Coaching Through Life

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language.

S2: It’s Friday, May 22nd, 20-20 from Slate. It’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Bad day for Seattle University School of Law and the credibility of Tara Reid, reporting by The New York Times. The AP disprove her accusation against Joe Biden. They cast doubt on her honesty and veracity. Legal developments have also gone against Miss Reid.

S3: So CNN reported that Reid did not actually possess a bachelors degree, though she does seem to have an actual law degree from the aforementioned Seattle University, which says it only admits holders of bachelors degrees. Defense lawyers in Montgomery County, California, have announced they will be appealing verdicts in which Reid testified and apparently lied under oath about her credentials. She also inflated her role with Joe Biden’s office. A week ago, PBS interviewed 74 former Biden staffers. None found her allegations credible. They walked the hallway where Reid spoke of a hidden alcove and compartment where she was assaulted. They found no alcove today. Reid’s lawyer dropped her, though he says he still believes her. It was unclear who, if anyone, was paying Douglas wig door Republican Trump donor to represent Reid. Now, it seems that the decision has been made that Reid is no longer useful to whatever agenda she was serving. Jill Filipovic, feminist author and commentator, has apparently concluded that Reid’s allegations are not credible and she blames for advancing bad faith claims. Actors who are not real feminists, she blames the right. She blames the left. She tweets. It makes me so livid. The same people who push these claims also brush off and denigrate feminists as liberals then attacked us as hypocrites for not jumping on this story before it was properly reported. Those of us who care about sexual violence understood the stakes and tweet. It is true that cynical types seeking political gain were the biggest backers of Reed’s story, but so were bonafide prominent feminists. Rose McGowan chided Alyssa Milano for not believing Reed. I disagreed with in this space Cornell philosophy professor Kate Man, who called on all of us to believe Tara Reid because Joe Biden was the type, she said, to commit rape. Filipovic tweets once more. It was all a game of dishonest, cynical, gotcha. From the beginning, with the right, of course, but also from bad actors on the left who have low key and sometimes high key hated feminists since at least 2016. They use this as a cudgel with no regard to who and what they damaged.

S1: But it should be noted, it should be noted that for all this blame, mainstream process driven journalism did its job well. And outlets like the AP, CNN, PBS and The New York Times properly vetted and reported out this story and raised troubling inconsistencies. And outlets like Vox and NPR and others that I’ve mentioned just now chose not to rush to press Tara Reid story without proper vetting. Meghan Toohey, Jodi Kantor and Ronan Farrow won Pulitzer Prizes for getting high stakes sexual harassment stories. Right. But you know what? Laura McGann of Vox also got a high stakes sexual harassment story, right? It would seem right and proper, because what she did was not put it into print before it was ready to be printed.

S4: Again, everything I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t disprove Reid’s allegation, but let’s note that all of the evidence since the initial accusation of all of it is really only one bit that supports the charge of sexual assault. Besides Reid’s own testimony, and that was a Reid friend, as reported by Business Insider, who says that Reid told her about the assault in 1995, only a few days after maybe it was weeks after the Business Insider story came out. A dollop of doubt was put on that account as well, because the friend Linda Lacaze said, Oh, yeah, I had to have my memory refreshed by Tara Reid. Within this last year, scrupulous, methodical journalism actually had a silent moment of triumph when it came to the Tara Reid accusations agenda driven journalism did not be there. The Socialists, Katie Helper’s or Nathan Robinson were the intercepts. Ryan Grim, who may or may not be a socialist, but as a prominent Biden antagonist. And he’s hardly ever written a harsh word about the policies of Bernie Sanders. Matt Breunig, a prominent democratic socialist who has expertise in the world of financial matters and economics, was somehow a major critic of the media for their reticence to report Tara Reid’s claims without proper vetting. Today, he tweeted about those who have soured on the believability of Reid, including feminists, women’s rights advocates, liberals and her own lawyers. He tweeted this. The damage being done by liberals right now cannot be overstated enough. The idea that you can rape someone with a checkered past where other deficits, because no one will believe them, is being completely reified in service of a Biden re-election.

S1: You know, when you’re only mode is scorched earth. And when you weigh in with a flame thrower on issues you don’t know about, on issues that are actually unknowable. You singe many would be supporters. There might be some committed socialists out there who aren’t absolute bullies, blowhards or bomb throwers. When it comes to their public presentation. But I can’t think of too many. Personally, I know some. And there’s one prominent one we could all think of. Bernie Sanders actually doesn’t fall into those traps. But the Tara Reid story is a bad story, not even for Tara Reid. Hers is more sad life, it seems. But for those who blindly prop her up without proof and claim belief when the only fair conclusion is at best, ambivalence. It’s a good story. If you could call it that, for the concept of waiting for the facts, even if that story won’t be remembered as particularly heroic for any of those involved on the show today. A spiel where we compare eras and ages and Coolio’s and Pompeii’s. But first, he’s one of my favorite journalists. And now one of my favorite podcasters. Funny and a little maddening when those skills so readily translate in the podcast. Against the Rules Season one. Michael Lewis looked at referees in season two. It’s all about coaches. Michael Lewis next.

S5: Michael Lewis is the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Shaw. I guess only one of those wasn’t made into a movie. But he is the preeminent chronicler of an interesting thing inside out, usually told through a compelling character. Now, for the last couple years, he’s been doing a podcast called Against the Rules. If you’re saying is that the podcast with the ugliest cover art? It is, but that’s by design. Season one was a neon yellow background. Season two is in neon green background. Season one was about referees. Season two is about coaching, very broadly speaking. Michael Lewis, welcome back to The Gist. Thanks for having me. So I think I’ve read most of your books, and I also heard a talk you did with Malcolm Gladwell, where you talked about the difference between writing a non-fiction book in a podcast. And I took away or as I was listening to season one, it struck me that most of your books are convergent. They have a thesis. And most everything in the book is an exploration of that thesis. Not always an argument. And there’s a lot of character development. So we care about the people who get to and work out this thesis. But it’s all coming back to the thesis. Whereas it seems to me that the podcasts are divergent. You have a theme and off this theme you could do theme and variations. Does that seem apt?

S6: Very well put. I think that’s absolutely true. It feels like you tell the orchestra what they’re playing and the different instruments play what they play. It’s all little different. And so each episode we started with a character, a role in American life and explore the role in various ways. Every episode speaks to the role. But it’s not one argument running through the whole thing.

S5: So referees, last season you started with a literal let’s go to the Secaucus, New Jersey hub of the referees of the NBA and they look at all the game film. So that is the very literal. And then you get more figurative. This year I had read your essay in 2004 in The New York Times about your high school baseball coach. When I heard it was about coaches, I thought, oh, he’d be leading off with that. But in fact, you lead off with more of a figurative example of coaches, which are people who help navigate the very purposefully Byzantine system of credit and banking. Why do you go that route?

S7: A couple of reasons. One was it was just fun that there was a character from the first season named Katie Hyland, who had been trapped in a in a hell of student loan debt and who had also the need for someone to coach her through how to handle the rest of her debt.

S6: We started go fund me for her and gotten rid of the student loan debt at the end of this season. When I was talking to her, I say, now you’re free and clear. She has actually no. And she started explain to me how she handles finances. And I thought, like, this is a situation crying out for a coach. She needs the money. She needs someone. She needs someone to both kind of teach her how to behave with it and how to handle these things and also take some of the burden off of her. I feel like I was watching someone who could be a pretty good quarterback but should never be calling their their own plays and turned out that there was in the world an emerging money coach that was very different from financial advisers in the past. And there’s not just one place that does it is the one place we focused on was a place called Talli, where a fellow named Jason Brown essentially built a business to coach people about money, but also to remove from them the more difficult aspects of managing your credit card debt and saw himself as a coach. And so we put them together. I thought one. It’s a nice bridge from one season to the next because you got the same character carrying over. And two, I wanted instantly to establish it wasn’t about sports, just about sports. We have sports running through it. But I didn’t want to open with sports. I wanted to broaden kind of people’s sense of what coaching was. All that caused me to start there as opposed to where you might have guessed. Having said that, Episode two is that story about that high school baseball coach. So we do get right back into that. Pretty sad. And that sort of explains I mean, it gives you the stakes. I think that episode does.

S5: I think so, too. So in episode one, we meet this guy. Brown, he helps coach you through not making mistakes is in some way the necessity his existence. Is it a referendum on what you were talking about in season one that the referees didn’t work? I mean, if we had proper refereeing or rules with that system, we might not need a coach. Now, it’s not always true. I mean, there are coaches for distance runners and the rules there are pretty simple.

S8: But the presence of a coach sometimes is only because the system has gotten so out of hand that only an outsider can help come in and help consult you to navigate through that.

S7: This is totally true that the absence of a decent ref in the consumer financial space has created this need for coaching.

S6: And when I think of what Katie Hyland looked like and like millions of Americans, look where their credit card debt before Jason and Talley existed, it’s sort of like you told a kid that they got to go play basketball and they walk on the court and everybody there is teaching them how not to how to do it the wrong way so they can beat the price so they can beat them. Everything that Katie Hyland encountered in her life were were people showing her the wrong ways to do things that they could exploiter. And no one was there to coach her. Well. And Jason Brown walks out of the court, says, no, actually, you don’t dribble with two hands, actually. Here’s how you follow through on a shot. And so all of a sudden, she can compete with these other players.

S8: Right. Or even to make the analogy a little more applicable to what’s going on in the world of consumer finance. At halftime, a three pointer didn’t get worth five, except if it’s a corner three, in which case it’s negative to the. It’s not just that the rules are hard. They’re not consistent. They’re unfair.

S6: They’re written for they are horribly nonsensical. Everything is designed to get in that woman’s brain and get her to do the wrong thing, to get her to pay only the minimum on another four or five different credit cards, to not really notice what the interest rate she’s paying is to take it to use the credit cards more than she should. It’s just like one thing after another. There are all these nudges built in, which is just horrible coaching. So that was the other thing going on. The episode is I wanted to reframe nudging as coaching or coaching as nudging, because I think the two are very related. That one of the things that coach does is create an environment in which you make the right decisions. You’re more likely to make the good decisions for those reasons, because it was a non obvious example of coaching. I thought it was a fun way to start. And your broader point of what connects the two seasons, the client of the referees is a symptom of inequality and the rise of coaches is, too. It’s sort of like people grabbing at anything that will help them to compete.

S9: Yeah, and I think there are probably a bunch of coaches that don’t fall into this camp. But a lot of the need for coaching is I kept coming back to the idea of complexity. Like you point out that Roger Federer, greatest tennis player in the world, has 10 coaches or something like that, if you include cooks in the attrition is.

S8: But does he really need 10 coaches or is it just that Rafael Nadal has eight coaches and you don’t want to be coached by your complex rival or giving me the piece where Mark Bowden sat down with Andy Reid, then coach of the Eagles, and they watched the game film of the 1958 Baltimore Colts. I think he wrote the piece for The Atlantic after Bowden wrote his book. The point there, like you can’t say that the 50 Colts were at this exquisitely coached team, but the players had extra jobs. The schemes were really simple. So now you need coaching, not because the coaches are bad compared to Vince Lombardi. It’s just an arms race of complexity. Same with a life coach. Do you need a life coach? I don’t know. The world has become so goddamn complex. Maybe you need something to counteract that background condition. Do you. Do you have a life coach? I am extremely suspicious of the institution.

S6: So we didn’t really go there because I am extremely suspicious of the institution as well. However, where we did go is its cousin is the so-called performance coach, which seems redundant, but nevertheless the performance coach who now has turned up in every corporate office. And his take is kind of kind of walked out of sports and into various aspects of business life. And you find him everywhere. And when you sit down with all those people, that kind of life coaches, we have a whole episode on those people and what they do, their mind coaches. And you say, why does this happen? Why is it that when a young person goes from the Harvard Business School to McKinsey, they expect waiting for them there a coach who’s going to coach them through their career? I mean, that’s an it’s a new thing. It’s become an expected thing in certain parts of the economy.

S9: And you could measure. Performance, I mean, the people who are hiring them are into metrics and they’re not going. I mean, I suppose human psychology being what it is, anyone could be bamboozled. But they have a way of showing that they’re their magic really works.

S6: This is a very good point. So, no, we found no objective, really persuasive evidence that a performance coach was going to change your life. However, because I asked I said, come on, please give me give me something that just proves this works because it’s everywhere. That doesn’t mean it works. Could be other whatever for other reasons. I gave up trying to find the objective measure or creating the objective measure. But instead I kind of went through it myself and I put my daughter through it and I watched my daughter.

S7: My daughter is a softball player. I watch the effects on her. And it was it was pretty spectacular. And the same person who is my my daughter’s, who we hired to be my daughter’s performance coach, was coaching at the same time, New York City firefighters who all of whom thought it was great and it was making them better, firefighters, New York Mets, baseball players, New York Giants football players, CEOs, Goldman Sachs traders, all those people thought this is working.

S6: So there’s something there. I don’t have something that will satisfy your skepticism. The kind got to experience it. And what’s there is, I think, a little complicated to fund. The same youth is wandering around working with a Major League Baseball player. NFL cornerback. A CEO. A New York City firefighter. And a 17 year old girl softball player. That’s weird.

S5: I would say if the met he coached was Pete Alonzo. I believe it. If it was like Wilson Ramos, maybe not.

S6: Yeah. The Mets are never the best advertising for any.

S8: So I’m thinking about the difference between coaching and reffing. And it does seem like when a league is founded or when the budget is allotted, like it’s never the first, second or third consideration to fund and empower the refs. In fact, the SFL, there have been a couple iterations and one of the main selling points of the SFL as a main alternative to the NFL every time is we’re going to have fewer rules, right. The fair catch rule is not going to exist. We’re gonna have less imposition of the referees will. So refereeing is really unsexy. And half of your series was about how everyone for some reason hates the referee. That series was born in an anecdote about your daughter’s softball team and everyone being extremely cruel to this referee trying to do her best as she refereed girls’ softball. But everyone kind of loves and venerates the coach. Not always, but there is the idea of the coach as a heroic figure for sure. And the coaches usually, you know, the best players are paid the most. But then the coach is paid somewhere up there and sometimes has a longer tenure. So the lifetime’s earnings of a coach will be more. And I think that that might get at some sort of societal flaw, which is to say refereeing is analogous to just the underlying condition. Structure refereeing is analogous to structure and coaching is analogous to where going to not address the structure, but help the individual almost always beat the competition. I mean, I think it’s accurate. I think it’s where we are. I just don’t think it’s a good thing.

S6: Yes, this is true, which is not to say there’s not controversies within coaching and that the coaches and also sometimes a very controversial figure as he is in episode two. Right. Is that my coach? If I did track my interest in the subject back to its origin, it was the combination of knowing that I had this coach who I know changed my life. I know I would not be a writer if it weren’t for him. I know this person had this big effect and a lot of other people like me who played for him had the same feeling and raised the money to name the gym after him. And at the very same moment that they’re doing this. The school’s about to fire him because kids now think he’s too tough on the parents of the kids, think he’s too tough on them. So something had changed in coaching where a coach who was once thought to have this magic power was not allowed to use it anymore. It was too controversial because it was too tough. He was too hard. It involved a failure, whatever it was. You know, Bobby Knight used to be thought of one way and now he’s thought of as another. There’s so still some friction in the subject in the same way there’s friction in the subject of the referee. But you’re right, the coach is a much happier character than the referee. You know, last season I had the feeling I was telling a kind of gloomy story. This season I have the feeling, I’m telling and kind of happy. Funny story broadly with a couple of caveats. The other caveat is it’s sort of like like who gets the coaching? If coaching, as I came to believe and kind of believed anyway already is actually really effec. If it actually does work, coaches actually make you better in all kinds of ways. Simple example, the people who coach you to take the S.A.T. decide whether you go to Yale or not. If that coaching is really important and it costs money, it’s going to be like the decline of the referee. The rise of the coach is going to contribute to unfairness that the people are going to get the coach and the people can pay for the coaching. And you see this everywhere, from college admissions to youth sports to look around the world. People have a huge advantage because they can afford ever more sophisticated, effective coaching.

S8: So having read your Times magazine story now 16 years ago about Coach Fitz, I knew most of the story I thought. And then having listened to episode two, we get an update essentially and the update. I don’t want to step on it. Too much is OK. The updates really interesting and really compelling. And so in general, here’s what I wanted to ask you. I think when I read that in 2004 and a lot of people who read that said this is exactly what we’re talking about, that we’ve overcorrected and perhaps The Great Santini or certainly The Great Santini was too harsh and Bobby Knight should never have choke that kid, et cetera, et cetera. But we’ve overcorrected and we are now not understanding the power of actually, you know, tough love or be challenging a kid.

S6: It’s kind of a tough love. That’s what it is. It’s it’s coming from a position of caring. So the kid, if he’s paying attention, knows he you care about him. But it’s not making it easy. It’s actually making it kind of hard at it, almost intensely hard in order to sort of develop the kid’s ability to cope with failure and with fear.

S7: And that put them through failure and they’ll learn how to deal with it. It’s the biggest thing that coach did. And, you know, there was a path he could have taken with the kids he had where he sort of could have made sure they only played in the league, where the other teams were quite as good as they were and made sure that they weren’t put in high pressured situations where they failed dramatically inconspicuously in front of their teammates and so on, so forth. He took the opposite path. He was always looking for the hard thing to do and always putting kids in a position that was uncomfortable. Never let you get comfortable because he thought that was the big thing. Learn how to deal with that feeling. It’s incredibly useful and it is incredibly useful. And you only learn it as a kind of muscle memory if you do it, if you’ve never been stressed the way he stressed kids, when you eventually are, as life will do to you, you’re less able to deal with it. So I think that’s probably as close as there is to an origin of the interest in the subject for me.

S8: Do you think we as a society, there’s a pendulum or weaves overcorrected and now we’re in a more sensible place about valuing tough love versus sensitivity?

S6: We’ve not come back in the other direction. The symptom of a society that does not allow the really great but tough coach. To coach, to shape kids is parents, parents being involved, overinvolved in the kid’s success and the kid’s performance.

S7: So I know I still have kids in sports leagues and in play, kind of competitive basketball and softball. And I can tell you the parent problem is not getting better. It’s getting worse and worse and worse. Parents in the dugout, parents on the court, parents telling the coach that their kids should be playing shortstop, not second base. Parents wondering why their kid was benched. Parents kind of get the coach fired. That has gotten worse and worse. And with the parent is doing is interfering with the development of the child by preventing the difficult problems from being faced. So I would say at least up till right now, the pendulum has just kept swinging in the wrong direction. And the coach says this, where he saw things beginning to change, where all of a sudden the parents were involved in all kinds of new, weird ways. They’re come into practice telling him how he should coach and interfering with the relationship that he had with the players having listened to against the rules.

S8: He’s not one about referees. I then started looking at the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren through this lens. She seemed very much to be talking about. I mean, the main thrust of why she was running is essentially talking about reforming and empowering the referees.

S6: You just gave me a thought that I hadn’t had. But is that I think it’s kind of true. There’s no question that Season one, that she was the spokesperson for season one, the spirit animal. Yes. She’s a spirit animal. And Joe Biden, in a funny way, is a spirit animal in season two.

S8: That’s what I was going to say. He’s there to like Bucky up. Make you feel better.

S7: Well, we need it. We are badly coached team right now, America. And we really do need is a good coach that we’ve been living with, with a nightmare coach who’s got all the bad aspects of Bobby Knight. None of the none of the good ones. It’s not like imagine Bobby Knight, but he doesn’t actually understand the game of basketball. That’s what we have now.

S6: It would be probably shrewd of Biden, but certainly true in spirit to frame his whole candidacy as we need a coach. We need a good coach because look what’s happened when you get a bad one.

S8: Michael Lewis is the host of Against the Rules. Season two is out now from Pushkin Industries. Wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks, Michael. All right, Mike. Take care.

S1: And now the spiel today, I tweeted to some delight and some confusion, which is the exact mix. I’m going for a fun fact about the age of a public figure. I like well, I like trivia, but I like these sort of details where you can found others and the public, if you will, by noting how old things are when they don’t seem old. Why don’t things seem old? Usually it has something to do with the place they hold in our lifetimes. Here’s a variation of that. You’re ready. We are further from John Belushi and Chevy Chase and the first cast of SNL than the first cast of SNL was from NBC being a television network. In fact, that has been true for a decade. All right. Here’s another one. I love this one. We are further from Nirvana releasing Nevermind. Then Nirvana was from the time when Pete Best was the drummer for the Beatles. All right. The pre Ringo era. I don’t know. This might not work for a 25 year old who doesn’t remember the things that I’m talking about. You know, Gulf War, Civil War, which was first, but two people of a certain generation, certainly one that I am in. I could. Well, never mind. Seems kind of current NBC not existing, seems kind of not current because pop culture to some extent is frozen in time in our minds, in our memories, how we relate to it. Let me give an example. So maybe you saw this occurred on the White House grounds today.

S6: Get those engines started. I want to see you guys drive around and drive as fast as you can, but don’t get hurt.

S4: That was the sound of a bunch of motorcycles that were asked to ride around to make the president feel powerful, like a Cialis commercial with the bathtub only implied. But you heard the music in the background, sweet child of mine. And it brought to mind that Spatt of a week or so ago that I talked about on the show, Axl Rose vs Steve Manoogian, and I had an inclination and I looked it up.

S1: Yeah. Not only did Axl Rose get the better of Steve Manoogian, you can say that Steve Manoogian should have respected his elders because indeed, Axl Rose is the older of the two. I love this genre to compare the age of people who we think are old with the age of people we think of as young. The trick is to pick current people that we regard as old in an old, in people that we might still think of as current. Maybe they’re stuck in your imagination from that one big role they had or song they sang. So here was my tweet today. All right. How old do you think Mike Pompeo is? All right. Got a number in your head. Think about this, John Stamos, Elizabeth Shue, Coolio and Michael Jordan are all older than Mike Pompeo. Why? Well, it’s just because when those individuals were born but I think it has something more to do with the place that Mike Pompeo holds. Not to weigh in on the goodness or badness of his actions, but it doesn’t seem to be a place of youthful exuberance. He is associated with an administration run by a SEPTA generic in an administration that is in many ways a throwback. I’m not saying that he looks so much older than his actual age, 56, and that Coolio now doesn’t. I haven’t seen Coolio in a while. It’s just that one guy, stodgy, unhip, never hip, doing things of so much cartoon villainy, mustache, implied, twirling, twirling, a lot different from the guy who’s flying through the air or the cute girl who’s co starring in Cocktail. But that tweet had one last line. And I’m particularly proud of it. And one actually expanded out and it was this. This is the fact that I think blew a lot of people away. If Mike Pompeo were a cast member on friends, he would not be the oldest cast member. Yeah. Lisa Kudrow is older than Mike Pompeo. Think about this. Sit with that. Can you fathom that universe where Mike Pompeo were a cast member on Friends? It might go something like this.

S10: Mike, I’m not the right person this. OK.

S11: Hi, Phoebe. How you doing? This is Mary Ellen Jenkins. So how do you actually know each other anyway?

S6: We’ve been engaged in deep diplomatic efforts since the first day of the Trump administration.

S11: You guys go way back then.

S6: So what are you up to these days, calling it like we see it, accepting facts as they are not papering over them and working every day to improve America’s position in the world?

S10: Oh, that’s that’s because we had a bit of a falling out. Mike hit my mom with a car.

S6: I only wish that John Kerry had done that with the.

S10: That’s okay, Mike. I have forgiven you. And now we’re friends again and everything’s great.

S6: I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.

S8: That is my gift to you this memorial weekend. Mike Pompeo on Friends, that from the famous episode, Season nine, Episode three, the one with the secretary of state who visits conservative donors and political figures on State Department trips.

S2: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly is the just associate producer, her favorite friends episode is, well, it’s a three way tie, the one with the monkey, the one with the couch, and the one with the realistic description of real estate prices in the 1990s. Daniel Shrader produces the gist. His favorite episode of Pompeo Friends was the one with the scuppered summit with the teetering nuclear state. The gist? You know, my duel is life coaches, personal trainers, strategy consultant, college counselors. Valet is very worried about the manufacturing sector. Poor Adepero DiPiero. And thanks for listening.