on the other. What happened was absurd and he wasn’t going to flog himself over it. Totally naked self-awareness. I like me better than Naked City buses. Fans were right there with him, especially the Greek ones. None of the Greeks were screaming choker or loser in his replies that a real champion needs to learn to close them out. In fact, they were as sweet and innocent as Tsipras himself. Staff see my Cielito taxi. We got him. Bosio Yankalilla. That was the Greek fan of Tsipras staff. The journey has meaning every obstacle for the better. Lisa G. Said, I mean, I’m excited to meet Yasini Bonda metacarpal. Miyashita Anakonda immoralities eclectic guest. Nikesh, we were up all night for you always after a loss. The biggest, most amazing wins come quickly McClair, then Etemad. I shall then be Ryze at the exit at Roland Garros. Anji Macris wrote that my doll. I’m crying. It wasn’t your day. It doesn’t matter because Roland Garros is coming one more because I’m enjoying speaking some great care then risibly. Corrimal V.V. eight seven seven two seven two four six wrote hospice care this year. Ladar Mazess Stefaan Heasman. It doesn’t matter my strong man Luser when Greeces with you Stefano’s onward. The loss did not in fact deter the Palakkad his sense of self or a sense of humor. After the USDA posted a video of someone making a pancake that looks like him. That was earlier in the tournament. Seatbacks retweeted it on Saturday after his loss. I knew I was a pancake after all. Then he made his way into Manhattan, posted a video of a New Yorker hitting off of a wall, found a guy who plays better than me. And then on Sunday, there he was back in Manhattan holding a couple of frankfurters. Is that anything more American than the humble hotdog? And finally on Monday, a slo mo video of our Greek hero jumping and touching a no parking sign reaching new heights. City Pass Road, City Pass Yanase.
S14: This is a golden age, Josh, for Greek athletes, not to mention Maria Sakari, Serena Williams as opponent in the fourth round.
S4: Yeah, another sad loss. It’s been a golden age for Greek athletes, but this week it’s been a golden age for Greek athletes.
S14: Losing to that is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan.
S2: Postnet Pasha’s. And subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep. Dot com slash hang up. You can email us and hang athlete dot com. For Stefan Fatsis, I’m Josh Levine, remembers MBT and thanks for listening.
S17: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, hey, Stefan. Hi, Josh. So we came up with a list. Here’s my list. Go ahead. Let me know if I left anything out. Kentucky Derby, start of college football, Tour de France, NBA playoffs, start of European soccer, the FedEx Cup playoffs and golf. Regular season baseball. Playoff hockey, the U.S. Open in tennis, Major League Soccer, WNBA, NWSL. Did I leave anything out the Stanley Cup?
S1: Did you leave out the Stanley Cup? I have playoff hockey in there. OK, you got to name the Stanley Cup because it’s the Stanley Cup.
S17: The Stanley Cup. So I don’t think we’ve ever had a week like this. High school football, high school football, which ESPN has been showing. And the NFL is starting this week, as we’ve discussed. So we are going to have some decisions to make as a podcast about what to talk about. I mean, I guess we saw this coming with everything that was postponed and then everything that’s been previously scheduled that there was going to be this convergence in the calendar in the fall. And and it’s coming. It’s here. It’s arrived. So will be maybe we’ll have a segment kind of withdrawal is back talking about all of this, but maybe just the two of us. We can talk about what we’ve been watching, how we’ve been watching and what we have been neglecting.
S4: It’s easy to neglect a lot of things because there’s just too much to watch. And, you know, my watching has sort of been tailored to what we’re going to talk about. So obviously going to watch a lot of the NBA, a little of the WNBA, and this weekend a lot of tennis because it’s us. And, you know, the tennis was interesting. I mean, I had actually switched over from the U.S. Open to the start of the NBA game. I guess it was the Celtics and Raptors. And I was looking at Twitter and saw Ben Rothenburg, our friend, tweeting something about Djokovic and was like frantically like grabbing the remote and backing up three minutes to see what happened and then texting you simultaneously to make sure that you were watching. You know, that was pretty cool. I mean, this is a strange, strange time. And, you know, there’s always parts of the sports calendar that make it impossible to watch as much as you might think you should be watching or are interested in watching.
S7: But the covid, I think it jacks it up. Josh, it makes it feel more urgent to watch because it’s all so weird. Yeah, I loved watching the NBA because it’s so weird. And similarly, with the tennis, you know, you have must have thoughts on what it’s like to watch an empty U.S. Open stadium.
S17: Well, first, I would say that I think we watch the things that we want to watch and then talk about them on the show. It’s not you are watching tennis just because we are going to talk about it. You like to watch the tennis? I like to watch the tennis. Yeah. And, you know, obviously we try to cover a bunch of different things. We try to cover things that are newsworthy or interesting for one reason or another. But ultimately, fundamentally, we talk about the things that interest us and that we like and that we follow and so that I think we’ll have to remain the case and more things will have to be left out, potentially angering the the masses who demand more coverage of of whatever.
S1: But how do we not talk about the Kentucky Derby, Josh?
S17: Well, I think the Derby is the number one example of something that was hurt in terms of popular awareness due to losing its traditional May spot on the calendar. I mean, like we go to a Derby party every year. We did not go this year. And I think that was probably something that was, you know, a lot of people had similar experience where it’s like this is, you know, not the time when we expect the derby to be on. There’s a lot of other stuff going on and nobody really paid attention to it. And so that’s just how it’s going to be this year.
S1: Right. And that’s, I think, applies to a lot of those sports and viewership. And you talk to Ethan Strauss about the NBA’s ratings and what might be causing decline. I mean, everything is down and the oddity of the calendar, you know, we’re not supposed to be watching the NBA playoffs right now. You know, we’re not supposed to be watching guys skate around a hockey rink in September at the end of the season. And I think that’s affecting viewing habits, too. So there’s the curiosity factor for people like us who want to see what an empty stadium looks like and how that’s affecting the the the gestalt of sports. But then there for a lot of people, it’s about rhythm and. And what you’re expecting, you know what your expectations are.
S18: Yeah, and to answer your question about the open, it’s funny because, like, I really like tennis. I really like watching the Grand Slams. I’m often, you know, watching ESPN has the streams online of all the different sports. So I’m interested in watching some of the matches on our courts. And it often feels when you’re doing that, that like the average American sports fan is not partaking of this tournament in the same way that I am. And so I guess it feels like kind of normal that like there wouldn’t be anybody there watching. And it just feels I mean, we’ve talked about this with the Australian Open in particular, like it can feel like if you’re watching these matches on at like two o’clock in the morning that like you’re the only part, even if it’s not true, like can feel like you’re the only person in the world watching this. And it’s like a match being staged only for your benefit and entertainment. I mean, with the U.S. Open, if you’ve actually been to the tournament and I would recommend that people go and in normal times, it’s a very fun time and atmosphere. The reality is that on these outdoor records, every every court is packed with fans like which makes it so unusual in this sport. And so it is incredibly different. And you have this feeling when watching, if there’s just like some random match that’s in a fifth set on an outer court, then like the fans swarm to it. And it’s like this crazy atmosphere. And so it’s not just in the big stadium with 20000 thousand fans on ash where people are are yelling. It’s a part of the whole environment and atmosphere. And, yeah, it’s like contributes to this feeling of surreality. And it doesn’t make me not want to watch. It doesn’t necessarily make it less interesting to me, but it’s certainly not the same. And it’s like Serena Williams is saying, it’s over on court interview. It’s just like, well, being very politic and like, oh, obviously I love for the fans to be here, but like, I’m intense no matter what. Like, I don’t get it. I’m not trying to win because of the fans. I’m not intense because of the fans. And I guess I feel the same way. It’s like I don’t watch these tennis matches because of the atmosphere, because I want to hear the fans yelling, yeah, but psychologically, you don’t know you don’t know whether it’s part of it. And I yeah, I think it’s worse not being there, but it’s not like going to prevent me from watching.
S1: Right. You don’t know what’s affecting your, you know, your emotions and your adrenalin. And I’m sure there probably have been academic studies of this thing, sort of how we react to environments that are filled with people screaming versus environments that aren’t.
S18: And the interesting thing that Serena said that was really interesting that I actually hadn’t thought of is that it’s less tiring to play with a big crowd because you can rest more between the points because the fans are cheering and you have to wait for them to stop.
S4: Right. The umpire has to say, quiet, please.
S18: So it’s not just the adrenaline. It’s actually like more time to, like, inhale oxygen.
S1: Yeah. And I think I hope somebody like some academic is going to do studies of the athletes themselves performing in these environments to see whether they are, you know, their perceptions of how they’ve played. And maybe the reality of how they’ve played are altered by the absence of fans. Because, you know, I think I said this last week or the week before on the show that the one thing about the NBA was when you were away. Josh, the one thing about the NBA games that have been so fun is that from our perspective, it looks like a bunch of dudes playing pickup. And that’s really cool. And I’ll be curious to, you know, in retrospect, historically, whether athletes have a similar sort of reaction that it was pure, you know, the game on, you know, distilled it to, you know, growing up and playing at home when nobody’s watching or whether the fatigue factor or the emotional fatigue that we’ve also talked about is played a bigger role than we are even aware.
S18: Right. So with the Djokovic thing, we saw that any sport can break through and become a top news story if something crazy happens. But I think for the sports as sports, especially with the NFL starting and sucking up all the oxygen as of this week, it’s going to be much, much harder for anything to break through just as a sporting event like the FedEx Cup playoffs.
S8: And Dustin Johnson is on this amazing streak, 115 million dollars is playing some of the best golf that anyone’s ever seen. Like who cares? Come on.
S1: I have no idea. I mean, I looked and he was like twenty under. And I was like, what?
S18: What do I know what he’s paying into that the U.S. Open in golf is actually happening next next week. So that’ll be a thing.
S8: But like playoff hockey, there have been some great series with game sevens and the bubble, and it’s just like hockey is getting even. Let you know we’re not covering it on this show. It’s going. I think even less attention than it has in the recent past, just because of this confluence of everything, college football, the match ups are really bad for reasons that we’ve discussed and the match up, there shouldn’t be any games in the first place. But like BYU beats Navy, like a lot to three. And like who? You know, this is the big Labor Day, like opening season match up. And just like as a game, it’s just not going to break through because it’s not it’s a blowout and it’s it’s not an interesting game. And so it’s going to be a really kind of survival of the fittest sort of situation here. And I think, you know, baseball will be an interesting test case like with, you know, the regular season winding down in the playoffs. There’s eight playoff teams and each league. So there’s going to be a lot of like battles for these spots. Like, is there something that is going to get a lot of coverage and attention or is it going to be overwhelmed by the start of football season, by the end of basketball season?
S7: Yeah, I mean, the big leagues bumping up against one another is a curious phenomenon. I mean, look, they always do. They there is some overlap, but it’s usually the beginning of the end of the NBA season or the NHL season with football as opposed to the ends.
S4: And, you know, you said sucking up all the way over by November, right. By the beginning of November. But you said the NFL sucking up all the oxygen. I feel tuned out. You said earlier on the show like you were surprised to even remember to be told that, oh, the NFL is starting this week.
S1: I mean, maybe the NFL’s oxygen is going to be a little bit thinner this year because of everything that’s going on and because of the uncertainty about how they’re going to deal with the inevitable outbreak of a few cases on a team and questions about whether to cancel games. This is not baseball where, you know, you can play a doubleheader. There’s only 16 of these. The NFL is going to be making up games. And Roger Goodell was already asked, I think, by Peter King in his weekly column if the night if the NFL is prepared to have a season that ends with some teams playing different number of games. And he said, yeah, of course. I mean, what else is he going to say?
S18: Extremely unlikely. I think that the NFL will decline in terms of coverage and attention. I think as soon as the games start, it’s going to ramp up to astronomical levels. And, you know, we’ll see.
S16: This is a testable hypothesis.
S1: Yeah. And maybe in part because it’s sort of they’ll be rubbernecking to see if the NFL, you know, turns into a car crash and how it responds. And plus, the protest movement is going to add some to come out and like, come on, man, fantasy football, gambling are like football. We’re not in.
S18: My fantasy football league is taking the year off and independent of any kind of larger social issue. People are going to watch the NFL. True.
S4: We will be talking about the NFL next week, I predict I made plans, I made time over the weekend to watch the England Iceland UEFA Champions League game. So my priorities were all in order despite this glut.
S16: We will be back with more next week. Thank you for your membership and tucks in.