The Opening Draw for the USMNT Edition

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of Thanksgiving, November 21st, 2002. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the U.S. Men’s National team’s one one draw against Wales in their World Cup opener. We’ll also discuss FIFA continuing to FIFA in the opening days of the World Cup in Qatar and will assess the early season woes of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as Kyrie Irving’s return to the Brooklyn Nets.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I’m in Washington, DC and I’m the author of The Queen, the host of the podcast one year season finale coming up this week with the show from our own Joel Anderson. Check it out.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hey, Joe.

Joel Anderson: Oh, hey. Oh, you started with me. Are you going start with me?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Seems like a natural segway.

Joel Anderson: Okay. Yeah, sure. Thanks for. Thanks for doing that. Sorry for skipping over you, Stefan. But, yeah, we are done here. The episode should be out in a couple of days, and I’m just so glad to be done with it, I think. But I think people will enjoy it.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: A Thanksgiving week treat for the whole family. It’s a really great episode. Also in DC, not hosting one, you’re upset at all, but we’re going to have to address with them off the air. It’s Stefan FATSIS. He’s the author of the books Wild and Outside Word Freak and a Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan Stefan.

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Stefan Fatsis: Just waiting for an invitation. I mean, I’m sitting here, just been waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. We should close a few a few loopholes from last week. One. I know people are wondering what happened in the Ivy League. No war way, tide, no four way tie. Penn held up its end of the bargain job. Princeton. Harvard could not be at Yale. That would that would have made a forward and no no tiebreakers, no playoffs in the Ivy League. So, alas, Yale is your your sole Ivy League winner.

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Joel Anderson: I want somebody to explain to me one day why Harvard isn’t better at sports. There’s just no there’s no excuse for sports, actually. Are they really?

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, they’re pretty good.

Joel Anderson: Okay, well, maybe I’m just maybe they’re not good at the sports I care about.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, no one’s going to be pretty good. No one’s going to be, you know, good at football in the Ivy League.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Deion Sanders to Harvard, huh?

Joel Anderson: Oh, you never know. Yeah.

Stefan Fatsis: The other was, you know, we got to talk about TCU this week. I know Joel was, I don’t know, was watching TCU, not football. The women’s soccer team made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

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Joel Anderson: I’m impressed. I mean, we are we have a great, robust, deep athletic program, great baseball team, better than Harvard Ball team. Got a new coach out there, basketball team, Sweet 16, you know, a team that’s ranked in the top 20. It’s a lot a lot to like about TCU right now.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Can’t lie In our Slate Plus segment, we are going to talk about the greatest snow football game that never was in Buffalo this week and our views in general on cold weather and football and snow. And Stefan might also talk to us about his childhood football career. Two lessons that you need to be a slave plus member. You get bonus segments on the show and others add free shirts, you get to support us, which gives you a warm feeling in your heart around Thanksgiving. Slate.com slash hang up. Plus that Slate.com slash hang up.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Plus, the US men got off to a flying start in the first half of their World Cup opener on Monday night in Qatar with Tim Way slotting one home off an assist from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. Im a120 halftime lead over wells but that advantage wouldn’t hold up as Wells mostly dominated the second half and got the break they needed When Walker Zimmerman plowed through Gareth Bale in the box, Bale drove home the penalty and at the final whistle it was one all in the game. The U.S. will likely regret not hanging on to with the match up against England coming on Black Friday. Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is Eric Betts, who’s covering the World Cup for Slate. Welcome, Eric.

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Speaker 4: Thanks, guys.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So before the tournament, you wrote an optimistic and a pessimistic for Slate. This game seemed to have the optimistic and the pessimistic. Neatly wrapped into a first half in the second half. What did you see in the game?

Speaker 4: Yeah, I think I think that’s pretty accurate. I think anyone would look at that first half and think that that was that was ideal. But they were controlling the game. They were it seemed like they had a good balance between and a patience with Wales’s deep defence and, you know, intimidating centre backs back there and then trying to get the ball forward when they spun and their chances like, like on the goal when Pulisic kind of picked up the pace and drove forward and made them make hard choices. So that was all good.

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Speaker 4: And then the second half was obviously, I don’t know, it felt like was a little bit like a young team kind of thing. Like, you know, Wales came back and the US couldn’t figure out how to grab hold of the game again. They struggled to to slow the ball down, to keep the Wales defence kind of off of them in the same way that they managed in the first half. They were, they were always one step ahead in the first half with their passing and this time, you know, the Wales midfield was a little tighter, a little closer in the centre, sort of felt like in the first half. Wales was also, you know, just divided between defence and offense. There was no one in the midfield and the US midfielders just completely dominated the middle of the space. And then in the second half it Wales turn it on and they lost it.

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Stefan Fatsis: It felt to me a little bit like the US didn’t quite know what to expect coming out of the locker room. They thoroughly dominated the first half. I mean, possession was more than 60% I think for the U.S. to about 30 for Wales. They controlled, as you said, Eric, the midfield. They were patient on the ball. They had wonderful build up play, not a lot of chances to score, but they converted the best one. And then in the second half, you know, I don’t think anybody thought that, oh, the US can just dictate the game the way they did in the first. But it felt like they weren’t prepared for Wales to be aggressive, almost as if they thought Wales would come out and just basically play the same sort of of defensive posture that they had played in in the first half. And that wasn’t the case. And there were definitely some lapses and I think there were a lot of tired legs toward the second half, middle of the second half.

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Stefan Fatsis: But ultimately, look, it was one bad decision by Walker Zimmerman to go after Gareth Bale in the Box one. Bad split second decision that ultimately decided the game. I mean, it’s a lost opportunity for sure. And I’m sure that the players are going to be wishing they had all three points from that because they probably should have. But I’m going to take the glass half full here and say that that first half was about the best half we’ve seen from a U.S. national team in a very, very long time. And it felt to me like this is a team that can go out there and play with England on Friday and they’re going to need to play unbelievably well.

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Speaker 4: Yeah, I think that that sounds accurate to me. It did. Coming right out of the locker room beginning of the second half. You could see Wales was was feistier. They were creating more chances, getting the ball forward faster, looking by far the more dangerous team. You’re right. It really comes down to that one unfortunate moment by Zimmerman, because it did for, you know, 8 to 10 minutes before the penalty. It did sort of feel like the U.S. was fighting back. They weren’t dominating like they were in the first half, but it had changed into more of an even contest, a battle back and forth, you know, ball going end to end.

Speaker 4: And you’re right. It was just it was it was ultimately on the scoreboard. It was the one silly mistake by Zimmerman. He had plenty of time. Bell was not preparing to shoot. He was not he did not have a ton of support. It just felt like, you know, Zimmerman ran out of patience with with, you know, getting pushed back by whales and trying to cut one out way too early and was, you know, kind of held smart in by the wily veteran bail.

Joel Anderson: So, Eric, I’m come to this, as you know, third in line in terms of maybe my soccer knowledge here. And so but the thing that I’ve always noticed and following the men’s national team and you know, looking at people tweet about it during games is that everybody kind of comes into the match with the understanding that for a college football analogy, that the U.S. men’s national team is not Georgia. Right. And then get surprised when they play a little more like, I don’t know, Texas, you know, and I’m looking at your piece published in Slate. It says Inconsistency is not inexcusable. Every team plays poorly. Some of the time, many do so relatively often. The trouble for this iteration of the U.S. and in T is that it hardly ever wins a game in which it doesn’t play well for the entire match. Is this not the capsule summation of what the hell just happened this afternoon?

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Speaker 4: Yeah, I think that’s fair. And I think that, you know, going on in the rest of the sort of talked about their inability to score goals and create chances when they are not on the front foot, when they are not dominating. And yeah, if they could have, you know, put one of the set pieces on target when they were when they were getting overrun in early in the second half, that one of Absolutely, you know, changed the game and maybe deflated Wales and totally given them a leg up on that.

Speaker 4: But they just never seemed to have much of a chance of doing that. They, you know, they they need it feels like they need to be playing well and to be controlling things and to be having it go their way in order to score and and create chances. And so you could see it. They were not. They did not start getting those again until yeah, it felt like they sort of took a little bit of control back in the midfield and had a little bit more time on the ball for themselves. Things like that.

Speaker 4: Whereas I feel like some previous iterations of the US men’s national team sort of relish the opportunity to steal an opposing team thunder to, you know, be under all that pressure and then kind of release it with one great big pressure valve goal that changes the whole complexion of the game in this one. We certainly didn’t do it here.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, I think that in games like this where there are not very many chances on either side, you’re going to have an advantage that could be decisive if you’re able to generate a goal out of nothing, which Wells ultimately did. Wells did have one or two better chances than the one they ended up scoring on the penalty. There was an open header that went over the goal. We could be having a very different conversation.

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Stefan Fatsis: And Matt Turner made a fantastic save on another header that he deflected over the bar.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And Josh Sargeant had it off the post. And so, you know, you’re going to focus on these really small moments in a game like this. There was not. England six. Iran two It’s going to come down to a few moments. But you know. Stefan in the first half. My kind of take away on that. And it perhaps would have been my take away if the game ended when nothing or do nothing is that this is the perfect opponent for a U.S. team that struggles against teams, that press in the friendlies coming into the World Cup. They look terrible against any kind of pressure in the back. I think having Tim Ream definitely helped. He was he played very well as a centre back and sort of controlling the game and passing and you felt very comfortable with him on the ball there. But with Wales kind of sitting back and allowed the US, this very young team to get comfortable and you never felt in the first half like they were at risk of falling behind that are worse. It was going to be zero zero.

Stefan Fatsis: This is a young team that is comfortable on the ball. This is a skilled team.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Younis not being comfortable pressed, not not comfortable being pressed. And I think the simplest narrative in this game is that the US fell apart or fell apart might be ungenerous, but they look good when they’re not being pressed and they look terrible when they are being pressed. And that that is what’s going to be the story of this team throughout however longer in the tournament.

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Stefan Fatsis: Well, and the other thing I think we can take away from this is that when all of the US’s best players and everybody that I think you would put in that category played tonight except today, except for for Joe Reyna, who for some reason we don’t know yet, was not subbed in when Jordan Morris was which makes my that got me very very upset sort of and I’m not quite upset but curious. You know Tyler Adams who plays at Leeds fantastic all game long he was the man of the match saviour, Anthony Robinson’s speed up the left wing. Tim Weyer was great on the right side, Yunis Moussa in the middle, you know who wasn’t great? Christian Pulisic. I mean his corner, except for the goal where he fed Tim well with a beautiful ball slid through. He was pretty bad on corner kicks and free kicks and he felt tentative to me with the ball, particularly going up against the Welsh defence.

Speaker 4: I agree with that. I think he hit the first defender on the first two or three set pieces that he took in the first half just right into the first Wales guy, I think. Yeah. On the assist, he was pushing the pace, he was moving with the ball and he was, you know, forcing Wales to scramble and that’s where he was too often.

Speaker 4: Yeah. But too often he, you know, sort of gets the ball and stands there and kind of surveys the like is at the top of the key, you know, waiting for people to move. And then when that happens and when he starts to run again, too often we see it, you know, poked away from behind or he’s, you know, the defence kind of catches up to him like that. So yeah, I think the US needs to see him push the pace more, kind of seek out those moments when he can. He’s not always going to pick the right one necessarily. Sometimes he’ll go faster than his teammates are ready for when maybe they need to slow it down. But right now the balance is off on him. Yeah, he’s he’s he needs to get get it moving more because we see how much more dangerous he can be when that happens as as was the case on the goal.

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Joel Anderson: So Eric, they play England on Friday and I’m not a person that believes in momentum right. Like I know that this is not a real thing that actually happens, but it’s just hard to look at the way that people have sort of responded to the loss in the last year. Who lost. Okay, at the time, it feels okay. There you go. It’s a it’s a tie that feels like it’s a draw that feels like a loss, at least from the judgment of other people. I don’t know stuff. And you just behind the curtain, everybody, before we came on, Steffen admitted that he was crestfallen. He was very hurt. So, like, that’s if it was just a draw, there’d be no need for you to be sad.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, man. Now, that’s a bummer. I mean, because it means so much because both of these teams now have to play England. They both conceivably could lose and then it could conceivably come down to goal differential, assuming they both beat Iran. England beat Iran six two and you don’t want to let that come down to that. I mean, the the United States has never lost to England in a World Cup to beat them in 1950, tied them in South Africa when I was in the stadium and playing for a draw would not be the worst thing in the world. Not playing for a draw necessarily, but getting a draw out of the game on Friday. But England is so deep and so talented and looked pretty damn good for most of the game against Iran that it’s going to be a very steep hill.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the US got just totally beaten up in this game. You wouldn’t think that Mckennie would be healthy. Pulisic doesn’t seem like he came out of that game with all of his limbs fully functioning. I mean, it’s a great nobody believed in us kind of moment here because it’s hard to think that like an England team that wasn’t at all taxed. They’re going to be at a at a massive physical advantage as well. Talent advantage so that, you know, that’s that the U.S. is going to have to come out and prove proved all wrong.

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Joel Anderson: That’s what I’m saying. Is it as grim as it seems? That’s what this feels like. And I’m looking at it and I’m like, whoa, you know? You know, I’ve looked at the FIFA rankings. I mean, they’re not that much ranked that much higher than Wales. I mean, you know, nobody came into this thinking the USA is some sort of power. So I guess I’m just trying to I’m always like, again, the the the emotional swings that come with follow the team are always just so funny to me.

Joel Anderson: So is it is it is it grim going into Friday, as it seems at the moment?

Speaker 4: No, but barely. I mean, I think the big question about England coming into this tournament is that England had a dismal summer. They they have not they did not win, I think, in their last six games coming into this tournament. I think it was three draws and three losses in the UEFA Nations League. And so, yeah, the question coming into for England is, well, like are. Are they good still? Do they still have it? Can they still, you know, kind of turn it on when when tournament time comes? They’ve done very well.

Stefan Fatsis: Is the team that made it to the finals of the Euros and the semifinals over the last World Cup? I mean, you looked up in the Iran game and Iran was not good. I mean, this is a team that’s distracted by the political turmoil at home. The players didn’t sing the national anthem, their other stuff on their mind, clearly. But when you look at the at the sideline and they are about to sub in for guys and those four guys are Marcus Rashford, Eric Dyer, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, you’re like, Oh my God, You know, when we’re bringing Jordan Morrison off the bench, it’s going to be a challenge. And I think, you know, I wonder, Josh, whether Granddad didn’t play because Friday is so important. He’s going to need 60 to 75 minutes from Grant. You know, someone’s got to play if these guys are hurt, if Mckennie is not feeling well, and if Perisic doesn’t look like he can play the entire game, it’s going to be important to have full strength players.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Some fan fiction from Fatsis there. Yeah. So I think. What will need to happen is that they’ll need to be opportunistic in that game. They’ll need to take advantage of whatever chances they get. And that is kind of a hallmark of US men’s national teams of the past that they’ve played this kind of scrappy underdog role. And in this iteration of that of this team and this moment, that’s not been kind of the persona that they’ve had, but they have a great opportunity.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And what this result does is that it keeps everything on the table for them and keeps our hopes alive. And by Friday, we’ll have talked ourselves into being really excited. And, you know, if they play a good opening 15 minutes, we’ll get all of our hopes up and maybe our hopes will not be shattered. Who’s to say? But I think, Joel, the reaction that you saw is that they were dominant in the first half. They had the lead. There’s the first World Cup match in eight years. It’s a young and exciting team. The young and exciting players contributed to that goal. Well, they barely even seem like they’re even even playing. There was just the US guys like passing the ball back and forth and the whiplash in the second half. Just I think everybody had gotten their hopes up so high. Why I just explained it.

Joel Anderson: I just don’t I mean, again, you did explain it, Josh, very much, and I heard what you said. But again, people know what this team is. They know how it is presently constituted. They know about the history of the US Seventies program. They also know that, like soccer is to have like in a game where the margins are so small, like, I mean, one goal means so much, but it’s also a very small margin. Anything can happen. Like, I just I can’t imagine looking at what half of soccer, knowing everything you’re supposed to know about this team and the game itself and being like, Yeah, man, I can’t wait.

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Stefan Fatsis: I’m going to tell you why Joe and I here’s exactly why. Because we have either talked ourselves into a little bit, but also we recognize the reality of this current iteration of players, which are this is the best group of American soccer players ever as a collective. And we haven’t seen that collective perform together at the level that they performed in that first half.

Stefan Fatsis: So for me, it was the really optimistic take on the first half was like, Yes, this is how this group of unbelievably talented guys, many of whom play in the top levels for great teams in Europe, has the potential to play and they are doing it. They’re peaking at exactly the right moment. And God, I hope we can carry this forward. You come back down to earth in the second half because yeah, look, Wales has players that are unbelievably world class too. I mean, not as many as England, maybe not as many as the United States, but they are good. But what we saw in the first half was the fruition of the promise and the feeling. And this is what soccer often is about. Erik Right. It’s the feeling that, okay, if we put this together, we can compete. And they put it together for 45 minutes.

Speaker 4: We were thinking with our hearts and not with our heads. We are inexperienced as World Cup fans now. It’s been eight years for most of us American fans since we’ve seen this team in the World Cup. And so yeah, the moment was and Stefan said it was especially exciting. I mean, if you were optimistic about this team coming in, then you were like, This is great. This is what they are capable of. If you were pessimistic about the team coming in, if you had worries about it, then you were like, Hey, maybe this, you know, this is far better than what I could have hoped for. So, you know, maybe they can keep it going. Maybe they will, you know, just continue to strangle the Wales midfield and keep everything so under control that Wales cannot even threaten. And obviously, that’s not what happens.

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Joel Anderson: You all talk, talked all that shit. Maybe you guys should support the US men’s national team in the same way that I support TCU. You know, just believe in. Don’t believe it till you see it.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: An important lesson for all of America from Joel Anderson. Eric, thanks so much. You can read Eric Betts. His coverage of the world cup in slate will be linking to it, will be reading it and for all. Obviously have our hopes up again for the first few minutes of the England match on Friday. Eric, thank you.

Speaker 4: Thanks, guys.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Up next, FIFA is FIFA in Qatar.

Stefan Fatsis: The men’s World Cup finals kicked off on Sunday with the host country. Qatar completely outclassed in a two nothing loss to Ecuador. If you were watching on Fox Sports, you would have enjoyed drone shots of Albert’s Stadium rising majestically from the desert and multiple showings of a promotional ad about the greatness of Qatar. You also would have heard FOX Sports reporter Jenny Taft promoting her softball interview with the Qatari official. But when I walked inside.

Speaker 5: I did understand the culture that the Qataris are so proud of. And just a couple of days ago, I was fortunate enough to interview Hassan Eltahawy, the secretary general of the Supreme Committee, who was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to his home country. He was very welcoming. And trust me, he is excited for the world to understand what Qatar has to offer.

Stefan Fatsis: What Fox did not offer from Taft or anyone else from their elaborate waterfront set was, well, a discouraging word about this World Cup from Qatar’s woeful treatment of the migrant workers who built the stadiums, roads and hotels to the news that Qatar’s authoritarian government at the last minute banned the sale of beer at stadiums, which led Ecuadorian fans to chant caramel cerveza during the match. Joel I didn’t even mention that half the stadium apparently emptied out long before the finish or the bizarro news conference in which FIFA boss Gianni Infantino declared Today, I feel gay. If it wasn’t already, it’s clear that actual football matches won’t paper over FIFA’s craven decision to bring the World Cup to a tiny, rich non soccer nation?

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Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I think that FIFA and Fox are counting on the same general malaise to human rights violations and general authoritarianism sweeping the globe that, you know, we’ve sort of gotten used to horrible things happening to people all over this world and us sort of looking past that and that that even goes to some of the previous sporting events we stage. I mean, Russia, China, whatever, right. Like we know that these governments engage in things that we we say we don’t support, but we’re not.

Joel Anderson: You know, FIFA, in fact, said, hey, people still turn in and watch that stuff. So if we just keep forcing it on them, they probably won’t do much about it. And they believe, in fact, they know that soccer fans care about soccer a lot more than they care about anything else when it comes to watching games. But like, that’s that’s not unique to soccer, right? Like, I order packages from Amazon. I know with, you know, sort of worker rights violations are going on there. I buy coffee from Starbucks. I know that you got cracking down on unionization efforts. I used to shop at Walmart. I watch and support college football, which, you know, I find to be a hugely corrupt, racist enterprise that strips hundreds of millions of dollars in value from young black athletes and their families. But I watch it. Right.

Joel Anderson: And so once we’ve gotten to the point that someone has committed the World Cup schedule to memory, sat down on their couch and cut on their TV, they’re understanding that you’ve already accepted the bargain, that there’s only so much that what’s happening and being said on Twitter will filter through your information die that you won’t even think about the Qatar Airways ads. You won’t think about how those stadiums got made. You won’t think about the gay players and fans who aren’t willing to take the chances with the Qatari government that say Great Wall will, you know, our friend Great Wall, who wore shirt in support of LGBTQ communities and was told he’d have to take it off and hopefully he’s okay and will remain okay, but that they’re counting, understandably so on the idea. Josh I think that the games are going to be on TV. We’re going to watch that and the hell with anything else, right?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Chemical Ali, the soccer writer, had what I thought was an interesting tweet, which was my favorite thing about the World Cup, is that it’s basically reverse sport washing. The vast majority of the world had no opinion about Qatar ten years ago and now hates them. It’ll be really interesting to see if the bet that the Qatari government made here pays off.

Stefan Fatsis: $200 million bet.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. And the thing about, you know, the politics and are we going to talk about the politics and all of the things that aren’t soccer, It’s baked into this event in a way that in a lot of these events that we can and should criticize. It really is it like it’s to a degree here where like the fact that we’re playing this event now instead of in the summer, like. If you want to talk about that, then how can you talk about that without talking about the politics that went into this event? You know, the whole reason that it’s in Qatar is because of bribes. And people have gotten you know, there’s a huge Justice Department investigation of that. And so if you choose not to talk about that, then that’s obviously something that’s inextricable from the tournament. And so you’re you’re you’re making a choice there as well.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And then this armband controversy, which I think is it’s a small thing, but is just so it so exemplifies everything about this tournament and the choices that, you know, big and small actors are making that that, you know, I think seven teams are going to wear armbands that said one love on them. And then FIFA said if you do that, we’ll give the player who is wearing the armbands a yellow card. Then they’re like, All right, I guess we will wear them then. I mean.

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Stefan Fatsis: But again, this didn’t happen. At the last second, the teams deciding to do this. FIFA knew that the teams and these are seven European teams, including England and Wales and the Netherlands and Netherlands were the first team to come up with the idea. They said they were going to do this in September. So the fact that this happened at the very last second Josh the.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Thing that happened at the last second was saying that they would get yellow cards.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. Yeah.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And similar to the beer thing which happened at.

Stefan Fatsis: The sixth, which indicates that the Qatari government stepped in at the last second and said, FIFA, you need to do something about this and this like the beer and like so many other things. And particularly FIFA’s own statements, which I want to get back to. Infantino’s Crazy press conference. FIFA exploits politics when it’s convenient for them to do so. They love to talk about how football has the power to change the world. You know, one of the justifications for bringing the World Cup to Qatar, for giving the World Cup to Qatar bribes aside was that this would help help Qatar come into the modern world, help the Middle East, join the rest of the world in celebrating the game and becoming part of the global community. That’s how FIFA justified, right, giving the World Cup to Qatar.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: What FIFA actually does is drag the whole world down to its level.

Stefan Fatsis: Yes, And that’s the flipside of this. So it exploits the politics when it’s convenient to do so. And then when it becomes thorny, it says no politics. Please let us just celebrate soccer now. And it exposes their hypocrisy more clearly than if they had done nothing and said nothing in the first place about how magnanimous and how, you know, FIFA deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Joel Anderson: Well, so is this the end, then, of that fantasy, that sort of particular sort of romanticism that these sort of large sporting events, you know, the Olympics, the World Cup, whatever, that they can bring people together and that they can bring countries in to the, quote, you know, modern world of the modern era. Right. It wouldn’t this as much as anything else finally show that that is alive. You know, give truth to the idea that like, no man, like no matter what you do, this is we’re just staging sports. We’re just staging games here. These are just games. This is just sport. It’s not going to fundamentally change anything about the way the host countries are run or the way the way they engage with the world.

Joel Anderson: I mean, can anybody show me any evidence that hosting the the Winter Olympics changed anything substantively in Sochi or Beijing? Is there any proof that any of that has happened? Are we going to continue to say that going forward from here on out? Right. You know, it just seems like we should be smarter than that at this point.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. I mean, I think that that myth has been shattered. Many Olympiads and World Cups ago and the people that are still trying to sell it to a populace that I think is is smarter than to swallow it, are FIFA, the IOC, and the the one entity that I think has really shamed itself the most because there was be reason to expect more is FOX. I don’t have like hugely high expectations, but like NBC, I don’t think covered itself in glory. But they certainly did something that they didn’t totally have their heads in the sand in.

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Stefan Fatsis: Terms of covering the Winter Olympics in China.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, I mean, but but the the clip that we heard from Jenny Taft that you played in the intro, Stefan, I mean, that’s an A that is embarrassing, that this is an American media organization that’s carrying water in a way that is really unnecessary. Like, I mean, they’re taking money from Qatar Airways. So maybe it is necessary in that sense.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But Telemundo has shown the way like which is a part of that NBC family of networks and has the Spanish language rights like they’re not behaving as obsequiously as Fox is. I mean, there are clips going around of Gary Lineker talking on British television in the kind of introduction to the games, just eviscerating Qatar. And I guess, Joel, to your point, like if we’re all going to watch these games anyway, like there’s I don’t think any media organization is at risk of depressing its audience or suppressing its its audience size by saying what we all know to be true. Like, if if you’re going to get the audience anyway, then why don’t you just tell the truth?

Stefan Fatsis: Well, right, right. Why don’t you tell the truth and why don’t you just tell FIFA and the host country, Qatar, that we’re going to do this? FIFA is and the IOC similarly depends on the hundreds of millions of dollars that American television networks give to them. There’s in for the rights to broadcast these these events. There’s no reason that Fox couldn’t do a segment about the laws in Qatar around LGBTQ rights. There’s no reason they couldn’t do a segment about human humanitarian complaints about migrant workers and their treatment. There’s no reason for them to pretend that this is like a Potemkin World Cup.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It’s similar to the NFL and it’s right rights holders where the power dynamics are just like strangely reversed, right? Where these networks give the nflx like billions of dollars and are basically the only reason that the NFL can exist and yet seem like instead of them bossing the NFL around and saying what what they can and should be able to say, it works in the reverse. It doesn’t make any sense like that these entities are willing to kind of cede all of the the power that they have with and getting seemingly nothing in return.

Joel Anderson: Well, just I mean, because once you’ve already made the decision, then I think Qatar or whatever else, these other entities, they know that they can call your bluff because you’re not going to take the game away. Right. You’re not going to not broadcast because at that point you’ve already you’ve spent the money, you’ve made the commitment. And so I got a tiny.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Body to call anybody’s bluff. And it’s interesting to see who’s actually call.

Stefan Fatsis: It, I guess Control Bluff would be unplugging the cables from the stadium.

Joel Anderson: Or they’re just like, You all don’t need beer. Fuck that. And what are you going to do about it? You know, is Budweiser going to take away all their all their advertising money at this point? Like, do they think that, you know, FIFA is going to say, hey, man, you guys better restore all that? Or Fox is going to say, you guys better give them beer or what? And they know that the games are going to be played and the people want to see that. And so I think that they’ve correctly identified the fact that, yeah, you can talk all that big stuff and you can make these sort of agreements, but once you’re actually on the ground, once the games have gotten started, it’s just like once you’ve agreed to play, it’s like, it’s like the thing sort of in the NCAA where they talk about the players are going to strike or whatever, and it’s just like what’s they’ve got on the court and the games are going to get started. It’s kind of hard to say what you’re going to do. You’ve already sort of given up your leverage. You gave up your leverage when you said, We’re going to host these games in Qatar.

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Stefan Fatsis: Except that FIFA does have leverage. It could choose not to cave in to political pressure from an autocratic state that it awarded the right to host this global event that billions of people care about. Instead, we get FIFA president Gianni Infantino defending and apologizing for Qatar at this.

Stefan Fatsis: Crazy press conference last week where he talked about how his working class parents emigrated to Switzerland from Italy. He said, I still can’t get over this. Today, I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African.

Speaker 5: Today. I feel gay. Today, I feel disabled. Today, I feel a migrant worker. Of course I’m not. Qatar. I am not Arab. I am not African. I am not.

Speaker 5: Okay, I’m not disabled. I’m not really a migrant worker. But I feel like them because they know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country, as a child at school. I was bullied because I had red hair and I had these red, how do you call them? Freckles? Freckles, freckles. Sorry, freckles, freckles. You see it on the, you know, the term. I was bullied, of course, for that.

Stefan Fatsis: Just astounding. Homosexuality is against the law. In Qatar. Migrant workers died building the World Cup. But, yes, tell us about your red hair and how you call them freckles. But another clip from Infantino also deserves listening to.

Speaker 5: I think, for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3000 years. Around the world. We should be apologizing for the next 3000 years. Before starting to give moral lessons to people.

Stefan Fatsis: He’s right that the White West has plenty to apologize for. But Infantino’s comments were designed to give Qatar a pass for its human rights violations, its backward laws, and also the corrupt way that it obtained this World Cup.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And if you read about or watch what the Iranian team has been doing before their opening game six two defeat to England players refusing to sing the national anthem in solidarity with the protest movement that’s sprung up in the country after the Iranian Kurdish woman died in custody for the crime of not covering her hair and James Montague on the Athletic had a really good history of the Iranian team and protest and how the team has, you know, won in the World Cup in the past. Green armbands in solidarity with protesters has, you know, players have spoken out or not spoken out about women not being allowed in the in the stands of stadiums and. You know, there were there were calls to potentially ban Iran from the tournament.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And just the way in which it’s not just that politics is kind of woven in to the events. It’s like in Iran. Soccer is politics. It’s been at the center that the national team, the players, the fans, the protests around the games has been at the center of the country’s history for the last four decades. And I think it’s more kind of stark and clear in around than in other countries. But it it’s the same kind of all around the world.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so. The kind of enforced naivete or the kind of telling us that what we know to be true isn’t true and that we’re stupid for thinking it is just kind of being treated like children. And Fox is obviously consenting to that. But, you know, it’s it’s not just that it’s important. It’s not like just that it’s spinach. Joel, It’s interesting.

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Stefan Fatsis: Like news.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It’s new. It’s news and it’s fascinating. And you kind of have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sports themselves, if you know everything that’s kind of roiling around. And so it’s also.

Stefan Fatsis: It has the opposite effect of what is intended. Sports are interesting not just because of what happens on the field. They’re interesting because of how they’re woven into the dynamic of society and politics and world events. And to pretend that that’s not the case when we can see the reality in front of our eyes is what makes these organizations so laughable.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I think you all make really good points there. I guess the the thing is, is that we can be of two minds about it, right? That this could be a huge multibillion dollar effort in sports washing, which thus far, you know, the Qatari government seems to not be all that interested in because they’ve been so defensive publicly and engaged the FIFA and joining them in their defensiveness. Or you can use sport in much the same way as the Iranian national team has to shine light on atrocities or injustice around the globe.

Joel Anderson: Right. And to that latter point, the thing that I would ask is, do you think any migrant workers that are there in Qatar or their family members who they had somebody that left India and went to Qatar to help build that stadium and now they don’t know where they are, you know, that that person has been disappeared or whatever. Or do you think, you know, gay people or any other persecuted peoples around the world feel better for soccer happening somewhere? I just always think that that is a stretch. And, you know, like none of us are really prepared to do what is required to make a real stand here. And it’s questionable whether or not, you know, not participating in the event at all or not supporting at all would do anything. But I just think that we want this to be to to mean something, to mean more than what it is.

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Joel Anderson: But at the end of the day, it’s just soccer and we’re just watching soccer and we’re sort of papering over the rest of it. And it makes it makes us feel good. I mean, it’s the same thing like when I talk about football and I say, well, I got to acknowledge that concussions are a real problem here, but I’m still going to watch it. Right. And I think that’s just the rest of us right now. Like we know that we’re sort of limited in what we can do as actors in the world. And so we sit by idly by and sort of watch this. And I’m looking at right now soccer. And I cannot help but think, man, a lot of people died to make that fucking stadium, man. And what do you know? What are we supposed to do about it? I don’t know.

Stefan Fatsis: Coming up next, we’ll talk about Kyrie Irving, the Golden State Warriors, and the start of the NBA season.

Joel Anderson: The NBA’s reigning champions won their first road game of the season Sunday to pull it off. The Golden State Warriors needed Klay Thompson best game of the season. Thompson scored 41 points, including ten three pointers and the Warriors 127 120 win over the Houston Rockets. Golden State had lost its previous eight road games of the season before knocking off the league’s worst team, Black Sunday. But if the NBA playoffs started today, they wouldn’t even qualify for the play in game in the Western Conference. Golden State is eight nine good for 11th in the West. Also in position to miss the postseason in the West. The Los Angeles Lakers who hit five in ten have the second worst record in the conference, but they’ve won three in a row with LeBron James out with an add doctor strain and Anthony Davis finally looking the part of a superstar.

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Joel Anderson: Another superteam off to a slow start is the Brooklyn Nets, who have the same eight and nine record as the Warriors, but have recently gotten a couple of promising games from Ben Simmons. They’ve also welcomed back Kyrie Irving from an eight game suspension for failing to apologize for sharing anti-Semitic material on social media. But gosh, that’s a mouthful. Let’s talk about the Warriors first. Steph Curry rarely played better, which is a crazy thing to say. He’s averaging 32, six and seven on shooting splits of 53, 45 and 90. And yet the Warriors are still struggling. Who’s to blame?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The Warriors starting lineup is as good as it’s always been as it’s ever been, and it seems like they’re just having a lot of trouble integrating the younger players who are supposed to be their salvation during the long regular season. You know, the 82 games is a strain for an older team like the Warriors or like the Lakers. The Nets, I guess, are older, too. And so you need a lot of depth to make it through players that wouldn’t necessarily play a huge role in the playoffs, but can get you to the playoffs.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the Warriors had this young crew that they were relying on. They got rid of, you know, they didn’t necessarily want to, but for salary cap luxury tax reasons, you know, Otto Porter is no longer there. Gary Payton, the second is no longer there. But they had these reinforcements of Moody Kuminga Wiseman. And those guys are not playing very well. And any time that the starting five is not on the floor, it seems like the warriors go completely in the tank. But they’re also really bad defensively. I think apart from even the younger players, we can’t just blame that on James Wiseman, who seems like it’s just not very good at basketball at the moment.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But if we were to broaden out a little bit beyond the Warriors particular issues, Stefan, the thing that’s so fascinating about the NBA this year is that you’ve got the Jazz, the Blazers and the Kings at first, third and fifth in the West. You’ve got the Pacers in the Wizards, top six in the East. Some of these teams, like I think the Blazers and Kings, wanted to be good. Some of them, it seemed like, were tanking. What what is that breaking for?

Joel Anderson: Victor Yeah, for Vic.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And it just seems like the standings are topsy turvy in a way that they really haven’t been in the NBA, maybe in our lifetimes. It’s obviously early in the season. But the storyline with the NBA, I think accurately has always been the teams with the superstars, the teams with the best players and the teams you kind of think are going to be good going into the season, barring injury are going to be good. But this year, no one would have predicted these standings. And it’s really, really interesting.

Stefan Fatsis: It is really, really early. As you pointed out, though, it’s you know, we’re barely, what, a fifth of the way and a little over a fifth of the way into the season. The teams that the big name teams that are bad could be bad for a lot of reasons. I mean, it’s partly that the young players on the Warriors aren’t performing to the level that, you know, the Warriors hoped they would when they didn’t go sign some reinforcements in the offseason for whatever reasons. At the same time, relying on three aging superstars also is problematic and they are aging 35 for Curry and I think 33 and 33 for Thompson and Draymond Green.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Relying on that on one of those aging superstars seems to actually be working out quite well.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, well, but you need the others if you’re going to not be eight nine, if you prefer being, you know, 13 and four, you’re going to need everybody playing better. And that’s certainly the case with the Lakers. It’s certainly the case with the Nets. That’s certainly the case with the Clippers. You know, we’ve talked about Superteams in the past. Joel, is it a stretch to say, you know, maybe Superteams aren’t so great anymore because there are there is more depth or just there are more players that are in that sort of second tier? Of goodness and near greatness that allow teams like the Pacers and others to, you know, to succeed where we would have written them off in the past.

Joel Anderson: I definitely think that the the depth of the league is coming. Coming through now. And so the teams that would typically be bad or just young are more difficult to beat. I mean, the Warriors beat the Rockets on Sunday night and the Rockets and the Pistons have, you know, the worst records in the league. But the Rockets are not a bad team like they’re just a young team, but they’re not bad. They’ve got a lot of talent and it’s really easy to lose to a team like that. I mean, the OKC Thunder, for instance, they’re trying to not. They’re trying to brick for Vic Victor. They’re not a very good team now run in a.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Victory for Victor doesn’t have as much of a ring.

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Joel Anderson: To it and wasn’t quite as good that far. That’s fine, but it’s possible that the Thunder have one of the league’s MVP candidates and Shea Gilgeous. Alexander And actually I was just looking at the standings. They’re a game behind the Warriors. That’s a team that was supposed to have been. Again, tanking or whatever and I was.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Everybody’s so tightly packed in the West right now. Yeah.

Joel Anderson: Oh it actually let me just like if if I gave you this this grouping of four teams and I told you, is this the top four or the bottom four in the playoff standings, you probably couldn’t guess. But the eighth seed, Philadelphia, 76 ers at eight and eight. The ninth seed, the Brooklyn Nets eight nine, the 10th seed, the Knicks eight nine. I mean the Knicks or whatever, but. And the Heat. The Heat were conference finalist last year and they’re seven and ten and they’re in 11th seed.

Joel Anderson: So yeah I mean the league is sort of weird right now. And so just to kind of bring you back, I think one of the things too, is that in addition to the depth in the league, we’ve devalued the regular season in the NBA so much that it’s just tough to read too much into them anymore. And it sort of dates back to the Warriors going 73 and nine and losing in the finals or those Cavs and Spurs teams resting and doing load management like it’s early. Some teams seem to be bad, some teams seem to be good, but we won’t really know what these teams are until their stars are all back and playing regularly, you know, playing 35, 40 minutes a game. So there do seem to be some patterns right now. The older, you know, marquee teams of the past few years seem to be struggling out of the gate, but I don’t think it’s going to stay that way long term because I think a lot of these teams have realized the early part of the season really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things, right?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I don’t Yeah, I don’t necessarily agree with that. I mean, the NBA regular season has actually never been more important, at least in since they expanded the playoffs because you can now there are only six guaranteed spots in each league. So the fact that the news conference, the fact that the West is so tightly packed means, you know, the Warriors are three and a half games behind Utah for first place while also being in 11th. So they’re not really.

Stefan Fatsis: There a little like a week and a half from being in first or second.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Sure. But you can’t, like, screw around for the entire regular season and expect to, you know, make it. And like, there are consequences. And I think that’s what the league, Adam Silver were trying to pull off with the play in tournament that there are advantages to locking in not just a top four seed to get home court advantage but a top six seed. And you know there’s plenty of time for whether it’s Utah or Indiana to, you know, trade guys away. But like you mentioned, the rockets, like I watched the Pacers play the Pelicans the other day.

Joel Anderson: Mm hmm.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Tyrese Haliburton is unbelievably good. You know, he’s averaging, I think, a double double on points in assists.

Joel Anderson: 2111 and I think like six broads. He’s putting up Chris Paul numbers right now.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Ben Mathieu and the rookie coming off the bench bench scoring 20 is like a ready made NBA, if not a star. Like a really good piece on a winning team. And then they’ve got these guys that the Lakers have allegedly been thinking about trading for, for forever. Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, who are really good NBA players.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And this is a team that going into the year everyone was saying was going to be the worst team or one of the worst teams in the league. I mean Utah similarly they got Lauri Markkanen from Cleveland who now looks like a superstar. And you know, it’s the Utah thing. It kind of it shows that if you get rid of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell the like players that you get back are not going to necessarily be bad enough for you to then become bad. And they play really hard. They move the ball.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You know there is we’ve seen kind of what the Spurs can do when you have that sort of team ethos and team that has like Hall of Fame level players like Manu Ginobili, but with Utah and this is like a regular season thing, I think there’s a sense that their show will work in the playoffs or their shit won’t work when they trade all of their players away.

Joel Anderson: But are you telling me the postseason is different from the regular season? The teams take it a little bit more seriously Earlier, Earlier. You got to.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You got to get you got to get there, though. Okay. But there’s a certain amount that you can accomplish in the regular season with. A core of like good players who play hard and and unselfishly. And I think it’s great for the NBA that there are these scrappy teams that are making life kind of miserable and aren’t allowing the star laden teams to go through the regular season. Like, isn’t it more entertaining to have the standings be all topsy turvy and to have these? You know, I’m about a million times more interested in following the Jazz than I was, you know, on day one.

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Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s better when there’s a Golden State Warriors team that everybody can sort of, you know, the great teams.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But where are we stipulating that the Warriors weren’t going to try? Like, it’s not like it’s not like the Warriors were going to go for 73. You said so yourself. So in that.

Stefan Fatsis: Universe, I think there’s two pieces of that, though. Joel It’s like it’s not like there isn’t a Golden State Warriors team or a Lakers team or a Celtics team. The good teams are still there and we’re still interested in them because of their current dysfunction. I mean, there’s a little bit of a soap opera storyline happening right now where fans are going to continue paying attention to them. This isn’t like, you know, the Warriors Pre Dynasty or the Lakers during their tank year recently or the Knicks for the last decade and a half. I mean, there is like genuine interest in seeing what happens with these teams. And you combine that with what Josh was talking about, genuine interest, rooting interest, fan interest, curiosity in seeing how these teams with a lot of really good NBA players are managing to say, Fuck it, we’re going to go for it and we’re going to be, you know, these guys are all competing for their paychecks, right?

Stefan Fatsis: So this is does not surprise me that, you know, we’re seeing these unusual formations of teams, particularly with injuries and aging and roster construction that is required in the Superteam era. And now we just got to see how it changes, right. We want to see if the Nets are going to be good, if Ben Simmons genuinely is back, if Kyrie Irving will shut up and play basketball, it’s shut.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Up and dribble.

Stefan Fatsis: That you could put it that way. That’s a more eloquent way of putting it. Josh, thanks.

Stefan Fatsis: So I do think that this actually creates interest throughout the NBA. Plus you’ve got the interest in the very bottom of the league because of the desire to get the number one draft pick next year to go for Vick.

Joel Anderson: I suppose. I don’t know. I mean, I’m a person like many people, they get older. I don’t I can’t watch every NBA game, so I’m not sitting around waiting to watch Lauri Markkanen So no, no offense to the Jazz, but I mean I’ve, you know, you have a finite amount of time and you want to see great teams, great games and what I tend to think the NBA and my memories of it over the course of my life or through the great teams, the teams that are sort of transcendent. So you think of the Bulls, you think of the Shaq, Kobe Lakers, nobody like anybody. And you know what? I guess I guess I’m just going to take a shit all over the San Antonio Spurs. Nobody is ever like, man, I’ve I really remember watching those Spurs teams. That was amazing.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: People did say that.

Stefan Fatsis: Oh, people on basketball.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Basketball hipsters say that the Pacers.

Stefan Fatsis: And then I.

Joel Anderson: Don’t think not I don’t think who said that? People said that about the Davis brothers watching the Davis brothers. They would walk in and say, I want to see Rick.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Smith’s footwork in the paint used.

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Joel Anderson: For Rick Smith’s. But no, I prefer to see these great teams. And I think the regular season, despite what Josh says, makes it a little more difficult because you very rarely see all of these teams with their great players all at once going forward. You know, people will be missing games or whatever. But, you know, you didn’t mention the the drama piece of this suffered. And as we as you mentioned, Kyrie came back last night for the Nets and he was greeted you know, Kyrie did say that he had Armie with him previously and it looks like outside of the Barclays Center and an army of some sort showed up to support him.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: To be clear, they weren’t supporting the fact that he apologized for anti-Semitism. They were supporting his original pre apology verse.

Joel Anderson: Black Hebrew Israelites showed up in force outside of the game. And so I know there’s a piece of this. We could talk about the Jaylen Brown tweet supporting them, but I previously had said I thought this was untenable, that there is no way that he could or should be still playing for the Nets and I’m wrong. Do you guys think when this season ends that Kyrie Irving will still be on that roster playing for this team?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Seems that way. Seems that way. Yeah. And I think the Simmons piece of it that he has looked increasingly functional as a player. Complicates things vis a vis their trajectory. I mean, I guess complicated is the wrong word. It makes it seem like they’re kind of more plausible, if not as a contender, as like a team that will win, at least be functional on the court and win games. And there was a certain kind of like lightness to them with Kyrie away that Durant seemed like he was having fun, even as he was kind of like insulting his teammates and saying like, you know, you look at this lineup, what do you what do you expect out of us?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Like, I think I guess the possibilities are that Kyrie says and does something that changes things. I guess the possibility that is probably high. But if. Kyrie keeps his mouth shut, then I don’t see. Any reason why he wouldn’t be on that team? Yeah. At the end of the year.

Stefan Fatsis: But I think the possibility of him being unable to keep his mouth shut, as you said, Josh is really high. I mean, in that same news conference after the game, you know, he well, first before the game, he had a news conference and he sort of apologized. I mean, he issued an apology and then he was sort of not super convincing, you know, saying that I was rightfully defensive, that there was an assumption that I could be anti-Semitic or that I meant to post the documentary, to stand side by side with all the views of the documentary. And, you know, after the game, he said, you know, I want to be on a platform where I can openly share how I feel without being harshly criticized. And then he was asked about the Black Israelites demonstration, and he said, that’s a conversation for another day. I’m here to just focus on the game. This could go any number of bad ways in the next week, day, month.

Joel Anderson: Chris Patterson Yeah, I mean, think about it. I mean, at what point has Kyrie been a stay a stabilizing factor there in Brooklyn since this all happened? You know what I mean? Like, you can’t count on him to show up in games. You can’t count on him to do what it takes in terms of taking the vaccine and now this. So, yeah, the season is long. He’s going to have to face these mikes over and over again. I think the odds of him playing along and doing what he needs to do to make this right are really low.

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Stefan Fatsis: And he talked about filing a grievance against the Nets for his suspension.

Joel Anderson: I mean.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I mean, I guess I think you guys are right. But the fact you’re now considering is the Nets willingness to just pretend like it’s not happening, like he could say or do any number of things and the Nets could just like.

Joel Anderson: I don’t think that’s I don’t think that’s going to be possible, man. I don’t think that’s going to be possible. But I guess we’ll find out if he continues to engage and dabble in this sort of anti-Semitism. I don’t think there’ll be any way for the for for them to to pretend it’s not happening. Like it’s I think at that point that they will make sure he’s gone.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. Last thing, Stefan needs to apologize for throwing the Celtics into the chaos mix. They’re good. There’s no fast email, though, because. Gone. It’s all good. They’re playing well.

Stefan Fatsis: Apology. Apology made.

Joel Anderson: And now it is time for After bars sponsored by Bennett’s Prune Juice, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, who says it was okay. Produce snacks on that bed. My parents used to give me princess as a kid for Halloween. So anyway, so this week I want to go some shopping to an old friend of the show, Otito Ogbonnia, who joined us in August 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, before it was clear college football was going to play any games that season. And he and his teammate Alisha Guidry, came for a conversation about the PAC 12 We Are United Movement, which was going to demand better testing protocol and conditions for players if they returned to play. Can’t say much about what happened if the league did what it was supposed to, but it did end up playing that season.

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Joel Anderson: And you know what? I kind of lost track of Otito, a Houston native, but last night, watching a few minutes of the Sunday night game between the L.A. Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs and Otito, our boy, he was out there playing man. I didn’t realize that he was a fifth round draft pick just just this spring and seems like he’s doing pretty well. He’s, you know, getting some playing time. Racked up a few tackles and stuff. You know, he’s early in his career, so I presume that he’s got a long ways to go. But shout out to our boy Otito this.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: He was great on the show. We loved we.

Joel Anderson: Really enjoyed him. And I remember I remember after the conversation I was like, Man, I really like that guy. It’s not just because he’s from Houston. So anyway, Otito, this is for you. So, Josh, what is your Otito Ogbonnia?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The major pro tennis stories have finished up for the year, giving the players approximately zero weeks to rest before everything kicks into gear again in Australia in January, where, incidentally, the unvaccinated Novak Djokovic will be allowed to play after his ban on entering the country for three years was overturned by the Aussie Immigration Minister. Djokovic is going to be the favourite to win his 10th Australian Open and 22nd major overall. The 22nd would tie him with Rafael Nadal and this past weekend he won his sixth ATP Tour finals, beating Casper Ruud in the final. Still very good tennis.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Okay. But I want to talk about the American men who had a very good year, at least by recent American men’s tennis standards, which have been extremely low. Taylor Fritz made it into the top ten. He is the first American man to be ranked that high since John Isner in 2019. He made it to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal this year, losing to Nadal at Wimbledon in five sets. He also snuck into the tour finals where he made the semis before losing to Djokovic in two very tight tie breaks. Did not look out of place there. Our fave Frances Tiafoe made it into the top 20, made his first Grand Slam semis, losing to the phenom Carlos Alcaraz.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Another three Americans hang up and listen. Gast Otito open. I had no hang up against Maxime Cressy as well as Reilly, Opelka and Brandon Nakashima all won ATP tournaments this year, and Nakashima just won at the end of year gen finals for young players. And the good news for him there is that the three previous champions, Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and your guy Stefan.

Stefan Fatsis: Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They all immediately became really big stars after winning the next gen final. So look out for Brandon Nakashima in 2023. And that’s not all. There are 12 American men in the top 65 in the rankings, which is by far the most of any country. And nine of them are 25 or younger. And that does not include the player that I want to focus on here, a guy we should all be very excited about who will make his top 100 debut this week. His name is Ben Shelton and he just turned pro a few months ago after winning the 2022 NCAA title for the Florida Gators. To illustrate how far he’s come, as recently as July 23rd, he was tweeting the following Really need to find someone to fill my bedroom in my two by two apartment in Gainesville so I can get out of my lease. Maybe some retweets would help. Then three days later, he had to tweet it again, this time adding really not trying to pay for two places. Hit my messages.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: A few weeks after that, in his second ATP tournament, he absolutely destroyed one of the best players in the world, the aforementioned Casper Ruud. And this month, the 20 year old Shelton, he just turned 20 in October, became the youngest player ever to win three titles in three consecutive weeks on the ATP Challenger tour. The level just below the mentor on the court, Shelton is a lefty with a huge serve and a huge forehand, but he also moves extremely well. There are some amazing passing shots he had, including the win one of those challengers. The match point was a crazy running, passing shot. He’s also got a huge smile and a lot of charisma, and he is a second generation player. His dad, Brian Shelton, made the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1994 and peaked at number 55 in the rankings, which it’s looking like Ben will exceed very soon. And Brian was also Ben’s coach at the University of Florida.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Second generation athletes are not at all rare and pretty much any sport and American men’s tennis. Sebastian Korda is the son of Peter Korda, who reached number two in the rankings. But what’s different here is that the Shelton’s are black. And given how underrepresented black Americans have been in tennis until the last couple of decades, and somebody can correct me if I’m wrong. I believe that Ben Shelton is the first ever second generation black American tennis star, which is kind of extraordinary, even though it makes sense when you think about it. Hopefully there will be a lot more to come. No pressure. Alexis Olympia Ohanian jr. But Ben Shelton is extraordinary on his own, and I think we’ll be enjoying his career for a nice long time and no pressure on a third generation of Shelton. So I think we can appreciate the second generation star for now.

Stefan Fatsis: And I want to say here that take this to the bank on Ben Shelton future success because Josh is really like the best scout of next gen tennis stars that I know of. I haven’t really heard of Ben Shelton before now, and now I know he’s going to be. You’re all in the mix.

Joel Anderson: Ryan. You really I mean, you knew how to hook me there. I was like I’ve said, and I’m like, that started Google and everything else. I’m it’s not a surprise.

Stefan Fatsis: Job like looking at TCU updates and suddenly suddenly Google has got.

Joel Anderson: What you like. He’s really.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Not interested. When I was talking about the tweets, even before you knew anything from the end.

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Joel Anderson: What I mean, because can we not all relate to what it’s like to break a lease and not want to pay for written to places? So that’s very understandable. I would love to know what his rent was in Gainesville, though. As somebody who lived in Tampa a couple hours south, spent some time in Gainesville, couldn’t have been that much money. So hopefully he’s hopeful he’s going to start making that real, that real ATP money man.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, And like I mentioned. A lot of times a guy with a serve as big as he has, they’re not particularly mobile. And he and also just being left handed is a huge advantage because, you know, players aren’t used to playing against the lefty. So big lefty serve and mobile. He’s going to be really tough to beat. And with all the success on the Challenger tour, he now gets into the Australian Open into the main draw. He doesn’t have to go through qualifying. And one of these challengers, the guy he beat, Chris Eubanks, who’s a good friend of his, said in his like runner up speech like. He said to the crowd. Like a crowd of like Knoxville or whatever it is, You’re never going to see this guy here again. Like he’s never going to be in that in the minors. He’s just going to be on the man tour. So we’ll see if.

Stefan Fatsis: He’s a big guy, too, right? Josh I’m tall, not huge, but he’s like six, four or something.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: He’s a did he is.

Joel Anderson: Did he wanted to play football. Apparently his first sport was football. And then they got him into tennis, which could move you if you could make it with that getting hit in the head. You make it a sports. I get him if you try to do it.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So that is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendis to listen to shows and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate.com slash hang up and you can email us and hang up at Slate.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine Remembers Elmo Baby. And thanks for listening.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now. It is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. And I’m looking at a story here in The Washington Post. Hundreds had to be. It’s not funny. Hundreds had to be rescued from snow in western New York. Governor says, I was laughing. I was laughing because of this video. At the top, there’s this like little girl in a pink outfit trying to like, walk. And what appears to be snow that’s taller than she is. I think there is something like 66 inches of snow in Buffalo.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And, you know, Joel, going into the week when we saw these forecasts, everyone was so excited because the Bills had a home game. They they’re going to play that the Browns are going to get like the be all and end all snow football game of of all time. But the NFL wisely for safety reasons we can all agree they moved the game to Detroit the bills beat the Browns indoors blah who cares. But I guess this is an opportunity for us to share our views on snow football. And Joel, as our resident football player, did you ever play in the snow? Did you how did you feel about cold weather or did you just never wear you only ever playing in a, you know, 90 degree weather?

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Joel Anderson: So there’s only a handful of these stories. I’ve never actually played a literal game in cold weather before. Cold by like sub 50. Now, I was on the sideline my freshman year when I traveled when TCU went to play Utah. And I don’t know if people remember the running back. Chris, Forward to my father. He’s six foot £275 and we did not have a great day trying to tackle that guy. Got to be honest that day. So that was one experience, the cold weather. But my personal experience is that we played our rival my senior year of high school, Saint Thomas, and it was, I think maybe the fifties. And I just remember trying to wear a sleeve under my other my pants and my coach was like, Hey, man, that’s stupid. Don’t do that. You’re is it your fumble? I fumbled. Anyway, that game was my only fumble of the season without sleeves. But that’s you.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Blaming cold weather for your claim. You know, since.

Joel Anderson: I blame terrible officiating because I was down, I was down and they kept let the play go and they eventually they got the ball out of there and returned it for a touchdown. And we lost that game 14 to 7. So obviously I’ve never gotten oh.

Stefan Fatsis: Funny that this hasn’t been mentioned alongside the world’s fastest ten year old, 60.

Joel Anderson: Greg Gatlin, who returned that fumble for a touchdown, owns and operates one of the leading barbecue restaurants of Houston today. So that’s you know.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That could have been you.

Joel Anderson: You could have. And I’ve never I would never, ever, ever, ever. Greg Greg is a nice guy. I’ve met him before. I would never I don’t know if I can eat.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But have you guys talked about that fumble before?

Joel Anderson: No, no, we’ve never talked about it. We just say, hey, man, good to see that kind of stuff.

Stefan Fatsis: None of your passion on free barbecue. Joel. He knew that you were the fun player. Probably a highlight of his life.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I’m sure he would love for me to come in there and it to remind me of it, I’m sure. But 50 degrees.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: There’s a there’s a Joel Anderson special on the menu. If you drop your food on the floor, you get it for free.

Joel Anderson: Hey, hey. You know that lost hurts, okay?

Stefan Fatsis: We seem to have gone off course a little bit.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: How do you feel about snow football, Stefan?

Stefan Fatsis: Oh, I love snow football. I mean, as a kid, there was nothing better than, like, running out in the snow and playing football with your friends. You know, little tackle football in the snow.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So yeah, Joel and I have never that had that experience.

Stefan Fatsis: No, that was the best.

Joel Anderson: I heard your fingers. Anything like.

Stefan Fatsis: Oh, man, just a great drive. You know, we had, we had helmets and shit and, you know, we would go play and you get a facemask for us when you.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: When you would play football, like with your friends. You had helmets.

Stefan Fatsis: As a kid. Yeah. We actually bought replica helmets in the said.

Joel Anderson: What, are you serious.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I have never.

Stefan Fatsis: Heard of that.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I’ve never heard of that.

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Stefan Fatsis: Does that apply those? They’re not replica helmets but helmets for kids that you know, with a Giants helmet.

Joel Anderson: Is that normal? So jealousy, you are.

Stefan Fatsis: It was normal where I grew up until like I was no.

Joel Anderson: So Josh I’ve worn replica like helmets and the little cute Houston Oilers uniforms. I didn’t know that people went out and played in those.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: No, I’ve never worn a football helmet in my life.

Stefan Fatsis: For any purpose. It is an actual helmet. We would get actual helmets.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Would you use the helmet? Would you like ram people with the helmet on purpose?

Stefan Fatsis: Just like my current state of mind. It’s possible that I did once or twice in my football career, fortunately was very short lived because I was three foot six in my, you know, fourth grade. So but no, playing in the snow was the best and the most iconic games in the NFL are. Among the most iconic games are snow or cold weather games, right? I mean, the three I didn’t even have to really look them up. The ice bowl between the Packers and the Cowboys in 1967 and the NFL and the NFL championship game. The NFC championship game. Sorry if the tuck roll game was huge.

Stefan Fatsis: Snow 22 and then the snow plow game, one of the great snow games ever in 1982 when at the snow plow operator at Foxborough I guess it was Schaefer Stadium then comes on to the field, clears a spot with his plow and John Smith of the Patriots kicks the winning field goal. The only points scored in a game against the Dolphins.

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Joel Anderson: I’m surprised he mentioned again. I thought you were going to mention the Leon Lett game. Does it people is that game so old now that people don’t remember Leon Lett and what happened in that game?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I remember that one.

Joel Anderson: Yeah. Where they blocked the kick was blocked. I think it was the Miami Dolphins. I know the Cowboys blocked a miami Dolphins kick. It did. Leon Lett runs down to try to recover the fumble and it’s caught the way the dolphins recover And then I think they end up kicking or scoring the game winning points right after that. It was something like that. But anyway, snow it was snow related because snow is such a terrible environment for football. Players are playing. And so it just looked like a mess out there.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, I mean, it’s good for high jinks, obviously bad for for quality, for good football play. And then, I mean, I do have experience going to Tiger Stadium when it was cold and wet and rainy and that there is this.

Joel Anderson: Myth called the Tiger Stadium.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Problem. I’m trying to remember I think this was like an Arkansas game, maybe in the Curley Holman era. It was I mean, it was bad, bad times out there. There’s also a Notre Dame game that was really bad in terms of weather. I mean, you could probably get down to like 40 and rain. I mean, that’s not 40. That’s not pleasant. That’s not pleasant. That’s not pleasant.

Joel Anderson: In the South. That is that is that is that is it. You know, not literally, but it is freezing.

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Stefan Fatsis: There’s a qualitative difference between going to a 40 degree rainy game, which is just miserable and going to a 20 degree snowing game, which is much more fun to watch and more fun to be in. It’s not quite as annoying to be in the snow as it it’s not nearly as annoying to be in the snow as it is the rain.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: True, but so. So the LSU a big game on Saturday night. Nobody was there because it was so cold and rainy. And I think all of this is pointing towards like this is really fun to watch on television, not necessarily fun to play in or be at, although maybe a snow game would be fun, too. If you’re in the right mood and have the right warming liquids in the stands. But, you know, football is like such a television sport at this time. Like they could essentially be playing it at a in a studio. But like, there is something about, you know, sitting here in our, you know, nicely insulated homes and talking about how much we enjoy it, would have enjoyed watching Josh Allen try to plow through six feet of snow for our entertainment. And I would have I’m not disavowing that opinion.

Joel Anderson: Which the iconic Michael Irvin quote tweet that man when we played in that cold weather we was cold okay like that’s it’s I don’t I don’t think but did you all see with and I’m sure BML would appreciate this what Michigan’s kickers said after beating Illinois on Saturday. Did you just.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: See that Jake.

Joel Anderson: Jake Moody on kicking in November at Michigan Stadium and this is directed to you. Josh Presumably it’s not the SEC. You’ve got to deal with some tough win conditions.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So congratulations on having wind. No, We should also mention that ESPN game day, which we mentioned, they’d gone to Jackson State. They’re always kind of looking for events or moments or places that people that kind of set up a notice. They went to Montana, Montana State over the weekend where it was like, wow, four degrees or or zero degrees. And Desmond Howard, I think, was asked if he was prepared and he’s like, No, I’m from Miami. Like, obviously this is going to be horrible. But I mean, that’s the thing that ESPN recognizes and they don’t get attention for it. Like people are interested to see. Even if you’re just on a studio, it’s it’s fun to watch people be called if you’re warm.

Joel Anderson: It’s aesthetically pleasing. It It really is. But yeah.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Joel I guess maybe we can. And here, like we should have mentioned this before it when Stefan is listing his iconic games like NFL Films was built on, Yeah, Seeing players breath and seeing the steam rise off of.

Joel Anderson: Pressure.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Is do you, do you kind of understand. The appeal of like seeing seeing guys breath. Is that something that that does it for you.

Joel Anderson: Even like as a kid playing out there in high school and you’re on the sideline and you see your breath like, you know, the times we get 50 degrees? Yeah, that, that, that part of it is.

Stefan Fatsis: A John Madden territory, by the.

Joel Anderson: Way. Yeah. No, it’s absolutely it that part of.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It is diagramming the steam coming off of Nathan’s bald head.

Joel Anderson: Yes. Yeah. And you think you think you ought to play in it up until the point that you actually experience cold weather? And I can say I was like, no looking like tackling somebody £270 coming at you full speed in 30 some odd degree weather. It’s not as fun as it looks on TV. That much I can promise you.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Thank you. State plus members. Hope you’re all warm and cozy. Have a good Thanksgiving. Maybe come and play some football. We’ll be back next week.