The NBC’s Tony Dungy Problem Edition

Listen to this episode

Stefan Fatsis: The following podcast includes explicit language, including, Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of January 23rd, 2023. On this week’s show, we’ll assess the divisional round of the NFL playoffs where the Chiefs, Bengals, Eagles and 49 ers emerged victorious. We’ll also discuss Tony Dungy history of anti-gay rhetoric and weather in D.C. in the NFL should do something about it. And finally, Slate contributor Isaac Butler will be here to talk about the rise of the American men at the Australian Open and Review, Netflix’s new tennis reality series Breakpoint. I’m in Washington, DC and I’m the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast. One Year Stefan Fatsis is also in DC and he’s the author of the books Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and Wild Outside, and he’s recovering from being obliterated by his own child in a Scrabble livestream. Hello, Stefan.

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: I wasn’t obliterated. Final score close. The final score was 457 to 438, but it was the first time that we played each other in a tournament on Livestream, and I am just grateful that I did not completely fuck up and embarrass myself. But she was the superior player in the game. She threw down two crazy bingos. One was Scientology, Scientology and the other was pratique pr a t i q u e. I managed to hang in there and make it close in the game to go down to the last play. We’ll post the link to the livestream. You can watch.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: It. This wasn’t an upset. I mean, she’s been better than you for a while.

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. This was not in.

Jill: The sort of like the Eagles versus Giants, like just pretty much a predicted result, right?

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. I mean, Scrabble, you know, Scrabble games are pretty random sometimes, but, no, she is a far better player than I am now because she has spent the last two and a half years studying words every day. She’s kind of crazy. Good. Now, I got to say. So we played in this. This was at a tournament in New Orleans. Thank you for the restaurant recommendations, Josh. She finished fifth out of 36 players in the top division, 12, seven and one. And I finished 11 and nine in 13th place and got some cash, too, because I had the best record of the the players in the bottom half of the field, the players with the the lowest ratings in the tournament. So it was a good time fun to play her on Livestream. Really proud of her participation.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Check.

Stefan Fatsis: Check there. Yeah, I’ll take my $270.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: With us from California and already making his presence felt. Joel Anderson host of Slow Burn Seasons three and six. Hello, Jill.

Jill: Hey, since you all want to talk so much about TCU athletics, do we want to talk about possibly the biggest win in TCU men’s basketball history over the weekend? We only talk about TCU where they’re getting humiliated on the national stage.

Stefan Fatsis: Man, you’re like, You put that on us. They beat Dallas.

Jill: No, sir. Well, I mean, okay. Over the weekend. Sorry, Derek. John Boyd. Derek is a was CU fan. TCU beat number two ranked Kansas 83 to 60 at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. I would I mean we were I was talking with some TCU fans this weekend that probably is the biggest at least regular season victory in TCU basketball history. So shut out those horned frogs going up big. Cleaning up our brand a little bit after which was not a not a great week for CCU athletics If you’ve been following you may know what I’m talking about. If not, I’m not going to talk about it. And I don’t want to.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Piss on your Texas party job. But also over the weekend, Philadelphia’s on Temple Owls beat the number one ranked team in the country. Houston, I.

Jill: I mean, that’s, you know look man good for temple and you know any given Saturday but we’ll see them in the tournament.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I learned from hang up in listen last week that nobody really follows men’s college basketball anymore so I’m glad that you know, you guys are still driving some trolling and bragging rights out of it. In our Slate Plus segment this week, we will talk about the short tenure. I guess it wasn’t even a tenure of Ed Reed at Bethune-Cookman. We’ll discuss what went down there and how Deion Sanders rose to his defense. Maybe unsurprisingly, the lesson to that you need to be a Slate plus member. You get bonus segments on this and other slate shows, you get ad free shows and you also get to support us. Thank you. Slate.com slashing a plus that Slate.com slash hang up.

Advertisement

Jill: Plus, as the two minute warning in the first half for the Buffalo Bills divisional round playoff game against Cincinnati, the image of Damar Hamlin appeared on screens at Highmark Stadium. Hamlin, of course, is the Bills safety who went into cardiac arrest during the Bills game against the Bengals on January 4th. Hamlin has had a rapid recovery and according to Bills coach Sean McDermott, been at the team facility almost daily and now here he was with family at a Bills game for the first time since his terrifying collapse on the screen, Hamlin held up his hands in the shape of a heart, what’s now become his signature gesture and tried to hype up the crowd.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 4: This is it right here. What a scene. Oh. That’s was to sign. What a beautiful, triumphant story that galvanized this entire nation. Well.

Jill: Yeah, but this is no storybook, no fairy tale. The Bills may have been inspired by Hamlin’s dramatic return, but they couldn’t do anything to celebrate it. Four plays later, the Bengals kicked a 28 yard field goal to extend their lead to 17 to 7 in a game they controlled from start to finish. Cincinnati went on to win 27 to 10, clinching its second straight matchup against Kansas City in the AFC Championship. In the NFC. The San Francisco 49 ers advance to the conference championship game for the second year in a row after beating the Dallas Cowboys 19 to 12. The 40 Niners will host the Philadelphia Eagles, who routed the New York Giants 38 to 7 in their divisional round playoff game Saturday. So Josh, look, a lot of people seem to be rooting for Hamlin in the Bills and hoping that they would be inspired to keep the season going. Obviously, that didn’t happen. What did you make of the game.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Really dominated by the Cincinnati Lions on both sides of the ball? And I think we all understand that in this modern age of football, passing matters more than running. But there was something I don’t know if it’s vestigial, Joel, but there is just something about seeing one team being able to run the ball for what felt like ten yards a pop and the other team not being able to run at all. That just still feeds my like lizard brain sense of football dominance, especially when the game is in the snow as it was in Buffalo.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And look, we know that Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in football that he’s capable of. Absolutely astounding things in the playoffs as well as in the regular season. And so I’m not going to say that Joe Burrow is necessarily better, that he’ll have a better record or career over the next ten or 15 years.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: But that guy, Joe Burrow, especially with the receivers that he has, particularly Ja’marr Chase, they look really hard to stop and they have the like sort of clichéd and and probably undeserved chip on their shoulder of nobody believing in them or respecting them. Stefan And they’re going to have a chance to take on the Chiefs again. They’ve beaten the Chiefs three games in a row by a field goal apiece and that will be a fun game to watch and will be a lot more fun if Patrick Mahomes can actually move. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Yeah.

Stefan Fatsis: Before we move on to that and the Chiefs, I think there are two things that are worth mentioning about the bills. One is that, you know, Josh Allen might have been hurt. We just don’t know. He injured his elbow earlier in the season in week nine, back in November. You see injury when he was hit as he was throwing. And during this game, he was also he also had an ankle injury in December. In this game, he went into the injury tent after taking a hit. He was replaced by Case Keenum for one play. That was not determinative of this game because, as you said, Josh, Cincinnati just dominated on the line, particularly even without three of their starting offensive linemen. But that could have played a role. We just don’t know. This did not feel like the high powered bills that we’re used to seeing.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: And the second factor here is, is Damar Hamlin. I think it’s easy to underestimate what the bills went through to turn it into a sort of, you know, dramatic narrative and tell ourselves that they wanted to win it for DeMar. But life’s way more complicated than that. What they went through a few weeks ago is unfathomable to fans. And as I size Connor or wrote on Twitter and I think he wrote this, he said this, Well, I just think we need to give this team a little grace. Less than a month ago, they were having interventions with mental health professionals. Josh Allen said some guys couldn’t sleep at night. They dealt with the very edge of the sport’s most dangerous reality. That had to have played a role here.

Advertisement

Jill: Yeah. You know, this is going to be one of the meanest things I’ve probably ever said on this podcast, but I wanted the Bengals to win for exactly that reason. I wanted them to strip all poetic of metaphorical meaning from Damar Hamlin injury, like I didn’t want him or that moment to be exploited any further. And so, like, if if the bills had won and they have won since Damar Hamlin has been hurt, like it’s like obviously not in first, you know, they’ve been through something that nobody else has been able to go through and it inspired them. But in in this game, all of a sudden it hurt them.

Stefan Fatsis: The same dudes they were playing when Damar Hamlin collapsed, you.

Jill: Know, if the Bills had won with Hamlin in the stadium, it’s easy how they would have spun the story for Buffalo as a team of destiny, fueled by a desire to win for their fallen comrade. But when they lost, it was just a football game that Cincinnati won in dominating fashion. And I just remember when we talked about this a couple of weeks ago and not him, Hines returned to kickoffs for a touchdown to help the Bills clinch home field advantage, and everyone thought it was a magic. Piece of punctuation to that week of coverage. And back then I said on the show I didn’t understand the connection, but I definitely understood what it might have meant if the Bills had won. And I just didn’t want that sort of spin I didn’t want. DeMar to serve is like a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of the Bills or football and at the least the NFL and certain fans and writers won’t be able to deploy him or hurt his injury in that way. So to me, in that way it was a small sort of victory.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: And I just I know this is very petty, but it’s so when Damar Hamlin shows up on the screen and the Bengals are in scoring position and like right after Damar Hamlin appears on screen, the Bengals got a false start on third and goal and that was the first penalty of the game. And then Burrow throws this laser to ja’marr chase in the back of the end zone and that touchdown doesn’t count. And I’m like, Oh shit, man, maybe there is something to this.

Jill: But now the Bengals eventually put them away and I’m sort of grateful for that because I just, I, I don’t, I think the story is dramatic and sad on its own. It didn’t need the added the added bonus of this other stuff that he you know that the bills are getting gassed on on part of that and I’m sorry Josh I know that maybe that’s a horrifying thing to say out loud, but maybe you’ll appreciate it because I was siding with your LSU boys. You kept bringing up. Oh, Burrow You know, he’s in Ja’marr Chase You didn’t mention Tyler Boyd or Tee Higgins or Joe Mixon, who was peeling off run after run in that snow. You had to mention Joe Burrow and Ja’marr Chase, which I know understandable.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I know from our relationship offline that you don’t actually like Joe Mixon. So I’m just discounting most of what you said. But no, I think that was really smart and well said, Joe. And you you have me persuaded. But you know, based on what you said, Stefan, you know, clearly it’s correct that things are a lot more complicated than than how they’re portrayed vis a vis like, you know, how teams respond. All that was well said, too.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: But I also think that there’s something extremely mundane but true about the Damar Hamlin fallout, which is and I apologize again for saying this, but like the reason the Damar Hamlin was playing, he was a backup. Their starting safety, Micah Hyde was out for the year because of a neck injury and then Damar Hamlin went out. They had another backup and then they lost a bunch more secondary guys in this game due to injuries that were not at all uplifting or did not have any potential to like, you know, be be heartworm.

Stefan Fatsis: Defensive backs collided and both were treated for head injuries and came out and did not return.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: They ran out of players. I mean the Bengals had guys missing on the offensive line as as was said earlier in the segment. I mean a thing that is true in the NFL and it’s so obvious that it’s often not worth saying is just that it’s a game of attrition and they play the playoffs at the end of an increasingly long regular season. And it’s just about who is as left standing. And you know, Joel and Tony Pollard for the Cowboys breaks his leg and they’re left with Ezekiel Elliott who kind of defines both.

Jill: Their left with as he.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Defines below replacement level for running back at this point because of an accumulation of injuries over his career. And so that game, I think, really turned in that that moment. And then the 40 Niners are led by their third string quarterback. So it’s it’s just a question of again, not in any kind of poetic or deeply meaningful way, but like who can transcend the absolute carnage of a football season to win these games.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: And the chiefs nearly weren’t able to do that. You know, Patrick Mahomes had his ankle rolled and was limping. The entire game came out for a bit. And Chad Haney led a 98 yard touchdown drive in his absence. Who knows what condition Mahomes will be in later. The injury occurred in the second quarter and Cris Collinsworth said at the start of the second half that we just don’t know what happened or what the Chiefs did to allow Patrick Mahomes to continue to play. He said they probably took an x ray. He didn’t mention the likeliest treatments with treatment, which was that he got a shot of tore at all or something to allow him to at least be mobile enough to stand in the pocket and throw often off of one leg.

Jill: Right. And look, in a three preseason 17 game season, it doesn’t just matter who you play, it’s when you play them. And just like the Bengals caught the Bills later in the season when they’ve been more uneven and we’re talking about injuries, the Bills people for Von Von Miller. Their big offseason acquisition has been out with a knee injury for a long time. Right. And so the Bengals, again, they’re going to catch the Chiefs at their most vulnerable because Pat Mahomes got hurt. And that’s I mean that’s just football, man. Unfortunately, you know, if you play long enough, these guys are going to get hurt and then you’re going to have to deal with it.

Jill: When I think about the Cowboys 40 Niners game, the Tony Pollard injury does stand out a little bit. But I think of it this way the Cowboys are very good team with a pretty good quarterback that lost on the road to a superior team. It happened the way a season’s worth of results suggested that it might. Dak Prescott, who led the league in interceptions, threw two interceptions. The league’s best defense shut down the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49 ers methodical, competent offense ground them down, been doing things especially dynamic, but they did enough. And so sometimes one game samples tell you nothing. Right.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: I’m always on that like I would I would like to believe that 65 to 7 is an anomaly that doesn’t tell you much about it. Georgia is better. You brought it up. I’m just saying as well. Go there. How do you guys.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Keep bringing this up?

Jill: No, I’m just saying I’m just trying to remind people I will. I’m a Houston Oilers fan. They lost to the Bengals 61 to 7 once. I was right as like, Oh, I’ve actually been on the ass kicking like this before. But sometimes one game samples tell you nothing, but sometimes they’re a reflection of the larger sample. And I think that’s kind of what we saw all throughout the playoffs. Yeah. Yeah, all weekend.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. The Eagles are really good. We haven’t mentioned them. We also haven’t talked about Brett Maher.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I was so shocked that he made those field goals. Yes, just absolutely true. And watching with like my hands, covering my eyes to see what happened. And I don’t know. Stefan, do you commend Mike McCarthy for continuing to send him out there and potentially subject? I mean, if he had missed it, it seemed like when they sent him out for that short field goal, I think what was it like under 30 yards or something like that? It seemed to me like if he missed that his career was over like that, that was one that things were in that in that moment. And it’s funny that to me, obviously a neutral observer. I don’t care in particular who won that game like that to me seemed like the biggest stakes of that game rather than like, you know, is this going to go in the 49 ers? Are cowboys going to win the game?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: You mean like this guy’s career on mental health?

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah, that’s what I definitely cared about the most in that game.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. Background. He missed four extra points the previous round of the playoffs. Someone pointed out on Twitter that Maher has missed more extra points in his last three games than Justin Tucker has missed in his 189 game NFL career. But he also made his last 11 field goals and then he made two more. I commend Mike McCarthy for sending him back out there, and I believe that Brett Maher, like most kickers, understands that this is a mechanical process. And if I go through the mechanics correctly, I’m going to be okay. And the last kick should not matter. At some point, the last kick does matter and the blocked extra point in the 40 niners game did not look like it would have gone through had it not been blocked.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah, Greg Olsen did a really good job explaining like I actually think that the fact that it got blocked was probably good for his mental health because for him, if it had cleared the line, it would have missed by so much it.

Stefan Fatsis: Looked like it might have. He completely pulled the kick. But these are athletes who are extraordinarily good at what they do. I mean, I thought that McCarthy should have taken a chance and sent them out for a 58 yard field goal at one point when that was a possibility, instead of going for it on fourth down. Later on that drive, they converted and then Prescott threw an interception. This is a guy that’s the only kicker in NFL history who has attempted a field goal of longer than 60 yards and never missed one. It’s not like Brett Maher is a bad player. He’s one of the best players in one of the most, you know refined skills in professional.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah. And Rick and Kill was one of the best pitchers in baseball until he couldn’t find the play it.

Stefan Fatsis: Right. I mean, did he have the yips? A lot of people were saying yips. Yes, We have no evidence of that. I mean, he missed a bunch of kicks in a row, and he was he was clearly psyched out. And his his routine was thrown off. I’m glad he made those last two field goals. I never root for kickers to miss, But, you know, in this case, God, it was it was excruciating. And as a lot of people also noted, if Dallas had on the last potential game tying drive of the game, they were down seven. Right? They had the ball. They go down the field, scored a touchdown. Oh, my.

Jill: Gosh. I was I was I was so scared for him. I was like, oh, God, don’t put him in that situation. That’s not fair.

Stefan Fatsis: Put him in the situation and let him succeed. That’s what these guys get paid.

Jill: My last question for you. Any of the weekend appeal to your nineties sensibilities like the home playoff game between the Cowboys and the 49 ERs, you know, the splashy Sunday, you know Bay area weather and the cowboys and 40 Niners playing it out or the snowy home playoff game in Buffalo because we I feel like a kid a little bit yeah didn’t it I just I just it just felt really warm and cozy in a way. You know I just really I don’t know it just made me feel like a kid again to see those guys all playing in in these spots.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: That was cool. Yeah. And Bengals Chiefs is going to be a fascinating game. And Eagles 40 Niners could be, I think a train wreck on multiple levels. We’ll have to see how Brock Purdy holds up. But I just want to make one final note about injuries. Like there’s been a lot of appropriate attention on the NBA and star players missing the amount of games that they miss during the regular season and sometimes in the in the playoffs, too. And I think one of the like 5000 factors to explain why the NFL is a dominant cultural force is that. The best players could be missing. Huge numbers of players that are important to their teams could be missing and nobody cares.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: It is something structural about the sport. The stars are more important to team success in the NBA than they are in the NFL. But I think it also has to do with kind of our expectation as viewers. We just don’t expect for the best of our players to necessarily be there. And we don’t care. We watch anyway.

Jill: In the next segment. What, if anything, should NBC and the NFL do about Tony Dungy?

Stefan Fatsis: Two weeks ago, Cyd Ziegler of Outsports published a two part series about Tony Dungy history of anti-gay statements calling the Hall of Fame player and coach an NBC sports analyst. Probably the most publicly anti LGBT person in NFL history. Dungy had no comment about any of that. But last Wednesday, responding to a tweet from the right wing Daily Wire, he repeated to his nearly 1 million followers the anti-trans lie that schools are providing litter boxes for children who identify as cats. On Thursday, he said he was sorry because, quote, As a Christian, I should speak in love and in ways that are caring and helpful, end quote. Then on Friday, Dungy spoke at the annual anti-abortion March for Life rally in D.C., where he said that Damar Hamlin surviving an on field heart attack was God using football, quote, to shine some light on the subject of life for all of us, end quote.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 5: You know, an unbelievable thing happened that night. A professional football game with millions of dollars of ticket money and advertising money on the line. That game was canceled. Why? Because a life was at stake and people wanted to see that life saved. Even people who aren’t necessarily religious got together and called on God. Well, that should be encouraging to us, because that’s exactly why we’re here today. Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is they don’t belong to a famous athlete and they’re not seen on national TV.

Stefan Fatsis: Joel Neither the NFL nor NBC has said anything about Dungy his views or statements. And on Saturday, he was on the field at the Chiefs Jaguars game in Kansas City in his usual role as a network analyst.

Stefan Fatsis: What do you make of all this?

Jill: I guess my first observation, having heard that clip, because I didn’t hear the speech in full, is that Tony? Those people hate you and everything else you represent. I just I would hope you would know that by now as a black man in America. But obviously, you don’t. But for that, those people hate you. But on the whole, my broader thought is that it seems fairly par for the course. The game itself, the broadcast itself, football night in America are extremely conservative in a league that seemingly prioritizes its conservative fan base above all else. Like you don’t call with Tony Dungy is on football night in America. If you’re not trying to say something about what your product is and what you’re trying to represent, just the whole production itself, the national anthem, the military flyovers, tremendous police presence, stadium itself, a country music intro like. Of course, I’m not surprised NBC has said nothing. Why? Because they’ve always sort of thrown their throne rocks in their hands in that regard.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: Look, when NBC hired Tony Dungy in 2009, it was pretty clear who he was like two years prior. He had accepted the, quote, Friend of Family Award from the conservative Indiana Family Institute and told the audience there that he supported the group’s efforts to amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. At the time, the Colts didn’t comment and the NFL said Dungy is speaking for himself and expressing his views, which he isn’t fully entitled to do.

Jill: So two years later, he gets into that job. You know, one of the highest profile jobs there is in professional football like that is the NFL’s premier product. Football night in America, Sunday evening. And they hired him to be an analyst in that position. So I assume the NFL and the NBC would not have allowed him to be in that position if they had known or cared about the content, the context of those particular comments. And also, like we’re not talking about Charles Barkley or even said EJ Sharpe, like we’re talking about a fairly milquetoast former NFL coach who’s never said anything that I can remember as being interesting and notable. It’s not like if they got rid of Tony Dungy, I think there would be any hit to the to the ratings or anything. So they want him there and they’re defending him.

Jill: So in the end, that’s maybe the most interesting thing. You’ve got a person wading into what is what we tend to call the culture war without fear of reprisal. And it’s not like he couldn’t be easily replaced by someone else. Dungy represents something to the NBC and the NFL. They clearly like it or don’t have a problem with it. And that’s what I think of more than anything that they say about pride or spirit days that the NFL has.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So when Dungy got that award and said what he said about gay marriage in 2007, Barack Obama had not come out publicly in favor of gay marriage. Quite the opposite, in fact. And so it seems a little bit ahistorical to me to say that NBC was making like a a big choice decision in hiring him in 2009. At that point, there was no sanction for anyone in public life for having the views that he had. Or you disagree?

Jill: Well, I mean, I think that like, this is this is just maybe some people would consider distinction if that difference is one thing to say. I don’t support the marriage. It’s another to say I’m actually against it. You know what I mean? Like and that totally I think I think that’s a substantive difference, but.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: It’s a substantive difference. But I feel like it was one that was kind of elided at the time, and it just doesn’t seem like it was anything that as a corporation, NBC would have thought twice about or thought that they would come in for like a huge amount of scrutiny for it. I think maybe I’m told maybe I’m wrong. It’s definitely has a different valence to say what he said then versus now.

Stefan Fatsis: But it wasn’t the last time he said things like that.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And as as Cyd Ziegler noted, and one of his pieces, I mean, I’m quoting from it, the Cincinnati Reds fired longtime broadcaster Tom Brennaman for a flippant anti-gay slur caught on it hard, Mike. Curt Schilling was quickly fired by ESPN after the World Series champion posted an unflattering image of someone he called transgender and publicly spoke out against trans people. And he also mentions Craig James, who was fired by Fox Sports for. Speaking out against same sex marriage years ago.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And so the thing that I find interesting about this is that Dungy is the opposite of crude. He says anti-gay things in the most polite and refined and polished way possible.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And it’s not just that he’s a former football coach and a well respected one. He’s made his entire reputation on the fact that he is moral and that he counsels troubled players like Michael Vick and, you know, and others, Michael Vick probably most famously. But, Stefan, this is a guy whose position on television and in public life is basically premised on the fact that he’s a good person in in a particular Christian way, that he can counsel people and guide people and all that stuff.

Stefan Fatsis: He’s used his conservative Christianity as a cover for anti-gay statements and actions. Every time he something like this happens, he talks about how it’s just about following the Bible and being a good person. And he doesn’t he doesn’t I.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Don’t know if he considers it or if he uses it as a cover. Like I I’m sure he sincerely believes. All of these things. And it’s not like he’s saying I hate gay people away it. I better tell people I’m a Christian. So they think that it’s okay. I think that he has this belief system where he’s a Christian, so he believes X, Y, and Z.

Stefan Fatsis: I think that that’s a distinction without a difference, honestly. I mean, this is a guy that has raised money and supported groups that actively oppose marriage equality. He spoke out against Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out talking about his lifestyle most famously when Michael Sam wanted to play in the NFL. He said he wouldn’t want him on his team.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: Even if he could play, by the way.

Stefan Fatsis: Even if he couldn’t play because he would have played, this would be a big distraction. And, you know, as other people have pointed out, if you’re head coach and you can’t handle that kind of a distraction, what can you handle? You’re not qualified to be a head coach. And it goes beyond that to his his demeanor and his his openness and his sincerity. And he’s just I’m just a good Christian man personality, have covered, I think, for the kinds of things he’s done. He’s also spoken at events hosted by one of these anti-gay Christian evangelists, Andrew Womack, who has said some incredibly disgusting things about gay people and about others.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Well, you know, who else spoke at that was James Brown, but the CBS host. And Joel, he’s not getting the same kind of flack or attention the Tony Dungy has because James Brown has not made these other comments, I don’t think, or hasn’t made the same kind of amount of extensive comments about Jason Collins. Michael Sam, He didn’t invoke Damar Hamlin in the way that Dungy did. And so, you know, I think we’re all in agreement that we don’t support what Tony Dungy is saying and what he believes. I think the more the more interesting and thorny question is whether he should be fired, like whether he should not be on television.

Stefan Fatsis: And this is where I think it comes to the most recent thing that happened last week with him tweeting that the right wing nonsense about letterboxes. Because this isn’t just I’m a Christian and this is what I believe this is this is actually dangerous. Transgender and non-binary youth are at high risk. These kinds of attacks are clearly spreading disinformation or misinformation. They’re dangerous. And Tony Dungy has a million followers almost on Twitter. There are kids that are in danger here. And reading this kind of garbage and spreading this kind of garbage isn’t just you know, isn’t just being a Christian. It’s the opposite, obviously. But it also indicates that he is deep into the right wing political craziness online.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: It’s tough for me to say whether or not he should be fired, because in NBC, NFL, they have all this information. They’ve had it all for a long time and they’ve supported him and in fact, not said anything in response. So Tony Dungy is not acting any differently than I would have expected to under the circumstances.

Jill: But I just for one, take a quick second, because I moved to Tampa a couple of years after Tony Dungy oldest son, James Dungy, died by suicide. He was 18 years old. The community college student was a visible presence at and around the Bucs for years. And the reason I bring this up is because in addition to how terrible of a tragedy it was, it reminds me that Tony Dungy has suffered quite a bit. And, you know, I’m not trying to use this card. I’m a father now. And I couldn’t imagine going through something like that. And like, seriously, when people said, you can’t imagine what this is like, you know, now I’m like, Oh, I understand how something like that might pierced your heart forever.

Jill: And to that point, last year, the NPR reported on a study, a study run by the Trevor Project, which is the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBT youth and is partially supported by the NFL. Anyway, that study showed that about half of LGBTQ youth have considered suicide. Additionally, one in five transgender and nonbinary youth have attempted suicide. And so without being too dramatic or inflammatory, we know that people who are part of this particular marginalized groups suffer an awful lot, and they’re at risk for an awful lot. And the Tony Dungy who has been through this, who’s been through he’s experienced this particular sort of pain and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the rhetoric that he’s passing along only worsens that phenomenon. It’s especially galling, and I would hope that his Christianity would allow him to see the empathy for these kids and their parents, but evidently not.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Well, Josh, what’s different about what happened last week is that. Tony Dungy in his apology. Didn’t say I spread something that was false or I spread misinformation. He said, I saw a tweet yesterday and I responded to it in the wrong way. And then he talked about being Christian and he needed to be more he needed to be more caring and helpful. And I failed to do that. And I am deeply sorry. As a matter of substance, this is different. And I think that’s where you’d be looking for NBC and the NFL to say something, at least to him and then publicly to.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: The Tom Brennaman thing. I want to bring up again because he used an anti-gay slur on a hot mic and he got fired instantly. And it’s easy for corporations to fire someone to find someone for saying the wrong word. And I think it’s also it’s a lot more difficult, especially when it’s bound up in religious belief. People tie themselves in knots about what should we do about someone who, you know, Tony Dungy and what he said has been more harmful. I can say with confidence to what, Tom, than any effect that Tom Brennaman had on anyone. But Tony Dungy hasn’t said the magic words that’ll get that’ll get you fired.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So the thing that I think is cover for him that I would use that word that used Stefan is the fact that he has this reputation of being a moral leader that goes back to when he was a coach and he was rightly celebrated for being in a league that has discriminated against black coaches forever and continues to that. He transcended that and was a symbol of the fact that you should give black coaches a chance. That guy was an amazing coach, like I think he had maybe one losing season or something like that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So the fact that he was on NBC, he was like this symbol, right, of a guy who had. You know, transcended that obstacle and succeeded and was like, look at this guy who is so great. Like, we should have more people like him in the fact that he is still on TV and still in the league is kind of a reminder of like, Wait, this guy was amazing. As a coach, why aren’t there more coaches who look like him? And so I think nobody has ever said that he’s good on television.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: The big story about him before all this came out was how bad he was during that wild card round game that him that he just sounded completely bored. He’s never said anything interesting. He’s never says anything surprising or particularly novel that at best he is an offensive. But I don’t think NBC is going to be eager to fire to get this guy off of of TV for everything that he has kind of stood for and represented. And the fact that if he does leave the right wing media that Tony Dungy is clearly so infatuated with would be absolutely thrilled if he got murdered for his beliefs, or that’s what they would claim is what happened.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So, you know, NBC and the NFL, but I think NBC for a really long time has pursued this strategy of just never saying anything. It’s not like they’ve commented and supported him. They’ve just said nothing at all. And that’s what they’re going to do. I think. I’m not sure if what you would have.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Jill: To do is consent, but yeah.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I just think that they’re not going to say or do anything. And you know, I’ve been talking for a while, but the last thing I’ll say is they got rid of Drew Brees after a year for the crime of being really bad on television and he was allowed to walk away. I’m going to pursue other interests. And, you know, I for whatever reason, he decided after going into broadcasting, he wanted to pursue other interests after one year, like everybody knew what was going on there. And so they clearly are willing to get rid of a very famous and high profile person if they want to. And so that, again, is consent to Rachel.

Jill: Oh, yeah, absolutely. They easily could could move on and do something different, but they just choose not to. I mean, I guess what I said, he’s not Shannon Sharpe He’s not Charles Barkley, as I mentioned earlier, he’s about as bad as Drew Brees, I would argue. I mean, again, like we talked about this, when are we ever run a Tony Dungy clip on this show? We’ve we’ve had he’s had he’s had 13 years to get on here and he’s never made it for anything other than this. So presumably he’s not on the road to saying anything interesting at any point. So I think maybe you’re right, Josh, that they’re holding on to him with the understanding that firing him is the best thing they could do for him and the worst thing they could do and sort of drawing the wrath of those right wing reactionaries, It’s.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Cowardly, basically.

Jill: Absolutely. I want to.

Stefan Fatsis: Finish with the.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Thing that’s so interesting about it is that corporate America is deathly afraid of being considered, and rightly so, of being considered anti LGBT or being considered racist or, you know, all of these things. And so I think Dungy has this. He’s not Curt Schilling. He’s not kind of.

Stefan Fatsis: He’s not toxic in any.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Way. He’s not ugly about about it. He’s got this He still has the image of being an upstanding person.

Jill: He’s not toxic. And I’m only the most superficial.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Right? That’s right.

Stefan Fatsis: And yet this is a league that, you know, to to bring up the most obvious comparison, as Dave ZIRIN does, I think. Well, in the nation, this is a league that blackballed Colin Kaepernick because he wanted to end police violence and racial inequity. And yet, you know, I think what happened last week, though, is somehow substantively different. ZIRIN writes that what in the world is religious about bearing false witness against teachers and children with a lie that has had real life repercussions? Every bomb threat leveled against children’s hospitals, every physical assault, bears the fingerprints of these lies. Dungy should feel shame. Instead, he is emboldened, ready to take a stage at a rally that’s been a blunt instrument for robbing people of their rights to privacy and the rights to their own bodies. The NFL and NBC are choosing to be implicated in Dungy’s beliefs. Their silence does speak to their complicity. Up next, we’ll talk to Isaac Butler about the Australian Open and the new documentary Break Point.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Going into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. It’s looking like the only thing that can stop the still unvaccinated, but this time non deported Novak Djokovic from winning his record tying 22nd Grand Slam. Is maybe a bulky hamstring, but there are three Americans left in the draw who are going to give it a shot and they’re all 25 or younger. They are Tommy, Paul and Ben Shelton, who will play each other in the quarters. So one of them will at least be in the semis. And Sebastian Korda, the son of former Aussie Open champ Peter Korda. Joining us now is Isaac Butler. He is the co-host of Slate’s excellent working podcast. He also occasionally writes about tennis for Slate, and he’s the author of The Method How the 20th Century Learned to Act, which was on Best Books of the year lists from Vanity Fair, Vox and Powells, among other places. Isaac, thanks so much for coming on.

Isaac Butler: Hey, it is such a pleasure to be geeking out about tennis with you guys.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And with you as well. And my intro actually understated how large a role American men have played at this year’s first Grand Slam. And that’s even with Frances. Jeff on Taylor Fritz having disappointing slams by their standards. The top two seeds, Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, were beaten by a pair of unseeded Americans Matthew McDonald and Jenson Brooksby. But the two I think we’re going to focus on in this segment are savvy Korda and Ben Shelton. Who do you want to start with?

Isaac Butler: Why don’t we talk about Ben Shelton since I think he’s the surprise story, you know, of this slam really.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: As loyal listeners of this podcast, including Stefan FATSIS. Well, now, Ben Shelton is 20 year old NCAA champ, lefty, big serve. And when I did play Afterball about him last fall, Isaac, I don’t think I knew that he had never left the country like that.

Isaac Butler: I know it’s been wild.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: That is the kind of fact that helps explain how wild it is that this guy is in the quarterfinals of the Aussie Open. This is his first trip out of the country for any reason. What have you seen out of him at this tournament?

Isaac Butler: Isaac Yeah, I mean, it’s really fascinating how meteoric his rise has been. I mean, you know, he was ranked well outside the top 100 not that long ago. He’s currently ranked 89. He’ll crack the top 50 by the end of the tournament no matter what happens in the quarterfinals. He’s a really fun player to watch. He’s a lefty, which is always fun. You know, those lefty righty match ups are always really entertaining. He plays with really good variety. He has an amazing serve at averages, about 126 miles per hour. He can put big kick on it on either first or second serve, you know, So it’s bouncing high up, which makes it much harder to return. But also for, you know, old school tennis fans like myself, he really loves being at the net. He loves rushing the net. He loves finishing the point at the net. He’s not like so tall. Like is never that. That’s the only thing he can do.

Isaac Butler: You know, I think that what his recent five set win demonstrated is that consistency is going to be his real challenge. You know, if you’re if your serve is never broken, you probably shouldn’t be playing five sets of tennis. Right. You should probably be closing that one out in three. I mean, he hit 23 aces. You know, there’s just a couple moments where he let the match get away from him a little bit. But but the good news is he stayed on top of his emotions. You know, five set matches. That fifth set is really much more about mental and physical fitness than it is about anything else. And we really saw that as Wolf’s body started to break down during the fifth set. He’s only 20. I think he’s got nothing but upside, clearly. And I think the future is really bright for him.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: How much of this is an argument for waiting to turn pro? I mean, Ben Shelton was playing in the NCAAs last spring. He won the NCAA singles championship. He was a sophomore at Florida where his dad, a former player, is the head coach. He was ranked 547th in the world at the time, and he made the decision to turn pro at what seems like the peak moment. I mean, he has coaches, he has people around him. He has got a family of athletes around him who sort of seem to know how to manage this transition really well and have him in a position to challenge immediately.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah, I think the know Ruben, who we’ve had on the show before, had it right when he said that. What Shelton demonstrates is that there isn’t a perfect formula for creating a successful tennis player. They just all include working your ass off and a bit of talent. So I think what he’s showing is that the pathway he chose is a possible successful pathway. Not that it’s the best or only one. And you know, Isaac one thing that’s so notable about him, it’s not just how young he is, but he kind of seems young in his. Prince. He’s just so happy and excited kind of all the time on the court. Just the constant kind of guttural screams and commands which don’t seem to be annoying the other players yet. Maybe they will in a few months.

Isaac Butler: But I mean, Brooksby is the young American that seems to piss everybody off, right? Like, it seems like the other players find him very annoying. But Ben Shelton is a real boyish charm. I think Tiafoe has held on to that charm even as he’s, you know, older now and more seasoned. And the expectations for him have risen. You know, as I wrote for Slate last year. That’s part of what’s so much fun about watching Alcatraz as he just seems to have a pure love of the sport and of competing.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Isaac Butler: Alcohol is, of course, did not go to the NCAA. But you know, each player, you got to pick the right moment. And I do think that, you know, the NCAA has done a pretty good job of creating men’s professional tennis players that are going to be in the top 50 or top 20 or occasionally top ten. Steve Johnson, John Isner. Cam Norrie, who’s an ascendant Brit player, actually played for the NCAA. Mackenzie McDonald, who took out Nadal. JJ Wolff Ben Shelton I mean, you know, like they’re doing pretty well. As much as there is not one formula for the creation of a tennis player in a lab.

Stefan Fatsis: And this has to be a total shock. And this is one of the delightful things about Shelton’s performance. It’s just the way it impacts other players who probably wouldn’t know anything about this guy. I mean, after he beat the Aussie, Alexei Popyrin Popyrin said at the news conference, Honestly, if this is the way he plays day in, day out, this guy is top ten in six months, and Shelton later kind of demurred in his own news conference, which was, I watched the whole thing. And that was that was lovely. He’s just delightful.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And the thing that I think is so fascinating about him is you alluded to it Isaac. And there is also, I think a couple of notes about this on the broadcast is that he clearly has so many things that he needs to work on to improve. He gets jammed on his backhand, has caught position is bad. And yet the thing that he’ll be able to carry with them through his whole career and I’m not comparing him to Nadal. I think they’re extremely different players, but the game is just so simple for him with the serve and basically his normal game, if he’s playing reasonably well, is good enough.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: He doesn’t need to do anything like a lot of guys who are around, you know, 50 or who aren’t. You know, the big the big three. Traditionally, he doesn’t have to do anything crazy. Like just aim for lines. Like he gets so much spin his balls so heavy, his serve is so big that his normal game just seems like it’ll do really well on tour.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And let’s transition to Sabia Korda Isaac, because he is a guy who, when he is playing his best, as we’ve seen against, you know, Djokovic, Nadal, he can almost look unbeatable at times as like a 22 year old, and yet he’s had it for his young career. These kind of like devastating come from a head losses where he was up to breaks on Nadal at Indian Wells in the final set and lost he had a match point on Djokovic who looks unbeatable except Selby Korda almost beat him in a warm up tournament. But so far, at least in this Aussie Open, he has had those ups and downs, but he’s managed to come through these matches.

Isaac Butler: Yeah, you know, he’s had a couple of real heartbreaking losses. I mean, I think the way the the sports commentators always say is, you know, he’s knocking on that door, you know, which means he’s very close to getting to the point where he can really consistently beat the top guys. But some players never walk through it. Some players, those losses really devastate them. They get in their head. They even derail their career. You know, I remember the one time I went to the French Open in person was to watch a five setter between Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sangha was leading for almost that entire match and lost it. And I don’t think he ever played as well as he played in that match again. I mean, I think it really fucked him up.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Well, Medvedev against Nadal losing after being of example. Yeah. After being up two sets on the final has looked completely lost in the year since.

Isaac Butler: Tsitsipas versus in the French Open. You know Tsitsipas has really never recovered from how well he played a couple of years ago in those near losses in Grand Slams. But Korda seems to be making it work or seems to be trying to figure it out, maybe in part because his hair is so magnificent. I’m not entirely sure he’s steady mentally. He comes from a family of athletes who knows what it is to compete at the high level. And, you know, Medvedev said, What makes Korda so hard to play in his post-match press conference, he hits the ball hard, which a lot of people do. He hit. That on the rise, which a lot of people do. But he also hits it with a ton of accuracy. And for a big guy, he moves surprisingly well. And the player who Medvedev actually compared him to, he said the only one who plays like Korda is Novak Djokovic.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Well, Stefan Korda, I think, plays the least like a stereotypical American of any of these guys. He’s not a big serve, big forehand type of player. He has this kind of all court game that looks like the game that all time greats have. He looks beautiful on the court, has, you know, elegant shots from everywhere. He’s versatile. And yeah, I guess the game looks kind of easy for him, but in a different way than Ben Shelton like he’s not going to just completely blow guys off the court. But when he’s playing his best, you’re like, This guy doesn’t seem to miss. And I don’t know what there is anything you can do about that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Maybe that’s part of his upbringing, too. His dad was not American, right? Peter Korda is Czech and was as high as what, number two in the world at one point in his career. The thing about Korda and all of these players, really, and I think at some point we’re going to transition to talking about break point is the importance of what you alluded to earlier. Isaac is the mental aspect of this, the idea that that what the athletes work on in addition to spin and serve and placement and returns and then volleying is the idea of getting rid of the bad thoughts that derail careers or at least matches. And Korda talked about that after one of these matches at the at the Aussie Open that I worked really hard on just zero negative thoughts. And I wish I could go through life with zero negative thoughts.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Let’s talk about break points. The new Netflix series that Isaac reviewed for Slate. Here’s a clip.

Speaker 4: They lost their match from being match point out. I just didn’t know how to handle that situation. Going to sleep for three days. I was just lying in bed and trying to sleep, but I was so nervous and so sad. It was tough for me to handle and I told my coaches that I want to retire from tennis and I retired for four days. And then I was in the Greek island. And I just called Tom and I said, okay, when can we start practicing again? Coming back from retirement. That’s how we’ve been calling it.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: That was the Greek player, Maria Sakkari and Isaac. She wasn’t the only player to instantaneously announce that she was going to retire after a loss as depicted in the series. And I thought that was the strongest part of the series, just showing in this visceral way how devastating it is for these players on really a week to week basis to choose this life and be on the tour.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Isaac Butler: Yeah. I mean, it’s a grueling life. You know, one of the creators of the show said that, you know, once they start following these people around, they’re like, why would anyone choose this life? It just seems so grueling. You’re on the road 10 to 11 months a year. That’s how long the season is. If you look at it in terms of tournaments, you’re losing far more than you win. You’re making good money, but you’re spending an enormous percentage of it on your team as they talk about in the episode. The focus is on ONS Jabeur. It’s often called the loneliest sport because you’re just out there on the court going toe to toe with your opponent and all you really have to rely on is yourself or maybe your box, because you might be screaming insults at them at the time. It’s really hard. And of course, you know, the press folks like us, you know, we’re we’re also, you know, digging into everything about these players with a fine tooth comb.

Stefan Fatsis: It’s what in the first episode, what Nick Kyrgios says, tennis is an extremely lonely sport. It’s what I struggle with the most. And he has talked about that as a reason for why he doesn’t play more and why he doesn’t expect to play into his mid or late thirties. I mean, what I’ve liked about the episodes that I’ve that I’ve watched is that it does depict the sort of mundanity of tennis. And I think any time we get these inside looks at sports, you have a choice. You’re either going to sort of glamorize it and play up the exciting moments and the matches and the tense points and the victories and defeats, or you can actually depict the sports for what they are for athletes, which are this utterly exhausting, repetitive, day to day grind, the physios, the massage ice baths, the sort of shitty side cords.

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: I love the scenes where you see these guys walking down cinder block corridors or watching another player. In episode one, the Kyrgios episode, you see everyone. You see other players in the locker room watching Kyrgios meltdown on the court.

Stefan Fatsis: That’s the stuff that I’m looking for in these docks and less the the sort of the winning and losing part and the things that I think that that that breakpoint has done well is let us glimpse at least maybe the brush is a little too broad and we don’t get enough detail, but at least we are getting some insight into the sort of the quotidian elements of sport and the mental fatigue and challenges that the players face.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Your review Isaac was not really a positive one, though.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: What were your critiques of the show?

Isaac Butler: Yeah, I mean, I agree with Stefan that all of that stuff is really good, that that every time that, you know, one of the players is talking about their lives or especially when we’re interviewing their teams. I loved the parts about On Gabor and her insistence on having, you know, a Tunisian team and her husband as her physio, like all that stuff was great. But I feel like the show behaves as if the sport itself and the playing of the sport is uninteresting, incomprehensible garbage like they do not actually care about or respect the sport enough when actually all of that mundane stuff and all of those personal struggles, the way they find expression, this is what’s so great about an individual sport is all that stuff finds its expression in the actual playing of the sport and they never show enough of that or discuss what the players are thinking and feeling during the match for the emotional pathos that they’re trying so hard to build with those fake newscasters and everything like that to really land.

Advertisement

Isaac Butler: To me, one of the best moments is when Taylor Fritz is in voiceover discussing what the serve is going to be on match point from his Indian Wells championship win over Nadal. And you actually hear him describe the tactics. You’re like, There you go. That is the payoff for everything we’ve been following Fritz doing over the course of this tournament. And there just isn’t enough of that. You won’t come away from it with any deeper knowledge of the sport itself that will enable you to watch it and enjoy it more. Frankly, unless you’re talking about one of these few individual players that they have covered. And you know, at a time when ESPN is doing such a terrible job of covering the sport and especially this slam that we happen to be in the middle of, you know, I would like to be able to share with people a little bit more like this is what actually makes the sport great and fun to watch.

Stefan Fatsis: Josh I wonder if that’s because this is why the creators of Drive to Survive about Formula One and Formula One is a sport that not a lot of fans, particularly American fans, know as well as tennis. And maybe there’s an attempt to sort of apply the same formula to tennis. We know a lot about the sport itself and want that sort of technical insight that is so valuable and would come off as new.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Yeah, so I agree with like maybe 75% of what you guys said. I think that there is clearly from the producers of Drive to Survive who made the show as well, that they seem to believe that the stuff that you want Isaac is not what the vast majority of people watching or potentially watching this want. And they might be right. They’re professional. They’re they’re good at making television shows like this.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: The question is, is it good for tennis? And it’s kind of long term health and viability as a sport that builds and grows fan interest for this show to be like this as opposed to trying to get people deeper into the nuances of the sport? I mean, I know from people I, I do not watch strive to survive. I made the life choice that I don’t. I watch most of the sports. I do not watch auto racing.

Isaac Butler: But you got to you got to choose, right? At some point, you got to do triage.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: It is. But I know from people who watch that show that it’s a gateway, that they then go and learn about the teams and about the sport on their own, that they don’t necessarily expect that show to do anything beyond what it does. And so maybe it’ll be the same here or maybe it’ll be less successful and people won’t get over it or won’t care. I think we’ll have to see. But I mean, for me, I actually liked it more than I was expecting too, because I read a lot of reviews from folks like you, Isaac and other kind of knowledgeable tennis people who said that it was disappointing. But I there is this moment that you wrote about and I was like, tickled that you chose that of Casper Ruud putting on his headband before the match against Nadal.

Isaac Butler: It’s hypnotic.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: It’s hypnotic. But also there’s this moment and they have this amazing access where before the French Open final, you see Nadal doing his warm up behind. You know that in the outside the locker room as they’re about to walk on the court and he’s running around and jumping and roode looks absolutely like terrified. And for me, I loved seeing that. I loved getting that access.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And yeah, I would have liked to have heard more of the Fritz analysis that you’re talking about. But that’s just not what this show is going to give us, clearly. And so I did kind of by the end appreciate it for what it was.

Stefan Fatsis: I think the question becomes for me, like, do these characters evolve? They’re going to be five. There were five episodes released now and five more to come. And the first five episodes really cast a wide net. And I think as for an audience, that can be difficult. I mean, that’s a lot of characters to keep track of, especially if you’re not a deep in the Woods tennis fan the way you two guys are. And I am just a slightly lesser extent. So I think the transition here to the next five I think will say a lot about both the filmmaking, but also about whether this is something that is going to translate into sort of a general audience appeal. And I think that the sort of the skimming the surface of these of these athletes works for the 40 minutes of each episode, but you really don’t get the full deeper picture because we want to see what happens to Taylor Fritz and I want to see what happens to some of the other players going forward through this season.

Isaac Butler: Yeah, I think that like maybe it’s that they have too many people they’re following or whatever, you know, like I’m not expecting the whole show to be like a breakdown point by point of a match or whatever. I’m literally talking about like 5 to 8 more minutes, 5 to 8 minutes of an episode dedicated to actual match play instead of slow motion shots of their form. Like we know their form is great. You know, that’s really all I’m saying is like cut some of the the the stuff that to me just feels like kind of like B.S. TV stuff. And you have an opportunity to do something really unique and compelling, I think, and beautiful.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: We will link to Isaac’s review on our show page. You can also listen to him on the Working podcast, and you should check out his book, The Method. Isaac Thank you for coming on.

Isaac Butler: It was a pleasure. Or in the voice of one of their fake newscasters, Isaac Butler was just a guest on Hang Up and Listen. Can he do his own podcast?

Stefan Fatsis: And now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s prune juice, endorsed by Candy Sellers, who says it was okay. Gwen Knapp died last week at just 61 of lymphoma. As an undergrad at Harvard, she covered the greatest football game I’ve ever attended. Penn’s last second win over Harvard on a second field goal attempt, she claimed Penn’s kicker was roughed. She was wrong. That was rare.

Stefan Fatsis: Gwen spent a decade on the sports staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer and then 17 years as a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and The Chronicle, where she actually reported her columns and then applied her unwaveringly moral and upright voice. Before BALCO, Gwen raised eyebrows about Barry Bonds as unlikely feats. She called out Reggie White for anti-gay bigotry. She doubted Lance Armstrong years before he admitted to being a cheat so much that the cyclist wrote a letter to the editor to complain. When Armstrong finally confessed, Gwen wrote that his seven Tour de France yellow jerseys, quote, might as well go to the most shamefully forgotten people in this scandal. The jerseys can be draped one a piece over the graves of seven European cyclists who died young and mysteriously in 2003 and 2004.

Stefan Fatsis: We met a long time ago at an Olympics or a Super Bowl or through a mutual friend. I can’t remember. She appeared on this show once during the 2014 Winter Games when she was writing for the late website Sports on Earth. She moved to the New York Times as an editor that year on the Foreign desk, then National. And back to sports on social media and in print.

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Over the weekend, Gwen’s colleagues eulogized her talent and her friendship. Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote on Facebook that when she stopped writing columns, it wasn’t simply journalism’s loss. It was a loss for every reader who wanted to understand more than what they saw on the field and really in the world. Her column writing partner at the Chronicle, Ray Ratto, tweeted that Gwen was an underappreciated giant in the journalism gig, and that was the least of her attributes. He expanded in a post in the sector. She came slightly too late to be part of the original vanguard of women’s sports journalists, Ratto wrote. But she was a grand example of the transition to the industry wide acceptance and admiration for women who could bring the goods.

Stefan Fatsis: Ratto praised Gwen’s gifts of thoroughness, observation, passion, nuance, instinct and reverence through application of the written word. And he concluded she had all the game a journalist can have without the behaviors that turn some journalists into brands. And in that way, she can still serve as an inspiration for those who came after her now and for years to come.

Stefan Fatsis: We’ll post a link on the show page to Kratos Remembrance and to Kevin Draper’s obituary in The New York Times. Rest in peace. Gwen Josh. What’s your Gwen Knapp?

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Not sure if there’s anything I can add to this CBS Sports headline about what happened in L.A. on Friday night. It reads Shannon Sharpe John Moran’s dad separated in a heated exchange at Lakers Grizzlies half time later. Hug it out. A complete story and one sentence. Actually, I will expand by letting Shannon Sharpe the Pro Football Hall of Famer and co-host of Skip and Shannon Undisputed. Take it from here. They didn’t want this smoke, Sharpe told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin at halftime. They do all that talking and jockeying and I end about that jockeying started with Dillon Brooks. I said he was too small to guard LeBron. He said, Fuck me.

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: I said, Fuck you back.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: He started to come at me and I said, You don’t want these problems. And then Josh came out of nowhere talking. He definitely didn’t want these problems. Then the dad came in. He obviously didn’t want no problems, but I wanted anything they had. Don’t let these fools fool you now. So that was the last thing that I actually pulled on Monday morning. We have an update.

Speaker 4: I’m sorry. I apologize. I’m not perfect. I am not. And I’m never going to say that wasn’t Shannon Sharpe, because that was me. That was just me getting out of character. And I’m sorry for all those that saw my action and took offense to my actions. I am sorry.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I am sorry, too, for failing to mention earlier that he was wearing a truly remarkable cardigan on Friday. But this was going down. If you haven’t seen it, please do yourself a favor and look it up.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: But we’re only mostly here to talk about Shannon Sharpe cardigan because there’s another NBA fight that I want to reminisce about today. Vernon Maxwell versus a guy in Portland. Vernon Maxwell, as Joel knows very well, won a pair of NBA titles as a guard with the.

Jill: The Houston Rockets, of course.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And he played in the league from 1988 to 2001. He was known as Mad Max. And befitting that nickname, there is an entire section of his Wikipedia page headlined, quote, Behavioral incidents. The top bullet point on that list, and I quote, In a game at Portland on February six, 1995, he ran into the stands, punching a fan due to the fan heckling him. The NBA suspended him for ten games and fined $20,000. It was a pretty big deal at the time, as you can imagine, but has been a little bit memory hold forgotten given that the mouth of the palace happened in 2004 and has taken its place in the cultural imagination as the incident where a basketball dude went in the stands and punches were thrown.

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Plus, the Mad Max thing does not have a nickname as far as I can tell. So maybe one thing that we can accomplish and this week’s podcast is coming up with one of the two that I thought of and you guys can ponder while I finish the Afterball Mad Max and the PDX and Mad Max Fury ten throw. But anyway. Hmm.

Jill: Tough on the right hand in Portland.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So there was a resurgence of attention on this in May 2020 when a clip of the incident resurfaced on social media. And I have to warn you that this clip is incredibly strange. Let’s listen to the first, like 15 to 20 seconds.

Speaker 4: Now on NBA inside stuff. Yeah, Kiss my. It was a great game. It was a good win. And I think we’re on the right track now.

Speaker 7: Moving from Dr. Weil.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Don’t know what you just heard in order is an audio bumper for the television show NBA Inside stuff Vernon Maxwell cursing someone out, an interview with Jerry Seinfeld and then more of Vernon Maxwell cursing someone out. What you don’t see why you need the video for? It is a shot of Bill Gates in the stands. And then very clearly you see Vernon Maxwell kind of loping up a set of stairs, punching a dude in the face and then getting held back by his Rockets teammate Robert Ory. Thank you.

Stefan Fatsis: I have not been able to.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Discern why Jerry Seinfeld was at this game. He was wearing a Blazers hat, incidentally, or why the show NBA Inside stuff, which Joel, you remember was marketed to children.

Advertisement

Jill: I did not know that they did this sort of.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Why would it feature unexpurgated footage of Vernon Maxwell cursing? Perhaps they didn’t. And somebody just put that bumper on the clip just for shits and giggles. I don’t know. What I do know is that yes, Vernon Maxwell is suspended for ten games and he claimed that he hit the guy because among other things, he’d been heckling him about his wife’s miscarriage. The fan who’s named Steve George denied that claim quite seriously and filed a four and a half million dollar lawsuit against Maxwell and against the Rockets. Maxwell then sued the fan and his brother, claiming they.

Stefan Fatsis: Slandered.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Him by accusing him of a crime. A year later, they agreed to an out-of-court settlement, with Maxwell reportedly paying in the low to mid five figures.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Joel Vernon Maxwell is a presence in our lifestyle, social media and the podcasting world. He has not expressed regret for his role in the incident. What do you remember about all this? You clearly remember Robert or he was holding back.

Jill: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t I, I recalled all that with that benefit of watching the clip because it’s that it’s that’s seared in my memory. If anything it just it now in retrospect, it seems like that’s sort of been so much a bigger deal. I mean ten games he had a ten game suspension for running into the stands and punching a fan. And the funny thing is that Robert Ory pulls him back onto the bench and the game continues.

Advertisement

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Jill: I mean, I just show you like we just have, I guess, a different sensibility in the nineties or maybe the absence of of cameras and quite the way there was.

Stefan Fatsis: A lot of fighting on the court in the nineties as you’ll recall.

Jill: Yeah but man I.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: There’s nothing in all of not just sports but in like American life that’s more kind of you know, clucked about or problematize or whatever dumb word you want to is then like a player punching a fan. And so Joel is totally right that this like it’s shocking now and I think I chalk this up to East Coast bias and especially like anything that happens in the West Coast, it’s not in California. Yeah, like Portland fans should really be upset that this is more about nobody paying attention. Anything that happens in the Portland Trailblazers game.

Jill: You know, just so just think about this game probably happened especially since the early nineties. So that probably happened at what, like one P 1 a.m. Eastern, you know, I mean so nobody like even by the time people woke up the next morning, you would have had to have searched really hard to get information about that thing and there was no video of it.

Stefan Fatsis: On the other hand, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates were at the game, two pretty iconic figures from the nineties.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I, I think we’re going to need to do a follow up Afterball kind of trying to explain some of the stranger things and and associated with this game patrol. We also just need to get your take on the Shannon Sharpe thing quickly before we sign off.

Advertisement

Jill: Well, as you all know, I’m a regular listener of Skip and Shannon and I listen to it while I clean the dishes every night.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So Shannon was apologizing to you?

Jill: Yeah, right. I mean, look, man, Sandy, you’ve got nothing to apologize. I wouldn’t have expected anything else like this is like, I just. I mean, and also, I’ll just, you know, the Grizzlies are just a little mouthy, even though Desmond Bane, former TCU, great, you know, fringe all star that is a little mouthy now although Shannon should not be talking shit the players on the court. I’m glad that he was there and I’m glad he did it just because it’s just totally in keeping with my idea. They are just extremely entertaining and no harm, no foul, right? Nobody got hurt, you know? Steven Adams And throw a punch Tee Morant stayed clear. They they, you know, reconciled later. No harm, no foul. Right.

Stefan Fatsis: Sharp’s a 54 year old man.

Jill: Yeah, but you don’t look like 54. You look like most of four year old man.

Stefan Fatsis: That’s not what I’m going to do. I’m still going with Dillon Brooks in that macho job.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Would you just do me a favor and tweet at Vernon Maxwell and ask him how he would have responded to Shannon Sharpe coming up to him like that? I think that’s that’s content that the Internet needs.

Jill: I was actually going to ask you, should we just go ahead and go to his cameo account and just pray for him to come on and talk about it this week?

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: I don’t know. I think maybe he would just come on just out of the kindness of us.

Stefan Fatsis: He’s got a podcast to promote.

Jill: That’s true. Well, we can talk about it.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: That is our show for today. Our producers, Kevin Bendis, Platinum Partners and subscriber just reach out, go to Slate.com slash hang up. 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 Levin Remembers Elmo Baby. And thanks for listening.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Now. It’s time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. And we are going to talk about Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens legend. He was supposed to be the next head coach of the Bethune-Cookman football program. But as we discussed in last week’s bonus segment with Bomani Jones, reared publicly and profanely, called out the school for failing to clean his office before he arrived. There were some other complaints, but that was one of the more notable ones. And then after that happened, the historically black college in Daytona Beach, Florida, decided to part ways with him before he was ever officially hired. Here is what Reed had to say about all that in a clip that was posted to social media.

Speaker 4: Fox Yankers And you ought to heard curse words before they got parents in here. Not only like I told you, I want all these recruits, but there are some corrupt people in this world, some evil people that don’t care for kids like I do. So talking to me, I would draw in my name. I’ve got the receipts. They got all kinds of stuff going on around here. Hoarding these buildings would not be trash. And you understand me?

Advertisement

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Joel Bethune-Cookman clearly wanted the next coach. Prime and Coach Prime defended Ed Reed. He came on Instagram with him after all this went down. What do you think about how kind of everybody is acted here? Bethune-Cookman And I guess not Coach Ed Reed now.

Jill: Yeah, well, I believe Ed read that he’s passionate and I believe that he doesn’t want to leave the school or those kids. But that’s simply not the composure presentation you want for someone in that position to be a successful head coach. You have to be able to manage down, obviously, your players, your staff. You’ve got to be able to manage out fans alarms, people that are interested in investing in your program and you’ve got to be able to manage up school administrators, athletic directors, school president.

Jill: He failed to put all those accounts up before before you signed off with your contract. It’s. Not advisable for you to talk about how nasty the campus is and how full of trash it is and the broken mentalities of the people who are ostensibly your superiors. So it seems that it was untenable for him to stay in. Like, let’s say that he had survived all of that. Just that video, that bit.

Jill: That’s that’s not somebody I think stuff and that you anybody should want to be in charge of a football program even by the standards of coaches being crazy and yelling and cursing and trying to drive passion among people in a room that still was wildly, I guess, for lack of a better term, unprofessional, right?

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. I mean, aren’t there there are two elements here. One is Ed Reed trying to be Dionne and draw attention to an HBCU and his first head coaching job by being loud and outspoken and critical of the institution that he’s taking over. It seems like there’s this interest in demeaning the institution in order to draw attention to that and get people both inside and outside of the school to do something about it. Right. To raise more money, to get more donors, to draw more attention, to improve conditions, both physical plant coaching staffs, mentality of the players, etc..

Advertisement

Stefan Fatsis: Reid, though, didn’t come in with Dionne’s charisma. His public. Yes, his public position is not famous in the way that Dionne is famous. And it sounds like he also miscalculated how you get HBCU to address it’s clear problems that he identified that I’m sure no one in that administration would deny. And that seems to be the biggest issue here, is that he didn’t seem to understand where he was going or what the needs of this program might be.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So Ed Reed is reputed to be one of the smartest football players ever. There’s this clip that goes around a lot of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, just like marveling at what a genius he is and how there’s nobody else who does hoo who play defense like like he did. And he is somebody who is clearly passionate. And so he’s somebody who we should all be like. Overjoyed was getting an opportunity to be a coach. And I think that’s like a positive of the whole Deion Sanders experience is that more players are going to get opportunities like this.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: And I think yeah, the whole. It just feels sad that, like, he did this to himself. Because I do think you’re right. Like about I was really smart about all the different kind of audiences that you need to speak to in this position. And I think the message that we just heard, part of it at least probably would have played well in a locker room. I mean, we talked about how fired up you felt, Joel, What the Kirby Smart speech. I forget what game that was and before.

Advertisement

Jill: But me either we don’t talk about that, but that’s fine.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: But there is a time and a place for that kind of rhetoric in a football program. And he chose the wrong time and the wrong place. And so this was clearly a school and a football program that was desperate to get the juice that Deon Sanders brought to Jackson State. That’s clearly what happened here. And I think maybe they made a good bet or a reasonable bet like this is a guy who is great at what he does. And I don’t think he’s a bad person or anything, or at least I have no evidence that he is. And so I don’t think necessarily that they did anything wrong. And but I also understand that if you publicly call out the institution in that way before.

Stefan Fatsis: You’ve signed your contract.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: You even sign the contract. I don’t fault them for for walking away.

Jill: Right. I mean, look, first of all, I mean, there is only 1 billion to all the schools that are trying this model. Deion Sanders has been famous for 30 years, man. And his name, That image rings out in a way that it’s pretty much impossible for any I can’t think of another.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Tim Tebow.

Jill: And Tebow. Maybe. Maybe Michael Irvin. Like, if you’re okay, maybe if you’re trying to like, sort of re also recapture the Dylan experience. Maybe Michael Irvin is one guy that might be able to recreate.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Something that would come with its own issues, but it.

Advertisement

Jill: Would come.

Stefan Fatsis: Across cultural, not the cross sport. I mean, Don is known by everybody. I mean, what percentage of Americans know who Ed Reed is?

Jill: They don’t. They don’t. And and so, yeah, so, you know, I think everybody made sort of a miscalculation here. And I think about Ed, like people can think whatever they want to think about HBCU’s and the challenges they have. And I’ve talked about that ad nauseum here, so I’m not going to revisit it. But what I would say is that Ed Reed, you’re free to be a head coach now. It’s somewhere that prioritizes football and building a championship program like you were unhappy with the resources and the administration in Bethune-Cookman. So now Miami can give you the opportunity that you think you deserve, right? Like, if that’s the way it’s going to be or one of the primarily white institutions that you were considering instead of HBCU at the time when you were coming out of high school, you’re free to go avail yourself of all those opportunities.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: So is he now like, do we think that he has sunk his chances to ever be a head coach?

Jill: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean, I mean, you look at that and like. I mean, what, what part of that screams head coach to you?

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Well, I mean, Bobby Petrino and Hugh Freeze obviously are.

Jill: Like, but they’re one, they’re white.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: They’re way, they’re white, they’re white, they are white. And they had success, They had lives, they had successes. They had success as coaches. And so the thing that’s a real shame about it is that he never got a chance. Like if he had been like if he was coming in off of like an 11 to record and this was like a new place and he insulted it and they fired him, somebody else would give him a shot. Right?

Advertisement

Jill: Right, right. Absolutely.

Stefan Fatsis: But Joel, I want to I want to I don’t want you to walk away from the HBCU party either. Bill Rhoden wrote a piece in An Escape about this, and he said that when he played at Morgan State, their head coach was Earl Banks, who played at Iowa black head coach. And Banks told the players that and I’m quoting Rhoden here, It was important for those who came from white institutions to HBCU’s to understand the culture, understand what they were getting into, and respect those who had spent most of their careers at HBCU. It was important to avoid the condescension and impatience that often surface when things do not change as quickly or go as smoothly as they did at white institutions and avoid the, quote, savior mentality, unquote.

Jill: Absolutely. I mean, the thing is, is that, you know, HBCU is I mean, it’s anybody that follows those schools or cares about them knows that they are under-resourced and underfunded and they’ve got challenges that a lot of other schools, even like really good high school programs, don’t have in terms of just, you know, building capital, getting gang capital projects, all that sort of stuff. So obviously, Ed Reid was either unfamiliar with that or thought that he could snap his fingers. It would all come together and I would say there’s a palate cleanser to all of this stuff. There’s a clip going around right now about Eddie George, a former NFL player, current Tennessee State head coach, which is an HBCU in Tennessee, talking about the institutional and structural challenges there.

Speaker 4: And the bigger issue, you know, the school is fighting is the money that’s owed to them from the land grant, money that’s known to them for the last 50 years. And that’s something that can be a huge shot in the arm for our institution. And we have to be responsible enough to then take that money and put it toward infrastructure, put it toward new buildings, put it toward a robust endowment that can continue to build, to grow, and to set up other funds that’s going to deal with the maintenance and the everyday use for our student athletes and to bring in the talent and teachers where we’re well staffed. So there there’s an opportunity there. Tennessee State has the bones to be a really good instance, a great institution, but now it’s time to go from from good to great.

Advertisement

Jill: That is the image of a guy that knows where he’s at and where he wants to go. Instead of focusing on the Ed Reed who’s was going to be fly by night probably anyway, I think that more attention should be paid to the Eddie Georges and the Eddie Robinson’s. The people that are invested in these schools, in these institutions, and they’re going to be there for the long haul.

Josh Levine, John Boyd, Josh, Josh Levin, Joel Anderson: Thank you, Joel. Thank you, Stefan. Thank you. Slate Plus members will be back with more next week.