S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children. Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is hang up and listen for the week of March 14th, 2022. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the NFL’s quarterback Roulette, which landed on 12 Orange on Sunday night with Tom Brady’s announcement that he’s not retiring, after all. We’ll also discuss the favorites and the storylines to watch in March Madness. The LSU coach, who got fired right before the tournament started, finally will pass the NFL’s decision to suspend Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for at least one year for betting on games. I’m in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year Stefan Fatsis is off this week, but with me from Palo Alto, California. Joel Anderson is the host of Slow Burn Season three and season six. Hello, Joel. Pat The Sports This past week, I feel like I got it.
S2: Got very, very sporty all over the weekend. We thought then we thought March Madness was going to be the biggest, the biggest story coming out of the weekend. And then how about it? You know what I’m going to? I’m going to see if I can find your slack to me from that time, you said fuckin Brady. You also say
S1: that was just because he was messing with our show lineup. I have no, that’s nothing against Tom Brady at all.
S2: Fuckin Brady. That was it. Yeah, right? So Dana,
S1: I wanted to ask you about something that you tweeted, since you’re going to be putting my slacks out for public consumption. You’re saying, you’re saying that Iowa and Purdue was just a game that you never get excited about. So if it’s not, you don’t get excited about Iowa, Purdue. You don’t get excited about any combination of Big East teams like Creighton and Xavier and Marquette. Any of that what the what is like a game where that I could mention in your imagination that really gets you fired up, if not, if not, those matchups.
S2: So this had to be a college basketball game. You wanted me to get excited about
S1: Duke and UNLV. Are you still stuck? Are you still stuck on that? What about Texas Tech? Oklahoma State is I get you excited for that one.
S2: Kay Cunningham doesn’t play at Oklahoma State anymore. I could, you know, Gonzaga vs. Duke? I watched that game early in the year. You know, that was fun. I like to see the elite. You know this. You know, people complain about this sometimes, too. But hi, I’m about this. But I think the thing is, I am fundamentally an old person. And when I was growing up, you got to watch good games on TV. Like that was like it was an event.
S1: You didn’t get to watch very many games, but those that you did get to watch were good.
S2: Yeah, they were good. They were going to be compelling stuff. I remember getting excited to watch UNLV. You play Arkansas in a regular season game in 1992, but now I mean, I can see Creighton at any time, Creighton, which, by the way, I think had one of the worst shooting games.
S1: It’s unfortunate that your eyelids were pried open and you were forced to watch that these Bill broadcasters are going to extreme measures to force you to watch Creighton.
S2: They intruded by showing me highlights of that game, and it was basically Creighton missing a series of shots. I want to say they they definitely shot less than 40 percent in that game. They only scored forty eight points in the final of the Big East final against Villanova.
S1: Hopefully, Creighton will score more points in the NCAA tournament and Joel will be entertained
S2: after Old Trafford Stadium cleared out following Manchester United’s three two win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo met with Tom Brady on the pitch. Ronaldo asked Brady You’re finished right, which all of us can understand was a question about Brady’s nfl. career. What Brady said in response was unclear, but the look on his face definitely didn’t say no. Just a couple of old greats mulling over their athletic immortality. Probably not a big deal, right? But we all learned the true answer later on Sunday, when Brady took to Twitter to announce that his retirement was over. After only 40 days these past two months, I’ve come to realize my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. Coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG, which I take the meanest. Let’s fucking go. But who knows? Well, maybe not unfinished business, because Brady didn’t even stay retired long enough to really miss much of the off season. His announcement Sunday capped a wild week of QB movement around the league, including the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, Aaron Rodgers, his decision to stay in Green Bay, and league wide scuttlebutt that Deshaun Watson might sign off on a trade to Seattle. Today we have on our pal Bryan Curtis, editor at Large with the Ringer and co-host of the Press Box podcast to help us make sense of what happened last week. Bryan, thanks for joining us.
S3: Thanks for having me, guys.
S2: Of course. So come on, Brian. Are we really surprised that Brady is back?
S3: No, because I think we spent the last what is it, 40 days since his retirement passing, how he didn’t actually retire, or maybe he just retired from the Bucks, but not from the NFL at large? And I think this is how most everybody thought this was going to wind up, right?
S1: I do remember someone who sounded like me crazy. ESPN and Seth Wickersham on this podcast for reporting that Brady was retiring. When places like the AP were saying the Bucs are still holding out some hope that he might come back. It was like good for good for Wickersham and ESPN, just really like sticking with their story, which is definitely true. I don’t know Brian, if Seth Wickersham was actually wrong or if he was right. How are we to evaluate how this played out in the press, the first go round and then the second go round?
S3: There have been so many funny little media moments I think we all have. Remember the Jim Gray series on Sirius XM, where Brady said, Never say never. After he retired, which sort of got everybody’s antenna going. But really, Brady has had a very weird commitment to breaking news about his non retirement on satellite radio because just two weeks ago, he appeared on the Fred couples show. This is not a joke. Oh man, Sirius XM Golf Channel and made some more sort of non definitive comments about his retirement. So Tom Brady has been leaving breadcrumbs. This is even before the Renaldo thing, leaving breadcrumbs all this time, just listening.
S1: I was listening on the fuzzy Zeller show for The Brady, so good on retirement. And that was that was my mistake, I said. I said I shouldn’t have done that, but I had known that Fred couples had a show. Joel. Maybe I would have been listening that.
S2: I mean, just guess everybody has a show. So that’s where you start right there and just look forward to the Apple Music app. I guess I’m not surprised either, I guess. And maybe you guys help me with this because you just mentioned that he was on the Fred couples show, right? I don’t want to say that nobody listens to the Fred couples show because I don’t know. Right? But I don’t feel like anybody cares about any of that unless he comes back, right? Like to me, it feels like maybe Tom Brady got a momentary glimpse of what it’s like to become culturally irrelevant. Right? We’re like, people don’t pay attention to what you’re saying or what you’re selling. You just become another old guy that used to play football like the rest of us. And like, maybe even in 40 days, you might be like, Oh, I don’t know if I if I like that.
S3: Yeah, there weren’t enough crypto ads, you know, they weren’t quite scratching the same itch. Yeah, I don’t think his retirement was funny, right? Because he didn’t give a press conference. And that’s the moment, you know, Peyton Manning did that, but that’s the moment where you give a kind of semi emotional speech to everybody and you let journalist ask you questions like Why are you retiring when you just led the NFL in touchdowns and yards passing last year? Yeah. Why are you walking away when you’re still really good at football and could easily play another year of football somewhere else? Or is it you don’t want to play in Tampa anymore and you want to go play for the 49ers or something like that? So just everything about it. And you know, it’s funny. I saw somebody on Twitter yesterday saying retirement for him was the thing that got the spotlight off him so that then he could go with his family and make a decision. I’m not sure we had to go through the retirement, the official machinery of retirement to do that. But if he was using that essentially to say, I want to go huddle and think about my future and then come back, I guess that makes sense.
S2: No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? Because I guess we in Josh, you just alluded to it that, you know, the kind of the scuttlebutt around the initial reporting on it. But I mean, it was unclear for a few days. I mean, Seth Wilkerson was out there on an island by himself saying, No, he’s retiring. And then they were. Everybody waited for Tom Brady to confirm. But like, maybe that confusion is like, we’re all of this comes from right there. Like, it hints at a lack of certitude around his decision. Right?
S1: Well, the way that Brady framed it initially was, and I was going back and looking at his original retirement announcement. I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. He didn’t say, I can’t make that competitive commitment anymore. He said, I am not going to. So he always framed it as this is my choice, and I could still do this if I wanted to. A slightly less noticed post retirement kind of hamlet moment was Drew Brees admitting. And there was there was some reporting on this that he came extremely close to coming back during the season last year for the Saints, when all of the Saints quarterbacks save Ian Burke had COVID or were sorry were in the protocols. Forgive me, but, he said in an interview with Dan Patrick Sports Radio that like, yeah, I basically was, it sounded. Brian, what he was saying was I would have done it, except there were just some like logistical issues around coming back because of the the now obsolete NFL rules around COVID. He was like in Hawaii at the time, but he like was definitely. It seemed like he more than considered it. Maybe that’s because he’s a really terrible announcer. We’re doing a little preview of our bonus segment here, and he thought that it’s maybe less fun to do something you’re bad at than something you’re good at. But like, I guess it’s more surprising when you’re an all time great who’s done something at an all time great level for two decades and can probably still do it that you’re just like, I’m I’m never going to do this ever again for the rest of my life.
S3: I think that’s a big thing and go back in my cowboys fandom brain and remember that Troy Aikman got a phone call, I believe, from Andy Reid in the press box when he was calling a game saying, Hey, can you come back because we need you game? Like, can you believe this? Can I believe it was either right after or right before, like he was about to announce a game? I was actually interviewing Al Michaels for the Super Bowl, and he said, I said, Why did you and Boomer Esiason not get along? And he said, I thought Boomer retired too early and he was unhappy to be calling Monday Night Football with me rather than playing a couple more seasons in the NFL. And there is like, it’s so funny because I think as sportswriters and sports media people, we tend to think like, don’t retire too late. Right? Don’t have that really crappy season where you’re throwing ducks and we just don’t because we don’t like to remember you like that, but it’s pretty clear for the athlete. The nightmare is actually the opposite, right, that you would retire too soon and you would leave a potential great season. Another Super Bowl trophy if you’re Brady up, you know, on the table.
S1: I mean, if there was ever a case Joel of an athlete, quote unquote ruining the image that fans had of him by coming back, it would be Michael Jordan with the Wizards. And you did a whole podcast about how that’s just basically been written out of history, like the last dance that actually has been won as opposed to you. The last last dance never mentions the Wizards tenure at all. Like, it never, never happened. It’s impossible. It’s impossible to ruin your career and legacy. I don’t think it’s ever happened once.
S2: Well, yeah. You know, playing a little too long, right? I mean, you could be O.J. and ruin your legacy or whatever.
S1: But thank you for that. We just looked distressed. But yes, but yes, by playing too long.
S2: But by playing too low. But yeah, I mean, just think about it. Like, do we ever talk about Emmitt Smith as an Arizona cardinal or Joe Namath as a ram? You don’t. I mean, none of that stuff. I mean, Tracy McGrady played for, you know, I don’t know how many teams at the end of his career. We just sort of used to athletes playing until they can’t play anymore and, you know, being a little less effective and not really affecting their legacy. Like, is there actually? That’s a good question. Is there an athlete that is actually affected their legacy by playing what we consider to be too long?
S3: I can’t think of anybody. And then you also have those sort of weird curveball seasons like Peyton Manning’s last season as a Bronco where he was really bad. But they want a super
S2: player, right? Right? Yeah. So you’ll take it. He could barely get the ball down the field like he was at a quarterback battle with Brock Osweiler, you know, and nobody said, I hated to see Peyton like that, right? No.
S3: And he got a second ring.
S1: So why not? So one thing that’s become extremely clear, if it was ever unclear at this last week, Brian, is how much of a market there is for the guys at the very, very top of the NFL quarterback ladder. So Russell Wilson to Denver and one of the bigger trades since Herschel Walker in terms of draft picks that the Seahawks got back. You have the Packers being extraordinarily grateful to have Aaron Rodgers, who became a total pariah in some corners of the world. But just like so thrilled to have this this guy back, and now you have the Houston Texans after the Deshaun Watson does not get criminally charged and Houston are asking for three first round picks for a guy who we thought could be out of the league and that deal? It’s not being laughed at. There are lots of teams there, like three first round draft picks for Deshaun Watson. Sign me up.
S3: Yeah, and it’s one of those things where I feel these deals are all gigantic, but we’d expect them to be gigantic. And the reason they seem bigger is because they never actually happen, right? Like when we were talking about an Aaron Rodgers trade. Speaking of Hamlet, by the way, it’s been talked about an Aaron Rodgers trade for the better part of a year. It was like how many draft picks would old Aaron Rodgers bring on the market? And I think the conclusion, at least, you know, playing fantasy trade scenarios was actually more than what Russell Wilson got for going to the Broncos with the Seahawks Calvin Russell Wilson. So, yeah, I mean, these are these are huge deals, but it’s because nobody ever trades their quarterback and actually does the deal. That’s the reason we don’t actually see these.
S2: What’s interesting to me about the the Russell Wilson thing, I mean, probably the same thing that’s interesting a lot of other people is that what is Seattle doing like? What is their plan, right? Because it doesn’t. You don’t think that Pete Carroll, who’s if he’s not 70, closing in on 70 years old, is around for a rebuild. And this is a guy whose like motto is win every day. Right? So jettisoning Russell Wilson is either an indication of what that they don’t think Russell Wilson can play anymore or that they can have success. Without him, they can they can rebuild their team in the image of the old Pete Carroll teams where you know you have a guy that throws 20 times a game and you can win with writing and defense because it just doesn’t seem like surely you don’t think you’re going to like it. Marcus Mariota or something and likes to remain competitive, right?
S3: Yeah. And what successful Pete Carroll team was that, by the way, you know, like that, you know, because when I think of successful Pete Carroll teams, I think of Russ lighting it up. You know, I think of Matt and Matt Leinart lighting it up and Carson lighting it up back in court. This really reminds me for all the college football fans on the podcast. When Mark Sanchez came out kind of a year early. Remember, Pete got mad about that when I was at USC, and right after that you knew Pete was just done at USC. He was going to play around with all these like substitute options, and he was just like, I got to get out of here. Oh, my run of quarterbacking of great quarterbacking is over.
S2: No answer your question. I did. I can’t remember John David Booty came before or after.
S3: I think I think he might have been after. You have feels like he was after the to answer your question. I think the Seahawks are reacting to the fact that Russell Wilson just doesn’t want to be there and then he’s been saying this out loud and that they messed up their draft so badly. Over the last five six years, people were posting the list of number one picks that they couldn’t build a team around him. Then again, if we just listen to what Russell Wilson has been saying, which, by the way, I believe started on The Dan Patrick Show last February, he’s like, I want input on how you build this team because you haven’t been able to do it yourselves. And then, oh wait, you still weren’t able to do it yourselves. So now I don’t want to be here, and clearly I think he had a no trade clause. So clearly the move was generated or signed off on or both by Russell himself.
S1: The I mean, the NFL’s about a decade behind the NBA in terms of player and empowerment and the level of player empowerment in the NFL is always going to necessarily be lower because I think the only players who can really write their own ticket and demand anything are these like high level quarterbacks. And you saw with Aaron Rodgers that the lengths that the Packers were willing to go to to keep him around were pretty extraordinary. And it succeeded. And I think there’s no argument, really, that Denver is dumb and shouldn’t have done it. I mean, I mentioned Herschel Walker before. I mean, he was a running back like, you know, you don’t do that for a running back. No offense Joel. But like the the Broncos were a team that you’re like. They have a good defense. Like, who cares? The chances of the Broncos being relevant or the Saints being relevant with their amazing defense is just like zero. And now they’re immediately like one of the betting favorites to win the Super Bowl. I mean, the Bucks being the obvious example. Here they go from a team like kind of a cute team with some talent to winning the Super Bowl instantly with with Tom Brady. And so, yeah, Brian, like if we go from a moment when all these quarterback trades are just like hypothetical and they never happen to one in which this is like a new thing that happens every offseason, that’s just like an entirely new NFL that we’re like, never seen before.
S3: And I think they’ll probably still be fairly rare, though it only takes a couple of them to really change the NFL. The, you know, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t happen, but Russell Wilson happening is still a big deal, right? If if one out of every 10 that we that we propose in our heads or, you know, feel is happening, I think the Wilson one’s really interesting because so he comes out last February and says that and we as sports media people immediately jump on that does Russell Wilson one out of Seattle. What could Seattle get for Russell Wilson? This has been a full year of takes about this on every television show that you got. You and I do not watch, right? There has been a Russell Wilson Kiran. Pretty steady on there with the Aaron Rodgers guy.
S2: Colin Cowherd hits it about every few days. Yeah, yes. There we
S1: go. We also haven’t mentioned Kyler Murray like there. There have been all sorts of Kyler Murray in these cycles.
S3: Yeah, and it was just funny to watch this one actually come to fruition. That we were sitting here last week was like, Oh. We did all that. A lot of times that’s very performative, as it turned out to be for Aaron Rodgers, and then he actually did get traded. So again, I don’t know how often that’s going to happen, but if it one or two happen, it’s a huge deal.
S1: Yeah, I mean, we’re kind of like at a six right now, Joel. Like, imagine if every off season it was like, is Patrick Mahomes happy? Is Josh Allen happy like this? This could be ratchet it up. But I guess the difference is compared to the NBA that like typically in the NFL, if you have one of these great quarterbacks, you have a really good team and like a fairly competently managed team like the Russell Wilson scenario with. And I guess this was the case with Drew Brees in New Orleans for all those years when they were going seven or nine, although he stuck it out. Like there are examples of teams with great quarterbacks that aren’t good teams, but it’s more rare than it is in the NBA to have a team with a superstar that isn’t very good or competitive.
S2: But to double down on, I mean, like Deshaun Watson was with the Texans, so they went four and 12 with him the last time he played right. And so, yeah, I mean, I guess enough of these quarterbacks have seen that these front offices aren’t necessarily working in their best interests. And there’s a lot of money on the line, and there’s a lot of legacy on the line with all this explosion of media. People are discussing your legacy every every few days, and it it’s like it’s probably not enough to just go out there, try hard, make good money and be the face of a franchise. Like now you have a national audience and people are looking at Russell Wilson and saying, Oh, you know, you haven’t won since the legion of Boom wasn’t, you know, going strong, right? And so he’s probably, well, you know, I’d like to see what it’s like to go out there, and I’ve seen Matt Stafford go out here and do this. I’ve seen, you know, Tom Brady go out and do it like, why can’t that be me? It probably impossible for it to happen on this scale every offseason because there’s only so many of these dudes, but you don’t get anything for suffering in silence for years anymore. Close miles don’t get fed, and so you got to make your way.
S1: Joel Thank you for mentioning Matt Stafford so we can stave off the you didn’t mention Matt Stafford email. Stay down about an all time and all time classic oversight. So you saved us.
S3: And I honestly think the Stafford thing and the Brady thing, the fact that the last two Super Bowls were won by quarterbacks that essentially did this right. Tom Brady, who was not wanted in New England anymore. Matt Stafford, who wanted the hell out of Detroit. Yeah, they won the Super Bowl. So if you’re a quarterback, you’re like, Hey, I’m thirty five. I don’t love my present situation. That’s a pretty direct reason to, you know, flex whatever muscles you have to go somewhere else.
S2: Bryan Curtis, the Ringer, the press box pod. Please check them all out, and he’ll be joining us in the bonus segment to talk about the explosion in salaries for NFL TV announcers and analysts. So. Thanks so much, Brian, for joining us today.
S3: Thank you, guys. We’ll be back right after this.
S4: Look at the.
S2: In the next segment, we’ll be having Alex Kirshner on to talk about March Madness.
S1: March Madness is back and hopefully will be chock full of the upsets and buzzer beaters that we’ve come to know and love. But this year there are a couple of key differences after the whole thing got cancelled in 2020 and got played in mostly empty arenas, with some exceptions in 2021. We’re going to have big crowds at every game and the women’s tournament, according to the sport of crowds at the NCAA, will actually be called March Madness this year after they’d reserved that phrase for the men’s tournament ever since the term existed. And so, without fear of receiving a notice of allegations, I can tell you that the number one seeds in March Madness are South Carolina. Defending champ Stanford, NC State and Louisville for the women. And Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas and defending champion Baylor for the men. Joining us for this in our next segment is Slate contributing writer Alex Kirshner, and if you need more Alex in your life, you can hear him on the exemplary college football podcast Split Zone Duo. Hello, my
S2: very favorite podcast, by the way, I got to say just throwing that in there, but
S5: that’s very nice as as I’ve told Joel to his face many times before. One of my favorite podcasts is Slow Burn, which he is not responsible for what like a third of two of the six seasons. So thank you.
S2: True. Yeah, that’s it.
S5: But hello, John. It’s great to be with you.
S1: Great to have you. And Alex, I know you love the tournament. I’ve loved it for a very long time. How do you feel going into this year’s edition from like a super macro perspective, given that it’s very fraught? Talk about whether things are or should be returning to normal, but this will be the most quote unquote normal tournament in many a year.
S5: Well, macro really does expand the question I was going to say on a micro level, I feel down because my alma mater, the University of Maryland, is out altogether of the men’s event and our women’s team is not as good as it’s often been this year at their fourth seed. So I’m not very excited about it for selfish reasons, but I do think that it’s a wide open year in both tournaments. If you look at the men’s side, Gonzaga is for the second year in a row the best paper team, and you would think that at some point you keep going back year after year, you would get over that hump and you would would win something. But obviously, sports are cruel, and that’s not the way it works, and there’s a lot of good teams. And on the women’s side, I think that it’s produced some of the best college basketball moments of the last 20 years or so feel like they’ve been crammed into the last like five or six years of the women’s final four and the women’s tournament. Dawn Staley and South Carolina are tremendous there. I think probably going to be considered a favorite, of course, a favorite. Maybe the favorite. Times have changed in the sport. So there’s no longer sort of the default expectation that the Geno Auriemma UConn’s are going to run over teams until they get beat themselves. There’s there’s plenty of parity on both the men’s and women’s sides this year. And if you like that, if you like unpredictability, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
S2: Yeah. And it’s interesting because you talk about unpredictability, but you know, at least on the men’s side of the bracket, you know, the thing about Gonzaga that’s really interesting to me is sort of the evolution of the program in our lifetime, because at first it was like this really cute story. You know, this Jesuit institution out of Spokane, Washington, why would they be able to compete with anybody? But now we’re going to the second straight year that they’re the number one overall team in college basketball, which is really weird because we hear so much about like what Nil is supposed to do for people and like, you know, all this, this realignment that’s going on in college sports and there’s this team that’s sort of beyond all of that like this program that’s beyond they’re not a part of any realignment conversations whatsoever. And it’s folly to think that they’re up here recruiting with the heavyweights, but for the fact that they’ve got, you know, one of the potential top three picks in next year’s draft. Chet Holmgren But that’s not typically the way that they’ve built their program.
S1: They love Jalen Suggs last year.
S2: I mean, think about how fast basketball moves. I forgot about Jalen Suggs, who I fell in love with last spring. But yeah, I mean, you know now. But now they’re starting to become like one of those heavyweights in an atypical way. And though it does that make any sense by just projecting right because it will go about them like Kentucky or Duke or anything like that, we don’t.
S5: But I think they are moving in that direction. You know, they built their program, mark few their coach did. And a really, it’s hard to say anything is singular in college sports because it’s such a big ecosystem, but in a way that other programs of their caliber really didn’t. You know, for a while it was international evaluation and development. If you think about all the players that were key to their teams over the last 10 15 years who were not from the United States, you’ve got Ronnie Terry office from France, the big man there, Elias Harris, who is a German national car. Nowitzki, the Polish big man. They had DeMar to Sabonis from Lithuania, Rui Hachimura from from Japan, Kevin Pangas, Kelly Olynyk. A couple of Canadians, they’ve just gone and found and I’ve. You say Canada is, you know, a stone’s throw from from Spokane, but Gonzaga for a while was just kind of finding players where others were not. And that was the way that they supplemented that they really built and supplemented their roster that, you know, they would find three stars from somewhere in the United States and they’d get some really good international players who would come in and be important for them in the last few years. You’ve sort of seen it change a little bit where Josh mentioned Jalen Suggs, who was one of the stars of last year’s tournament and then was a first round pick in the NBA. Chet Holmgren. I’m not an NBA draft guy by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s apparently going to be a top, I don’t know, three top five pick despite being seven feet and like, maybe not 200 pounds, but he’s going to
S1: be interesting for lanky people with weak upper body is unlike kind of inverted shoulders. I mean, he is the one of the most unusual. I mean, we talk about unicorns, but they’re like enough unicorns and NBA now that like a unicorn isn’t even all that rare. But like, here’s a player who with his stature, his body type and his skills, like I was reading an NBA draft thing on ESPN like they they don’t actually have any comps for him, which makes him such a fascinating guy. So watch now and to think about what his places in the NBA.
S2: This is going to sound like a very weird analogy, but he reminds me of Darren McFadden in the way that like, Oh, I’ve never seen anybody be this effective. It looks like that. You know what I mean? Like, Darren McFadden was just a strange looking running back. Like, there was not really a comp for him. But I knew that he was going to be effective. I just I just he was that much of a dude. And I kind of feel that way about Chet Holmgren, even though like, like I said, there’s no real confidence. Does that make? Does that make sense to you all? Because I mean. Oh yeah. Kevin Durant, who I don’t know, you know? But yeah, I
S5: mean, this guy’s an awesome player. He’s he’s there’s very little, almost nothing he can’t do like his dribbling ability for someone of his height is bizarre to look at. It’s like an NBA 2K creative player. It doesn’t even make sense. I’m sure that there will be skeptics who will assume that he’s just going to get like pushed out of the paint by NBA big man. And maybe that’s true. But you know, a lot of things in the world don’t make sense these days. And well, I
S1: think he’s the seven footer who can do that. I think he’s going to defend force like, I mean, that’s they have this kind of like very ecology center and drew Tammy, who can’t jump at all but is really skilled offensively. And he’s like the perfect guy to pair with Chet Holmgren, who’s got this enormous reach can block shots, but is more comfortable offensively and defensively on the perimeter like they really struggle the game that really gave him the most trouble, as against St. Mary’s, which has these kind of traditional, burly dudes inside. But like how many college programs are going to be able to come up with a lineup that troubles Gonzaga the way that they’re constructed? Probably not that many, but you know, Alex, you were on the Gonzaga train pretty hard last year. I think you’re to stay on it this year. But if they do get taken down kind of who, who’s going to do it, what kind of team is there anybody else that you’re looking out for and interesting to watch?
S5: Well, I guess the way they got taken down last year was that Baylor just physically overwhelmed them. And, you know, you could say, going into the tournament and I did that. Hey, on paper, this is has a chance to be the best team in the history of men’s college basketball. And that was true. But Baylor just lifted more weights and just bullied them around in that game
S2: and trust Davion Mitchell to do anything like he’s like an athlete. I love that guy.
S5: Yeah, they’re tough. I think it was, Michael Josh said during the game last year. It was a tweet that I remember reading and thinking this was exactly it. Like, Inzaghi’s thing is, look, we’ve got all these future lottery picks like we might be the best team ever. And Baylor’s like, Yeah, well, we left with the football team and that was what it was. They were just bigger and stronger. I think that that might be again the thing, because that’s really the formula that has worked against this team. There aren’t many that have. But, you know, Gonzaga pushes the pace. You’re not going to beat them in a track meet. I think their average length of possession. This is via Ken Pomeroy’s tracking site Kemp on the comp is 14 and a half seconds. That’s the fastest possession in Division one. This is how Murphy’s teams play. They move very quickly. They can obviously shoot now out of the ball. So does someone have a big man who can do to Chet Holmgren what you would think could be done to someone who is that lanky? Maybe. But also maybe not. Because, like I said, nothing. Nothing has to make sense anymore. Oh, and I guess I didn’t as far as who would actually fit that mold? We’ll see. But you would look to like your Dukes and Kentucky’s and your teams that. Recruit four and five star bigs who are going to play in the NBA and dark and, you know, North Carolina with Armando Baker, who was the guy who kind of ruined Coach K’s last game at Cameron Indoor, you know, these are all these are all candidates to do this kind of thing if they should run into Gonzaga, but we’ll see.
S1: I mean, it seems like the shock is that it’ll be Gonzaga, Arizona in the final. That’s what a lot of people are predicting. Arizona with Tommy Lloyd, the longtime Gonzaga assistant. If we’re talking about the Gonzaga faction of college basketball Joel, then you could that that NCAA final would be a marker that that is what’s upon us. But you know, Houston could be Houston.
S2: Yeah, man. I mean, they beat people up too. Like, that’s another one of those teams. They don’t have the dogs that the Baylor had. I think Baylor held them to like 14 points in the first half in their Final Four matchup last year. But yeah, like you have has those dogs, but they’re doing it with a lot of smoke and mirrors to this sort of offensively limited as all Kelvin Sampson teams have been throughout the course of his career. Right?
S1: So one thing that I think has gone like largely and commented upon in the last 12 to 18 hours is the fact. And Alex, I’m wondering if you agree the rise of kind of analytics around NCAA tournament evaluation, whether you’re looking at like KenPom, whether you’re looking at BPI, whether you’re looking at all any sort of rankings of the net. We are not in the days anymore where there’s a lot of kind of confusion around who should be in the tournament, where there’s a lot of argumentation about teams being seeded improperly. I mean, the only thing that I heard people argue about at all, like on the ESPN show, was like tennis. You should be a two instead of a three. Like, there wasn’t even really any arguing over the bubble teams, which is I mean, there’s this whole complex around people getting angry about the tournament and people prognosticating like, who’s in and who’s out is all that obsolete now? Because I mean, there’s this like wisdom of the crowd bracket matrix thing that I look at sometimes where you have like 100 different people’s picks being aggregated and it’s just like everybody knows who’s in and who should be in. Is that like kind of a thing that will be the case going forward? Or was this year an outlier?
S5: I think it might be the case going forward, and people will always find things to be mad about. Texas A&M fans were mad. What’s new? Joel you’re from? You play catch up on the state of Texas. You know how taxane and fans are going to be as our other fan bases in that state and elsewhere. But I think it’s generally for the best that it can get confusing to follow. And it does. You know how many Quad one wins do you have? You know, whether or not your RPI is up to snuff or you know, you’re looking at KenPom, which is sort of the publicly facing gold standard that a lot of people look at for various basketball analytics, at least in men’s division one nowadays? Yeah, it all gets confusing, but it’s a little better than, for instance, college football where a team misses the postseason because some athletic director woke up in a bad mood one day and thinks that they’re winning in week eight against some team actually just wasn’t that good because, you know, we didn’t like the way that opponent looked four weeks later against SMU or whoever. I like that. It feels like there’s a little bit less left up to interpretation. Of course, the whole thing is still going to have some subjectivity in it, but a little bit less left to the imagination of college administrators than football has. And I think that’s for the best.
S2: Can I briefly turn this back on Josh for a second? Because I in the middle of this, I had not realized that LSU fired Will Wade while they were still going to the tournament. Like, I just I guess the timing of this was really, really weird to me, and I’m trying to think of what there’s only a few teams that I can think of that have done like this interim tournament run thing like, you know, I always go back to like Michigan. When they fired Bill Frieder in a Bill free to went to Arizona State, and it was Steve Fisher that took over, and then they went to they made it to the final that year.
S1: So what about when LSU suspended Will Wade during the tournament a couple of years ago? Yeah, coach, that’s that’s an analogy that you could that you could strike.
S2: Yeah. And I just watched like in Josh and I actually briefly talked about this over the weekend. But Alex, I’m curious on your take on it. Do you think this is the last one of those, like the last one of these like, oh wow, he was offering to pay players? What a scandal.
S1: Yeah, and maybe end of an era. I think we’re
S5: already moving past it. Like, there’s a lot of things. Even right now with LSU, Will Wade is not even close to the biggest scandal at LSU right now right now. I mean, like, they’re most kind of celebrated assistant hire for football for Brian Kelly staff. Frank Wilson turns out to have been accused by a very high ranking LSU athletic administrator of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred years earlier. I think that most people who look at these things recognize that an allegation of that is way, way, way, way, way more serious than an allegation that you’ve paid some young men and people close to them, some American dollars in exchange for those players talents. I think we are moving to a post NCAA scandal world and hopefully towards focusing on, you know, actual crimes and exploitations and wrongdoings that happen in college sports. But you know what way was kind of a trailblazer in a way for athletes rights? So he goes out as a true ally.
S1: I mean, but people like Pat Forde and Pete Thamel are definitely getting their last looks. And I mean, just as like a prominent guy at Asi, a prominent guy at ESPN and reading the stories that they’ve read in the Pat Forde. Pierce is just like deeply, deeply deranged about how Will Wade is as like a like a greasy con man. I can’t remember exactly what phrase he used, but just like the level of like faux kind of hurt and outrage about like what Will Wade has done to this like precious and pure sport. I mean, I’m not disputing like he obviously had to be fired like. And he should have gotten fired like several years ago when the strong ass offer to Javonte smart thing came out. But I don’t think, as you were saying, Alex, like, is it wrong to like, pay college players? It’s wrong, it’s wrong. Not it’s wrong not to write, as you said. I mean, he’s a he’s a trailblazer. Like, I think the thing that gives away the game for me here and you mentioned, I mean, you didn’t get to even like five percent of the league title, nine issues that LSU has been having over the last few years, but it’s never talked about that when Will Wade was building this program. He brought in two guys who’d been credibly accused of sexual assault as players. And those were those were just accusations. And he said, Oh, it’s up to the school to vet them. And he’s like, It’s not my responsibility. But like in all of these stories about like Will Wade legacy and tenure at LSU, I have not seen that mentioned a single time. And so I’m not saying that Will Wade is like a good guy or a murderer. Like, I think the fact that he was paying players out of him and his wife’s like dual checking account, you know, like a Kansas, the allegation is like that an Adidas guy was paying guys to go there. I mean, like, that’s typically how it’s done, right? The fact that Wade was doing this himself is a stoop is just like, weird and stupid. And I’m not saying that he’s like a moral or ethical person, but just the way in which the story has been framed and and described is just, like, deeply weird to me. Like, these people can’t actually believe the stuff that they’re writing.
S5: Yeah, I mean, I think if you want to fire him for incompetence, for violating the Stringer Bell rule, and I think this kind of business on the phone, then you yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But it’s interesting when schools try to make these things immoral, stand at least publicly. LSU is trying to have it both ways here. And, you know, they fire Will Wade for cause. And I think that’s why they waited for the notice of allegations to come from the NCAA. Despite the fact that we’ve known about this all for years, you know, they fired for cause and that saves them three million bucks in a buyout. But they also say that the fact that we’re firing for costs is not an indication that we are admitting to any of this. And you know, well,
S1: they should have contract so he could get fired with cause and not sue the school if he was accused of one of these violations, not if he was found nothing to do with an appeal like it’s a pretty school friendly contract,
S5: pretty school friendly contract. And I think it is sort of a new frontier in coach contracts that might be for the best because it’ll it kind of could be a problem for the buyout industrial complex in college sports. But schools trying to make it very easy to either use NCAA charges or manufacture and sell charges to get out of paying buyouts to coaches that they never should have committed that much money to. It’s all a sausage factory, so you can decide the morality of that or not. But know, I don’t think anyone thinks that, Scott Woodward, the LSU athletic director who did this, is just like so passionate about compliance with NCAA rules and federal regulations and just wants to run the clean shop in the world and do it the right way. And that’s why else you did this. You know, let’s let’s all grow up.
S1: Up next, the NFL’s. Suspends Calvin Ridley for gambling on football. And this week’s bonus segment for Slate Plus members, Brian Curtis will join Joel and myself to talk about. ANNOUNCER Roulette in the NFL, we’ve got Troy Aikman and Joe Buck switching around. Maybe Al Michaels to Curb Street is involved. Who is not switching? Why are they switching and why are they making so much money to listen to that? You have to be a slate plus member, and you don’t just get bonus segments on this podcast and slow burn and other slate shows. You also get no ads on any Slate podcast, including this one, and you get the pleasure of supporting our show. To sign up, go to Slate.com Slash Hang Up Plus again, that’s Slate.com slash hang up plus. Last week, the NFL announced that the Falcons Calvin Ridley was out for the entire 2022 season and possibly longer his infraction. Betting on NFL games Ridley played only five games last season after taking some time away from his team starting in October to focus on his mental health. It was after that in November that he reportedly placed three parlay bets. Those are the kinds of bets that require you to pick multiple games correctly to get a payout. In all three cases, he bet on a Falcons victory as part of the parlay. That’s just being a good teammate. Ridley tried to tweet through it last week, he wrote. I bet 1500 total. I don’t have a gambling problem and I know I was wrong, but I’m getting one year lol. I should say the LOL was part of his tweet, not my commentary on the tweet and suspending Ridley. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league than upholding the integrity of the game. That’s the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions, speaking of Ridley, put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL. Alex, should we be surprised that Goodell only said integrity of the game twice there? I would have bet the over on that.
S5: Yeah, you would have thought it would be more. I actually this might be the most naive thing that I’ll ever say, but I believe that Roger Goodell meant exactly what he said in this case. The NFL obviously makes an industry out of bullshitting around a lot of things and telling certain myths about itself. But they really do care about the perception that NFL games are on the up and up and that they are competitively honest and that the outcome is not predetermined in any way. And of course, the reason for that is profit. That’s their television partners. Pay them billions of dollars to air extremely valuable TV properties that are really the most popular TV shows in America on the basis in part that football is fun and on the basis in part, that it’s really kind of a mystery who’s going to win even if it’s the Jaguars playing the Rams? And if you do anything that might make it even seem like there’s a whiff of corruption to the NFL’s competitive integrity, as Goodell would put it, yeah, they’ll they’ll bury your life. It’s not a moral stand, it’s a financial one. But I do think he’s being honest that that’s why the NFL is so upset about this.
S2: Alex, help us to sort of walk the fine line here, because a lot of people when these when this story broke last week immediately pivoted toward the allegations from Brian Flores that Stephen Ross had offered him $100000 to lose games. And so to invoke the integrity of the game as part of the NFL’s reasoning for, you know, punishing Calvin Ridley so hard people say, Well, no, I mean, obviously, you don’t care that much about the integrity of the game. If that if if those sort of allegations are going on out there and we know that NFL teams are not always trying to win games because, you know, not necessarily in terms of effort on the field, but what they do in the front office and constructing rosters, right? But they don’t always put forth their best foot when competing. So I don’t think it’s a good analogy. I don’t think that they’re necessarily analogous. But what do you think about that comparison?
S5: It’s a totally fair thing to bring up, and the tough thing about it is that the NFL has given good reason for all of us to think that they would never punish a member of their own club, that being ownership for anything. You’ve seen the way that Roger Goodell has kind of stepped around doing anything serious to punish Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Commander’s, who has run, you know, a famously and very well-reported out by The Washington Post nightmare of a workplace, particularly for many women in that workplace. But in general, he just sounds like an awful boss who creates a really terrible place to work. And, you know, despite Congress now being involved and all kinds of public scrutiny, Roger Goodell has tried very, very hard to not punish Daniel Snyder at all. But to make it seem like Daniel, you know, like this owner has been held accountable. So to bring it back to this, you could totally have well-founded skepticism that even if the NFL did find that Stephen Ross had done something to rig games, that they would bury that I actually don’t think so. And I think that the telling that is that when Brian Flores, the fired Dolphins coach, sued the NFL and made this allegation of Stephen Ross, the real thrust of the lawsuit, of course, was that Flores had been. Discriminated against in hiring and firing because he is black and the NFL certainly has a record of immense racism and its coach hiring and firing the NFL on that charge on the racism site. They basically responded, No, this is outrageous. This is essential to what we do. We love diversity. This is critical. Like waved it away, said it was without merit. But on the Stephen Ross bit about, you know, allegedly paying 100 grand to to lose games, they sounded really serious about that. They are investigating it. The NFL Network, which is their state media has said, has reported on the fact that they’re investigating it. You know, could that just be for the perception of how seriously you take these things to satisfy TV partners, fans who buy tickets? Of course, like we talked about, there’s no reason to really take the NFL at its word that it would ever do anything to an owner. But if it became impossible to ignore and if they found evidence that was going to get out that Stephen Ross said this, I think they’d force him to sell the team. I really do. And again, it’s not a principled thing. It’s just the NFL cannot have any notion that the games are not left up to what happens on the field, because that’s why people watch it. That’s why the NFL makes money. And so that might be naive, too. But I think if they find that this happened and that the world is going to find out about it, I think they’re going to have to make him sell the team.
S1: So one thing that’s been pretty universal, whether you’re reading commentators are current or former players, is that there’s an understanding that you’re not allowed to do this as a player like nobody is saying, then Calvin Ridley. Oh, like he couldn’t hit a nerve or like, oh, like, cut the guy a break. Like, everybody seems to agree that this is the one thing you’re told over and over and over again as a player is a no no go zone. And so tweeting through it, not going to work for a Calvin Ridley. And yet, as an NFL viewer, it’s just impossible to avoid seeing, for instance, Drew Brees, like almost as like he’s hanging up his jersey with his left hand. He’s like collecting money from like online casinos with his right hand and like, you know, they’re just these ads with kind of faces and voices of the NFL encouraging all of us to bet on NFL games, like with the kind of sanction and approval of the league and the endorsement of NFL stars. And so how do you feel like the NFL has walked that line so far? Alex, I mean, just accusing things and people of hypocrisy is a bit tiresome. So for us, it does push through that. But just like the mechanics here, do we feel like, yeah, the NFL is doing this as as well as can be done and in a way that we should expect?
S5: I think that they are doing it about as well as they could. If you take it as a granted that, yes, this is a business and they’re going to go and make tons of money in these sportsbook partnerships and via the commercialism of this industry. I think that the Ridley story, though, sort of heralds what inevitably has to be a new normal, which is that in a world where anything less than 100 percent compliance with a good rule and understandable rule that league personnel can’t ban on football or in the NFL’s case, in other sports, if any straying from that at all is a miniature scandal like this Calvin Ridley thing is there’s going to be more of it. There has to be, and it’s not a matter of hypocrisy. It’s just a matter of. The NFL has sort of taken a front line role in making sure that the entire world knows how easy it is to bet on sports. You cannot watch an NFL game without being told how easy it is to bet on sports right there on your phone in five seconds. If you’re in the right state and there are thousands of people associated with the NFL, so of course it’s a good rule, and the NFL’s players are business partners in this because they get a cut of league revenue via their collective bargaining agreement. So they’re business partners in this gambling enterprise, too. It makes total sense, but you’re going to have people break this rule because we are talking so much about the ubiquity of this and the ease of use of it. It’s completely ridiculous to think that there aren’t going to be more cases of NFL people here, and they’re doing the exact thing that the NFL tells you all the time is so easy and so fun and such a great companion to your sports experience. It’s inevitable. It has to happen.
S2: We’re not naive enough to believe that Calvin Ridley is the only one that has done something like this, right? I think the thing that distinguishes him is that he went to the sportsbook and placed a bet, right? And so they’re required to report that to the NFL like they can’t find around. That has to go. But like none of us believe that he’s the only guy in the NFL who is making bets on the outcomes of NFL. I wish the listeners could see everybody’s face because now I lost my confidence after I said it. But I mean, there are a lot of different dudes in the league with either all sorts of impulses, right? And I just kind of find it hard to believe that in this entire this huge fraternity, you have more than a thousand players that he’d be the only one that would, you know, cross this line
S5: knowing that what I’m about to say will sound like it comes directly from. The gambling industry’s lobbying talking points that they probably share with members of Congress in some ways, the Ridley thing is a case that the NFL and its sports leagues in general are doing a good job by getting involved with regulated sports gambling because the way that really got caught, as Joel said, is he went to he used a licensed official sports betting platform. The NFL has a partnership to monitor who’s betting on these things. It wasn’t concealed. The NFL found out about it, and that was that if you’re just placing a bet with your bookie who you know from college and, you know, used to sell you weed and sits on your couch and watches college games with you on Saturdays, the NFL probably isn’t going to find that out unless someone talks, which they’re probably not going to because what they’re doing is illegal. So you could tell a story about this that having this thing out sort of in the open don with licensed business partners of the leagues actually protects the competitive integrity that the NFL is so worried about. And it’s not a completely insane argument, even if it also is fairly self-serving to what the league wants.
S1: Well, there is something kind of refreshing about the fact that we now live in a world in which major broadcasters leagues. Everyone is more honest about the fact that gambling is a foundation for the popularity of sports worldwide. There used to be this sort of coyness around, and there’s still a little bit of it, but which I think is just like a relic of kind of old fashioned cuteness where announcers will say at the end of games like people, some people are just like, really excited about that like stuff that Al Michaels would say about it, about a late score. But like you now see point spreads on the bottom line on ESPN. Like there’s now like gambling kind of conversation and alleged expertise on mainstream websites and broadcasts. And this is a part of it that Ridley was betting through a licensed legal kind of mechanism. And the funny thing to me is like that he was making soccer bets like that. He was making doing these sorts of plays. And that, to me, actually speaks to the integrity of the enterprise. Like it seems like he was just making like really dumb sports bets from his coach rather than like trading on any kind of inside information.
S5: Probably so, and the insider information thing is another reason why this is important for the league. They have these partnerships with these sportsbooks that are trying to sell themselves to us, to a potential consumer base and the sportsbooks, aside from the NFL’s TV partners being mad if a game is not on the up and up, they’re going to be pretty pissed off. If it turns out that people within the NFL who know things the general public doesn’t are using that information to distort markets and to change odds and spreads and make this a less hospitable place for the everyman better who they are trying to woo with a ton of money. You know, I have not taken advantage of any of these promos, but you know, these are the same places that are like, here’s a $1000 free bet. That’s how bad they want you there. It’s not going to help them with customer acquisition if they find out that the NFL has people within it who are wrecking the lines for the rest of the public.
S2: I will try to quickly walk with me for a second because I have this like the sort of big overarching theory, which is not to excuse Calvin Ridley because a game and even among the NFL players I know like they know that this is verboten. Like, you’re not supposed to do this right, you’re not supposed to bet. But we’re increasingly growing up in a time, though some elements of society and culture have been regressive, but like the social and cultural change, our gambling in my lifetime has just been incredible, like almost sort of rivaled by like the acceptance of marijuana and cannabis. But like I just remember growing up and there was the Boston, you know, there were stories and documentaries on the Boston College point shaving scandal, the Tulane basketball scandal. You know, Pete Rose, like Pete Rose, like, was, you know, that was like that. The joke was every every time sports radio got, you know, ran out of things to talk about, they talk about, you know, whether or not Pete Rose should go into the Hall of Fame or not art splitter. You’d be like, I, that’s not a name that’s important to anybody anymore. But like, that was a name that I was very familiar, familiar with, right? And I just feel like things have changed so much that like this almost seems this is just a sort of an antiquated sort of story in a way to me that like gambling is back center, it’s centered in a sports story again, in a way that it was when we were growing up in the 80s and 90s. But am I? Am I wrong on that or what? Well, you’re
S1: you’re leaving out Tim Donahue, which was a big story of more recent vintage
S2: Fairpoint traveling that was convenient. I was trying to leave it out. I didn’t want it to interfere with my sorry
S1: to call you out on your bullshit.
S5: Yes, sorry. I do think we’re probably heading for a world where your media and sports betting scandal is way less salacious and exciting than the median of the last century. But that feels enough like this Ridley thing, sort of like
S1: the Will Wade and Will
S5: kind of like that. Yeah, very much so. And of course, this Ridley thing threatened to be a big problem for the NFL. He’s not going to be the last suspended over this mini scandal might be a fair way to put it. It’s not a major one minute one. That’s still that’s a lot different than working with black market gambling operators and leaving yourself subject to, you know, even more subject to extortion or to the things the NFL is really worried about. You know, the NFL, if you have thousand dollars of gambling debt of any kind, even if it’s from poker, requires you to tell them because they’re really afraid that you’re going to have something where you get indebted to somebody. And that’s I have to throw a game that sounds a lot like kind of college basketball betting scandals that we had several times in the 20th century. This stuff is just not that exciting. It’s Calvin Ridley probably sitting on his couch making some parlay bets. And you know, there might be more of these, but there’ll be less. Less less hot from a media perspective, I think.
S1: I just feel like in the continuum of possible NFL scandals or if you want to zoom in on possible NFL gambling scandals, this is the one you would pick if you had to have one for the NFL doesn’t get at the integrity of the game at all. It’s not a referee, it’s not a coach. It’s not a guy who is even playing. It’s a guy who was making bets like a fan would make. And the NFL can come down super hard on him and make it clear to everyone, to their partners, in the media, to their partners, in sports betting, to fans that like, we are very mad about this and we are watching this very closely. And so everybody kind of wins except Calvin Ridley. And this is a bit unrelated, but a thing that I think must be weird. I mean, there are so many things about being an amazing athlete that are weird and then I can understand. But the idea that I mean, fantasy sports is conceptually, I think, even weirder than betting on the outcome of games where people quote unquote own you on their teams and things like that. But just the idea that people are betting on you and on your game, that can lead to a lot of ugliness. I mean, you see in tennis the kind of horrible messages that the players get, but I know it just feels like if you were a player. You would probably you would maybe understand. Like that weirdness would affect you in such a way that you would maybe you not want to do it or maybe understand that it was dumb to engage in that, like could you and Joel, could you understand why as a player, somebody like Calvin Ridley, you would be interested in betting on games because to me, it just feels like something that dumb fans who don’t understand the sport or in some cases, like Sharps, who do actually like. Make it their life’s work to try to understand things would that, but just like a player at sea, it feels like that they would know better. I think it was strange.
S2: I mean, I think that ninety nine point nine percent of players would not do this. But the only thing that I could think of to explain it for you, for folks is competition or Horlicks. You know what I mean? Like, it doesn’t take much for shit to get popped off, like even just sitting around in a dorm, you know, with football players, and it didn’t take much before. Somebody puts money on something for somebody to go do something great.
S1: Like, yeah, you
S2: could easily see them getting sucked into that and potentially spiraling out of control. Or you might lose your, you know, your sense of judgment under those circumstances. So yeah, I think it’s just competition, just like that. The thrill of the chase. Right.
S1: That totally makes sense to me. But at the same time, Alex, you would think that you would have been in enough football games if you’ve had a career like Calvin Ridley has to understand that a lot of random shit happens and that especially in like a five team parlay that they pull that off are pretty slam.
S5: Yeah, I think there’s a reason why the NFL was cool with leaking out that of these four. These were parlays and you were sort of alluding to it earlier parlays are stupid, you know, like if you’re if you’re really rigging games with a parlay that that’s a big that’s a big effort. Now you got a big five, you know?
S2: All right.
S5: You’ve got to be involved from your stuff, right? You know. I’d be pretty hard pressed to think that any.
S1: Well, there are a lot of Alabama dudes. There are a lot of Alabama dudes in the league. If you went to Las Calvin Ridley, you know a few few people in high places.
S5: Yeah, that would be that would be, I don’t want
S2: to say, making that allegation, by the way.
S5: Yeah, that’s what
S1: people are asking questions about it. People are not actually asking questions about that.
S5: It would be cataclysmic and pretty hilarious if an NFL player turned out to have been pulling the strings on like a third of the league’s games on a think through any means in order to win a $500 parlay or whatever on DraftKings. Fantastic.
S1: Alex Kirshner writes for Slate. Check out his stuff, including his piece on Calvin Ridley in the NFL’s new podcasts. Let’s flip that and do well. You should listen to it to get amazing gambling advice. Maybe I don’t know from time to time. Thank you, Alex.
S5: Thanks, guys.
S1: And now it is time for after balls. And coming off of our conversation about gambling in sports, there is a brief passing reference for my colleague, Mr. Anderson, to the Tulane point shaving scandal in the John Hot Rod Williams. And I think it’s time to give Hot Rod a little bit more of his due for being a point shaving legend as well as being a good basketball player. So the Tulane point shaving scandal was kicked off in 1985 when he was actually arrested. It’s never, never a good thing when you’re arrested for your your involvement in the college sports scandal. So he took money from a fixer, was fixing games, and now you can get back to my favorite intern, all hang up and listen game with Joel Anderson. Be excited to watch this game! He was. He took money for influencing point spreads in games against Southern Miss Tulane Southern Miss Sunday on CBS against Memphis State. I actually get excited whenever I hear the name Memphis State.
S2: Oh, state,
S1: because because we’re old people, we like love. We love a Memphis State reference.
S2: Oh, Memphis, and then we’re a Final Four team within the span of our lifetime. So we were we had all the reasons to get excited about Memphis State,
S1: very faithful to Larry Finch and Virginia Tech. So I think out of those where we’re most excited about the Tulane Memphis State point shaving match up, I would say
S2: I would say so. Yeah, that probably is the game that has the most appeal for me. That was, yeah, that was again, was that probably the Memphis state team that was really, really good that year or two that went to the final four. I think so.
S1: So he did play in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers for a long time, 86 95, as well as Phoenix Suns and Dallas Dallas Mavericks are back to hot Rod Williams. He died on December 11th, 2015. So R.I.P. Harold Williams,
S2: man, so we have to distinguish between Hot Rod and Hot Plate. Both of the John Williams is there were the NBA in that area too, so.
S1: So, Joel, what is your hot Rod Williams,
S2: hot Rod Williams, so a lot has happened over the past couple of years, so it makes sense that we forgot to commemorate the 100th anniversary of college basketball conference tournaments last spring. But now that we’re 101 years into this thing, it seems worth revisiting how we got here in the first place. In 1921, America was emerging from the fog of the First World War and an influenza pandemic that killed as many as eight hundred and fifty thousand people domestically and 50 million worldwide. More things change, the more things stay the same, right? Those were grim days, but somehow America’s colleges still had the time and interest for the relatively new sport of basketball, which by then had only been around for about 30 years. There wasn’t even that many conferences around at that point. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association was one of the very few. And in nineteen twenty one, the site was one of the heavyweights of college sports among its members. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia. I think you get the idea. The state was the precursor to what we now know today is the SCC. And in 1920, the basketball coaches at Georgia and Georgia Tech got the notion to host a tournament in Atlanta for the schools and their league. It would be patterned after the AEW national event also held in Atlanta earlier that year and one by the NYU Violets over Rutgers and the title game. The hope was that southern schools could eventually match up better against schools in the North, who one of the coaches said played a brand of basketball much faster than ever was seen in the South before. And that clearly held more people to the basketball fans in the south. Basically, they were trying to grow the game down south. The tournament invited the top teams from the conference and those who weren’t had to apply for consideration by the committee. The committee seeded the top four teams and the rest had their names placed on a slip of paper in a silver cup and were drawn blindly. They played the games in February and the event was a huge success. Alabama and Auburn met in the quarterfinals, their first game in 17 years. There was so much interest that the details of the game were sent by telephone to a gym in Alabama, where a large crowd paid 10 cents a person to hear the results. Georgia and Georgia Tech, which hadn’t played against each other in two years, faced off in the semifinals before a sellout crowd in Kentucky went on to win the first college basketball tournament. On a last minute, free throw final score 20 to 19 sounds like Creighton was involved. The first tournament was the future of basketball in a lot of ways. It was a test case for the use of radio broadcast of basketball games. They also tweaked the substitution rule of the day, allowing a player who came out of the game to return, but only once. The tournament also sped up the dissolution of the conference itself, with 14 of the 30 schools deciding that week to form the Southern Conference in time. Most of those colleges went on to form the foundations of the SEC and the ICC. The S.I. Double-A and the Southern Conference were the only leagues to have post-season basketball tournaments for the next decade until a number of schools in the Southern Conference broke away to form the SCC. But with the start of the NCAA, his own eight team tournament in nineteen thirty nine leagues had to decide which champion they wanted to send up to compete for national title. Should it be the regular season winner, the team that consistently displayed excellence, or should it be the tournament champion, the team that performed best when the lights were brightest and the attention was more acute in nineteen fifty one the year, the NCAA is expanded to 16 teams and said it would award bids to the winners of ten conferences, including the Southern and the SCC. Both leagues decided the best representative would be the tournament winner two years later. The FCC formed out of seven schools from the Southern Conference, adopted a tournament winner take all setup. But most of the leagues resisted until 1975, when the NCAA is expanded to 32 teams and changed an old rule, allowing only one team per conference to two teams per conference. So now, given better odds to send the regular season winner and tournament champ to the NCAA A’s leagues finally had a reason to jazz up their own postseason tourney. It would give fans of every team a reason to go to the tournament or follow it through media coverage. So that brings me to this weekend where the NCAA, both men’s and women’s, went through their annual televised March Madness pageant. And if you regularly listen to our show, you know that I’m adamant about the fact that playoffs and sudden death tournaments are great at creating drama and intrigue, but terrible at determining the best teams. Let’s just say that I share the same indignation of, let’s say, South Carolina men’s team in 1970. That was the first ACC team to go through the regular season undefeated. But in the conference tournament, they were upset by North Carolina State in double overtime of the final and when the ACC things other teams refused to. Change to a format that would reward the regular season champ, the Gamecocks resigned from the league and went independent two years later, and I see the Cox had a point. But as you’ve heard by now, the origins of conferences and basketball itself, these tournaments were never about rewarding consistent goodness in the first place. It was increasingly about entertainment, ticket sales and then TV money. And by 1987, every college conference other than the Big Ten, Ivy League and the now defunct golf star conference had a tournament. The Big Ten finally caved in, added a tournament in 1998, and the Ivy, the very first college athletic conference, was the last to add one in twenty seventeen and Stefan’s alma mater, Penn won it in twenty eighteen. Can’t say the same for our friend Josh as Program Brown, but so great. There’s no more holdouts among the conferences, and here’s how it played out over the past week. Of the 32 automatic NCAA tournament bids, 16 of the men’s teams in 19 of the women’s teams were also regular season champs. That’s not bad, but it’s also not good enough as far as I’m concerned. So I want to use this moment to recognize the efforts of teams like the women of Houston Baptist, who went 12 into the Southland, only to miss out on a tournament berth to the likes of Incarnate Word, which went 13 and 16 overall and five and nine in the conference or in the men’s side of the Sun Belt Conference, where Texas state won the league by a game and a half of the regular season, but lost to the tournament. That cleared the way for Georgia State to get that bid, despite going 18 and 10 overall in nine and five in the league in the Sun Belt. OK, and let’s turn to the Southern Conference, which is obviously in a much different place in today’s college sports landscape. It’s now known as the so kind and populated by the likes of the Citadel and Wofford. But in the men’s final this Monday, top seeded Chattanooga faced off against runner up Furman for the right to advance to the NCAA. Never mind that the marks had already swept Furman in the regular season, and they shouldn’t have had to beat them a third time. But here’s what unfolded in the final seconds of that game, with Chattanooga down sixty three to sixty one with four point three seconds left in overtime and looking to do something when it’s time to go to the plate.
S1: Jim Bettys with one
S4: needs it for the win. Once again, with action in overtime and his shot, he will never. Yes. Oh, my goodness.
S2: In case you missed that, Chattanooga David Jean-Baptiste, the senior guard from Miami, hit the game, winning three over three defenders. You need to go, look at that. We’ll put that on this show page to send the box to the big dance. And in many ways, it was the ideal outcome for the league that started all of this. Everyone got to have a little tournament fun, but at the end of the day, the most deserving team moved on. So I’ll be rooting for you in the tournament Max and we have their hands full when the opening round matchup against the Big Ten regular season champ was used to mean something. Illinois.
S1: Hmm. So the tournament that is really the one after your own heart is the night which gives automatic entry to teams that when their regular season ends, but don’t win the conference tournament. So you will be ignoring the NCAA version of March Madness in favor of the night, which rewards season long excellence and not this fleeting kind of thing that you deplore.
S2: Yeah, I mean, you know, I’m not I’m not above watching, and I see when TCU used to be more of an Eye C program level program instead of the NCAA tournament level program. It is now I would watch in a game or two.
S1: Are you also aware of Bellar mean winning the Atlantic Sun tournament? And because they’re a transitional program, not being eligible to make the NCAA is so they’re the first team in 25 years to win a conference tournament and not be eligible to go to the NCAA, said
S2: says it doesn’t seem right. Come on. What? Oh, that’s I mean, not really.
S1: So now so now, when a team wins the conference tournament, it doesn’t make it. You think it’s an injustice, everything’s an injustice.
S2: Well, I’ll just say it. I mean, I I feel for them in this specific instance, but you’re not going to get me to go up for like, you know, incarnate word or some shit like that. I’m sorry.
S1: All right. I almost got you. That is our show for today. Our producers haven’t been desk to listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out to Slate.com slash hang up and you can email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com and please subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Josh Levin remembers Elmo mobility, and thanks for listening. Now, it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members in back with us is Bryan Curtis from the Ringer, who big flashing reminder here you should listen to on the Press Box podcast. Hello, Bryan.
S3: Hello again!
S1: Hello, friend! It has been a big couple of weeks on your beat. Fox is number one. NFL announcing team is now ESPN’s No. One announcing team Troy Aikman and Joe Buck with Monday Night Football is the back thing like official official.
S3: It’s his wife posted about it on Instagram, so I think I think we can take that as a confirmation.
S1: Instagram official Kirk Herbstreit is also going to be calling games for the new Thursday night NFLX package coming to an Amazon shopping cart near you. But Herb Street is also keeping his job calling card football for ESPN. There are also rumors that NBC’s Sunday night guy Al Michaels could be joining Herb Street on Thursdays. So you wrote a column for the Ringer Bryant headlined Welcome to the ANNOUNCER empowerment era, which set out to answer the question Why is all this happening now? So why is all of this happening now?
S3: I think there’s two really big reasons. If we think about NFL announcers and in this analogy, NFL announcers are the quarterbacks of broadcasting. They’re the only ones who are going to probably have this kind of sway within the industry. Until this year, they had four places they could work Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN. Well, two things happen. One is we added another slot at their seat at the table, which is Amazon. So all of a sudden, if you’re Troy Aikman or if you’re Al Michaels or Kirshner Street, you have another person to employ you. That sounds really simple, but Troy Aikman, instead of having two bidders, ESPN and Fox, he all of a sudden had three bidders. And that really drives everybody’s price up. And it also, I think, gives you more agency because you have all this movement. The second part of this is interesting, too, which is that ESPN is not just a bidder potential bidder for an ad for announcers. They are a very desperate bidder for announcers because they have taken like three shots at their Monday night lineup and have not gotten any of them right or at least gotten a right to a point that they liked it. So they’re sitting there saying we are willing to overpay or set a new record just to get me a pay 30 plus million dollars for Troy Aikman and Joe. But next year and every year after that for several years. So they’re being so desperate, I think also adds to the empowerment factor.
S2: So I want to balance these two things off each other because you mentioned in the column and you just outlined that the numbers are mind blowing, right? I was listening to John Skipper, the former ESPN president, on South Beach Sessions last week, and he said that he never found any quote, a scintilla of evidence that announcers had any impact on the ratings.
S1: So I mean, but what did he say on Fred couples?
S2: Well, see, I got a, you know, I was stupid. I was not. I already got the fuzzy Zeller one in my in my stream. So I got it. I got to switch that in. But I just so, so they know that there’s not even ESPN knows that there’s not an appreciable rise in audience numbers or anything with these dudes. So how can these numbers still endure in light of that, though?
S3: It’s a great question. I mean, I think there’s a couple of explanations ESPN would give you. One is you’ve already written a billion dollar check, literally a billion dollar check to the NFL. So are you going to flinch at writing an $18 million check to an announcer? At that point, you’re already so into getting NFL football on your ear. But the second part is you don’t just pay the NFL once you sort of just keep paying tribute to the NFL’s, even after you’ve paid the rights fees. Because look, there’s nothing in the NFL contract with ESPN that says Monday Night Football has to have crappy games. There isn’t. The NFL can pick the games at once, or let’s even say it’s going to be the fourth best game of the week. There’s a difference between a, you know, medium crappy game and like Jaguars bears. You know, that’s a difference, right? So if you’re ESPN, the thinking is, well, if we put really good announcers and we make this seem bigger time, maybe we get better games on our air. We get better ratings, we get more attention. I think that’s the theory behind it
S1: that makes way more sense than any theory that I’ve thought about myself or that I’ve heard that this is actually they’re trying to woo the NFL rather than Will fans. Because I had the same question Joel like ESPN has tried. You know, they’ve tried. Bugger, they’ve tried. Steve Levy. They’ve tried Tony Kornheiser. They’ve tried every kind of good and bad idea. Or how to fill that booth? And yeah,
S3: that was a while back, but yes, there,
S2: Dickerson, I mean, you go through the whole lot here. They’ve been
S1: trying. That was ABC. I believe. I believe.
S3: Erick Erickson Dennis Ringer ABC.
S1: Know if we can blame blame SPRO for those. But. But yeah, I mean, really, the issue, I think for them has been less about who’s in the booth than what’s on the field. And you also made a really good point, Brian, that Monday Night Football has in some ways gone from being the premium nfl. broadcast the kind of appointment show not just for the NFL, but for all of television to being like the least desirable timeslot, and that’s kind of independent of quality of game. It’s if you have a Thursday night game that’s primetime. If you have this like Sunday late window, the four twenty 25 eastern game that’s, you know, often like packers, cowboys or some like super premium matchup. If you have the Sunday night game, we’re just kind of like exhausted of football. And I’ve like national television broadcast by the time Monday night rolls around, unless it’s like bills, chiefs or something that
S2: Rams chiefs game from a couple of years ago, right? Like, maybe like awesome.
S3: Yeah, yeah.
S1: Like, do we, you know, even even in a country that has an insatiable appetite for for pro football, like if there is some level of satiation, I think it happens in that timeslot.
S3: Don’t forget that the three of us, at least in a lot of other people, have spent all of Saturday watching college football and more college football than we could ever watch before. Right. So there is a problem. I think we’re being football doubt by Monday night. I honestly think so when we’re old enough to remember when Sunday Night Football was the lesser game and then Monday was the great primetime game. I actually think they’re out of order right now. We should honestly have some great Sunday afternoon, big time Cowboys Packers chiefs bills matchup. Then we should take a breath on Sunday night. OK. A little lesser game. A little a little dessert here. And then Monday, boom. But the problem is we go boom. Sunday afternoon, boom. Big boom Sunday night. And then after that, it feels very anticlimactic to have that bears or game on Monday night. And I honestly just think it’s kind of out of order. In a weird way that’s never going to be fixed, by the way, but I don’t know, it feels that way to me
S2: like the Howard Cosell era of Monday Night Football, like I just I just remember there being so much buildup to that game. But that’s because there were not that many games like you might not even depending on where you lived. And I lived in Houston when the Oilers were not good. You might not even be able to see your home team play like in any given week, like if they played a game at home and they didn’t sell out, there would be a blackout, so you couldn’t even see them. So like that, the growth in the number of games is just unbelievable. And yeah, I like speaking for myself. I’m personally exhausted watching football like by Sunday, right? But I kind of want that. So OK. They spent all this money on all these old quarterbacks, right? So far, you know, to to be in the booth. Where does that leave Peyton Manning?
S3: So I was told that his deal, which is really interesting. So he’s he does the man in cash for ESPN, as people know. And the interesting part about his
S1: brother to that
S3: was another manning brother. Let’s call Peyton kind of the lead man.
S2: I mean, the real manning brothers. Stop it. I mean,
S3: it’s there we go. Interesting part about his deal is he’s not exactly an employee of ESPN, as almost any other announcer would be. He is the producer or at least co-producer of the Manning guest. So he’s using ESPN as a vessel for his entertainment programming rather than working for ESPN. And that was by choice because he turned down every offer to be in the booth and could still be I am. I was told this weekend that people believe his deal precludes him from like going to Fox, for instance, and filling the Troy Aikman role, which I’m sure Fox would love him to do. Now we’ve learned in the announcer empowerment era, if I can use that phrase one last time the contracts are made to be broken. Joe Buck still had a Fox deal. Aikman got out of his Fox deal with this weird clause Herbie’s doing multiple networks, which still sort of blows my mind. So is there a scenario? I guess maybe so. But right now he’s just doing the man manifest.
S1: So Sean McVay and Sean Payton were both talked about after the season as being guys that I mean, with McVeigh, there were specific numbers attached to these, like 15 million, 18 million that these places where we’re bidding for him with pain. And maybe you saw and I didn’t, Brian, I don’t recall it ever reaching that kind of level of specificity around numbers, but he’s openly like, there’s a big difference here. Sean McVay decided to come back and coach, and Sean Payton has been openly campaigning. Yes. To be on on television. So would he be considered the favorite to take over that fox slot or one of the favorites? And how do you feel about this kind of like, I guess, at this point, hypothetical resurgence of like the coach as being the like lead color guy as opposed to a quarterback?
S3: I feel weird about it because coaches have always been sort of problematic broadcasters because they quit or they retire and they use announcing to get their next coaching job. And the rapid always hear from producers is they’re not going to say anything because what they just want to do is impress teams enough or remind teams of their existence so they will get another job. And even in the best case scenario is about Sean Payton and Sean McVay. People are talking like, Oh, why don’t you do TV for another year or two and then go coach the Cowboys? And I’m like, That’s great for Sean Payton, but what does that do for TV? You know, if you’re just doing it for a year
S1: now that Gruden is gone? Am I forgetting anyone? Are there any coaches in an NFL’s booth right now?
S3: I don’t think so. I mean, Bruce Arians had a one year deal. If you remember on on Fox, where he was on one of the lesser teams where he went to the Bucs. But yeah, it’s not super popular
S1: because how much of this is the like all of the remembrances of Madden and like now, networks being like, Oh yeah, that guy was good.
S3: I think part of it too is the age thing. I mean, you don’t have to quit coaching when you’re 40 years old. So you mean like you? I know Mike Tomlin is a guy that literally every network wants to hire right now and would potentially be a guy who would be a number one job at FOX if he were to, for some random reason decide to stop coaching the Steelers right now. But you can coach till you’re like 60, right? You have to stop playing quarterback at some point before that. So I think part of it is the age thing that those guys become available later unless they get again, unless they get fired or just decide to drop out of coaching for a while.
S1: All right, Brian, again, you know, I would be remiss if I didn’t say the phrase announcer empowerment era and more. You can buy that on t shirt, probably and Brian’s Etsy shop. But before that’s available, check out Brian on on the Ringer on the press box Pat. Thank you, sir.
S3: Great to talk to you guys
S1: and thank you. Slate Plus members will be back with more next week.