S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. People who are listening for the first time might hear a bad word or two.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen. This is Hang Up and Listen for the week of May 18th, 2020. And this week’s show, we’re gonna do our last ride with The Last Dance. Assessing the final two episodes of the documentary and the series as a whole. We’ll also be joined by broadcaster Iron Eagle. He’ll speak with us about the challenge of calling games remotely.
S3: Finally, we’ll talk about a new NFL proposal that would give teams better draft picks if they hired minority head coaches and general managers. Hello from Washington, D.C., home of your Washington Wizards. An NBA team that exists, just throwing that out there also in D.C.. His friend, colleague, documentary aficionado Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan.
S4: I hear that there’s Michael Jordan, guy played for the Washington Wizards dirt, a vicious rumor.
S3: Also with us, it’s a man known for winning on the track. In the CROSSFIRE Jam. And in a little game that we call Life Slate staff writer. Slow Barnhurst. Joel Anderson, Edgell.
S1: Hey, good morning. I’m not the loser that Michael Jordan thinks so.
S3: Well, does leave it at that. Think no. Better way to end our preshow banter after 10 hours and an untold number of cigars, glasses of scotch and perceived slights. The last dance that waltzed off screen on Sunday night with Michael Jordan in the Chicago Bulls winning their sixth and final championship, although there was a notable segment on the murder of Steve Kerr’s father in Beirut. The last 20 percent of ESPN documentary series mostly focused on basketball, with an emphasis on the Bulls battles with the Indiana Pacers and the Utah Jazz towards the end of the series. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf gave his explanation for the series a central mystery. Why break up a team that had just won at all for the third straight time? Reinsdorf said that Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper and Steve Kurr were too old and expensive, and bringing them all back for a run at a seventh title would have been suicidal. Jordan, watching Reinsdorf on an iPad, says that this is rubbish, that everyone should have had the opportunity to come back and do it all over again. And then in the documentary, we hear this exchange.
S5: So was it then satisfying to leave at your peak now or is it back? Leaving is maddening because I felt like. We could a one other. I really believe that we may not have, but better just not to be able to try this. This is something that I just can’t accept for whatever reason. I just can’t accept it.
S3: So this is where we leave Michael Jordan, Joel. He’s unable and unwilling to accept the storybook ending that he wrote by sticking that jumper over Brian Russell in Utah. He doesn’t acknowledge that he did write a new less story, bookish ending for himself in Washington, D.C. But he’s also, I think, justifiably annoyed that the Bulls dynasty ended the way that it did.
S1: Yeah, the ending to me in many ways undermined the premise that Jerry Krauss was a villain here and confirmed that Jerry Reinsdorf held a lot of the cards here. It is important to acknowledge that, though, the idea that it would have been suicidal to bring back Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen Kurr and Luc Longley, among others, seems ridiculous. But it’s not necessarily wrong if you consider the fact that Scotty and Dennis were significantly diminished the next year and the lockout shortened season. Michael Jordan sliced his finger while cutting a cigar that off season and would have missed at least a few months. And it wasn’t even clear that Scotty and some of those other guys wanted to make the kind of sacrifice they would have been necessary to return for another year. So although Reinsdorf is technically right and that the Bulls probably would not have won a championship or they would not have been the same team that they had been the year before. He didn’t want to pay for it. And he allowed Jerry Krauss to sort of stand in the breach there and take all of this abuse when it seems like he was pulling the strings behind the scenes all the time.
S4: Yeah, that seems like a good assessment, Joel. I mean, did Reinsdorf call Phil Jackson and ask him to come back because he had second thoughts and wanted to overrule Jerry Krauss? That’s what he says. Did Phil Jackson say, now I want to take a break? It wouldn’t be fair to Jerry Krauss to overrule him. That seems plausible as well. I mean, the part that is most ridiculous here involves Jordan and Jordan’s belief that if he and he alone had told Scottie Pippen and Steve Ker and Dennis Rodman and Ron Harper that they should come back for one more go round at diminished salaries. They would have been willing to do that. And that’s not clear to us because nobody else has asked in the documentary whether they would have been willing to do that. Maybe they were this was enough for them. You know, they won three or six or some number in between and they were ready to go play somewhere else and not get yelled at all the time as to who was a tourist grant or Luke Longway or somebody else said in a previous episode.
S6: Well, Scotty is the interesting question there. I think Jordan, you know, we do hear from Jordan that everybody except Scotty, you definitely would have agreed to do it, which I think is probably true. And then he just sort of like kind of waves away. The Scotty question is like, yeah, I would’ve been an issue, but if everybody who was else is coming back, then Scotty wouldn’t have missed out on that. We don’t hear what Scotty Pepin’s answer to that, as we don’t know if he was asked and didn’t answer. We don’t know if he was asked and answered and they didn’t put it in the documentary, which would have been a weird choice. We don’t know if he wasn’t asked, but that was a huge missing piece that we didn’t hear from Scottie Pippen on that question. And, you know, we’ve lingered a lot on the stuff that we don’t hear and then we don’t see in this documentary. The fact that Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards wasn’t even mentioned in the onscreen text crawl at the end was weird. But the biggest admission to me, you know, if we’re going to just say, all right, we’ll take the documentary on its own terms, these last two are on about basketball mostly. You know, it seemed like they were added had more quickly because they didn’t have that much time to finish these these last two. But, you know, the person we didn’t hear from who is such an interesting character here is Brian Russell, who Jordan says in his Hall of Fame speech, you know, he tells the story that he tells here about how Brian Russell like talks shit to him during the baseball year and during a pickup game and saying, you know, you quit because, you know, I could lock you down on defense. And this was another of the slights that drove Jordan.
S1: I put him on my list, put him on my list.
S6: But Brian Russell is a guy who had to work really hard to get into the NBA. He was a guy who had his moments in those NBA Finals series, but he was also somebody that he was the guy who, you know, doubled off of Jordan to like double team Scottie Pippen, you know, in the post to allow Jordan to make like a game winning three. And one of his final series, Jordan made two game winning shots over him. And we don’t hear from him. And he’s a you know, his perspective on this and his journey here, I think are extremely interesting and. Probably would be more regulatory than anything we hear from Jordan, which would be interesting to think about here.
S1: And of course, it doesn’t come up in this documentary, is it? Byron Russell played with Michael Jordan in his last year with the Wizards. And so I don’t know if that has anything to do with why we didn’t hear him here, if they did not interview him at all. But it is worth noting that he had a relationship with Michael Jordan that went past that, you know, that time with the bulls. He got to experience Michael Jordan in the locker room and see the kind of due that he was and dealt with him on a day to day basis. And all of a sudden we don’t hear from him, even though he plays his pivotal role in the mythmaking machine of Michael Jordan. So I can think of a lot of reasons we can hear him.
S7: I’m sure they wanted to talk to him and he just didn’t want to talk. I mean, that seems like the likely explanation, but it’s it would have been nice to hear from him.
S1: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Should we talk about the pizza? Yeah, let’s talk about the piece. Well, this is all going back to the mythmaking machine around the Jordan brand. Right. Like, first of all, why would you ever eat anything brought to your house by five people at once? That’d be like this. It’s not clear who’s the deliver who. Like, why were there five people necessary to bring a pizza to your room? Joel, I think we need to set the context here for Julie. No, we do.
S8: We do. Yeah, I think we do. Right. So this is the nineteen ninety seven finals against Utah. The bulls are in Utah and before game five, Jordan is hungry late at night.
S4: He’s with his guys in his room and they have apparently dissed him and not had dinner with him for some reason. And Jordan says, I’m hungry. And so his people order him a pizza. That’s the setup. That’s the setup.
S9: Well, Joel, I mean, it sounds like you’re the one buying into the mythmaking here. Like the documentary wants you to believe that it’s somehow sketchy that five people are delivering the pizza to him. But the director in an interview after this episode aired was like, I don’t believe that Michael Jordan was poisoned and then seemed like unable or unwilling to answer the questions, like, why did you put something in? Why did you insinuate something in the documentary that you don’t believe like you’re left with? You’re left to believe that Michael Jordan was points poisoned right. By the people of Utah. Yes.
S1: And that’s also not how food poisoning works. Like you don’t like it normally takes like 24 hours before something like that really starts to bubble up. I mean I mean, maybe Michael, you know, Michael Jordan has a body that is, you know, you need to Oliver. So maybe food poisoning.
S7: He metabolizes Utah based pizzas and in four hours or less.
S10: All right. The part of the Post documentary interview that Jason here did with Jalen Rose and Jacoby on ESPN, that was very Jordan ask, is that in describing the scene? The director says that he told him that the pizza arrives. Jordan doesn’t want anyone else to eat any of it. So he spits on the pizza to reserve it for himself. This is weird behavior.
S1: He treated everybody like Horace Grant. Did he want to eat Horace Grant? Yeah, he were, you know, out. You know, Horace Grant wasn’t allowed to eat if Michael Jordan didn’t think he should eat. And I guess sort of this rule applies to all of his friends, friends in quotes, by the way. But yeah, it’s just yeah, Jordan is just an exceedingly weird dude. And I mean, I guess, like, we don’t see it in this one of the problems with the documentary and I’m going to say some nice things about it eventually. But we had 22 years to sort of really investigate the claim here. Right, that the flu game is is something that happened. And it was the flu in quotes. And we’re left with the same mythology, the same like, you know, insinuation that Michael Jordan overcame an obstacle placed in his way. Not that this was something that he did to himself, which, you know, if he was sick because of something that he may have done to himself or that he’d just a normal human and got sick before a game, that no, this is yet another brick in the foundation that Michael Jordan was constantly overcoming things that were placed in his way. And that’s just sad.
S10: Right. This is the story. This is the story that Michael Jordan has tells himself about the flu game. The flu is too human. The flu is normal. I got sick. I don’t know how, but I got sick. So he has created a story that is more dramatic and more self-centered. The fans of Utah wanted to poison me. And five dudes working at a pizza shop got an order. Knew it was for me. Delivered it to my room knowing that I was the only one that was gonna eat it. And then I got sick and went out and torched Utah the next night.
S9: One of the five delivery people had a poison tipped umbrella that was suspicious.
S11: He was driving a Batmobile, too.
S7: Well, you guys. I said a couple weeks ago. I think I questioned it at the time. But you’re right. I’ll acknowledge it that this documentary was designed to give Jordan the last word on every topic. Very true, accurate observation. And thanks for meeting with all the absence of all the wizard stuff is one part of it. The way that the director acknowledges not believing certain things that are said, but not including interviews or material that might undercut it. That’s pretty damning, right? I mean, it’s not journalistic. It’s not what you would do if the thing that you care about most is presenting an accurate and truthful picture of what happened. So, you know, the other thing that’s like super weird in the last episode of the series is that we learn that Michael Jordan has children.
S6: Right. Jeffrey Marcus and Jasmine Jordan make on camera appearances where they say nothing interesting. They’re just like, oh, yeah, we didn’t like Utah.
S9: And one is left to conclude, since we’re just kind of talking about insinuations here, that they were just added at the end because people noticed that they weren’t in the documentary. That’s the only explanation that makes sense that Jordan. Oh, Jordan. As a family, let’s include that.
S1: Yeah. I mean, there wasn’t really a place for them here. Like, I mean, I don’t I don’t think we needed Jordan’s kids to understand that playing in Salt Lake City was really difficult. You know, I don’t know what they had to add there, but I know it does, you know, rebut the criticism that there were no family members, that Michael Jordan was a, you know, this lone wolf that had no family.
S9: Well, I think it misunderstands the criticism in rebutting.
S1: Yeah, right. Right. I do want to say this because I do think that the final two episodes were the real payoff of the documentary and that the behind the scenes footage was supposedly this, you know, the foundation of this, that that’s what everybody wanted to see. And this is how this whole project happened. Well, we finally got to see it right. We finally got to see Dennis Rodman running away from the media after skipping out for wrestling, you know, to do it in W.O. w S.W. wrestling event. We get to see Phil gathering up the team to tell them that Dennis dishonored them. We get to see Mike. You know, Mike telling Larry Bird, Hey, bitch, fuck you. You know, we had a lot of that stuff. And that’s the stuff that I think that people wanted to see because that was you know, that was what it was. Bill’s like, oh, these behind the scenes footage of Jordan’s last year. Well, here it is. And I’m glad we got to see it at, you know, so I was fascinated by the documentary all the way throughout. You know, in spite of the criticisms we have. But it was this sort of stuff. Seeing Michael Jordan dancing to Kenny Lattimore tunes is the sort of stuff that you wanted to see and you hoped that you would see when we got started on this, you know, five weeks ago.
S11: Yeah. And the footage that I felt encapsulated the entire documentary was after they win the last game in 1998. And Jordan walks into the locker room. A lot of the players are already there because he’s been doing interviews or whatever. And the greetings he got were so half hearted that it was really jarring to me. And the after party scenes were also really weird. Jordan feels very isolated. It doesn’t feel like his teammates, once they get off the court, are particularly interested in sharing this moment with him or even look terribly excited about what they’ve just accomplished.
S7: I think you might be projecting a little bit there. Players seemed pretty happy to me. I mean, especially on the court.
S11: I don’t know, man. It was a lot of sort of half assed hands laps walking around the room.
S1: Well, I will say this. I’ve been on a 30 for 30 binge in the last month or so, so I’ve revisited the documentaries on Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman and the Bad Boys, among others. And what I did notice by comparison that those Bulls celebration seemed a lot more subdued and stilted after that initial burst of euphoria. Right. Like, everybody gets excited on the court. There is the burst of euphoria. Yeah, there’s the burst of euphoria. But then you see in these other documentaries, Magic Johnson, you know, hardily hugging people and pouring champagne on each other. And it’s like everybody is like very happy. There’s a lot of warmth and a camaraderie. I didn’t see that in any of these Bulls celebrations. Not in 1998. Yes, certainly not in 1988. Maybe that’s just, you know, the omission of editing or whatever, like maybe that’s just an editing choice. And we didn’t get to see that. But I didn’t get the same feelings of warmth from those championships in comparison to the other ones that we saw with other superstars. Right.
S9: What about the warm exchange between Jordan and Leonardo DiCaprio?
S1: Leonardo DiCaprio was famous.
S11: Not you know, on second thought, though, the lack of warmth that I’m talking about was after they beat the Pacers, before he tells Bird, fuck you. So I guess it was only the Eastern Conference finals and it was only game seven. But, yeah, they didn’t look very excited.
S7: Well, there was a sense that this was a relief, that there’s a lot of pressure and it was a huge burden on them the whole season. And so, you know, that’s fair enough. I mean, I think the thing that was really revelatory to me and back to what I said in the introduction is that after Jordan goes through his whole spiel on how is unfair and unjust that they weren’t given a chance to win a seventh title. Phil Jackson converted. Yeah. Is a good time to end a good team. It’s time to go. We’re we’re ready to have it be done. And, you know, Phil, Phil Jackson has his own problems. Certainly not a perfect guy. But that does, I think, in very short form, encapsulate the difference between those men and also just between Jordan and other people who are more, I guess, emotionally available are like not stunted is just the idea that, like, you should be grateful for the good things that happen to you and your life and hold on to those. And he had a really, really great run made. But one of the best friends ever. But he just really hangs on to everything that was taken from him that he was deprived of, that he was denied that other people tried to stop him. And, you know, maybe that propels you to greatness. Maybe you think that that propels you to greatness, but it clearly makes you angry and unhappy and not content with, you know, accomplishments that are extraordinary. And that’s just a really sad disconnect.
S10: It is. And that that ultimately is one of the things that undermines the documentary. Gotham Chopra, the director who did the coach some of the Kobe Bryant documentary stuff, there’s a he’s quoted in a piece in The Washington Post by Ben Strauss about the vanity project, Nature of the Last Dance. And Choper says about working with Kobe, it turned into a form of therapy. Creative ownership over something is also an agency over his own story. And that makes a big difference, whether it’s Kobe Jordan or anyone else. And while that is absolutely true, what’s revealed here is that that is creatively powerful. If the subject is thoughtful and introspective, if the subject is willing to sort of reconsider his his career arc. Kobe was willing to do that. And Jordan obviously was not or wasn’t able to.
S1: Yeah. To to build off that point. In these last two episodes, we get to see Steve Kurr, who is like a real delight. You know, that could do with that. Some of the self deprecation. I mean, OK. UCLA didn’t want you, but you still managed to get in Arizona. You you’re pretty good, Steve. But at the end, he gives up the game. When all of this when he says about Michael Jordan, we saw him as a bully. Right. And he’d said earlier in the documentary it was very difficult to reach him emotionally. And so I just got the sense that as we come to the end here, that it was really unfulfilling for all of these people. You just don’t get the sense that being a champion was fulfilling or a pursuit that is worth pursuing because it alienated Michael Jordan from everybody in his life. You know, it seems like and, you know, I think about even Scottie Pippen, Scottie Pippen sacrificed his body, sacrificed money for the greater glory of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan and Michael Jordan never even fucking said. Like, I never saw him come to the fit to the defense of Scottie Pippen and say, hey, man, that guy laid it all on the line for me. Like after that Game six in Utah, it was all about Jordan’s heroics, not about Scottie fighting through a back injury that would have set most other people down. And I just think that just sort of encapsulates everything that we saw coming with Jordan in this documentary, that it’s all about him and his greater glory and everybody else was there to serve him and to help him.
S12: And if they felt the way they felt, then that’s how they felt. But Michael Jordan didn’t care.
S7: All right. Last dance. Thank you for all the content. We appreciate it.
S13: The Bundesliga returned over the weekend and BEATTIES Sport in the U.K. was there to cover every touch, and by there I don’t mean in the families stadiums in Dortmund and Berlin, but rather in the homes of producers, directors and commentators scattered across Britain. That’s certainly going to be the setup when live sports return to America. Play by play and color brought to you not from Wrigley Field or the Staples Center, but from ESPN and NBC studio booth in Connecticut or from their home offices or the home offices of their wives, which is from where our next guest joins us. He is Iron Eagle, who calls the NFL for CBS, the NBA, for TNT and much, much more. Welcome back to the show. I am.
S14: Great to be with you guys. This is not necessarily the way that I would like to fill air time with you, but it’s still something at least connected to normalcy in some way that we can talk about the fourth one.
S11: As I’m sure you know, the very first live sports on the radio on KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1921 was based off of reports telephoned into announcers Ronald Reagan and even more famous play by play guys did at converting phone calls and teletype messages into gripping game narratives. I’m guessing you’re not quite old enough to have called the game off a teletype machine. But remote broadcasts have been pretty normal before, covered even for big events like the Olympics, World Cups, college football. Give us a little context on how often you’ve called a game this way and under what circumstances.
S14: Yes. So for me, obviously, I’ve been more of the traditional broadcaster from the start of my career, but I have received some assignments that were a bit unconventional and was asked ahead of time, are you comfortable with this NBA games? Sometimes you’re not going to be in the same exact venue as the actual event. I got hired by the NBA to call the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs 2013. And I did it from a studio in beautiful Secaucus, New Jersey, and did every moment of every game of that series off of a large screen. My broadcast partner was Jim Sponaugle. We had a little production meeting before we went ahead and did our games and tried to treat it as normal as usual. But not being at the game means that you’re doing a more general call. You’re not picking up the nuances. You’re not feeling the energy from the crowd. And often you had to supply your own energy. Now, the difference there. You were getting ambient noise back into your headset. So there was a little bit of the crescendo that would build from an audience. But your own personal energy, you had to generate yourself. And the whole goal for an announcer is to convey the emotion and drama of an event. And you can still do that through your voice. But there’s no doubt there will be an adjustment period if there are no fans in the stands, and then decisions will have to be made in regards to the noise that is going to accompany the event itself. Will they pump in crowd noise? Will they see that as almost like a laugh track? Like you would get on a sitcom? And it’s an interesting analogy because Seinfeld, which was one of the great sitcoms of all time, laugh track. It worked. It played Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I enjoyed equally, if not more at times. And Seinfeld. No laugh track. And it played. It worked, but a completely different viewing experience.
S1: I just quit for a second. You called the Ray Allen three from a remote studio. Correct. Oh, my gosh. Well, how did that. I mean, like you said, I mean, that must have felt weird. Did you feel the emotion of that moment from a remote studio?
S14: I did, because everything had been building in that game. And keep in mind, I was not game one. That was game six. So I had some experience in how to handle the the ups and downs of broadcasting from a remote location. It wasn’t the first time that I had done it. In fact, I did the World Basketball Championships with Bill Raftery in a studio in Secaucus. Although the games were being played in Barcelona and I was getting a check of both of the entire first game throughout. You’re in Barcelona? No, I’m in Secaucus.
S15: That’s when people texted you. They wouldn’t say Barcelona. It’s a bar.
S14: No, two people in particular. I put a t h in there during Barcelona. Yeah, it was a little odd because people just assume you’re there. I never once said or tried to convey the idea that I was at the event. But I think there’s just a general connection that people make if you’re covering the event. The assumption is, oh, he must be there.
S9: Well, let’s listen to a clip of you calling that Rallen Buzzer Beater in the 2013 finals. Offering. Rebound.
S16: Bosh has got it cleared. Allen fires. He drills it. We are tied at ninety five. Seconds to go.
S9: So it’s a great call. And the question that I had for you, Ion, is one that you kind of got to and your first answer, which is how much of this is real and how much of it is performance. You know, we know you. We know you’re dripping with sincerity and everything that you do. But how much of it in a regular game and in a remote game are you kind of acting? Are you trying to convey emotion just that maybe isn’t isn’t there? But you want the viewer at home to feel excited.
S14: It’s a fantastic question and probably does not get talked about nearly enough when we discuss sportscasting in general. I think as you evolve in your career, you begin to figure out what energy level is required for the event that you’re calling. And to say that I’m exactly the same for every event that I do, there is a consistency in my approach. There’s certainly a consistency in my preparation. But the job requires the marriage of preparation and performance. So my preparation, which I take a lot of pride in, in getting ready for any event. Sometimes I’m calling five to six games in a week and it varies from a television football game to a football game on the radio to NBA games, local to NBA games, national, to a college basketball game that could be in one week. So to say that I’m gonna be exactly the same for every single event is not a fair statement. Of course, there’s gonna be a variance and and how I approach it, how I cover it and how I use my voice. If you’re doing a game where the home team is on a flurry, football, basketball doesn’t matter. The crowd is going to play a much larger role and you’re gonna have to push your voice in order to break through with the crowd and create this blend where your voice is connecting with the crowd. If the same exact thing is happening with the visiting team and the crowd is playing no role and you’re now going at a nine or a 10 with your vocals, it’s not going to come across the same way because you don’t have the backup there. So there is performance involved in this job. And of course, when you’ve got a great highlight in the NBA, when Marv Albert said a spectacular move by Michael Jordan, of course, he happened to pick the right word in the right moment and he punched it in the exact perfect way. And he also recognized that in that moment, it was probably going to live on for a long time. If you have the right call and the right words. In the right moment, it can elevate.
S17: That moment, I thought the issue here with remote games. There are multiple ones. I mean, one is something you mentioned a few seconds ago, which is preparation. You’re not in the arena. You know, you might not be doing the same kinds of interviews before a game with athletes, with with coaches, you know, your typical NFL game where you get to sit down with members of the staff and talk to players the days before. So you’re you might be losing something of the human connection in terms of what you’re able to relate. And that’s just one thing. Right.
S14: Oh, no doubt about it. Now, with Zune becoming such a big part of our lives, I could easily see that transitioning to our new normal in covering sports, where you will get the players that you asked for on an NFL Sunday. But the interview will now take place via laptops. And your hope is you can still cultivate some information that can be used over the course of your broadcast. But the human connection certainly is going to be affected. There’s going to be an adjustment period here. There’s no doubt about it. The next part of the equation will be the sterile nature in the conditions that you’re working, whether you are on site. Let’s say the NFL makes the decision that they deem the announcers essential. But no fans in the stands. You’re in your broadcast booth. You’re in your typical setup. Yet the game does not have the feel that it had during normal conditions. And now it’s up to you to generate the energy or to gauge what’s required. The one thing that that I would say in regards to the performance aspect that we were discussing, it still has to be authentic. If it’s not coming from a real place, listeners, viewers, they sniff it out. They know something doesn’t fit, which doesn’t belong. And why that highlight didn’t deserve that big a call or that highlight was actually better than the call that you provided that in the moment. Split second, when you have to make those decisions as a broadcaster, you’ve got to determine whether or not your voice is matching the action or are you underplaying, overselling? All of those things are done in a millisecond. And now when you don’t have a crowd to help you figure all of that out, that that’s going to be based more on your gut instincts.
S7: Brian Curtis’s story for the wringer about this was great. And he did a really good job of kind of demystifying how guys like to call games in an arena or a stadium versus at home. And I was wondering if you could walk us through that like in an NFL game, you might actually be watching a lot of the game on a monitor from the sixth level or whatever.
S15: So can you just kind of walk through football and basketball and what some of the kind of advantages and disadvantages are of calling it in the stadium versus remote?
S14: Well, the way my play by play career started, I began in radio. So when I started with the Nats, nineteen ninety four, ninety five, that was all I knew. I had no television experience whatsoever. I had a blank canvas and I was told by anyone that was an expert in the field, you are the conductor, you’re in charge. What you see is now the picture that you’re going to paint for the listener that’s driving in their car, that’s doing some gardening in the back yard, that’s drinking a beer on the deck, whatever it might be. So when it’s put in those terms, it’s fairly easy to understand. OK, I’m going to paint the word picture. I transition to television the very next year. And it was a whole new world. It was more of an analyst medium. So that was the first thing that struck me. I was working with Bill Raftery, who is a brilliant guy. And what you see is what you get. And a lot of times I was getting out of his way, but I also realized that the producer, the director, they were steering the ship more than I was as the play by play announcer football. I got the Jets radio job in nineteen ninety seven. Same situation as three years earlier. Paint the word picture the next year I get the CBS job covering the NFL and I’m doing TV now with some experience behind me at the local level. So the transition wasn’t as big a leap. And to be honest with you, the transition wasn’t that big a leap for me from ninety four to ninety five because I hadn’t really developed any habits. It was still very new. So. In a way, it probably benefit in me that I hadn’t done radio for 15 years and all of a sudden now I had to change what I was looking for and where my focus was concentrated on. Basically, when I got to the television side of things, I realized that I needed to talk to pictures. This is the essence of what we’re doing. If fans can’t see what I’m talking about, then there’s a disconnect. And you have to get on the same page as your producer and director and you have to use that talkback button that goes directly into the trunk. If you see something they’re not seeing, alert them so they can find it. And now you’re in concert with one another and you’re working together as opposed to me doing a separate broadcast from the truck. So for an NBA game, for an NFL game, there is such a collaborative process in covering the event. And that part is going to be a little different. I can no longer be the eyes and ears if I’m seeing something else develop because I’m just getting what they’re getting. I’m getting one screen now. Maybe there could be some advanced setups where we have multiple looks where you can see ISO monitors, which we might have on a normal television broadcast. The analyst is peaking at a different monitor that’s not on television, not our program monitor, but an ISO monitor and notices something and tells the producer, director, hey, get a shot of this or keep an eye on that for this play because they see it develop. We might be a bit more limited because we just don’t have the same kinds of options that we would normally have under our usual setup.
S17: The reason that there’s been more remote coverage is that covering lives, sports on location is really expensive and there’s a shit ton of live sports available to be broadcast. And you you practically networks and other producers can’t send crews to cover every game. The goal of the announcer, of course, is to make us not realize that we’re missing anything. And my question is, I guess there are two questions here. One is, are we missing something by not having your eyes, your physical eyes and your physical emotion in the stadium or arena or on the field. And do you worry where we are now that this will be a convenient way for networks and other sports producers to say, hey, we can really cut costs by remote broadcasting more than we have in the past?
S14: Yeah, first part of it. Yes, you are missing something. If the announcers and the producers and director are not on site, you’re missing part of the feel that comes with covering an event and not just doing the nuts and bolts and telling you exactly what you’re seeing. There is still something to being there in person and experiencing it and being able to convey it with the last dance. Bob Costas stepped in for that final run for Michael Jordan is the play by play announcer and really did an excellent job. Bob is a tremendous journalist and understands the medium. But the interesting part for me is looking back on that final edition, he was there and had the right words and the right tone, and it lives. All these years later, he shows the exact narratives that we needed that help tell that story. There will be a disconnect if you’re not there, you’re not going to have the same vibe. There’s just no way there’s no way to recreate that. There is no way to simulate that. Will it be passable? Yes, it will be possible. And for most people right now, given the circumstances, they would take it in a heartbeat. And I get it. One hundred percent get it. We just want something right now. But big picture, long term. No. The product would suffer. And look, some companies have already done it. They’ve done it without telling anyone that they have a remote production. They may have the announcers on site, but their producer and director are back in a studio somewhere. They’re not onsite. And there are some cases where the announcers are not onsite and they don’t necessarily tell you that when the broadcast starts soccer, as we know, very common. That’s probably to me the most common sport of all of them, that there are matches happening all over the world. And there are two guys in a studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, calling them lots of them. I think people will accept what the new normal is, short term, long term. I think there would be an issue if we don’t get back to the standard in which we’ve grown accustomed to.
S1: I think I’ve got one question for you. And since you brought it up about the last dance, I know that you did a show with Phil Jackson Radio, a weekly radio show where Phil Jackson. So can you just real briefly tell us about. Were you in the same room with Phil Jackson when you were doing this?
S14: How appropriate is this question at this moment? No, I was not. I was with him one time when the Lakers came in to play the Knicks. That was the only time he was available to come into the studios at Serious. And that was the only time we did the show looking at one another and every other show that we did for that season, he was somewhere else, sometimes in a hotel room, sometimes at the practice facility, sometimes in a remote location that he did not devote open. Yes. Phil Jackson, I did a show for an entire NBA season and we worked together once.
S1: Wow. Did you feel like you ever gotten to a rapport with Phil then?
S14: Not not the way that I normally would like to to think of chemistry. No, I would look back on that and say there was definitely a disconnect because he was doing the show during a very brief time that he had actual time to commit to it. In between other things. So it was never a focus for him. Phil was very easy to deal with. He could not have been more of a gentleman. He’s a very interesting guy. His view of what the show should be compared to what my view was and management were two very different things. He at one point on a show, while there were definitely some things happening with the Lakers, he wanted to do 20 minutes on canned goods. That’s real. And I remember after the show meeting with somebody from serious and he asked me, how how did you get on that? That was Phil. And as I attempted to get Phil off that topic, he went back to that topic. So, yeah, it it’s something that I always looked at as as a real strength of mine, connecting with my partners, finding that that dynamic that works, that was digestible for the audience. I would say that was one of the few instances where I just couldn’t quite get over the hump on that particular setup.
S7: Stefan, we should wrap this up, but I think before we go, we should all just grade how we did, you know, not in the same location. I mean, give us a solid C.
S14: You know, I did or but we faked it.
S11: Well, now that’s a passing grade by an eagle called the NFL, the NBA. Pretty much everything else. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
S14: And great to see you guys.
S18: All right, I want to let you know that in this week’s bonus segment for Slate Plus members, we will be talking to our Slate colleague, Heather Swindell, not a sports fan, about her interpretations of the last dance.
S9: What was it like for a sports newbie?
S1: The NFL came up with the Rooney Rule in 2003 under threat of litigation from a pair of civil rights attorneys. One of them, Johnnie Cochran. The rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and front office positions, was meant to boost minority hiring. It hasn’t really worked. Today, 17 years later, the NFL has three black head coaches, the same number as when the Rooney Rule was adopted. The league, it seems, wants that to change. The NFL will reportedly consider a pair of resolutions during the owners virtual meeting on Tuesday. The first would do away with the rule that permits teams to block assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions with other teams. The second would reward teams with improved draft slots if they hire minority head coaches or football executives. So, Josh, do you think NFL teams are now going to fall over themselves to hire Marvin Lewis?
S7: I think probably not. Poor, poor Marvin. But Anthony Lynn, one of the three black head coaches, I think had it exactly right when he said in an interview. I think sometimes you can do the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing. I don’t think that it’s a bad idea for the NFL to look at the Rooney Rule and say, how can we improve this? How can we get more opportunities for minority coaches and executives? That’s a good impulse. The way that they’re going about it here or that they’re proposing to go about it here seems wrong in that people that support minority hiring and people who oppose it are going to be united in thinking that this is a bad idea. If you are upset or outraged or or think that there should be more opportunities here, you’re going to look at this and be like, all right. You’re saying that you’re now quantifying like a minority head coaches where six spots in the third round. I mean, we can go through the specifics of the proposal, but it’s basically like putting a value on a coach that’s associated with, like, moving up a couple spots in the draft.
S9: And it just feels wrong. And it also sends the message that, you know, teams won’t do this unless they’re given a cookie for, you know, oh, well, you don’t want a black coach. We’ll give you a third round pick. I’m like, okay, that that. Now, I really do want a black coach. I mean, it just sends the wrong message. And on the other side, you’re going to have the usual suspects. People being like this is unfair. It’s discrimination. It’s the same conversations that you hear about affirmative action. And that’s going to be unfair to the coaches that do get these opportunities. They’re going to be seen as being less deserving because, you know, these inducements are now attached to it. So, you know, Stefan, it just seems like a good idea in theory and just really, really bad in practice.
S11: Let’s start with the NFL is history. It’s not just how many black coaches there are. It’s their overall hiring policies. And they’ve been uniformly terrible over the years. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, that group that’s run by Richard Lapchick, most recently gave the NFL a D plus in hiring for coaches and an F for hiring diversity for general managers.
S17: This all reflects the horrific insularity of NFL ownership. I mean, you said give them a cookie. I mean, it’s exactly like that. The NFL has to treat its owners like toddlers. These are the same people who send Colin Tappahannock is a social menace. It’s astounding how little what little awareness the 32 owners in the NFL have of what constitutes collective fairness, what constitutes equity, what constitutes progress. And they demonstrate their failings over and over and over. It really shows to me how insulated NFL ownership is from the reality of their own workplaces.
S1: And Josh, you mentioned something about how, you know, those coaches that might get hired under these circumstances might be seen as less deserving, which that’s true. But I have and I think that if you got hired under those circumstances, you might have might not have as much of a problem as you think, because that’s never stop the NFL coaching carousel from hiring people that are seen as less deserving all the time. I mean, nobody can look at Mike Shula, Brian Schottenheimer, Wade Phillips, Jim Moore, Junior, Kyle Shanahan, Jay Gruden, the Ryan brothers, Mike Nolan, Lane Kiffin, you know, even Tom Dimitrov. All of these guys are nepotism hires. And nobody ever says, hey, the guys are less deserving. It’s just assumed that when you get in there, you get in there and you have to do your job. And so I think that even if you got hired under these circumstances, you got to take it and do the job that you can with it, because those opportunities just come away. And it’s never stopped, anybody knows, middling son from accepting a job, but more broadly. Like you said, John, I don’t think this is going to change anything, I don’t think teams care that much about a third round pick rhino or position in a third round pick to do something like this. I mean, it just doesn’t it doesn’t seem like enough of an inducement to do the right thing.
S17: Should there be an inducement? Joel, I mean, is there a better approach here? I mean, look, as Bomani Jones wrote on Twitter, having to bribe the ownership to seriously consider hiring minority coaches is a staggering indictment of the NFL, is what Bomani wrote. Should you have to do this or is this a you know, is there a way to improve minority hiring in a league like the NFL?
S1: I don’t know, because, I mean, it’s so dependent, as you mentioned, on on these owners and these people that really don’t necessarily believe in diversity or fairness in hiring as a concept in the first place. Right. Like, I mean, there are people that skirt these sort of rules all the times and other industry is so I don’t know that there’s anything that could necessarily be done, but they should do something right. But I always think about it this way, that the problem with the pipeline is not it head coaching and, you know, the head coaching position or general managers, you’ve got to build a pipeline way before you ever get to that point. A lot of coaches get stuck in positions that position coaching or roles that never get that sort of responsibility. And it is not really an advancement. And I’ll use this example. So I played at CCU 1996, 98 in 96. We had three black assistant coaches at TCT. This is 1996. All three of them today are running backs. Coaches still, you know, and and only one of them has had an opportunity to be a coordinator at some point in their careers. And it wasn’t like one of those coordinator positions where you call plays. It was being a coordinator in name only. So you just think about it. So, like, that guy is never even going to get a chance to be, you know, to get the sort of advancement that somebody else that, you know, gets a coordinator position when they’re thirty one years old, you know, a guy like Lincoln, Riley or or whoever else. So, yeah, I mean, I just I get what they’re trying to do. But the problem is pipeline. And I don’t know how you deal with that.
S9: So a couple of things. The thing that’s the real indictment of the NFL as compared to other industries and hiring of minorities in leadership positions in journalism, which we’re familiar with. And and and, you know, many other industries that were less personally familiar with is a scandal in itself. But the NFL, the vast majority of players are black.
S7: And so when that. Coaches and, you know, ownership and management aren’t black then.
S9: That is an indictment of the whole industry. I mean, it’s an obvious point. I think it’s worth saying, like, there are obviously people that can do these jobs and should be given the opportunity to do these job. So that’s point number one.
S19: The second point is I think this is a really, really important lesson in the difference between, you know, how things are written down on paper and then how things are executed in practice. The Rooney Rule is progressive and the NFL was progressive in instituting it in 2003. And the numbers that you mentioned, Joel. It’s certainly true that the number of black coaches is the same now as it was 17 years ago. But that does it’s a little bit more of a topsy turvy story than that. It did initially, I think, work and there were more coaches. And then just like.
S9: And again, this happens across other industries. These coaches get an opportunity and then maybe they don’t. You know, some of them succeed and some down. And then like Marvin Lewis, they don’t ever get an opportunity again. So it’s like, OK, we heard by coach. That didn’t work. We’re not going to do that again.
S19: And so I think the NFL is right in saying we need to do something different. We need to change something here. Right. But I thought Mike Florio, pro football talk had a really good point. The problem here is moving from the paradigm of punishment to the paradigm of reward. There’s only been one fine ever issued for Rooney Rule violation. That’s to Matt Millen when he was with the Lions. Congratulations, Matt Melen. And being the only person to ever get fined for this. The NFL has been unwilling to punish teams for making a sham of the Rooney Rule process for going through with interviews with coaches they don’t intend to hire with not taking it seriously. That is where the NFL should put its energy and attention is making sure that these interviews are real. That more coaches are getting the opportunity to interview the part about the first part that you mentioned, Joel, of giving more minorities opportunities to be coordinators. That is the part here that will get the least attention. But is the most important. And just bringing the whole concept of reward and giving the team something for, you know, a practice and they should be doing anyway. It just sends the total wrong message. Punish, punish. Right.
S10: And I’m glad you mentioned the bit about allowing assistant coaches to be interviewed for coordinator positions, because that is far more important. There are a lot of African-American and other minority coaches in the NFL position, coaches, position assistants who don’t get to move up and running their coaches flat or running by coaches. A lot of defensive back coaches who who don’t get to move out, particularly because they don’t get the opportunity to run the offense, which is the most likely path to becoming a head coach. So allowing coaches, assistant coaches to be interviewed for these jobs and getting rid of some of these bogus deadlines and sort of periods when they’re not allowed to talk to other teams is a real step forward. The insane part about this is that the NFL also is having to write into this rule that every team will have to notify the league about what an assistant coaches responsibility actually is to prevent teams from giving them titles that would prohibit them from being interviewed for these positions. So the league is going to have to build in rules to keep teams from changing the titles of assistant coaches to prevent them from qualifying to be interviewed for coordinator jobs. That is just another tremendous indictment about what this league has to do to prevent owners from doing the wrong thing.
S1: And a question I have is, who wanted this? Who proposed this and who wanted this? Does the NFL actually want this? Is there some sort of, you know, potential lawsuit in the works that we don’t know about? Have they been contacted by somebody that makes them want to address this now? Because I guess I’m just curious about what’s what’s pushing this.
S7: Well, you know, like like this past offseason, Joe Judge gets the Giants head coaching job and he has a special teams coach. Right. And the guy that got hired in Cleveland, Kevin Stefanski. These are guys that don’t have as much experience and as many accolades as Eric Bana made that no black offensive coordinator for the chiefs. So the NFL is responding to events that happened in 2020.
S15: And I bet they thought that they were gonna get praised for it.
S13: Right. I bet they did. Right. Well, it’s also look, this public relations does affect the NFL.
S17: They are not immune to bad PR. Jim Trotter, who’s African-American, who covers the NFL for the NFL Network, said at the end of last year that Clemson offensive coordinator named Tony Elliott rejected being interviewed by the Panthers because he thought it was gonna be a bogus inter. You add that up a week or so later, he quoted an unnamed black NFL assistant coach. NFL is finally shown it’s not the place for black men to advance. It’s ridiculous. It’s disgusting. We can sell tickets and make plays, but we can’t lead.
S11: Maybe there was pressure and is pressure and there should be pressure. Is it coming from the NFLPA? Is it coming from an outsider like Cyrus, Mary or lawyers that are once again going to have to threaten the NFL or have we don’t know right now? But that wouldn’t be out of the question.
S1: It’s not for me to tell Tony Elliott whether or not to take interviews that he knows may be a sham or not, because at least for the Panthers, the it had been telegraphed that Matt Rule, the head coach of Baylor, was always going to be the guy in that role. Right. But I do think it’s important to take those interviews because you just never know by getting in the room. And that’s why I like the idea that, you know, people might be diminished by getting installed, you know, through these means, might make them seem less deserving, kind of falls apart, because the thing is that often guys just need to get in the room. And that’s the biggest problem in a lot of these in these instances. You know, that’s just not even getting the opportunity to make your case to the decision makers. And like, that’s the piece that needs to be solved here. And, yes, this proposal does kind of get at that. But I just I guess I’m just really cynical about the idea that the NFL and the people that are in charge of these franchises are really going to do anything. I mean, unless you punish them. But even then, you’re punishing them not for not hiring, but for not taking the rules seriously because that’s another step, right? Taking the rules seriously and then going through and making a hire. And I just you know, we’ve been talking about this my entire life as a football fan and there hasn’t been much movement on it. And, you know, I, I doubt there will see much movement on it the rest of my life.
S7: Well, I think you’re right that if these rules went into place and, you know, it’s unclear. It seems extremely unlikely to me that this will be approved given of the criticism that it received instantly. But in a world in which this did happen, I think, you know, coaches who got these opportunities shouldn’t turn them down.
S9: The point I was trying to make is just that, you know, you would be associated with a team jumping six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round like that. That’s a part of the transaction on the wire. It’s like, you know, X coach hired X team moves up six slots in the third round. And if you look at like I mean, it’s this long list of bullet points.
S19: If a minor naughty assistant left to become a coordinator elsewhere, his former club would receive a fifth round compensatory pick. And it kind of goes on and on. And the thing that it made me think of was Tampa Bay sending two first round picks and two second round picks to the Raiders for Jon Gruden.
S9: I think that they weren’t disappointed with that trade because they won a Super Bowl. But, like, that’s the that’s the value that’s connected to Jon Gruden. Right. And then, you know, minority coach TBD is where six slots in the third round.
S15: It’s just makes it makes the whole thing look chintzy and ridiculous and unfair from whatever perspective you want to look at it.
S4: It’s just the whole thing looks and it makes it look like the result of a round of negotiations where someone in the NFL headquarters said, well, maybe it’s where the first round pick and someone else said, no way. What are you kidding me? A black coach. That’s a sixth round pick. And then they settle on six slots in the third round. It looks cheap.
S12: Yeah, I think we can put a pen there. Clearly, we’ll be hearing more about this. NFL owners will meet on this on Tuesday, which will be the day some of you all listen to this podcast. So maybe we’ll circle back on this later.
S15: Now it is time for after balls. And there’s a really sad part of Brian Russell’s Wikipedia page. I just wanted to let you guys know. It’s not enough. I wanted to prepare you because this is how how sad it is. It reads as follows. In 2009, Jordan mentioned Russell and his Hall of Fame induction speech, recalling interaction they had during DURIANS first retirement in 1894. Blah, blah, blah. Russell says, Why did you quit? You know I can guard you. Jordan says, from this day forward, Favre see Russell in shorts. I’m coming at him. In response, Russell challenged Jordan to a game of one on one for charity. Such a matchup has not yet taken place. Did the Utah flash of the NBA did stage a halftime game between Russell and a Jordan lookalike?
S10: Oh. That’s that’s like racing a horse, you know.
S15: Poor Brian Russell, Utah flash of the D League. The G League, I guess it is. Now, stage this. I guess congratulations to them for coming up with that promotion. Stefan, what does your Utah flash?
S11: Well, this past week, Major League Baseball prepared 67 pages of medical and safety protocols.
S17: Should the sport return for a partial season on field proposals include social distancing during the national anthem and when men are on base. No managerial lineup, card swapping, no throwing the ball around the horn, no high five ing, no fist pumping, no spitting, tobacco chewing or sunflower seed expectorating. The no spitting edict is getting a lot of attention because no spitting in baseball. What makes no crotch grabbing? They’re killing baseball anyway. You’ll recall that a few weeks ago I reported that the last huge U.S. pandemic in 1918 and 19 was not responsible for outlawing the spitball. I also didn’t turn up any evidence that the pandemic hastened the demise of plain old spitting in baseball. Players began spitting during baseball’s earliest years in the mid 19th century when chewing tobacco was very popular. Tobacco produced saliva, which was good for lubricating the mouth on dry, dusty ball fields and also for lubricating newfangled leather gloves. I couldn’t find any stories about the contemporaneous spitting habits of a 19th century baseball players. But I did stumble across an interesting item in the February one, 1896 edition of the Pittsburgh Press. Quote, Van Hultgren will be asked to sign an agreement curtailing his tobacco smoking during the playing season.
S8: Van Hultgren was George Van Halter, and he played 17 seasons, mostly for the New York Giants, stole tons of bases, batted over 300 a dozen times. And he also had an awesome handlebar mustache. A few days after the Pittsburgh report, a story in the Buffalo Morning News reported that the Giants Club of People had sent word to Van Hultgren in San Francisco that unless he quit smoking or at least limit himself, he could not play on the New York team next year. Giants owner Andrew Freedman, the paper said, is convinced that Van’s excessive smoking interfered with his good work last year, and he insists on limiting the abuse. It’s interesting that people in 1896 thought that smoking might be bad for athletes. 2009 Slate Explainer about Baseball and Chewing Tobacco by Brian Palmer noted that the sudden decline of former batting champion King Kelly in 1892 was attributed to his longtime habit of smoking while patrolling the outfield. But Van Halterman was no Kelly. He didn’t do good work. In 1896, he did great work. He hit 340, stole 32 bags, drove in one hundred and three runs and had a career high hopes of 9/11. Not that he would have known that because OPL didn’t exist in 1896. So why would the Giants leak a story about Van Halterman smoking problem? Probably because Friedman, the owner, was a notorious asshole who Bill James called George Steinbrenner on Quaaludes with a touch of Al Capone. Friedman was a real estate millionaire and Tammany Hall insider who routinely alienated his players and managers. Star pitcher Amos Russi would sit out that 1896 season because of disputes with the owner. The smoking threat against Van Hall Tran was probably a contractual ploy by Friedman against a star player. According to an incredible Sabor bio written by Bill Lam, Friedman fought with fellow National League owners and literally fought with reporters covering the Giants to punish the league for not taking his side after a player used an anti-Semitic slur against him on the field. He tanked the Giants saying I would not give five cents for the best baseball player in the world to strengthen it. That nearly crippled the league because other teams relied on big gates from Giants games. His fellow owners wound up caving. Friedman finagled his way back into power until he left the. To run the construction of New York’s first subway line. The IRR t from which he got even richer and for which he was widely praised. Friedman later was a director of the company that backed the Wright brothers.
S17: He had a nervous breakdown and died in 1915 at age 55. As for Van Halterman, baseball associates defended him against the smoking charge. Connie Mack said that I am confident he never carried it to that extreme where his health was injured. The big outfielder was always very careful of his health. The trainer for the Pittsburgh Pirates were Van Hultgren, played before joining the Giants, said the smoking report was absurd and that Van Halterman was a crank on his health when he was in Pittsburgh. He backed up that claim with details. Van Haltzman was usually the first man in the room after the game and was the last one out. He would not go out in the air in a sweat. He was careful about eating and finally and obviously most important to maintaining one’s health. After taking his bath and being rubbed down, he would always stand around fanning himself with a towel for five minutes before dressing.
S10: I couldn’t determine whether Van Halterman smoked less or more during the 1896 season, but he had a career best 351 average with thirty nine steals and a league leading 21 triples. Nice job. What’s your Utah flash?
S9: So before I get to my actual Utah flash, I have to say that I have an update on the Michael Jordan Brian Russell lookalike on one game from 2009. The price of looking up and after bond him too quickly. So it turns out that the owner of the Utah team, Brent Anderson, tried to convince people that it was actually a real game and sent the lookalike all over town to try to drum up interest in this and ended up having to offer refunds to seventy five hundred people that bought tickets to this game to, you know, thinking that they’re going to see a Brian Russell, Michael Jordan, one on one game now offered one hundred thousand dollars to the charity of the winner’s Trius. Jordan somehow declined shockingly to play Brian Russell at a deal league game in 2009. So just a little bit more information. Now on to my actual Utah flash. A couple weeks ago, my friend Ted McClelland asked an important question on Twitter. Is the last dance going to ask Michael Jordan why he wouldn’t license his image to NBA jam? The answer, Ted, is now the last dance. Did not address that like it didn’t address so many other things. So I will address it now. Jordan was not in the arcade and home console smash hit NBA Jam because he opted out of regular NBA licensing and made his own arrangements, presuming correctly that he could cut better deals for himself than the league could make on his behalf. But by opting out of NBA jam, he missed out on the irreplaceable opportunity to be part of the Amusement and Music Operators Association’s most played video game for 1993. Actually, that’s not true. I mean, the part about it being the most played game is true.
S15: But because Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, he did get to have his boom shaka like a cake and eat it, too. And an oral history published in Sports Illustrated.
S9: Videogame developer Mark Turmel says the following, and I quote, Gary Payton got a hold of me and wanted to be in the game. I told him what we would need, not thinking anything would come of it. I should say that Gary Payne is not in the game and that if you play NBA jam, it’s Shawn Kemp and Benoit Benjamin. Gary Payton was feeling a little bit left out. So he calls the developer of the game. The developer says, I told him what we would need, not thinking anything would come of it. It’s a lot of effort. Like nine images for the head. Then I received photographs in the mail, Payton standing in front of a wall and all these angles. Then he said, Oh, I’m buddies with Ken Griffey Junior and he wants to be in the game. And Michael Jordan wants to be in the game. I did a special version of the game with the three of them in it. I sent that to Peyton. I was happy to do it, but it was pretty early in his career. It wasn’t even clear. It was the right move. OK, Gary Payton got Michael Jordan in NBA Jam and Michael Jordan was still an asshole to him in last dance. Shaking my damn head. This MJ version of NBA Jam has never been released. Gary Payton apparently has it in his garage. You know, if you want to play this, just ask Gary Payton. It’s not me. It’s not on me. According to the NBA jam, Super Nintendo Effy.
S15: Q On the Web site Game VACC published on April seven, 1994. Any codes that you might receive to, quote, unlock Jordan in the console version of the game are, quote, bogus and are merely an attempt by one person to make themselves look cool? Don’t fall for it. Game Fact says in 1994, Def AQ continues, other rumored secret characters that can be confirmed as false are as follows. I’m not making this up. These are all all false, false rumors, secret characters. The list as Barney the Dinosaur, Beavis and Butthead. Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer. Randall Cunningham. Jim Harbaugh. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. Dr. J. Earl Mack, the Red Ninja. Don’t know who that is. Rush Limbaugh. Darth Vader, Superman. Al Pacino. Santa Claus. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
S9: Cool Spot, Sinbad, Humpty Hump, Oprah, Alien, Predator, Dre, Snoop and Michael Jackson. No mention of Big into PacTel. Humpty Dumpty. Hump of Digital Underground. Yes. So if you wanted to play Humpty Hump in a video game, you might be out of luck unless they’re games, other than I don’t know about. But there have been various Jordan titles released over the years. One of them, Michael Jordan, Chaos in the Windy City as a side scrolling platformer released in 1894 in which Jordan throws basketballs to incapacitate his enemies. You can watch a play through the entire game on YouTube because of course you can. But everything you need to know really is in the. Like cut scenes in the beginning. That explain the premise of the game. I’m just going to read that part to you and then we’ll be done. It begins with the following title. It’s a windy day in Chicago, first practice for an all star charity game. So, you know, this is funny. Michael Jordan, we never plan the charity again. But Michael shows up and finds his team has disappeared. Their stuff is here, but they’re not. He says this is weird. Suddenly, through a skylight, crash a ball with a note scrawled on it. Note, Mr. Jordan. If you want to save your pals, come to the Egyptian room in the Field Museum at midnight. Come alone. Signed Dr. Max Cranium. Michael says, Man, this is serious. I’d better check out the panel then reads that night. A guard lets Michael into the closed museum in the Egyptian room. Michael. Well, I’m here now. What? Hey, a door in the wall.
S7: He enters wearily.
S9: Michael, what are the panel finding himself at the entrance to an underground prison? Michael sets out to find his friends. And then we began. Not weirder than space jam, I guess. Sounds better than space. Although, you know, just the notion that Michael Jordan has friends, that if the friends disappeared, that he would want to find them. That seems a little bit less believable than the fact that you can throw basketballs at your enemies to incapacitate them.
S2: Michael Jordan Carson, the Windy City Fire today. That is our show. Our producer Melissa Kaplin to listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep dot com slash hang up. You can e-mail us at Hang-Up and sleep dot com. You are still here. You might want even more. Hang up and listen in our bonus segment. This week we’re joined by our colleague Heather Schwed, our sports newbie, to talk about her experience watching last dance with the bullying and trash talk in general.
S20: And I realized that he was painting a rosy picture of it. That was probably really true because, yeah, if I were a rookie and had Michael Jordan. Right. Terrifying me all the time, I would hate that I wouldn’t think of him in the same way at all.
S2: Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers Elmo OBD.
S18: And thanks for listening.
S15: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members. We are joined by our beloved Slate colleague, Heather Fidele. Hello, Heather. Hi, Josh. So you wrote a great piece for Slate last week about your experience watching The Last Dance as a non sports fan. I’m going to read you to you. You wrote, There would be an accurate to say, I don’t know the first thing about sports. I know and have known for a long time who Michael Jordan is. What sport he played and what team he was on. I guess I do have to admit, though, that until recently I didn’t know the second thing about sports, because I only just learned that Scottie Pippen was on that basketball team, the Chicago Bulls, with Michael Jordan. It is a delightful piece, and I think it’s a useful corrective to people like Stefan Fatsis, who are very cynical about the sports documentary to kind of see it being viewed by someone with fresh eyes. And so, you know, you write in here, they’re like, oh, this Michael Jordan character. And these these balls are very interesting. This is all like it is all new idea.
S21: Yeah. I had underestimated just how much of my knowledge of Michael Jordan came from space in the movie. And I looked it up. I was like, oh. But Scottie Pippen must have been in space jam. So did I just not remember him. And he, in fact, is not in that movie. So that it tracks that I wouldn’t know who he was until recently.
S9: So in this last couple of episodes, there are, you know, a bunch of things that happened that are familiar to folks who know the bulls. Like, did you know that Jordan had the last shot to beat the jazz in that last NBA finals?
S21: Oh, not at all. I don’t I don’t know if I knew of it, like the Utah Jazz were a team.
S15: And so this is all like very dramatic. And to somebody who has never experienced these games before.
S21: Yeah. I mean, I, I kind of knew they were going to win, so. But it was still fun watching it. And those final crucial baskets were really exciting.
S1: What made you want to watch this? I’ve just got curiosity.
S21: I had watched a few other 30 for 30 movies and I, I realized this wasn’t a 30 for 30. But I watched the Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya Harding when I watched the one about that Duke best basketball player that a lot of people hated. And I watched the 10 part series on O.J. Simpson. So I think I had the idea that this was going to be more like that, which from from reading about it, I I’ve seen that it is not like that. But I, I sort of thought, oh, this is another one of those like big documentaries that everyone’s going to be talking about.
S4: So the question I think for you then, Heather, is a really simple one. Do you like Michael Jordan after watching ten hours of Michael Jordan?
S21: I do. I, I really like. Yeah. I mean, I’ve definitely tried to temper my reaction to him by knowing that a lot of people think he was a dick and a horrible person. But he he is just like very charismatic. And I, I do still think of him as a nostalgic figure and it’s sort of hard to let all of that go.
S9: Well, you write about how Jordan is somebody who you know, he is the most famous person in the world for your period of time. And so he’s somebody that’s in your consciousness and as a part of your childhood, if you grew up when you grew up. And so it’s, you know, useful to have all these gaps in your knowledge filled in to like, know how Michael Jordan became Michael Jordan and to know kind of all the beats along the way in that story. It feels like, you know, coloring in something where you just knew kind of the outline, right?
S21: Yeah, totally. And I think there there’s been sort of a trend for that recently with with like the series on O.J. Simpson that I just mentioned. And even Slate’s slow burn where like something people or me especially had been vaguely aware of. We go back and learn what it was actually like. And I that’s always been pretty illuminating to me. Yeah. And I just hadn’t realized I knew he was super famous, but I didn’t know anything about it, really.
S1: You mentioned that. Obviously, it wasn’t for O.J. documentary. Did you see any weak spots in this documentary at all? I mean, given that, you know, that you’ve kind of been spending through the 30 for 30 years. In fact, I just saw the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding win this weekend, and that one was crazy, too. But did you find this one lacking in any way?
S21: Well. I was reading your piece and I noticed you wrote about how Michael Jordan’s wife didn’t come up until, like, very far along into the series. And I think his his personal life was oddly left out of it. I mean, like, I’m someone who always wants to know, like, what was his love life like? Like who was he dating during these points? And we saw that Dennis Rodman was dating Madonna and Carmen Electra, but they really didn’t mention his wife. And I think we saw his kids in the background briefly at one of the championships. And then they were interviewed in the 10th episode or but like. Yeah, where did his kids come from? And I thought that the way they brought up the gambling problem was also like, as an aside, in a way that made me think like maybe there was more to that. They just brought it up very like, oh, and some people thought that when he got there, when he retired for the first time to play baseball, that it was actually a suspension because of gambling. But I don’t think it was even mentioned up till then. And yeah, I think with the bullying and trash talk in general, I mean, I realize that he was painting a rosy picture of it. That was probably really true because, yeah, if I were a rookie and had Michael Jordan, like, terrifying me all the time, I would hate that I wouldn’t think of him at in the same way as at all.
S13: What I love about your observations, Heather, is how you can approach this from a sociologists perspective without the sort of ingrained bitterness and vitriol that we’ve all approached this documentary. I mean, who he was dating during this period is probably like somebody different. Every, you know, few nights would be my guess.
S1: Why not more? How? Well, what what is what’s going on here?
S13: Well, did you read your the city paper stories about his life in Washington? Certainly implied that. No.
S9: Good point. Well, that’s what I wanted to ask each other. I think I know the answer to this question. But, Heather, did you know that after Jordan retired in 1998 that he actually came back and play it again for another team?
S21: I think I had a vague sense of that. I I certainly didn’t know how badly it went. Like maybe I sort of thought that. And the baseball thing were the same. Like he went to play baseball again or something.
S9: Yeah. I mean, he would like you to think that he would like you to think that that had never happened. I mean, is it possible like if we just went on and on about how he didn’t like the documentary, could we convince you that he was bad? Or do you feel like solid in your opinion that it was good? I think we should probably end this segment now. Let’s just imagine we just talked to you about it for another two hours.
S21: You would not be able to convince me that it wasn’t fun to watch because it was good distinction to stay. But I think. Yeah, and in terms of like the director’s point of view and how much influence Jordan was able to have on it. Like, I can see where it definitely had some. Yeah. It wasn’t the best journalism, maybe. And it’s funny, I noticed that a lot of people have been fighting about the timeline, too, like whether it should have gone back and forth. I, I would say my perspective on that was I liked it and it worked until the last two episodes when it was very confusing which finale it was like, which is a for between things that are a year apart in the same.
S1: Yeah. They were playing jazz and then they were playing the jazz again, which must have been very component’s, obviously the jazz’s fault for making the finals. Right. It sort of mixed today.
S7: So we’ll have their. We enjoyed your Pierce. Link to it on our show page. And it’s a delight having you. Come on. Maybe next time there’s a massive cultural event in the world of sports that occasion’s a 10 hour documentary, we would enjoy having your perspective again.
S1: There should be a bonus on the Tonya Harding Nancy Kerrigan then, because that we need to talk about that.
S21: Thank you, Heather. Thank you for having me.
S7: And thank you, Slate plus members. We’ll be back with more for you next week.