The Ja Morant’s Moment Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.

S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is hang up and listen for the week of January 18th, 2022 on this week’s show, we’re going to discuss the NFL’s Super Wild Card weekend. How super was it really to also talk about the rise of the Memphis Grizzlies Josh Morant’s and whether he’ll be the NBA’s next superstar? And finally, Defector is Kalyn. Kahler will join us for a conversation about nepotism in NFL coaching. I’m in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year, also in D.C. Stefan Fatsis, author of the books Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic, Wilden Outside and one of the more obscure branches of the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, the less well-trodden path from the NFL to girl soccer. How are you, Stefan Michael Josh how are you doing? Doing solid with us from Palo Alto, not a member of the Mike Shanahan coaching tree so far, as I can tell. Joel Anderson is a Slate staff writer and the host of Slow Burn Season six on the L.A. riots. Joel. Hey, what’s up?

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S1: Great coach before it doesn’t part of our coaching tree.

S2: But what did you catch a coach?

S1: Unfortunately, before we were a little more enlightened about these things. Youth League football in Texas in 2005, and they were called the Cornhuskers because they were coached by some guys that used to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 80s, late 70s and 80s.

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S2: And anytime and you taught them heads up football.

S1: I did well. I I was the running backs coach and we lost in the playoffs because of my running backs. Couldn’t score on four attempts from the one yard line. All right,

S3: I’m going to stop you right there, Joel. You’re off too late. If you’re talking like the first thing you’re saying about peewee football is that you lost. You got to replay your approach, man. We had a great season. Kids learned a lot of life lessons. It was had a lot of fun.

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S1: You know, it was a lot of fun. I don’t want to get too much into it, but a real good friend of mine, my high school teammate added, If you’re listening, this is about you. He convinced me to go out there and I thought we were going to be working in a neighborhood for underprivileged children. He’s like, Oh, you want to coast? And so me and another friend, we all played high school football together. We get out there and it was literally one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. The the the son of the CEO of Continental Airlines played on this team. OK, so what are what are we doing out here? And so are you out there? And then it was cool. I mean, there’s still kids that had a lot of fun, but you know, the head coach kind of took it a little too seriously. And you know what I remember most is sitting in the bed of a pickup truck drinking Gatorade after practice with my friends, that was the most fun part and hanging out with the kids and throwing ball around. But yeah. So I’m sorry that I led with the loss, but that was the most salient thing from the feeling at first about like my running backs did do what I told them to do.

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S3: Finish, let’s transition from losers to winners. The winner of the sports word of the year I did do a poll on Twitter as Josh suggested twisties is your 2021 sports. Word of the year thrashed Tokyo 2020 by a margin of 80 percent to 20 percent in our third place game. I always loved the third place game. As I’ve mentioned on this show before, we should bring back. The third place game in the NCAA is especially Bishop Sycamore. Joel beat COVID 19 injured list 60 40 Grizzlies’ your 2021 word of the year.

S2: Congratulations to all who participated.

S3: The NFL expanded its playoffs last season for the first time since 1990, adding a seventh team from each conference and one more game. How’s it working out so far? Well, three of the four games between the second and new seventh seeds have really sucked. The Saints embarrassed the Bears 21 to nine last year. On Saturday, the Bucs had a walk through against the Eagles 31 to 15. And on Sunday, the Chiefs retired Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Forty two to 21, the only competitive game was because of a top heavy AFC. Last year, the Colts were seeded seventh but had an 11 and five record before losing by three to the bills. The shadiness appeared to be contagious this weekend. Two of the six games did come down to the last drive. The other four, though the cumulative scores during the third quarters of Bucs, Eagles chiefs, Steelers bills, Pats and Rams Cardinals was one hundred and twenty seven to 10. Joel The NFL’s goal in expanding the playoffs wasn’t to make the playoffs better. It was to add television inventory to offset anticipated revenue declines before the 2020 pandemic season. More content, more lopsided games, more injuries, all of which we saw over the weekend.

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S1: Yeah, I guess first, before we go any further, there’s the needed caveat that four games obviously isn’t much of a sample size. We don’t know how these results will look five years from now, but obviously the early returns are promising. And the second caveat is that I’m always going here about how the playoffs aren’t for determining the best team, then for determining the champion. So those are two distinct titles. As far as I’m concerned, and sometimes the champion ends up being the best team, but not always. Like, for instance, I thought the Chiefs were the better team last year, but the Bucs just happened to win the Super Bowl, and I think it’s clear to us this season that like, you know, there’s a few teams that are well above everybody else the Packers, the Bucs, the Chiefs, whatever you think of the Titans, and they’ve proven it now over 17 games, not just 16. So if the NFL really cared about us seeing the best teams in big games, winning and advancing the league wouldn’t create more obstacles for them. So that brings me to something that Mark Cuban said back in 2014. And though I don’t agree with him on everything, I absolutely agree with this. He predicted an NFL implosion because pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered and it’s getting hog. And that was Cuban’s way of saying the NFL is over saturating us with product. And that’s why I ask you guys this over and over, you know, listen as you back me up on this tonight. Do people like NFL football like that, like the actual games like? There’s a lot of pageantry and tradition and routine built into the fall and winter Sundays, but it feels like a lot of the regular season games are poorly played and light on enthusiasm and drama. And it just seems like even this weekend, people are talking about how, oh, this week the games is bad. So as you add more games, you have more opportunities for randomness to become determinative and for injuries become more of a factor. And maybe, you know, I don’t know. I guess I’d just rather to bring this point home. I’d rather take my chances with seeing the second seed getting a bye to reward their regular season efforts rather than seeing some slop with the Eagles and Steelers, right? I mean, we knew these teams were bad, they were bad, and if they had won, it would have only screwed up the bracket. So why would we want to see more of that?

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S2: I think that despite the caveat, you included Joel about this being a small sample size. The both of you guys are taking very limited data points and using them in service of a preexisting argument. I don’t recall last week when chargers, raiders and rams. Forty Niners were both amazing games. You guys being like, wow, the 17 game season was a really great idea. It all came down to the end and you have these extra playoff slots. And so that meant that these games really mattered in the end. Like if the Chargers had if there had been a tie or if the Chargers had won and made it into the playoffs. I don’t think any of us would have been surprised to see them make a run through the playoffs with Justin Herbert and that really talented roster that they have. You think they would have shat the bed in the same way that the Steelers had? No. I mean, the Chargers are clearly better than the Steelers. I think the Saints clearly have their limitations. But if they had made the playoffs, they beat the Bucs twice this year and beat the Packers on the road. Do you think they would have performed as surely as the Eagles did against the Bucs? Probably not, because they beat, as I said, they beat the Bucs twice this year. So I think a lot of it is just bad luck that teams ended up in the playoffs that were not the kind of mediocrities that could have been in that seventh seed. These were the ones that put up the worst fight. And I don’t think that you guys, if those had been good games, you would have used that in the service of an argument about. Great job, nfl.. These number seven seeds really turned out to, you know, be good, and that just made the playoffs more fun this weekend, like you’re only bringing this up because they were bad games and you think that the NFL is craven and just wants extra inventory?

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S3: Well, the NFL is craving in just one month’s extra inventory, the chargers and the raiders would have played a second time had there not been a week 17, that game could have been in week 16. So the point of adding 16 more football games on an extra an extra weekend of the season is purely about inventory. Saying that it happened in the 17th week as opposed to the 16th week is a silly argument. Josh and we know that you’re just arguing No, no. My point end of the season would have been the end of the season. My point was one week earlier.

S2: My point is that there are separate issues like you can make the argument about extra inventory, but the idea that adding this extra team makes for worse playoff games, I think is unsupported. And I think if you do go out five years, I think we will probably like people don’t argue that the NCAA tournament is bad because there’s a lot of teams in there that have no chance to win and they get blown out.

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S3: That’s part of the dynamic of the NCAA tournament. I mean, there are far greater disparities in the NCAA, which makes that fun. And it’s not like people you know, are going to have career ending injuries in basketball. It’s not as likely that it’s going to happen in one of these games. These guys have been playing since fucking July to add two games to these seasons. For some of these teams, particularly for a team that is, you know, Gone has won 12 or 13 games and probably deserves to have a bye to improve their chances of advancing further further in the postseason. It’s bad. It’s bad for the players, it’s bad for the future games because there are inevitably going to be injuries in every NFL game. And we saw that over the weekend and it’s going to affect Cincinnati and the 49ers and the Bucks going forward, all of whom had injuries to important players.

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S1: Yeah, I think we’re, you know, that’s the sort of a short term game to think about. OK, well, we’ll get an extra week of playoff games. And so we get that opening round with two versus seven and it’s like, Oh, that’s a great game, but maybe we’d be better if we saw that one seed versus two seed in the AFC or NFC Championship game with a little less beat up than they would have been playing. You know, the eight and eight Chicago Bears with Mitch Trubisky, which is what happened recently, right? So I think that’s like, yeah, if you like football and you want to continue to see football for football sake, then yeah, you probably are a fan of this extra game. But I think that if I don’t, you know, Josh to to your point, we’ve been saying this all along. I don’t, you know, or maybe I should speak for Stefan on this point, but I’ve always said that I think more football games and evitable are going to lead to worse product. And I think that the NFL’s product, as it is already, which is I don’t think it’s a great product. Watching the games like they’re kind of slop. For the most part, you’re more likely we don’t even talk about the NFL that much on this show because I don’t actually think there are that many great games that many interesting things that are happening over the course of the season. Right? I mean, how often do we sit around here and talk about Mario is a great NFL game that, you know that happened. We need to talk about that at the top of the show this week. We just don’t do it because I think that there is not a lot of great games and they’re only extending that. They’re only screwing up the potential for that being really good games with healthier players at the end of the year. And I just don’t think that that’s that this sacrifice of watching, you know, Jalen Hurts try to throw a ball 50 yards down the field at this point of the season. Like, that’s just something that I I could probably do without. Sorry, Stefan.

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S2: Well, we’re splitting hairs here, but the two kind of biggest mismatches and worst games of this past weekend, I mean, there was a certain majesty to watching the bills just absolutely destroy the Patriots. So but but the the two biggest blowouts where bills patriots and rams, cardinals and I don’t think anyone’s arguing that the Patriots are the Cardinals back to their way into the playoffs, they would have made it in under any kind of previous regime. And just all I’m saying, Stefan, is that you’re weakening your argument. I think it’s a fine argument to say that they’re going to be more injuries, that the product is potentially going to get diluted, that it’s going to hurt the NFL down the line. But just saying that because the two games with No. Seven seeds weren’t competitive, that exposes the fundamental flaw in that idea. I think that’s wrong. I mean, I think

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S3: it know nobody fundamental flaw of forcing a team that has done really, really well to play an extra game and risk injury for what is an inevitable win. I mean, sure, they’re inevitable.

S2: OK, let’s go.

S3: That’s for sure that they’re upset, even if it’s not good ball. But even if it’s not, you talk about small, say, hold on. You talk about small sample. Size, which, yeah, sure, the Athletic went back and look 10 years and who would have made the playoffs, who the seventh seeds would have been. It was a nine and seven or an eight and eight team, overwhelmingly. Should they be in the playoffs? No. Do they have a chance of winning a game? Sure.

S2: So you think the Giants team that won the Super Bowl as a as a wild card that they shouldn’t have made the playoffs?

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S3: They weren’t the seventh seed.

S2: OK, QED.

S1: Yeah. And I mean, you know, the one thing about that was a great. Game, but in a way, it’s sort. That season could be amazing if we remembered it as the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. I mean, I get there. The Giants won their way in. I just I guess I’m back on my best team, not Championship, but Joel

S2: Joel is back on his bullshit, back

S1: on my bullshit. But yeah, I just I don’t. I resent I resent worse teams being rewarded and then fucking it up, you know? Fuck, because like, we wait all year, we don’t. Nobody sits around and says, Oh man, I’m waiting around all year for the wildcard. You wait for the Super Bowl, you wait for the final four. You wait for like the big games. And when you lead in all these weak teams, if you do get the upset that maybe these create. It just means worse games later on. And I just that’s not something I’m a huge fan of, obviously.

S3: Let’s talk about how great the bills were, and that was not a two seven game Josh. You’re right. I mean, they this statistic about them playing a perfect offensive game for the first time in NFL history. No punts, no field goal attempts. No turnovers. Never happened before. Ninety seven or whatever it is a year’s NFL

S2: so not good.

S3: Plays no negative yardage, plays no fourth downs. The longest third down was third and four. They didn’t allow a sack. They averaged nine and a half yards per play. They did miss two extra points, I will say. So, I mean, we need to recalibrate.

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S2: Perfect. Can you explain to people how difficult that is? I mean, what? What are some things that could happen that could make it more than a third and four? Let’s say it’s third and two and you have a false start penalty, then you’re attacking third at seven. Any kind of penalty will probably push you back to more than third and for like a random play where a linebacker shoots a gap and tackles the guy for a loss that never happened. It’s like that would be absurd and a middle school game, much less in a game against a Bill Belichick defense.

S1: It’d be hard to script that in practice like to perform that well because you might just get somebody bump bubbles or snap, you know, whatever anything anything can happen in, like

S2: five degree weather.

S1: Yeah, yeah. That’s the other thing. I mean, you’re handling a break. I’ve never played football or handled a ball. And whether that cold. But I’ve never heard anybody say that it’s easy, right? Bad holding call, right? Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, I mean, Belichick’s special to you, if I’m not mistaken, he’s supposed to be a defensive genius, right? Like, he’s like, this is how he made his bones. So, you know,

S2: it’s a lot. I mean, a lot of the conversions are just like Josh Allen just running around the end for Zion, sometimes just like running up the middle of quarterback, right? I mean, he’s clearly an amazing, amazing player, but also like twenty one for twenty five and five degree weather. I mean, that’s one of the more ridiculous feats in the history of professional football.

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S1: That’s the thing. I mean, if Josh Allen plays like that, it almost doesn’t matter what you do anyway, defensively or where you’re playing it right, you’re probably not going to be able to do anything much about it, any team in the league. But that’s a bolt of lightning. Even though Josh Allen has kicked Bill Belichick’s since, he’s, you know, the last couple of years, like, that’s just that kind of thing that can happen. And I don’t I don’t think that we should expect to see that next week. But I mean, just happen for the Pats man who’s up for some reason. Josh Allen has Bill Belichick’s number, which isn’t something I would have expected to be saying three or four years ago.

S3: Buffalo was we’re talking about their offense, but the thing that I think makes them really dangerous moving forward is that they’re also a really great defense. They led the NFL in yards allowed per game, yards allowed per play, passing yards allowed. This is a well-rounded team and for whatever reasons, they had some really some weirdo games this season they lost to Jacksonville. But if they’re as good next week as they were this week, the Chiefs were great too this weekend. But boy, this sure feels like the AFC Championship Game a week early.

S2: Yeah, I mean, because they expanded the playoffs, we’re going to just have a bunch of injured teams and also, like all these underdogs, can just ruin it. That’s why next weekend is the flip side of matchups of amazing the games that everyone is looking forward to, like forty Niners, Packers, Bucks, Rams, Titans, Bengals, you know, it’s going to

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S1: be happening in the same game, by the way. You know,

S3: we could have done without some of the games on Super Wild Card we

S1: Josh. Do you know what’s going to happen next week when the Bucs advance to the second round? They’re going to be playing without two of their offensive tackles because they’re hurt right now.

S3: Rapalo got hurt, so we’re not sure what his strategy

S1: is going to be. You’re talking about games that are. I mean, again, it’s the NFL’s. You understand people are going to get hurt, but we’d be fools to pretend that these injuries don’t add up to the quality of the game and like that are in some ways determinative of the outcome. That’s all I’m saying. You know, I mean, yeah, sure, I’m going to watch what the hell else am I going to watch? I’m going to watch Creighton vs. Providence on FS1 again, you know? Wow.

S2: OK, Creighton end up getting a stray there.

S1: Well, just. Every time you turn on Air Force One, they’re always on, it’s like Creighton vs. Villanova for whatever reason, but yeah, just one minute.

S3: Can we talk?

S2: Do you think people would notice if it was just Creighton versus Villanova every weekend? How long? How many weekends in a row until somebody

S1: that’s that’s always playing on Air Force One? And every time I turn on,

S3: can we talk for a minute about the Cowboys shitting the bed on up to the last drive against the 49ers? That was astounding, but I guess we shouldn’t be terribly surprised. Mike McCarthy’s history?

S1: Have you ever seen a game like that before? I’m just trying to remember if I’ve ever seen anything

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S2: pretty much every Les Miles game and some

S1: effort

S2: and some variation of that of them not being able to spike the ball in time. There was a very similar play that the Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, I guess, not surprisingly, one of the smarter players and in our lifetimes, like they ran to perfection with him running to the middle of the field handing. And they, like clearly had practice that where they like handed the ball and center handed the ball, the referee put it down. And in this, I mean, the comedy of the guy running in to try to spot the ball and running over Dak Prescott and knocking him over was just fantastic. But I think one thing that does get lost a little bit is that they got the ball with maybe 35 under 40 seconds to go and just marched it down the field with these out routes and like running a drive to perfection, it wasn’t like they were like bumbling down the field. Like they clearly had a plan and executed it well until the last thing, which they executed extremely poorly.

S1: Yeah, I mean, the thing about it is that I don’t even know that I’ve had some time to think about it. I don’t even necessarily disagree with the decision, but they had 14 seconds left to go in the game. You’re basically you need everything to go perfectly to get off another play under those circumstances. They didn’t give themselves any room for, you know, any margin for error.

S2: What are the alternatives that people are suggesting? Because I mean, the 49ers smartly, just like we’re guarding the sideline, so it’s not like they could throw like what should they have done instead?

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S3: Just like I think what they could have done instead is not done something that would eat up extra seconds. I mean, the draw plate is effective because nobody’s in the middle of the field. Sliding takes up extra seconds, running the extra six or seven yards that that Prescott ran eight up a couple of seconds.

S2: You have like a day or two to do it because it ends the timing.

S3: Well, I know, but but so it just weren’t prepared to do it, given the amount of time that was available. Rex Ryan was ESPN talking about how when they would practice, you would need 16 seconds to run a quarterback draw in that situation to have time to spike the ball and set up a last play. They had 14.

S2: So I mean, what they’ve

S3: done is it had to be it had to run exactly right. And in order for it to run exactly right. That probably meant Dak Prescott having a situational awareness to go down five yards earlier than he did.

S2: I mean, maybe what they should have done with 14 seconds to go is like, do some sort of fake like you’re going to do a 10 yard out or do a fake like unit quarterback draw and just throw it in the end zone? Yeah. And maybe you got maybe you have two players at the end zone with 14 seconds, and

S3: McCormick said after the game, What did you want us to do? We were on the 50. They weren’t on the 50, they were on 40.

S2: I mean prints, but that does not speak, speak well of them that you thought that they were on the fifth day.

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S3: Coming up next, we’ll discuss Josh Morant’s for leaping and locking abilities. Avery Bradley with the deflection against Bay.

S2: An incredible block. What you just heard is a play that you need to see to believe. So feel free to pause the show to look this one up on YouTube. A little more than a week ago now, the Memphis Grizzlies Josh Morant soared through the air and grabbed the Lakers Avery Bradley’s layup attempt with two hands. Ben Golliver and Artur Galocha did a nice piece for The Washington Post, documenting Morant’s feet and comparing it to two of the most famous blocks in recent NBA history. LeBron’s chased out of Andre Iguodala in Game seven of the 2016 finals and Wizards era Michael Jordan’s two hand snag of a Ron Mercer layup in 2002. Stefan the biggest take away. When you look at all these players side by side by side is that Morant got way higher off the ground and at six foot three is significantly shorter than either MJ or LeBron. So was this the best block you have ever seen?

S3: I wrote on Twitter I love the halftime show where they jump off the trampoline, and that to me, is what starts to make it the epitome of the block. It looks like CGI like he’s wearing sneakers made of Flubber. He bends, leaps and keeps rising. It’s like a 60 degree angle, as if the backboard wasn’t there. You know he would have kept going into the mezzanine. Morant is three inches shorter than Jordan, to be specific, six inches shorter than James. The Post’s calculated how high each player jumped in their signature blocks. Jordan went up to 10 feet, four inches, James to 10 feet, 10 Morant to 11 feet, four a foot higher than Jordan. His head was nearly at the level of the rim. His hands were at the top of the box drawn on the backboard. James himself said after the game that Morant has rockets in his calf muscle, but as Golliver and Galocha noted, what elevates it to the best block ever, maybe, is the rest of it. Beyond the pure leap and Morant’s basketball, intelligence and situational awareness, he deflected the ball off the backboard to avoid a goaltending. And then he redirected the ball into open court nearby to his right so that the Lakers wouldn’t regain possession. Then he was able to control his body, so he didn’t do what anybody else would have done, which was land on their back, collect the ball, instantly, turn and go back up court as if it was a routine play. And of course, he was aware exactly of what he was doing. I was trying to block the shot, stop them from scoring and secure the ball at the same time. It worked out perfect for me. Now I’m probably all over the internet for it.

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S1: Yeah, he’s right about that. I mean, he’s all over the internet for it. I don’t think it’s still better than Bronx Block in Game seven of the two 2016 finals, but it is something that you only see those sorts of plays and like YouTube mash ups of like high school All-Stars, right? You don’t. Very rarely do you see NBA on NBA crime like that. And I mean, that’s what makes it sort of exceptional just because I don’t think it’s as good as the LeBron block doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before in my life, and I can’t even think of anybody in that class, somebody who could pull it off in that way because just athleticism is electric in a way that I struggle to sort of compare it to anybody’s to like the two athletes, I think of the most when I think of him or John Wall and Steve Francis, right? But he’s a lot heavier of a player like he’s more versatile of a guard. But the athleticism is the same, and those are the only two other players of like, maybe Derrick Rose when Derrick Rose was healthy. Those are sort of the only players in that class. I can even think of even thinking of that play and then being able to pull it off. And that’s what put it sort of in its own class. But I mean, first difficulty stakes share all of the moment LeBron’s block. I mean, if you watch that video frame by frame, he comes from nowhere. That’s the sort of hard to, you know, dislodge is the number one block of all time.

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S3: It symbolizes,

S1: yeah, this is a damn strong number two.

S2: Yeah, so another block that is often mentioned in the Jack actually mentioned this past week as the greatest Galocha ever with Shannon Brown on Mario West, and I don’t know how many listeners can immediately conjure that one in their mind, but we’ll put that one on our show notes as well. But and one Shannon Brown that one of the best athletes to ever play in the NBA, just like leaps into the air and just like cuts the ball with one hand as opposed to dance, which is like its own feat of ridiculousness. But this will be one this Morant one that lives on and compilations. And there’s something you know with the Jordan one, which I had forgotten about before it had gotten kind of named and listed alongside this one. There’s something just so disrespectful about jumping up and grabbing a ball with two hands. I don’t really know how to explain it because like, you might think, they’re just like slamming a ball off the backboard with with one hand would be even more. But just like going up there, like now, I’m going to take that now. It’s just like, what? Why do you even think? How do you even dare imagine that you could get this over me? Like, it’s just to jump up 11 feet, four inches and just pluck the ball away? There’s something about it that’s like he’s playing a different game.

S1: Do you all watch YouTube mix tapes of high school, you know, superstars or anything like Mikey Williams? Are you? Well, I’ve watched a Mikey Williams YouTube highlight clip.

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S2: Yeah, for sure. I like I will sometimes find myself in a high school highlight rabbit hole on YouTube.

S1: Yeah, see, that’s I felt like this is certainly one of those instances of the NBA taking its influence from that sort of culture of hoop, because you see that a lot in AEW tournaments and stuff, especially when they’re trying to, like, embarrass each other, which is, you know, I guess what a lot of AEW tournaments are. And so I feel like that’s what this Josh Morant thing came from. I like out of the AEW circuits or whatever. But yeah, the reason it’s so disrespectful is so Big Brother to do that. It’s why that’s why, again, when you don’t see it in the NBA, because how in the hell are you going to do that to Andre Iguodala in real life, right? But I guess it was like, Well, fuck it. I mean, let me let me see if I can try it.

S2: Well, Josh Morant Stefan is known for making, if not this literal play a bit like players of this nature. I mean, there’s like another compilation that I found that like the NBA put out today of Josh Morant’s best 360s because he had a 360 layup and the Grizzlies’ went against the Bulls on Monday. And like, this is the thing that he does. There’s like five or six. And just as first couple of years in the NBA 360s, he’s also I mean, you didn’t mention Russell Westbrook Joel, but Josh does this kind of like. In the half court just detonating in the lane, rising up and dunking on people in a way that I think only Russ, I mean, Russ had a pretty amazing one on Rudy Gobert on Monday night. But like these are players Stefan that the Josh Morant does in the flow of the game and actually like in the service of winning that. Just like Joel said, it’s like typically you’d only see from like high school dudes who are trying to make a highlight.

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S3: Yeah. And this seems to be the emerging narrative around Josh Morant that he is not that he is like a selfless superstar, that he is out on the court making his his teammates better. The statistics are terrific. What’s he averaging so far this year? Like 24, six and something 24, six and seven? But he’s he’s he’s doing it in the service of everybody else. The sporting news comparing Morant’s season to Derrick Rose in his MVP season when both players were 22 years old. And the difference is startling just how much Morant makes everybody else better involves everybody else. How many points everybody else gets. How many three point attempts everybody else takes. The numbers aren’t even close.

S1: Yeah, I mean, I mean, that’s the one thing about it. I mean, one thing about that Derrick Rose MVP season is that that kind of was brought. Maybe it was. It was a narrative MVP. LeBron should’ve won the MVP that season. But beyond that, yeah, I mean, the one thing I really like about Josh Morant and I don’t remember if the first time, if you all remember the first time you saw him, but the first time I saw him was in the NCAA first round match up against fifth seeded Marquette. Murray State he went to Murray State. There were 12 seed. Not heard a lot about him. But, you know, but for all the games that are available on TV and streaming and FS1, you know, playing Creighton at all hours, it’s still really hard to catch Murray statements basketball. And he was a revelation like he was a bolt of lightning. And I’m trying to think of somebody that is that small and plays with that degree of ferocity. And again, I keep coming back to like Derrick Rose kind of was more of a glider. I felt like he didn’t have like violence behind it. But the one thing about John Morant is that we talk about his athleticism, its explosiveness, his talent, his anger. And he’s such a smart player, though, right? He had only one of nine triple doubles and turn it in CAA tournament history like he was a ball. You know, he moves the ball. He’s a very good playmaker. Most people would sort of complain about how, like YouTube culture and EU culture has created sort of like mercenaries and dudes that are showboating. And there’s a lot of that in Josh game where he’s clearly flexing. There was a meme earlier in the week of Josh like looking off for like looking mean at some kids that were wearing warriors jerseys at Grizzlies’ game after he scored a layup. And he’s got like this, you know, the sort of chip on his shoulder. I guess that comes from Murray State or whatever, but it’s so cool, you know that you just it seems authentic with him. And that’s probably because his background is unusual compared to sort of what you think of the NBA players today that he comes from such a hardscrabble background. A dude who you know most people at this point in NBA history, not a lot of them are coming from the Mario states or whatever. They’re not coming through that pipeline. And so that part of him, like I, it’s just like, there’s not a lot of dudes like that anymore. And I don’t know like how he got this way or how he ended up this way, but it’s just sort of fascinating to watch play out in real time.

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S2: Yeah, he was five foot seven as a freshman in high school, and he was barely six foot his senior year. The story of how he even got a scholarship to Murray State is that he was at a tournament in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He got relegated to the back auxiliary gym and a Murray State assistant like when to go buy a bag of chips because he was hungry. And just like happened to wander back there and told the head coach, like, you got to come see this guy. And then by his sophomore year, the game, the Joel mentioned where he had the triple double against Marquette. He scored 38 on the road against Alabama, including this monster dunk. And that kind of put him on the radar, and he ends up getting take a number two in the draft. But like, I think it was, you know, Brian Curtis or our friend from The Ringer noting that, like Bryce Young of Alabama is like the second highest rated recruit and like the history of rivals like argues, like nobody believed in me. Like everybody has a nobody believed in me narrative. Even Bryce Young, who everyone has believed in and since he was like 10 years old, like John Morant is one of the only guys who is an MVP caliber athlete and one of the major sports who can legitimately say that nobody believed in him, which makes him more endearing and I think contributes to some of the ferocity of his. But as we’ve been saying, he plays for this team that goes 10, 12 deep, a team that’s incredibly fun to watch. They’ve got, you know, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a guy who was also a high draft pick and is pretty highly touted. But there’s like guys who went to TCU on that team played

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S1: a little smart, little small out of the way.

S2: Big 12 school Desmond Band. There’s like John Comcar. There’s, you know, there’s all these guys on that squad who just can play. And it’s just funny to think of this combination of a trait of traits of a guy who seems like every time out there, he wants to prove himself and prove the doubters wrong. But does it by like involving his teammates like being kind of past first and really the only hole in his game at this point is he’s not a great shooter, still. I mean, he was shooting really well at the beginning of the season. He’s down to about thirty five percent from three. He’s shooting 18 percent from three and Jan. the month of January. And so it seems like he has the ability to be a really excellent three point shooter. But like once he gets there, he’ll just be the best player in the NBA. He’s now only like a top 10, top 20 player, like. He just needs to shoot 40 percent and then he’ll be the best.

S3: And who who was selected number one when John was selected, number two, I mean, the fact that John was selected number two, by the way, at the beginning of the NCAA tournament, right? 80 percent of basketball fans didn’t know who he was. I mean, that is a remarkable story.

S1: That was RJ Barrett. That was RJ Barrett’s draft slot, right? That was that was right. RJ Barrett, Post’s going no to that year or no one in Zion should have gotten no to anyway. Yes. He came from nowhere. Yeah.

S3: I mean, and so now there’s the revisionist history Josh about Zion being taken one and ahead of Morant.

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S2: Yeah, I mean, Zion and Josh Morant, we’re on the same team together in South Carolina as people may know, but I’m pretty good team must have been pretty good team. But you know, even with that, even with the level of attention you would get as Zayn’s a teammate, the fact that he still couldn’t get a scholarship anywhere other than race day, it is kind of amazing. But yeah, I mean, from where we sit now, like, yeah, the Pelicans would prefer to have Josh Morant. Like, if you look at that, if you look at the actuarial tables and like the the potential outcomes for their careers, you would have to say that there is a certain, I don’t know, we can debate what the percentages are, but there’s like a lot of outcomes where Zion has a better career than Josh Morant, right? And there’s a lot of potential now for Josh Morant to have a better career than Zion and that the numbers are definitely creeping closer. And if you look at in terms of career value, I mean, the Grizzlies’ could win a title this year. I mean, as a super likely, probably not. Would it be unlikely for them to get to the Western Conference finals? I mean, they’re looking pretty good right now. And so if you’re looking at career value, especially for the franchise, the draft to Ley Zion is kind of the clock on his rookie contract is running out. So in terms of value for team on rookie contract, it’s going to be hard for Zion to exceed what Josh Morant’s

S1: Stefan was so Josh. So you’re saying explicitly you would as a public, as a New Orleans native and Pelicans fan, you’d rather have Josh Morant than Zion Williamson,

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S2: so you have to think about. Especially for a small market team like you need to take these like big risks, right, like in order to be a champion. And like, maybe you would still take Zion because his peak value is potentially higher. But I think there might be like six out of 10 outcomes here where John Moran is going to be a better bet for you as a franchise. And also, like, is there a bigger chance that Josh Morant is going to spend his career in Memphis than there at Zion is going to spend his career in New Orleans?

S1: It’s a good question. I mean, the one thing I think about with Josh, though, is the way he jumps, how often he jumps, how high he jumps. That ferocity also can lead into recklessness.

S2: I mean, Tony. But you’d have to think that he’s still a much better. If we’re just comparing the two of them, there’s a much better chance that

S3: he could just compare better risk. I mean, Zion is already maxed out his.

S1: Yeah, I don’t think it could get much worse for Zion at this point. So.

S2: So how do you guys take then?

S1: I go Zion, I mean, because I think you go with the unique player, the one that you think has a chance to put people in the seats. And yeah, I mean, thus far when people in

S2: the seats in Madison Square Garden

S1: right this way, I mean, hope he’ll fit in well there. They’ve got to bring that whole Duke team back now that they’ve got Cam Reddish. Yeah, I just think that you’ve got to when you’re in New Orleans, you’ve got to take those swings. And I still, you know, I don’t think Zion Williamson had a career ending injury. He’s just, you know, taking a while to get back from this one. So who do you take Stefan? Yeah.

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S3: Knowing what we know now, I mean, Josh mourad. I mean, dynamic, successful, outstanding. Not just highlight reel plays, but career highlight reel plays already damn long term, you’re building a team around him. And as someone pointed out in one of the pieces you sent around Josh that we read before the show, the NBA’s much more hospitable to small players. Now Steph Curry has changed the game. Zion is looking like an older style player, maybe, especially if he doesn’t get doing the kind of mobility that he had before.

S2: Zion Zion didn’t seem too troubled by the modern NBA when he was out there. She was

S3: help. But right, if he doesn’t recover fully from from his injuries.

S1: I mean, we just watched a guy play in an NFL playoff game last night who had an Achilles injury earlier this year and returned to play. I feel I feel like

S2: the Josh putting his faith in modern medicine.

S1: Yeah, I put him. I don’t think I don’t think that’s going to be like this forever. When resign comes back, I’d rather have a little bit of that. Which is to say, the Josh is a great.

S2: Up next, Defector is Kalyn Kahler on nepotism in the NFL. On this week’s bonus segment for Slate Plus members, we’re going to talk about goofy sports ideas. We’re going to do a little bit of that earlier in the show. We’re going to have some more for the slate plus folks inspired by ESPN’s Mina Kimes. What are some goofy, wacky, maybe gimmicky ideas that we have to fix sports? Do you hear that conversation? You need to be a Slate Plus member? That membership will give you extra segments on this podcast. Hang up and listen. Plus, you can listen to all Ley podcasts without ads and get limited reading on the slate website. It’s only a dollar for the first month. You can sign up at Slate.com Slash hang up a plus at Slate.com Slash Hang Up Plus.

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S1: Five years ago, almost to the day, Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL’s modern history when the Los Angeles Rams hired him at the age of 30. McVeigh’s resume was thin. Not a huge surprise for someone so young. He’d spent a year working as receivers coach for Jon Gruden, and Tampa spent another year in the now defunct United Football League and went to the Washington football team. It wasn’t called that then, but where he first worked for Mike Shanahan and then Jay Gruden. But there was something else helping to fuel his rise. He was the grandson of John McVay, a long time former executive for the San Francisco 49ers, and the story for Defector, an unnamed minority assistant coach, talked about the futility of hoping for a top job. I was like, Wait a second. His fucking grandfather was a big time, dude. It all makes sense. So you’re almost asking yourself why you do it and you hope that one day it’s going to change, but you kind of don’t know. It’s really entrenched. The story was about the NFL’s nepotism problem, and the person who wrote it was Kalyn. Kahler Kalyn is a staff writer for Defector and presumably not related to anyone in management there. Thanks for joining us today, Kalyn.

S4: Yeah, definitely not related to anyone. Thanks for having

S1: me. Because so in your story, you wrote that starting in March, you researched every coach listed on every NFL team website, code staffing page, as well as anyone with the title coaching assistant. Do you mind telling our listeners what you found?

S4: Yeah, so I got interested in this because the 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Report had a very, very tiny paragraph. It was like five sentences long where they actually called out by name a few coaches who had sons on their staff and sort of, you know, alluded to the impact of nepotism hiring, particularly with coaches who are actually related to each other biologically or through marriage. And so then I was like, OK, well, they didn’t really do a lot of research here. Like the numbers seemed really low to me. They didn’t call out everything. So that’s why I wanted to look into it myself and see how many there really were. So like you said, I went through every coaching staff, which my eyeballs were like literally bleeding by the end of it. I mean, you can only read so many like bio paragraphs before you kind of lose it. But I went through all of them and I found one hundred and eleven related coaches, which actually after publish, I realized just one hundred and twelve because I missed Kevin Gilbride, junior of the Panthers. So, so it’s actually probably higher than 112, because if I missed one, I probably missed maybe a couple of others out there too, because I’m just literally manually doing this myself. So anyway, so that number comes out to about 14 percent of all NFL coaches are related to a current or former NFL coach, either biologically or through marriage. And then I took it a step further because I figured, you know, my hypothesis was like, OK, if you’re a decision maker, if you are in a supervisory role, I’m sure those numbers are actually higher statistically when you get to those positions. And so that is exactly what it turned out to be. When you’re at the coordinator level, about 25 percent of them are related to a current or former NFL coach. And when you’re at the head coach level, about a third of them, 11 of the 32 head coaches are related to a current or former NFL coach. And this past season five of those head coaches, including Jon Gruden, here because he started the season as a head coach. Five of them had relatives on their own staff.

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S2: One of the more amazing anecdotes in the piece, Kalyn is about Pete Carroll and his son, Nate, and I think this is from an article that you found. Younger brother Nate graduated USC five years ago with a degree in psychology after an illustrious high school career. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when his dad offered him a coaching gig in Seattle, unsolicited. So there’s this kind of dichotomy here between his set of coaches who I mean, some of them, like Sean McVay, clearly wanted to be a coach for entire life. And then there’s like Nate Carroll. He’s like, doesn’t even know what he wants to do, as many of us did graduating college. And his dad is just like, Hey, here’s a job, and then you have all of these other people who aren’t related, many of whom are people of color. Like, I’ve no way into the business. I mean, like, reading about this must just be infuriating. The idea that getting a coaching job is that easy, even when you don’t want one?

S4: Yeah, I mean, that was just incredible because I didn’t do any reporting to get that anecdote. I literally just was on like NEX is like looking through like old stories about him and it was right there and I’m like, How can you how could you, as a reporter, write that sentence and not have any like anything inside you be like. It’s a little weird. Like, I don’t know. It’s so interesting because there’s just so many. There’s so many clips of like, Oh, it’s so cute that so-and-so hired his son and like, there’s brothers on this staff. And it’s like, I mean, I think

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S2: he noted in the piece Kalyn that a lot of time this is just in the bio because. It’s like seeing as like a cool thing, like, oh, his dad was his grandfather, his uncle, it’s like they want to include it because it’s like a point of pride.

S4: Yeah. And even in like the playoff games this weekend, there was I can’t even remember this specific example, but there were a couple of times where I’m hearing the broadcasters be like, Oh yeah, oh, it was on Brian Callahan, the Bengals offensive coordinator. And they were like, Oh, his dad, the legendary offensive line coach Bill Callahan, which again, like, Are you supposed to not acknowledge it? No, I don’t think so. There’s nothing inherently wrong with like pointing that out. But but it’s it’s never pointed out in the fact of like this is how he got his job or this is why he is where he is today. It’s always in like a nice, cute like, Oh, well, this is why he no, this is why he’s good at his job. And that is kind of part of it too. Like if you grow up in the home of a coach who’s very experienced, you have an advantage. You not only have an advantage in getting a job, but you have an advantage when you have the job because you’ve grown up like having football conversations over dinner, which is something that you know your average person who’s not related to anyone who’s a football coach just doesn’t have. So you have a leg up to get your foot in the door and then you have a leg up when you’re in the door because you have access to all this knowledge, which is kind of with the with the Clint Kubiak, Gary Kubiak anecdote in there, where people around the Vikings were telling me that Gary, who is officially retired and does not have a role with the team, was actually pretty involved in that offense this past season. His son, Clint, was a first time offensive coordinator, first time play caller this past season. So I mean, that is a huge advantage like your average coach is not going to have a retired Two-Time head coach, Super Bowl champion in their ear, guiding them with an offense, right?

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S3: Which is completely unsurprising, right? Right. Children often go into the professions of their parents, and most of these coaches, I’m sure all of these coaches that particularly had fathers in the game who were head coaches or coordinators. They are literally in training camp working as ball boy. So it’s even before they get hired as quality control coordinators or assistant running backs coaches. It starts when they are literally 10 years old. So it’s not surprising that a lot of them want to be coaches. It’s the access that they’re given and the blind spot that teams and the league have. To this, I mean, you mentioned the diversity report Kalyn. You also looked into whether teams had nepotism policies and a couple of teams seem to. Which is ironic, of course, because most NFL teams are like owned by, you know, the children of previous owners. I mean, these are family businesses, but you did find that some teams are conscious of it, and there are some executives inside NFL headquarters that are also conscious of it. But it doesn’t seem like conscious enough that, you know it’s rising to a level of concern when you interviewed the NFL’s senior executive about this. He, like, looked at your spreadsheet and was surprised.

S4: Yeah, that was a little sad. I mean, I appreciate that he is taking notes from Mike. What I learned. I mean, that’s great. I’m happy to share my knowledge. But you know, he was like, he did not know that like, like you pointed out, the Falcons and the Cardinals are the two teams that actually do have nepotism hiring policies in place, and I’m not sure the specifics of the Cardinals policy. I do know it prevented Bruce Arians from hiring his son when he became the head coach and the Falcons, theirs is just that. Everything needs to be approved by our family members are going to work in the same department. So I mean, that’s nice. I think a little bit of a, you know, a check on it, I guess. But yeah, like Troy Vincent, who is the executive that you mentioned, he was not aware that there were any teams that actually had these nepotism policies. And when I was trying to find out how many teams did, the majority of them did not want to answer me because they don’t talk about they don’t publicly talk about their private hiring practices. So Troy said to me, You know what? I’m going to follow up on this because I like in my position someone working for the league office. These teams may answer me like they’ll treat me differently than they treat you like a nosy reporter who they just want to stay out of their business. So I will be interested to find out, like if he learns more and there are more teams that have these policies in place or more teams that are willing to at least think about it.

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S1: Yeah. And Kelly, I want to ask you a little bit about the access piece of this, right? Because as you mentioned in the story, you requested to speak to every current head coach with a relative on its staff and every team either denied the request. They ignored it. And you also they weren’t trying to hook you up with, you know, the third generation coaches either. Right. But so but you did speak to Wade Phillips, Gary Kubiak and Norv Turner. I’m curious to see any of them defensive at all about this. How did those conversations go and how did you get them the cover?

S4: Asians were pretty calm and like not not really confrontational or defensive in any way because I really wasn’t, you know, trying to like Gotcha, anybody like I tried to explain from the get go like, Hey, I’m looking into this because nobody is really talking about it. And when they do talk about it, they only talk about it like, Oh, it’s so cute and la la la. And so I was like, I’m I’m just wondering if now is the time where we should start to be questioning this, particularly because the NFL is so focused on improving minority hiring and improving opportunities for everybody. So I said that right at the front of the conversation, just so that they wouldn’t be caught off guard when I bring it up later. And so, you know, obviously we’re starting off talking about like, what was it like, how did your son get interested or like, how did you coach him? Like, just sort of basic stuff? And then at the end of the conversation, though, like I would always try to ask, like, have you ever thought about it critically? Like, just brought just that question. Like, Have you ever questioned it before until now? And for most of them, that was a question that didn’t really make sense. Like, I didn’t really get through. I didn’t. I didn’t feel like I really got through to the point of like and I don’t know what I was looking for either, because after I asked the question, I was like, OK, well, how did I think they were? Like, What did I want from them? I think I just wanted recognition of like, Yeah, you know what? There are a lot of relatives in football and like, maybe that is keeping people out. And, you know, maybe it would be good to put a limit on it or maybe we could do. I think I was just looking for some kind of recognition, but like, I didn’t really get it. And, you know, I put it in there kind of what, you know, Norv Turner had said where he was. He pointed to another former white coach who didn’t get a head coaching opportunity.

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S1: Yeah, for sure. Yeah.

S4: And so then I was kind of like, Oh, OK, so this really didn’t land here, you know, like, I just I don’t know if it was me or like the topic or whatever, but like, I just didn’t feel like I really hit. I don’t feel like I really got through to any of them. And like Wade, was really interesting because he I think he was conscious of. I know he was conscious of, you know, the advantages and the benefits and how it might be unfair. But the way he described it to me, which I thought was a very interesting window into why coaches hire their relatives, is that loyalty is the top thing that you want on your coaching staff because these jobs are volatile. I mean, you could have a head coaching job for one year and be fired after, you know, winning eight games like you can be fired for that. So these coaches who get these jobs are thinking about who is going to be the most loyal to them on these staffs and and who’s more loyal, literally Ley. It was like, who is more loyal to me than my frickin son, who I can boss around like he will do anything I ask him to do because he’s my son and I raised him that way. So that was really interesting to me and maybe like a point of view that I hadn’t quite considered before I talked to him.

S3: The corollary to that Kalyn is that coaches want to make sure that their subordinates are happy, too. So you want your offensive and defensive coordinator or your position coaches to be comfortable and feel rewarded. So when they come to you, the GM or the head coach and say, Hey, I’d like to bring, you know, my son on as an assistant DB coach or as a quality control coordinator, they’re more likely to do that. You also interviewed in the piece Hue Jackson, the former Browns head coach, who is just one of what 19 full time African-American head coaches in the history of the NFL. And he was very conscious of this. That is this double whammy. Like you’re an assistant coach or you’re you’re a rising coach, you’re black. You get you already have that against you because the NFL’s hiring record for promotion for minority coaches is abysmal. And then, as he said, it’s like a double whammy, right? I’ve had coaches come to me feeling upset because they don’t feel like they can get to where they want to go because they’ve got kids getting jobs that they may get.

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S4: Yeah, absolutely. He was very strong about that. And I do think I mean, it’s and when I when Joel mentioned in the intro, the assistant coach who’s a minority who I spoke to, who is equally strong about that and like, very frustrated. I was honestly, I don’t know that I was expecting the level of frustration that he voiced, particularly with this barrier to hiring. Because when I talked to Troy Vincent, you know, there’s a lot of barriers to minority hiring. There’s this type of nepotism. There’s like friend nepotism where you went to the same college and like, there’s certain cliques within college football that trickle up to the NFL. There’s all different types of barriers here. And Troy was like, This is just one of many barriers, but it is an important barrier. But to this, to Hue Jackson and to the assistant coach that I talked to like this was a very important barrier to them that they had really noticed. And Hue is really interesting because I was I said to him, Well, you know, you had Greg. Williams and Gregg Williams and Son Blake on your own staff. So if you’re realizing like this is a problem, like how did that happen? Essentially, like how did you end up hiring that? And it was almost the same reason. It was it was similar to sort of what Wade Phillips said where he said, you know, I wanted to set up Greg to be comfortable and successful with the defense, like I wanted him to have success. He’s on my staff, like I want him on my staff. I want him to feel comfortable with who is working for him. So he said, Yeah, I interviewed Blake and I was I was OK with the hire because that’s what Greg wanted, and I wanted Greg to be set up for success. So it’s so interesting because all the people who even people who might be critical of this are perpetuating it in some way. So it’s almost it’s like this impossible like Shannon. It’s like an impossible conundrum to ever solve because like, everyone is doing it.

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S2: So there’s this trope of the boss’s son, like across all of culture and society, of somebody that gets elevated beyond his level of competence and just like annoys everyone in that company because he’s undeserving. And that seems like what some of the sentiment was in Minnesota, with both Adam Zimmer, the code offensive coordinator, and Kalyn Kubiak, the offensive coordinator. And maybe we could argue that was part of Mike Zimmer’s undoing who got fired, like, maybe like nepotism, Deadman. But then we’ve also talked about in this conversation, one of the great kind of complexities and contradictions here is that maybe actually, if you don’t care, let’s say we don’t care about fairness and equity and diversity. Maybe you would just want to hire people that were sons of coaches just because they got all of this, like advanced training growing up and like, OK, let’s look at Sean McVay. That guy seems pretty good at coaching. Let’s look at Kyle Shanahan like he seems to run a pretty amazing franchise. Bill Belichick, his dad, was a coach. He’s done pretty well for himself and the National Football League and his

S3: two sons are on his staff.

S2: And yeah, and maybe that maybe they’ll be fail sons, or maybe they’ll be the next Bill Belichick. So like, it’s almost like we have enough of a sample size here, Kalyn, where we can say sometimes it’s a great idea, and sometimes it’s a bad idea. But I wonder, like, how do people who are critical of this practice think about the fact that a lot of the best coaches in today’s NFL and in NFL history are the sons of NFL coaches?

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S4: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point, and it’s obviously a point that a lot of people who are supportive of this have made to me since the article came out being like, Well, you know, you can’t make an argument that Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay are not good coaches and like growing up with a football background is why they’re good coaches. And I’m like, Listen, I agree with you like this is not this is not the point of the story. Like, I think that can be true. And then I think we can make hiring fair at the same time, like they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So I think what people who are critical of nepotism hiring, I think really at the root of it, this is what Troy Vincent kind of suggested. And I think it’s true like he he wants to sort of reimagine NFL hiring because if you think about it, the whole thing is like, does it make any sense? Like it’s compressed into like a two week timeline? You’re interviewing coaches who are still coaching playoff teams and like, don’t have time to prepare or focus on this process. And it’s a race between the teams to get the best candidate and get their offer set. And it’s all happening. One, It’s happening too fast, too. It’s not regulated below. Once you get past underneath a coordinator role, there’s no like regulation for how those interviews go or how you can do it, and most owners want their head coaches to have success. So most owners will say, you know, I mean, go ahead and hire whoever you want on your staff like you have, you have the power to do that. So I think what needs to happen? I think people who are critical of nepotism would say what should happen is, you know, the Rooney Rule or something like it needs to apply to underneath coordinator roles as well. So that’s your assistant coaches, all your all your position coaches, all your assistant position coaches, even those quality control coach that we talked about. Those coaches all need to be like a fair hiring process, like post a job somewhere, interviewing more than one person. It’s really not that hard. So I think that I mean, it’s not mutually exclusive. You can do that and you can still have, you know, the Kyle Shanahan’s in Shannon McVeigh’s rise to the point where they’re going to rise, maybe naturally, like that’s just going to happen.

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S1: So Kalyn, the man who leads the group that lobbies the hardest for the Rooney Rule, is even compromised here. Yeah. Graves, an alum of Houston state Jesuit, as I might add, who’s the director of the Fritz Pollard alliance. He spoke with you, and he said that they’ve not talked about nepotism and in fact. His own career is due in part to the fact that he benefited from the fact that his father was a longtime NFL scout, so it was that it all a source of frustration among some of the coaches who spoke with the minority coaches that even the Fritz Pollard alliance isn’t at the forefront of this. You know this argument against nepotism in hiring?

S4: Yeah, I didn’t have anybody specifically say like, Oh, I can’t believe that Fritz Pollard alliance isn’t doing Morant here. But I think, generally speaking, yes, I think the coaches I talked to basically feel like there was a lot of expression of like, Wow, no one has talked about this ever. Troy Vincent said, You’re the only reporter who has ever asked me about this topic, and it’s been in the diversity report now for two years. Like that was two years ago. That was the 2020 report. So nobody has ever wanted to talk to him about it. And I mean, even just it’s just amazing. Like, it’s so I don’t know how we’re having these hiring conversations, so many hiring conversations that we’re having right now, like all these reporters are writing about this and this and this, and they’re like, Oh yeah, he knows so-and-so from this. And like, Oh, he’s the nephew of so-and-so. And it’s like, Well, how are we not like discussing this? It’s a part of it. It’s so baked in and there’s just like no recognition of it. And I think that’s why it sort of hit a chord with so many, not just NFL fans, but like NFL coaches who are reading in NFL scouts. I mean, they were still kind of shocked about like how big it was

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S3: to put a button on that last point. Kalyn the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, as we’re recording this podcast, are scheduled to interview Elliot Wolff, thirty nine years old, the son of Hall of Fame general manager Ron Hall from the Packers. It’s everywhere.

S4: Yeah, it’s everywhere. It really is.

S3: And beyond that, the Chicago Sun-Times has a piece about the interview, which is very fawning, and he’s ready for it. He’s worked in the league for, you know, 15 years, whatever. And it quotes Ron Wolf, who said he’s paid his dues. It’s interesting because he kind of grew up in that division he deserves. Does he deserve the opportunity? I certainly think so.

S1: Son is 11 years old. He’s right there in the middle of the NFC North. You know, as you can see, he’s fighting it out. Brian Galocha, right? Kalyn Kahler reader at the Defector, we’ll put a link to the piece. Just how big a problem is nepotism in NFL coaching on the show page. So thanks for joining us this morning, Kalyn.

S4: Thanks for having me, guys.

S3: And now it is time for after balls. Sure, Josh Morant got up for that amazing block, but how many blocks did he have in the game? Total one. That was that. Which, of course, pales in comparison to the NBA record for blocks in a game. Joel What’s your guess for? How many is the record?

S1: Set the over under here? 25. Feels like something would happen. Nineteen sixty seven. I like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain.

S3: That might be true because the NBA didn’t officially start counting blocks until 1973 74, so the record holder is Elmore Smith. He was a seven foot center on the L.A. Lakers. On October 28th, 1973, he blocked 17 shots in a game against the Trailblazers. So it is more likely that Russell or Chamberlain swatted away way more than 17 in a game multiple times, but the record is the record. And as we approach its 50th anniversary, it’s worth noting that no one has even blocked more than 15 and a game Shaq that at once and Manute Bol did it twice. Elmore Smith is an interesting story. He played at an air college Kentucky state. He was the number three pick of the 1971 draft by the Buffalo Braves. The Lakers traded for him in 1973 to replace Wilt, and then they traded him two years later as part of the deal that brought Kareem to Los Angeles. After basketball, Smith created a barbecue sauce, gluten free, no high fructose corn syrup. Today, he’s 73 years old. He owns Elmore Smith Smokehouse inside the Cleveland Cavaliers Arena, and he was inducted last year into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame. As for his 17 block game, Smith was going up against a six foot seven center for the Blazers. Lloyd M. Smith played all forty eight minutes. He had no idea how many blocks he amassed because players had never thought about how many blocks they got in a game. It didn’t seem like they were catching on, Smith told the L.A. Times in a story in 2010. They continued to try to score close to the basket and I just kept blocking their shots

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S1: going on Elmore Smith, who would have gone to Wiley College but instead went to Kentucky state, as you mentioned, which is not just in inactive school, an HBCU, but this is the first big athlete I’ve ever heard of from Kentucky state, so sat out Elmore Leonard Elmore Smith and his barbecue sauce.

S3: If Elmore Leonard played in the NBA, that would have been

S1: really, yeah, there’s a lot of Elmore as anymore. So anyway, I say it’s sort of a different, different era.

S2: There’s a Len Elmore who played in the NBA.

S3: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So the possibility of an Elmore Elmore was out there. Josh, what is your Elmore Smith?

S2: Mina Kimes, our pal from ESPN, tweeted last week. What’s your goofiest sports? Take that you actually kind of believe in God? As of when I look this morning, more than 5000 tweets in response, not to mention the replies and a lot of the replies were excellent. So Mina’s own take goofy sports take was that if the bills want to truly get the most out of Josh Allen, they got to build a damn. Josh Allen then goes out and has one of the greatest performances in NFL history without a damn in six degree weather. So look sometimes are goofy to get overrun by, you know, events out in the real world, but you’ve got to still throw the goofy tax out there and a lot of these responses. Stefan Thank you. The listeners must know I’m not going to steal the valor of claiming that I collected all these replies. This is the work of Stefan Fatsis for grabbing all these people submitted answers from football, basketball, baseball, hockey and even miscellaneous. And here are just some that I found notable from Nick MAlien. The goal should be closed off at the top, forming a rectangle slash square. Your goals need to pass through four points instead of only in between the posts. I like this from hoop stuff, which I think you know when we get into the discussion phase of this after ball, I think that a lot of these takes are not goofy enough, and so I appreciate the goofiness of this one from hoop stuff. Every team gets one mulligan per season, like if the quarterback throws a pick six or they don’t convert on a big, big fourth down, they can say that play didn’t count and just replay the down only one play per season. I like it. If you convert to fourth downs on one drive, a touchdown is worth seven points. An extra point gets it to eight, and a field goal is worth four incentivises going forward early and late and drives that I like over.

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S3: There was a lot of attention paid to the kicking game. A lot of creativity when it came to kicking, that was on kickoffs. If the kicker can get it through the uprights. The kicking team should get two points. From Jawa King,

S2: a classic, so just so the two 4th downs on one drive was from brash and then from Ted Ganji, the player who scores the touchdown should have to kick the extra point. I’ve heard that one before, so Joel before we move on to other sports and other categories. Are there any of these football ones that you appreciate? And also, do you have a goofy football take along the lines of square uprights or Josh Levin playing in a dome?

S1: Well, I’m looking through the this list here. And so this was actually for hockey, but I think it would be really good in football. And actually, it happens in in u basketball all the time. I think if you beat a team in the playoffs, in any sport, you should be able to take one of their players and add them to your team for the remainder of the playoffs. That actually happens a lot in AEW or Summer League Hoops, but I think that’s actually that’s should be the sort of thing that can happen in football, especially when people get hurt all the time. It’s like, Hey, look, man.

S2: Yeah, I was going to say with the right play off round, maybe, maybe that’s the way to fix it.

S1: Uh huh.. That’s right.

S2: Give. I’m a little. Instead of just complaining about the next round of playoffs, we should be thinking of solutions.

S1: That’s why I thought that this was more of a, you know, I was a solutions oriented thing here, and that was my response to the segment one.

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S2: What do you think, Stefan?

S3: I think a couple of the baseball suggestions this was for the needs, some livening up, William Will Linger wrote when a runner crosses home plate. They can choose to go to the dugout as per usual, or they can try to make it to first base and go around again if they eventually cross home plate. They count for two runs doesn’t really clear up whether you can stop at first or you have to keep going, which would be kind of like little league fun watching people throw the ball around and then words matter. Baseball would be more fun to watch if the batter got to choose whether to run the first or third base, but after that, he still has to complete the diamond in order to score. Second base always has to come second, which would raise the possibility of runners running into each other, which I think could be fun going the opposite direction. And Brian Grubbs said that the warning track should be made of trampoline. So there are some good catches.

S2: I like the idea of running to third base instead of first. I’ve never heard that one before. So with a lot of these goofy takes, they kind of get recycled and you’ll hear about them like every year or two. I had never heard of running the third base instead of first row.

S1: Me neither. I mean, that’s not that’s one of a truly unique idea. Is the like. So do you get to basically choose your own adventure? Is that how it works or is it okay? Yeah.

S2: I mean, so left handed hitters traditionally have an advantage because they’re closer to first base that would equalize it. For those of us who bat from the right would give us a little bit of a shorter path to bring

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S3: back the drag bunt

S1: accessibility. Nothing wrong with that. I said an

S2: opening warning track made of trampoline I have heard before, but also I feel like we need to see that test that on a Japanese game show just to see how that would work in practice, like. Isn’t that what Japanese game shows are for?

S1: Well, you see, I mean, I feel like that’s not it’s not the same thing, but it’s kind of got that tells whole thing that, you know, the Astros used to have what is called Enron field here. I just said, you know,

S3: that’s not a fan of field gimmicks, and we’ve talked about reconfiguring the basketball court on this show.

S1: Yeah, I think the basketball court, probably certainly in the NBA, it should be wider, right? I think for a little bit, but it seems like that’d be bad for ligaments like adding shit into the into the field. I don’t I don’t think that that’s a great idea.

S2: There is a fine line between gimmicks and goofy and running track being. It feels like a little bit ridiculous to be like the warning track made of trampolines that would increase injuries, and we cannot have that in our imaginary best baseball game. What about basketball? So Joe Denver suggested the last two minutes and a half should have on the fly substitutions like hockey and lacrosse. Matt A. suggests home team gets to choose the distance for the three point line for the season or if they even want to have one.

S1: You know, I didn’t see this, and maybe because it’s not goofy, but I think that they should. You shouldn’t be able to file out of any basketball game, but they should, you know, you can’t get disqualified for files in a game like that. That would be. Is that goofy enough? I don’t know. See, that’s the thing. We don’t really kind of know the parameters for goofy like, is it just because it’s about trying to make it silly, like a circus or matt is a goofy because it’s sort of, you know, it goes against mainstream convention.

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S2: All right. There’s a lot more where this came from, and we’re going to share some more of our goofy ideas in the bonus segment. So stay and listen for that. And if you have your own goofy, gimmicky, wacky sports ideas, you can send them to us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendis to Pasha’s and Subscribe or just reach out to Slate.com slash hang up. You can email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen for Joel Anderson, Stefan, Fatsis and Josh Levin remembers Elmore Beatty, and thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus listeners. And as promised, we’re going to share some more goofy ideas, including our own Stefan. You have this basketball thing we’ve been trying to make happen and is a goofy. Well, let the people decide. But what’s your idea

S3: that the NBA should be divided into two divisions with promotion and relegation, but not in a European soccer sense, where they’re sort of separate leagues and you only support your team and you really aren’t related to the division above you or below you. This would be the NBA, but there would be a distinction between Division one and Division Two. There would be overlap. Home and home between Division One and Division two during the season. And then my idea for the playoffs is that the top four teams in Division two get to play in the playoffs in Division one or as Jack. A guy on Twitter that I was talking to about it suggested that 13 to 16 in Division One play one to four in Division two in the first round of the playoffs. So there’s a lot of ways to do this, but the effectiveness of it is that it would it would reduce inventory of shitty games and potentially it could bring the entire length of the season. If you decide to make it like 60 games instead of 80, like get to the the reason for making the NBA better. Better games. More reason for people to watch, but also still not disenfranchising fans. You’re still in the NBA financially competitively. You still have a chance to win the NBA championship. It’s just a different structure.

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S1: I like that. That’s right. That makes a lot of sense. It’s particularly like the promotion and relegation ideas that I’ve heard before. I mean, because I mean, ultimately, at the end of the day, we just want more games that matter. Right. And I mean, then think about how many shitty I mean, who’s a bad? I’m trying to think of who the bad teams are this year, the rockets. You know, how many how many more times are going have to watch. The rockets do nothing for the rest of the year. Give them something to play for. Right.

S2: So here’s what I think of as the cons of the Fatsis idea. Number one, just another guy who thinks promotion and relegation are going to fix American sports fight a dime for every time I got a pitch about that as a he’s

S1: going to left the studio, he’s left lurch.

S3: I’m not going to call it promotion and relegation. We’re going to give it a different name.

S2: OK. So when you introduce that as promotion and relegation where you’re just you’re just lying, you’re just lying to us about what it is, that’s fine. Another another potential con here is, let’s say you’ve got 16 teams in your top division. Mm-Hmm. Are you saying that all of them will automatically make the playoffs?

S3: No, we can, we can adjust. I, you can have you can say, you know, you can say eight the top eight plus the top four from Division Two or we do the idea that Jack had, which is the bottom four, play the top four and you have 16 teams in the playoffs, right? I think you’ll make the playoffs now. It’s not going to be much different.

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S2: You’ll need it. You’ll need to tweak it such that there cannot be a circumstance where there are so many automatic playoff bids for the teams in the top division that like, because a lot of times, you know, the the blazers or it would be in your Division one and they suck this year like you need to make some allowance for the fact that, like teams can go into a season with like good intentions, they’re coming off a run of good seasons and just like kind of shit, the bed. And so you don’t want it to be like, wow, there’s like a bunch of like bad injuries among the good teams this year. But I guess we automatically have to put some of them in the playoffs because they’re in like Division One.

S3: So you’re saying that the likelihood of more than four Division One teams having bad seasons is high enough that it would need to be accounted for? I’m not disputing it. I’m just saying like if you’re saying that, look, that’s the 16 teams in the playoffs in the NBA. So I’m saying the top 12 in Division one would make it plus four from Division two or some competitive permutation.

S2: Yeah, I mean, the thing that’s going to get the talking heads really, really mad is if. Division Two. Let’s say there are five teams who just have like amazing seasons and then but that one team just like can’t make it end, but instead we’re just like grandfathering in some like shitty ass team from Division One that just happened to be there, but like is thirty seven and forty five, but there’s like a forty seven and thirty five team in Division Two, so that’s going to

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S3: be a thing. There’s going to be there’s going to be numerical inconsistency because the Division One teams are predominantly playing each other right so that they’re going to have some bet you’re going to some worse records, particularly if like three or four teams are substantially better and run away with it. That’s because they’ll be playing each other more.

S2: Yeah. But yeah, I do think that there’s some potential merit to it. You could also reward teams from the bad division with good draft picks, like if you play really well in the lower division, you can get a top pick as opposed to just

S3: make sure that everyone that everybody shares the TV revenue. You don’t change the financial imperatives of the league, but you just change the, you know, changing the competitive imperatives.

S2: All right. So here’s my idea for how to fix basketball and hard core fans of my work, of which there are at least my parents will probably know about this because I wrote about it many years ago, but you got to end the practice of players and coaches being able to time out like call time out. So it’s fundamentally absurd. Like if this rule didn’t exist now and you suggested, Oh, let’s add a rule where if you’re just trapped in the corner, you can just like, make a T in your hands and the ref says, Oh, you can’t trap this guy anymore. He needs to go and get a free journey to the bench where you can talk to his coach. I mean, that’s obviously stupid. And so, like, everyone would agree that you shouldn’t be able to do that. But I say no timeouts at all, like TV timeouts are fine, just like let the players rest, get the ads in every whatever handful of minutes, but the last well and no time in the game. But where the most benefit would be is in the last three minutes. You just play it straight through and everybody’s going to tune in and want to watch the end of an NBA game or a college game, as opposed to just like lamenting what a slog it is with with all of the timeouts.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, I guess I mean,

S2: yeah, oh, you like Stefan Zion Ja Josh? I see how this works. I can.

S1: I, you know, I’m sort of agnostic on the, you know, being able to call a timeout out of the trap. I mean, because defenses are still really satisfied when you burn a timeout under those circumstances as well, right?

S2: You know, you want to take their satisfaction of the guy making a tea with his hands.

S1: What or so or somebody? I mean, it’s just like, you know, not as strong dribbling with their left hand Josh. You’re not even thinking of those people that have that, you know, that lack of ability, you need to be more.

S2: I also think, and again, this isn’t goofy, but I also think that I’m just planning yourself in the lane or planning yourself anywhere and allowing yourself to get run over. That should be a foul on you. That’s not it. That’s not a charging foul. Like, it’s not a basketball move to the stand there and try to get run over, but you do a good

S1: thing to be an offensive foul, right? You do agree.

S2: He just like elbow. If you’re like, you know, backing a guy down and you just like, elbow him or knock him over, like if a guy is on like legitimate guarding position and is trying to guard you as opposed to just like standing there and trying to get in the way then, or even like if a guy is moving like, like now, the rule is like if you’re, oh, he like, moved his feet, that’s not a charge. I would actually say, if you’re moving, that’s more in my world. Yeah, we can call that actually a charge. Not all, all the time, but it’s at least in the conversation for being in charge.

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S3: Just too many fouls and basketball anyway. Can we finish with a couple of of Twitter suggestions? Matthew Simmons, the number one seed, should always be able to pick their opponent in every sports playoffs.

S2: Well, Joel likes that because the number, the number one seed. Well, and Joel version, the number one seed gets an item like if they’re losing in a game, they just get to say, actually, we won this game because we’re the better team.

S1: Well, I mean, over a representative sample, if the number one seed you said, yeah, you should be able to pick. I mean, how

S2: about how about this Joel? How about the

S1: stars of the regular season games mean something? Or they don’t, either they’re just an exhibition or they don’t.

S2: And we talked, we talked about Mulligans earlier. How about this Joel? If you have the best record in the season, you should get just like in boxing, like at the end of one game in the postseason, you should say, All right, I exercised my right for a rematch. Hmm.

S1: In the end of the season, in the playoffs, in the playoffs, you get to do the rematch. But wait, what would that serve you at anyway? Like, do you just want to play that team just you can kick the ass? Or do you just know

S2: like if if you’re the number one seed and you lose, but according to you, you’re the best team. You get another game. Yeah, I

S1: guess. Yeah, it’s particularly if you beat that team earlier in the year. So let’s just say, you know, like again, if you happen to, you know, played in the national, if you beat a team in a conference championship, which is part of the regular season and you beat them decisively and then that team comes back and beats you, then you should have the right to call for a rematch. So basically, I’m asking for Alabama and Georgia to suit up again in a couple of weeks.

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S2: And I think that would also suit your purposes because like, I don’t feel like even you would argue like, let’s say, Alabama calls for a rematch and then gets their ass beat again. I don’t think at that point you would argue that they were the best team.

S1: Yeah, I would say I would say absolutely

S3: that are just so great. So Alabama’s losing, I don’t know, 21 to 10 at halftime. And then they just put in the other 80 guys on the roster for the second half and they lose fifty six to 10. And but then they say, Oh, let’s just play again next week.

S2: You make a good point. You make a good point. No, I can’t believe Alabama abused our imaginary rule in your hypothetical scenario.

S3: And finally, AJ Q&A. If a fan runs on the field and Duke’s at least three security guards, they get immunity, presumably from prosecution. Hmm.

S1: Although some want to, you know, reward a super predator, essentially, you know.

S2: I feel like the version I’ve heard was, I feel like the version I’ve heard most often is give the player immunity for kicking the person’s ass, like punching them or tackling them.

S3: Right. We have this happened. A couple of weeks ago, Sam Kerr elbowed some doofus who ran on the field and was taking a selfie and she got a yellow card. No way, no sense.

S2: Unbelievable. All right, well, we already solicited these, but for the Slate Plus, members will say twice if you have your own goofy ideas and then to hang up at Slate.com will enjoy hearing about them. If nothing else, maybe we’ll talk about them on the show. And thank you for your membership, as always. We’ll be back with more next week.