S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
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 November 18th 2019. On this week’s show we’ll discuss blackballed Quarterback Colin Capper next bizarro workout in front of a handful of Scouts and a defensive lineman Miles Garrett’s unorthodox use of a helmet. Former NFL player Nate Jackson will be here for that conversation. BEN LINDBERGH of the ringer will join us to talk about the Houston Astros latest front office disgrace an elaborate sign stealing scheme that allegedly involved cameras wireless relays and most important garbage cans. Finally will interview the director Assef Kapadia about his new documentary about the life of soccer icon Diego Maradona.
S3: Josh Levine is Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen The Forgotten life behind an American myth. He joins me from Boston. Hey Josh.
S4: Hello Stefan. No wild man inside this week not one of the weeks where you’re feeling it.
S5: Laughs I guess I wanted to keep things moving. I felt like it was slowing things down.
S4: You’re just kind of like oscillating sine curve of love and hate for your first book is just it keeps me alive not knowing about it in any given week.
S3: Keep the listeners guessing that way they may be more motivated to join the other 2000 people that bought Wild and Outside. Josh let’s up mentioned that we’re doing a live show. We’re doing a live show Tuesday December 3rd. It’ll be at the Hamilton live here in the District of Columbia. You can buy tickets at Slate dot com slash live. Slate dot com slash Live Tickets information the start time.
S4: I’m thinking 7:00 p.m. We have a bunch of journalists who are going to join us for the show that we’re very excited about some of your hang up favorites. We’ve got Gene Demby from NPR’s Code Switch. We’ve got Dave McKenna of the late great Deadspin dot com right. And we’ve got Lindsay Gibbs who’s got a great newsletter now called Power Players that people should check out.
S6: So we’re excited to have those folks on stage with us at the Hamilton. Tuesday December 3rd Slate dot com slash live baby.
S7: It was a bizarre week for the National Football League even by NFL standards. On Tuesday the league out of the blue invited Colin Kaepernick to perform at a workout to be held four days later on Thursday. Cleveland Browns lineman Myles Garrett lost his shit yanking off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hitting him over the head with it. On Friday the NFL suspended Garrett indefinitely. Then came a crazy Saturday that included among other things cap Bernanke wearing a Kunta Kinte T-shirt refusing to do the work out on the NFL terms. Moving it to a high school field an hour away and throwing 60 yard spirals into receiver’s hands. Afterward one of the handful of Scouts who attended reportedly said that Capra Nick’s arm looked elite. According to one reporter Capra Nick told some scouts when you go back tell your owners to stop being scared. Here’s a little more of what he said.
S8: I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here so did today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide so we’re waiting for the 32 owners 32 teams Roger Goodell all of them to stop Brandon Scott running from the true.
S7: Stop running from people. Nate Jackson also is always ready. He played for six seasons for the Denver Broncos and is the author of the football memoirs Slow Getting Up and fantasy man. Welcome back to the program buddy. I’m not running from the truth. Never. No Jackson never runs from the truth. Let’s start with cap or. The NFL didn’t articulate a reason for its sudden generosity and offering a chance to try out in front of team executives. This wasn’t by no means normal free agent tryouts as you well know Nader held on Tuesdays not the day before NFL Sunday. The whole thing reeked of a stunt cooked up by the NFL to gain some unspecified leverage over cap Bernanke and then cap Bernanke and his representatives were understandably wary of the league’s motives. So you had both sides trying to establish leverage and in the end the shit show subsumed the idea of a real try out.
S5: If that was even the purpose to begin with what did you make of it Nate.
S9: Well aside from it being on a Saturday that is that is odd but it’s in the middle of the season and everything that’s going on with him has been odd. But look you don’t get to bring your old camera crews in for a normal tryout when you want to try out for an NFL team. They tell you where it’s going to be when it’s going to be you show up there by yourself and you subject yourself to their terms. If you want to play on their teams you don’t really get to strong arm the NFL into agreeing to every demand you have and then telling them stop being scared and sign me. I think that it might have been you know I don’t know how genuine calling cap or Knicks interest is in just being a teammate because that’s what being a football player is. That’s being a teammate you kind of fall in line. You don’t get to dictate the terms. So I think he made a mistake.
S10: Well that’s what a lot of folks said James Brown on CBS. Stephen A Smith on ESPN and the general consensus among pundits seems to be that this hurt Cameron its chances to ever play in the NFL if he ever did have a chance to play in the NFL that it’s that it’s dead now that it made him look entitled arrogant whatever. Douglas Holtz-Eakin if you want to use but you know the fact that the NFL gave him this it’s kind of an ultimatum on Tuesday and said You have two hours to decide if you want to agree to our like weird ass like unconventional nobody ever does it this way workout. And he said yes you could argue that that shows his willingness to be flexible and play by their rules to some extent and that it was the NFL that came into this with bad faith and unclear motives and the way that this played out through the whole week like nothing really. You know convinced anyone that the NFL is motives were pure here.
S7: I agree with that but I think that the reason that we should give Capper Nick a little more slack is that look he’s different. I just don’t think it’s realistic to say that he should be just like any other NFL player at this point because we ask that we’re way past that.
S11: But why not. That’s what football is. If you want to be on a football team you can’t be different. And the team doesn’t want a guy who sees himself as different on their team and neither does his teammates actually. So if he wants to ingratiate himself in the NFL and say hey I’m ready to have this job you can’t pretend that you’re different than everyone else.
S12: The thing that that swayed me though Nate was the dispute over the waiver liability that the NFL wanted him to sign the NFL put out the statement and it said that they wanted him to sign a waiver that was based on the standard waiver lawyers looked at it and said he would have been foolish to sign this because of the preexisting collusion complaint that he filed against the league that was resolved with a settlement. There are still outstanding all legal issues here with this guy. They do make him different from you know a quarterback who’s waiting for a call to come in and throw on a Tuesday because somebody got hurt the previous Sunday.
S13: Yeah I suppose so. Well I’m actually not fully sure what exactly the fine print of that waiver was. What was he risking by signing it.
S10: So there’s some debate about that and I think that there’s a area in it. But some folks are saying that if he signed it and agreed to then false terms then he would not have the ability in the future to bring any further claims against them that this was basically a way for them to concoct a work out claim that it was out of the goodness of their heart that they wanted to give him this opportunity. But it was actually a way for them to you know get him in a legal checkmate is what Mike Florio of pro football talk said that to make it so that he wouldn’t be a problem for them anymore in a courtroom or in case called Capital had in his mind that he was going to use it as leverage for his own lawsuit if he didn’t get signed.
S11: Well look I had such a great workout here my career stats. This has to be collusion. I’m filing another lawsuit. And so you can look at it from either either the vantage point the NFL is trying to protect themselves from more funny stuff and Colin Kaepernick was trying to do the same. But ultimately if you want to be on a football field you have to play by the rules of the team. You don’t get to dictate your own terms.
S14: And sadly like we’re going to see that happen and this is going to be more outrage but I don’t think that public average is going to land on a team mate I’m a little surprised to hear some of the things you’re saying because on the one hand what Colin Kaepernick is doing is really sticking up for the rights of NFL players that don’t exist right now and he has basically taken the fall for players who want to be outspoken and who aren’t willing to toe the line and do what the team says. And you may think it’s a losing battle but he’s at least fighting it. I mean I haven’t seen anything to indicate that if Colin Kaepernick were signed and asked to go call plays on the field he wouldn’t be a reliable leader as a quarterback. How he performs. I don’t know. But as someone you trust on the field to call the plays and lead the team and motivate his teammates. I don’t see any evidence that that would be problematic.
S11: Yeah I’m saying as a teammate I agree with you as a player if he came in. I think there’ll be no problems in the locker room. I think his teammates would embrace him. What I’m talking about is is him getting his foot in the door. Is after everything that’s gone on over the last three years is pacifying an owner and a general manager and a coach and a city enough to have him come in and be their quarterback. And I think if that’s his goal then you know just the fact that they set up this workout was a good opportunity for him to go because he says look I just want to play I’m a good enough quarterback I’m a good enough player to be playing there and so I think at some point. How do you create an opportunity that allows your play to speak for yourself. I think if there were 26 NFL scouts going to be in that facilities at the Atlanta Falcons headquarters that was an opportunity for him to go there and throw the ball around and have let them have a look at him physically and he didn’t have to say a word. So I think they’ve hurt. You know I don’t think they want to hear him speak about his grievances. I think they want to see if he can still play and really that’s why you had 26 out of 32 teams going to go show up for that. And I think it was an opportunity for him to just go throw the ball around. Yes I appreciate that he’s sticking up for the rights of the aggrieved football player. Every single football player in the NFL at the drop of a hat does whatever the NFL tells him if they call if they call a player who doesn’t have a job and want to give him a workout an hour later. He says yes to whatever terms they ask for.
S4: Yeah I mean I think the key question here is whether this was actually a good opportunity or not.
S10: And I think he would have probably if I had to guess he would have treated it differently if he thought it was a legitimate opportunity or a legitimate process. But you know being out of the league for three years and then all of a sudden you know reportedly with no warning no communication to his representatives you have to go through this process that nobody has ever gone through on a day when players don’t usually work out on terms that we sat and were the organization that paid you a settlement because we colluded against you to keep you out of the league like you would just have to think something we heard is coming on like something something fishy is up and so this notion that this was somehow what every NFL player does and your do it at the drop of a hat like most NFL players. The reason that they’re going to work out on a random Tuesday with a random team is because there you know every other team in the league has decided that they shouldn’t be in league because they’re not good enough player. That’s not what has happened with Cameron. The reason that he’s not in the league is because there is the systematic collusion decision by the league and all of the franchises that they’re not going to have him in the league for non football reasons. And so this idea that oh he has to go and demonstrate that he can play football is just fundamentally it’s not what the actual issue is.
S13: I believe it is just because it’s been three years since he’s been on a football field.
S10: So it wasn’t the issue but it became the issue at some point along the line.
S13: Absolutely. I mean after three years you know if you’re if if you’re off the football field for one year you come back and it’s in your rusty and you have a hard time getting up to speed with these guys. They’re moving very fast and very conditioned and they practice every day. If you’re not practical football every day you can be throwing at the high school with receivers all you want but it’s just really not the same thing. An argument also could be made that call a cab Rick was in a physical decline at the end of his career in San Francisco. I mean some people might not believe that some might believe it but he didn’t have as much success at that time as he had several years earlier.
S15: It doesn’t sound like you even support the guy anymore Nate and I know you support what Colin Kaepernick stood for.
S11: I do and I want him to play. I walked call a Catholic to be in the NFL under center with a helmet on. I just don’t think this is the best way to go about it. I believe that he can do more good for his cause within the NFL. I think that if he were to find himself on a team he can really change a lot of minds with the way he conducted himself and his behavior on a day to day basis. That’s what people want to see. And I thought that the way he would do do that is kind of playing along until he gets in there and then he can reassess where he’s at.
S10: Not a guy who got where he is today by going along with what authorities want him to do and what they want him to say and how they want to act and I think he thinks and I think that the NFL actually doesn’t want him that this wasn’t genuine but that’s what’s so weird Josh like it was their idea.
S16: I think this probably came from Jaycee who in the NFL brought aboard a few months ago to try to do some reputation control and in the aftermath of all of this suggesting that we got to do something to show that we care about captioning and it’s turned out to be I think nakedly insincere.
S13: All he needed was one though. I mean you say the NFL the NFL is the umbrella. But then you have 32 individual teams all with needs and all you really needed is one of those teams to say hey this guy looks strong. He looks fast. He looks ready. Let’s take a chance on him.
S10: Unless they were colluding against him as he alleged maybe we should move on to talk about Myles Garrett. I’m curious what you thought when you saw our friend hitting Mason Rudolph in the bear head with his home. I mean we’ve all done it. We’ve all been on a football field with ripped a guy’s helmet off and hit him with it. What came to mind for you.
S13: Well I’ve seen that situation play out before our practice where there’s a scuffle between typically between offensive linemen and defensive linemen and they each have hold of their facemask and a helmet gets ripped off and one guy ends up having the helmet in his hand. And that’s that’s a very kind of startling prospect to be confronted with all of a sudden because you’re being attacked. You’re raging you’re defending yourself and all of a sudden you have this new weapon in your hand and you’re not really thinking about it because you don’t think rationally when it’s fight or flight like that. And so I’ve seen I’ve seen as a helmet get swung by an offensive lineman. It didn’t connect with anybody. Thank God. But I’ve seen them be swung before and I’ve seen them be thrown across the field or whatever it might be. But that incident was very unique in that it presented itself where he could actually connect with the same guy who took the helmet off of. And a month prior to that we all watched Mason Rudolph nearly get decapitated by a quote unquote you know football type of hit. He hit the ground already unconscious like a dead body. They had to take his face mask off of him and you know wobbly walk him into the locker room. Nobody remembers the guy who hit him on that hit that the result was much worse than what it was with Myles Garrett. But we’ll now we’ll never forget Myles Garrett and what happened because it represented this kind of breach of protocol. And if if you hit somebody within the rules of the game and in football you can kill them and nobody will think badly for it. But when you pull a helmet off or you see a helmet flying through the air without someone’s head in it it’s scarier for some reason than when someone’s head is in it. Either way it’s a weapon.
S17: But I think Myles Garrett just kind of didn’t realize what he was doing. And now he’ll never be able to live it out.
S16: Before we get to the sort of bipolar question that everybody seems to want to talk about that Myles Garrett. Is this really smart thoughtful guy wants to be a palaeontologist then reads poetry and how this is as Joe Thomas as teammate on the Browns said so seemingly out of character and so shocking I want to stick to what you’re just bringing up Nate and this is the question of how football players are taught to play football. I mean what’s troubling about football isn’t the routine blocking and tackling. It’s the additive violence it’s the finishing the play. It’s hitting someone in a way that as an observer you think isn’t necessary to complete the play to bring a guy down to the ground or whatever. You know a guy getting hit as he’s going out of bounds or the third guy in on a tackle. But this is how you’re taught usis how you’re conditioned to react and what Garrett did is just that six inches beyond that isn’t it.
S13: Yes so defensive players in particular. They are taught to play the whistle until you hear the whistle. You are attacking you are swarming the ball carrier especially in the NFL where these guys are really shifty. You may think your teammate hasn’t tackled. He gets out of his grasp and scoots down the field for a touchdown. And so when you’re out where you’re at an NFL practice these defenders are being implored to swarm the ball and all 11 guys have to end up at the ball carrier. That’s what ends the play and that’s what that’s what makes the coach blow his whistle. And so these guys are conditioned to attack until they hear the whistles and you don’t really even hear the whistle on a field cause you just go until the guys in the dirt. And so that’s what gets you paid. That’s what gets you promoted. That’s what gets you praised by the coaches. And when you watch film you know a coach is never going to rip you like the media does for an egregious hit. In fact the coaches are going to pat you on the back and say Way to go because we’ll take that penalty. And oftentimes I imagine I’m pretty sure that teams will pay for the fines that players get if they don’t believe that they’re justified. And so these guys are taught to attack and they’re taught to be as violent as possible and they’re rewarded for it.
S18: When you say it’s six inches beyond what’s acceptable. Stefan I think you might be a slightly bigger ruler. Not ripping a guy’s helmet off. No
S15: I forgot what I mean by that is just instinctually like when your testosterone is raging and you are so pissed off and you are finishing the play in football parlance it doesn’t surprise me that much. I don’t think Myles Garrett was going OK. Now if I removed Mason Rudolph’s helmet and I use it as a weapon to hit him over the head would that be a good thing or a bad thing. Myles Gareth’s like fuck this guy I’ve got his fucking helmet in my hand I’m swinging it.
S10: So Rudolph was trying to rip his helmet off and didn’t succeed. So we can understand why Garrett was mad. Even if we can’t quite get to the place of understanding why he did precisely what he did what he did. I mean one of the questions that was raised after this happened. Nate Eric Mangini one of our our greatest football minds is one of nature’s biggest loves loves me as my old buddy. He was like This is Freddy kitchens as far as the head coaches fault the culture of blah blah blah blah blah blah. Like how much is this anybody’s fault. Other than just like Myles Garrett did a wrong thing in the moment.
S17: Yeah I don’t think you can pin this on the head coach. I think that the Cleveland Browns are a little bit undisciplined as a football team if you want to use a cliche like that. I mean there they’ve got a lot of penalties. That day there was another guy that no one seems to remember who was much worse for the wear than Mason Rudolph. What staggered off the field with blood leaking out of his ear after him in the same game.
S13: But that particular moment I don’t think you can pin that on Freddy kitchens like you said Mason Rudolph was if he wasn’t trying to remove his helmet. He was definitely messing with the helmet in a way that made Myles Garrett who was the far superior athlete. Decide OK it’s the helmet thing I’m grabbing your helmet now. And now I have your helmet and now I’m being held back by your buddies but now you’re coming at me crack. You know I don’t think it was well thought out but I don’t think you pin that on the coach.
S16: Can you pin it on the team’s culture though. I mean I think is the larger thing. I mean there was earlier in the season the left tackle for the Browns Greg Robinson kicked the dude on the Titans in the head. There were two helmet to helmet hits on Pittsburgh wide receivers during that game one on JuJu Smith Schuster and the one you mentioned that Nate Deonte Johnson was helmet to helmet hit by the Maris Randall. There is a culture within a team in terms of how coaches instruct players to be on the field or do you find is it does it really vary from team to team or is the ethos in the NFL. You’ve got to be an animal at all times and that’s what we all want to see because that’s why we’re paying you.
S13: There are degrees of aggression control that different teams have and certain teams don’t. For example when I played for the Broncos Mike Shanahan was really big on us Keith and our composure in situations where we might get tested or provoked by another team. We were rewarded when we did not retaliate after a cheap shot for example. And so I don’t think Freddie kitchens probably has the same type of reward system yet he he was kind of put in that place by Baker Mayfield right who really liked him and rallied that he’d become the new head coach will Baker Mayfield himself is kind of you know a Bro not a guy known for impulse control No not a guy known for impulse control.
S17: He tried to outrun campus security couldn’t do that and then he has you know week after week sort of not been composing himself well around the media and I don’t know I think it’s probably is a little bit of a reflection of the culture there. Pretty kitchens is a first year head coach right. And those guys it might be a little bit of the you know the inmates running the asylum thing.
S19: Nate Jackson played football in the NFL for the Denver Broncos. He also wrote Slow Getting Up and fantasy man order them if you have not read them already. Nate thanks a lot. Thanks guys.
S3: Before we talk about the cheating the Astros wanted to let you know that in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members Josh and I will talk about the hip injury that ended the season of Alabama quarterback and until Saturday anyway top NFL prospect to Tonga VI lower. If you want to hear that and you’re not a member you can sign up for Slate Plus for just 35 dollars for the first year. You can do that at Slate dot com slash hang up. Plus last week the athletics Ken Rosenthal and Evan relic reported that the Houston Astros used a center field camera to steal signs during their World Series winning 2017 season. That report which relied on an interview with then Houston pitcher Mike fires and three anonymous sources revealed that the Astros would use that camera to get signals from the opposing catcher in real time and that team personnel would then bang loudly on a trash can in the tunnel behind the dugout to let Houston’s hitters know when an off speed pitch was coming. Major League Baseball is now investigating and ESPN the Jeff Parson reported on Sunday that there’s a growing sense that the league will impose severe penalties on the Astros franchise. Joining us now is Ben Lindbergh who writes in podcasts about baseball for the ringer. He’s also the co-author of the only rule is it has to work and the MVP machine. Welcome back Ben.
S20: Good to be back here. We have new ways in which the Astros are behaving badly every couple of weeks now have to keep coming back. The series it be a standing segment.
S3: Let’s start with the basics. If the reporting is accurate and it seems like it is because we like generals and fallen and religion. Jeff Parson what rules are the Astros breaking here and how serious a breach is it.
S20: Yeah I mean we don’t even have to rely solely on the reporting because in this case we can actually hear it. You can call up games from 2017 and watch clips and watch Astros games at home in Houston and you can hear the banging.
S21: It’s very loud and obvious now that we know to listen for it and Rob Arthur at baseball prospectus did a great analysis last week where he actually took the audio from those games and was able to show in the wave form that this was constant that it was happening early and often in games from at least say mid-May of 2017 on.
S1: So essentially sign stealing history goes back to the beginning of the game really as long as signs have been around people been trying to steal them. But there is a difference between using mechanical means or electronic means to steal signs as the Astros seem to have been doing here and nobody has issued directives to teams telling them that this is not acceptable. You’re not allowed to use electronic devices to steal signs and that is what they were doing here. In addition to garbage cans I don’t know if garbage cans are explicitly prohibited but the video part of this game that’s against the rules and of course there are many examples in baseball history of teams using some device or another you know the 1951 giants famously had someone out in the outfield with a telescope and there was a buzzer system and there used to be lots of teams that would have spies in the scoreboard and they would manipulate things to show the hitter what they were doing. But this seems to be a more sophisticated version of that or as sophisticated as something that relies on trash cans can be. And so it seems like it may be more effective and more dangerous. And now we have this evidence and there’s a question of well what were other teams doing. But we know much more about what the Astros were doing.
S10: So in 2017 the Red Sox got caught and then fined for using an Apple Watch in the dugout as part of a sign stealing scheme. And I guess I’m curious about going back to just first principles here. Then why is it that we should if not celebrate than at least tolerate sign stealing if there’s not an Apple product or a camera involved and think that it’s wrong illegal bad if there is some kind of technological component to this.
S1: Right. We now know that at least three teams were doing some sort of illegal sign stealing in 2017 because the Yankees who reported that Red Sox scheme themselves then got fined for something they were doing involving the bullpen phones. So yes it at first seems like sort of a strange distinction to draw like if we’re going to allow players to steal signs with the naked eye if you have runners on second base who are picking up those signs and signaling them to the batter then how is that really different from using a camera. I think the real distinction and to be clear players don’t like either and they will try to police each other’s regular sign stealing. But I think there is a distinction in that I guess we want the game to be decided by the players on the field. Probably that seems we’re going for here. And if you have players using their own Whitson smarts and picking up something through savvy then I guess that seems more acceptable and potentially less effective and less destabilizing than having this system with cameras setup that are feeding in view of the catcher’s signs in real time and people are watching that in the tunnel and then begging on trashcans then it’s essentially if you’re if your signs get stolen by a guy at second base.
S10: To some extent it’s your own fault right there. There is a way that you can defend against it whereas if you’re using a camera then perhaps there’s just nothing that a team can do to hide its signals in that case.
S12: Well you’re always trying to defend against it. Right. I mean that’s braked into the into the game itself and the difference here is that yeah these extra human means are what piss people off and what make it easier to steal signs again back to the Whitson and smarts and deception is a big weapon for pitchers.
S20: Obviously a big part of the way that they succeed is by keeping hitters from knowing what’s coming. One would think at least. And so this is taking a big weapon out of their arsenal. And yes there are ways to guard against this even if it’s video stealing even if it’s the Astros scheme. I was on MLB Network last week with John Smoltz and he was talking about how there are ways to get around this and we know that in the playoffs other teams having some inkling that the Astros and maybe other teams were doing this sort of thing. They came up with counter measures and it’s well we’ll switch signs every batter and we’ll have cards and we’ll have a more complex system where even if they steal signs and one plate appearance maybe it won’t apply to the next plate appearance.
S22: Oh God no downside. Don’t tell me that Major League Baseball is going to start having like giant cards of like Daffy Duck dugout to signal pitchers want to do.
S20: Yeah I mean the downside of it is that it just takes longer. I mean when you’re switching up your signs every batter and you have different pitchers coming in and you have catchers working with many pitchers and their job is tough enough.
S21: Do you really want there to be an extra delay between pitchers because you’re cycling through different sets of signs. Is that something that players should have to remember when they’re trying to do their jobs. Do we want that to be in the back of their minds constantly.
S20: You know is baseball better in any way because you could say you could imagine a version of baseball where it’s just open season and that it’s hey if you can pick up the signs then good for you and you get that advantage.
S21: But I think the argument is that it’s just not a better version of baseball that it might be a competitive advantage. But do we want to bog down the game with players having to come up with ways to guard against this one other kind of foundational question.
S10: Ben I saw a piece on beyond the box score by Cheryl ring insinuated this but I didn’t see it elsewhere kind of mentioned that the Astros and you know you wrote about these kinds of cameras and then BP machine they have this really high speed camera shoots 500 frames per second Andrew chronic camera. Do we have any sense of whether that’s the kind of camera that they were using versus just like a standard television camera and if they were would that have made any difference would it have made it easier to steal signs if you have a camera that shoots 500 frames per second at high resolution the details of the camera haven’t been reported but I don’t think that would be advantageous for this specific scheme because essentially they just had the catcher they had the camera trained on the catcher’s hand as he put down a signal for nefarious.
S20: He has a fancy high speed cameras. It does get worse.
S21: Similar and various but I I don’t think you’d need the the slow motion you know ultra detailed footage to be able to see this in real time. That said I would not be shocked if the Astros or other teams were using even more advanced methods you know machine learning importing video into their computer systems to try to pick up on patterns that wouldn’t be something that you’d be doing in real time probably that would be trying to crack the code between games let’s say. But I would not be shocked if they were using some of that technology and programming prowess and bringing that to bear in this area in this arena too.
S16: I think what really is pissing people off is that it’s the Astros Kenny and Evan reported in a separate story over the weekend that after his executive asked the team scouts to steal signs from the stands. This was like part of their plan for how to deal with other teams and that Scouts then. And this was my favorite detail discussed this on on the Astros slack channel. Yes. And not everybody was happy with it and I think it’s this part goes again to the Brandon Taubman incident from a few weeks ago and this perception of arrogance inside the Astros organization that they are better at everything then everybody else and they have. They’ve built a better mousetrap for how to win baseball games. And the fact that Mike fires went public sort of breaking the o meter that players supposedly have about these sorts of things and then you had Danny Farquhar a White Sox pitcher talking about hearing the banging and stepping off of the mound and changing the signs up that players are willing to talk about how pissed off they are at this organization plays a role here. Well it just fires.
S10: I think the fires thing is actually the part of the story that’s the most surprising to me because like Farquhar. Like players on opposing teams will complain about opponents doing nefarious stuff all the time but fires saying when I was on the Astros we were doing this and it was wrong. Like I can’t recall a similar. I mean I have a bad memory but I can’t recall a similar scenario in recent years of a guy calling out his own team or his former team.
S21: Yeah. That was kind of key to that report. I think we’ve seen players acknowledge these schemes decades after the fact when it seems kind of quaint and it’s gamesmanship. You know but to do it just two years after when many of the players are still in the league and still on that team that did set this apart. No. To be fair players complain about legal sign stealing all the time too. And you know one of the ways that they try to prevent opponents from doing that from gaining that advantage is by making it sort of against the unwritten rules or trying to shame the opponent into not doing that. But this goes beyond I think what many people in baseball consider to be the line and that is a pattern for the Astros.
S20: They are ruthless in their pursuit of wins and clearly they are willing to cross ethical boundaries or at least what most people in baseball would consider the ethical line in order to do that. So I don’t think that makes it unfair to focus on what they’re doing because we have these details. And it’s against the rules. And it seems like it should merit some sort of punishment. But it’s true that we may be learning these things about the Astros could mean that they are just more egregious that they are going further over the line than any other team that’s likely. But it’s also possible that there are people who have grudges and ruffled feathers and so we’re more likely to hear about it in the Astros case than we would be in some other team’s case.
S10: I mean the Astros are in the Patriots zone right right away.
S4: They are resented by other franchises in the league due to their success. And then when their behavior is outed and reported on it’s not entirely clear to those of us who are outside the business whether what they’re doing is particularly nefarious whether it’s actually not unusual. But it seems nefarious because they’re the ones who are doing it. The edges that they’re pursuing. Ben are super narrow even if other teams aren’t doing it like maybe the advantage they’re getting isn’t that huge and it seems like bad that they’re trying to do it but maybe it doesn’t explain why they keep winning as much as they do. Like all of this stuff is kind of like bound up together and I think what we’ve seen with the Patriots if it attaches itself to the Astros these things are just going to keep coming up again and again and again so long as they succeed and so long as the same executive team is in place.
S20: Yes. And I think that question of how well it worked is an important one not in the sense that it should determine whether this was wrong or whether the Astros should be punished it was against the rules they were breaking the rules they should be punished. But I think it’s still an important question because you wonder how hugely this is affecting the results of the game. How much does it delegitimize those past seasons and you know I don’t know if it affects the severity of the punishment but it’s something that you wonder about did they win the World Series because they were seen stealing or were they a great team that was also science dealing but would have been great anyway. So it’s hard to prove anything either way. I think there is some post hoc fallacy going on here you know because you see people citing for instance the fact that the Astros had a huge decrease in team strikeout rate from 2016 to 2017 this season when it was believed that they started this same scaling scheme and that is true. They did have a huge team decrease in strikeout rate but that was entirely foreseeable and foreseen and projected by the statistical systems at the time just based on who was in the lineup. They had a lot of turnover on the team. It was you know half the lineup or more was different players and prior to the 2017 season they were projected to strikeout much much less than they had the season before just based on the players who were now on the team and they ended up striking out almost exactly as often as they were projected to by a system that had no knowledge whatsoever that they would be stealing signs. So it seems like on one hand they were cheating on the other hand they were also a very good team. And I think the question comes up again when you look at say their home and away performance in 2017 we know that they were stealing signs or we have a high degree of confidence that they were stealing signs at home. For much of the season but they were better hitters on the road. So what do we conclude from that do we conclude that same Sterling had no effect. No I don’t think we can go that far but if they were that successful on the road then how huge an effect could it have had at home where most teams are better at hitting anyway. So it’s really kind of tough to pass and I think it is kind of an important question to ask without dismissing the fact that the Astros clearly went beyond what they were allowed to do here.
S15: But isn’t it almost beside the point if it worked or not. I mean the fact is you know this is like the impeachment hearings. It’s you know sure did the aide go through yet eventually went through but that’s not entirely germane and whether you know Evan Gattis hit slightly better at home because he was getting tipped off doesn’t really matter to me it’s the fact that he was getting tipped off. He knew what was coming. And for some baseball players that is a tremendous advantage. Whether they were able to take advantage of it in each specific instance is almost irrelevant and the detail in one of canon Evans stories that’s stuck with me is that there was a cover up here an attempted cover up.
S16: And at one point they report at least once people in the Astros were worried enough that in the middle of the game they told the staffer who was in the tunnel outside the dugout monitoring the video and banging on the trash can and I assume it was a two person operation to tear it down and get it out of there. They knew they were cheating in a way that was different from the shortstop were the guys standing on second base peering into the catcher’s crotch.
S20: Yes they do and they were. And I’m sure that the penalties would be as severe as they can be as the evidence supports whether it’s big fines whether it’s draft picks being taken away or if this can be pinned on specific players or executives or coaches. Then you start talking about suspensions or even people being banned from baseball if it’s a front office person and if that link is strong enough and I don’t think whether it worked affects that punishment. But I think one of the reasons why we have rules against this is the idea that it would work really well. Right. Because it had no effect. Then why even bother trying to prevent it. So I think it’s still important to establish how well it works. That said if it worked even one time then that’s an advantage that you weren’t supposed to have according to the rules at the time and there are problems you know looking at home in a way splits for the Astros for instance we know they weren’t using this trashcan method on the road or they weren’t to the best of our knowledge but they may have been stealing signs via other methods and there have been players Carson Smith and Trevor Palu have tweeted that there were other schemes going on here where someone in the bullpen might be looking at a TV and raising their hand or lowering their hand on the outfield fence.
S16: Based on what pitches coming right and Jeff pass reported in 2018 that there were concerns that Astros players were in the dugout clapping to deliver signals passing in his story in 2018 even mentioned the garbage can. Two major league players said they had witnessed the Astros hitting the garbage can.
S18: It would be funny if the scheme was entirely dependent on the garbage cans and they actually brought the garbage cans with them on the road. That would have taken this scandal to another perfect score.
S20: Who would suspect the garbage can. There’s garbage everywhere. It’s not just that Houston right. There is also suspicion in 2019 that there was some sort of whistling scheme going on that they were whistling to reveal pitchers and there was an MLB investigation of that that didn’t turn up anything. But who knows how rigorous that was. So there is a suspicion that this is still going on and I think that’s one of the downsides of this whole thing for the sport is that you can’t ever prove that it’s not happening. And so once we know that it was happening in this way and at least one place or in a few places that season then it’s a constant question in the back of your mind. Is this on the level. Is there some sort of cheating going on here and to be clear MLB has already put in place stricter rules and regulations in the 2018 postseason and then heading into the 2019 regular season where all of the video feeds on TV is in the park at least that are accessible to the players are supposed to be on an eight second delay and you’re not allowed to have cameras in the outfield that are trained on the catcher’s signs and their MLB observers around. But again it’s hard to say whether that’s something that could completely prevent this practice because you know video is omnipresent and cameras are everywhere and devices and screens are everywhere and so there is some question of can you actually prevent this unless we move away from the traditional method of passing science. You know if technology is going to crack the code here then we have to use technology to make the code more impenetrable which could be using headsets on the field you know have the pitcher or the catcher with a headset or have them with some legal allowed type of watch where it has you know maybe haptic feedback or something and you can just tap it for a sign and only the pitcher can feel it.
S21: So something like that maybe the next evolution just so that we can put these concerns to rest.
S18: Yeah I was going to ask about telepathy. That seems like the next step. I mean the thing that we don’t really talk about the fundamental issue here is that catchers. You know why do you need to know if it’s a fastball or breaking ball just catch it man. Like how hard can it be. Just stick your glove out adjust on the fly. My guess is all due to this is all due to Catcher has just done a poor hand eye coordination. The master the better catcher basically. Yeah exactly. Yeah. Slightly unsafe.
S4: My last question was I was thinking about this because of Stefan’s impeachment analogy if you could take a secret ballot of all the gems in the league and so we wouldn’t we wouldn’t know they wouldn’t have to make their votes public which is the definition of a secret ballot. I’m just being redundant here. Would they vote to expel Jeff Luna from baseball.
S20: I think they might. Whether it’s because of sign stealing. I don’t know. Just to get him out of the league and stop having to compete with him would.
S4: But there is a common among teams that the Astros are not playing fair right like that. Oh yes they they’re unloved. Oh very much so. Yes.
S5: Bob Nightingale did a story for USA Today in which two executives said that the Astros should be stripped of the World Series title in 2017 whether African nationalism reflects something about how they feel about the team.
S21: Yeah I mean the Astros have been unloved 10 disliked going back to the beginning of Leno’s tenure you know late 2011 early 2012 their whole tanking scheme and putting the shift into place and all the things they were doing at that time not illegal but certainly going beyond baseball norms. So now in recent years with the Osuna trade and the top man outburst and now the same stealing they seem to have crossed the line repeatedly where prior to that it was well maybe we’re offending some delicate sensibilities of lifelong baseball people here but we’re doing it within the rules and we’re gaining an advantage from it. Now it’s well maybe we’re getting an advantage but we’re doing so in a illegal and often very distasteful way.
S5: BEN LINDBERGH writes in podcasts for the ringer. He’s the author with someone else of the only rule is it has to work and the MVP machine. Ben thank you as always.
S20: My pleasure. At least this is something we can talk about when teams don’t sign free agents anymore. This is the new hot stove. What did the Astros do wrong.
S23: This week in the 1980s when Diego Maradona was becoming the greatest soccer player of his time and maybe of all time it was hard to follow the sport here. So an American who played and loved the game like me could be forgiven for recognizing the outlines of Mariana’s brilliance and the LURD ness of his tabloid fall but not the nuance or detail in between the new HBO documentary Diego Maradona. More than fills that space coupling an amazing trove of grainy never before seen footage with new interviews. The film distills an incredibly complex life into a simple paradox articulated in this clip by Mariana’s onetime personal trainer. Let’s listen to what the Negro the. Men. Extremely. Keegan Deane inaugurated go on but I want a.
S24: Better one. I learned a lot after a year or two. Now.
S23: Diego has had a life both tremendous and terrible. Diego has nothing to do with Maradona but Maradona drags Diego around wherever he goes. ISF Kapadia directed at Diego Maradona. He won an Academy Award in 2016 for Amy his documentary about the English singer Amy Winehouse and also directed Sanaa about the Brazilian Formula One driver. Eitan Sanaa Assaf thank you so much for coming on the show.
S25: Thanks. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.
S23: You grew up in London and were a teenager during the period that you focus on in the film. Mariana’s years with the Italian club Napoli in the late 80s and early 90s how much of a football fan were you and did your own memories play any role in wanting to make a film about marijuana.
S26: I’m a big football fan. I’ve grown up watching football and playing football and so yeah I knew who the argument that it was definitely. People of my generation people my age in a marathon was always the best player in the world really. But I guess like many people we’re going back to a time before the internet before you know football is shown on TV everywhere and you know so you knew about the world cups because they were available but you didn’t know what happened in between the world cups and that area when he was playing for Naples. I have to say even I hadn’t really seen that material. I’ve read books about Diego Maradona. He was just such a kind of famous person but understanding who he was away from those World Cups was really what I wanted to investigate.
S10: The footage that you got access to for this film is unbelievable such an incredible trove. Can you explain how you got access to. Who shot it and then how you went through the process of figuring out what to do with that what two years.
S27: So Diego Maradona is the third dimension I’ve made after center and after me and it’s all three of them have been made in a particular way. My background previously is infection films I’ve written and directed feature films. So when I started to make documentaries. My interest is always to try to make them as cinematic as possible and the aim is always to make them feel like movies to make them feel like you’re in a time and a place the following characters. And so my way My way of doing that is to find footage from the time and spend a lot of time doing a lot of research and finding the archive. That is the right place you know the right material from that moment that takes you to a very particular time in a place and to a long time a lot of research it’s very much like being an investigative reporter at times where journalists as much as it is being kind of creative filmmaker what I do as well as the archive is I do a lot of interviews. I talk to people and I listen to them and I try to ask the right questions and then a bit like what we do now. We do an interview and then from what everyone says I cross reference what people are saying in order to figure out why I feel the story is that my job is to find the footage to show the audience the story so hopefully as much as possible you’re watching and you’re learning and learning the story rather than being told it and so that footage is from hundreds and hundreds of sources it’s from all over the world it’s come from loads of different places.
S5: Really it’s put together in a kind of mosaic like a little jigsaw puzzle that expands and expands and expands to cover someone’s life story and a chunk of it was from this time period in the early 80s that was shot by Mariana’s first agent and I guess there was an intent to make a documentary about him at some point but the stuff never got used right. How did you get hold of it.
S27: Yes. So his agent sister Spiller Hall gets to spill it. We sort of discovered Diego and did the deals to take him to book a junior. He did. Biggest deal ever taken to Barcelona and then an even bigger deal to move him from Barcelona to Naples. That whole gay knew when Diego was young about 18 19 years old he knew this kid is such a big kind of vibe around him. There’s such a lot of positivity that this kid’s going to be the best player in the world. So he has this idea and if this is the late 70s early 80s. So this is around a period when people were still trying to kind of get soccer to break the US. And he thought the way to break the US would be to make a movie. So he hires to Argentinian cameraman to follow Diego as he is playing for Barca as he plays for Barcelona and then they follow him to Naples and the intention was to put together a movie that would sell to the US and he’d become a megastar there.
S26: But then what happens is Barcelona turns into a bit of a disaster for him he gets injured he’s unwell he gets his ankle broken he goes to Naples and a few years into Naples Diego fires his agent classic kind of marathon thing gets rid of the agent the agent leaves the cameraman probably never got paid they leave so they’ve run off for the tapes for this film started in 1981 and my producer is here about material maybe 2015 and from 2015 they start negotiating to get access to this footage and then we get our hands on it and that forms a kind of core part of the film not all of the film but it forms the core part of the behind the scenes footage when you’re with his family when you see him on the pitch and the camera’s really low down behind it go all of those shots came from his personal cameraman that great footage when he first arrives at the San Paolo stadium all of that is shot by Diego as personal cameraman that’s the footage at the very beginning of the film right you do the sort of high octane.
S28: It’s called record save the French Connection opening. Yes actually it’s all shot by the.
S7: And that that also serves I think in watching it from it’s a way to establish his early brilliance in Argentina and at Barcelona and get us to Naples which becomes the focus of the film.
S27: Yeah I mean to say it is a kind of structural kind of trick that we had to play because you know when I make these films with my editor we put the whole film together. We researched everything and in and in early it cut it was like 45 minutes before we got to Naples. You know there’s so much story in Degas moment on his life and it was great. And if you’re real hardcore married on a fan it’s all interesting. But if I also want to appeal to people who are not into football and people who may be in the US and maybe never heard of this guy of which there are a lot you know around the world this guy’s massive but a lot of people in the US have never heard of the eagle and I don’t it’s I want people like that also to see this film and to understand he’s an amazing charismatic character. You may not be into football you may be into football and hopefully going to see things you’ve never seen. So it’s always trying to find a delicate balance. Same as soon as I move Amy. It’s not just about appealing to the hard core fans. So we ended up doing a making a tough call to say everything that happened up until Naples is almost like a setup because Naples is the big story that’s the story. That’s where he becomes the best player in the world while he’s playing for Napoli. He wins the World Cup he wins the championships in Italy and all of his personal issues begin. Really. So the car sequence is a way to say everything that happened before then is driving us to Naples at high speed and he kind of gets you in the vibe of being in the world of the ego Maradona which is kind of fun and lots of dancing and singing but also he loves a bit of a fight every now and again.
S29: So when he gets to Naples Napoli his club is at the bottom of the league. This is the poorest part of Italy and we hear fans of you Ventre it’s one of the traditional powers an Italian soccer and and you know a northern Italian club jeering. Napoli I am unwashed peasants Africans the sewer of it all they have washed them with fire. It’s really bracing and disgusting stuff. And I guess my question is did Maradona know what he was getting into when he gets dropped into this club and into this rivalry honest truth is he had no idea where he was going.
S27: That’s kind of so amazing that there was a time and a place when the most expensive footballer in the world would go to a country club where he knew nothing. He just went there because that’s the team that was willing to pay and him. He arrived there and realises I’m not good enough. The previous season they needed he got relegated to the lower league they only save themselves on the last match of the season. The team’s not great. They’ve never won anything ever before really in their history. The most expensive player in the world goes to a team that’s never wanted to think Can you imagine that happening now. It would not happen ever in football. He goes there and he realises. Actually I feel quite at home here because he’s from a slum is from a shanty town. So that little place in Argentina. He’s from a very poor background. He comes from a large family like eight of them living in one room no power no electricity no running water no no restrooms nothing like that in their house. I to do it out in the street. So that’s where he’s from. He ends up in Italy in the poorest city pretty much the region of Italy in one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the whole of Europe. So where most people would run away. This is the brilliance of the ego marathon of mind is I feel at home here I’m ready to fight for you guys because they’re being really rude to you. They’re calling you all sorts of names and all my life people have said that to me because I’m from this place. I come from a really crap place. I’m I’m here. I’m one of you. And that’s what happens rather than running away and being afraid. He’s like I’m here to fight for you. And they went. He takes them in within three years. They win the championship. This is where you go to understand that kind of context the Italian league in the 80s all the best players in the world were playing in that one league. It’s not like it is now what is spread out between playing in England and Italy and in France they were all in Italy and they were all in the best teams which were dotted around the north of Italy. And he’s the one who goes to the south where no one’s ever won before and he wins more than once he starts winning other trophies too. So that’s why he’s so legendary.
S23: Before we get what dragged him down in Naples while it was building him up I want to talk about the world cups that he played and while he was in in Naples he was left off the team in 1978 when he was 17 years old. That was the World Cup that was in Argentina that Argentina won. And that bothered him. He played in 1982 World Cup was in Spain Argentina was eliminated in the second round and then comes 1986 when he is he gets sent off against Brazil.
S25: Right. I think he was in 82. He was being built up as being the best player in the world. Now I’m old enough to remember 78. Of my first memories is seeing the 78 World Cup final. We’ve all that ticker tape and my brother was a big Hollins fan. So we all actually were reaching for Holland and they didn’t win it twice in a row. I lost Eddie to everyone at school was that this kid’s the best team in the world. We’re waiting to see him we’d see him. He isn’t really anything gets kicked he gets really beaten up by the Italians and he gets kicked by the Brazilians and he gets sent off. They kind of goes off on disgrace and that’s when he had his big curly perm.
S12: And then 86 comes in and 86 is really the epitome of what made Diego Maradona. Diego Maradona a worldwide. I mean if you were in Italy and you were a Naples fan they still hadn’t won that first title yet but this was his genuine I think coming out and as you so beautifully portrayed in the film it’s that game against England where he scores on the hand of God goal where he bats it into into the net and then later he scores to win and seal the victory with the goal of the century when he dribbles past six English players and pockets the ball in the net. So you have cheater genius loved hated. But to me what was so so wonderful about that footage is this the joy that you see the phone call to his mother after that game you felt like I’d said Mariano we know from the rest of the film that he’s already back on his decline and get it and he’s and he’s getting sort of dragged into drugs and the mob and being a celebrity in Naples. But at the same time it’s this pure innocent Diego this amazing athlete at age 24 at the peak of his powers.
S26: Yeah I think you know that’s one of the reasons why I’ve I’ve. Over the years really love this format of making films documentaries about real people but using archive from LA Times because there is something amazing about real stories particularly when you’re dealing with sport. I think if you fictionalize a lot of sport it just feels a bit like you know it feels a bit too neat when everyone wins and the best player the hero scores of winning goal in the final. What’s interesting in Mandela’s life is the biggest game in his career and he’s had a long life isn’t the final game in the semi-final and actually the quarterfinal when he beats England and in Argentina. Now timing is really interesting because there’s a film festival going on in Argentina right now. And the last few nights the film has been shown on a big screen to audiences in the place where they get most excited when they cheer the most and when accepting the most is always a game against England. Well we had our premiere in France in Cannes the place where everyone clapped was when he scored the second goal against England. And the reason why a lot of people hate him in England is because the first go against England that really that match is the one that you can sum him up with. Yeah. The handball which I talked him about and he answers a question and he explains it very matter of fact I just went for I tried and got away with it looked at the rest and he did it in such a way that the ref doesn’t notice. This is pre any kind of video replays or anything like that. And then he comes out three minutes later with a best goal ever had the whole tournament. You know he is by far the best player in the world. He he is the best example of a single player taking a team through a World Cup that pretty much anyone can think of. There’s other work that the players have had good the good match and they’ve been really really strong. But Mama Don’t as is really the best. And the fact that he did it in a match against England a few years four years after a war a humiliating war where he Argentineans were totally you know beaten by the English to come back and get revenge and I think that’s why they loved him in Argentina. That’s why he is so famous. It’s not because he scored the winning goal in the world cup final was because he did it against this kind of European colonial powerful country that humiliated them. His thing is I’m going to humiliate you back but he does it in at least the way which is like cheating on a football pitch.
S29: So Napoli when Syria and 1987 Maradona calls it the best moment of his life says that Naples as says home than he leads his team to victory in the UEFA Cup in nineteen eighty nine. And at that point Assaf he says that he wants to move to a less stressful league. And the team won’t sell him.
S4: As this a rock sliding door moment for him. Was there actually an opportunity for him to leave this place where he’s considered a guard where people have his photo next to that of Jesus on their walls what could that have actually happened.
S26: Yeah it’s a really good question because this is another key moment of our film is really to show people around the world that this county may have heard of Diego Maradona showing how brilliant it was. Plus it’s a kind of show you how football used to be where people would try and break your ankles really. The pitches the balls were different you know the tackles were different. And it’s also a period of time when if you had a contract with a team now the players are all powerful they can leave whenever they want and go where they want. They choose how much you know they can run down their contracts and go for free. In those days the team owned you. So essentially he had a deal and a contract with Napoli. Napoli owned him. If they choose they don’t want to play him. He can just sit there and rot in the reserves. He would not be able to leave and so he wanted to go but they didn’t let him go because they owned him. Now I think there is a sliding doors moment because the police that he wanted to go to was a team that was on the rise. There was a lot of money that and he says it is very classically Diego Maradona. One hand he wanted to leave because he wanted to get somewhere else a bit more peaceful is what he said because Napoli was crazy. He wanted to get to Marseilles.
S30: If you know anything about money fame it’s not the most peaceful town in the world right.
S25: You can get everything you want in Marseilles that you can get in Naples. They’re very connected. Leicester City underworld parts are very connected that they want to go to Marseilles who at the time had a lot of money coming in from the. Coburn happy who was going to try and build a team to win the European Cup and so he could have essentially gone there when the European Cup. But he’s also all of the kind of demons that he had would have essentially followed him because you’re not going to get away with it. Marseilles so that’s the story. You know a lot of great players that were coming in that that team Marseilles a few years later were banned and lost trophies that they won because of a lot of corruption going on in that team because of the owner and where his money was coming from. So it could have been different but it could have been more of the same. Louis Maradona it when he leaves town he doesn’t go somewhere peaceful even though he says that he goes somewhere with a little bit more chaos often because at the time it sort of feels like Maradona is aware of that.
S22: I’m at the point where this could go completely wrong. I mean he is at this point a full on addict playing on Sunday party until we can get down to Naples.
S26: I think so yeah I think definitely he needed to escape.
S7: He needed to get out and there’s that moment of recognition one for Lionel of the owner of Naples Sands. I was Mariana’s jailer I guess that’s right.
S22: I spent a long night. Yeah it is an amazing wine and then a little bit later after they win the league again. He says the joy was enormous I was right not to sell him.
S26: So this conflict between the awareness that marijuana’s a coke addict and he’s in deep with the mob and I can do something about this to help him vs. I need this guy to make sure that my football team continues to be successful in these moments this is what I find really interesting because as a football fan as a team owner as a player you have all these different people we’ve all have different dynamics what what the fans would have said is we’ve got the best player in the world even if he doesn’t train even if he’s a mess even if he goes out at night we don’t care we’ve got marijuana we don’t want him leaving. Okay. And the team owners all I care about is my legacy which is if I win another championship it will prove it’s not a fluke because I have got married marijuana and the players would say to him we don’t care that he doesn’t train. We don’t care him being around makes us feel good and makes us feel confident and weed. So we will train twice as hard for him and so he would go out partying. We would never train was getting totally out of shape and the players right to the end defended him and say you’ve got this really interesting thing. And if you talk to fans none of the fans now they might have you know they’ve got old and they look back and go Well maybe we should let him go but at the time they don’t want to lose no. You know what I’m going to another team. If you’ve got him you want to keep him. It all builds to this 19 the next World Cup in 1990 World Cup. And I think that’s where things start to get really bad. Nineteen 1991 season is when marathon is in really bad way and I think that’s when it all comes to a head really. And actually people then decide you know what. It’s time to go. And by then perhaps as an as an addict he is over that he’s really not playing he’s really if you look at his body shape the weight changes during the course of the film. He looks so overweight he looks is a bit of a mess. He’s sweating he’s not he’s not in a good place psychologically. He’s not in good shape physically he can’t do on the pitch anymore and he once again he tries to lose weight he tries to build himself back to fitness to prove it one last time in the world cup but he can’t you can’t do that to your body and then perform.
S29: So Argentina beats Italy in Naples in 1990 and the World Cup semi-final and the way that it’s depicted in the film is that that is a major turning point in terms of how the country as a whole perceives and Sam we see headlines Meriden the devil the obnoxious one he has chosen as the most unpopular person in Italy. How fair is it to draw a line between the fact that he defeats the country where he’s been living in the world cup and the fact that he then gets banned for a positive cocaine contest in 1992 that just a convenient way to get him out of the picture of somebody who’s who’s hated in Italy at that point.
S31: So he’s banned in 1991 actually. Yes so is like six months into the season but he doesn’t play many games. But it definitely does seem to be there is a turning point there within the country where there’s a lot of stories as a lot of rumors about what he gets up to. But it’s all kept quiet. You know there are a lot of people protecting him. And the main thing that did seem to happen post 1990 World Cup is that protection starts to go away. You know people start coming for him. And there are a lot of people you know that kind of the courts come from that kind of tax authorities come from him potentially the protection he had within Naples starts to dissolve a bit because coincidentally a lot of those kind of Camorra guys are being hunted down because there’s I mean I get that there’s a war going on in the background between different gangs and it gets very gruesome very very dark so that people start getting arrested and in the midst of all these arrests they start hearing Diego’s name they start hearing you know his images turn up where he’s hanging out with these gangsters. So all of this that may have been known by people but covered up for a few years suddenly ends up in newspapers. So certainly there is a change in the way he’s perceived and treated and he’s just getting worse and worse and his performances are getting worse and worse and there’s more and more heat around him and everyone around him is realizing that there’s this kind of this is not a kind of secret anymore it’s all out. And so it all leads up to you know the rules are changing and doping. And it becomes one of those things that he you know he’d been tested before. No problem. He gets tested he gets done. And so all of that and as that as they say in the film his lawyer says nobody from the club came to the case to defend him. So he’d literally Well you know if you have a star player your player who’s the best player in the world that’s the most expensive player of all time gets done for something some sort of infraction. And in this case doping not one person turned up at the hearing. That’s kind of unusual.
S23: So it gets bad it gets really bad in the film there’s really no one in Diego’s life it feels like that is looking out for his long term health interests. I mean I feel like the closest that you come is the trainer who’s the clip that we heard during the introduction to the finish really I wouldn’t agree.
S31: I think Sydney really was there for his body and his mind actually is still there. That’s the thing he still supports him.
S12: But ultimately it’s that that tug you feel that the pain of that tug between wanting to preserve this remarkable athlete versus the knowledge that he is sending into hell. What do you come away with in terms of how Maradona was treated in Naples and by the football world in general.
S31: It’s a difficult question. I think that when a lot of people who as you say this is the nature of sport or football or you know a world where people say we love them we were fans but actually some of the fans can’t see that they’re actually suffocating and with love They’re spoiling him. And the more you spoil someone the more lost yet. Then there are people from the club who are like you know they were happy when he was winning and then when they didn’t need him they get rid of him. That happens to every athlete. You don’t have to be the best player in the world. That happens all the time. Young kids are suddenly given a lot of hope. They don’t have necessarily a great education they’re given lots of money and a very quick way. And then when they lose themselves it’s their fault you know that we see that all the time in sport. So there is an element which is just that this is how the business works. It is business in terms of who was around him you know he had some good people around him. But what often happens when you know if your ego gets out of control if your become like a god like status character maybe you stop listening to the people who care about you. And one by one they get pushed away they vanish. The family is sent back to Argentina. The friends that were with him when he started out or they lose their jobs they get fired because essentially they all end up on the payroll. That’s the problem isn’t it. And then they get fired. And the paranoia bring begins if you’ve taken a lot of cocaine that’s probably not the best way to kind of make straight decisions about anything. And I think the one person it seemed that stuck with him from beginning to the end it is still I have to say around and still can speak very honestly about the man identities he’s not afraid of him is his trainer Fernando Cindy and I would say on our film he’s one of the people whose most eloquent and most honest when he talks about Diego. He knew his body knew his mind. He was there in the dark days. He was there. Good days. He’s on the pitch celebrating when they win the World Cup. You know they’re hugging each other on the pitch. I think Cindy Rini is the near I would say we found to a friend even though he was on the payroll he was a friend. He was there and who really genuinely cared about her donor. It’s quite hard to find lots of other people who genuinely from beginning to end cared about him. I think he himself became unbearable at times and pushed everyone away.
S29: There are a lot of similarities in this film to your previous documentary his son. I have thought know after seeing Amy when it first came out there there’s this one scene that really stuck with me. That’s really haunting and I’ve watched it multiple times. That scene where Amy Winehouse is recording the song Back to Black with Mark Ronson and it’s just really spare and you’ve just hear her vocals and then the music kicks and it’s amazingly done but you just really see her genius in that moment but also like her genius and her art. It’s really like plumbing her pain the pain of her life. And so even in that moment when you see her at her best it’s still very dark and sad and haunting and that’s possibly also just because she’d succumb to her addiction and she’s dead now. And with Madonna you know we’re talking about the 86 road cop and other on field scenes there’s so much joy there when he is able to be at his best on the field and we see some moments when when he’s not but just that kind of distinction between them and and their abilities and their genius and how it’s displayed was really stark and stood out to me.
S26: Yeah. I think you know if you haven’t seen center I would recommend you check out center as well because they are kind of a trilogy of films you know they are about three brilliant charismatic geniuses brilliant amazing. What I’m interested is these kind of charismatic figures. They’re not you know it’s instant is not the guy who won the most world championships. Amy is not the biggest selling artist of all time and you know Diego Maradona is not one of many champions league or golden balls as all these other guys out there you know we talking about. Yes. These people are remembered because they were special. There was something about them that made them stand out and in a way they were very smart. They were very streetwise characters in a way. They also had a vulnerability to them. That there’s something about them that they kind of show their heart on their sleeve at times. And I think there’s something about a simplicity about their joy. You know you know when they have to you know that they do this. They love it. They’re not doing it because they wanted to be famous. They’re not doing it necessarily because they wanted to make lots of money. That becomes a consequence of that. They’re gifts and the hard work that they put him. But somewhere along the way the joy the pure joy of playing football racing the car singing goes. And there was always a moment all that something you look at the eyes. And I spent a lot of time making his films finding footage where you see their faces and everything is reflected in their eyes and on their faces. There was a point when the joy goes the light goes through their eyes and suddenly they’re doing this thing that they love. But it’s not fun anymore. And it’s becoming a problem and it’s becoming more of a challenge. Now the interesting thing about making a film about Madonna was he did survive. He got out of it. He got out of Naples and he went to the next place and he had a hard time and he got out of hand somehow he’s still going. It’s only now he’s gone back to Argentina after all these years. So that idea of. That’s my that key line is in the film at the beginning of the film and at the end of the film when you’re on the pitch everything goes away life goes away. You know you just enjoy the freedom and the pure simplicity of kicking a ball around. That’s what he loves. Somewhere along the way life just gets so difficult for him even when he’s old. Even now he still likes to kick a ball and he can’t even walk. He still celebrates scoring.
S30: Probably the crappiest goal he’s ever school in his life playing five a side piece to celebrates that no matter how sad the ending is. I always smile when I see that shot at the ending because I just feel like that’s what I love about the guys still wants to win. Still wants to score and then he feels that pain in his back and his legs when he walks away.
S12: And ultimately I felt that despite looking in and you feel the sort of lost promise you know could there have been a 94 World Cup performance you know could there have been more greatness from marijuana more indelible moments that we as fans could consume. Ultimately I felt this was a sympathetic portrait. I mean do you feel sympathy toward Maradona. I mean you don’t come away feeling like this was a man that squandered his life.
S26: I hope it’s a balanced film. I hope it shows you his brilliance in that and I think so. But the reaction has been people who who you know didn’t know about that like god guy was great and people who did know about me love him see a lot of that brilliance. But I also wanted to try to understand that the reason why his life turned out the way it was wasn’t because he was fantastic at something. It’s because there was also something in him that led him to trouble that that got him addicted. He was an addict for a long time afterwards. He never completed a season. He never completed a tournament really after that as a player you know he tonight’s Four World Cup but then he gets banned. The reason he gets banned I think goes all the way back to what happened in Naples and the reason when he was coaching you never really succeeded because he wasn’t trained as a coach really. He was living off the legend. And really at the end of our film he becomes the myth the legend of Maradona. And the idea is that Clyde arrived in Naples in that car is Diego and somewhere during lent to the film he changes into the mythical figure who has his image on these huge buildings and you know is famous for hanging out with Fidel Castro and lots of other kind of world leaders and the pope and picking a fight with everyone everywhere he goes. But somewhere along the way there was there was that kind of I think there was a sensitive guy who smiled and who had a brightness in his eyes and he was brilliant and he loved to play and that joy did vanish somewhere along the way but he’s still going. And I think that is something to be celebrated. I don’t want it to feel like it’s a negative film about him. I wanted to try and find the right balance of the day he’d go in the mirror don’t it that that gee and the genius. You know they’re the kind of angel and the devil. That’s what he is. He’s both of them all the way down the line.
S5: I have Kapadia directed Diego Maradona. You can watch it on HBO and you really showed us.
S2: Thank you so much for coming on the show. Great. Thanks guys. Nice talking. That’s our show for today our producer is Melissa Kaplan. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just reach out to Slate dot com slash hang up and you can e-mail us at hang up sleep but calm down if you’re still here I’m guessing you might want even more hang up in less than an hour.
S32: Bonus segment this week Josh and I talked about Alabama quarterback to a ton of lower and his injury over the weekend and the questions that get raised when something like this happens both go towards the specifics of his case Stefan but also just the general facts of college athletics particularly when they pertain to somebody like Toure who could have been making North of 10 million dollars every about eligible for the NFL draft. To hear that conversation joined Slate Plus for just 35 dollars for the first year you can sign up at Slate dot com slash coming up.
S33: Plus Josh Levine I’m Stefan Fatsis. Remember Zalmai baby and thanks from listening.
S4: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Stefan on Saturday to a time of high low at the quarterback from Alabama. The Heisman favorite until the mighty LSU Tigers took down Alabama a week ago went down with a really horrifying hip injury in the second quarter of Alabama’s game against Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide were up by four touchdowns at that point thirty seven and two was coming off. Ankle surgery a month earlier and he had been questionable for that game. He kind of limped around but still threw for more than 400 yards put up his usual amazing numbers against Mississippi State again after being a game time decision before this hit Hendry. He was reportedly screaming in pain when it happened. It was a dislocation and a fracture which to me sounds like potential career threatening if not career ending. He is having surgery this week and today possibly as we speak Monday. The questions that get raised when something like this happens both go towards the specifics of his case. Stefan but also just the general facts of college athletics particularly when they pertain to somebody like to who could have been making north of 10 million dollars if he had been able to.
S5: If he had been eligible for the NFL draft well he still might be the doctors the team doctors putting the best spin on this. We expect a full recovery. Et cetera et cetera. They’ve consulted with lots of orthopedic experts. They flew him to Houston which is where he will be having wants to be having the surgery. But yeah these are the same questions we have all the time. We have these questions about Leonard Fournette we have these questions about Zion Williamson. You have an absolutely elite top of the draft talent that stands to make doesn’t stand to make. He’s gonna get like about as much as you can get going into one of the professional leagues and he’s playing in a thirty five to seven game with two 3 two or three minutes to go before the half because he and Nick Saban the Alabama head coach wanted to practice the two minute drill and I get that. Yeah it’s probably important for you and Alabama to practice the two minute drill because they may be playing in a game later in the season where they have to execute the two minute drill on the other hand who’s thinking about to his future.
S4: Yeah I think the question is should have been playing in the game. I feel like that should have been playing with that particular time and score is a little bit of a red herring. It’s just extremely unusual to take a quarterback out in the first half of a game no matter how short the score no matter that opponent.
S16: So I would push back on that a little bit and say that this isn’t the NFL and college football there are routinely really good quarterbacks backing up other quarterbacks. It’s not like an Alabama would you put it some grave deficit if they benched two out of thirty five seven because I think it’s reasonable for four coaches if they really and truly do have the best interests of these young men at heart to make these kinds of decisions.
S4: Yeah I just don’t think any coach would have done any differently. So just particularly calling out Nick Saban for that part of the decision feels a little bit off what I do think is fair to think about is whether he should have been playing in the game and even if you would stipulate and it seems. Wait wait wait.
S7: I shouldn’t be watching the games shouldn’t be playing the game because of. He had surgery on his ankle a few weeks ago which may have compromised other parts of his body and his reaction time and the way he moves or shouldn’t be playing in the game because it was Mississippi State and Alabama is going to win anyway.
S4: So a couple of things. I think even if actually it was totally unrelated which I think is possible that it was totally unrelated. I think it was it was surprising to me that he played in this game. I thought that they were going to hold him out against Mississippi State and then against Western Carolina and save him for the final game of the year against Auburn. He was clearly compromised against LSU and this is the problem that I think coaches have is that this is a player who is so extraordinarily talented and who plays a position in quarterback because of his amazing ability as a thrower. His command of that offense where a physically compromised to a tangle by law is an amazingly good college quarterback. One of the top in the country and so you can kind of understand why if you look at his performance against Qaeda and say like this guy is good to go like he is you know throwing for more than 400 yards let’s just throw him back out there but that is not an impulse around protection. It’s not an impulse around preserving his health and long term value. And this just gets back to the fundamental unfairness of college sports for somebody who has the market value that he does and is unable to capitalize on it because of the role that you have to be three years out of high school before you can be eligible for the draft. It’s the same with Trevor Lawrence who has not been hurt but Trevor Lawrence could get hurt. You know this this coming week and you know he’s a guy who probably would have gone number one in the draft after his freshman year.
S5: It actually surprises me that more fan luck and you have to sort of stipulate that the competitive desire to play is extremely high.
S4: He wanted to play in his family reportedly wanted to play too. And that’s right. You know the question is are they the ones who should make the decision.
S15: Exactly. Maybe I mean maybe they should maybe they shouldn’t but I don’t think Nick Saban should be the one making the decision because you know as with Zion and as with anyone else who should be a committee of wise Alabama fans the decision where Spencer Hall to say I’m not sure we can get a forum for that.
S5: You know this really is a dilemma and I think until some coach says that the future of these particular players is more important to me than winning the next game it’s not going to change.
S16: I mean I think John Calipari is a good person to drag into this conversation because he has made such a commitment to the idea that I am here to prepare these guys to play in the NBA. Calipari the reason Calipari benefits is that these the basketball players that he recruits need one year before they can go to the NBA for the most part. I mean they certainly could do other things like not play or play overseas and make money. But they do need that one year. So Calipari can be justified in saying that look these guys got to play. They’ve got to showcase their themselves for the NBA to prepare for the draft. And I can make them better players too has been there already long enough the risk of injury is much higher in football than it is in basketball. But Calipari hasn’t really had a Zion situation where someone is so off the charts that people start saying he really just shouldn’t play. And I wonder what he would do in that situation.
S10: Yeah that’s a good point. I think when Anthony Davis was there and Klay acclimation the number one pick in the draft and the best player to come in in college for a while the conversation changes pretty quickly. And I feel like you know back then you know earlier in the 2010s there wasn’t as much conversation about guys sitting right once they had agreed to go to college. So yeah I think that’s a good point. Like if Calipari it had Zion how things might have played out differently. You know the thing that just occurred to me that’s never really discussed and I think the NCAA would waive it away probably for liability reasons and people would say oh it’s just not realistic because of the amount of games there are. But if there was a true priority put on the health of these guys and we are serious about OK maybe the player shouldn’t be the one making the decision maybe it shouldn’t be a Nick Saban.
S4: What about having independent medical experts who report not to the school and aren’t answerable to you know the athletic department or the head coach making this decision like that’s what you would want. I think if your number one priority was preserving the health and earning power of a player like this and just the fact that I am even dismissing the idea that something like I could ever happen shows just kind of how far we are from a system where that is prioritized.
S5: And that’s something that should be the same in professional sports. NFL players are rightfully dubious. At least they’ve become they’ve grown to be rightfully dubious of the medical care that they receive. Many just sort of go along with it because that’s the system that they’re in and they’re worried about losing their their contracts and getting cut. And it’s not that much different in college. The medical departments are are intertwined with the university. They are employees of the university for the most part if they’re not they are on contract to the university. And you’re talking about 18 to 23 year old people who don’t necessarily have the ability to stand up and say I want some different medical care.
S34: I think all of this is true even if we were to state that this was a freak accident. The fact that he was playing on an ankle where he just had surgery I think speaks to the larger question about whether his university has his best interests at heart. Even if Nick Saban says that even if Nick Saban believes that he does. I think you can separate out these two incidents and use the first 10 form the second even if you say that the first and cause the second. All right let’s end it there and let us also thank our dear Slate Plus members were always looking out for your best interests. And we’ll be back with more for you next week.
S5: You don’t need a second opinion with us.