S1: The following podcast includes explicit language not restricted to words, beginning with F. S, B and Q.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of January 12th, two thousand and twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Alabama’s win over Ohio State and college football’s national championship game. Well, also discuss how athletes and leagues responded to last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And finally, we’ll assess the NFL’s super wild card weekend and how pro football looked on Nickelodeon.
S3: I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four on David Duke. Also in D.C. is Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. And Stefan, I heard that you declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week. Good choice, I think, in keeping with the spirit that Bill Belichick has inspired us all to follow.
S1: Yeah, you know, I’m hoping that in a different administration, they’ll also see that I merit the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
S3: But I thought it was the right thing to do for the country to turn it down and be prepared for some wild tonal shifts. Joel Anderson from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, host of Season three and six. Are you prepared to talk about mass rioting and attempted coups and Nickelodeon?
S4: We’ll see if I’m up to the challenge. I’m more excited about talk about Najee Harris, but I’ll just go over the show. Takes us today, as always.
S3: So we recorded the second and third segments on Monday, we’re recording the national title game segment on Tuesday. So if it feels like we are disjointed, then blame it on the calendar. Blame it on the sports calendar, Joel. But what can you tell us about what happened on Monday night?
S5: The most indefensible and unprecedented of college football seasons ended in the most predictable fashion Monday night. Alabama as the national champion again, the Crimson Tide broke a 14 to 14 tie in the second quarter enroute to a twenty eight point win. That gave Nick Saban a record seventh national title moving in past Paul Bear Bryant into first place. All time Heisman winner Devonta Smith was offensive MVP and only a half’s work catching a college football playoff record. Twelve passes for two hundred and fifteen yards and three touchdowns before suffering a hand injury in the third quarter, Alabama played a nearly flawless game, finishing with a perfect thirteen to no record and officially thrown Josh, his favorite team, the twenty nineteen LSU Tigers. But anyone who’s listen to our show all year knows that the story of the season wasn’t about wins or losses or whether we all owe Notre Dame an apology. It was about reckoning with the game’s hypocrisy and excess. Amid a national pandemic from Ohio State bullying the Big Ten into playing back in the summer to thousands of Alabama fans flooding the streets of Tuscaloosa last night on a day when the state crossed the four hundred thousand mark for covid-19 cases. So, Josh, this season is mercifully over. Do you think when we look back on this season, in a few years, that we’ll even remember this game or this Alabama Crimson Tide team?
S3: Personally, I will. Just because of you browbeating me into capitulating and saying that they’re the best team of all time, that might be a special case. We are going to remember this season forever just because of everything that it took, all of the compromises, mostly moral compromises that it took to make it happen. And I think the fact that after all of that, as you alluded to at the very top of your introduction, Joel, that Alabama and Nick Saban stood at the at the top is sort of perfect. There was some thinking both before the season started and I think during it that this was going to be a kind of wild and crazy season, both in terms of how it was going to be played and who was going to come through it, that it was an opportunity for maybe outsiders in this season that’s never going to be replicated to maybe have a chance to break through. And the fact that that didn’t happen, Stefan, I think tells us something really important about college football is that the powers in the sport are always going to find a way to remain the powers in the sport that like structurally, that that’s always going to be the case, both because of the way that talent filters out, but also just how they can kind of write the rules and and, you know, order things and organize things so that this outcome is just beyond overwhelmingly likely to happen. Thoughts?
S1: Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty depressed and I’m not sure whether it’s the riot, the sacking of the Capitol or watching this as the denouement of this ridiculous season. But I really had a hard time enjoying the game. I mean, I sort of my attention lasted until the middle of the second quarter and I realized how much better Devonta Smith and Najee Harris were than anybody else and wondered how the hell that was possible and how college defenses could be so bad or how these guys could be so much better than everyone.
S3: But then sort of everything that I thought experiment didn’t really help you go through the entire remaining four hours of the game.
S1: It did not. I did watch. But for everything else, I mean, I felt like the game last night and let’s start there to me was sort of an encapsulation of everything that was wrong with this season, but also college football generally. And I think if this year did anything, it is to bring into starkest relief possible just how fucked up a system this is. As you alluded to, Josh. And, you know, I think that you’re right, it’s hard to come out of this feeling anything but cynical about the future of college football, that the people that control the game will continue to control the game and to exploit the athletes in the way that the athletes have always been exploited. On the other hand, and maybe this is a Dem and, you know, this is a shout in the win. But I was reading a piece this morning by some academics that was posted on The Guardian in which they interviewed the vice chair of the Board of Regents at Michigan and a regent of the University of Minnesota, both of whom seem to believe that there was a sort of. Come to Jesus moment this year because it laid bare what college sports are and that they do need to change, and I don’t think Monday night’s game is going to send any university president in the SCC, you know, to drafting new rules to pay college players. But it’s out there now. I mean, this was a disaster of a year. And, you know, I’ve now moved completely away from Alabama’s greatness. Joel, I’m sorry, but that’s what I’m left with here. Everything that is wrong with college football was on display last night. And I can get into more details as we go on.
S6: That’s fine. I mean, I think that obviously there’s a lot wrong in the country and college football is just a piece of that. You know, that like we’re learning a lot about how bad our institutions are in America and college football just happens to be one of them. Right. And it does have some particularly fucked up dynamics. I mean, from, you know, just in fields playing through an injury that he wasn’t quite sure about to Jalen Waddle, you know, trying to gamely get out there on an ankle that clearly didn’t seem like was fully healed. But it’s something I’ve inexplicably become an Alabama fan. And I think it’s in the same way that I became a fan of Kentucky under John Calipari, because I think they’re probably about as honest about what college football is as any other program that it’s they think of themselves as a vocational training institute for aspiring NFL players. And if you’re somebody that cares about players and wants to see them do well and maximize their potential, that Alabama is about the best place for that. They recruit great players, they develop them, and then they put them in positions to thrive. And if we’re going to have this system, this system where players are, you know, ruthlessly exploited and don’t get their cut, and this is this is about the best option for it. Like if they’re going to get there, I want them playing for a system that’s or it’s a program that is honest about what this is all about and has a commitment to getting players closer to the money. If, you know, if you’re to believe that they don’t come across money in their path in Tuscaloosa in the first place. But, yeah, no, I’m I’m you know, it’s not something that I’m proud of. But like, I look at Alabama, I’m like, well, we’re going to do it this way. I’d rather them be doing it because Nick Saban seems to be caring and being honest with players about, hey, look, I’m trying to get you to the NFL. I’m trying to get you in front of as many eyes as possible. And, you know, there’s something to be said for that. But I don’t know any jump in there real quickly.
S1: You tweeted on Monday night during the game, Joel, that it still feels like Bama didn’t get everything out of Najee Harris that it could have. And maybe that’s deliberate. And I think that’s that’s the takeaway that I often have about Alabama. Right. It’s like, wow, nobody look like they were, you know, being completely burned up. Right. That there does seem like Saban does hold back. So that’s a good thing. Fewer calories, fewer hits, maybe a longer NFL career. On the other hand, Mac Jones was hurt last night. He kept playing. Jalen Waddle was run out onto the field and he certainly shouldn’t have been playing. And, you know, maybe you have to get to the NFL to realize that that’s what’s wrong here. Jalen Ramsey tweeted about it during the game, who advised seventeen from Bama to play. Whoever it is definitely doesn’t have his best interest at heart. Patrick Mahomes tweeted, Respect the heart, but you can’t let that man be out there. So it’s not you know, it’s not it’s causing me physical pain to sit to sit through.
S3: That’s not the kind of pain that Jalen Waddle was in. But yeah. Well, I mean, this is a ridiculous argument.
S7: What’s the ridiculous? OK, go ahead, say it.
S3: If if Bama really cared about preparing players for the NFL, how could Jalen Waddle have been on the on the field? And how could Alex Leatherwood have come back and played his his senior year like you got to if if your goal is a program, is to be a vocational school and really have these players best interests at heart, then like those guys, we’re going to get NFL millions. And the only thing that they were doing by they’re playing a full season or playing in that game is endangering their earning potential. And they’re like families earning potential for, you know, down the line.
S6: Whoa, hold on. Hold on. Because, I mean, you know, I can’t speak to Alex Otherworld or what his NFL prospects were the previous year, like, whether or not he thought, oh, if I play another year, that I have a better shot of going higher in the first round, or if they actually like the experience of playing football at Alabama. I mean, if you talk to any great NFL player who played at a powerhouse, that is inevitably one of the, you know, the experiences they cherish the most, playing on a great college football, like playing college more than playing in the NFL.
S1: Let’s be clear.
S6: Yeah, so, I mean, like we can quibble about the sort of thing, and again, I do think it feels like more than a quibble like that feels like I mean, they weren’t getting the guys there. I don’t we’re not we weren’t in that locker room. We didn’t we we don’t know if they said, hey, Jalen, you better get out there and see if you can play tonight. I would imagine happen is they like Jalen. If you want to try, you can try. And he probably kept trying because why would you not want to try and play in a national championship?
S3: They were saying during the game that the whole that as soon as he got injured, they were setting the national championship game as the target for him to come back, like the moment that he got hurt, not knowing what his rehab schedule was going to be or what it looked like. And I thought that, you know, I think that Chris Fowler and Kirkup Street are amazing at calling games like they’re better than any, I think, NFL announcing team. But the way in which they talked about Wadle was just a demonstration of how college football corrupts. All of us they’re talking about they literally said, oh, he’s one hundred percent healthy, but his ankle, it just feels different. It’s like you’re looking at the guy limping out there. You’re expecting us limping and you’re expecting us watching this to be like, oh, yeah, that’s a guy who’s totally healthy. It’s just he’s getting used to how his new ankle feels.
S1: I don’t know if it was Herb Street or Fouler, but one of them said that his returning was a testament to his dedication to his rehab plan. And maybe he was completely dedicated to his rehab plan, but they were winning by thirty nine million points and he still was on the field in the third quarter for the occasional play. And similarly, frankly, Devonta Smith hurt his hand and I hope his hand is OK. And it gets better because you need to have hands to play wide receiver in the NFL. You know, you could make an argument that if it was really about his future, once they were up for touchdowns, it would have been time for him to take a seat.
S6: Well, I mean, he didn’t he didn’t come back. He didn’t come back again after he was hurt. Mean he was like, great. Yeah. Casten Right. And I would I would say about the Jalen Wadle thing, because I know that, you know, it’s it’s it’s easy to malign the incentives that Alabama has and letting Jalen Waddle play. But again, I think that what people are forgetting is that football is a game the players want to play and they understand they have to understand the long term risk, but they can understand short term risk. And they’re like, I look, I only get so many games. You only get so many games. That’s why I always tell people. And unfortunately, when I was a Little League football coach about fifty years ago, and one of the things I would tell the kids, I was like, yo, man, you only get so many games. Do you know? I’m saying so like I can understand Jalen Wato being like, I want to give this a try no matter what, no matter what the issue is that and I don’t we don’t know the dynamics of what was going on on the sideline, what they were saying. Don’t do this, Jalen. This is you know, you should not do this. Sit down or we’ll let you try.
S3: But you got to you got to keep us apprised on how you feel and if you’re able to do it, the only thing I’m pushing back on is your claim that Alabama is somehow special in regards with how it gets players.
S6: And sort of I think it’s honest. I think no way. I think it’s honest about what this all is. And I think they’re better than any other program in the country. It’s getting players to their goal and getting to the NFL like I mean, that’s fairly you know, that’s because they recruit all the best players. Wait, wait. Christopher Moore was a three star defensive tackle who whose only other offer was to temple. Like, I think people say that a lot about, oh, Alabama recruits the best players. And they do. Yeah, because that’s what people say. Josh Jacobs, first round draft pick a couple of years ago, he he was a three star running back out of Tulsa. They I mean, getting a lot of talent is is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. You have to develop that talent and you have to put them in positions to succeed. And we see that with a lot of other programs that recruit great players and get nothing and get very little out of them. I mean, you like it, admit it. Josh, admit that Alabama is the best NFL factory in college football.
S8: I would totally admit it. And I think I actually root for Alabama and these games, too, for a different reason. I, I feel like. They set the bar so high that when in the rare occasion that LSU beats them, it feels so much better. That’s why last year was so great. And this is the problem with, you know, with Alabama, Georgia, is that they can never prove themselves by beating Alabama, whereas LSU being Alabama, that’s why they’re the best team. But, you know, watching as opposed to Stephon and I think this is the reason why he has more moral person than I am. I thought it was more moral than me to.
S3: By the way, I enjoyed watching DeVonté Smith and Nadji Harris destroy Ohio State. And the fact that, you know, they have the best coaching, they’re able to just, like, get these guys wide open. I don’t know if we want to blame Ohio State for their plan to put some slow assed linebacker like covering Devonta Smith on the field like that.
S1: That didn’t seem like a good idea, but he did a terrific hustle in trying to catch up with him, though.
S6: Tough, tough and good. Good, good hustle, man.
S3: You try but recruiting great players, developing the players and putting them in position to succeed like that’s what they do. And you’re right, they are the best at all of those things. They’re better than other programs. I can see it. I mean, it’s it’s irrefutable.
S6: All right. Are you ready to talk about now whether or not they’re the best team in college football history? Because we’ve got a thread we talked about the previous week. So are you ready to admit it?
S8: So you keep changing the terms of the question. So let me just make sure I understand. Is it because then on Twitter, when RJ Young asked you about it, he said, oh, it’s one of the best. So I’m talking about one of the best years or what has been one of the best teams?
S6: I mean, because there’s no way to know. There’s no way to know if, you know, nineteen eighty, nineteen eighty six Miami or whatever the hell the nineteen ninety five Nebraska, how they would fare against you know, twenty nineteen LSU obviously twenty nineteen LSU.
S8: I like to call you off guard because I was monitoring your your. Yeah. So I think one of the best teams obviously, but you may not have seen this Bill Connolly had his rankings of the best teams of the CFP where he had LSU number one. He redid the list this year. Alabama’s now number one for me. So that’s that’s supporting your argument. The thing that I would ask you, I think if we put the LSU thing aside, which pains which pains me to do the question I would ask you that I think puts all of your kind of values to the test. How would you compare twenty twenty Alabama to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes or so? For people who don’t know, let me just go through 2001 Miami. They scored forty two point six per game, but they gave up less than 10 per game. They had the best scoring defense in the country that year. But the big reason, I think beyond the fact that they just blew everybody out, the big reason to elevate Miami, they had thirty eight guys on that team who are NFL draft picks. I believe 17 of them were first round pick.
S1: Oh, my God, I’m looking now.
S8: Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Bryant McKinney, Jerome McDougle, Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Vilma, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor. Internal role in it’s just like an NFL all pro team. And so, I mean, I think it is a question just between 2001 Miami and twenty twenty one Alabama bedroll, there’s also, I think just always the risk of recency bias if we’re talking about LSU or Alabama and like forgetting some of the great teams of the past, did you say?
S6: Yeah, I’m sure I did say Frank would finish third string. He’s the third I think he’s the third string running in that year. Yeah, right. He was he may not even be in third string. Did they have nice Davenport on that team. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. I mean that was another NFL running back right there. So, you know, obviously we’re all splitting hairs here. Right. And you know, all of these teams probably could beat each other given a game like I think that Miami team that you’re talking to, they had a really tight game at Boston College that year. Right. And so I just I don’t want to pechman I’m sorry. They’re both great. They’re both champions.
S3: The man is badgering me to to to pick.
S6: Were you at this? You were just so reluctant to give them any props and and was here. He’s a he’s a neutral arbitrator. And I would say that you were not giving them their just do props. But I’m glad to see that you’ve relented on the strengths that we could be finally. Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
S3: So if this college football season had not happened, Stefan, just think of all the relationships that we wouldn’t have been able to form all of the, like, fun conversations. You know, this was really an opportunity for growth and unity for us to learn our values, for us to watch Devonta Smith just tear the ads up. You know, what might we have lost if we hadn’t have pushed through? Stefan, just think about that.
S1: Yeah, probably not much. We probably be fine. We can. Gained some some insights in the NFL.
S9: Well, now I’m going to miss Najee Harris. I’ve really invested myself personally into his and his life and his career, and I’m sad that it’s ending in college because now he’s going to be playing for, you know, zero sum game, the since of being able to come back next year if there was no season this year.
S1: Probably not.
S3: But he still could come back for Carletti. Yeah. Yeah.
S9: Go get that money now.
S3: You know, I think he needs to stay at Alabama, get developed a little more. They really have the players. All right. So we move on.
S4: So don’t be mad. Don’t be mad that he’s better than Clyde Edwards. OK, I promise I won’t be.
S1: As a mom of protesters hepped up on Donald Trump’s words laid siege to the Capitol last Wednesday, the sports world reacted like the rest of us in real time. NBA players and coaches, among them, LeBron James and Gregg Popovich, made powerful statements on and off the court about the horror and depravity we witnessed and what it says about this country and the last four years. But the games went on that very night. NFL players also reacted with outrage and shock on their social needs, most rightly imagined what would have happened if the rioters had been black. But the NFL team owners who have supported Trump with their mouths and their wallets silence the leagues themselves, especially the NBA, which behave with honor during the racial justice movement last summer. Crickets. Joel, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Did the heads of the most powerful sports leagues decide that ransacking the seat of American government was after all that they and we have been through finally the one topic beyond their purview? And even if it is should after all that day and we have been through, should they have said something anyway?
S7: That’s a good question. I think that the responses broke down along fairly predictable lines. Going back to what you said, Stefan, about how the owners have supported Trump with both their mouths and wallets. And so, of course, they would support him with their silence or to let the events of last week sort of pass by without remarking upon them and the players, a largely black workforce and both the NBA and the NFL and the NBA and all the other sports. I mean, you could sort of guess as to where the majority of those workforce’s the political sympathies might lie, their social sympathies might lie. And so they generally spoke out and expressed some sort of outrage at what happened on Wednesday. So I think what’s happened thus far has been fairly predictable now as to whether or not the leagues should say something. I mean, you would like if they did, you would like if the NFL released a statement and said, you know, we denounce the actions of last Wednesday and that, you know, this is terrible and that the country needs to come together and, you know, other such pablum. Right. But, you know, they I guess they felt like they really had nothing else to add. And I actually can’t I can’t say that I blame them. I mean, what else is there really to say on their behalf? But you know what I mean? Like, I don’t you know, them saying something really doesn’t amount to much to me. I don’t see you know, there’s enough there’s enough people expressing their outrage and enough people that are aligned with the president that are either being quiet, you know, being complicit through their silence or supporting him with their own words, that it’s just I don’t know that a release from the NFL would break through that noise, you know what I mean? So everything that sort of happened after the riots on Wednesday was fairly predictable to me. And I think that’s OK. I don’t need Roger Goodell to say anything.
S10: I guess it wouldn’t have been surprising to me if they had said something just because whether in sports or elsewhere, there’s a lot of calculation going on right now that Trump is on the way out and the Democrats are coming into power. And so we’re just going to, like, suck up to the next regime, just like how, you know, Facebook and Twitter kicking Trump off of their platforms now that he’s not going be able to regulate them anymore.
S3: And so, you know, you see, the PGA is saying that the twenty twenty two PGA Championship won’t be played at Trump course. And the RNC in the UK is saying that we’re not going to stage any of our championships at Turnberry. And the statements there are like you would think that they would be smart enough to phrase these things differently. But it’s like it’s become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand. I mean, that is extremely honest. It’s not like we think that Trump inciting an insurrection is bad and saying this would make us look bad and is bad for our brand. I mean, that is.
S6: But is it that like the smart play? Because wouldn’t you guess that the majority of golf fans, golf players, people involved in the sport of golf? Probably I mean, I hate to stereotype, but wouldn’t you imagine that their sympathies lie with Trump and they wouldn’t want to openly denouncing they might just say, well, what you did was stupid, but we still support you in everything you believe.
S1: Well, to golfers did go to the White House on Wednesday, later in the afternoon, not American golfers, but golfers, Annika Saun Stammen, Gary Player, to be honored by Trump and given them whatever he gave out. Was it the Presidential Medal of Freedom? I have a feeling that that was less about trying to be apolitical than it was trying to not get or trying to protect their assets legally. You know, a very careful statement that is about branding is something that is probably more defensible in the inevitable, you know, in the inevitability that that Trump’s lawyers decide to try to sue the PGA. I mean, Trump’s a Trump lawyer or. Lawyer for the Trump Organization put out a statement saying that they had already spent, you know, tens of millions of dollars preparing for the four for this event. So I think the PGA might have just been trying to cover its ass.
S3: Yeah, I agree with you, Joel, that everybody is sort of playing their particular roles here. And yet this is a moment that’s unprecedented in recent history. It’s a moment where there are people that are doing and saying things that are unexpected. You have Republican senators saying the Trump needs to go now. So it’s not like everyone in every facet of life is lining up in the exact way that you would predict. And so I just found it so sad that you heard NBA players like Draymond Green, Jaylen Brown, you know, LeBron saying the same things that they’ve been saying all year long. And we’re saying in the bubble. And, you know, I’m not criticizing their decision to play these games, but I think there is some kind of conclusion that’s been drawn here. Joel. It feels to me like no matter what we do, does it really matter if we play the games? Does it matter if we don’t play the games like stuff is just going to keep rolling on whether it’s in society or in this sport. I wonder if there’s just the kind of fatigue on their part and just being like, all right, I guess we’re just going to keep playing.
S6: Yeah, I mean, I think that probably as a piece of it that they’re like, well, we know what at this point, what would be the end to, you know, boycotting or sitting out a game? Like what would they be hoping to accomplish? Like what is that, you know, unofficially asking for Trump to step down, for their owners to come out and explicitly disavow themselves of Trump is I just say that I’m like, wow, that’s a pretty that would be pretty moving. That would actually be very fairly useful. Right.
S3: And we should also note that in Milwaukee, the Bucs and Pistons took a knee and they explained that that was because of the decision not to prosecute the police officer who shot Jacob Black, Jacob Blake being the man in Wisconsin who was shot while the players were in the bubble and that led the players to go on strike. And so all of this is sort of coming back around. And this time they took a knee, but they decided to keep playing. They didn’t decide to stop and stop the NBA schedule.
S6: Well, let me ask you all both this, like if they had set out if like would do you think we’ve talked about this a lot in the previous year about what do these strikes protest, whatever? What are they hoping to accomplish? So if the NBA players had said, right, we’re not playing today, like, what do you think that would mean? Or what do you think ultimately would be the endgame there?
S1: I don’t think we should put this on the players in this case. I mean, I think that the players were making a statement in the bubble that was powerful and directly related to what they were going through in the conversations they were having. This was a national convulsion. This was more like should the NFL have played the Sunday after JFK was assassinated? And that’s where I feel like the leagues needed to be more direct. And I think I do think that if Adam Silver had come out and said that we don’t know the damage that’s been done or the casualties that have been suffered right now in Washington at 5:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday, we’re going to protectively cancel our games out of respect and to show our our horror at what’s occurred. I think that would have been the right thing to do.
S9: I’m kind of spit balling here, but maybe this is not the right thing to say. I’m just this is less a sports comment than a commentary on current events comment. I’m just kind of shocked that everybody is that everybody thinks that this is such a I know that it is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Right. Or in modern American history. But in terms of like tragic, terrible things that have happened in America over even over the last year, like, I’m just kind of surprised that this is the thing that everybody has rallied around to say this is unforgivable. You know, this is unforgivable. We should we’ve had, you know, multiple mass shootings. We had a mass shooting in El Paso. You know, three hundred and fifty thousand people have died of covid. And we’re setting records every day. You know, there was Charlottesville. There’s been all these other, like, inflection points over the last four to five years that you could, you know, indirectly trace to Trump’s language and his incitement. And I’m just kind of surprised that this is the thing. Like I get maybe maybe you know what it is. The capital doesn’t mean so much to me, like as a symbol. I don’t think about it a lot. It doesn’t matter to me in that way. Like, I understand that, you know, we’re supposed to project democracy and it’s supposed to this supposed to mean something not just here, but abroad. But I guess the idea that, like everything is supposed to stop, that you, Roger Goodell, should say something, that game should come to an end, that this is on par with, you know, an assassination of JFK. It’s just kind of surprising to me and like that could just be something that could be my personal response and like maybe just doesn’t resonate with me like it does everybody else. But I think that I’ve just been kind of stunned that everybody thinks that this has been such such a turning point. Right. And obviously, you know, for the people that were in the capital that day, I totally understand why. Like, they’re like, hey, we got to get this guy out of here. We need to consider impeachment or whatever else. This is a turning point. But abroad in America, where everything is miserable right now and has been miserable for a long time. I’m just kind of surprised that this is where everybody, you know, says the buck should stop.
S3: Well, obviously, you know, Trump should have been removed and impeached and refuted and renounced by everyone a long time ago. But it does seem different that, you know, a horde of people were going to the Capitol to try to get the election overturned. And when you say that, it makes you sound ridiculous. But go ahead. There are some there are some pipe bombs there. There may be going to try to kidnap and murder our elected officials, including the vice president, you know, staging a coup, that sort of thing. I mean, look, the fact that a bunch of the worst stuff didn’t happen means that it’s possible to frame what did happen and a bunch of different ways. But, you know, also, you know, Stefan and I are in D.C. I’m pretty terrified about what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks. Like this isn’t over yet. And it feels like just to focus on the NFL for a second and we’re going to talk about the NFL in our next segment. So maybe they succeeded, but they didn’t want to take away from their super wildcard weekend. Like, I think they didn’t want to say or do anything that would take away focus from this showcase event. They’ve been like doing some pretty amoral shit to try to get to this point. And so why would they be moral now, like they made it through the whole regular season without postponing any games. So, you know, they want their you know, they want their dessert like they earned it.
S1: Maybe they’ve got like a protocol handbook for like the violent overthrow of the government, you know, stormed the capital games, go on, damage the entire side of the building. Game’s going to assassinate the vice president.
S6: Then maybe we’ll blow safe like Mike Pence got beheaded. Then I was like, oh, OK.
S3: I totally understand why you would cancel everything, but yeah, you know, but like, think about the difference between how Facebook has reacted and how the NFL has reacted. Like there’s no company. I mean, I’m sure you could put some on par with it, but that’s been as kind of like calculating in terms of sucking up to leadership and power and doing whatever needs to be done to avoid getting regulated. And now they’re like, all right, Trump is banned. Like we’re totally banning Trump from our platform. And so, you know, whether it’s goods or owners, you know, donating money to Trump, partly because they, you know, like what he stands for, but partly because, you know, he’s the guy running things and they want to have a seat at the table. And being afraid of what? Backlash because of Trump saying players who, Neil, are sons of bitches. But now that Trump’s on the way out, they could you could totally see them casting him aside. But the fact that they haven’t done that, maybe that means that they’re like love for the guy is totally sincere and wasn’t as calculating as maybe I thought it was. Or maybe it’s just because of, like, you know, the inauguration. It’s just falling, you know, coincidentally in line with the NFL playoffs. And we’re just going to focus on that and kind of ignore this politics thing because like in terms of the calendar, it’s just it’s not the best time for us right now.
S6: Well, what does it actually offer in terms of public discourse either, too? I just don’t you know, again, maybe I’m being a little too cynical and I would do anything.
S3: I just I find it interesting just as a kind of cultural or social phenomenon, what their behavior is doing. I don’t think it would make any difference if they did something differently.
S6: I just I’m kind of trying to understand their behavior, and that’s totally understandable. And I, I get like I said, when when you say a horde of people showed up to overthrow our government. Yes. It does mean that that is absolutely unprecedented in modern American history.
S1: And I think that, like being here in Washington does make a difference. I think if the Wizards had a home game on Wednesday night, it would have been canceled, you know, a mile from the Capitol where they play. UMass was supposed to play GW on Wednesday. And there was a story in The Washington Post describing what happened to the UMass team. They were staying in a hotel where some Trump supporters were staying when their bus pulled up to the hotel and the players got out. They were Harat. They were screamed at and then when they decided that we need to get the fuck out of Washington, the players on the team had to leave through a back staircase into an alley to get on the bus, which took them to a chartered flight to go back to Massachusetts.
S6: Yeah, I mean, it was the locus of this you machination, right? D.C. was and I’m sure it was terrifying. And I feel I feel bad for everybody that was there and had to be involved with that. But I guess the thing that that this sort of strikes me is that we have been in danger. People have been in danger for a long time in the rest of the country. I mean, they keep the same sort of people storm the Michigan state capitol just this summer, you know, and there was a plot to overthrow the state government and round up Governor Gretchen Whitmer. I mean, that was terrifying to that. You know, the people that were there, that should have been just as terrifying and just as much of a signal that President Trump’s rhetoric had gotten out of control and was inciting violence and and putting people’s lives in danger. And it’s just like why nobody took it seriously until, you know, last week, I guess. I guess that’s the thing, is that, you know, there were plenty of points along the way in which these big sweeping statements and gestures would have been useful, and now it just seems a little empty. But again, I acknowledge that last week was bizarre. It was crazy. It is worth saying that is bad. We should move on from that guy one way or another.
S10: On this week’s bonus segment for Slate plus members, we’re going to talk about the Houston Texans aggressive alienation of their star quarterback, Sean Watson, and what it says about who gets the benefit of the doubt in the NFL.
S3: All right, there were NFL playoff games over the weekend and there were more of them than usual. More NFL playoff teams means more NFL playoff games. There were six games and the first round of what the league called super wildcard weekend with no anti Trump protests to distract us from the football. The winners of Super Wildcard Weekend, the Rams, Bucs and Saints in the NFC. The latter two victories setting up a match up between the 57 year old Drew Brees and the one hundred and eight year old Brady in the divisional round in the AFC, Lamar Jackson won his first playoff game, leading the Ravens to win over the Titans and the long suffering fan bases of Buffalo and Cleveland saw their teams win over the Colts and the Steelers, respectively. Let’s start with Cleveland, Stefan. The Browns jumped off to a seven to zero lead after a snap win over Ben Roethlisberger has had on the first play of the game. They also jumped out to a fourteen to nothing lead, a twenty one to nothing, lead a twenty eight to nothing lead and a thirty five to seven lead before almost jacking the whole thing away. They hung on to an forty eight to thirty seven. The Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was away from the team after testing positive for covid. He actually watched the game in his basement with his phone turned off. The team facility has been closed for most of the last two weeks due to a covered outbreak. Maybe connecting up to our previous segment, the NFL. The games must go on.
S1: And when they do go on the Browns, when apparently speaking of covid, there were fifteen thousand fans in Nashville for their game. But back to the Browns. I take away two things from the Browns week. No coach. Dudes like that were signed during the week, ending up having to play, could not. Baker Mayfield talked about meeting one of the offensive linemen in the in the locker room, a guy named Blake, who I literally introduced myself to in the locker room before the game wound up playing offensive line after somebody got hurt to conclusions, practice overrated coaches overrated. And I think there’s some truth in that at this point in the year in the NFL, players are worn down and this year they must be psychologically worn down even more than than normal because of what a lot of the teams have had to go through because of trying to play through this the way the NFL has played through this flip side, former NFL lineman Jeff Schwartz pointed out on Twitter that the Browns and the Steelers had played each other the previous weekend, so probably less preparation was needed. But the Browns were the team that was decimated by covid, decimated by injury without their head coach. And they blew the Steelers out of the stadium in the first half.
S6: Yeah, I mean, I think you’re right. And, I mean, we could you know, you could ask Buddy Nate Jackson stuff it about like how bodies feel at the end of the season and whether or not like that actually might be some truth to the idea that practicing at this point in the season is overrated. You know, prioritizing rest and mental reps is probably much more important than, you know, getting out there and, you know, putting on some shells and, you know, buckling up a little bit, although I doubt they do that in the NFL that much anyway. Yeah, but yeah. I mean, I think the thing about this is that which is sort of my skepticism about expanding the playoffs in the first place, is that you spend 16 weeks like building a resume, like you’re a good team. And then and, you know, you get home field advantage, all this stuff. And then in a playoff game, it can all get blown up, like just randomly. Right. And so I think the NFL’s playoff system on the whole is really bad at determining who is the best team or rewarding the team. That was the best over the course of a regular season because as we saw like the first the first play of the game. Right. I mean, you know, all of a sudden the Steelers are in a hole and they have to kind of come back from that. And I just you know, I don’t think playoff system’s fault that the dude snapped it over. But like, do you think that the Browns are better than the Steelers, like the Browns season one in five job losses, a fell apart.
S1: And I will say that they’re better better teams won in super duper wildcard weekend. I didn’t feel like there were any upsets here.
S6: Do you think the Titans are better than the Ravens or do you think the Ravens are better than the Titans?
S1: I think that was probably the pushiness game of the lot.
S6: I mean, I guess my thing is, is that on the whole, I tend to think the NFL playoffs don’t do a great job of rewarding teams that built up a resume over the course of a year. And I mean, you know, that’s that’s what happens when you have playoffs like that is the system that we’re used to or whatever else. And so you have a one game playoff and anything could happen. I bet if the Steelers and the Browns played the next week, the Steelers would have would probably be favored. Right.
S3: And so the Steelers did blow out the Browns in the beginning of the year in the first game that they played. But like. Stephan said the Steelers have been crap for the last quarter, third of the season, and, you know, the big issue with the playoffs this year is that there’s no home field advantage or the home field advantage is going to be diminished.
S10: I mean, Sean Payton talked about quarantining 50000 fans so that they could bring them into the Superdome. Just the Saints always, always looking for an edge. You know, you got to get to respect that.
S6: Always looking for an immoral, immoral edge movie. Thinking outside the dome. Yes, looking outside the dome.
S10: Yeah. But, you know, there’s always this this balance that needs to be struck in terms of this could be like, you know, soccer where we just give the title to the team that has the best regular season. It could be like hockey where it’s just totally random. Who wins the NFL is somewhere in between in any system where it’s just a one game winner go home scenario. But there’s no option in the NFL to play like multi game series.
S6: Like, we’re not going to do that to these players, but I guess not complaint, but just the critique is that expanding the playoffs just adds to the randomness of the outcomes the following week, because the distance between the seventh best team and the first best team in the NFL is not that big. Whereas in the NBA, you know, first there’s presumably a fairly big gap. And so I think it just introduces more randomness into it. And maybe that didn’t happen. But I think that the Brown Steelers game counts is that that’s an example of the sort of randomness bunch of random stuff did happen yet that we can’t let Mike Tomlin off the well, wasn’t random, wasn’t random.
S1: Is that like Baker, Mayfield dropped back like thirty five times and they never touched him. And it also wasn’t. Mike Tomlin punted from the Cleveland thirty eight down twenty eight to nothing and then punted again from his own forty nine down twelve in the fourth.
S6: Yeah I mean that, that indicates to me that I mean you could just kind of fill the air, you know, released out of, out of the Steelers. Like I was like OK, it’s over now. Like it was this in Mike Vrabel did the same thing earlier that afternoon, you know, and I just these coaches punts. Yeah. These guys talk so much about toughness and like, you know, building mental toughness and, you know, imposing your will on teams. And then when push comes to shove, they punt.
S10: You know, there is a tweet by football perspective that made me laugh last night, going to bed in disbelief that Tomlin punted, just imagining just like somebody lying in bed. Like, I cannot believe that I didn’t go to sleep because that was so, so unbelievable. Stefan, you wanted to talk about the Nickelodeon broadcast.
S1: I was wondering whether whether you watched it was the Saints Bears game. Josh, where did. No, I mean, to watch the Nickelodeon, the that game.
S3: What I work I take the Saints too seriously to watch it on Nickelodeon. I needed to be fully ensconced in the Nance and Romo like this is a matter of life or death sort of experience. I can’t I can’t have CGI slime in my hands maybe for a game I don’t care about.
S1: Where were you glad that that Sean Payton agreed to be slimed after the game? Sure, yeah.
S6: My dad made did it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I’m still a big part of the Nickelodeon TV lineup. I mean, I know that was when I was growing up, but it is that still a thing that the Nickelodeon. Apparently it is.
S3: If I say I don’t know, I think I get slimed right now. But I honestly I honestly don’t know.
S1: But it was a nice enough. And the thing that after touchdowns, they had slime pour into the end zone, OK, on the broadcast, I don’t know if that’s if that’s sanitary.
S3: The whole thing reminded me of like sort of the CIA for Kids website Stefán. Yeah. It’s just like we got it. We got to teach, teach the kids about how football is really safe and cool and fun.
S1: Well, George, George Dorman had done a story a few couple few years ago about the NFL’s attempt to sanitize football for kids similar to sort of the tobacco industry, you know, and it’s Joe Camel tactics. And that certainly is a little bit of what’s going on here. Right. And the you know, the the lie gets exposed during these sorts of efforts. And it did on Sunday. At one point an F bomb was dropped that was picked up on the on the broadcast. But my meister’s. Yeah, but more more interesting was when Nate Burleson, who was doing the game along with Iron Eagle Son and a fifteen year old Nickelodeon star, they were the the broadcast team had this to say after a player got injured and some hail getting up a little slowly like scrape.
S11: You need recess, you get banged up, you get back up, you go out there and play another down.
S6: So I’m glad you guys brought this up because that was sort of the subtext to it all. I heard some. Many people praising the Nickelodeon presentation, and I was like, we’re all cool with, like selling the game of football to kids now, like, I just you know, I know that the NFL has to build another generation of fans and all that sort of stuff, but I was just like, oh, OK. I didn’t understand it, you know, like, you know, demystifying and cleansing. You know, the game was of utmost importance and that people would be OK with that. And people people that you don’t normally like. Football’s a dangerous game like we understand it. You know, its future is in peril because of how dangerous it is. And I just saw a lot of people that would normally think in those terms are like, oh, man, that was so cool. You know, they had the line, you know, the graphics and it was, you know, the neon, you know, yardstick line out there on the field and all that stuff. I was like, you know, they were really taken with that. And I was like, wow, I’m just kind of surprised that we’re OK with selling the game to kids like that. I mean, I also I just I’m kind of like you on this, just that I don’t it’s not that I take the game so seriously. It’s just that I can barely tell you who’s talking when the game is playing. You don’t feel like I’m not one of those people who gets annoyed by, like Reggie Miller or Joe Buck or Chris Webber or anyone else like it. Just none of that stuff ever affects me because I’m just watching the game. It you really have to be doing something annoying, absurd for it to catch my attention and picturing you watching game like locked in.
S3: Yeah, right. I stay laser focused.
S6: Yeah. Right. All twenty two. Yeah. And you know I got my Twitter up right next to me and I got to TV right over here and yeah. I don’t have time to worry about, I mean, I mean who really leaves this stamp on a game other than I mean you know in my lifetime it’s like Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, you know Brent Musburger. But other than that, like, I just it’s not like people’s voices add or take much away from the experience to me, but maybe I’m, again, unique in that way.
S3: Yeah. Announcers don’t bother me as much as they they bother other people. Like, I’ve never gotten like my my most controversial opinion, I think in all sports is that I think Reggie Miller is fine, like. Yes. And bother me. Yeah. Doesn’t bother me. Anyway, I, I feel like in defense of Nate Burleson a little bit, I don’t think he was probably consciously being like I need to obscure the like damage that football does to body so that children are tricked into becoming, you know, enthral of this game.
S6: I look at you falling victim to big football. OK, go ahead.
S3: Look at look at me. I’m just I just I just think Nate Burleson seems like a nice guy, that’s all, like, not to make light of it, but we’re talking about, like, sort of contingencies and like action plans and stuff like I wonder if there was a meeting between, like the NFL and Nickelodeon of like, all right, what are we going to do if, like, there’s a major, major injury or if, like, something really horrible happens, like a Joe Theismann sort of thing or like, you know, are they just going to cover the whole field with slime so we don’t have to look at it? I mean, I bet there was a conversation about that and nothing happened in this game other than, you know, Taysom Hill having to leave for for a little bit. But that would have been a fascinating room to be.
S1: It would have been. But which is why when you said, oh, my God, an F bomb, I’m surprised they didn’t have like a seven second delay on the broadcast, not just for f bomb reasons, but in case somebody had been killed on the field.
S6: Right. I mean, the important thing really is to protect children from watching bears football because I mean, I’ve seen that Chicago Bears playoff football game basically my entire life, with the exception of nineteen eighty five, they’ve played that exact same terrible ball control, barely crossing midfield playoff game my entire life.
S3: And it was you see that Mitch Robiskie won the Nickelodeon MVP at the game award. What for doing what I think children have discovered trolling. Congratulations to the the kids of America.
S6: First, it’s not his fault that Wims dropped that ball, by the way, and then it was not his fault that the wimps dropped the ball in the end zone.
S12: I think we can all agree that that was that a Nickelodeon MVP award winning throw, if not an award winning catch.
S3: Now it is time for after balls, and we talked about the 2001 Miami football team in our first segment, and there are only two starters on that team that do not have a Wikipedia page so we can talk about first round picks and all that stuff. But the real metric of value is do you have a Wikipedia page? So the two starters on that team that do not have a Wikipedia page are number one punter, Freddy Capture. Oh, Freddy Capshaw actually scored a touchdown in 2001. He ran the ball in on a bad field goal snap against Florida State. According to his bio on the Miami website, he was one of the finest punters in Miami history. Two time all Big East selection. Twenty and one. You can get an autographed trading card on eBay for nine ninety nine. You can also buy his becoming a champion punter DVD for just thirty nine dollars and ninety nine cents. The other starter on the 2001 Miami football team. He does not have a Wikipedia page. Outside linebacker Chris Kimball. And this is a really sad story actually. He was killed in a car accident in February of 2002, just a month after the season. He was just twenty one years old. According to the AP. He apparently lost control of his car and hit a tree at about 4:00 in the morning on a Saturday night. Oh, he was from Mount Pleasant, Texas drawl. Yeah, he started at Miami for three years. He was actually projected to be a draft pick in that AP story. His father said he always said that he wanted to take care of me. He always said he was doing it just for me to make sure I was secure. He was inducted into the Mount Pleasant Tiger Hall of Fame in twenty eighteen. And listen to this. He lettered in football, basketball, track and field powerlifting and tennis.
S1: Yeah, that sounds about right. You can let her in powerlifting in Texas, Joe.
S9: Yeah, that came along after I graduated powerlifting and wrestling with two sports that gained in popularity late 90s, early 2000s.
S3: So his high school coach in that Hall of Fame announcement said that during the spring of his junior year, Chris made up his mind. He wanted to play college football. And from that point on, he became the hardest worker on the team. He knew where his talents could take him. And so hang up and listen, listeners, you have to do if you’ve ever edited a Wikipedia page or if you haven’t, I think it is time that the 2001 one Miami football team needs to have full Wikipedia representation. Freddy Capshaw and Chris Campbell. I want to see Wikipedia pages for both of them this week, particularly Chris Campbell, Mount Pleasant.
S6: Great. Also, I played with the guy from Mt. Pleasant who was also on the Mount Pleasant High School Hall of Fame, Bazil Mitchell. So there you go. You would like to see a Wikipedia page for Chris Campbell. Absolutely. I’d read it all.
S12: All right, Stefan, what is your Chris Campbell?
S1: Well, I spent part of Sunday watching one of the best things in sports, a goofy matchup in England’s FA Cup between Tottenham Hotspur, currently in fourth place in the Premier League and Marine AFC, which is currently in sixth in something called the Northern Premier League, Division one north west. How far apart are Spurs and Marine Marine plays in the eighth tier of English soccer? If you stacked up the English leagues from the premiership down, Spurs and Marine are separated by one hundred and sixty one places. If baseball did a similar tournament, this would be like the Yankees playing the Sioux Falls. Canaries of the Independent American Association Marine plays in what’s known as non league football, which is basically semipro. The players make one hundred to three hundred pounds a week. Tottenham’s star striker Harry Kane, by contrast, makes two hundred and fifty thousand pounds a week. Marine’s roster includes a gym teacher, a garbage man and a guy who does contact tracing for the National Health Service. The manager is named Neil Young, who works for the railway, and the starting left back is named James Joyce, who works in a car factory. Another starter centre back, David Raven did play three games for Liverpool when he was a teenager in 2004. So how did this match up happened? Well, here’s how the FA Cup works. Clubs in the fourth through the tenth leagues and English soccer play six rounds of qualifiers. The seventh round brings in the third and fourth divisions. Then the teams from the top two tiers, the premiership and the championship join in. So this was Tottenham’s first game in the tournament and Marines eighth game. Marine isn’t a particularly good English team name because of the hundred and twenty seven year old club is named not for a town, but for a pub where it was founded. But it did beat some classic English names to reach Spurs Marine beat Bartel’s Zwick Town, Strictly Athletic, Runcorn limits Nantwich Town and haven’t and Waterloo Vale Marine against the Spurs was the biggest third round disparity in F.A. Cup history.
S13: The match was played at Maureen’s home ground in a suburb of Liverpool. The stadium normally seats just over three thousand people. All just three hundred and eighty nine of the seats have backs, but because of the coronavirus, no fans were allowed in to help the club make some money off of its accomplishment. Fans around the world bought more than 20000 virtual tickets. The benches were on a side of the field that has no stands. Tottenham’s legendary coach, Jose Mourinho, sat in a plastic chair against a fence butting up to the backyards of two family homes. House numbers are posted on the fence to help retrieve balls during the game that go into the gardens. Maureen’s visiting dressing room is so small that Spurs had to meet in a banquet room that the volunteer run club rents out for weddings. Marine cleaned the carpet and a prepared five star lunchboxes for the visitors. There was no Hoosiers ending to this game. On a cold and blustery evening, Spurs won five nothing. Marine held the big boys at bay for twenty four minutes and almost took the lead when a dipping shot from a young winger, an apprentice plumber, hit the crossbar. Marines 20 year old goalkeeper was valiant, and I can only imagine how much fun that he and his teammates must have had saving shots, making tackles on their Ruddi home pitch against one of the biggest clubs in the world. I mean, Gareth freaking Bale came on as a second half subbed in this game. The whole thing was charming. And a nationally televised bomb for a covid racked Britain. After months of staring at the dystopian hell scape of empty plastic mega stadiums, Barney Roney wrote in a lovely piece in The Guardian. This game was a lighted window in the dark and a gift in the middle of a horrible winter. This is where I would normally play the club’s anthem or chants or something, but I couldn’t find any online. I did, however, discover that in 2010, a couple of Marine chants made the BBC’s list of top football chants of the year. One was a tribute to the team captain, another Marine player who shared a name with a famous person. And it goes like this to the tune of Winter Wonderland.
S1: There’s only one Michael Jackson, one Michael Jackson. There used to be two. But now there’s just you walking into Jackson Neverland. So that was one of them. The other was a tribute to the former sponsor of the league Yoona Bond, which makes adhesives. And this is to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching in the unit bond. It has no nails. They use a bond, it has no nails. And it’s an time mold bath and is very good. It never fails.
S3: Marine AFC, good job, everybody, how did that feel to the New Orleanian in you just just made me feel the pull, the pull of home. It’s never been stronger. Here’s some mild pushback on your on your story stuff out there, like a hundred something places apart. Isn’t that just like a typical nonconference college basketball game? They’re like three hundred something. It’s just like, you know, now Duke versus like Alcorn State versus.
S7: Yeah. Versus Kentucky or something. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
S1: Maybe. But charming nonetheless, and they’re all professionals.
S3: Yeah, they’re plumbers, they’re plumbers involved.
S1: Now, the difference is that everybody in college basketball is getting paid the same amount.
S6: Hey, hey, hey. I wouldn’t I would I would be so sure about that part of the program, OK?
S2: Not not true. Not true. That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan, chosen Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out to Slate dotcom slash hang up. You can email us at thing up at Slate dot com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and reviews on Apple podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine, remembers MBT and thanks for listening.
S3: All right, now it’s time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, and there are a couple of NFL things that we didn’t get to in our earlier segment. I wanted to mention that Mike prefer the acting head coach for the Browns was the guy who infamously was called out by Chris Kluwe, the punter for the Vikings, when they’re both with the Vikings, for saying reportedly that all gay people should be rounded up and put on an island, they would be nuked until it glows. He was suspended for a handful of games because of that. But, you know, he appears to have found gainful employment and was, you know, the guy who was chosen by the Browns to lead them when Kevin Stefanski in covid lock down and Priefer was highlighted during the broadcast, not because of the news until it glows comment, but because in this I didn’t know before the game his dad was a special teams coach. So sort of shockingly, a guy who says something reprehensible is able to maintain a job in the league ends up to have nepotism on his side. And that connects for me with another big story for the past week, which is Deshaun Watson and the Texans and how that general manager search went down and who is considered for that job and who wasn’t considered. Stefan, can you fill us in on how all that played out?
S1: So the Texans hired a search firm, which is for professional sports teams do. And they came up with a list of candidates. That list of candidates included several minority candidates, which is part of the NFL’s mandate, and that the owner of the Texans, Cal McNair, the son of the late Robert McNair, who owned the team when it was formed in Houston, decided to hire somebody who wasn’t on the list. Nick Kazarian, the director of player personnel from the New England Patriots, who you might guess is white. Everyone had expected the VP of Football and Business Administration, Omar Kahn, from the Pittsburgh Steelers to get hired. There were other people on the list.
S3: Lewis Reddick of ESPN, who’s black, was also on the list.
S1: And none of this has sat well with with Deshaun Watson, the quarterback. Watson had lobbied the team to interview Eric B., enemy of Kansas City for the vacant head coaching job. And the Texans for some reason chose not to do that either. So this feels like based on their hires, you know, another organization that thinks that New England is the way to go and sort of ignoring the league’s efforts to increase the number of minority front office and head coaches. Not that important.
S6: In addition to that, I mean, would have the Patriots done personnel wise that would make you think that this is a good decision? I mean, we’re in the middle of a season in which Tom Brady leaves 43 year old Tom Brady leaves and it all falls apart. And you can see all the weaknesses within the Patriots roster, like Cam Newton was clearly not himself this year. But it’s not like there was a lot of talent surrounding him this season. And so what about with the Patriots have done in the final years of Tom Brady and in the Post Tom Brady? Er, that would make you think that that’s a good decision. It’s just like such lazy, reductive football thinking and the Texans front office, but it’s sort of typical and symbolic of all the ways in which they have basically, you know, systematically torn down that team and ruined it like they’ve they’ve they’ve stripped it for parts, basically. And you’re left with Deshaun Watson and Deshaun Watson was looking around like, why would I trust these guys? Why would I trust the prime of my career with these people? Would evidence I have that they know what they’re doing?
S3: Well, to sort of misunderstanding of what makes the team good and valuable. Right. And like Deshaun Watson is the thing that that franchise has going for it. And so you would think that just from a personnel management standpoint, that ownership would want him to be happy and they not only would want him to be happy, but a smart organization would say. What do you want to do, like what coach do you want, what kind of offense do you want to run? Like, it’s not just about making him happy so he doesn’t, like, throw a fit. It’s about like putting him in position to succeed because he’s a generational talent. And if the only way to be successful long term in the NFL is to have a quarterback who’s with your team for a really long time, I mean, that’s that’s the formula for success. It’s not getting a guy from the Patriots. It’s like having a really good quarterback. And, you know, reports are that they had actually even offered the job to that Omar Khan guy and that and then, you know, McNair just decides at the last minute, oh, actually, I want to bring in this Patriots dude who nobody has talked to.
S1: McAuliff of defector had a good analysis of what happened to. And the other really sort of creepy Patriots connection here is that a guy named Jack Eastbay, who was the Patriots chaplain and he’s a real he’s a top thumper of of a pastor, is now the executive vice president of football operations with the Texans. And it sounds like he’s the guy that pressured McNair into hiring Nick Cesario from New England. And is this guy qualified to have a football front office job? I don’t know. It seems like he’s a pastor on Sunday and was the Patriots chaplain. Yeah. Which is really just kind of weird and makes you wonder how McNair wants to run this organization. And very often, as we know, ownership in front offices are blinded by their own wealth and power and don’t understand the end product that they are supposed to be trying to create. They make it about them and not about the players. And that might be what’s happening.
S14: Remember a few years ago that it was called McNair’s father, Robert McNair, as you mentioned, stuff in earlier that insulted so many NFL players by saying, you know, we don’t want the inmates running the asylum. And I can’t you know, that’s that’s a real threat of leadership and ownership that I imagine like if you’re going to work in that sort of organization, if that’s going to be your dad, it’s probably really hard to think of the players and your relationship to them in any other way like that seems to have been the guiding philosophy in Houston for the last few years. You know, with Bill O’Brien shipping guys away, you know, Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins. And, you know, it’s sort of reflected in ignoring your franchise QB. And so, yeah, I mean, I just man, you know, the Texans are clown. So, dude, I mean, I’m from Houston. We talk about this all the time, but I’ve never been a fan of that franchise like some of that is because, you know, how can you ever recapture the devotion of your youth to a football team? Right. But it’s just the Texans have been a poorly run franchise and have had some success in spite of that for a long time. And they got really lucky by getting Deshaun Watson. But you just wonder if they’re going to waste him as well, right? That you know, that they’re down they’re just down to him and now he don’t even want to be there. And I just I don’t know, man.
S3: He had a great season this year and he’s had one of the better starts to a career statistically of any quarterback ever. And the team was terrible and due to no fault of his own, obviously. But like we should mention, Bill O’Brien was a Patriots guy to like think about Matt, Patricia Patriots guy who flamed out in in Detroit.
S10: There’s just this obsession with the Patriots that is in some sense totally understandable. I mean, their success has been remarkable for for the NFL, the number of championships they’ve been able to win over the years. And I don’t think it was all just because of Tom Brady. And I think they lost early in the playoffs and look really bad and doing it to the Titans because of all the problems that we’re seeing this year with the lack of depth and personnel on the roster like this was kind of inevitable this year, I think, with or without Brady. But like dumb teams are taking the, like, absolutely wrong lesson here. It’s not like or whatever like white guy from that franchise. Seems like, you know, he has some of Bill Belichick authoritarianism to him, which Bill O’Brien definitely had. He is a control freak, even though he didn’t really have the smarts or the resume to to pull it off. But like, you know, the Patriots have like they were pioneering in terms of analytics, like they did a lot of of stuff, that it’s just easy to take the wrong lesson from that team. And so many other teams have taken the wrong lesson.
S6: There’s so much money in football, like in both NFL and college football. And it’s amazing to me that they undermine all of their resources by doing the most lazy, reductive, stupid searching, hiring processes that you might ever have.
S9: And it’s the same thing in college football every. He’s fascinated with Nick Saban, so they try to hire Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, and it doesn’t work in quite the same way because those dudes are not Nick Saban and it’s the same thing in the NFL. And you just think, you know, wouldn’t there be some sort of out of the box thinking here, like, wow, you know, I just I kind of just don’t. We’ve seen enough. Bill Belichick acolytes fail, we’ve seen enough people out of the Patriots organization fail away from the cocoon of that organization, that at this point people should know, oh, there’s more to it than just copying, trying to get that blueprint in for ourselves down here.
S6: And I just, you know, with all that money, all these resources, all the people you have access to that want to work in the NFL and you just pick the dude that stands right next to Bill Belichick, it’s just fascinating.
S3: You do it in such a way, in such a way that you’re going to potentially drive away the franchise player. I just have to say that when the Houston teams screw up, it’s just good content for the show. So I don’t hate it, but I do hate it. I hate it for you.
S6: You can’t hurt me because I don’t care about the text. I’m probably more of a Titans fan than a Texans fan. Put it that way.
S3: All right. Well, we’ll keep that in mind when the Texans turn around.
S10: Thank you all for your gameness, as always, to discuss things, Houston. And thank you, sleepless members. We’ll be back with more next week.