The What Happened to Russell Wilson? Edition

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Joel Anderson: The following podcast includes explicit language. But we assume that’s what you came for.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of October 24th, 2002, on this week’s show Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer and the Affectively Wild Podcast. He will be here to talk about the World Series match up between the Astros and the Phillies and not the Yankees will also discuss the declines of Russell Wilson Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and whether they’re temporary or less. So then we’ll assess whether Adam Silver NBA promotion and relegation talk is for real or less so. And if it is real, the Lakers are definitely getting relegated. I’m in Washington, D.C., and I’m the author of The Queen, the host of the podcast One Year. Also in D.C., Stefan FATSIS. He’s the author of the books Wild An Outside Word Freak and a few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan.

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Stefan Fatsis: Hi, Josh. I went to a college football game this weekend, Seymour Brown against Cornell Joel Oh, my God. The end of this game. BROWN Have the ball on. The one with the chance to win with like, 20 seconds to go. Go First down. Loss of four penalty, second down. Loss of whatever. Third down drops back from the 20.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That’s a very desultory play by play.

Stefan Fatsis: That came over.

Joel Anderson: Weight.

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Stefan Fatsis: So that was homecoming for Brown. All those poor Ionians Josh I know, was just.

Joel Anderson: Like.

Stefan Fatsis: At the end of.

Joel Anderson: What if you spent all this time talking about LSU, why haven’t you brought up Brown?

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I did go to one Brown football game that was, you know, Joel like you talk about SMU having a great AFC US atmosphere.

Joel Anderson: Delightful for a few thousand fans and friends just yeah nice.

Stefan Fatsis: Nice stadium nice to some of us there though.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Some of us grew up with 100,000. You know it’s hard to to make the steep steep climb down.

Joel Anderson: Felt there was it never rains in Tiger Stadium there.

Stefan Fatsis: Was I think a parents sitting a few a few rows in front of us like drop it F-bombs over Brown’s poor performance at the end of the game was ugly, not befitting.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: High expectations.

Joel Anderson: Homecoming. It means more in the Ivy League.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So with us from California, host of Slow Burn Season three and six and remains proud of Sunny Dykes University Joel Anderson. I liked how there is a little bit of sorrow with you’re having the trial Kansas State you’re like you know these guys they played really hard but you know, I just have to say I’ll state, you know, with a tear going down, you’re in your face.

Joel Anderson: Those boys fight hard. And for people that aren’t old enough, they also, I still think of Kansas State as the program that, you know, like the little program that could be you know, a lot of people don’t remember that. That was probably the worst FBS program in the country as recently as like a generation ago. So I kind of always have a little soft spot for them when they put up a good fight. But, you know, they were against the they were up against the number eight, now number seven team in the country on their home field for homecoming blackout. I mean, you know, you just kind of that’s a that’s a tough environment for any program to go into, let alone K State.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So for kids, you know, growing up now, you know, like how Nebraska is really terrible, Like that’s how Kansas State used to be. In our Slate Plus segment, we are going to talk about rushing the passer penalties in the NFL and whether they should just be playing flag football out there. What’s going on, refs? Are you protecting these quarterbacks for.

Joel Anderson: Troy Aikman say they should be wearing? I mean.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I’m not going to go there.

Joel Anderson: You’re not going to go there.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You can you can listen to try on your own time, not on this podcast. But if you want to listen to that and it’s an interesting conversation about what they should do about rushing the passer, you need to be a Slate Plus member. And we have a special announcement that for a limited time you can get six months of slate plus for just $29.

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Joel Anderson: It’s a good it’s a good deal.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It is a very good deal. It’s 50% off. And as a member, you’ll get no ads on any slate podcasts. You get unlimited reading on the slate site. You’ll get member exclusive segments of Hang Up and Listen and other shows and member exclusive episodes, one year slow burn, etc. Sign up for Slate Plus at Slate.com slash hang up. Plus, you can access all of Slate’s content and support our work. It’s just $29 for six months and it’s through October 28. So you only have this week to get that deal. So sign up now, Slate.com slash hang up plus personal affront if you don’t sign up.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: According to Joel, I would never say that.

Stefan Fatsis: If the Philadelphia Phillies can beat the Houston Astros, they will with a regular season record of 87 and 75, be the third worst World Series champion behind only the 2006 St Louis. Cardinals 83 wins in the 1987 Minnesota Twins, 85 wins. While this is good trivia, it doesn’t mean much because while baseball’s playoffs, as we’ve discussed, do a fine job of anointing a champion, they do a terrible one of determining which is the best team. So what would it take to determine the best team in a piece in the Ringer?

Stefan Fatsis: Last week, our friend Ben Lindbergh noted that for Major League Baseball to achieve the playoff success rate of the NBA based on regular season records. It would need to stage a best of 75 finals. Ben Lindbergh is here now. He’s a senior editor at the Ringer, the co-host of the podcast Effectively Wild and the co-author of The MVP Machine. And the only rule is it has to work. Hi, Ben. Hey, guys. All right, so I would be interested in a best of 75 final. Only if the teams had to play nonstop like a dance marathon. Then we’re having this conversation about playoff equity because a bunch of hundred winning teams, Dodgers, Mets, Braves, were dumped out in the early rounds. But it feels kind of like, you know, after all these years, everybody should understand that baseball is a long season and short series around them. But here we are again.

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Speaker 4: Yeah, it’s definitely not a new conversation or a new complaints by fans of teams that were really good during the regular season and then exited quickly. I guess it kind of came to the fore just because you had a confluence of a few very good teams getting knocked out in quick succession. And you also have a new playoff format, an expanded playoff field. Not that that was really directly responsible for the upsets we saw. It’s more just a function of baseball. So I like your they shoot baseball players, don’t they. Idea and proposal for the playoffs but I’m not sure that that would work with appetites from TV audiences, let alone the weather, which has already become uncooperative.

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Joel Anderson: Do you think the MLB cares, though, about those 100 winning teams losing ahead of the World Series? Because I think about it like college football or whatever, or actually the March Madness is probably the better team sometimes, like Duke loses and they’re counting on Duke to bring in viewers. So like, it probably is better for Major League Baseball if those really good teams make it to the World Series. But like, do you get the sense that that even really matters to them?

Speaker 4: I said in my article that they’re sort of an upset, sweet spot where obviously you don’t want the favorites always to win and you don’t want the underdogs always to win, because then it would seem sort of meaningless or just overly predictable and boring. So you want some number of upsets because that’s exciting. I guess in this specific case, maybe MLB would have wanted, let’s say, the Mets and the Dodgers to continue if we assumed that they just want the big market, big audience teams to advance. But beyond that, beyond the specific teams, I think there’s obviously a benefit to having some upsets. And I think you just have to understand what you’re watching and what you’re getting into and just maintain a healthy perspective, which sports fans are great at, historically speaking.

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Speaker 4: So that’s why I guess you just understand that yeah, the regular season tells you more maybe about the quality of the teams and the playoffs are just a tournament. It’s just sort of a separate entity where anything can happen and we all sort of pretend that it’s just as meaningful, if not more meaningful. I think you can enjoy it, perhaps without assuming that it means that if you win, you were necessarily the better team, you just were the better team in that series, presumably. So it’s tough to maintain that perspective, though, because that World Series or bust mindset is really drilled into fans. And I think a lot of teams think that if their team made it, then they’re the team of destiny and they were the better team all along, which is not necessarily true, but it’s just a kind of collective fiction that we all buy into and enjoy for a month or so, and it really has been enjoyable.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: How do you square the fact that it’s impossible to build a team to win in the playoffs with the fact that the Houston Astros always win in the playoffs? And I feel, yeah, I felt like we went way too long in the segment in talking about this and I kind of cool and dispassionate we’re above it all sort of way. The playoffs, blah, blah, blah, who cares? You know, it’s just the turn. It added up. But we need to feed Joel’s, you know, hunger and passion to troll the world about the Astros continued success. And so I will I will ask seriously.

Joel Anderson: Hey, New York’s been good to me, man in my life. I appreciate New York and its sports team starting with the 94 Knicks. Appreciate check.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I will ask seriously, is there something we can say about the Astros sustained success? It’s like a record, too. They made the ALCS like six times in a row. Nobody had ever done that before. There must Ben Lindbergh be something that they’re doing right here.

Speaker 4: Well, first of all, I think it’s fine for Joel to be the human embodiment. Of the broom that the Astros have been tweeting out every time they sweep someone, That’s fine. They deserve it. They’ve earned it. As far as we know, they’re not cheating anymore. This is all on the level. They’re just a really good team and.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: They’ll spend way too much time in the gym to be just, you know, described as a broomstick guy. I’m a fan.

Speaker 4: Yeah, I guess that’s maybe more your bill. Josh? Sorry.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Oh, man.

Speaker 4: No, I think that all you could do is get there. And they have gotten there very consistently and they’ve been one of the better teams, if not the best, here in the playoff field year after year. So, yeah, they have made it to six straight ALCS. They’ve only won one championship thus far and that’s the one that is tainted by the Saints doing.

Stefan Fatsis: Whoa, whoa.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Joel Anderson: Hey, whoa! Championship. Wow. And of course, the Yankees won. All those championships were clean, But go ahead.

Speaker 4: They might be about to add a second, but it is true that they’ve only won one. And that one is the one that just so happened to be the year when they were sitting still. Not saying that there is a causal connection, that could be a coincidence, but even they are not.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Everything that happens in the playoffs is a coincidence. We’ve established.

Speaker 4: That. Yes, exactly right. Unless you believe in teams of destinies or that winning a short series means that you were entitled to win all along. I think they’re just really good, though. I mean, I think there have been a lot of studies that showed that the sign stealing probably didn’t have that big an impact overall.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: There we go.

Speaker 4: There’s no way to say that they didn’t win a specific series because of it. We can’t rule it out. But I think just the fact that they have continued to win at this level probably tells you that they were good even without the side stealing, which makes it even more senseless that they were doing it in the first place because they were just a really good baseball team that didn’t necessarily need to cheat to be good. But this version of the Astros this year is, if not the best. It’s it’s close to the best they’ve been. You could make a case for the 2019 team, too. So they have sort of steamrolled the Yankees a lot lately. And I think for the most part, they’ve just been the better team, which again, is not necessarily why they won. Definitely Some Luck has been on the Astros side, as Aaron Boone said. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that, but he did say it and perhaps there’s some truth to it. You have to have some luck on your side to sweep your way through the playoffs, but you also have to be good. And the Astros are very good, too.

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Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, there’s no doubt the Astros pitch better. They hit better, they played better. The Yankees made errors and the Yankees also had injuries. And the Yankees were cycling through shortstops and having Giancarlo Stanton play left field for the first time in like three years in Yankee Stadium. I mean, it was not you know, it was not the stable team that the Astros rolled out. And that’s to take nothing away from the Astros. They kicked their asses. Yeah.

Stefan Fatsis: Before we can I just back up for one second, Ben, because I’ve heard a lot and Joel has his finger up to talk about the Astros. And let’s do that. I have one quick question, which is that for all of the tinkering with the playoff format, the one thing that I haven’t heard is that if we really care about the teams with who win more games during the regular season, having an advantage, you know, we saw this year they got all game all home games in the first round this new first round of the playoffs. Has anyone floated the idea of making the team with the worst record have to win more games in a series like you know I have not heard.

Speaker 4: It seriously considered here. That’s what they do in the kbo in Korea. Right they do that they they start off the worst team with a deficit, at least in some rounds. And they have sort of a ladder where you have to work your way up and the lowest seeded team plays the next, lowest seeded, and then eventually they get to the higher seeds. And so it is a more predictable outcome, the better team wins more often. So I think if you wanted to actually have the playoff results reflect the regular season results more reliably without playing a best of 75 series and having only Stefan Fatsis tuning in by the end, I think that wouldn’t be a bad way to do it, but it would be.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Way more adjustment. There are way more fun ways you could advantage the team with the best record you could give them like ladders on the outfield. You could move the fences, you know, you know, just give them just give them a completely easy path and make them earn it.

Speaker 4: Stefan Yeah, sure. Just, you know, take a fielder away from the worst team and whatever. Whatever it takes. Some weird, wacky version of baseball. Yeah.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 4: You could also just accept that just weird and wacky and weird stuff happens. So that’s what we’ve been living with to this point.

Joel Anderson: Can I ask a question that’s sort of weird and off the wall here, because this occurred to me as a longtime Astros fan, they were in the National League for 50 years until 2012, and now all of a sudden they’ve moved over to the American League and have become become dominant. And I’m just even I’m asking you, Ben, and even you, Josh and stuff and like, is it weird for you all to think of the Astros as an American League team? Because when I grew up like the Cubs, the Reds, those were their rivals and like, those were the games that you of. And on to fill up the home stadium. And now it’s just like they’re in the American League playing the fucking Mariners and Angels and that’s supposed to mean something. But like, have you all gotten adjusted to that? The idea that the Astros are an American League team? No.

Speaker 4: It took me a little while to get used to the new alignment. Yeah, but at this point, basically the leagues are like conferences. I mean, there’s just no difference between them. We have a universal deal now. There isn’t any real league rivalry. There aren’t really any differences in the rule sets or anything. And so a lot of that historical Al and L rivalry, like, you know, the World Series in the All-Star Game really mean something for bragging rights between leagues. Oh, that’s really fallen by the wayside. So for me, I don’t miss it that much. I don’t care all that much about there being a difference between the leagues. I’m fine with it kind of being like most other major sports and leagues where it’s just sort of a geographic alignment or it’s just happenstance, more so than there’s a real difference here. But that’s the way that we’ve trended. So I don’t even think of the Astros as as a former NL team so much anymore. It’s been a.

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Stefan Fatsis: While. I don’t either. And and yet you know you said that we’ve sanded down those differences Ben but these are not geographically base this is not Eastern Conference Western College. No there is still this fiction that these leagues exist. And at some point in the future, I imagine that those are going to be.

Speaker 4: Yes, maybe so, especially if if expansion happens. Yeah.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Let’s talk about Bryce Harper. And given that these games do happen, though, it comes out, we’re.

Stefan Fatsis: Going to we’re going to move on from the Astros without talking about Ted Cruz behind home plate?

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I think so.

Joel Anderson: I want to talk about elegy. I want to talk about Rudy Giuliani or, you know, Donald Trump in his Yankees jacket, throwing out first pitches or whatever, if you want to. That’s fine.

Stefan Fatsis: Because the Yankees may have lost, but the fans did a great job of serenading Cruz when he left in the sixth inning.

Speaker 4: Well, that’s a small victory, I guess.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So given that these games happen, we’re going to create playoff heroes. That’s never going to be be something that doesn’t happen. And the Bryce Harper kind of, you know, after having after breaking his thumb and cut and struggling when he came back, seeing him hit that home homerun to send them to the World Series, having a great playoffs so far, it’s been kind of strangely surprising to me, Ben, given all of the hype around him. He’s had a kind of rocky career like these two MVP seasons, but also some years where he you know, he’s often been compared to Mike Trout definitely was not as consistently great as as Mike Trout has been, not even close to it.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And then he signs this enormous contract in a city that eats at sports heroes alive. And seeing that like this is maybe the one enormous contract to a hitter that seems like it could be like actually not an atrocious, like team killing deal. Like, I find it all kind of strange and surprising, even though like, Bryce Harper is good at baseball is maybe like, not a confounding thing at all.

Speaker 4: Yeah, he has had a really fascinating career. I think the expectations were set just so high, just unmetered Billy High by being a teenage phenom. But really he has met or surpassed any reasonable expectations. I think you could say at this point. I mean, he’s clearly on a Hall of Fame path. He has won a couple MVP awards. He would have been on an MVP path this year or two before he got hurt and missed time and came back kind of compromised. Now he’s added playoff hero to his resume, which was one thing that was lacking, largely due to a lack of opportunities, more so than him not playing well in the postseason. And he’s been one of the quote unquote, faces of the game.

Speaker 4: Right. He is just a very vocal, very visible, very charismatic player even in this series. Like so many highlights, so many gifts, like he’s very expressive, very demonstrative. He had that face he made after Kyle Schwarber hit almost a 500 foot homer that just instantly joined the baseball GIF pantheon. So he’s a big star, and early in his career you’d get various surveys of players where they would say, Oh, Bryce Harper is the most overrated player, but really you can’t call him overrated anymore. He’s just really good. He’s been one of the best players in baseball for a while now and yeah, it’s great. Like you sign a superstar to a big contract and he really ingratiated himself with Phillies fans right away. Almost pandered to them, I guess, and just sort of, you know, got some cheap heat just by talking up Philadelphia as a place and all the things that Philly fans want to hear out of Philly players. But he has backed that up by winning an MVP award and now being a postseason hero.

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Speaker 4: And. You can’t really count on the bat being in the hands of your high priced superstar at that big moment. It just so happened this time, you know, if the batting order had lined up differently, he would not have had the bat in his hands at that point. But he did. And it’s always special when things lined up like that so that the big star, the guy you want at the plate, actually gets to come to the plate at that moment and have a great at bat and hit a home run. And it was just a huge moment and really kind of makes his legacy if it wasn’t made already. But, you know, he’s had the opportunity to do that, right. He had to be put in that place. Whereas Mike Trout, as you said, they came up around the same time and they’ve often been compared and yeah, Trout has been a better player, but he is not getting that opportunity to hit that big homerun because the angels are bad every year. So that’s what people meant when they were mad at the Angels being bad. It’s that we don’t get to see Mike Trout have that kind of moment because he’s just not put in that position.

Stefan Fatsis: And it’s the narrative is playing itself out in the way that that that Harper and his father sort of orchestrated when he left Washington for Philadelphia. I mean, the one thing they played up was that he was committed to the city, no opt outs in his contract, which was very rare for a Scott Boras client. His father is still talking about why Bryce connects so well with Philadelphia. I think it’s because I was an ironworker. I’m blue collar. He was raised in that kind of a family. Your kid is a $330 million contract, but these narratives do persist. And this is the rare case where performance meets story. And if they win the World Series, they’re going to need the Philly cops to go on like triple special overtime.

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Speaker 4: You’re right. Yeah. I mean, he hadn’t been on a team that had won a postseason series until this year, and now they’re winning largely on the strength of his performance. I mean, it’s just one player on a team, but he’s having to this point one of the best postseasons ever. So it’s been a lot of fun to watch.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Joel, what do you think of the city of Philadelphia maybe going in there?

Joel Anderson: I think Philadelphia’s a lovely town. I’ve actually you know, it’s funny and this is an interesting probably, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody from Philadelphia that I don’t like. So which is that’s.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That’s not a winning attitude. Come on.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I don’t I don’t have any beef with them. But I mean, you know, I mean, they don’t want this either. But I guess my question is, is so the the Yankees losing is representative of some larger organizational problem. Apparently, people are wanting the Yankees to do something. But the Dodgers also, you know, they’ve gotten I mean, they’ve gotten the World Series through this and they’ve done really well. But they’ve come up short a couple of times recently, too, except for the pandemic shortened season or whatever. So should those teams do anything, given how successful they were in the regular season, or is it like a lot of that, just like fans at the end of the year disappointed that, you know, it didn’t end the way that it looked like it might end?

Speaker 4: I think it’s a lot of the latter and a little bit of the former to it. The Dodgers have just had one of the greatest regular season runs of all time, so it’s hard to say that they should change much even though they have had a lot of playoff exits and some of them with some kind of controversial managerial decisions. The Yankees, they started off so well this year, like on a historic pace that I think they really raised expectations to perhaps an unreasonable level. And then they really were not very good for a while and they just kind of backed into the playoffs. They almost blew a very large lead.

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Stefan Fatsis: That nine and a half games.

Speaker 4: Yeah. And then they got to this point and, you know, they were shorthanded. They lost a lot of players. Some of the deficiencies of that roster were exposed, but it remains the case. They won 99 games this year. They haven’t had a losing season since the early nineties. You know, most fan bases would be happy to have it the way that the Yankees have it. But I think it’s partly the fact that they have not gone out and other than Gerrit Cole in recent years really signed the biggest ticket free agents, they’ve kind of tried to do what teams with lower payrolls might do and mix and match and find undervalued guys. And people expect the Yankees to go out if they have a vacancy at shortstop sign. Cosgrove They have a hole at first base signed Freddie Freeman and they haven’t really done that. They’ve kind of taken the budget route and tried to have a better holistic roster without really breaking the bank for anyone.

Speaker 4: It just seems like that is partly an ownership issue that the new younger Steinbrenner is not as willing to just blow everyone away payroll wise as his father was. It seems like Steve Cohen of the Mets is the biggest spender in New York now. So I think Yankees fans are frustrated about that. They’re frustrated about just the way the things ended and some of the messaging and Aaron Boone maybe not being as fired up as they want him to be. So some of it is sort of a silly overreaction and some of it, I think, is a reasonable response to the Yankees not really acting the way the Yankees used to in good ways, but also. In some bad ways, too.

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Stefan Fatsis: Okay. Okay. One word answer. Will they break the bank for Aaron Judge? Yes. Okay. That’s an answer. That’s all Here. Thank you so.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Much. You’re welcome.

Stefan Fatsis: Ben Lindbergh is a senior editor at The Ringer, the co-host of Effectively Wild, the podcast and co-author of The MVP Machine. And the only rule is it has to work then. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Speaker 4: Thanks, guys.

Stefan Fatsis: Up next, Russell Wilson Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers swan songs.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: On Sunday, quarterback Russell Wilson sat out of the Denver Broncos loss against the New York Jets, reportedly due to a torn hamstring. This came just days after social media went wild with reports that his signature sandwich, the danger which had been taken off the menu at Subway due to his extremely bad acting and or his extremely bad play. While Subway insists that the danger of which sub was simply cycled out in favor of, quote, some new craveable options. My perusal of Subway’s online menu calls that claim into serious question.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Joel, as someone known for his football acumen and extremely questionable food takes, what do you think is less palatable? Wilson’s nearly league worst quarterbacking statistics. Or pepperoni, salami. Black forest ham. Bacon. Provolone. Lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, banana peppers, yellow mustard and mayo on Italian herbs. And she is bread. And before you answer, let me remind you that if you want to make that a meal, it will cost an extra $2.99.

Joel Anderson: You open the door for this inside. So I guess I haven’t been to Subway in a long time because, I mean, there was a time when Subway did a great job of keeping me fed, when I didn’t have the money for many other options. And they just have this quote, sandwich board with signature signature sandwiches on it because I didn’t even know. I saw the list of signature sandwiches and I was like, oh, is that like on a different board? And so in Subway, I haven’t been in one in a long time.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So they have these new vault sandwiches. And the claim from like Subway PR is that, oh, we need to make room in the vault for these other sandwiches. Like, somehow it’s just like the ingredients in the bucket. It’s not like they need to, like, truck in the ingredients from, like, some, you know, island or mountain or something.

Stefan Fatsis: You’re telling me that Derek Jeter doesn’t personally make the grand salami for me?

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: There’s the vault, which by Simone Biles, that’s still in the vault. The front frontcourt faced by Charles Barkley. What was your go to subway order job?

Joel Anderson: Well, I was. I was mostly just a turkey guy. I just got turkey and cheese on it, you know? You know, I eat half a sandwich every meal. So for lunch and dinner and this, this, I mean this. I’m doing this until, like my late twenties, so I don’t really have a signature sandwich.

Stefan Fatsis: If the turkey sandwich was named for Manu Ginobili, would you have ordered it?

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I mean.

Joel Anderson: Sort of underwhelming options, just like the sandwich. So you just do what you can in a pinch. So that’s kind of like that. But I would never insult that sandwich because my favorite sandwich shout out Driftwood Deli on El Camino has turkey, pastrami, bacon, melted provolone, avocado, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, chipotle pesto spread on a toasted Dutch crunch.

Stefan Fatsis: There’s just like a sandwich dartboard, right? And you put up 100 ingredients somewhere each morning, throws a dart and whatever ten ingredients it nails or what you put in that day.

Joel Anderson: It’s called the customer’s favorite. And I was not really I mean, I love sandwiches. I was a huge sandwich guy until I started eating the sandwich. So anyway, a side. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean.

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Stefan Fatsis: To.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Sound that different from the danger. So it’s sort of like that, but sort of like how Jimmy Garoppolo, who does have his own signature sandwich. Let me scroll down. Here it is the Benny.

Joel Anderson: Oh, come on, man. That’s beneath me. No, no, that’s.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You hear me.

Joel Anderson: Getting into Nick Mullen’s territory now? I mean, hear me out.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Hear me out.

Joel Anderson: There.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Like Jimmy Garoppolo really handsome guy, number one. Number number two, he makes all these, like, amazing plays and then just makes horrible plays. And so like that, the line between quarterbacking excellence and like a guy who is maybe should be a backup. It’s not that it’s not that Garoppolo can’t make the throws or can’t on his best play as he looks like the best player It’s just the lack of consistency and like maybe every ingredient, you know, maybe there’s some Black Forest ham that’s on there. It shouldn’t be on there. That’s what I’m saying.

Joel Anderson: So that sounds about right. I mean, yeah, didn’t nobody said that the sandwich was the best sandwich they had to offer. Right.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But so Russell Wilson.

Joel Anderson: So Russell Wilson, to your point. So I’m thinking of all of everything that you that’s been written and said about Russell Wilson at the through the this early part of the season. And what I keep coming back to is that he’s 33 years old and do you know who else is 33 years old Cam Newton and and I say that because this is Russell’s 10th season in the NFL. In John Elway’s 10th season, the Broncos drafted Tommy Maddox in the first round. Dan Marino ruptured his Achilles in his 11th season when he was 32 years old. Joe Montana was in his early thirties when the 49 just brought in Steve Young. So I just wonder if perhaps we’ve gotten too used to the exceptions to the rule like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and not thought about what the actual life of an NFL player is like. It could be that we are.

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Joel Anderson: Seeing the aging process in Russell Wilson in the way that it used to be with NFL quarterback quarterbacks, that you didn’t have a prime that lasted until you were 36 or 37 years old. And it just seems like in that way, the Broncos just I mean, I hate to say it this way maybe, but you know, false bill of goods here, man. You know this this is not this. This is not the Russell Wilson that anybody thought they were going to get. But maybe we need to start thinking that, hey, everybody can’t play to 45 like Tom Brady.

Stefan Fatsis: Russell Wilson, as you said, 32 or 33.

Joel Anderson: He’s 33.

Stefan Fatsis: 33. So he’s a year older than Geno Smith, who replaced him in Seattle. And their numbers don’t exactly line up. Right now, Geno Smith is a far superior quarterback. Maybe he maybe waiting a decade to get good is the secret to success in the NFL. And that partly might be true. Actually getting hit as much as Russell Wilson got hit in Seattle is going to cause a toll. It is just a simple fact of the human body that the number of hits that these guys sustain. And he sustained, I think more than like anybody in the history of the NFL through his first like seven seasons or something that is going to affect his mobility. It’s going to affect his strength. It’s going to affect everything about him, about his ability to play.

Stefan Fatsis: I mean, there are quarterbacks that leave the league, Jake, Jake Plummer, who I hung out with in Denver, quit at 32 because he said, I’m done. I don’t want to get hit anymore. I can’t do this anymore. It’s not worth it. Whether that was just Jake being Jake or whether it was the recognition that I’ve had enough Miles and I’ve gotten hit enough times and I’m not going to be as good at 33, 34, 35, I don’t know. But he made a conscious decision to quit. Russell Wilson got paid $245 million over five years from the Broncos to stay.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Okay. I’m curious if you guys think that’s like if Occam’s Razor here is that he is a really good quarterback still. I mean, he has a long run of sustained success in the NFL as one of by any metric, by scouts, by anything is one of the top ten quarterbacks in the league. And as recently as early 2020, he was like the obvious league MVP after getting off to a really fast start and then tapered off from there.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So a new organization with a coach who we have discussed on this show seems completely out of his element. Doug Farrar had a piece on this, a coach who doesn’t seem to like quarterbacks who play the way the Russell Wilson plays. You know, Wilson is a guy who likes to create outside the pocket. And Nathaniel Hackett prefers a, you know, a drop back pocket, traditional pocket passing type dude. So we do have evidence and the pattern. Joel you know, that list was really great as a reminder of how fall offs can be steep and sudden. And so we do have examples of that. But we also have examples of, you know, people saying Tom Brady was cooked like ten times in the last decade and we should.

Stefan Fatsis: Talk about Tom Brady out as an example. Josh, I mean, he is the outlier of all outliers.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Sure. But like, you know, Drew Brees is a short quarterback who managed to play until he was 40 and definitely had some dips in performance with injury. You know, and Russell Wilson is not just a hamstring. He had like some shoulder issue here. So it just wouldn’t surprise me if this is all a big overreaction. And Joe, like, maybe we can transition here to the personality stuff because there are people who I mean, rooting for Russell Wilson to fail. I mean, I think there are some people who are Seahawks fans who are rooting for him to fail. But there is the kind of like cringe awkwardness aspect of Russell Wilson where it’s like kind of funny when he doesn’t do well or the inauthenticity that it’s like people are not like sad. A lot of people are not sad that this guy is like falling on his face.

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Joel Anderson: It’s really weird. And I don’t know how to I don’t I guess I should have thought about how I want to talk about this. But I do think that sometimes in the locker room, particularly a league that is 80% black, we know that in the NFL, quarterbacks are basically an extension of management in a lot of ways, like they have an access to the front office and the owners that not a lot of other people do. They get the lion’s share of the money, but they have a real balancing act, like they’ve got to balance that management piece of the job with being one of the guys. Piece of the job, right.

Joel Anderson: And with a black quarterback, that expectation, there’s going to be even more different. It’s going to be even more awkward because people sort of know, hey, you’re putting on a face for the public, but you know, you’re supposed to be down here with us, too, you know? And I always just kind of wonder if Russell Wilson has really sort of struggled to maintain that in a way, in a way that makes everybody thinks that he’s sort.

Joel Anderson: Faith. And that was a really interesting clip that was on the Internet last week with Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch. And, you know, Richard Sherman, like everybody has a podcast now. And he said, oh, I feel bad for him. You know, you should reach out to him, to my son. And my son’s like, Yeah, man, I feel bad. I thought about reaching out to him, but I can’t get a hold of him. We had to go through his manager and he said it more colorfully than that. Okay, if you want to look it up with us, reasons why we can’t play that clip on here as I discover it this morning. But you should look it up because it’s a much more colorful way of saying. But there’s always been that sort of smoke around Russell Wilson. And so I think it’s just it’s weird because most quarterbacks do not get denigrated and laughed at in public quite this way, especially somebody who’s been great, like Russell Wilson has been great.

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Stefan Fatsis: For like and great with Marshawn Lynch.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, and great with Marshawn Lynch. And so it’s been really uncomfortable to watch him go to a new place and just get not any of the benefit of the doubt that most of these great quarterbacks get. And I just wonder if it’s because, you know, he had to straddle that management. One of the guys thinks, oh, well, I don’t know if I should tell them. Maybe I’ll tell the story in the bonus about one time being in the Seahawks locker room with Russell Wilson there, that sort of they’ve sort of told me everything I needed to know about his standing in that locker room.

Stefan Fatsis: Josh, before we move on to Brady and Rodgers, maybe the the the bottom line here is that Russell Wilson, because of the miles on his tires, is not the mobile quarterback that he was combined with. The fact that Nathaniel Hackett wants him to be part of the be a drop back quarterback which might make sense for him at this point in his career if he’s not as mobile as he used to be. But if he’s not good at that, well, then you’ve got a big problem.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I do think that we just need to wait for him to be healthy and then see what it looks like after that. I’m sorry to preach a little bit of caution. Caution?

Joel Anderson: Look, we have to wait until they fire their coach or somebody else, too.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I mean, they’re they’re tied to this guy for, you know, many, many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars. So he’ll definitely get the chance to redeem this bad early season. Yeah.

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Stefan Fatsis: So, yeah, I think what you’re saying, gosh, we should all just grab a beef mode, buy Marshawn Lynch and wait for for, for, for Russell Wilson to come back.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Have it for lunch and for dinner. So, yeah, I think you’re right, Stefan, that if that Brady is on the far end of the the take continuum and that we shouldn’t base much of anything on him and Rodgers is maybe somewhere in the middle. I mean, he’s not, he’s, he’s closer to, to Brady than to Wilson, I think in terms of greatness and career accomplishment. But in terms of like the takeovers, he’s only won one Super Bowl, so that puts them closer to Russell Wilson.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And so if we put performance to the side, I think what’s most interesting to me is kind of how we respond to the way these quarterbacks respond to their own poor player, the team’s poor performance. There have been so many examples this year. There was the clip of Brady yelling at his offensive line and telling me, you’re like so much better than you’re playing. And the linemen being quoted after the game being like, We love it when when our boss Tom Brady, talks about how bad we are, it’s so motivating. And then every week it’s Aaron Rodgers talking about how these receivers are so bad. And I mean, he doesn’t literally say they’re so bad, but he basically says these receivers are horrible. They’re all running the wrong routes. And, you know, it’s kind of probably true because they have just like a perverse need to surround him with the worst possible skill, position, talent.

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Joel Anderson: It’s interesting. By the way, just real quick, I used to follow Christian Watson’s older brother in high school football, and you should follow that account to see the subs go it out a little bit at Aaron Rodgers. I mean, you know, everybody’s not quite so excited to take that sort of public embarrassment in the way that he’s been sort of destroyed it out to people. Right.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So and the Brady thing, I mean, based on reporting, we’ve seen the like rift in his marriage was caused by him deciding to come back after telling Gizelle he wasn’t going to come back and he comes back to like this shitty team. But wait.

Joel Anderson: Didn’t I mean, we knew that it was going to be this bad, right? Like, I mean, I kind of don’t.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Well, everybody was like going into the season, like, they seem to be losing all their offensive linemen. And now in the season, it’s like, wow, they have a bad offensive line. And with Rodgers going into the season, it was like, wow, they seem to have gotten rid of like Davante Adams and all their good receivers. Wonder how that’s going to work out. But it’s funny how in the NFL is out of all of the like major leagues that we that we follow kind of the most unpredictable. I mean you have the Giants and Jets with the. It’s like winning records and blah, blah, blah, etc. and so forth. And yet it is funny how sometimes exactly what you think is going to happen is what happens. And like even a Rodgers and a Brady can’t defy that gravity Stefan.

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Stefan Fatsis: But even with all that, do we do we expect this to happen? Tom Brady Yeah, yes. And Aaron Rodgers I mean, yes. I mean, is it schadenfreude that you know, that it is happening? I mean, they lost to Carolina on Sunday. And, you know, I read a wire service story of the recap of the game, like every paragraph was hilarious. The Panthers lost 12 of 13 games, playing with a third string quarterback. Interim head coach Mike Evans drops a 64 yard wide open pass. There are three and four. Brady’s never been under 500 after eight games, etc. etc.. Oh, they traded Christian McCaffrey and they’re tanking. So there is some joy in watching this happen, of course. I mean, not that I wish ill on Tom Brady or anybody.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Why wouldn’t you?

Joel Anderson: I mean, here’s the thing. Every quarterback, every great quarterback we’ve seen in our life is pretty much into this way, with the exception of John Elway and maybe Joe Montana, who had sort of a decent second act with the Chiefs. But it always looks embarrassing and sad, like I felt bad for Peyton Manning at the end of his career. And so it could just be that this is what it’s going to be like. And we get to you know, you could choose to laugh or you can have a little empathy, and I’m just going to choose to laugh, actually.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Up next, Adam Silver talks about relegation.

Joel Anderson: If your favorite NBA team is bad this year, it’s like really bad. There’s some hope. At the end of the 82 game slog, the projected number one pick, a seven foot four French phenom Victor Wenbin Yama, someone we’ve gushed over plenty on this show the past couple of weeks. Landing women Yama is the gold pot at the end of the rainbow and at least several teams seem poised to take that path because the incentive to be terrible is so great this season.

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Joel Anderson: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league office are closely watching the bottom of the league standings, according to a recent ESPN.com report. Silver told Phoenix Suns employees that the league has considered a number of measures to prevent teams from tanking, including relegation to the G League. Stefan Relegation. Probably just hearing that term excited you, but Silver later said that relegation would be too destabilizing to the league, but that the NBA would be thinking of ways to keep teams out of the Womenomics sweepstakes. As someone who follows European soccer closely. Do you think relegation is actually not a terrible idea for the NBA?

Stefan Fatsis: Let’s be clear. So Silver, while talking and apologizing to Suns employees, said that relegation would mean demoting and promoting, as you said, to and from the G League, which would, quote, so disrupt our business model. And even if you took two teams up from the G League, they wouldn’t be equipped to compete in the NBA. He said, Well, duh. The G League isn’t the answer. The answer is within the NBA itself. Joel And I’m going to ask Josh to recuse himself from commenting until Joel comments here.

Stefan Fatsis: Longtime listeners may remember my MBA program proposal from the December 15th, 2014 show. It was a topic at the time because the NBA was lopsided. The West was way stronger. West team owners were upset because it was harder to make the playoffs. Mark Cuban floated a plan to move Chicago, Detroit, Indiana and Milwaukee to the West and Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and New Orleans to the east. That obviously went nowhere. But that was dumb anyway, because as we’ve seen fortunes shift.

Stefan Fatsis: My clear and sensible plan was and is this expand to 32 teams Seattle Vegas one NBA all conference is divided into two divisions initially based on the finish from the previous season, 16 teams in each division, imbalanced schedule and shorter season 45 games against teams in your own division three times per season, 30 games against teams in the other division home and away the top 12 from the first division make the playoffs plus four teams from the second division, the top four in the second division, then move up to the first division next year, the bottom four in the first division move down.

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Stefan Fatsis: So no effect on sponsorships, attendance, national or local TV schedules. Everyone is still in the NBA. Everyone still has a shot to play for a championship at the end of the season. But one quarter of teams move every season. The weaker teams then have something to play for. You do need to build in some sort of financial or draft incentive to moving up, but this serves the purpose of de-emphasizing tanking. It gets rid of the anachronistic division conference Nonsense. We don’t need the Atlantic Division with Toronto and a Northwest division with Utah and Denver, and it gives fans something to root for and against.

Joel Anderson: Wow, that’s a lot to digest there.

Stefan Fatsis: It’s well thought through plan.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I guess, because the issue here is that we don’t want teams to subvert the competitive spirit of the league by trying to lose games for a guy like Whip Inyama. So if women Yama comes into the system, who would be most likely to pick him?

Stefan Fatsis: I think one of the top four teams in the second division. Got to give the city team something to compete for. So it’s not the team with the worst record.

Joel Anderson: But man, what are you going to do about those bad teams? Like how do those bad teams get good?

Stefan Fatsis: But you can do it. You can do a lot of things. You can then make the rest of the draft order, you know, based on on, on, on records. There’s ways to incentivize getting better.

Joel Anderson: See, I guess the thing is, is that not I think you’ve thought through this is really interesting. I hear what you’re saying and I take it seriously.

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Stefan Fatsis: I just think, you know, need to take it seriously.

Joel Anderson: In sports, teams are going to be bad for all sorts of reasons, and it’s just really hard to legislate out bad teams and bad management. I guess the thing is like you’re trying to reduce the incentive for teams being bad, but I just I don’t know. I mean, sometimes I think teams. Intentionally try to get bad, like maybe what the Spurs are doing right now. Like they realize that like that 910 spot, maybe not for them and they just decided to get bad. But I think for the most part teams just end up bad and it’s hard to get out of that cycle. And I don’t know that punishing them makes it better. It we only notice like the egregious examples, like the Hinkie teams or, you know, the the teams in Oklahoma City right now where they’re clearly like not trying to be that competitive. But I mean, for the most part, I think it’s hard to stop teams from being bad.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, but this is this I think is more makes the team reputationally bad. And as a fan base, you’re like, I want to get out of the second division. I want to get up to the first division. That’s what drives European soccer. I mean, that and the, you know, the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that you benefit from from moving up to the Premier League. But I think that’s something that’s missing from sports, like, you know, feeling shitty about your franchise and wanting them to, you know, tangibly, like it’s noticeable, like I’m in the second division. That sucks. We got to get out of there.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So I don’t think it’s a terrible idea if you want to use that as a pull quote on your.

Stefan Fatsis: I’m going to recommend that.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I will. I will allow it. But I think that it has a branding problem. Your imaginary new league, which is, oh, it’s not a first division and a second division, or maybe it is a first division and a second division, but just the idea that it’s all still the NBA. Like, I think that would be a hard sell on owners and fans that that we’re all one big happy family with you know the kings at the bottom of Division two.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And then, you know, I think the thing that really rankles and that Adam Silver, I think is particularly trying to legislate against is a situation where let’s talk about the season, for instance, with the plan. What they really don’t want is teams trying to get out of the plan and Mike trying to get into the into the water, in the water.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So the way that it works now is that there are six teams in each conference that are guaranteed a playoff spot. And then you have teams seven through ten who are in the plan to try to get into the main playoffs, which I think we all agree is a really great shift that the NBA, as has made, makes the opening days of the postseason more exciting. More teams get potentially involved, makes it a little bit less secure for the top teams and makes them try more during the regular season.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But if you have a team that’s competing for that 10th spot where you could theoretically, if not practically win a championship, if you’re number ten in the conference, you know, you’re you know, you can throw your your hat in there and they’re saying, oh, actually it would be better for us if we lost these games and didn’t even try to win a championship so we could, you know, have a slightly better chance to get victory when banana like that’s a bad seed. And so any structure like your Stefan, if you’ve got 12 teams in the top division. You don’t want a situation where.

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Stefan Fatsis: 16.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You know you got an injury or something happens and the best strategy is to lose on purpose, get into that bottom division and get the high draft pick and immediately kind of bounce back up. You want to make sure teams are fighting like how not to get relegated. But then it’s like, oh, well, if they’re real bad, like punishments for getting relegated, then the owners won’t want anything to do with that.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. You know, these are complicated matters. I mean, and all of them revolving around revenue generation. I mean, the problem with the playing game is that, you know, we were talking about baseball’s structure earlier, and I alluded to the NBA and playoff success in best of seven series in the NBA. The better team, the better regular season record advances like 80% of the time. The success rate of seven and eight seeds in the NBA playoffs is kind of like, you know, 13 and 14 and 15 seeds in the NCAA basketball tournament. There’s not a lot of incentive to being the eighth seed other than you get, you know, a few extra, you know, a couple of home games probably in the playoffs.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But I think that that kind of more. Mechanistic way of thinking about things, the kind of championship or bust rings or banners or bust mentality Joel is that it just erases. Basically the if not the entire reason, but like an enormous reason why we follow the teams that we follow with, we enjoy are our teams making the playoffs and thinking that they have a chance and having a strong, you know, a 46 win regular season when you’re like happy more than half the time your your team plays. And so it just kind of racing that and having the mentality of like if you’re probably going to lose in the first round of the playoffs, why even try to win? That I think is even almost more destructive.

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Stefan Fatsis: But that’s where we are, right? I mean, you’re suggesting that we should.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: We should be incentive. We should be incentivizing teams to be like near the bottom of the playoff. Ladder like we like a lot of a lot of teams are like we don’t want to be on the kind of mediocrity escalator where you’re just like fighting to get to the bottom. But like as consumers of the sport, we want more teams that are like struggling and trying desperately to be like those 46 one teams. That’s what makes the competition better and more interesting.

Joel Anderson: Don’t you think? That’s some of that is a change in media narrative over the years. And I don’t I don’t want to over, you know, give the media too much credit for how this has changed in recent years. But it’s been basically, if you’re not competing for a championship, then it’s a failure. Now, it seems at least that much more to be the case than it used to be when I was growing up. Like it used to be. Like if you were the Portland. I mean, it was disappointing for the early nineties trailblazers to not have won a championship, but if you were competitive for a good number of years or you were those Utah Jazz teams that had Karl Malone and John Stockton like, it wasn’t necessarily considered a resolute failure if they didn’t win a championship, like it was good and important to be a competitive team.

Joel Anderson: And I just kind of feel like now it feels like we’ve kind of locked into a cycle was like, Oh my God, if the Lakers don’t do it, you know? I mean, obviously the Lakers, their problems are a lot more than that. But like, let’s just say if you’re a team that keeps coming up short and it feels like it’s a lot more of a dire situation than it used to be, and I don’t know. I don’t know what maybe the change for that is. Like, you know, I have a friend that says that the 73 and nine Warriors really changed, like the importance of the regular season for everybody in the NBA, that people saw that, Oh well, it doesn’t really matter if you, you know, the way that we treated that team for not winning the championship, that it sort of made everybody recalculate and be like, well, wait, what are we putting all of our effort into winning the regular season and having a great regular season? Because if we don’t win a championship, then it’s going to be seen as a failure anyway.

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Joel Anderson: Mm hmm.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah, I think there’s probably something to that. And I think, Stefan, maybe we can end by talking about the Lakers and the Utah Jazz as case Studies. So the Lakers are on three and have looked really gross Well, being oh, and three just shooting an absolutely abysmal, you know, 20 low twenties percentage from three just looking completely discombobulated. You know, Russell Westbrook being terrible. Everybody asking about Russell Westbrook being terrible and like LeBron already being sick of answering the questions. And so three.

Stefan Fatsis: Games into.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The season, three games into the season. And so yeah, like don’t you think.

Joel Anderson: A little bit of acting we could talk about earlier. I just like I feel like that’s like I’m going to make this a deal so everybody knows this deal, you know, actually I agree.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I agree with you, doc, but so yeah, like in this universe, we can think about what this means for the Lakers. We can think about what it would mean for the Lakers in the NBA, a universe in which the Lakers being terrible would mean them getting bogged down and whether anyone would ever consent to that. And then the Utah Jazz, they got rid of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for a huge pile of draft picks after, as Joel has noted, a consistent run of success. Best regular season team in the West. I think a couple of years ago never had the playoff success. We’re going to blow it up. And now the plan was we’re going to get this pile of draft picks, we’re going to sell off all of our vets and then we’re going to be at the top of the heap for the Women Image sweepstakes. Now they’re three.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Now they have this really like frisky team of castoffs. I watched a lot of the game against the Pelicans. I mean, they’re a tough team to to play against and defend. Like, you know, they got a lot of guys who can shoot. They got a lot of guys who are trying extremely hard, which goes a long way in the regular season. And Stefan, you know, the commentary about it is like, wow. Danny Ainge his like plan isn’t really, you know, working out here like they’re, you know, they’re they’re going to get rid of Mike Conley. They’re probably going to get rid of Jordan Clarkson. All these guys like if the ceiling of this jazz team that’s had a frisky start is like, yeah, maybe they could be 500. It’s not going to last. Like, that’s obviously not great for the long term future. Of the franchise. And so we’ve got to we’ve got to tear it down like that seems bad.

Stefan Fatsis: It does seem bad, especially if, oh, we’re looking pretty good. We’ve stockpiled draft picks already. There’s a tremendous amount of value in the mid-to-late first round. And even in the second round of the NBA draft, we could be really good again.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: No, I mean, compared to the number, the top.

Stefan Fatsis: I know.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: 3 to 5. Like it’s it’s.

Stefan Fatsis: I know there’s a drop off.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Huge, huge. Like a Marianas Trench dropping drop off.

Stefan Fatsis: But do you stockpile? You get somebody that turns out to be really good. And, you know, one of those you know, your Manu Ginobili say you you know that you get value for later in the first round and then you you know this is the NBA way then you supplement that with oh we’ve got a shit ton of cap room and we can go out and sign someone at the right moment. And I imagine that’s the thinking here. But you’re right. Like the problem for teams that are forecasting this is that the guys that are on those teams, they want to do well so that they can stay in the NBA. They don’t want to roll over so that you can get, you know, a top five pick and then cut me.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It’ll be really interesting. I mean, the Utah thing will probably not be sustainable, but it would be really interesting what Adam Silver would have to say or what he would do if, like the Jazz go, you know, they start out 14 and six and then just start selling off players like doubt. That’s not something that, like anybody had anticipated you.

Joel Anderson: No, it’s not. I just want to circle back for a second because, you know, Stefan did it and I got to mention it. So you had a tank for a two time all star, so you had to check for Jeff Ruland or, you know, Terry Porter, Jim Paxson, somebody like that? Norm Nixon That’s I mean, imagine tanking for a two time all star along the lines of Manu Ginobili, Rishard Lewis, two time all star, and it seemed to work for him. I don’t know, maybe.

Stefan Fatsis: And now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s prune juice, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, who says it was okay. ESPN’s Sam Borden last week sought to commemorate an important NFL anniversary, 20 years since the last barefooted kick, an extra point by Jeff Wilkins of the Saint Louis Rams. But Borden’s story took a shock turn when Wilkins told him that he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned alongside the barefooted kicking legends of the eighties and nineties. Rich Karlis, Mike Lansford, Tony Franklin Because while his toes were wiggling freely back in 2002, his foot was heavily taped, so he wasn’t barefoot at all.

Stefan Fatsis: Wilkins had doffed his right boot before that season because his mechanics were off. He told Borden that it felt like the cleats on his kicking shoe were skimming the grass. But Wilkins didn’t like the feel of the skin on ball, so he taped his foot heavily, so much that he says it was as thick as the leather of a shoe. Wilkins made nine of 12 field goals, all 16 of his extra points after making an extra point against Seattle in Week seven. He decided that he had fixed his problem and he put his shoe back on.

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Stefan Fatsis: So while Wikipedia and news stories cite Wilkins as the last barefooted kicker, Borden concludes that history should defer to Wilkins himself. If he doesn’t believe he was barefooted, then he wasn’t barefoot. And that would push the last barefooted kick back more than a decade to Lansford. On New Year’s Eve in 1990. I could go either way on this, but I admired Jeff Wilkins for shedding his burden. And yes, I did try kicking barefoot without tape. My kicking coach made me do it. It hurt like hell, but it did help me focus on finding the right contact point on my foot. Also, my fantasy football team is nicknamed Barefooted Kickers. Without the article like Barenaked Ladies, the band barefooted kickers Josh with your barefooted kicker.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I think I’ve talked about this on the show before, but since Stefan is reheating his 2014 relegation idea, I’m just going to go for it. And in fairness to me, I don’t remember when or in what context they talked about it. So enjoy.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This is a recipe for sports happiness that I’ve thought a lot about, and I’m going to start zoomed way out by saying that it’s possible to divide up all realms of human experience, not just sports experience, into four different boxes or categories. So if we have one access to expectations and another access access that results, you can then subdivide the expectation side into high expectations, low expectations and subdivide the results side into victories and defeats or triumphs and failures or however you want to label it.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So that gives us our four boxes. You can have a triumph when you have high expectations. You can have a failure when you have high expectations, or you can have a triumph with low expectations or a failure with low expectations. So let’s say you’re having a meeting with your terrible boss and it goes poorly. Then that’s a failure when you have expected one failure with low expectations. You have a meeting with your terrible boss and it goes great. That’s a triumph of low expectations. Your terrible boss doesn’t show up for the meeting. That’s a triumph with low expectations. But then you’re so excited that your terrible boss didn’t drop. You spill coffee on your keyboard. That is a failure when you have high expectations. You get the idea.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But I think the key breakdown here, it’s not actually between triumph and failure or between high and low expectations. It’s between matched results and expectations and mismatched results and expectations. Losing when you think you’re going to lose, winning when you think you’re going to win. They have a lot in common emotionally. No surprises. Everything is status quo. Winning when you think you’re going to lose and losing when you think you’re going to win are way more emotionally fraught and volatile situations. You expect one thing and you get sucker punched emotionally sometimes, and sometimes it’s a happy sucker punch. Often when it comes to sports, it’s more like a Jordan Paul getting sucker punch. Sucker punch. It’s a bad sort of feeling.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: We can talk about examples in a second, but the point that I’m circling around, too, is that the secret to sports happiness is in how we respond to those two unexpected outcomes. And how many is Joel? You’re going to be our example to make fandom worth it. We need to be maximally happy with unexpected victory. And I feel like with TCU’s early season triumphs, I maybe want you to be a little bit happier. Hmm.

Joel Anderson: Why?

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Because. There is this sense going into the season, you are kind of more than iffy on the coach. Mm hmm. TCU Had you be still.

Joel Anderson: In.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Particular, had you beaten down the last few years? They were on the treadmill of I think I said escalator of mediocrity before. It’s actually the treadmill immediately. Yeah. They were on the they were on the treadmill of mediocrity. They’d had the, like, outlier seasons under coach Gary Patterson. But now it seemed like they were just settling back and, you know, an SMU like existence. And nobody is happy. Nobody is happy with that. And then this year they’re undefeated. They’re number seven. If they win the conference and go undefeated, they’ll be in the playoff, probably.

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Joel Anderson: And if they go undefeated.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It feels like you’re not ready to emotionally kind of let go and fully embrace that this is happening.

Joel Anderson: I’m so. TCU’s last three wins have come over teams whose quarterbacks did not finish the game. So let’s let’s you know maybe I will adjust expectations if they play against a decent team with a starting quarterback that lasts all four quarters. If they can win one of those games, then maybe, you know, you’ll see me with the appropriate amount of excitement. But also, let’s just keep in mind, I mean, this is this is the Sonny Dykes M.O., You know, start out really, really fast, have, you know, seven and eight and start and finish nine and three or, you know, eight and four.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So this is just what I’m talking about. Stefan Joel is being a great you’re being a great subject for our for our study here. What is the point? What is the point of sports? If you can’t be happy when your team wins, especially if the winds are unexpected.

Stefan Fatsis: Why do you need to protect yourself? I mean, are you protecting yourself against disappointment or are you reveling like certain baseball fan bases did for many decades in their own mediocrity? And then once they succeeded, it was like, oh, we have been doing this all along? Well, they found that success wasn’t something to be afraid of, but to embrace.

Joel Anderson: I am happy in the moment when we win games, but also keeping the proper context. I know that if you fall behind 18 points against Kansas State without a starting quarterback, that you’re probably not a good team. Not, you know, not.

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Stefan Fatsis: But if you come back and score 38 points and win, maybe you are.

Joel Anderson: They are literally overrated. Like, I think that they’re a good team. But like the expectation of being at number seven is that they’re out ahead of their skis a little bit. And this is.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: A man this is a man who’s been hurt before and doesn’t want to get hurt again. We all understand that.

Joel Anderson: So I think I’m being realistic about what’s going on here. And I think everybody else is going to see it eventually as well.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Sports fandom defined by just rationalism and realism. That’s the characteristic of we all define ourselves by.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And so, yeah, let’s wrap up with the second category. I generally and Joel is a good object lesson when this isn’t the case, I don’t really think it’s easier to be happy with unexpected victory than it is to manage your emotions when you’ve convinced yourself that victory is assured and the rug gets pulled out from under you. Like when I was trying to think of an example, the thing that among my teams, the defeat that’s been hardest for people to get over in the last few years is the Saints losing to the Rams and then AFC Championship game with a pass interference call.

Joel Anderson: Oh, man.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And the thing that I think is really hard but is so important to maintaining a lifelong relationship with sports. Stefan, we can go to you here is being extremely happy and understanding and realizing how important sports are when your team wins and when your team loses, Realizing how frivolous and pointless sports are and that they have no effect on the real world and in our lives. So there’s some truth to that, which I think makes it like a dream that is potentially achievable if you have the right mindset. But I think there is something just extraordinarily fake about it as well that like perform it. You mean perform, is it? I guess so. I guess the final question for both of you is, is it possible to like, truly believe in your soul that the wins matter and the losses don’t?

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Stefan Fatsis: I would argue that you shouldn’t. Convince yourself that the losses don’t matter, that the whole point of this entire exercise of being a fan is to feel. And sometimes you feel that good and sometimes you feel the bad. And if you can rationally embrace both not by minimizing its importance, but by and by by maximizing it, by being willing to revel and to suffer at the appropriate time. So Joel, you should be reveling and you can suffer in two weeks when they lose to whoever they’re going to.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But, Joel, I’d like you to I’d like you to respond to this, and then we’ll give you the last word. I think everything you’re saying is true. But where I would push back is, yes, the losses matter and the wins matter, but we could say that maybe it would be healthier and achievable for the losses to staying and really matter in the moment. Just like Joel was saying, that he’s able to revel in the wins in the moment. Is it possible, Joel, to revel in the wins in the moment and also allow that feeling of happiness to carry carry you through the week or whatever, but with the losses, just be mad for like. Have it end when the game ends and then just like go through your week like nothing happened.

Joel Anderson: Well, it’s tough. I think I’ve told the story here before. When the Rockets defeated the Knicks in the NBA Finals in 1994. And thanks again, New York fans. You guys have been really great to me. Really appreciate it. When I’m driving from my father’s home back to my mother’s home, this is across town, 30 minute drive. And the rockets hit one. And I’m just in the car. And it just occurred to me as I’m driving home, I was like, oh, man, I didn’t win anything today. I didn’t I’m not getting a championship ring. And it was actually really it was not.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That was before social media. And you didn’t win the chance to troll Knicks fans would see.

Joel Anderson: So there you go. That’s it. So I like. So I found that I just really enjoy talking shit about other people’s teams when they lose. It’s almost as much as when my team wins. And so, you know, if if Texas beat I mean, if TCU beats Texas, for instance, that’ll be delightful. I will have a great time and I will enjoy talking so much shit on Twitter.

Joel Anderson: But yeah, I just I’m holding my cards close to the vest if you know, Hey, look, when we won the Rose Bowl in 2010 and I still think that TCU should be considered the national champion from that year because they were undefeated, untied and won the Rose Bowl and the Undefeated and, you know, say whatever how Auburn acquired Cam Newton that season. So, you know, maybe, you know, some people might want to think about it since this is cheating is such a big deal to sports fans like maybe you might want to jump on the train and consider taking that championship here. So, yeah, you guys can’t you guys are not going to be able to to psychoanalyze me on this like this is fixed. This is how this I’ve chosen to enjoy sports or not enjoy it, as it were.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Your 50 minute hour is up, Joe. That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendis. Listen to Pasha and subscribe or just reach out. Go to Slate.com slash hang up and you can email us and hang up at Slate.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, The Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levin Remembers Elmo Baby and thanks for listening.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Now it is time for our bonus segments for Slate Plus members, and we’re going to talk about rushing the passer in a second. But Joel, you promised the Russell Wilson story.

Joel Anderson: Oh, yes. So many of you all may remember Former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. I went to the Seahawks practice facility to do a profile on Earl Thomas, who was erratic and did not show up when I was there. And ultimately I had to meet him at his house anyway, so but I waited around in the Seahawks locker room just, you know, hoping he might come out and talking to some of the other players. And so what I do remember is that Russell Wilson comes in. He comes out of the shower. He starts playing gospel music. So gospel music is the loudest thing you hear in the Seahawks locker room at the moment.

Joel Anderson: A few minutes later, a couple of defensive backs. The only thing that I remember is that they’re both from Florida. They were not you know, these are not, you know, guys of any consequence of the NFL. And they came in and they started playing their music. And in fact, they turned their music up so loud that it crowded out it drowned out Russell Wilson’s music. And Russell Wilson was forced basically to turn his music down. And I thought, Huh? That’s really weird. You don’t really You wouldn’t see a starting quarterback treated like that. I can’t imagine that anybody would make Aaron Rodgers turn down, you know, whatever music he listens to when he’s getting down to his psychedelic thing or whatever. So I just was like, Oh, that is.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Interesting.

Joel Anderson: That’s a little.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, that is an interesting story.

Joel Anderson: Anyway, so I was just kind of like, you know, this is like, what, 2017, 2018? I was like, This is it.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: He wasn’t in. He wasn’t in any kind of decline phase on the field, that’s for sure.

Joel Anderson: He was still. I mean, we’re almost on the cusp of the Russ years right at that point. So I was like, you know, to see a star quarterback like.

Stefan Fatsis: Protocol isn’t a Joel. It’s usually like offense picks, defense picks. They alternate who gets to put their music on.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, man. I mean, the music had been chosen. You know, Russell Wilson had chosen the music for that afternoon, and then all of a sudden he had not. And this is again, this wasn’t Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas that was changing the music. It was like just some guy. It’s like, this is like your fifth or sixth cornerback for the Seahawks. And I mean, they were from Florida, so maybe Russell Wilson did want to ask, but it’s hard to be totally, totally within the realm of possibility, but still, like, that’s just not how that goes.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Interesting. Good story. So those were them. One of the big storylines and then I the last few weeks has been these roughing the passer penalties. There seems to be a new outrageous one every week that gets the players commentators all up in arms. And I have a few cued up here that we can watch together. So one of the ones that had people a little miffed this week was the absolute star edge rusher for the Dallas Cowboys. Micah Parsons on Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions. Shall we watch together?

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Joel Anderson: Let’s do it.

Stefan Fatsis: It’s barely a foul in the NBA.

Joel Anderson: Oh, my God. Yeah, In the nineties, that wouldn’t be a foul.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So guitarists really don’t know what to say. Like for for those of you, which I would imagine is all of you who are not watching this along with us. He bumped into him doesn’t wrap up, doesn’t put his body weight on him, doesn’t even tackle him to the ground. It just like really bumped into him hard, but like just bumped into him. And they call that a roughing the passer penalty.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Shall we move on to the most outrageous one of the year? This is Grady Jarrett on Tom Brady. Let’s watch.

Joel Anderson: I haven’t seen this one yet.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: He’s coming all the way from here. Why did you come all the way round now? He’s going to be down.

Joel Anderson: Oh, he kind of like Wallace. He kind of slung him a little bit. But, yeah, I mean, but that’s not. I mean, any of us thinks his.

Stefan Fatsis: Momentum, though. What’s he going to do?

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I guess, like, what is it? It’s the fear that throwing Tom Brady down like that. He may hurt his shoulder or something like that. He’s 45 years old. They’re brittle. You get older, you know?

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: All right, last one. This is Chris Jones on Derek Carr. You’ll notice that he forced a fumble on the play.

Joel Anderson: Oh, that. Oh, man. He picked the ball. Yeah, he did that one arm thing like Jadeveon Clowney did against the kid from Michigan.

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Stefan Fatsis: And it was so determinative to the outcome of the game.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That play was called for, like putting his whole body weight on Derek Carr, which was kind of necessary if he wanted to get the ball, the fumble that he had forced.

Joel Anderson: I kind of feel like he didn’t even throw his whole body weight on him. I thought he did a really good job of not landing on him with full force under this circumstance.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So, Joel, I guess the question is, is it possible for us, as you know, relatively enlightened gentlemen of the 21st century, say, like these calls are total bullshit without it devolving into like, you know, what Troy Aikman said about what did he say exactly about you should put a dress on something like misogynistic. Can we say that like, these calls are ridiculous without delving into that sort of rhetoric?

Joel Anderson: Of course. I mean, I think that, like, you understand, the spirit of the rule is to protect these guys. And because people show up to watch NFL football games according to how good the quarterbacks tend to be. Right. Like the games are so much more entertaining when the starting quarterback’s a healthy. And I totally get what they’re trying to do but I mean it just can’t be that it can’t like it that the rules can’t be if you touch them, if you get anywhere in the vicinity and they fall down or you put them down not delicately enough, that it’s going to be a penalty, That’s just not fair.

Joel Anderson: And I mean, again, it’s kind of the way I feel about targeting rules in college. It’s like the spirit of the rules really important, trying to discourage some of those worst head shots that you might see. But you also are asking these athletes who are moving in full speed, trying to get the ball, trying to make plays, to do things that just really are not possible and are sort of unfair to do. I think we know when we see what I mean. I don’t know. I guess it was the old definition of pornography. You know, when you see it, like I think we know when, you know, kids are are going to be bad or like intentional or whatever. And they’re like, we should legislate the game in that way. This sort of stuff just doesn’t seem right. Right. Stefan?

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Stefan Fatsis: Well, the difference between the two examples you cite is that targeting is reviewable in college and and rushing the passer is not reviewable in the NFL. And I think that’s one of the, you know, potential solutions is to make it reviewable. But the rule itself is what’s complicated. You know, all the latitude goes to the officials and and they’re going to air on the side of protecting the quarterback. Even though, Josh, you dug up some stats showing that rushing the passer penalties are actually down like 45% at this point compared to last year. That was through week five. And going into the season, the NFL refs were actually told to that they were throwing too many flags for rushing the passer. So, you know, these are isolated incidents that we’re seeing, small sample size. But they sure point out the problem that a lot of people have, including coaches, especially coaches.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: If you had asked me whether roughing the passer penalties were up or down, I definitely would have said up. And they’re way down. It’s not like they’re just down by a couple. So that was really interesting to see. And I think my my like cold take on this is that this is probably the best that we could do because I think that right now, replay that adding replay would be actually worse that I already feel like replay is ruining or in the process of ruining so many sports with just like slowing everything down and then making more calls.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Reviewable is just not the direction that we should be going in. And if, you know, if what the outcome is going to be, all is that there are fewer rougher roughing the passer penalties and that there are going to be a few egregious calls. Not even every week they’re going to be like ten egregious calls per season. Then I think we might just have to live with that. And if if the outcome that we want is like quarterbacks not being out for the season with injuries and also not. Having like six rushing the passer calls per game like maybe this. And these are hard calls for officials in the moment probably. I mean, I’ve never refereed an NBA NFL game.

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Stefan Fatsis: You don’t want to be the official that doesn’t call rushing the passer on a hit like Tua Tagovailoa was. You don’t want to be that guy. And I’m sure.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That was one theory that these calls are a response to the to a stuff that referees are kind of overcorrecting.

Joel Anderson: Yeah yeah I mean I guess the thing is is that you can to to to Josh’s point, you can say this is less than ideal, but still the best possible solution, which is sort of the way I feel about targeting calls in a lot of ways in college. I just like, well, maybe it is not totally fair to defenders all the time, but it’s not that big of a deal and it happens so infrequently that it’s barely worth addressing and it’s better than the alternative, which is like open season on these guys. So yeah, like, I mean, I just, you know, it could just be that like we look at a couple of these examples and we’re like, Oh man, oh yeah, they’re playing flag football out there, but also just being like, Well, I know what the spirit of the rule is and like, I don’t necessarily think anything should be done about it.

Stefan Fatsis: There’s no way the league goes in the direction of making the penalties less for roughing the quarterback. You know, they don’t want to encourage worse hits and say, oh, well, we change the rule. So that’s okay. Now where it wasn’t before.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah. And I think that the even better possible outcome here is that the refs, while acknowledging that these are really hard to call in the moment that because of these like really bad calls that have gone viral, they do pay closer attention to it and just start to call them better, better like I would imagine with repetition, with these new with these new rules, like maybe after, you know, two or three or four or five or six years, the refs will get enough reps and have enough examples of seeing this, and we’ll have it more kind of ingrained that they’ll get better at it. Like, that would be my hope rather than having it be something that’s, you know, instant replay a couple of times every game.

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Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And I think the one thing that could change as far as how games are officiated. Is that you could change in the NFL, pass interference, defensive pass interference from a spot foul to a 15 yard penalty. But other than that. I don’t really know. All of this stuff is so difficult and has unintended consequences. And even that would incentivize guys to just like tackle players who are running up and down the field. And so it’s really hard like we need to like even with this stuff that’s like so egregiously bad like these. The the sack on Brady by Grady Jarrett is just like coming up with a fix for it isn’t as easy as it might seem.

Joel Anderson: Yeah I mean sometimes you know I mean, sometimes Tom Brady is going to catch a break.