S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of November 2nd, 2020. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the covid, the positive Justin Turner’s Marsalis World Series celebration and star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence missing games because of his own positive coverage test. We also speak with WNBA player Renee Montgomery, who opted out of the twenty twenty season work toward social justice reform and is now part of LeBron James does more than a vote campaign. Finally, we’ll revisit Ruth Scheelite Barret’s story on rich parents pushing their kids into sports, which the Atlantic has now retracted in fall.
S3: It’s a journalism scandal, baby in Washington, D.C., the author, the queen of Slow Burn Season four, also here in D.C. and Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic and the Bane of Journalistic Fabulists Everywhere. Hello, Stefan.
S4: Nothing a bunch of journalists like more than a journalism scandal is there.
S5: It’s true. You know, we can get into this in a bit. But I was thinking, you know, it’s obviously not a low stakes thing for the Atlantic or for restrictively bad, but it’s nice to have, like, something that we can talk about that doesn’t feel like the fate of the world is resting on it. Just a nice, low stakes scandal. Feels very big four times.
S4: Yeah. And certainly like whether a squash player gets into Georgetown is as low stakes that we’ll talk about that, too, because Georgetown doesn’t have a varsity squash team.
S3: With us from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, host of Slover and Season three. And now we’re happy to report the host of the upcoming slow burn season six on the L.A. riots coming to you in twenty. You’re on deadline. Joel Anderson, Hedger.
S6: Hey, good morning. That assumes we make it to the end to 2021. You know, be careful about making assumptions that that end of the year happens because we have a lot to go through before now. And that’s a fair point. But I hate to be very I don’t mean to be dark. Like, I’m really sorry. I think I’m supposed to be a little bit more lighthearted.
S4: Yeah. Let let me pivot that to say that being a two time slogan host, it’s kind of like racking up Academy Awards two times slower. And host Joel Anderson is with us. What could I say? I’m a glutton for punishment or excitement.
S3: Every time that people try to say something nice about you this morning, you’re always just like spinning it under the most pessimistic negative. Take this.
S6: What do you want me to do? Do you want me to talk about being the fastest ten year old? You guys don’t like it when I, you know, spend too much time being so finger.
S3: And so, I mean, I’m just trying to use it for self deprecation.
S6: We get big humble this one. But to thank you. I’m very excited. I get to work with the people I like love. This is a project that is very important to me and I thought about it even we were working on a slow burn three. So that’s more like a man thing. Yeah. In all seriousness, I’m very excited to get started on it. Does that is that that was excellent. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I was like, no, I’m trying to be authentic here. Yes, I’m very excited and I’m glad I’m here. I get to do it with you guys. All right.
S3: The big news at the beginning of last week was the Dodgers Justin Turner getting pulled from the deciding game of the World Series because he tested positive for covid-19 then coming back on the field without a mask to celebrate with his teammates when the Dodgers won it all. The big news this weekend was Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence missing the Tigers game against Boston College because he tested positive for covid with a freshman in Lawrence has placed Clemson, barely BBC. And right after the game, coach Dabo Swinney announced that Lawrence will also miss this Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, one of the biggest matchups of the college football season. Joel, we’ll get back to Justin Turner shenanigans in a minute. But let’s start with Trevor Lawrence. He was one of the leaders of the we want to play movement in college football back in the summer. And back when he was leading that charge, he argued that players would be less likely to get covid if the season actually happened because they’d be motivated to, quote, take all of the right precautions. So do you think he was being naive at that point? And do you think that we should have sympathy for him? Should we look at him as a victim or given that he’s one of the most prominent college athletes of twenty twenty is going to be probably the number one pick in the NFL draft in twenty twenty one. Does he bear responsibility for his actions here and being one of the leaders for having called football?
S6: Yeah, well, I’m torn on this. And first and foremost, I should just say I hope Trevor Lawrence is OK and that he gets healthy and will suffer no long term health problems as a result of his infection. That’s the most important thing here. But Trevor Lawrence is 21 years old, which is old enough to do pretty much everything you want to do in this country except rent a car without financial penalty or run for president. Right.
S3: So can I interrupt just to say that as part of his statement in August, he said, we are adults making decisions for ourselves?
S6: I mean, yeah, he said it himself. Right. I think Trevor is smart. He’s on a college campus. He has access to all of the necessary information, just like the rest of us. And I definitely think Trevor was like a lot of people who love football over the summer. He was willing to say whatever it took to get the games back, even if it meant overlooking or even fudging the facts about safety and transmission. And I mean, to his point, he said something at the time when he was part of that. We want to play a movement that players would be safer on campus. Well, look how many institutions have done a worse job of containing the virus than colleges and universities in general and college football teams specifically, like there’s basically been outbreaks in most of the major college football programs at LSU, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and of course, Clemson. And in many college towns, the spread of the virus can be directly traced back to campus like Texas Tech in Lubbock.
S3: This is not a coincidence. It’s like college college football and the kind of excitement and enthusiasm and like partying around college football that’s instigated a lot of this.
S6: They’re hosting super spreader events. And I also think Trevor, in some ways fell victim to this collective delusion we have about the virus, that we can mostly continue our old routines as long as we wear a mask and go through protocol theater. But again, your protocol is only as strong as your weakest link. And it’s like a broken record when I say that. But I just don’t know if it’s possible for them to think that this is safe because of a all of the misinformation that’s out there and just our general inability to be on guard 100 percent of the time. Even if you’re trying to protect yourself from the virus, it’s just really difficult. There’s going to be these sorts of breakdowns. And here we are. Trevor Lawrence missing Notre Dame.
S7: Well, the what this exposes, I think, is the folly of the thinking that predominated on campuses and on teams earlier in the summer. You know, in that in that we keep going back to Trevor Lawrence, a statement from a few months ago. But he said, without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions. I mean, the response to that is you shouldn’t need a season to take precautions against getting sick from a rampaging pandemic. And the politicization of these precautions is something the college football actively participated in. Trevor Lawrence got on the phone with Donald Trump, as did Ed Orgeron, and Trump used it as part of his own political theater to say that he was responsible for getting football, college football back again. So I think everybody is complicit here in the least surprising thing is that people are testing positive, Dabo Swinney, the Clemson coach, said in April.
S3: America would kick this thing right in the teeth.
S4: There’s nothing funny about that before or after he took that private jet, you know, to vacation in Florida.
S3: Yeah, he took a private plane to vacation around. Then he did it once and said he was going to do it again for Easter. When he was criticized for it, he said, it doesn’t matter what I say or what anybody says, there’s going to be criticism. I could say the sky is blue and somebody would be as mad as anything he thinks of us as NC State, apparently. I think it would be, even though I framed the segment this way, it would be a mistake to put Trevor Lawrence and for more criticism than his coach or any of these coaches or athletic directors or university presidents, I really think that we should linger on that dabo, kick the thing right in the teeth, because I think the fundamental weak link of any of these plans in any of these protocols is college football coaches, their attitudes towards the world and sports and their ability to understand and the relative importance of these things. And let’s move to Wisconsin here for a moment. There have been based on a Wisconsin State Journal story that I was reading on Monday morning. Twenty two confirmed cases, including that head coach Paul Chryst Crist did not wear his mask properly during their first game of the season against Illinois. There is now an outbreak among the Illinois team, and there’s some speculation about whether the virus could have spread from Wisconsin to Illinois during the game. And like you, obviously, I can’t say, you know, maybe somebody can figure it out at some point, but we can say where the outbreak started or how it got transmitted. But we can say with certainty that the coach was not modeling good behavior for his team or for the people watching on television or for anybody else, that there was an outbreak in Wisconsin, that it’s now spread to Illinois. And we talked when the Big Ten decided to start and they were talking about we’re going to have rapid testing. And, you know, basically that if any protocol was going to work in this situation, it was going to be that one. And again, the weak link here is football coaches, football programs. A protocol is only as good as the people implementing it and the consistency of that implementation. And it was naive to think that we have rapid testing. That means that nobody’s going to test positive. And so, you know, do we think that they actually thought it was going to work or do we think that they didn’t think it was going to work? But it’s what they needed to do to get the season back underway.
S8: It’s actually a testament to how stupid all of this is that we haven’t even really seen these coaches take a lot of criticism for failing to manage the virus among their own teams. I mean, they’re the ones setting the protocols. They’re the ones that wanted to come back. They’re the ones that say that they can handle this. And I mean, it’s worth noting that in the vast majority of states in this country, college football coaches are probably the highest paid state employees there. So they should bear a lot of responsibility for this.
S3: But some study the film, Joel, you know, we’re going to go and we’re just going to work really hard to correct these mistakes and practice this week.
S6: Right, exactly. I mean, again, Dan Mullin, a guy who two weeks ago wanted to fill out his stadium, had to miss a week because he got coronavirus and they had an outbreak on their campus. That’s the Florida that’s the University of Florida coach. Right. And so, yeah, I mean, the thing is, you’re right, Josh, that the coaches are the weak spot here. They don’t necessarily take it seriously. They’re not modeling great behavior. But again, Trevor Lawrence is twenty one years old, and I can’t help but think that he was if he didn’t do it himself, other people did it for him. He positioned himself at the forefront of the hashtag we want to play movement over the summer. And it was clear that amongst all the concerns listed that the primary one was playing right. They had a list of demands that included the desire for universal health and safety procedures for all conferences. Did we get anywhere near that? Does anybody remember? Like I mean, I don’t think that’s a thing that happened. So beyond playing, you can’t really even argue to me that they accomplished anything with that movement. But that was because Trevor Lawrence intentionally, along with Justin Fields of Ohio State and some other players co-opted was a much more labor centered movement in the first place, just so they could get him back in the field house and get him back on the field.
S7: As soon as the focus became playing again, all of those requests, demands went out the window. I mean, it became clear that the emphasis for everybody, for coaches, for universities, for students, for fans, for athletes. To play these labor issues are have been secondary for decades for college students, for college athletes, so there is nothing that would have convinced me that this was going to to to occur now, simultaneous with the demand desire to play and everybody reverts to form.
S4: You know, Dabo Swinney said, you know, we’ll certainly Miss Trevor, but this is an opportunity for other guys to step up more excited about not competing against a very good team on Saturday. You know, go tigers. That’s what matters. Let’s go Tigers. So next man up also applies during a pandemic.
S6: Can I ask you all a quick question? Did you all want Clemson to lose against Boston College, too? Because I. I think that I want them to lose because of coronavirus, because I think it just I want them to suffer for some reason for this. And I can’t explain it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Boston College is playing in the middle of the pandemic, too. But I was rooting for them to lose because I want them to acknowledge that the virus ultimately is kicking them in the teeth. You know what I mean?
S3: Like, I just but I think we did dodge the situation there, which would have been the horribly annoying conversation about whether they should still make the playoffs because Trevor Lawrence was was missing and they’re missing. They’re their best player. Yeah, that would have been like a deeply annoying conversation to have. I mean, I always root for Clemson to lose that.
S4: Well, that conversation could still happen, can’t it?
S6: If they lose to Notre Dame, I would have been I mean, the coronaviruses part of the landscape now. So if you miss a game because of coronavirus, I mean, those are the rules you agreed to play. But that’s the argument that I’m willing to have. But I understand that other people are not.
S1: Let’s pivot to Justin Turner and the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. The statement that MLB came out with after Turner came back out on the field to celebrate was incredibly strong in directing all the blame towards him and none towards themselves. While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.
S3: Kurt Streeter wrote a column for The Times, which notes that Turner has not apologized in the I guess it’s now almost a week since since this happened. Major League Baseball really hasn’t apologized. Rob Manfred hasn’t. And I also thought it was interesting, Stefan, that the L.A. Times ran a piece. There was a collection of reader mail, and the vast majority of people writing in were pissed at Justin Turner. They weren’t like defending him reflexively because they’re their Dodgers fans. It seems that there’s been a kind of universal recognition and understanding that what Turner did was selfish and people comparing it, you know, like in this L.A. Times piece, people saying, like, you know, I was I’m not able to go to school. My kid isn’t able to go to school. I wasn’t able to go to a funeral. And this guy is like, oh, I needed to celebrate with my teammates, like, screw you again.
S4: File that under these surprising things to happen. I mean, Turnour, going back out onto the field, I’m not quite sure what baseball I was surprised.
S3: I’ll concede I was surprised that he was out there on the field, but without a mascot. I mean, it’s pretty messed up thing to do.
S4: It is a very messed up thing to do. But again, it shouldn’t be completely surprising that he did it. The impulse to be out there and him feeling fine. Right? No symptoms. I feel great. Maybe it’s a false positive. That’s what we’ve been getting. I can see all sorts of internal self justification for acting the way that he did. Now, the question is, what could Major League Baseball have done differently to prevent him from going out there? They could have escorted him out of the stadium is within him to a loved one. They could have chained him to a wall that would have been made for excellent video, but they could have forcibly had him removed from the premises. And they obviously couldn’t do that because they didn’t think that that was necessary. They thought that I assume they thought that, you know, he would behave rationally, having been informed of a potential health risk to himself and to anybody that he comes into contact with. But can’t you just envision the internal conversation had been playing all this time? What’s another couple hours? You know, I made it through eight innings. Why couldn’t I have played the ninth? This doesn’t make any sense. And I’m sure also part of this, Joel, was a feeling that you’ve got to be kidding me. Major League Baseball touted its protocols, but ultimately those protocols weren’t very they weren’t foolproof. They weren’t like the NBA’s according to testimony that’s come out since the World Series ended.
S8: Yeah, I mean, Joe Kelly, also a UC Riverside alum, is a call back to our episode. Last week, you said that basically it’s not a bubble, that it has the pretense of a bubble, but that where he was staying in Las Colinas, which is in a suburb at. In Irving, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas, and he’s staying in a hotel where the public was right up on, you know, basically his patio or his balcony out there. So, yeah, they weren’t really isolated, but we knew all this man. I mean, you know, we knew that it was going to happen this way. I think, though, that I was rooting for, like, in retrospect, I wish the Dodgers had lost Game six. I wish that Blake Snell had been able to pitch a few more innings so we could have seen them lose Game seven in part because of this.
S1: You know, I mean, like, I just feel like we need it all comes back to you. Like rooting against against.
S6: I’m rooting for the virus. Like like I say, they like the sports journalists, I guess, because I just I think that, like, it’s deeply irresponsible what we’re doing. And it’s if the original belief that giving Americans all of this sports entertainment might help us deal with the reality of the pandemic, it maybe even encouraged us to stay home. We can say without a doubt right now that was an abject failure. You know what I mean? Like like none of that has happened. If anything, it has given us the illusion that things are as close to normal as they were and people are inclined to go outside and do all these other things. And so, yeah, of course, just in Tonner went back and joined the field because who in the hell is telling people to stay home or to wear masks? Like we don’t have these sorts of like mandates nationally, regionally or wherever, and that’s why we’re in the damn problem we’re in right now. So, yeah, of course, Justin Turner thought that he was above the rules. Right.
S1: But do you take any comfort in the fact that the people writing in to The L.A. Times thought he had, you know, what was in the wrong? It’s not like everybody was cheering him on and saying, yeah, go out there and be with your team and riot don’t.
S4: And I think ultimately, Josh, what Justin Turner did muted the enjoyment for some Dodgers fans that it tarnished it because what he did was so clearly insane that it cast a shadow over anyone who was watching that celebration and the trophy presentation and seeing this guy take his mask off, sit down for a team photo next to his manager who had Hodgkin’s lymphoma ten years ago, had to have been appalled.
S1: And the closer Kenley Jansen, you know, has had heart issues and had covid earlier and had to miss a couple of weeks. Joel, I would I don’t think it would be fair to characterize your facial expression as skeptical. I think it’s beyond beyond. You seem unconvinced.
S6: Yeah, no, I mean, I just you know you know, the people that write in are people that are motivated. You don’t mean like, I just whatever, you know, the people write in into media skewed sample.
S4: There’s a lot of a lot. So people in Los Angeles, I would say most people that are abiding by protocols and many of those are Dodgers fans and they discussed it to see what happened.
S6: I mean, I guess I don’t know. I mean, also, I just you know, you take the sample of, like, baseball fans. Let’s expand that out then to I mean, that’s not that’s not necessarily representative either. But you know what, actually, just as a quick aside, what I thought of Justin Turner, I thought of Missile Jeary, the general manager for the Toronto Raptors who was accosted by a sheriff’s deputy while trying to go into court after his team won their championship. It is just like, oh, Justin Turner doesn’t have to play by these. He doesn’t have to play by the rules. You know what I mean?
S3: I like thinking that exact same thing. Like, wouldn’t it have been awesome if MLB security instead of being like, whoa, you wouldn’t listen to us? They just, like, fucking tackled that due to the ground? I think it was a pitch invader, like he was just some fand running on the field. He didn’t belong there, just like, you know, get him out of there like a streaker or something.
S6: Yeah, exactly. But, you know. Yeah, man, I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know how people feel about it. But, I mean, the thing is, it doesn’t make a difference like we think the majority of people feel because we can look at the results. We can look at like what’s happening in our society right now, in our country right now at the rising numbers. And clearly, I’m not going to say that people are responding to this like Justin Turner, but like there’s just some sort of we failed to control this virus. And part of that is because we just are not willing to accept that the virus is supposed to slow down our lives. We’re supposed to adjust to it and not make the virus bend our will and kick it in the teeth like that.
S4: Sweetie, let me just button this up by saying this all started in sports when the NBA shut down the entire league because one athlete tested positive. And we’ve come to the point where an athlete who is positive goes out and celebrates with dozens and dozens of people in public, but also started with Rudy Gobert playfully like touching all of the reporters microphones because he was feeling sick.
S3: And wasn’t that a funny joke. And he realized way back in March, not a joke that that was not a great thing to do and like apologized for it. You slay and seem to have learned his lesson that some of his fellow athletes have not learned months upon, months later.
S6: A few months ago, Atlanta Dream Guard Renee Montgomery became the first WNBA player to announce she would sit out the twenty twenty season. There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community, she wrote on Twitter. Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight. But I do feel that now is the time and moments equal momentum. Let’s keep it going. Montgomery is an 11 year WNBA veteran who has her own nonprofit and has previously raised money to help the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s now part of the More Than a Vote campaign, the group co-founded by LeBron James that includes athletes such as Patrick Mahomes, Draymond Green and Brittney Griner. Renee, thanks for joining us. We’re recording on the eve of Election Day. So what sort of work have you been doing for more than a vote to prepare for Tuesday?
S9: You know, just talking to people, getting people excited. I think, you know, there’s almost this voter fatigue. I feel happy where people are almost just ready for it to be over, ready to see the results. But I don’t want people that haven’t voted to feel that fatigue, like you can feel fatigue after you’ve already cast your ballot and that you feel like you’ve had your voice be heard. But we all got to just make sure we get to the ballot, like we have to make sure we cast our vote. So that’s kind of what I’ve been banging the drum. I have a November 2nd pep rally tonight with my own campaign. Remember the third? And that’s just getting the passion to the polls.
S3: So it was very important to you and to NBA players to actually have some something concrete. When you said you want to work towards social justice reform, what does that actually mean? And the thing that’s really stuck out to me is the more than a vote has recruited forty thousand poll workers. And so to just say, like, all right, we want to encourage people to vote. We want you there to be social justice. That’s one. That’s one thing. And that’s really important. But when you can look to that, that seems like it will materially affect the way that Election Day works for lots of people, especially, you know, we see all these stories about the long lines and the problems that people have with voting. Like that’s a a thing that could potentially change that and help that.
S9: Absolutely. And there’s there’s one thing to just want to do something, but to solve the actual problem that that’s amazing. And more than a vote has done that in a sense of we know, especially here in Georgia, we know that voter suppression is something that we faced in twenty. Eighteen is something we face and we continually face. And so State Farm Arena was one of the first arenas opened. And I think that sets a good tone being here in Georgia where we understand that that is a reality here. And the thing about the arena polling is they didn’t just, like you said, open up all the arenas and like, all right, cool. Here you go. No, they open up the arenas and then had people that were working the polls. So I think just full circle. It was a complete concept that was that was fulfilled and it was a goal achieved because it solved an actual problem.
S3: Yeah. Before you go, Stefan, I just wanted to say I voted at Nationals Park here in D.C. It wasn’t the closest polling place for me, but I wanted to go just because I thought it would be cool to vote at the baseball stadium and just so I would be able to talk about on the podcast. But like, it ran super smoothly here and it just felt like it was you know, it felt like for a moment I was in a world where, like voting was actually, you know, easy and encouraged and was supported by the entire infrastructure of the place I was living. And I took a photo of, like, the thank you for voting on the center field scoreboard. And it felt really good.
S9: And to your point, real quick, this is an unusual circumstance because it’s a pandemic. There’s not very I don’t know if there’s going to be very many more times where there will be arenas that will just be open, no concerts, no sports teams, no nothing. So that’s why I want people to understand that this is an abnormal circumstance in itself because of the open space. And so for more than a vote to see that opportunity and to capitalize on it, that’s what’s so cool. And it’s a cool experience. I hear that from everyone where they went to State Farm and just to see the arena transformed like that. And you went to Nationals Park. It’s a nice experience as well.
S10: No reason that that can’t continue in the future, though. I mean, if we’re talking about reforms that could be a lasting reform, could end up making access easier for voters is obviously the, you know, central to what what more than a vote wants to do and what other people are doing.
S9: Yeah, but, you know, the thing is, that’s that’s the arenas that would have to take that hit. So it’s the government’s job to make sure that there’s adequate polling locations, adequate workers. So for the arena is right now, it was easy because there was no one in there already. Next year you might be asking them to shut down when they can have a headliner there. They can have Beyonce in the building that day. And that’s that’s their that’s their prerogative to do that. So the thing is, the government and the arenas maybe do need to work together to figure out something. But just having no one in the jam, that’s not that’s not a normal thing that arenas like because I still got to pay.
S8: Right. You don’t have to obviously tell us that you voted for. But can you tell me what your personal. A voting story was this year, where did you vote and how did it go?
S9: And yeah, so I’ve actually pretty much since I’ve been a voter, I’ve been absentee just with the sports lifestyle, typically being a WNBA player, we play in the WNBA and then two weeks after that, we go overseas. So just with that short amount of window, I never usually like to take any chances and I didn’t want to take any chances and switch anything up while it was election year. So next year, next election, I think I’m going to be going to cast the ballot in person, or maybe not. But yeah, I’ve just been absentee.
S10: Almost my whole voting experience is really when you decided to sit out the twenty twenty season, what were the motivating factors for you and what sort of crystallized that the election was going to be something you wanted to focus on? Was it the connection with the other athletes? Was it them reaching out to you or was it the sort of, you know, sort of growing awareness of how important this was going to be?
S9: I think it was a little bit of all the above when I first was even thinking about opting out. Honestly, election was the first thing that came to the front of my mind. It was what was going on outside my door. It was what was going on in the streets. That was the first thing that came to my mind. It was the protest. It was it was the murders. It was a model aubury. It was George Floyd. It was Brianna Taylor. Those were the things that that got me to the point where I’m like, yeah, I think I do want to opt out. And then as I started to get more into it, when I joined more than a vote and when I started to talk to more people, I’m like, well, you know, an important place to start is voting. If we’re talking about things changing, we’re talking about positive change and a new normal. Well, that we have to start at the starting blocks, which is voting. And so that’s kind of how I opted out, turned into OK, well, let’s focus on the election as well. And you were on that call with Kyrie Irving, right? Yeah, I was. Yeah, I was.
S8: What can you tell us about. Because I’m just because obviously there was a lot of skepticism of Kyrie and his motives right. When that came out. So like what was sort of your impression of that phone call or what recovery trying to get across to people?
S9: Yeah, my impression of that phone call, I was so impressed. Like, I couldn’t believe, first of all, that this many NBA players were on the call and not just any NBA players. It wasn’t the guys that six through fifteen on the roster. It was your starters. It was your all stars. It was your favorite athlete on the call. So I’m sitting here like, wow, OK, so the NBA is is doing things like I was very impressed that that many players felt that passion to even get on the call, because if anybody knows dealing with athletes, that’s not easy to get a large group of people on the same call at the same time. And Kyrie did that. And I think that what his vision was got misconstrued a little bit. The main thing that I heard out of him was that he wanted to be a positive catalyst for the community, for it had the NBA be a positive catalyst for change. And that’s that’s what the line of talk was. It seemed to me when I got off the call, I then realized that there were there was media on the call. The call got leaked and that people had a lot of negative things to say about it. But I just didn’t see the call that way. I really did. And I saw a lot of a lot of men and not just not just black and brown men, but I saw there was white men on the call. There was a lot of athletes on the call that we’re trying to figure out what they could do for their community. And they had different opinions on it. And, of course, you might some might think it’s better to go play some. I think maybe we should be here. All girls. I don’t think anybody was wrong. So that’s what I’ll just take from the court. I don’t think that there was any wrong person on the call. I just saw a lot of men that wanted to create change for the good.
S3: So the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, your team is running for Senate in Georgia, Kelly Leffler, she was a Republican, has talked about being the most pro Trump senator in the United States. She said that the WNBA players should wear American flags and that it was racist to have Black Lives Matter on the court and on jerseys. You wrote on Twitter, you asked her to have a conversation with you about this and she declined to do so, which I’m just going to say what I think. I know that you guys have wanted to focus more on supporting Reverend Warnock rather than speaking his name. But I’m just going to say that the fact that she wouldn’t speak to you, I think gives away the game, that it’s a performance she doesn’t actually care about having dialogue and actually learning from the players. It’s all about just projecting an image of being this like hyper rabid conservative person in a kind of politically strategic way to try to get in this runoff. And that I don’t respect her for that.
S8: Then she said she was more right than Attila the Hun.
S3: I mean, it’s all just trying to throw red meat to the base. I don’t get the sense that it’s necessarily even who she really is. We actually had her, Renee, on this podcast back seven years ago before she didn’t talk about politics at all. We just had her on because she was like this new. Businesswoman who had bought into the WNBA and was talking to us about growing the league and about making sure that the league is financially successful, super like normal conversation.
S9: That’s why. So to that point, a lot of people ask me so many questions about like what was it like before or not? And when I tell people it’s pretty normal. We didn’t talk politics like people have a hard time understanding that. But that that wasn’t the line of conversation the same way yours was it. Seven years ago when I met her three years ago, we just talked about sports and we had a women group own ownership. And that’s the things we talked about. And, you know, a little bit to that point, I’ve been telling people as much as we’re talking about, change it as much as we’re talking about the new normal. And as much as we’re excited for how things are going, there’s a large group of people that don’t want change, that want to keep the same old. They don’t want anything different. So to just to put things in perspective, you’re always going to have two sides of the coin. And so, of course, if you’re feeding your base or you’re talking to people that might that you think it would appeal to you, you’re going to you’re going to appeal to the fact that there’s a large group of people that don’t want change.
S3: How do you think about the fact and I don’t want to be partisan, I don’t want to come off like I’m being partisan. But the reality is that in this country, it’s the Republicans who want to put restrictions on the vote who seem to be moving in that direction. And it’s just as a journalist, I don’t want to get too high and mighty, but the responsibility to tell the truth, not to go down the middle on things. And so what how do you feel is your responsibility? Because with more than a vote, it seems like the emphasis is really on telling people, go vote, not telling people who to vote for. But also you can see the reality just as well as I can see the reality. So. So how do you think about how to message this?
S9: Yeah, it is the go go message because, you know, for whatever reason, you can’t be mad at someone choosing what they think is best for them. That’s what makes us a democracy. So if you have athletes and you have different people for like controlling what the democracy thinks, that I can see a problem with that as well. Like I can see a problem with. OK, well, if all the celebrities decide to pick this person, all the athletes decide to pick this person, well, this person is going to be our president. I can see a lot of people having a problem with that. So to that same point, the messaging is go vote because hopefully you will out like what what my thought process is. Let’s remember, the third is we give people all the information we can give them. We tell them everything we see. We tell them everything going well. We tell them the facts. And to your point, we don’t we don’t pick what effect to tell them. We tell them the facts. What are the facts of your city? What are the facts of the voter suppression going on in your city? Because that’s those are factual things. If you only have one place that you can go to cast your vote, that’s a problem. So we talk about the facts and we let people choose what they choose. And so to your point, it has to be go vote. You can’t tell people go vote because or go vote for this person because we think this you have to allow people to to come to that realization on their own. And hopefully that’s what people have been doing, getting the messaging out, just putting the facts out there so that people can vote and see for themselves.
S10: I think that does reflect a shift from what LeBron did four years ago, where he campaigned actively for Hillary Clinton versus, what, more than a vote and his efforts have focused, have targeted this time around. And as athletes, you run into this conflict, who you work for, who the owners of these teams are. Very often they do lean Republican and make big donations to Republican officials. Up until now, when your career, has that been sort of an internal conversation? You know, should I be working for this person or if I’m your free agent now, I’m going to pick team. Who do I want to work for?
S9: No, it’s not a topic of conversation at all, because if you just look around at all the leagues, there’s plenty of owners, like it’s not a lack of owners donating to campaigns. So that’s always there. And just to go back in touch and a little bit what I said before, of course, athletes are like LeBron James campaigning for Hillary Clinton. That’s his choice. And that’s fine. My point is that I don’t want to have a campaign where I’m telling people who to vote for. If I’m Renee, I’m telling people that I want I want to vote for this person because that’s different than me having, remember, the third in November and telling them to vote for a certain person. So just to put it in perspective, I’m my own entity, but if I’m going to do a whole campaign, I want it to be nonpartisan in the sense of I just want you to come here to get information and hopefully you make an informed decision and then to go back on the owners. You know, it’s funny because even when the incident happened with Donald Sterling, I wouldn’t say that anybody was shocked. In a sense, in the sports world, we’ve all seen owners who who wine and dine with people that you wouldn’t think that they would be able to get along with. But for some reason they do. Typically, money is the common. Denominator in a sense of risk people games, and so I don’t I don’t think that any athletes would be surprised if they found out their owner donated to the Republican campaign or are friends with some of these some of these other Republican campaigns or Democratic for that nature. I think it’s a part of, again, is the actual person and then the entity. And sometimes they they clash, unfortunately, sometimes they clash.
S10: Let me follow up on that. You’ve got an opportunity now to make a choice about where you want to play. Does it matter more now than it might have five or 10 years ago at the beginning of your career?
S9: You know, it’d be hard to say because, look, you go play. It’s almost dead. Grass is greener life. So you you know, basically we can see what the grass looks like in one place, but you might go somewhere else and not know what they’re doing as well. And and that’s my point. There’s a lot of owners that make business decisions for themselves. And you can’t at a certain point, you have to look at it the same way I look at entities and then the whole thing. And and you would love if all the brands collided and it was on Brand and they were one person and they were this way with you and they were this way when it came to politics. But realistically, I just I don’t know if that’s that’s an option where you’re from West Virginia and your mother is an educator, is that right?
S6: Yes. OK, is there anything in particular that that was the inflection point for your political awakening or like is there any one thing that kind of got you going in this direction?
S9: I would say the one thing that got me going in this direction was understanding that that you can’t do it without without the election. You can’t do it without legislation. You can’t do it without the government. And I think a lot of people there’s a lot of mixed emotions about that. A lot of people don’t feel the need to vote because they’re like not we’ve got things we’ve got to fix in our community. There’s so many different things we have to work on. There’s so many different things we have to focus on. And I’m like, yes, I agree. We have to focus on all of that, but we have to vote, too. So I think that that’s the kind of the the awakening to put it how you put it. But I would say just just realizing that if we do want change, it has to start at the ballot box like that. That was the awakening. Like we need change right now. And and right now we’re coming up on an election. So that looks like the most logical place to start for me when I thank you for coming on with us.
S6: If you want to learn more about more than a vote, you can go to the website at more than a vote dog. And if you get this podcast in time, I think you can join Renee at her election eve pep rally at 7:00 Eastern. Is that right?
S9: That is correct. 3RD of Nov on the 3rd of know on Instagram, but we’ll be streaming live there. November dot com. Yeah, we’re just trying to have fun, get people excited and keep people informed.
S6: That’s what’s up. Well, thanks again today. And we hopefully we’ll have you back and we can talk about your new team or whatever the hell is going on.
S9: That’s not a next time. Yeah, I’ll be back. All right. For you. Thank you, guys.
S11: Two weeks ago, we discussed the Atlantic’s story on rich kids, sports and college obsession written by Ruth S. Barrett. Josh was the first journalist to figure out that the S stood for Scheelite. And on the show we flagged Ruth Scheelite history of plagiarism when she was a young writer for The New Republic in the 1990s after the show. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple turned up myriad errors, exaggerations and other problems with the 6000 word story. On Saturday, The Atlantic posted an extraordinary 800 word editor’s note in which it said that Scheelite had deceived the magazine and that editors were wrong to have made the assignment. And on Sunday it retracted the story entirely. We now know that the author misled our fact checkers, lied to our editors, and is accused of inducing at least one source to lie to our fact checking department, the magazine said. Josh, this has been crazy and in hindsight, I guess predictable. But what’s clear to me is that everything that’s been exposed, nonexistent backyard, Olympic sized hockey rinks, overblown fencing injuries, a made up son, implausible quotations. My favorite is the parent asserting that Georgetown had gone cold with a squash scholarship when, as Erik Wemple reported, Georgetown doesn’t even have a varsity squash team. All of those were in the service of two things to make the story even more salacious than it naturally was and to give journalistically unethical cover to a subject who, it turns out, joined Scheelite in efforts to deceive the Atlantic and its readers.
S12: All right. Cracking the knuckles, going in journalistic scandal time. All right. Let’s start with the kind of back story here.
S13: Before we talked about this piece on the show a couple weeks ago, I talked to a lot of people within Slate colleagues about how to approach this.
S12: Once I figured out that this was Ruth Barrett. And on the one hand, you don’t want to say just because she has this particular history, that this story was necessarily bogus. Like, that’s not fair to her and not fair to the Atlantic. And yet the fact that the byline was Ruth S. Barrett was obscuring the history of who this person was. And I thought it was important to flag for listeners and people who might read the story that this was a Ruth Salyut buried giant, that this was not you know, this is a story that should potentially be read skeptically given this person’s history. And so we talked about a lot was the right way to do it. And we ended up being, I think, pretty minimalistic on the podcast and where we did not make any kind of connection. We did critique the story, but we didn’t say because this person is this person, then the story is like necessarily wrong or bad. We like to critique that kind of at face value. And I don’t think in retrospect that was a mistake. Like, I think we should have been careful based on what we knew at the time to make the connections that we did end up making.
S14: But I did want to flag that when I wrote The Atlantic spokesperson reaching out for comment before we aired our segment a couple of weeks ago, I said to them. You know, given her history of acknowledged plagiarism and accusations that her reporting has at times been played in slanted and fabricated, I wanted to reach out to them and see if they had any comment on the decision to assign her this story. And what I said on the podcast was that they had told me this feature went through our usual extremely rigorous editing and fact checking process, very kind of boilerplate. What I did not say at the time was that there was an intermediate step between when I got that answer in which the first response that I got was. Can you explain how this is relevant to the conversation you’re interested in having about this feature?
S15: How is it relevant that it was written by Ruth Shirley Barrett? And I think that I don’t mean to, like, blame the spokesperson here. I certainly don’t mean to blame the fact checkers. These are the people that have the least power in this organization. But I think it is that response is indicative of an attitude. You know, it’s hubristic. It’s like, OK, this is a person who has a history of journalistic malfeasance. But where the Atlantic, we fact check things extremely thoroughly. And, you know, it’s just like but the fact that they seem defensive that someone would even ask, like, if you hire this, if you if you assign a feature to this person, you should at least expect that people are going to ask questions about that decision and you should be able to defend them and not act like it’s unreasonable to have those questions. And now it looks like that that response looks even worse in retrospect. Now they’ve retracted the story, but even if the story wasn’t retracted, I still think that that response isn’t appropriate. Given the the decision. You should understand what you’re, you know, the choice that’s being made and be willing and able to defend it.
S11: Right. And the very first thing that they needed to do to defend the very first thing that you discovered was that they were concealing who the writer was. Can I ask your question?
S8: Can I ask a question about that? Just what made you noticed something amiss in the byline then? Because I’m just like, how would you even get to. Oh, that’s Ruth Scheelite, you know what I mean?
S11: Like, I can I can say what I did. And Josh did the same thing, but he was just more perceptive. I Googled her because I’d never heard of this person. And this was a 6000 word feature in a in a subject area that we’re all pretty familiar with. And I wanted to know who she was. She’s got a website, and I just didn’t put two and two together. Josh was was savvier in his Googling and figured out what the S stood for.
S15: Yeah, I just Googled her name and somehow it came up in my my Google search who was like she’s written under Ruth Scheelite. She’s written, written under Ruth desperate. And obviously back in the 90s she wrote under Ruth Sherly. And, you know, given that I worked at the city paper, that’s where I started my career. David Carr wrote a piece about her when he was at city paper back in the late 90s. That was a pretty deep dive into her and what she’d done it at TNR and the reasons that she got kind of drummed out of journalism. And I actually mentioned this to Erik. Erik Wemple was my boss at City Paper. That was my my first job. And I said, like, you know, it’s interesting that the first people to, like, notice this and catch on to this where, you know, me, Eric. And then when Eric first tweeted out, it was like Tom Skorka, who I also worked with at City Paper, Claire Jeffrey, who has a city paper. It was interesting to me like kind of how the that thing expanded out.
S13: Like I mentioned it on the podcast, Eric mentioned that it was like a pretty small circle of like very kind of like media, you know, and a sort of subset of like D.C. media.
S11: I mean, I think I think I saw the Ruth Scheelite Barrett on her website or on the byline of another story she had written in the last ten years. But it didn’t you know, the light bulb didn’t go off in my brain because I wasn’t in Washington or covering that stuff. Twenty five years.
S12: Yeah. So it was like it was like first just a couple of people, then it like expanded out to just like people that had worked at the city paper who like new knew about her and then like once more kind of stuff came out about like stuff that was wrong with the story that, you know, stuff that was made up in the story. That’s when I, like, expanded out and became a much bigger thing because, you know, I guess there’s always a question when it’s like media stuff and journalistic scandal, it’s like, is that just like navel gazing?
S13: Does anybody care? And it takes something, I think, pretty big to break out of the bubble. And there is like a kind of schadenfreude aspect. I certainly don’t I’m not, like, gloating. I’m not, like, happy that this happened to the Atlantic.
S12: But I think, you know, when the story kind of gets this big and there’s like an enormous editor’s note attached to it, like the day before the election, it’s like the most read piece on the Atlantic website is that like Titanic editor’s note, like people like, you know, get off on this. It’s like there is a kind of factor of like wanting to like, you know, revel in the you know, that the scandal and the the negativity of it. Yeah.
S6: Yeah. You know, I guess I’m not normally in the habit of Googling bylines unless it’s, you know, I don’t know, I think if you’re looking for somebody is like a potential guest to try to get in contact with them, like Fairpoint and I guess like it. I came to that story, my interest in that story. I came to it much later than you all did. I was like, oh, God, we’re right. We’re going to be reading about squash over the weekend. Right. And then and then I was like, oh, OK, this is really interesting. But, you know, in retrospect, you know, I do wish that I had said something two weeks ago about something I call the drive by racism in that story and a story that, for the most part, has very little to do with black people. The line in the story, you know, 30 years later, in a twist worthy of a Jordan Peele movie, Fairfield County has come to resemble Compton and the monomaniacal focus on sports. And it’s such a racist aside that I can’t help but wonder how it made it into the story in the first place. What’s the purpose of this analogy? Has Ruth Scheelite buried ever been to Compton? What does she know of Compton? I don’t know if Compton is being the sort of place where this monomaniacal focus on sports, they’ve obviously had some great athletes and some good teams from out of there. But there’s nothing about Compton that screams athletic powerhouse but the presence of black people. Right. And it’s also worth noting that today Compton is majority Latino, not black. So that doesn’t preclude that there may be a monomaniacal focus on sports there, but it probably doesn’t fit with whatever pathologies she was trying to prescribe to the people of Compton there. She just so stand ins.
S11: All right. She needed an example that everyone could.
S6: Recognize she could have said Odessa, Permian, she could have said Odessa, Texas, she could have said Katy, Texas, she could have said, you know, some suburban D.C. coach, she could have said Bethesda, Maryland, because that’s where people are obsessed with sports.
S11: The notion that that is somehow exclusive to basketball and football is a racist trope in our society. You know, and her story proved that that’s, you know, the parts that I think were you know, she talked a lot of people on the record and a lot of the conclusions on the observations that the piece makes are completely dead on. The story goes off the tracks in two places, one where she uses anonymized sources and quotations. And two, when she made these kinds of racial leaps, she also quoted like a 32 year old paper by Harry Edwards at the University of California. That’s clearly out of date. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Edwards has disavowed these ideas in the years since then about the single minded pursuit of sports in black communities. Yeah, there was also a lot of hoop dreams reference to in their snuck in there later in the story.
S6: I live in Palo Alto and I’d be hard pressed to find a community that’s more monomaniacal about sports than Palo Alto. There’s all sorts of fields, youth teams playing all throughout this pandemic. You can go to any corner in this in this city and find people out there playing sports. So, yeah, you know, I take issue with Dr. Edwards, his findings here. And I would bet this was a long time ago. I’m sure he’s had a chance to reconsider it since then, but.
S15: What do you guys think of the part of the editor’s note where they said we decided to assign Barrett this freelance story in part because more than two decades separated her from her journalistic malpractice at the New Republic and because in recent years her work has appeared in reputable magazines. We took into consideration the argument that Barrett deserved a second chance to write feature stories such as this one. We were wrong to make this assignment. However, I think I would not have. Assign the story to her not because I want to punish her, but just out of a self protective. Instinct, and I think what the Atlantic found is that if somebody is going to deceive you, then no matter how many fact checking resources you devote, they said they spoke with more than 40 sources and independently corroborated information, but they were relying on her and relying on this woman, Sloane, who deceived them as well.
S6: It seems they were relying on them to tell the truth, which I think the thing that’s where of this is seems like a lot of effort to go through all of this. Like, I understand that to talk to a source and be like, hey, man, by the way, you may get a call, just make up a search like that. Just seems absurd. And even Ruth Scheelite says it to The New York Times that that anecdote didn’t make the story better. You know, she got like it would have been much easier to have just found another family or another focus.
S11: And if they weren’t willing to either go on the record or to be identified in a certain way, I would argue that it did serve its purposes to invent a cover for a source because it made the source more comfortable publishing being, you know, having their story told in this magazine, in this story. So I think it did advance the story. One hundred percent. And that’s what happened with a lot of these things that have been proven to be false in this piece.
S13: Well, there’s in there, like the fencing injuries were made to seem more severe. The Olympic size ice rink was made to seem bigger and and more showy. All that the errors that have been pointed out all move the story in one direction, making it splashy or making it show we are making it more salacious. And let’s not forget, you know, when the story came out, if you go back and look at Twitter and you sort by date, people have all sorts of stripes and ideologies, were sharing the story enthusiastically and loved the fact that it made rich people look vain and craven and stupid, loved the kind of salacious quotes fed into attitudes that people have about, you know, rich parents and their idiocy and their competitiveness. You know, those attitudes which are probably fair. And that’s the reason why I think this is bad journalism, even apart from any of the, you know, the errors and the fabulous. It just feeds it doesn’t teach you anything. It feeds into preconceived notions about how people are and how people behave. It’s all kind of like gawking and kind of laughing at people. It doesn’t complicate anything or make you think differently about anything. And people are and we’re inclined to believe it. And so, you know, that’s another reason why I kind of question the assignment and the way that the story was approached.
S11: I went back through the piece. To see if there are any other red flags. And every every anonymous quote felt like it was written by a screenwriter. They felt almost preposterous and knowing now what we know. I’m inclined to believe that those quotes were embellished or invented. You know, being who you are is not enough. It might be enough in Kansas, but not here. One Darién parent told me we all started drinking the shakes with the spinach.
S3: Nobody had ever had a shake with spinach in it. That couldn’t be true.
S11: Yeah, but there’s this elaborate, you know, anecdote about how we stop. You know, we wanted these kids to, you know, we wanted to get them off of the treadmill and just do this the right way during quarantine. You know, girls or the girls were lying on their trampoline looking at shapes in the maple trees. And there was more and more of that in this piece, and now we can say. Somebody saying Georgetown has gone cold, but he may get the last spot at Columbia. Feels like something that, you know, would be invented. Josh, you were the one that said there were a lot of, you know, before we talked about this on the air two weeks ago, that a lot of the quotes felt too good to be true. And guess what? You know, Georgetown doesn’t have a squash team and Columbia’s got one of the best ones in the country.
S13: Well, I. It’s a it’s it’s a shame that if the lesson that people take away from this is that it’s bad to give people second chances, like that’s not the the lesson here. The lesson here is that if somebody deceives their editors, then you shouldn’t they shouldn’t be a journalist anymore. It’s not like she shouldn’t have a life or have a job or be able to make a living, but like not this job and shouldn’t take the opportunities to write features away from people who haven’t been intentionally deceptive before. Like, that’s the lesson. It’s a pretty narrow one, but I think it’s an important one that isn’t always heeded. And I would also say that I think it’s possible, I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible that if Erik Wemple had not pursued this with the zeal in the vigor that he did, that she would have gotten away with it. I really do. I think that, you know, when we did this segment two weeks ago, I thought some of the quotes sounded too good to be to be true. We looked into things a little bit. We were able to confirm that the people were at least real, like, yeah, we were able to find people that matched the the descriptions, but we didn’t have the time to really do an in-depth investigation. And how many media reporters are there still out there in the world whose job it is to look into stuff like this? Not very many. And so if Eric didn’t know about her history and didn’t take the time, I mean, he did a lot of work to, like, try to track some of this stuff down. Like, I really think that she could have gotten away with it. It wasn’t inevitable that this was going to all come crashing down in the way that it did.
S5: Now it is time for after bawls, after a while after boss, and we were just talking about the reasons that Shirley Barrett should or should not be given a second chance. And Stefan, one of the big stories from the first stage of her career was this long piece that she wrote for The New Republic about affirmative action efforts at The Washington Post, which was criticized very intensely at the time, both for its alleged inaccuracy, but also for its racist assumptions and beliefs about affirmative action. And one of the people who was discussed at some length in that story was Kevin Merida. Right.
S4: Yes. Now the editor in chief of The Undefeated at ESPN.
S5: So in that piece, Scheelite suggested suggested that other people were suggesting that Kevin Merida, who’s one of the great journalists of of our age, had gotten his job at the Post undeservedly and had been promoted beyond what his capabilities were. And as David Carr pointed out in his piece for the city paper, his piece about Scheelite that, you know, Kevin Merida had earned his spot to a degree that like vastly exceeded Charlotte’s own accomplishments at that point in her career. Like what did she done to deserve becoming one of the most prominent feature writers in America? And so, like, look what’s happened to both of them since. And we can report that Kevin Merida just received the NABJ Lifetime Achievement Award. You mentioned him being editor in chief of The Undefeated. He’s a great guy, a great journalist here, here. And we should honor him with draftable name this week. Joel, what’s your Kevin Merida?
S6: My Kevin Merida is Billy Tub’s. So I first heard of Billy Tub’s in 1988, back when he was coaching one of the best college basketball teams in the country. And I, of course, felt a natural kinship with coach tub’s as the reigning fastest 10 year old in the country. So then he was head coach of the University of Oklahoma, which boasted future NBA players Mookie Blaylock, Stacy King and Harvey Grant the Sooners advance to the national championship game that year, where they would have to play Big eight conference rival Kansas for a third time that season. Now, remember, Oklahoma had won their two previous matchups, that winner both by eight points. But this would be Danny Manning and The Miracles. Big night, Kansas. So many champions in the history of the NCAA and federal Grange here in Kansas City and beat the Sooners eighty three to seventy nine. I mean, come on, more losses than any other NCAA champion in history. Also, it just didn’t seem fair to me that you could beat a team two of three times and they get to call themselves champs. But that’s how it worked and it still does. It was as close as Billy Tubbs would ever get to a national championship in his 31 years as a head coach. But even though he never got that title, he will forever be remembered as a champion at TCU, where he coached from 1994 to 2002. I happened to be there for half of Coach Tub’s assistant. And let me tell you, it was probably the most entertaining, most rewarding time to be a basketball fan in Fort Worth. He won 20 or more games four times at TCU, leading the frogs to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years in their last for 20 more years during that sad stretch of hoops that followed the Tub’s era. Few people cared because by that time, TCU was good at football again and TCU is in Texas, as they say back home, basketball is just something to do between football and spring football. But Coach Tubbs aspired to much more than that, even in Texas. And I was reminded of his commitment to making basketball fun when I learned Sunday that he died at the age of 85 after battling with leukemia for the past five years. I like so much of the college basketball where teams like robotically pass the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds before settling for a contested shot at the rim. Billy Tub’s wanted fast breaks and a full court press. He was adamant about putting on a show. We called it Billy Ball. Let’s go back to 1998, 10 years after his best ever team came up short against Kansas in the finals. This was Coach Tub’s his fourth season in Fort Worth, and he had built a team that was the best show in town. And in the 16 team Western Athletic Conference, the frogs led the nation in scoring that year at 97 points, a game winning by an average of twenty. A course winning and winning big wasn’t something that TCU or its opponents were accustomed to. Earlier that season, TCU beat Delaware State won thirty eight to seventy five. The leading scorer of that game was a guard named Mike Jones, who finished with the school record. Fifty one points. Mike Jones played thirty seven to forty minutes in that game and TCU was still pressing with four minutes to go. The Delaware State coach called the performance, quote, an abomination of basketball. Tub’s said that’s called winning. Little more than a week later, TCU Fort Lee Masland said a new school record with fifty three points in a win over Mississippi Valley State. But that’s just how Coach Tubbs wanted to see you to play Fast Furious and with absolutely no regard for the opponent during a game at UNTV that year, as the running rib’s came out for their laser light intro’s show coach Tobes handed his players sparklers that were lit when you and LV turned the lights down. Anything to get in his opponent’s head a little bit, you know, and I can’t verify if this particular quote is accurate or not, but a thread on killer Frogs’ dotcom recounted his frustration with all the fascination with the Big Twelve. Now, remember, TCU had been one of the four old Southwest conference schools left out of the merger with the Big Eight conference. It was in many ways a demotion from the big time Coach Tubbs. Anyone here knew that? I don’t see why everyone’s so worked up over the Big Twelve, he said. They have to go to Columbia, Missouri and Manhattan, Kansas. We get to go to San Diego and Las Vegas. Las Vegas. I’ve been to Manhattan, Kansas. It sucks. I can’t say I disagree. But anyway, in that 1997 98 season, the frogs went fourteen to one conference play. They lost to 20th ranked New Mexico in the tournament, but clinched their first NCAA tournament berth since nineteen eighty seven. And as unbiased a way as I can say this, TCU got screwed by the selection committee. The frogs, who were ranked number fifteen in the AP poll got the five seed in the Midwest Regional behind seven loss Purdue and six loss Ole Miss. Just to name a couple of teams that set the frogs up against an undecided and very dangerous Florida state team that knocked them out in the first round of the tournament. That was pretty much the last time many of us thought about basketball in Fort Worth. For a while, TCU Football quickly found its footing under first year head coach Dennis Francione upsetting a freshman Carson Palmer and USC in the Sun Bowl that December. From then on, it was all about football. CQ Coach Tubbs hung on in Fort Worth a few more years, but he was never able to match the success of that 1998 team. In 2002, he returned to his alma mater, Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and coach for four more years. His final tally. Six hundred and nine NCAA Division one wins good enough for thirty seventh among the men’s coaches. That’s more career wins at that level than John Thompson. Jean Kadian, pickerill, just to name a few, all of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, by the way, not Coach Tubbs. This is from nineteen eighty nine, a close game between Oklahoma and Missouri. The officials call it a technical on Tub’s and OSU because fans threw trash on the court following a foul call. So they called coach tub’s in to settle down the home crowd IRAP Coach Tub’s and Billy Ball. He didn’t get a championship or into the Hall of Fame, but he put on a good show. And hey, when’s the last time you said that about college basketball?
S16: I was worried you were going to go through that whole thing without mentioning Leon Allen, but you got oh, I bet Lee Nelson was listening. Let’s be like, all right. I led the nation in scoring and rebounding. Right now you lead the nation in scoring and rebounding.
S6: I wouldn’t do that to him. We follow each other on Twitter and he’s a big part of my college experience. We both lived in Moncrieffe Hall for a little bit. So there you go. So shout out Leanne line. So, Josh, what is your Kevin Merida?
S16: A couple of weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans were down thirty to twenty nine to the Houston Texans. Late in the fourth quarter. The clock went below three and a half minutes and the Texans had the ball facing a second and one. So they’re in a good spot. They’re up by one late in the fourth quarter. Second one, Titans coach Mike Vrabel sent a twelfth man out onto the field for his team, which, as you probably know, it’s not allowed at any level of football. The Titans were penalized five yards and the Texans got a first down. The color guy for CBS, Rich Gannon said it was a big mistake for the Titans to give their opponents the first down. But Vrabel actually did it on purpose. He was taking advantage of a rule that stops the clock on any defensive penalty. With less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter for the Titans, saving time on the clock was more important than giving up the first down. An extra forty seconds that they saved ended up helping them in the game. The Titans got the ball back. They scored a tying touchdown with four seconds to go and then they won the game in overtime, you may recall. Then Mike Vrabel pulled some shenanigans a few years ago, taking a whole bunch of consecutive delay of game penalties against the Patriots and Bill Belichick in a playoff game. This time, he wanted to drain time off the clock because the Titans were in the lead. And since it was before five minutes were left in the fourth quarter, they just kept on taking consecutive delay of game penalties. And actually, you know, that that helped them win that game. This is a coach who knows the rulebook. The NFL actually changed the rules this past offseason to make that maneuver illegal. So now if you have if you did consecutive delay of game entities, the clock wouldn’t keep running and running and running. You’re not allowed to do that anymore. But sending a twelfth man out on the field in the last five minutes when the clock does stop, when the penalty that’s still allowed, the NFL hasn’t done anything to change that. And we talked earlier about like, oh, it’s nice to have something that’s kind of low stakes. This like Ruth Shalit scandal. It’s nice to, you know, be able to focus on something that’s not the election. This, to me, is the low stakes scandal that has been haunting me for nearly a decade. I don’t know if you remember this step played an after ball about this in twenty thirteen when the same thing happened. It wasn’t actually in an intentional penalty taken by a coach like Mike Vrabel did, but there was a game and obviously it harmed the Saints and that’s why I felt so aggrieved.
S3: But similarly, a penalty happened in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Stop the clock and it hurt the Saints. And I was confused at that point as I’m confused now about why the NFL had not fixed this and did not address the rule change. And when I asked people about it, then I asked this guy, Ben Ostro, who runs the website Football Zebra’s, and he didn’t really seem that animated by it and was like, OK, if the football zebra’s guy doesn’t care, then maybe I’m like off on my own here. And so then when it happened again, I talked to Nick Green, who writes about sports for us. It’s late.
S1: And I was like, Nick, you got to write about this. And just stepping out here for a second as an editor, this is not a good move by an editor. Like we do not have writers to write. Writers do do not exist to take on our own personal obsessions. They’re not we shouldn’t send them out in the world. If I’m the only one who cares about this, I should not foisted upon Nick. But, you know, we’re all human. We’re imperfect. I did foisted upon Nick and he went out and he tried to get people to comment. And by the time he finally got somebody to answer, it was like weeks later. And then I remembered that I actually done it after all, about the seven years earlier. So I was like, all right, Nick, I’m going to retract this. I will put this back upon upon my own shoulders. But before that happened, Nick actually got a response from Terry McCauley, who has wrapped three Super Bowls. He’s now the rules expert on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. And again, like the other people that been asked before, Terry McAuliffe is not take personal offense that the NFL has not changed this role. He does not. Care about it as much as I did, so Nick asked him about what is the rationale for stopping the clock on defense, a penalty in the last five minutes of the game. And Terry said the clock stops because time is a critical factor in close games and helps minimize the amount of time the clock can be running without a play in progress. So the idea is we want to see as football fans as much football as possible in the last five minutes of a game. So we’ll stop the clock will preserve it. There will be more players. There’s a certain logic to that. And then Nick asked him, it seems pretty clear that Vrabel did this intentionally to save time. If that was the case, then do you think that argues for the rule to be changed? And Terry McAuliffe says in general, the competition committee is always concerned when a team is able to gain an advantage by committing a foul. However, when it comes in to changing the rules, they will take into account the situation and how likely it is for it to become a regular occurrence. And he says it’s not likely that, you know, that there were particular circumstances involved here, that the fact that it was a second and one that had happened between. Right. That have happened and after the five minute mark and that giving them the first down, which is usually not something that you want to do, was actually an advantage this time because there were so likely to get it on second. And one, they didn’t want to just allow them to run off the clock in the process of getting it. Terry McAuliffe, a three time Super Bowl referee, is like this is such a limited, narrow circumstance that we don’t need to change the rules for that. And my response, that is bullshit like bullshit. You need to change the rule. And the problem is the reason I take so much offense to this is that the fix is so incredibly easy. You don’t need to add more than a single phrase to the NFL rulebook. And the only thing that you need to change is when the defense commits a foul. And the last five minutes of the game, the offense has the option. If they want the clock to stop or not, they can say we want the clock to stop or we want the clock to wind, just like there’s an option of like having a ten second run off with some penalties. And you can stop there being a run off if you take a time out. You can tell I’m extremely excited and agitated about this.
S3: But if the fix is so simple as, OK, the defense wants to intentionally take a penalty, OK, as the offense, we’re just going to say, all right, we just want the clock to run by Joel. But what’s what’s so wrong about that? Why can’t we why can’t we make this fix?
S6: How important was this game in 2013? Thirteen.
S6: wasn’t even very important. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game.
S3: It was just the it wasn’t a playoff game or anything. No, it was just it was the Falcons, though. So there is a rivalry. But it’s just I was offended because the fix was so easy and yet nobody seemed to care except me about implementing the fix. And now it’s just me and Mike Raible who have realized that there’s a flaw and the rulebook and, you know, and he he’s like kind of a white hat hacker. I feel like the person who points out to Microsoft or Apple, like you have a flaw in your code and they like, well, you know, generally back. All right, well, fix it in the next release. The NFL is like now we don’t care. We’re not going to fix this.
S6: I just think Mike Vrabel is really good at the gamesmanship. You know, Bill Belichick did it. I’m sure he’d be praised for it. And, you know, whatever else.
S3: Oh, I think he is genius. Like to understand that. Like, that’s the thing. It’s like Terry McAuliffe is like, oh, this is such a limited circumstance. Like there’s no need to legislate it, whereas Mike Ragle seem to have an extremely good command of the exact circumstance in which, you know, what are the chances like one in ten thousand would apply in a particular game. He’s like he’s on it. He’s like, all right, we’re committing a penalty now. And the announcers didn’t know what’s going on. His own players didn’t know what was going on, but he got them a victory because of it.
S6: Yeah, I mean, that’s really smart, you know? I mean, it’s just too bad that’s not the Houston Oilers.
S3: You know, Stefan, you don’t know.
S4: All right. Now they’re not really in his face.
S2: That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Caplan knows Natasha is and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, dot com slash, hang up. You can email us and hang up and sleep. Come for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine. Remembers our mobility and thanks for listening.
S3: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, Donald Trump got a huge endorsement this past week. My vote is for what makes this country great, freedom of speech and religion, Second Amendment, hardworking, taxpaying citizens, police and military. In this election, we have freedom of choice, which all should respect for me in these principles. My vote is for the real Donald Trump. That is from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Joel, I enjoyed your comment about this on Twitter. Dotcom did care to recapitulate that for people who may not have been following your tweets.
S6: I’ve tweeted so much since then. I got to look it up, but I think I called him a sex pest and Goldman Sachs passed. I enjoyed the kind of British tabloid phraseology and that I just it was the first time I’ve ever used it and it felt pretty good. And a sex pest who, you know, white, middle aged white guy from Mississippi who’s been involved in financial chicanery, of course, he is going to support Trump. I mean, who I mean, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t right. So, yeah. I mean, great Brett Favre, man. You got Brett Favre on your team now. So that I mean, I’m sure that’s going to go a long way to him winning Mississippi, you know?
S17: What about Wisconsin?
S6: That’s a good point. Now, you know, Wisconsin’s a little bit of a swing state, but and Georgia, I would probably trust I think they probably Aaron Rodgers is probably the better tent pole to follow there than Brett Favre at this point.
S4: Yeah. And in Atlanta, I got to go with Zeke Brett Koski. I think he’s going to.
S3: Jack Nicklaus wrote a very long message on his social media. He said he’s been blessed to personally know several presidents on both sides of the aisle where good people love their country and all believed in the American dream.
S8: Which Democrat do you think it is? A Jimmy Carter? Probably, yeah.
S3: He’s had the privilege over the last three and a half years to get to know our current president a little more as his term has progressed. I’ve been very disappointed in what he’s had to put up with from many directions, but with that I have seen a resolve and a determination to do the right thing for our country. He has delivered on his promises Liberty, BlackBerry, blah, but he doesn’t want a socialist America and have the government run your life.
S6: I mean, why does he care? How old is Jack Nicklaus? I think he’s in his 80s. Yeah. I mean, you know, I mean, by the time it got to be socialist enough, I mean, he wouldn’t even really be around for that.
S3: Well, he doesn’t want a socialist country for his children and grandchildren.
S4: Let me read a headline from a Politico story by Dan Diamond. March 11th, 2019. Trump’s budget would steer twenty million dollars to Jack Nicklaus backed hospital project.
S3: And then finally, thank you, Stefan. I’ve had a chance to get a lot of wins in my life, but I really wanted to win this one because I wanted to be around to vote for president, Trump said. Ninety something former Florida state coach Bobby Bowden on ninety one three from covid. We have to get out and vote for President Trump because reelecting him is our only chance to leave the next generation with the same heritage, beliefs and opportunities that and and I had and the many of you had. So please take the time dadgum it for the sake of and realized this was actually written out. Please take the time dadgum it for the sake of our children and grandchildren to keep America great and vote for Donald Trump. Did he say heritage. So out of those three, that’s definitely the most racist of the statements. And I mean, I guess we can stack them by age. Like maybe that makes makes sense that Bobby Batten’s was the most racist.
S8: So I have a friend who used to play linebacker for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame in the nineties. And like so many of them, are deeply disappointed in Lou Holtz. And I don’t mean to diminish their disappointment, you know, how they feel about their coach. But I’m like, hey, man, do you know that Lou Dobbs had to resign in Arkansas, Arkansas in nineteen eighty three because he was recording TV commercials in support of Jesse Helms? I mean, look at me like I mean just Lou Holtz was supporting Jesse Helms, like around the time that Jesse Helms was fighting legislation to establish a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.
S6: So it’s not a surprise that Lou Holtz has come out on the side of Trump and the same way that it’s not for all these other guys, you know, Bobby Bowden, Brett Favre, whatever. I mean, as I said in my tweet that I cannot remember off the top of my head, middle aged, older, wealthy white guys, all with varying reasons for supporting Trump. But it all it was inevitably going to been that way. And so, yeah, man, I mean, this is sort of farcical belief that these guys are these old sports heroes and coaches because they’ve spent their lives in locker rooms and playing field that they’re going to support or that they won’t support regressive politics and policies that would hurt their, you know, their black friends and black families. But that’s just obviously not true.
S5: There is this sense, I feel like among some people that the reason that a lot of white people have racist attitudes is that they’re not around people of color and that they’re just like in their bubble. And, you know, I think there is a connection some of the time about anti-immigrant attitudes. That a lot of the places that are the most where you have the highest concentration of people that are like virulently anti-immigrant are in places where there aren’t any immigrants. And so it’s all just like this kind of notional hypothetical xenophobia that’s connected to not actually having these relationships, but like, you know, and we can transition here to Tommy Tuberville, the Auburn coach, and our colleague Molly Olmstead did a piece where she interviewed some of Touba Bill’s players, black players. And there doesn’t seem to be any kind of connection among a lot of these coaches between having very close relationships with black people over decades and kind of having an understanding of the racist attitudes and policies that are coming from Donald Trump that also would apply to someone like Brett Favre.
S4: You know, the NFL 70 percent black, his teammates, the people he shared locker rooms with and airplanes and the football field with. And yet.
S5: Yeah, I mean, you have do you have a theory about that, Joel, or a thought about this, that the general idea about like racism and, you know, whether you’re more or less likely to be racist as a white person if you’re around black people?
S6: I think it’s really easy to compartmentalize, you know, that you can set aside the black people, you know, for the larger group of black people in America. And that also, I think people really pretend that they have closer relationships based on, you know, work school connections than they actually do. Because I know for a fact, you know, former high school and college classmates who think of me as a friend and, you know, they support Trump or whatever, and I’m like, oh, we never were friends. What do you mean? We just played football together. But you don’t know my family. You’ve never been to my house. You don’t know anything about me. And so I just think that this is a part of compartmentalizing, and especially when it comes to coaches who often think of these black players as a means to an end anyway. Like, I’m not I’m not going to say that that’s true of every player, every coach. I have some coaches I’m very fond of and that I hope are fun to me. But if you’re complicit, like, for instance, just like the Bobby Bouton’s and whoever else, if you’re complicit in the NCAA system of exploitation of mostly black athletes and want to preserve that system, I’m not surprised that you’re going to end up supporting Trump, you know what I mean?
S5: So, yeah, that’s that’s a good point.
S7: And I think compartment compartmentalization, I think, also explains how professional athletes and college coaches and NFL coaches can, on the one hand, band together to win games and have a harmonious locker room. But as soon as they walk out, they’ve got their own political beliefs and they’re not going to not going to be influenced by the things that they’ve learned or heard or seen being a part of a team or leading a team that’s composed primarily of people of color.
S3: I do think it’s important to point out, though, that if you are a coach like Tommy Tarabella or Bobby Bowden, you do have the opportunity to cultivate genuine relationships with people that are different from you.
S16: You have the opportunity to go into people’s homes and meet their families and their their parents and see these people genuine life experiences and understand them.
S1: And so if there’s a lack of kind of understanding there, it’s willful. It’s it’s not that you’re not given the opportunity and the chance to have a world view other than your own. You just have are given that opportunity and choose not to take it.
S7: And it’s phony, too, because you’re positioning yourself as the caretaker for someone. We’re going to take care of your kid when it comes to our university or you’re a really important part of our team or we value who you are as a person. And those moral and ethical differences among the people that run and compose teams are pretty stark. And it comes out at a time like this.
S3: All right. That is our Slate plus segment for the week. Slate plus members, thank you so much for your membership. We’ll be back with you next week, which will hopefully be post election. Fingers crossed.