S1: The following podcast contains naughty language.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor. This is Hang Up and Listen for the week of July 27, 2020. On this week’s show, we’ll discuss how the sports world’s various and sundry corona virus bubbles and non bubbles are and are not working in the case of Major League Baseball. Definitely not working. We’ll also talk about the cardboard cut outs, virtual fans and simulated crowd noise, all of which are making the game. We’re watching on TV extremely something. I’m not sure what. And finally, we’ll toss around the latest nickname and major North American pro sports. The National Hockey League, Seattle Crack. And I’m the author of The Queen.
S3: The host of the now complete slow burn season for coming to you live on tape from Washington, D.C.. Joining me, Stefan Fatsis, the author of the book Word Freak in a few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan.
S4: There’s no tape. There’s no tape involved. This is a digital production, Josh, but we should bring back tape young.
S5: I don’t know how you produce your side of the show. I send to Melissa just to kind of hand spliced and cut film real where I’m I’m taping things up. So I do things in a bespoke analog fashion because I feel like the listeners deserve it. But respect and respect. With us from Palo Alto, California, in the bubble. Slate staff writer, host of Slover in season three. Joel Anderson. You’ve been in a bubble before.
S1: Bubbles where I recall America’s first bubble. Probably so, yeah. Everything’s great. I mean, I may have gotten it, but I emerge stronger.
S6: The world’s most bubble, 10 year old. That’s right. That’s right.
S1: So Monday morning, we woke up to the news that the Miami Marlins were forced to cancel their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. The Marlins are right now in the midst of their own Corona virus outbreak, with at least 13 people, 11 of them players recently testing positive for the virus. And these numbers change. At one point, I was 14. That’s 13. So by the time you hear this, it may change again. But the first hint that the Marlins protocol had broken all the way down came Sunday night. That’s when the team announced they would remain in Philadelphia for an extra night instead of flying back to Miami. Then it came up for Marlins players that tested positive, including that day’s scheduled starter Hoser Urana. But the team didn’t acknowledge the positive test Sunday, nor did they announce roster moves to place the players on the injured list or replace them with players on their Texas squad team. And league officials seem to believe the infections happened Wednesday on the Marlins trip to and from Atlanta. Also, before we started recording the show, we learned at the Phillies and Yankees game on Monday, which is today, was postpone. And that seems bad, right? So, Josh, what do you think the Marlins and Major League Baseball should do now?
S5: Well, let’s rewind a bit and remember that it took one positive test for the NBA to shut its entire operation down for what will end up being four and a half months. And so what’s changed in, you know, the four and a half months since we have an enormous nationwide outbreak? Now, the public health crisis is much more severe. I think we’re more knowledgeable about that severity and about the ways in which this virus can spread. And we know the ways in which we can, you know, at least hope to control it and sending athletes around the country on airplanes who are not in any kind of like closed hurt or bubbles environment. That isn’t how you control how you control it. And so, you know, if we use, you know, even the kind of knowledge that we had four and a half months ago when we knew less, we would say you have to shut this whole operation down. We would also say you should have never started this operation. But you know that that horses is long since at the barn door. But you know, Stefan, at this point, it seems like, you know, as we record this on Monday morning, the way that this is being treated is. All right. We’ve got this one team that now break. You’ve got these other teams. You know, the Yankees would have to be in the clubhouse where the Marlins were. So we’re going to postpone that, too. And so it’s kind of this contain and control sort of approach, you know, approach and enterprise. And it doesn’t seem like baseball is willing to acknowledge or accept, you know, nor would we expect them to do this entire system that they’ve put into place is just not going to work.
S4: And the whole thing is predicated on it sort of crossing your fingers and hoping that you can contain the problems that inevitably we’re going to pop up. And for the first oh, what to day this season, containment looked like it was a strategy that, hey, might work. You know, one side of the Nationals tested positive. We kept him out, tested again and came up negative a couple times. Mike, stocks of the Reds got sick.
S5: I’m going to keep him out of the Moustakas got sick after a Reds player, Matt Davidson, played on opening day. It has the positive. So that so this is an event that didn’t actually get that much media attention. But even if we take the Marlins out of it, we have an example of what looks like community spread in a Major League Baseball club. That’s right.
S4: So that’s the approach that baseball is taking, is to basically cross their fingers and hope that Matt Davidson or Juan Soto’s positive tests don’t lead to a spread inside a clubhouse. It’s kind of magical thinking. Right.
S5: And it doesn’t don’t lead to a spread outside a club or outside bad miles.
S4: Yeah, I mean, it’s magical thinking. Full stop. And it’s it’s a it’s a it’s not grounded in science. And that’s not to dispute the measures and the protocols that Major League Baseball have implemented. They are doing their best. I am sure nobody wants this to spread. But it’s so easy for these cracks, these fissures to appear in the system for the whole thing to break down incredibly quickly. Yesterday, Sunday, you had the manager of the Florida Marlins of the Miami Marlins saying, yeah, there was no way we weren’t going to play. Our motto is, you know, Don Mattingly, we got to we got to forge ahead and play. Players on the team said the same thing. I mean, why are players and managers having any role here? Shouldn’t Major League Baseball be? Shouldn’t there be a mandate that a. You find out a positive test, Major League Baseball’s central office is notified. Everything is shut down until we can figure out what’s going on. That obviously did not happen here. And it portends incredibly poorly for the future of this season.
S1: Running parallel with the news about Major League Baseball this morning. There was some other news about a positive test that came out, and it was that President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, tested positive for Corona virus. Right. So to me, all of this is always speaks to a broader, much bigger problem in America. We have not marshaled the resources. We have not abided by the science. We haven’t presented a coherent national response. And that’s why we’re having these failures. It every single step of the way like that we have not really seen so far. Lisa, anything that will stand the test of time, a protocol that will stand the test of time. And so it only makes sense that this is infected, that literally and figuratively, it’s in effect that the Major League Baseball, we have epidemiologists, we have scientists, we have all sorts of people that are constructing these sort of things. But none of them are foolproof and they’re only as good as a your weakest link and B, the institute. I mean, I think that’s kind of you. Maybe we haven’t talked about this enough, or maybe I’m over stating the problem here. But the fact that the Marlins were not willing to come right out and say, hey, look, we’re having an outbreak here like that, the news didn’t come out until later. To me, that speaks to a much larger problem, that we can’t even necessarily trust you guys to monitor yourselves and to be honest brokers in this situation. You know what I mean? But maybe I’m overstating the case there because I. I don’t know exactly how the process worked here, but it just seems like people aren’t necessarily going to be as upfront about a lot of this stuff. And, you know, we’ll talk about Lou Williams in a second. But I mean, that is going to be one of the persistent problems, it seems like, in trying to keep these these games going.
S5: Yeah, I think you’re totally right. And Stefan. Well, he said is spot on, too. The notion that there is a team vote about whether to play this game is just absurd. And I think reveals that there is something fundamentally broken about Major League Baseball’s approach here. There should not be in a manager’s hands. I mean, we’ve seen what happens when, you know, managers or broadcasters try to speak about issues with domestic violence, for instance. I mean, you have people who are totally and utterly unequipped to deal with this situation, nor should we blame them for that. I mean, the domestic violence issue is separate. I think we should blame we should blame them for being unequipped there. But it’s like this is this is not your job, Don. Men, Mattingly, as far as I know, did not get his masters in public health.
S1: You know, you have a bachelors. I mean, he would have a bet. I mean, Syria. I mean, do we as a basilisk?
S5: I don’t think he does. I mean, I think he can hit into the opposite field. At least he could like 30 years ago. But, you know, as far as his capabilities today, I mean, what what the managers even do, honestly, he like kind of kind of looks and that good in the uniform. And, you know, does the gesture with his left hand when he wants to bring in a lefty relief pitcher looks good in quotes, by the way. But, yeah, he he looks passable in uniform. But this should be, you know, in the hands of maybe not even the commissioner. But in someone that the commissioner designates who actually has the training and the ability to make these these calls. And Ken Rosenthal’s piece in the Atlantic, he talked to two public health experts who both said take the Marlins out of circulation for two weeks at a minimum would be, you know, what they would recommend and endorse. And the fact that we’re sitting here and think that that’s, you know, an impossibility. Again, to suggest that health and safety are not the things that are, you know, running the show here.
S4: I mean, of course, it’s a possibility. I mean, both Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League both prohibited teams from participating in their bubbled tournaments because they had outbreaks before they traveled to the bubble. This is obviously different because there is no bubble. I mean, and we can go back and say that, yeah, baseball was the first sport to suggest a bubble. And they were kind of derided back in the spring after the outbreak, including by me. Well, for good reason in that the Major League Baseball or an NFL bubble would be a lot bigger. There are a lot more employees. There would be a lot more choke points in the system that would probably make it untenable. But in retrospect, yes, I am willing to say that that would have been a better approach, a much better approach than what baseball is attempting to do now.
S5: Well, I think the reason that we ridiculed them is that they were early with the bubble concept.
S7: Yeah, actually. And sure, they’re just tickle issues with, you know, 30 teams times 30. Players that are slightly less of the case with the NBA and with soccer, too.
S5: I think we ridiculed them, Joel, because we didn’t think that anybody would do any of these bubbles, because it just seems so ridiculous to force all of these people to be away from their family is for for this long. And it turns out, you know, The Wall Street Journal had this piece that said the bubbles actually seem to be working for the NBA, for MLS, for National Women’s Soccer League. But there haven’t been positive tests of athletes or people in the bubbles.
S1: Once the bubbles have been closed off, yeah, I think you’re right that it seemed absurd when this first came up. Right. But again, and you mentioned this earlier, why does it seem any less absurd now? Because when this all shut down a long time ago, it wasn’t quite the pandemic that it is now. Like it is a full blown national crisis. And we’ve only pushed forward with the idea that we should be playing sports like we there’s not really been a national conversation about why are we doing this in the first place that like, is this a good use of resources? Is this publicly safe? Right. And so, yeah. And, you know, not to be Ken Rosenthal or Jeff Passan, but I too, have a league source, a friend who works for a Major League Baseball team. And one of the things he told me really early was that they were concerned from start that players would not follow protocol. So it would be really difficult to keep guys in on the road. And, you know, everybody thinks that they are they’re the exception to the rule that, oh, well, if I does make swing by here to, you know, to do this or if maybe I go get some wings or meet some friends in town or whatever, you know, I can do that. And he said this, you know, a couple months ago. And so, I mean, baseball has known that this is going to be difficult for a while. And they haven’t talked about it publicly. But it was always, you know, beneath the surface of these conversations there. And now we’re just seeing, you know, the problem with that.
S4: Well, and we’re also seeing that teams hadn’t done this yet. After the Marlins outbreak on Sunday in Ken Rosenthal’s piece in The Atlantic, he quoted an Orioles source saying that the team plans to be just as vigilant away from the field by taking measures to make sure players don’t leave the hotel between games and restrict visits from family and friends. You’d think those rules would have been locked in place before the season started. And I think the fact that they were at or at least they appeared to not have been indicates that, again, that baseball sort of laid the stuff out to the players and expected them to do the right thing or to use common sense. And that’s just not a tenable solution. Well, you don’t know.
S8: I don’t know if we can blame the players or we shouldn’t blame the players.
S4: I’m not saying we should blame the players. It’s anybody on the team that it’s just not feasible. Right. That if you’re traveling and you’re living at home and you’re living your daily life outside of the ballpark the way you normally would. It’s not feasible to expect that they’re not going to be breakdowns.
S8: Yeah. So let’s talk about Lou Williams and the NBA. Bob, all he left to go to his grandfather’s funeral and then was seen. You got to talk to your friends about not putting on an Instagram America. That’s the national conversation we need to be having. But a friend of his put. And I think the deejay at the club also put him on an Instagram that he was at this famed Atlanta strip club, Magic City that Lou Williams is so closely affiliated with that there’s actually an item on the menu named after you. So so when there’s an item named after you at a at a strip club, just imagine like how many how many singles have have touched your at your hands at that place of business. So Lou Williams says, I just go there because the food because I really like like the wings and we can make fun of Lou Williams or we can talk about how good or not good the Magic City wings are.
S5: But I think the point to make here is that it’s like a news story when an NBA player breaches protocol and then he comes back and he has to be quarantined for 10 to 14 days. And we saw this with Rashaan Holmes that the player who also was involved in a wing related protocol breach when he got post mates but went beyond the barrier of the bubble and then had to be quarantined for four, ten days.
S9: And so I think the way to frame this actually is that Major League Baseball is like living in our reality, like all of us are living in the world that all of these players and teams are living in. And so the success or failure of their concept. Well, it will rise and fall based on how the outbreak is going in the whole country. And so it will fail it like based on what’s happening in the world right now, whereas the NBA and also MLS and the NWSL. This is not reality. They are living in a world of their own making with rules and like the literal air that they’re breathing is different. And I think the reaction to the Lou Williams story is just another example of the fact that, like, this is not how these things normally go in our world. If, like, a guy that were like working with and hanging out with guys to get wings at Magic City, then we’re not we’re going to be like, you know, with that guy. He’s not going to be quarantined for 10 to 14 days.
S1: No. That’s right, Josh. I mean, they’re not living in reality. But, you know, the one thing in there, there were, you know, maybe a week ago you started seeing at least a couple of stories talking about how the bubbles worked. There are a lot of people were impressed with the early results of the bubble. But I think the the the key thing here is that we don’t know what this is going to look like a month from now, two months from now. Like starting up is actually probably the easiest part here, right? Getting these games off the ground because they know how to stage games. You can put a plan in place and you could say this is how it’s going to work. But then you put people in the mix. Right. And so then you’ve got, you know, Lou Williams thinking he’s an exception to the rule Sean Holmes thing and he’s an exception to the rule. And guys, it just gonna make different choices. And I mean, just think about it. I mean, this is the Lou Williams story. It’s funny. It really is funny. Up until the point you think about, well, if he gets infected, maybe he infects somebody else where this is all a teammate, a member of the training staff, even a member of the Disney hotel cleaning staff. Right. So, you know, there’s just no way. There’s just no way to know if these things are going to work because we don’t know how people are going to work. We cannot predict what any individual is going to do and that that one person can be the person that can undermine your entire protocol concept. And so while it’s funny, it’s almost kind of scary.
S7: Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think it’s it’s useful as a baseline, because if this NBA bubble doesn’t work, then nothing could work. Yeah, yeah. Because it does seem like based on everything we’ve read and everything we’ve seen, they are doing everything that you could possibly do to maintain the integrity of the system. And like anything else that you could, I just don’t know how you could lock it down any further than they’ve locked it down. And I don’t know. Stefan, what do you think?
S4: Right. And it’s not to say that it will ultimately work. I mean, it worked in the women’s soccer league. They wrapped up their tournament on Sunday. They had no positive tests of players for the month that they were isolated. It seems to be working in Major League Soccer. It seems to be working in the WNBA. So far, they haven’t been bubbled quite as long as soccer, but they started their season. But if this is all only as good as you were alluding, chawl to one screw up, you got one screw up and it spreads and then you have a different set of contingencies. What we’ve what we’re seeing in baseball is that that they did not respond clearly on Sunday with the same level of force that the NBA has to its isolated cases. Major League Baseball allowed a game to be played hours after four players had tested positive. That’s just insane. And it speaks to a failure not on the part of Don Mattingly and the Marlins players for wanting to go out on the field. But the management of the sport for allowing the game to go on. And if Major League Baseball season isn’t shut down and would it shock you if it were at this point? Wouldn’t shock me if it’s not shut down. I can’t see how this doesn’t keep happening.
S7: Well, I would I would say a couple of things. Number one, I think there just needs to be an entirely different for this to work in baseball. I think it’s possible that it won’t work at all no matter what. But I think there just needs to be an end to this mentality of, you know, we’ve got to play through it and fight through it. And also an end to this idea that, like, there’s something actually important to the integrity of the game about playing a certain number of games or keeping every team in circulation.
S5: They just got to be willing to pull an entire right franchise out of the league. Right. Which I think we’ve never seen, at least in modern times. I can remember any kind of willingness to do that. But I think they just have to you know, there’s there’s a D.H in the National League. They’re willing to they’re willing to give up on on that. They just need to be willing to remove the Marlins from baseball, if that’s what it takes. And also, just to play devil’s advocate, a bit on the NBA bubble integrity thing.
S9: Stefan, I mean, if there’s a breach and one person tests positive, at least in theory given. How vigilant and tight it’s been and given the level of monitoring, you could actually do contact tracing and figure out, OK, who are the people that have been unclear? And you could actually still maintain it. The whole thing wouldn’t have to be destroyed just with one or two or three positive tests in theory.
S4: That doesn’t mean that the NBA is procedure is perfect by by any stretch. I mean, they’re still staging a shortened season in one of the most hard hit states in the country with people that still do go in and out of their sequestered world. You know, the NBA is doing it probably as best as anyone can. I mean, while the bubble league seemed to have the right idea and that’s the best solution possible doesn’t mean it’s a good solution. It doesn’t mean that any of this should be happening.
S1: And just as a closing thought here, I lived in Atlanta. I’ve been to Magic City. I have not had the wings. But, Lou, I mean, look, I mean, they do have takeout service. You know, you didn’t have to go inside to get the wings, just as I thought, the perfect closing.
S9: On Saturday afternoon in New York, the Atlanta Braves Adam Duvall hit an opposite field homerun run that clanged off a cardboard cut out featuring the likeness of New York Mets third baseman Jeff McNeil’s dog, Willow. So put all of that on your 20-20 bingo card. America, the bigger picture here is that as sports get back underway, leagues and teams and broadcasters are adjusting to the absence of the usual atmospherics. No fans in the stands, no crowd noise. And so we’ve got cardboard cut outs. We’ve got Fox experimenting with, quote unquote, virtual fans. We’ve got canned crowd noise on our broadcast feeds and sometimes piped into the stadiums themselves. Here’s what it sounded like on the Chicago Cubs home broadcast on Sunday when Anthony Rizzo hit a homerun.
S5: Chicago native Nick is on the mound one day to laugh at.
S10: Over the last two innings.
S5: Stefan, what is the official Fatsis take on fake crowd noise?
S4: I’ll give you my official take on the Chicago Cubs fate. Crowd noise They needed to bring it up a little bit more smoothly and have it not be quite so enthusiastic. And in all of these teams and networks have sort of a an array of crowd noises to choose from. My wife, Melissa Block, did a piece for NPR last week about how soccer and the Premier League has been handling this during its season. And they really reached what I think is sort of the sweet spot not to over the top. But you want something there to remind you that in another time there were human beings watching this in person. It does, I think, help make the game aesthetically, aurally more real, just more comforting to have some sort of background noise. But you don’t want to go crazy because as soon as you ratchet up the sound too much, you’re like, oh, my gosh, they’re just pumping. In fact, sounds. So you want the fake sample lull you into a false sense of belief that there are people watching these games.
S5: So did you follow that’s all you need fake sound to give you the false. Yes.
S1: That you’re watching something remotely. Right. Right. Yes. Yeah, I sorta agree. I mean, I grazed on soccer and baseball games this weekend, which is more than I would normally do. And I was struck by how regular it all was, you know. You know, if you’re a fan of sports, too, surely you’ve gotten used to watching sparsely attended games on TV, right. So if you watch. Especially after the Marlins. Yeah, right. Right. The Marlins or whoever, if you watch Maxon, a regular season, mid, mid major college basketball or baseball games, at any point, you’re just used to the idea that there’s not a lot of fans in the stadiums. I think the real challenge, though, is what we’re gonna do when the games ratchet up in intensity and there’s like stakes, like when there’s postseason stuff because you can fake it all right now. But there’s nothing like, you know, seeing fans explode at a three pointer at the end of a, you know, of a playoff series or something like that. And like that’s the kind of stuff that can’t be duplicated. But for now, all this sort of stuff like, yeah, I mean, it seemed about fun. The NBA was weird like, but there’s this scrimmaging right now, so it makes sense.
S11: Well, I mean, I think correct me if I’m wrong, but the highest stakes games of are new. Weird reality happened on Sunday. I’m talking about like across the whole the whole planet. And now it’s the Premier League final day, the kind of classic ten games all at once deciding who gets to play in Champions League next year and who gets relegated. And I mean, I guess I see what you’re saying, Joel, but like, there’s something fundamentally weird about the stands being totally empty. And it just there’s a kind of unreality to it. It’s like the difference from having, you know, five people at your party to, like, sitting there and like, nobody shows up. I mean, like it’s a bigger difference than than you would you would think just by the pure numbers. And so it’s just obviously unusual, different. I can appreciate the fact that, you know, leaning in to the fact that this is unusual and different rather than trying to pretend like this is normal and trying to make it seem normal. And so that’s why Stefan, I was actually excited about and I think ESPN is doing this for MLS actually embracing the opportunity to do not sound, to make up players and make up benches and kind of experiment.
S5: And that way, rather than giving us this bizarre Similac rom to try to fool us into thinking that we’re not living in extraordinary times right now.
S4: But I think that soccer managed at the Premier League managed it the best of anything I’ve seen so far because they didn’t overdo it in soccer. I think it’s a better sport for faking this. There’s a lot more nuance in the cheers. There’s a lot more opportunity to distinguish between something happening because it’s a continuous sport. The problem with baseball doing this is that nothing happens for ninety percent of the game. Ninety eight percent is generous. Yeah, right. So what you end up having is just a basically you have a track of white noise in the background because that’s what you’re used to hearing at a baseball game. So when you when something actually does happen like that homerun, the tendency is going to beat up, turn it up to eleven to let everyone know that something interesting has finally happened in baseball, whereas soccer, the continuous flow of play gives the producer. The opportunity to really distinguish between, you know, a gentle boo for a yellow card or a home team, you know, taking a free kick in the ball, just going wide over the net. And baseball is more challenging. And the other problem with baseball is that when somebody is a foul ball into the stands and the camera tracks it into the stands, you’re reminded that nobody’s there in soccer. The game is fully on the field. So you’re you’re you. And they masked the seats. They put the tarps over the seats and most of the stadiums.
S9: I don’t know. I mean, I was watching the Chelsea Wolves game, and it wasn’t exciting. Right.
S5: Well, but I also I mean, you could tell that an empty stadium. Sure is. No, I was not ever there was not a single moment watching that game where I didn’t know that there was somebody there.
S4: Right. But what I was going to say also was that the Premier League did a nice job of balancing the low level crowd noise with accented miking of players and coaches. So at one point in a game last week between Chelsea and Liverpool, you were actually able to hear Frank Lampard, the manager of Chelsea, getting mad at Juergen Klopp of Liverpool and kind of yelling at him on this on the side of the field. So it was enough for me. And as a soccer fan, watching the flow of the game keeps you engaged in baseball. There’s so much downtime and you’re so used to extraneous sound in the stadium that it feels a little flatter.
S1: Well, yeah. And I mean, just imagine and I’m sorry to overlook the regular season of baseball because I know it’s so sacred to people, but I think about when we get to the postseason and, you know, a big part of the presentation of games is constantly having the camera searching for crowd shots, you know, fans in agony. I don’t know that sort of stuff you want to see. I kind of I mean, it builds the drama to me. I see baseball in and of itself is not enough for me. But even though I do enjoy postseason baseball, but I like that sort of stuff, it sort of builds tension. It’s like putting on a good TV show. And I feel like we’re going to miss that when we don’t have it by opening to Jeff McNeil’s dog in the outfield. One, that no, it’s not quite the same thing. But I was thinking, though, because for many years there’s been these predictions that professional sports are going to downsize their stadiums, maybe to the point that they play these games essentially on soundstages. I know you all have heard these, like, predictions that eventually in the future they’re gonna they’re all going to be TV product and, you know, so this will be a way to see if we’re primed for that new arrangement. Right. Where is the game in and of itself enough? Can you really strip fans from this experience? And I would say right now, I think people are fine with it, but I just don’t think that long term and especially especially if we get football back. Like, I just don’t think that it’s going to make a lot of sense. It’s going to it’s going to feel too weird.
S5: I think we can hopefully all agree that their word for the worst in innovation for Korona, empty stadium sports is to Fox for the virtual fans in the seats. I mean, it looks so fake and cheesy and it’s like a gimmick. I think maybe seems fun and like a good idea behind the scenes. But then when you roll it out, you’re like, what is actually the point of this? What is what is being gained here? And Stefan, I don’t know if you want to kind of put that on the same sort of grading scale that you put that the crowd noise on that. There is this funny idea that by faking something, you make it seem more real. But by faking these fans, I think you just make it seem more fake. I haven’t worked out the philosophy there, David Blaine. Why? But it’s just true.
S4: Just believe me, because I think that there’s a difference between what we hear and what we see. And I think it’s easier for us to forget that, to appreciate the sort of enhancement and understand that it’s just for us at home to make the game feel more like a normal experience. Whereas watching something with our eyes that looks like digital bullshit is going to look like digital bullshit. Especially when you put they put the virtual fence only in the bleachers and not in the rest of the stadium. And then like someone hits a foul ball down the right field line and you’re like, oh, there’s no fans over there.
S5: Or when they just based on every movie that Hollywood has made for the last like several decades, we can attest to the fact that CGI can be done either outwardly or well. And so, you know, I don’t think five hundred million dollars has been spent on this, like, digital crowd technology. I’m sure that there’s some version of it that would be able to fool us and trick us. But this is an ad I mean, it’s definite. I don’t know if it’s even in the an uncanny valley territory. Like, I don’t think it’s good enough to even be creepy.
S4: It’s just bad. I do like the fact that when The Times did the story last week, Andrea Kaye, the reporter. Matt. To find a professor who cited the French theoretician, John Borjomi, lard and the philosophy, the theory of hyperreality. So we’ve really taken sports to a whole new level. A pandemic.
S1: Don’t you guys think? And maybe this is just me. It just reminds me. It makes me think that when when it’s okay or when they start allowing fans to come back to games, that they’re going to be full. Because I don’t think that if you really enjoy sports that this is going to be sufficient. And I think that, like all the incentives that professional sports leagues have to get people in the game. Like, I didn’t realize this was crazy. I read this somewhere that half of all Coca-Cola sales are its stadiums, movie theaters and other large entertainment venues. Huh? I had no idea that. So, I mean, there’s like all of these perverse incentives to get people back in the stands. And I think people are going to look at all this stuff and be like, yeah, that’s it was cool. But like now it’s time to fill these stands because there’s just so many there’s so many financial incentives to go ahead and have fans back. And people are gonna look they’re gonna go through a postseason where you’re going to see somebodies dog in the outfield that it’s just not gonna fill you know, it’s just not going to fill is intense in the way that it normally would is if there were at least some people in the stands.
S4: But if you can equip the digital the virtual fans with virtual coach and virtual popcorn that real fans pay for. It’s like maybe we went out and we’ve got a new revenue.
S8: So we’ve talked about how the actual crowd noise and sound of the game enhances the live viewing experience. But I think a really crucial thing is how broadcast calls and crowd noise actually cement moments in our memory and become, you know, these milestones and become these mementos. I mean, we all know, like the famous calls, we’ve talked about them on the show, whether it’s like, you know, Mike Breen calling Ray Allen shot or or any number of other examples. And so that, I think is going to be where, you know, as you were alluding to to Joel, where this fails, what’s going to be the kind of memorable call of this year’s NBA finals if we get that far? Is that going to be something that’s going to be replayed for years or is it going to be, you know, fixed in post-production? And the version that we see on YouTube or on ESPN five or 10 years from now will actually sound and look different than how it sounded when we were watching it live. Like, that’ll be interesting.
S4: Well, we talked Iron Eagle about it, and that’s part of the challenge of calling these games remotely is going to come into play here. And then I think the other decision that the leagues, particularly the NBA, because I think you’re exactly right, Joel, because it’s so intense in an arena atmosphere and the noise does get so high and the use of music while players are playing in the in the NBA has become so entrenched in the game. That will be where I think we’re going to. I think the announcers will do a great job. I think Iron Eagle is going to call. He’s gonna make a great call it. It may not be the same call he would have made in a stadium full of fans, but it’s going to be a good call. So how the NBA chooses to enhance the the surrounding sound is what I think is going to be interesting. And I think that they’re going to have a month to figure it out. You know, baseball is choosing not to allow its audio engineers to insert booze into the fake sound. I think that’s a mistake. Yeah, me too. So there’s a there’s gonna be a learning curve here. The Spanish soccer league did the same thing. No booing. The Premier League allowed the audio engineers to use some booing. So if you want to make it real, you got to make it real.
S1: Yeah, I just think yeah, we I think that the important thing is that none of these are fixed. This isn’t fixed programming. And, you know, I mean, like, so they can change on the fly. They have time to figure it out because what are the fans going to do? I mean, we you know, we have no we have no other options. I mean, who cares? They have a kept audience. So they have the ability to play around with this stuff and get it right before the postseason. If we make it to a postseason.
S6: All right, in our fourth segment on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Slate’s hit podcast, Slow Burn.
S9: I wouldn’t say that it’s a hit because I did. I say it’s a hit because Joel Anderson did it. I’m just following in his footsteps.
S6: But we’ll talk about fourth season and these sporty aspects of our story on David Duke.
S4: Whether you love, hate or do not care about the choice of cracken as the name of Seattle’s new NHL team, you have to credit the organization for going the length of the ice with the rollout. Tweet storms, videos, a flag on top of the Space Needle and the copy. Give them a Stanley Cup for overblown prose. And I am very here for that. Our maritime city, with a proud history of adventure, is deserving of a hockey club as untamed as the sea herself. The crack represents the fiercest beast in all the world to large and indomitable, to be contained by man or finned mammal. It instills one message in all opponents, whether in our waters or theirs. Abandon all hope. Can I read one more? I want to read one more, please. A single tentacle stealthily rises from below, symbolizing the deep, dark waters of Puget Sound. How many are there? How deep do they go? The real peril lies in what you don’t see. If you’ve seen it, it’s already too late. The eye of the crack and has been fixed on its prey for some time. Its strike will be swift and devastating. Its opposition overwhelmed and unwary. It will be all over soon. Wow. It’s a hockey game, so it’s probably going to be over in two, two and a half hours old. Do you fear the crack?
S1: Can I be vulnerable here for a second and admit that I’ve never seen that movie, so I have nothing to compare this to and know what it is. I’ve seen Twitter jokes and Meems about cracking. But I don’t actually know what it is. So, yeah, it’s hard to fair, which you don’t know. Do you know. It sounds like I should be afraid from the tone that they struck in there. That announcement there. But I’m I’m sorry, Seattle and I’m sorry cracken fans. I don’t. I have nothing to relate this to. I don’t know if you just said Seattle Deep Blue Sea, that would have sounded more terrifying to me than, like, cracking. I guess.
S5: Stefan, can we play the Release the Kraken clip from Clash of the Titans leave athon? Yeah, rather.
S12: Time for the mortals to pay my child weights to do your will leave us.
S1: Release him. Wow. So the movie is not called Release the Crack and it’s Clash of the Titans. It’s fine. I agree. Wow. The 2010 remake of the nineteen eighty one, I think. Yeah, I think it’s on. Yeah. I’ve never seen either either Joel. So that was the first time I’ve heard the clip. Really. Yeah, me too.
S3: I think what we can say here is that this is what happens when you let the Internet choose your team name. And I don’t mean that in a strictly negative sense. I think the Internet often is good at selecting things, but it’s like just one small step from here to calling your team Bodie McBirney face. I think this is this is what would happen. They’re like, okay. It’s like the first, like, meme nickname. They pick something that was going to get talked about on area sports podcasts. Yeah. Something that people would jump at the opportunity to buy merch. People who have no kind of interest in this team or this city or this league. And I think, you know, we don’t have any sort of like transparency into the operation of fanatics, the, you know, merchandiser. But they say it’s like the number one selling team across all sports is this this new crack in merchandise. And so it’s like they obviously won the news cycle. But, Stefan, is this a nickname that’s just going to, like, get, you know, thumbs ups on the Internet and get some segments on on the news for a day or two? Whereas, like, you know, we look at this 20, 30, 80 years from now, are we going to say that Crack N is up there with, like Canadians, Maple Leafs and dare I say, coyotes, the legends of the NHL?
S4: I mean, the Toronto and the Toronto Raptors would like a word. But, yeah, I mean, I think I experienced all of the emotions you’re supposed to experience with Cracken in like 30 minutes. When I heard that this is the team. And I thought, well, that’s really cool and bold and different. And, well, those colors are awesome. And I love the logo. And you’ve got the Space Needle in there. And they really went to all lengths to to create a package around the team name. And then within 30 minutes, I’m like, wait, what? What were the other choices where they could have called them the soccer guys after the salmon? Oh, my God. That is such a classic sports team name. Sockeye hockey. It’s the salmon.
S13: And I watched that one like the local fan poll. Right. Soccer. Right.
S4: That did The Seattle Times. Did a fan, Paul, back in twenty eighteen, almost two thousand submissions. They got it down to eight top vote getters. They threw in four more editor’s choices and then they did a knockout tournament and crack and actually lost in the first round. So crack and actually it was nominated and it lost in the first round to Steelheads and Çok Eyes. And it should have because. Yeah, Heads is an awesome name. Pretty good name. Sakai’s beat the totems in the final.
S1: This is like some minor league baseball. Yes.
S3: When I was diagnosed in Seattle Urd or like the kind of Fort Wayne double team to be called just to get like the kind of juice of, you know, merchandise sales, everything that I was talking about before. I mean, I think I guess it’s interesting, Joel, to like a major professional team would like go for something that it seems this kind of like minor league.
S1: It’s weird, right? Because we got used to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Right. Like they tried. That’s true. The Raptors that we get, I guess we sort of gradually got used to it. But I guess the question that I would ask and maybe this is, you know, this is the NHL, so they’re operating from a different plane. But the question that I would ask is, are the mighty Ducks or the Raptors? Anybody care about, like their gear or their paraphernalia or anything like that? Does that stuff fly off the shelves? Because I guess I guess it depends on what you think a mascot is actually for. Is it like juice? Is it to create another revenue stream for your franchise so that you can sell cool gear and uniforms and all that sports and build something that fans can rally around? Or is it to represent something broader about like the metropolitan area and, you know, represent something, you know? I saw one of the fans mentioned that they were hoping that it was going to represent, you know, Pacific Northwest culture and maybe that has more lasting appeal and a better chance to sell stuff. Well, we don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. But I just like you all mentioned, you know, trying to win the news cycle in 2020. That doesn’t tell us a lot about what it’s going to be in 2027. I mean, because I just I can’t imagine that people are going to give a shit about crack and even know what that means. You know, years from now, I grew up with what’s the reference point for this to, you know, I have to go watch a movie that came out 2010.
S4: Well, the Kraken legend goes back to Nordic folklore. Josh, all the way back to eleven eighty, according to this piece in the O magazine.
S1: Don’t lecture me on this. You’re talking you’re talking to John. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Did I say Josh? No. Not bad. Yeah. I don’t know. Nordic in the Nordic legends. I’m sorry.
S4: I you haven’t read you haven’t read the manuscript by Kings area of Norway. Very deep. I am ignorant. The thing is that there is a giant squid out there in the Pacific apparently. And I think the giant squid would have been like as good Seattle octopi. Right. That would have made so much more sense. Go ahead.
S3: There is a pluralization question here. Yeah. They’re gonna be the crack N or the crack ends.
S1: I think they’re just crack. Just crack it.
S3: There is a a a vicious pluralization debate happening, Stefan.
S4: You also have to wonder whether in the 20 months that they spent figuring out what to call this team, anyone considered that fans would immediately start calling themselves hashtag crackheads, which was trending on Twitter and call for the arena to be known as the crack house? This was not a good look in pretty obvious.
S7: Yeah, as a league that’s had lots of problems with race historically and in recent years. And if you want to be leaning into a nickname that evokes a kind of devastating epidemic that devastated black communities in America.
S5: So I don’t know, maybe a year in your two year long process to come up with a nickname. This is something that might have come up, but maybe not throughout the whole two years, but maybe at some point, you know, it took them 20 months to come up with it.
S4: And this is you know, you’re talking about how Twitter governs. This is the first Twitter team or the first, you know, minor league gimmicky team. But 20 months, you know, millions of dollars, thousands of hours, more sincerity than you can imagine to describing, you know, a name and a drawing that’s going to go on t shirts and jerseys. Let’s play a clip from Adidas. Guy who is in charge of the color scheme for the team name to give you a sense of what we’re talking about here.
S14: And once he chose the name Cracken and once that was then that was the team. Blue was the obvious choice because a sea creature, sea water. Those things are blue. But the exact color combination that came from one of those trips when we looked out, we saw on the blue sky 16 one sort of a rocky gray down to the blue of Puget Sound, the sort of spectrum in terms of blues. We’re like, wow, why don’t we do something in that area and start exploring that?
S4: Wow. I mean, blue sea and the sky.
S1: I mean, I, I think it is kind of dope that they won’t have white as part of their home uniforms. Like I’m like, okay, I’m kind of to see the two toned blues, you know, crack and just not surrender. Joe. Right. There’s no there’s no I had no idea that home white summit that you were throwing up a surrender flag. Who knew? I would have said this is we should have we should have realized that a long time ago. But, yeah, I just, you know, man, you know, I’m I’m from Houston, as I’ve mentioned a number of times. And they came up with the Texans. You know, I mean, so there’s all sorts of ways to get it uninspiring, nicknamed choices. And this is just another whatever it just I you know, I’m trying to think who’s done one. That’s really interesting and good. And like the last 20 years. What’s the best? It’s probably like soccer or something. Or like one of the soccer leagues. The NBA is Geely team.
S3: All the MLS, they just like say, oh, word, whatever, city FC. And that means we’re classy and in Europe. Yeah, I mean, they’ve they’ve basically given up. But I think Raptor’s is probably the biggest success story of nicknames of this ilk, because when it came out, it was like, oh, Jurassic Park. That’s gimmicky. You know, that’s not going to last. People are gonna be people made fun of it at the time. They’re gonna be making fun of it for decades to come. And then you see, like when there’s team success, you know, fans are watching the games outside on the big screen in Jurassic Park. And, you know, I think people are more interested in the gear when they won an NBA title. And now we just talk about the Raptors and we don’t giggle about it or even pause to think about the fact that this was a name that was chosen. It’s just like the NBA team that plays in Toronto, as is the Raptors.
S4: Right. So that could be exactly what happens in Seattle.
S3: Yeah. I mean, I think we have we tend to under estimate our own ability to normalize stuff like this. I mean, it is funny. It’s more funny and more ridiculous. The worst the team is, I think, is the team. Gets better. And you’re talking about them for on field, on ice. Whatever reasons, then the nickname becomes subordinate to that and then it even becomes incorporated into the team culture.
S4: Like with a drastic parkening, you know, there were two other team name related news bits in the last week. One was the announcement of a new women’s soccer team for the National Women’s Soccer League in L.A. And the tentative name is Angel City FC. OK. I mean, they might come up with a name, but that’s not so bad. I don’t like that. It’s great, actually. Fun. And the other was the Washington football team announcing that they o had actually hired someone and would do an actual process to pick a name. And it’s just so funny, in contrast, that, you know, these Seattle people, 20 moms, deeply sincere, you know, all the seriousness of, you know, some major marketing rollout. And in Washington, you had a couple of guys in their 50s who farted out a couple of names and thought they were done with it. So I’m not sure which is funnier. Right, that that Ron Rivera, the head coach of the Washington team, saying, oh, the biggest thing that we’ve learned is that this is going to take steps. Well, no shit, dude. If there was anybody in that organization that was operating it as a business that they might have been able to tell you that or the fact that, well, 20 months and you get the crack in and a bunch of yeah, I’ll be about how noble Seattle is and how noble the crack and nails as a CBE. I don’t know which is which is worse.
S1: Well, I mean, I just you know, I just like to imagine Ron Rivera at a whiteboard going through some names and he and Dan, you know, Dan Snyder just like, well, I don’t know about Redtails. And all of a sudden it’ll be like, you know what, man? Maybe we should bring some people who know what the hell they’re doing. Let’s do this either. But they didn’t make that call. It was like after Snyder hired a business executive. Oh, yeah. We should. You guys know what you’re doing. Yes.
S5: But the bigger news, Stefan, was that they announced that they’re going to be the Washington football team Perak this year. And there was very divergent response that some people saying this seems fine and others being like this is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe they’re going through this whole season calling themselves the Washington football team. What idiots? I mean, I think my the way that I would tend to gravitate is because Slate has been calling them the Washington football team since 2013.
S4: Like, OK, they’re just going by their actual name now. So that seems fine to me. Yeah. And I like I felt out of their uniform rollout. I like the new font that their whatever brand company. They finally just Washington FC baby. Well, I think even better. Josh Washington. AFC. American Football Club. And they play in the NFC.
S1: Washington reps. I still I’m still holding out hope that if somebody hears that and runs with it, keep it up, man. Yeah. Good luck to you. Joe.
S4: And now it is time for after balls. Doing a little crack in research. Went back and looked at the Seattle Times poll. They are. They did it as a knockout bracket. And I think that was a mistake. Should have just gone straight voting for some of the losers. First round. Sasquatch emeralds quacking, as we said. And then in the second round, you had grunge cascades. Also lost French pilots nod to the old Seattle pilots baseball team and the fightin gooey ducks, the gooey duck, of course, clam of the Pacific coast of North America. That usually weighs two to three pounds. So the gooey ducks went down to the sock eyes. I think gooey ducks could’ve gone further in the tournament. They were eliminated early. I think grunge was eliminated a little early. Steelheads made it to the semifinals. I kind of like fighting gooey ducks little more than crack and maybe.
S5: But I not a little close to maybe duck. Stefan, I mean, if you’re gonna be original, be original.
S4: But the rivalry. But dock’s against the gooey ducks. West Coast battle.
S5: And we all we all know about the fighting spirit of the gooey duck. It’s just the thing that we all talk about constantly.
S4: Absolutely. Josh, what year are fighting going duck?
S3: So I mentioned earlier in the program that the Braves, Adam Duvall, had a cardboard cutout of Jeff McNeill, Jeff McNeil’s dog. That reminded me of the classic sign. And the Brooklyn Dodgers Ebbets Field hit sign wins suit on the right field wall. It was put up as an advertisement by a business man in Brooklyn named Abe Stark. There is a history of the sign on the blog. Dutch Baseball Hangout mentions, interestingly, that Abe Stark parlayed his popularity and renown from having this sign into a career as a politician, that he actually became the president of the New York City Council in the 50s and then became the president of the borough of Brooklyn from 1962 to 1970.
S13: So that is an effective advertisement. When he first put the sign up two hundred seventy five dollars per year for the whole season to have this outfield sign by the end of the Dodgers time and Ebbets Fields, it was twenty five hundred dollars a season in the 50s. By that time, television was a thing. Get a little bit more exposure for Abe Stark and assign. The interesting thing about the sign is that it was very hard to hit. And there are a lot of stories around about how the Dodgers outfield really patrolled the raid field and made it so that, you know, the opposing team had a hard time, a good sign, actually. It was just like the geography design is like the bottom of the wall. It you know, in an earlier iteration, it covered the entire wall. But this was like a more kind of discreet area. And it was actually almost impossible to hit the sign because if you’re going to hit the sign on the fly, there’s going to be a guy just like standing there who’s going to catch it. And if it’s a fly ball that could potentially, like, have enough arc to drop down in and hit the sign, then there’s going to be somebody camped under it to catch it. So I found this article from 1954 Wire Service, Artecoll Newspaper Enterprise Association, the headline Free 150 Dollars Suits Possible for hits at Ebbets Field. Difficult to win. And it gets into some of the history here about how the scientism hit every day. It’s not even hit every year. And then it gets into some of what I just said. You know, and this is one example where Duke Snider hits the sign, a high drive. Once in a while, we’ll think sharply after an outfielder has decided it will carry up against the scoreboard. In this case, Hanks’ our backed away, expecting to play it on the rebound. With the result, an ordinary out became one hundred dollar tropical worsted. That’s the kind of fabric, apparently. But the only reason that the sign got hit was because Hank Sauer misjudged the ball. And so it’s not this spectacular moment of like baseball amazing ness that somebody had the sign and they’re rewarded with a suit. It’s because an outfielder screwed up. The article goes on to note that there is actually a New Yorker cartoon by a cartoon as George Price that showed an outfielder jumping for a catch in front of a billboard. And that billboard red hit this sign. And Abe Feldman will give you a suit absolutely free. And the cartoon depicts not only the outfielder in the sign, but actually a cartoon of the fictional character, Abe Feldman, a dumpy little man in a business suit and a derby hat wearing a catcher’s mitt on one hand, and he fielder’s glove on the other. Finding his sign so he does not have to give up the free seat. Congratulations to George Press, his excellent cartoon. Congratulations. Coming 80 years too late. Congratulations to Abe Stark for his excellent outfield field sign.
S4: The other famous outfield sign, as is the hit ball when steak. Fine. Yeah, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. That does not have any genuine history. It was built as a prop for the movie Bull Durham in 1988. Oh, yeah. And it’s in its third iteration. But apparently players do get a steak if they hit the ball.
S1: Cannot miss that. I’ve never seen Bull Durham either further away than any movies, John. Well, I mean, not really. I mean, I did see straight out of Compton a couple of years ago. So you saw Jesus. You talked about did see juice. I did see juice. Yeah. You enraged people by saying it was only OK. OK. I like it. It’s a good movie. But, you know, it’s OK. We don’t have to watch.
S5: And I, I am going to be withdrawal here. And I will confess. I also have never seen Bull Durham.
S4: Wow. Wow. Yes. Kevin Costner is the worst actor in the history of film.
S3: That’s exactly. That’s exactly right. And CNN again. Kevin Costner’s acting will not be up to par. I refuse to see that.
S1: I do support Ryan Shelton, by the way. The white man can’t jump. Very good movie.
S3: Joel, what is your fighting gooey duck?
S1: Well, my fight goes dark. I’m going to freestyle this a little bit because I don’t want this to be an obituary segment every week, which I think that my after balls have been. But I couldn’t help but notice that John Blake, the former Oklahoma head football coach, the first black coach of any sport in Oklahoma, died last week while out on a walk. He was 59 years old. And, you know, he came up in Oklahoma program under Barry Switzer. He was a nose guard there in the late 70s, early 80s, worked for Switzer in Oklahoma and then with the Dallas Cowboys. And I did not actually realize that his stint with the Cowboys ended because he claimed that Troy Aikman was racist and treated his black teammates differently. And that Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and some others spoke up on Troy’s behalf. He got fired. Then he got his shot at Oklahoma, which just I did not realize those were the circumstances under which he’d gotten Oklahoma. But he got to Oklahoma at the time. He followed the uninspiring Gary Gibbs era and the absolutely disastrous five five in one one season stint of Howard Shellenberger, who by that time had clearly run out of his Magic four building programs. So Blake gets to Oklahoma. Talent has bottomed out. His first game was actually against my T.C. You Horned Frogs the first year that I was on the T.C. football team. And I’ll never forget we’re getting ready to play. Oh, you. This is you know, I mean, I’ve grown up my entire life. Oh. Use the big program to see you as a nobody. Like they’d played in the Bluebonnet Bowl. I think that was the last bowl that they played in like a decade before. And our coaches pasted it in the locker room. Oh, you might be so bad this year that they’re in danger of losing to T.C. you and and actually, they did. We beat, oh, you at home. Twenty to seven shutout. Jeff Dover, who threw a long touchdown pass in that game. And that was my introduction to college football. But I mean, it’s worth noting that Tom Blake didn’t really have a lot to work with. I mean, maybe his best player was Demond Parker. Good little running back, fifth round draft pick didn’t last very long. They also had Cornelius Burton, nice little defense van out of Houston. Lamar High School shot Cornelius. He ended up being, I think, a first round draft pick for the New York Giants at the end of his career there. But when we played Oklahoma again in 1998, again at a munchy Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, their quarterback was the truly terrible Justin Forte, who ended up becoming an offensive coordinator to see you later. And as you now know, as the head coach of Virginia Tech, but he was terrible, like really, really bad. The only reason we lost that game is because we think one of the three interceptions he threw that day, our linebacker Joe Phibbs, didn’t get on the ground and fumbled it on the return. Oh, you recovers and kick. I think either the accuracy or if they kicked the game winning field goal or if they scored a touchdown anyway, we lost 10 to nine. It was really embarrassing and just humiliating. Lost. I was so disillusioned with football and that I gave it up and decided to become a journalist. But at any rate, John Blake ended his career 12 and 22 it. Oh, you improved his win total by a single game every year. So you went from three and eight to four and seven to five and six showed some improvement. Not enough. Oh, you brought in a dude named Bob Stoops. Two years later, Bob Stoops wins a national championship. But it’s worth remembering this is the whole reason I brought this up, that John Blake. Recruited a lot of the foundation that Stoops won that championship with. He brought in a guy called Roy Williams for those folks that know college football. He brought in the first team, all-American linebacker, Rocky Kalmus. He brought in a very good side entrance, Smith. So, you know, when you talk about Bob Stoops winning that national championship, you might want to show a little love for Coach Blake, who built a lot of that up, and Coach Blake after that. He went on, did some assistant coaching at Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina. But it’s probably better we don’t talk about how that North Carolina stint ended, some allegations of, you know, working with an agent, all that sort of stuff. But, you know, hey, man, it’s college football. You don’t get talent just because, you know, kids want to go to your school. Sometimes you got to do some other stuff. Right. And then you I think his last real coaching stint was with the Buffalo Bills in 2016. And then he started working at a high school in north Texas. And that’s what he was doing when we, you know, when we last heard from him. And so anyway, rest in peace, Coach Blake, just one of those unknown, you know, little known college football characters that, you know, there was a little bit more to his story. And, you know, he’s the reason that you guys are hearing me here today and why I didn’t live out my NFL dream.
S3: You rarely hear about the nose guard to head coaching paper.
S5: Among other coaching pipelines that are not not heavily populated. The news guard to head coach pipeline.
S1: I don’t think he was a very tall guy either. But, you know, I use a nose guard in the 70s, so it didn’t take much to to play that position.
S2: So that is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. Listen to Pashas and subscribe for just reach out to Slate dot com slash hang up and you can e-mail us at Hang-Up at Slate dot com. For Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis, I’m Josh Levine, remembers Elmo Baity. And thanks for listening.
S7: All right, now it is time for our fourth and final segments on this week’s show. And I just finished doing Slow Burn Season four.
S1: It’s in the books. Yes. Yes. Shut up. Here we go. Gesell class. I set my phone down to clap.
S7: OK, thank you all. Thank you. There’s a bunch of sports. Sports related stuff. We’ve talked about it a little bit on the show before. I didn’t realize going into this last episode that there was gonna be a whole segment about the Saints game that took place in the Superdome the day after the primary election that David Duke ends up getting into the runoff with Edwin Edwards in 1991. So it’s the kind of big combination of the whole series is this runoff election where Duke is is, you know, close to being governor. And so the day after this first round of voting, there’s a Saints game. The Saints are undefeated. Ninety one Duke is there. Edwin Edwards is there. And it’s kind of this moment where a lot of different strands in the story come together. And Keith Woods on the podcast, who is the city editor of the Times Picayune, tells this story about being in the dome and hearing this roar kind of move around the stadium and only realizing after a few minutes that it’s David Duke entering from the concourse into the stands and people cheering and booing. And the way that Keith tells the story and I’ll leave it, you can you can listen to it in the full context on the episode. I actually I don’t know if you had this experience in any of your interviews, Joel, but I was like, this is definitely coming into the show. And I could just, like, feel the anxiety of being in that moment just based on the way that Keith was telling the story of wondering what was going to happen when Duke came in his harsh section and how people would respond. He just told the story in a way that was really transporting. I felt.
S1: Yeah. No, I just can’t imagine what it was like to have to. I mean, I get, you know, when you sort of have to have some dissonance anyway. So Coggin business, when you’re at schools in the south like that, where there’s like this culture built up around football because you know, you know that like there are a lot of people out there that would want nothing to do with you if you weren’t playing football or you were not involved with the team and some sort of way. And, you know, the joke that we were making, even like the last few years when I worked at ESPN was, you know, the biggest Trump rallies in the country are SCC football games. You know, I mean. And so that’s that legacy. You know, I can only imagine what it was like back then. In fact, man, I just. Did you ever see did you find those LSU flags that have, like Confederate flag iconography on them and everything? Like did you. Have you seen a lot of those?
S6: I’ve seen images of them. Yeah. I don’t know if I ever saw one in person.
S1: Yeah. And it’s just I mean, you know you know, David Duke is obviously ratchets up the intensity there. But I think that, like, especially if you’re a black person who’s grown up in the south is always sort of a feeling that, like, these games are not necessarily places where you belong. These environments are not necessarily places that you belong if you’re not there attached to the program as some sort of specific way. Does that make sense?
S7: Yeah. I mean, he talks about Keith does that there is this real feeling of community and kind of fellow feeling among Saints fans, like he had season tickets and he sat in this section for years. And there was this sort of shared kind of sense of everybody being on the same page and everybody coming there to cheer and boo for the same set of people. And that that’s obviously a fiction, but it’s like a shared kind of collective experience that we have as sports fans that we feel like for these few hours we can, you know, put everything aside and all just like come together. And that’s obviously, you know, bullshit. And this, you know, this moment exposed dad. And he says, you know, I never could. It shattered that community for me. I could never experience this in the same way again.
S4: And isn’t that what makes what’s going on right now in the world around sports such a powerful conversation? Because it it makes us realize that a lot of the fictions of fandom are just that. And in a place like New Orleans and and other places, particularly in the South or frankly, anywhere, you know, in Major League Baseball for a while, however, cheers, Boston, Philly, Boston, Philly, every city into Chicago and into recent times. You know that it just exposes what sports are. But someone like David Duke, it becomes. Like most naked and powerful flash point that you could ask for. Like, if you want someone to expose the folly who would do it more effectively than someone like David Duke.
S7: Yeah. It makes me think about how there’s this cliche about how sports is this rare thing in our society and like societies across the world where people do come together across different lines and different barriers. But the way that we come together is by kind of ignoring or papering over the real differences. It’s not like actually coming together that makes anything better or makes there be kind of a heightened or elevated understanding or empathy among people. It’s just like a shared kind of collective time out.
S8: We have. And willingness to ignore reality.
S1: Right. You’re sort of flattening the differences between people. Like, I mean, you know, I’m sure that they’re black. University of Texas fans who are in the stands while, you know, there’s a sensibly rooting for the home team. Meanwhile, they get up and have to you know, a bunch of fans around you say the eyes of Texas. Right. Which is, you know, got references to the Confederacy and, you know, and Dixie and all that good stuff. And, you know, you have to sort of flatten that to to say that we’re all rooting for the same things. And then it brings us together means you have to sort of flatten those sorts of experiences or you have to say, well, that doesn’t matter, that, you know, we’re actually all still in this together. But anybody that detracts from things that make you feel uncomfortable at games or whatever they like, that stuff doesn’t matter like that. They’re not taking that into account. But I think a lot of people already know that. Do we already know? I mean, I think a lot of it maybe I what I should say is that people who aren’t racist, people who aren’t bigoted already know that. And we’ve heard Christina Carter Rucci on here before, right. When she talked about, like just even the experience of going to games where there’s like this very strong, misogynist hetero energy that, like, makes going to games uncomfortable for her. Yeah. Right. You know, I mean, so, you know. Yeah. I don’t maybe that’s that’s too far afield, but it’s just the idea of rooting for sports, going to sports games, all that sort of stuff like man, it’s just never it’s never as unifying as we think it is. We just pretend that sort of shit.
S4: Yeah. And the reason that the NFL wants to make everyone believe that they’re a political or that it’s better to be a political. And the reason that that black athletes speaking out now is so wrenching, it’s that it forces people to confront these divisions and to recognize that going and sitting in the stands doesn’t paper over. Like you said. Josh, the reality of our existences.
S1: Just I wanted to ask you a question. Unless you had something else about, because we talked about briefly a guy that I knew that I played football with at CCU, Sterling Boyd, who he originally signed with Georgia Tech High School. He was a top rated high school running back. Sangwa Georgia was recruited by LSU and he was quoted as saying that was this after the Duke stuff or was it related to the was around the Duke stuff?
S7: And there were stories about black athletes maybe not wanting to go to LSU. And I think he was included in one of those stories.
S1: Yeah. Did you find more that sort of stuff around like, you know, with Duke’s affiliation with LSU or or even even just like Burness political rise, like black athletes not wanting to go there? Because I know that that didn’t obviously make it hard, but.
S15: Well, that was the other thing I wanted to talk about. So I’m glad that you brought it up. And here is some bonus content that did not make it into slow burn season four. And then the fact that this did not make it end well disproved to all of you, that I don’t just shoehorn everything LSU into all of my work product. So, I mean, to play this a little bit of setup, actually. So during the run off, there were just an unbelievable amount of ads that were run. And just a huge amount of money coming in to the Edwin Edwards campaign and to the Louisiana Democratic Party to run these anti-drug ads. Bobby. Buried the Saints quarterback did it. And it was kind of a soft a.D.A thing that’s like basically don’t be racist, but didn’t mention Duke by name. But here’s one that was a little bit more explicit. And so let’s play that now.
S16: I’m Dave Dixon, an LSU season ticket holder since 1957. I’m worried sick about LSU, football and basketball. If David Duke is elected governor, how can we recruit? Does anyone really believe we can recruit the top prospects in America with David Duke sitting in the governor’s mansion? It’s goodbye. LSU Tigers are. It’s goodbye, David Duke. Take your choice.
S7: I just found it so incredible for a couple of different reasons.
S15: Number one, just understand who Dave Dixon was. He was. One of the people who was instrumental in bringing the Saints to New Orleans and getting the Superdome built, so he is like an important business man and important to the history of football and the state. Number two, it’s it’s part of this kind of trend that I talk about in the series of people making a series of pragmatic rather than moral arguments around Duke. It’s like, you know, some people say don’t vote for Duke because. His views are awful. But this is part of like a set of arguments around like don’t come to Duke because conventions don’t won’t come here. So, like, it’s not that that we think Duke is racist, that other people think that Duke is racist. And so this is what some what some of the knock on effects are gonna be. And so it’s like what you were saying, Joel. It’s just like the total like just the way that this totally makes absolutely plain and clear that black athletes are being seen in this instrumental way. It’s like if you are a potentially racist white person, want to watch LSU football, then you need to understand, if not empathize with the way that black athletes might view David Duke. And if you want to see a black eye, I run the football or catch the football, then you need to vote against this guy. It’s like it’s unbelievable to me that that this commercial what was on the air.
S1: You know, what’s interesting, too, is that I think it’s fair to say, as somebody who’s followed college football most of my life, that LSU was sort of always an underachieving program for the majority of our lives. Right. Like, it wasn’t. They essentially had to get what we now see is one of the five best college football coaches in the history of college football to build that program into a national powerhouse. Right. Because like during the 80s, 90s, they were always, you know, they were like a seven and four program.
S8: Well, they went from 1958 to 2003 between championships as one rough metric of program quality.
S1: Yeah. Right. Exactly. I mean, the guy that built them was Nick Saban. So that’s what it took to do that. And I don’t know I can’t say for certain that the David Duke stuff impacted them. And I don’t know if you found that out, Josh, at all, but it definitely couldn’t have helped them. And trying to make the case that it was a good a good place for black athletes. But that could be said also for schools across the SCC, like when I was growing up, you could watch Ole Miss games on TV. And I vividly remember seeing Confederate flags in the stands. You know, I mean, like they were they were flying it in the 80s or whatever. So there were lots of places that had to overcome that sort of stuff. But like LSU in particular, like they’ve always had the ingredients to be good. It’s just only recently and like the last 20 years, that they able they were able sort of capitalize on all that.
S4: I have a question about that ad, Josh, which is that was he just appealing to what he knew to be the blatant racism in white Louisianans? Or is he someone that would have actually come out and said in a in a different world, can’t vote for David Duke because he’s a you know, he’s a Klansman and a Nazi?
S7: Yeah, I mean, my sense is that he was he was a part of this business community. And I interviewed in an episode you hear from like this real estate developer, Press Kappelhoff, who is one of the leaders in that community.
S11: And I think it was, you know, sincerity around not wanting David Duke for the obvious reasons why you wouldn’t want David Duke to be the governor, but also this kind of layer of whether it’s understanding whether it’s a cynical appeal to bigots, just just this idea that the most effective message was going to be one that put morality totally off the table. Right. And made an appeal based on things that were considered practical. And in Louisiana, this idea that one of the practical effects that would really hurt people and really affect their lives in a visceral way was like LSU being bad at sports like that was a calculus that was made. And I felt I find that fascinating.
S1: I mean, did you find that that was a factor or something that you could quantify it all in a role and in hurting Duke’s political chances?
S7: I mean, I think the conclusion that I came to at the end of the episode was that it wasn’t any one thing. It was the fact that this was, you know, just one of dozens, if not scores or hundreds of different examples of different appeals that were being made. And then a lot of the appeals were being made in this kind of horizontal way rather than from on high that like your friends and your neighbors and, you know, as land hell who I interviewed. Who. One of the main anti-drug activists, like you said, you’re like coreligionists, just like in all sorts of different ways. This message was being sent out. And so I would have a hard time believing that this LSU sports will be bad message flipped the election. I just think it’s more a great example of the kind of overall environment that was in place during during this runoff. And as far as whether it actually affected the decisions or decision making of recruits, I don’t know. I mean, the runoff was was happening in a period, you know, October, November. That’s not like a real, you know, Joel unit. You know better than I think either of us. Like, that’s not like a real hot time for for recruiting.
S1: It’s like during the season and it’s during the like, oh, no, no, no, no, no. You have your recruiting visits. You used to be during that time of year and during the fall. I mean, now, you know, you would they would bring you to a big game in the fall. Right. They would probably be later.
S5: You know, I mean, I think the bigger factor affecting LSU football at that time honestly was like curlee home and being. And I’m probably swamp swamp any other AFACT.
S1: But, you know, I’m sure it didn’t help things get home in a Dale Brown say anything about any of that because we wouldn’t shack on campus around this time. That’s right.
S7: Yeah. So we talked about it before. I talked about it in a previous episode of this, this program that Carlie Harmon was like, I don’t have any comments about politics. I’m just here to coach the team. And so he was very cowardly about it. Dale Brown has said that he threatened to pull his team off the court if Duke made an appearance at LSU basketball game. Shaq actually got kind of roped in at a certain point because David Duke claimed that Shaq. He like misrepresented, as David Duke often did, a thing that Shaq said to make it seem like Shaq. Shaq said something that was basically like, I’m here to play basketball. And like, I don’t want to talk about David Duke and David Duke. Then turn around like Shaq thinks that it’s fine, that I’m the course, you know. And so Shaq actually had to, you know, amend that and say that he thought that David Duke was awful. And so, you know, LSU sports got mixed up in this just like everything else did. So in conclusion, Slover in season four felt hopeful for streaming and download revenue.
S1: Listen, about LSU long history of racism. That’s growth jobs.
S5: That’s what that’s what I meant to listen to it and it and since since we’re all Slate plus members here that are listening, you can get all of the bonus episodes for for slow burn burn as well.
S1: So before you go, they always say, I think stuff happens, that we’re proud of you, man. That was awesome season. So this is a way we can say it on the record. So it was very calm. That was terrific. Josh. Yeah. Thank you. Congrats, man.