The How Rich Strike Struck It Rich Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children. Hi. I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor. And this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of May 9th, 2022. On this week’s show, The New York Times’s Joe Drape will be here to explain how the longest of longshots, Rich Straight won the Kentucky Derby. We’ll also assess the latest news on Brittney Griner lingering detention in Russia. And finally, Shane Ryan will join us for a conversation about his new book on the 2021 Ryder Cup. The Cup They Couldn’t Lose. And About Apocalypse. Sports trivia, the online trivia league that Stefan and I both partake in. I’m in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Queen and host of the podcast One Year. Also in D.C. is Stefan FATSIS. He is the author of Word Freak Few Seconds of Panic and Wild An Outside. Hello, Stefan.

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S2: Josh.

S1: And with us, as he has been in recent weeks, the estimable Vincent Cunningham of The New Yorker, staff writer and theater critic. Vincent, are you feeling a bit discombobulated that we are not doing NBA this week and that all the series are tied? Two, two. We’re just going to we’re in a wait and see mode right now.

S3: I feel disconcerted. Strange, tense. Just like the playoffs themselves. I don’t know what to make of them, and I’m happy to put it off because they’re stressing me out.

S1: Like all good journalists and humans. Stefan we’re avoiding conflict. We’re just going to wait till everything sorts itself out. Everyone’s happy again. No more injuries. No more attention. And we’ll just kind of parachute in for a nice, clean landing.

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S2: Yeah, we’re really hoping things really just calm down. That’s what we want.

S1: And we will get to the NBA in our after balls. Don’t worry.

S2: To earn a place in the Kentucky Derby, horses accumulate points from a series of qualifying races to make the field. If a horse declines an invitation, organizers move down the list. A week before Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Little known rich strike sat 22nd on Monday on a hole so named because it lost an eye as a yearling dropped out on Friday, Ethereal Road was scratched by its trainer, Duane Lucas. Rich Strike moved into the 20th slot and went off at 80 to 1, tied for the longest odds in the field. And then on Saturday, this happened outside.

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S4: Set against the rail run at the end of the stretch in its 58 pro ride. Urban Center is putting up an outside epicenter that’s taking the lead. They arrive into the battle for a long time coming up for help. But the dirt and said that the things to strive for simplification. No the upside effect and coming down to the wider epicentres Hebden Bridge. Right. Coming up on the inside. Oh, my God. It’s the longest run.

S2: The Kentucky Derby that was Larry Collmus on the call for NBC. Rich Strike was in 13th place when Collmus shouted and they’re into the stretch. Before the finish. He uttered the horse’s name just once during the perfunctory recitation of the entire field, about halfway through when Rich Strike was in 17th place. And now I realize why announcers do that in the improbable event that a Wayback Horse makes a run to the front. So call Mrs. Incredible Rich Strike comes out of nowhere. But journalistically, he was covered. Joe Drape of the New York Times was at Churchill Downs. He is with us now. Hey, Joe.

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S3: Good to be here with you guys.

S2: You wrote that Rich Strike hit the wire low and long as if he were trying to sneak past the hall monitor. When you watch the amazing overhead shot of this race, you realize just how absurd the run from 17th to first was. The horse is moving so fast, it looks fake. It looks like a video game. What was it like in person?

S3: You know, it was really stunning and you really didn’t know it. Let’s give it to Larry for even catching that horse at the head, because he he was focused on epicenter zandvoort going down and nobody knew who was coming. And on the inside, he was wearing a 21 saddle cloth. That’s not a common cloth that you see know it’s color coordinated. So you kind of had to look and see who it was. The overhead replay really sort of showed you what was going on there. The two foreign horses, one from Dubai, one from Japan, had European jockeys who had never really ridden in the dirt. They went out too fast. Fastest quarter and a half mile in Kentucky Derby history. Sunny Leone, this sort of jock from nowhere who’s really accomplished, but never at this level. He just kind of laid back, let the pace collapse before warm. He hugged the rail. And that’s what you call saving ground in this. You know, the shortest point, the quickest place between two points of the shortest. You know what I’m saying? And then everything just opened up. He just got really lucky and he rail open. He makes one Hall of Fame move there at the end, pulling that horse up and moving around. Messi, who is dead, stopped ahead of them. And then I’ve never seen a rider that low. He was perpendicular. His head was over the years and he was just scrubbing on that coal. And he’s good advice. There was no doubt he was going by him at that point. He was still running past the wire. So it was a really impressive performance, no matter the modest connections and means with this horse.

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S1: Let’s talk a little bit more about the call by Larry Collmus. You alluded to it a little bit ago and how we should give them credit for even spotting Ridge Strike, but just the cadence of it, the way that his voice goes up at the end, it gives. I mean, I’ve listened to that five times, gives me goosebumps every time. Can you talk a little bit more about Larry Collmus and about his kind of skills and what you heard in that call when you just heard it now?

S3: Yeah, I’ve been fascinated with race callers, so I think there’s a great documentary. I’ve known him, Dave Johnson, Tom Durkin. And what these guys do is they have these notebooks. All right. They are there to. Jog their memories. So they have sort of a script of who has what. He knew he was the longest shot, the board. That’s what he had to do. The real sort of trick of race calling is you need to know all the horses for 2020 horses for 2 minutes, and then you forget about it because it’s the next race. So it’s always about the next race. There’s no long term memory on this. So, you know, Larry had a great cadence. And, you know, he’s called the last two triple crowns. He’s a really accurate race caller, which is really what the premium is, is to be accurate. There’s more florid, there’s more animated, but you get to be accurate and to hit the right notes. And that’s why they use you guys said it stuff and that’s why they called down all 20 horses some point because they want to get that little sense of who’s there. You got to realize they’re up in a perch with binoculars. They’re not watching this on TV. They’re doing it live and picking them out, move it back and forth. So, you know, Larry, you could tell was ready, said in an epicenter were the two favorites. It was easy for him. Once they hit the screen, they had to stretch. He knew that was the race resort. And just the fact that he could pick rich strike up to me was kind of amazing. And that’s the difference between a blown call and a call for history, just like you said. So, I mean, you know, he had it ready and he was a surprise to us anyway. That’s what the cadence was. It was the equivalent of. Holy shit. It’s. It’s rich, right? So it worked really well with him. So when you speak in that way about the call, I can’t help but think about your piece and a similar kind of astounding lyricism that kind of moves through that. I love your your your column. It makes me wonder, has your interest in those callers affected you as a stylist as you’re writing about the races? You know, I wish I had a really smart answer about it. Mainly, I drink with these callers and I get their tricks, but deadlines are incredibly liberating to write, and I’m always on a tight deadline. And I was there with an editor and he said, Why did you go that direction? And literally I was watching the race on a monitor and I have my recorder up there because I only had time to get the on course quotes, you know, the quickest quotes in there. And Larry’s call and I look and I assume it is see who it is. And I said, Oh, I like that. And that.

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S2: Ended up my.

S3: Read because that’s when I felt I was like, Shit, who, who, who saw that comment? And I didn’t see that coming. And so then you kind of start recreate the moment, you know, unfortunately inexpensively. I have a lot of history in this sport. I know a lot about it. And it’s, you know, useless information most of the time. But in 45 minutes on a race like that, I can reach back into my toolkit and know these things. And yeah, it just I thought it was a great race. It’s game stories are game stories, but some are better than others. And this one, you just had to get out of the way of it. You had three people you had to introduce to an audience that nobody had ever heard of. You had this long shot outcome and, you know, horse racing, riding and Josh always gives me hell about this. What I’m on here about, you know, the romanticism, the lyricism and all that. But of course, racing is really the place where you can just let it rip. All right. You know, Kobe Bryant in going to come back and yell at me after the race, you know, it’s there. You got to you’ve got to paint a picture much like a race car. You got to get people excited for it. So that’s that’s kind of how I approach these things.

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S2: And let’s talk about those elements of this story. I mean, even just doing this cursory sort of education on how horses get into the Kentucky Derby, you realize like what an insane confluence of circumstances this was. I mean, this was a horse that sold for $30,000 in a claiming race, which is a race I learned where all the horses are for sale. Yeah. Jockey had ridden six races on Friday in Ohio at some minor league track. The trainer and the owner were not people that are at the top of the sport. These are not the rich Saudis or the billionaires that are into horse racing. I mean, this really is like an in horse racing. We you know, we do we can easily fall into this kind of upstart drama. And it happens every four or five years with with the horse and an owner and a trainer. But in this case, it’s kind of indisputable, isn’t it? Tell us a little bit about just how unlikely these circumstances are.

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S3: Well, first of all, that’s the. That horse is the only one that owner has right now. He’s a11 horse owner. All right. He was bred by Calumet, which is one of the oldest, most fabled places, well-bred. His father’s keen eyes who beat American Pharoah up at Saratoga at a mile and a quarter. So he’s well bred that way. For some unknown reason, they put him on turf in his maiden race and he got killed. Finish way of the trip. And you’re right. Claiming races is how you basically move your stuff. Right. So they dropped him in a $30,000 claimer at Churchill well bred coal and he wins by 17. Okay.

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S2: They have a.

S3: The other, like, element that people probably don’t realize is. All four of us want to claim a horse, okay, so we can put a claim in. And that’s what happened with him that day. There were six claims and they actually had a shake. Shake is literally they put dice in a like a cocktail thing and they shake it out and they eliminate guys until who’s the last one left and they got force. So they outlasted five other people to get this horse. And then they had a platform and the plan was to stretch him long and they kept him up a turf way park, which is a synthetic surface. They’re very safe, they’re very good training surface. And so they just took their time with them and they spaced as racers out and then they didn’t even have an assurance to get in the Derby as you laid out the points that they had to get really lucky with the points rate. And you know, they rode sunny Leone rode five races that Belichick or Bell Terrier because he didn’t think they were going to get it. He’s on his way to Florida.

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S2: For a vacation.

S3: Right, with his family. And the next morning, first, Churchill calls and says, doesn’t look like you’re going to get in. And then 10 minutes later, they called back and said, a serial road crash. So you’re in. So he delays his vacation, comes down to the first Saturday in May. For the first time, he’d never ridden in a state graded stakes race like this. And it’s really sort of a cool, impossible story. And, you know, Eric Reid’s a guy who is a working horseman. He has a hundred horses on this training center in Lexington. He ships Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia. And it’s all sort of at the working man level, which, let’s say, you know, let’s say he’s Dean Witter instead of Goldman Sachs. You know, he just grinded out a living on there. So it’s really kind of neat to see when these things work out and they don’t all the time. And like you said, and I think that’s why people were fired up about this. Tired of the shakes. Tired of the industrialists. Tired of the princes. Tired of the clock. You know, there’s a group that Kendall Jackson whined before for fun. George Soros, China China Horse Club. And, you know, there’s a Arthur Hancock, a long time for generation all that. He has a great saying. He’s like that. The silverback gorillas ganging up to get all the bananas because they can spend money. So that’s what’s nice about.

S1: So who wasn’t there at Churchill Downs? Is Bob Baffert, that mega trainer who was behind Medina Spirit. The horse, the won the Derby last year ended up getting disqualified for having performance enhancing drugs in his system. You wrote a great piece on the run up to this derby about the fate of Medina spirit who is no longer living. And so what was it like at Churchill Downs without Baffert there? And was the kind of Medina spirit story still lingering a year later?

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S3: Medina spirit stories linger. And because Bob Baffert has let it wink, he has fought every step of the way suspensions in state courts, in federal courts. He doesn’t want to go away. That said, he may not have physically been in Churchill Downs, but his presence was definitely felt. He had two horses that he gave to a long time assistant, former assistant to Mia team just four weeks ago, because that’s when all his appeals were exhausted. He had to take a 90 day suspension. And for those horses to qualify, they had to run the Santa Anita Derby to get enough points because they didn’t have any points at that point. So if there really were baffert’s horses so that that hung in the atmosphere there, I.

S1: Mean, so that would have been awkward if though if one of them would have won, it.

S3: Would have been very awkward. And this was the other thing. You know, the racing gods probably did a good thing here just because they allowed the sport to reboot for a minute. Now, Baffert’s not going away. The Medina spirit controversy is not going away. It’s going to be continued to fourth. But it is. At least we get some relief for. We have we’ve changed the storyline. The next five weeks. So.

S2: Does it change the storyline at all about drug use, about, you know, we’re just a couple of years away from the story of horses collapsing with leg injuries and the spate of deaths at a single track. These issues haven’t gone away. Are they being addressed?

S3: You know, I’ve told you guys, I’ve written congressional testimony from the 1970s talking about all this stuff. I mean, it’s the most movie thing ever. Until I see it, I’m not going to believe it. But there are movements. The Course Integrity and Safety Act has been passed. It is now a national mission under the federal trade control and they have now started making uniform rules. And a enforcement division that will take up the testing and take up the punishment on their beginning days is supposed to start in July, and I’m sure they’re a little behind on that. You know, it’s going to be interesting to see if it works. It hasn’t worked so far. When there’s this much money involved, people take an edge and they cheat. And, you know, that’s the sad. I guess, the sadness of human frailty. I don’t I don’t know what to do. I’ve seen it for so long. And it happens at almost every level until you really get a new sheriff in town who, Knocks said it’s still going to go on watching the Derby this year. I was. It made me think that as sports gambling is getting more prominent in America and, you know, I’m seeing people bet on basketball and things that I haven’t I haven’t really seen as prominently before it. It made me think like horse racing is the one sport where it just seems natural to the sport. It seems a component part of the sport that, you know, you take the underdog just like a. When you’re at Churchill Downs and something like this starts to happen. Can you tell in those seats? Who has money on the the long, long shot and who’s having the best day of their life? Like, you know, at the end of that race, is it immediately apparent who’s who’s going to rake it in at the end of this race? Vinson It is. And it builds up all day because the biggest question that you hear over and over from 11 in the morning until post time is Who do you like? Who do you like? And everybody’s kind of listening to who they’re betting, what combinations are put together. And then once they break, you know, you’ve got it’s like having the Raiders fans here, the Chiefs fans, they’re all the Giants. Everybody’s got their their rooting interests in there. And literally, when it was sand and an epicenter coming down, that was that those two took the big money. So the place was a roar and, you know, somebody was going to cash big. And then when that little horse got up the side, it kind of went silent because, again, nobody knew who it was for sure. And then silence. And then you hear pockets of somebody who like bet the name just sounded like that. They’re going, why not? You know, I had friends who were alive to all these exotic birds, picked five, pick six, which means you pick five or six in a row. We’re going into that race with eight horses alive. You know, you had any of these eight horses they would have won and boom, just like that, it’s all gone. So it’s it’s.

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S2: Very.

S3: It’s a visceral thing, you know, it’s not like sports betting. And I’m doing a lot of reporting on that. And I think that’s the next big thing that’s going to erode, corrode, or at least impact our society. And that’s a little more detached than sitting on a couch with the phone and, you know, doing this and groove in your fingers and doing it by yourself and silently and, you know, yelling at the TV with your wife, your kid and your dog. So it’s not it’s a communal experience. And I think that’s that’s what horse racing does. Well, these five weeks for these three races is they make it a communal experience. They get into the American fabric. They give everybody a shot to enjoy it.

S2: Joe Drape is a reporter for The New York Times. He writes about horse racing and other issues. He’s also the author of most recently, The Saint Makers Inside the Catholic Church and How a War Hero Inspired A Journey of Faith. Joe, thank you as always, for coming on the show.

S3: Thanks for having me, guys. Enjoy.

S2: Coming up next, we’ll talk about the state of Brittney Griner detention in Russia and the start of the WNBA season.

S1: The WNBA regular season opened on Friday night with four games, including the Las Vegas Aces 100 688 win over the Phoenix Mercury. Not playing for the Mercury was their star center, Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February. But Graner’s presence was felt everywhere in the league. Every WNBA court features a decals with her initials and Jersey number 42. Her Phoenix teammates wore We are big T-shirts during their pre-game shootaround, and people all around the league made public statements about her absence, like this one from the Washington Mystics. Natasha Cloud.

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S3: And 78 days.

S5: Since our friend teammate Sister Brittney Griner has wrongfully been detained in Russia, it is time for her to come home. Know that we are watching. We are paying attention. We are RBG.

S1: Vinson. In a lot of ways nothing has changed with the Griner situation. She’s still being held on charges that appear to be politically motivated. There’s been no obvious movement within Russia to let her free, but the public posture around her case has changed. Before last week, the State Department had encouraged Griner family and friends to keep a low profile. But we’re seeing now is a major shift and is in no way quiet diplomacy.

S3: It’s a big shift in the public positioning of this. And I think, unfortunately, given where we are in relationships, the relations between. Russia and the United States. It just seems like a kind of drumbeat that’s getting louder and louder in all of our ears. I was just before this news came down, I was reading a column by my colleague Robin Wright about her sense that this has that the. Conflict. The war in Ukraine has become a kind of proxy war between the U.S. and Russia NAITO And Russia in a kind of rekindled Cold War. And for this to happen around the same time, it just it has a terrible, ominous vibe. Not for Griner herself, for whom I feel awful and for the state of geopolitics. I couldn’t imagine a sports story more globally ominous and strange.

S2: Clearly, some some calculation was made by the U.S. government that they were not making progress in obtaining her release through quiet diplomatic channels. And this does feel like a shift to this public posturing, where the government believes it’s fine for the WNBA, whose players, you know, have some arm some some familiarity with Russian sports fans. These are not, in a lot of cases, obscure athletes. You know, we’ve talked before about how and we’ll talk more in the segment about how some Russian teams pay a lot of money to players like Brittney Griner to go play there. So what we don’t know is whether her detention by the government is known at all inside of Russia. And perhaps the calculation that the U.S. government made is that through whatever social media and news outlets are penetrating to the Russian public, maybe this news will get out and maybe someone who has some ability to influence will get involved.

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S1: So Bill Richardson, the American politician and diplomat, has gotten involved. He’s been involved in negotiations like this before. And one reason for optimism is that a U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, had been held in Russia for the last three years on drug smuggling charges, was just released in what was essentially a swap for a Russian who was being held in the United States. And so perhaps there’s a sliver of daylight there if the U.S. is willing to do a swap for Griner. And the fact that Richardson is involved, the fact that these cases have been linked publicly makes you think that they are willing to do that and not willing to just see how this legal process works out, because there is a hearing, I think, scheduled for ten days. Vinson But based on what we read, the U.S. is now not considering that hearing to have any kind of importance at all, that they’re working on this through, you know, diplomatic channels rather than counting on the Russian legal system and waiting to see what, if anything, will be done there.

S3: Yeah. One of the, you know, problems or challenges with following this. Issue, this case, whatever you call it. As an American observer, is that just as the issue of Graner’s detainment moved from something that none of us knew about to something that we knew about, but kind of thought we shouldn’t speak too much about because of its status as a with regard to the American stance toward it. And now this thing that’s being spotlighted in a similar way, we don’t know what else is happening. Right? There’s a whole the whole issue the whole issue kind of revolves around these silences and slow revelations. So it’s hard to even know what to hope for. One of the things, Stefan, though, that has been interesting to me is how quickly the WNBA itself, this is its opening week last weekend. Some of the first games of the season started. There were some good games. How quickly the WNBA made this a part of their sort of publicity politics. There are decals on the on the on the floor showing BG the initials. This immediate advocacy campaign seems to have jumped immediately into gear in a way that to me suggests that they knew something about this, you know, that that the category would change very quickly and that they were ready to do it. And it just like wondering how much any of that will will have effect is just hard to know.

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S2: It’s impossible to know. I mean, but clearly, you’re right. I mean, the league and the NBA, I imagine, were working directly with the State Department to try to figure out what people can and can’t say. And those messages were being relayed to players through the Players Association. I mean, because this is a sort of a crisis reaction campaign, right? The decals on the floor with grinders, initials and number hashtags, coordinated statements from the star players in the league. There’s a clear and logical sensitivity to making sure that the messages that are disseminated are are approved and would do nothing to inflame the situation. They’re all very well calculated as support for Brittney Griner and bring Brittney Griner home. I mean, the thing that complicates all of this, Josh, is that, look, she’s been in detention since February 17th. This is before the Ukraine invasion began. And I have no idea I am not an expert in either the war or the geopolitics of this. So it is curious to me, like how Griner has gotten sucked into this sort of proxy war, if it’s that between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, and whether Russian officials are using that as part of the leverage in detaining or releasing or negotiating for Griner release.

S1: Yeah. I mean, hopefully when this gets resolved and hopefully it’ll get resolved quickly, we’ll have answers to some of those questions. Jonathan Abrams and Tania Ganguli did a good story in The New York Times with the headline Why Brittney Griner Could Be The Last American Basketball Star in Russia. That is a good backgrounder on the larger issue of basketball players in Russia and women’s basketball being sort of like a play ground for oligarchs, especially this team UMC. You kind of randburg, which was paying Griner triple her salary, you know, $1,000,000. B In Russia, we’ve talked about this before, but there’s a clear linkage between the Griner story and Russia. And what’s been the biggest kind of domestic WNBA story this past week, which was the limitation on roster spots? And there are only 12 teams in WNBA, only 12 roster spots per team. But a lot of these teams, Vinson, aren’t even employing 12 players because there’s a hard cap, and so they’re choosing to pay 11 players more. And so you see this phenomenon of like high draft picks and the WNBA just getting cut and not having a chance to make teams. And there’s no G League, so there’s no opportunity for them to kind of hone their games domestically. And so in the story, you know, I’m not criticizing the story at all, but if you look at the headline, why Brittney Griner could be the last American basketball star in Russia. I mean, where are these players going to go? They have to go somewhere to either, you know, get paid, make a living, but also if they want to, even if their goal is to make the WNBA, like if you want to get a game, if you want to like play against the best and hone your skills, like you have to go play somewhere. And so it’s kind of on that. The WNBA, something something needs to change here if the goal is. You know, not putting players in these dangerous situations.

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S3: Yeah. I mean, there’s that issue, this new hard cap roster slot issue. And then there’s been the abiding issue of just simply how much WNBA players are paid. So Diana Taurasi, for example, has talked about how, you know, she made the hard decision to not play in the WNBA for a whole season because she got paid, I think it was $1.5 million by a Russian team, and it stipulated that she would not play in the WNBA during that span. And she said, you know, my all of my advisors said it would be lunacy financially for me not to take this deal. So like, you know, it became this thing that I couldn’t I couldn’t not do.

S1: And we’ve talked about this before, but it’s not the salaries are not derived from the fact that women’s basketball is popular in Russia. It’s not it’s because oligarchs want these players. It’s some sort of like grand game that they’re playing over there where they want these players. It’s like chess pieces, you know, to, you know, win favor. And like another really fascinating thing is this notion that oligarchs want to become involved in sports because it makes them more high profile and makes it harder for Putin to, like, take their money away or that, you know, once they become better known. I don’t think that’s necessarily worked in the case of women’s basketball, and maybe it’s not even necessarily worked for Roman Abramovich, but I mean, that’s that the theory behind it?

S2: Well, the theory behind it is there are a couple of theories, right. One is, I have to spend my money somehow. There’s a quote from an old quote in The Times story from one of the basketball oligarchs saying, you know, you can only buy so many breakfasts or something. So he’s got you know, you’ve got to spend your money. And, B, it makes you look good internationally even. You know, on the one hand, it’s the make make Putin feel good because we know that Putin likes sports success. But the flip side is that you establish a reputation and a personality in the international sports community. So ultimately this is kind of sports washing. It’s not like they’re making money from revenue and advertising and television rights in, you know, in these cities hours and hours from Moscow. They are doing this for stature. They’re doing this because it’s fun. They’re doing this because they have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend. And why not just spend it on women’s basketball and bring these American players over and make them into local celebrities? Because it does sound like fun. And that is one of the motivating reasons for owners in any country for owning sports teams. So it’s not that much different from what owners do over here. The the question that I think hasn’t been wrestled with and the agent that is quoted in that New York Times take out about the future of of of American women playing in Russia. Mike Calland sort of hits on it. It’s the sort of, I think, realization now that that they’ve been accepting dirty money for 20 years to participate in this oligarchical money exchange, slash laundering, slash sports and reputation washing scheme. And it was easy for athletes and probably okay for athletes to blithely say, I’d be a fool not to take the one and a half million dollars. But the reckoning is now like, where did this money come from? What kind of a decision did we make to accept it? And what are the ramifications of that? And the ramifications of it are? Brittney Griner got detained and that’s part of the conversation. And I’m not blaming the athletes for accepting that money when they did, but there were consequences that maybe at the time were unforeseen.

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S3: One thing it makes me think about is because of the country that we are and because of our system, the soft power that athletes represent has basically happened through the free market. Right. Michael Jordan gets endorsement deals, he becomes a global superstar. Whatever that whatever redounds to the United States from that happens all the way through market mechanisms, right? It happens by itself. It seems to me that that is increasingly unsustainable. And whatever this like multipolar world that we have, whatever the dangers are that we’ve all seen. There was a, I think, slightly tongue in cheek op ed in The New York Times a couple of Sundays ago by Glenn and Matthew Walther. And it was about it was nationalize the nationalizing Major League Baseball. And you’re talking about the sort of museum effect that’s going on in the MLB now. But I wonder, short of something like that, whether there is now more than ever need for the United States to have something. There’s been jokes for many years about having a sports czar that is a very public figure who, you know, would be kind of negotiating things that happen in sports vis a vis politics. I think mostly geopolitically there might be more need for something like that within the State Department or elsewhere than maybe ever before, because it seems like that Wild West, that market logic is part of what brings us to this to this juncture.

S1: And it’s just like an impossible bind that women athletes find themselves in because what’s the flip, Stefan? It’s the NWSL. It’s you have to support this league and be here or else, you know, women’s professional soccer will fail in the United States. And you have to take these low salaries and you have to put up with being abused by these coaches in the league, not doing anything about it. The WNBA hasn’t been that bad. That’s sort of the edge. I mean, I guess it’s not an edge case that they’re only like, those are the two most prominent women’s sports leagues in the U.S. But if you’re a WNBA player, you can say, you know. We’re not being treated the way we should be treated and we’re not getting the salaries that we should be getting.

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S2: There aren’t enough teams.

S1: There aren’t enough teams. And there’s this other thing that’s happening, which is the WNBA is pushing in the next couple of years, I think in 2024. This like prioritization policy where if you’re not there for the start of training camp, which basically means if you’re not staying in the US, you know, in the off season, then you’re not eligible to play. So. So. The ratchet is getting tightened on these players. And yet there’s no you know, the WNBA says, oh, we’re giving, you know, offering inducements for people, for players not to go overseas, endorsement deals and marketing deals. And I think there’s some truth to that. But, you know, they’re saying like, oh, expansion, we’re studying it. You know, we’d like to have a couple. Like, it feels like if there’s going to be a tit for tat here, if it’s going to be, well, you know, do right by you if you stay. I think the WNBA needs to make more of a commitment to say we are definitely expanding by X number of teams and it’s going to happen at this amount. And we’re going to have 12 roster spots like it seems like they’re asking more of players than they’re willing to give themselves. And I guess that’s why that’s why unions exist, which.

S2: Pushes players into cutting deals with these oligarchs. I mean, the guy that owns the UMC, Yekaterinburg, Iskander Mahmoud off head of like a mining and and metallurgical company according to the Times story linked to criminal activity and has business associations with other oligarchs tied to organized crime in Russia. The when when Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi went overseas and started this playing in Russia and getting big bucks with Spartak Moscow in the 2000s. The owner of that team, you know, gave them these lavish apartments and bonuses and gifts. He was he made his money in diamonds. He was murdered in 2009. I don’t know if the leagues should be vetting where players can go. I’m should there be some oversight by the union or is this just, again, part of the problem that these players are forced into because they want to maximize and should maximize their talent in their peak years of performance?

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S1: Club next Shane Ryan on the Ryder Cup and sports trivia. Just a warning to listeners. Benson will be sitting out this one and the best segment. On this week’s bonus segment for Slate Plus members. We’re going to talk with Shane Ryan. He is the proprietor of Apocalypse Sports Trivia. You’re going to hear from him later in the show. Stefan and I do this sports trivia league that Shane runs, and we are going to run some of our sports trivia questions by him to see if we have what it takes to be sports trivia maestros. If you want to hear that. Interested in a little sports trivia yourself, you need to be a Slate Plus member for this segment. If you join, you get bonus segments on this show and slow burn other slate podcasts and you also get unlimited reading on the Slate website. Among many other attractive inducements to sign up, go to Slate.com slash hang up. Plus again that Slate.com slash hang up plus. The year’s biggest golf story nine. Tiger Woods division has been the possible splintering of the PGA Tour with a bunch of top players rumored to join the new Saudi backed Live Golf League. That whole thing seemed to fall apart, as we discussed in a segment back in February, thanks to a particularly egregious and ill timed quote from Phil Mickelson. But the Saudis still have a crap ton of money. And this past week, Sergio Garcia made it clear that he was stoked to take it. Garcia was mad after losing his ball at the Wells Fargo championship and he shouted at a PGA Tour rules official, I can’t wait to leave this tour and a couple more weeks. I don’t have to deal with you anymore. Joining us now is Shane Ryan, a man who only whispers sweet nothings when he loses his golf ball. He is the author of the new book The Cup They Couldn’t Lose America, the Ryder Cup and the Long Road to Whistling Straits. And he’s also the proprietor of America’s favorite online Trivia League. Apocalypse Sports Trivia, which we are excited to tell you about shortly. Hey, Shane.

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S6: Hey, guys. How are.

S1: You doing? Well. So let’s start on the golf side of things. And my reaction to the Saudi tour stuff I think squares with most people’s reactions. I’m not like an outlier here has been that it’s a disgusting, amoral cash grab. And I think most people’s reaction to the Ryder Cup, which your book is about, is that it’s maybe the only event in this entire sport where the players are totally out for themselves. And so I’m wondering, am I wrong on either account? Can you complicate either of those things or is it as simple as it seems to be?

S6: Yeah. There will be no defense of the Saudis here, Josh. No, you’re completely right on both counts, starting with the Saudis. Obviously, that’s the biggest story in golf right now. And I don’t think that many people thought golfers, professional golfers as a group were the most moral people to begin with. But yeah, this certainly shows that there’s almost nothing there for the guys going. It definitely is an amoral cash grab. They clearly don’t care what the Saudis are doing and some of them, Lee Westwood, have even said, you know, well, they’re trying to improve through sports. Right. Like which is the exact goal of what the Saudis are doing. It’s sports watching. And so really not only are they going, but some of them are sort of being they’re willing puppets in a way.

S1: Is it more the European guys that are that are going and with the Mickelson thing, it seemed like the whole thing got blown up. Is it just that we stopped paying attention and people just started trickling back or or was this always going to kind of happen in this way? And maybe the only thing that changed was like a handful of high profile Americans decided, we can’t do this.

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S6: Yeah. So with the Mickelson thing, yeah, it did seem briefly like it was blown up. But the problem always is that what the Saudis have going for them is they don’t care about making a profit. So when you see a splinter league in any other sport, like, I don’t know, the USFL or something, the idea is that you have to find a way to make money. Well, the Saudis don’t care about that. And so they can always sit there with their stockpile of, you know, $500 Billion or whatever is in the state fund. And just, you know, okay, if we have setbacks, that’s fine. Let’s invite somebody else. If the top players don’t want to come with us, fine. Let’s invite minor league type players, pay them through the roof and wait for the pro players to be like, hey, wait a second. Why are they making, you know, $30 Million a year? And I know I’m better than them so they can kind of you know, they have the luxury of sitting back and waiting. So Phil kind of screwed that up, but it was never really going to go away. The only thing that makes it go away is if the Saudis don’t want to do it anymore. Yeah, right now it’s interesting. There are a lot of European guys going. Couple of reasons for that. There happened to be a class of older European golfers like Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, who are these really big names? But they’re also kind of like in their early forties, they’re sort of over the hill, so they don’t risk a lot. In other words, if the PGA Tour or somebody says, okay, fine, if you want to go play for the Saudis, great, you’ve got a lifetime ban from us that doesn’t really bother them as much anymore. And then the European Tour already has relationships with Saudi Arabia, so it’s less complicated over there. So yeah, so Phil Mickelson would be an example of somebody who would fit that sort of description age wise in the U.S. And he has his own bitterness as to the PGA Tour. But for the younger American guys playing on the PGA Tour, it’s a huge risk. It becomes a much more a much different calculation.

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S2: And the calculation is that you are collaborating. And I think the the idea of athletes willingly participating in sports washing, money laundering, reputation laundering is only going to be scrutinized more and more. We just talked about Brittney Griner and American women’s basketball players taking the money from Russian oligarchs. Chelsea, Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, had to sell the team where that happened this past week. So the notion that you can sort of quietly skate by and just participate in. These, you know, in the in the receipt of of, I don’t know, soiled, tainted, at least slightly unsavory money feels like it might be something that’s not going to be quite as palatable or overlook going forward. Or maybe it’s just, hey, the Saudis are the way of the world and there’s nothing wrong with their money and screw everybody else. I mean, what exactly do these players risk either in terms of their week to week participation in events in the United States, including the majors in doing this?

S6: Yeah, I think one of the really disappointing things about this is that, okay, forget the guys who are going right. They’ve obviously got their own moral calculations, which is, you know, they don’t care at all. There hasn’t really been an outcry from any other player, the players who are staying. There’s been an outcry in some corners of the golf media, but not that vociferous. There’s been some fans who are who are really upset about it. But what’s happening is that you’re seeing golf is probably the most conservative politically sport among the sort of major American sports and the media and the fan base and the players all reflect that. And so for me, you’re seeing less if you could ever escape, like to answer your question, if you could ever kind of skate by and take this money and sort of survive with your reputation intact among your people. I think golf is the one sport where that could happen. And it seems like the only thing keeping people back would be the threat of the PGA Tour, saying, if you do this, you were going to, you know, lose your place on our tour for life. We’re going to ban you, which seems like where this is all going. And so, unfortunately, when people don’t do it, it’s not for like the moral reasons we would like. We would love them to say, you know, I cannot support what this regime is doing. I, I can’t be a party to this and sort of sports watch and all that stuff. But really what’s happening is they’re just saying, well, if I do this, I might put, you know, my my career at risk. And so that seems to be the one thing holding everybody back from this mass exodus.

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S1: So on the book, Shane and the Ryder Cup, the thing that I found most interesting about the book and about the Ryder Cup is this tension between the kind of irrationality of the events and the results. Like it seems like it doesn’t just seem like the Americans always have better talent. And until this last event at Whistling Straits, they always lose. Or almost always. Liz. Yeah. And it seemed like the kind of explanation for that from American golf officialdom is like, oh, yeah.

S3: Well, yeah.

S1: But as as you write in the book, like, there are things that can be done or could be done and were done at this last event. Like there were like consultants who were brought in and applied the same kind of like sabermetrics research that we’ve seen in every sport. And so then you have this like 1909 blowout. And so I guess the question is why did it take them that long to figure this out? Or is that, you know, another thing that we like to say, if we were metrically inclined, is like small sample size. Do we even know if this stuff worked or could it just be a coincidence? And everybody just played really well. And so we think that they were smart and savvy at Whistling Straits.

S6: Yeah, no, I definitely think it’s more than a small sample size. The one word answer to your question about why it took so long is arrogance. But to give it, give a really quick history lesson. You know, this Ryder Cup started in 1927 and it was the U.S. versus the U.K. every two years. And for 50 years, America won almost every single time. They just the talent was such an overwhelming, you know, advantage for them that it was never close. And to the point that in the late seventies, they expanded it to Europe, the U.K. team, to be more competitive. They still lost really badly twice in a row. And it became this thing where the Ryder Cup was basically on the verge of death. They needed to hunt for sponsors. It was this it was this really dramatic story of basically they didn’t know if there would be a Ryder Cup in 1983, but there was. And this guy named Tony Jacklin took over this British golfer as the captain of Team Europe. And his turnaround story, which is a big part of my book, it’s one of the I guess the two main narratives of my book is how he took Europe from these perennial losers into this powerhouse that, like you said, dominated America for the next 30 years with inferior talent. And it’s a really cool story of basically Europe identifying the fact that this is a team event and you can employ a team strategy, even though golf is an individual sport. And it’s really easy to look at it and say, well, it’s just one guy or two guys against two guys or whatever. How can it be like, how can there be strategy? How can it be anything but just talent? Well, it turns out it is. And there’s all kinds of dynamics that play into that. And, you know, the Americans just kind of rested on their laurels for 30 years saying we have the better players. Eventually this is going to come around and we’re going. A win. Up until 2014, when they had, you know, basically were humiliated in Gleneagles in Scotland. And finally, there was a core group of people that included Phil Mickelson, actually. But guys like Davis Love, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, who came together and said, okay, we need to figure out what Europe is doing and we need to figure out what we can do to win. And that is the sort of second narrative. The second main story of my book is how did America finally figure it out? And then, you know, always kind of in the back of everyone’s mind was, okay, if Europe does everything so well and they win with inferior talent, what would happen if America with superior talent actually had good strategy and actually had a great system that learns from year to year and can get better? And Whistling Straits, I think, was the answer to that question, was the climax of the story, which is, you know, you absolutely dominate and blow them out. So, you know, always been something I loved this tournament. And I think those two stories are really, really fascinating.

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S2: Well, give us a give us a couple of examples of what Europe knew that the arrogant Americans weren’t able to acknowledge or implement, and then what the Americans did to change.

S6: And some of them are really laughably simple, like the Europeans would manipulate their courses when they were playing in Europe. In other words, like if the euro, if the U.S. was known as okay, they put really well on fast greens because the greens in America are really fast and you know, the courses in America are sort of wide open. So you have really long hitters and you can. So well, what the Europeans would do is they would slow their greens by moisturising them and, you know, making them super slow and they would make the fairways really narrow so that the Americans were used to like being able to bomb. And it’s okay if we go 20 yards left all of a sudden are in this horrible, thick, rough and they don’t know what to do. Other stuff would be like, you know, employing having captain’s picks and so where, okay, you have your order of merit where you’re 12 people, your best 12 people make the Ryder Cup team with the Europeans and Tony Jacklin figured out is that that’s not always what you want and sometimes the way they determine this is a little skewed. So you end up leaving off really good players. And so they said, okay, we’re going to have two or four captains picks where instead of having the top 12 are going have the top eight, and then the captains going to have freedom to take who he wants. So there are all these years where the U.S. would be losing out on people like Tom Watson or these really, really good golfers while Europe was not having that problem. So those are just two examples. There is there’s plenty of others going down into things like having a comfortable team room and inviting the family. So all the players are comfortable and have this good team environment, things like that. You know, asking the players who they want to play with and telling them well in advance because golfers are notoriously these, you know, obsessive, fickle people who like to know exactly what’s going on and they hate surprises, whereas like in America, they would, you know, have the most miserable week of their life because they couldn’t do it. Other little things that are up to luck, like American fans didn’t really get into this until the mid-nineties, whereas Europe has that amazing fan culture. And they were, you know, they were. Once Europe got good, they were prepared to be these raucous, loud fans and just shock these American golfers who weren’t used to that kind of environment. So, you know, it goes on and on. And again, yeah, it took like 30 years for the Americans to figure it out.

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S1: So I want to move on to trivia. But one last comment is you need to be careful what you wish for, because if the Americans have figured this thing out and have superior talent, maybe the Ryder Cup will wither away and and die. The Americans just won every year. So maybe the Americans having the superior talent and not being rational about it was the only thing that allowed you to write this book.

S6: You’re you’re so right. And it is a thing where it’s like Europeans winning makes it such a better story. And if it does become this era of American dominance, it’s not going to be as fun.

S1: So you are the proprietor of Apocalypse Sports Trivia, which Stefan and I both participate in avidly. We won’t get into who has a better record so important, but it’s an online trivia league. It’s extremely fun. Can you just explain what the concept is and then we’ll get into some bigger picture trivia questions?

S6: Yeah, yeah. Let me see if I can do this in like 30 seconds. I always try to explain quickly and I always fail. But basically this is a a sports trivia league run online where we run seasons of 12 days each about seven times a year. And if you’re playing every single day, you’re playing another opponent head to head over these 12 days. At the end of them, you might be promoted into a new division or relegated into one blow, the idea being that you’re always playing somebody of sort of similar ability. So it’s always fun in that way. In the off season, we have these targeted quizzes that are like about a very specific sports topic. It could be anything from Super Bowl winning quarterbacks to darts or anything like that. There are championships we hold on zoom at the end of each fortnight. That’s what we call our seasons. Josh, you have. You’ve triumphed in one of those before. We call that the maestro shaft. Josh is one of the great players. Stefan’s very good as well. And, you know, yeah, I would just say that this is something I started with about ten friends two years ago and quickly, like I could tell, they really liked it. And I teamed up with my friend William Earnhardt, who is a kind of a website genius. And, you know, now we have more than 700 players. So it’s been really fun. And, you know, anybody who wants to join can go to Apocalypse Trivia dot com. And there’s a sign up link. There’s now an annual subscription fee, but everybody plays their first season for free with no obligation, so you can check it out.

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S2: And you decided to go pro. That was one conversation we had last year about whether to keep this sort of fun and organic and and free to the world or whether to try to be like learned league and other trivia sites that have done extremely well. And I told you, go for it. I mean, it seemed like the right move to me.

S6: Yeah. You know, it’s so much time that and it gets to be more time as more people join that. It really was like, I can’t I just can’t keep doing it for fun forever because it basically it takes up like a lot of your life. And so yeah, you know, just like a nominal sort of $20 subscription fee or there are private divisions which you guys do, and that you would pay $35 a year for that. We hoped it was cheap enough that it doesn’t exclude too many people and it just sort of yeah, it as we build it, it makes it sort of kind of justifies the the insane hours that we spend on it.

S1: All right. A couple sample questions. If you want to know what this thing is like from from recent days and Apocalypse sports trivia name, the only person to reach the championship round or game of the NCAA Division one women’s tournament, WNBA and Olympics as a player in the NCAA Division one women’s tournament and Olympics as a head coach. Another one is if you live in a certain nation, population 516,000, you won’t be cross to support soccer clubs called Hibernians. Valetta Floriana are Slim Wanderers. They’ve won the most titles in the history of the top domestic league name the Nation.

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S2: All right. And I would say on both of those, if you have been listening to hang up and listen, you should get the first one pretty easily since that was a a subject of a recent segment. The second one I got right, Josh got wrong just saying and this this helps me segway into what makes a good sports trivia question.

S1: The thing that makes a good sport trivia question is that you get it. And I don’t.

S2: Read it again, though.

S1: If you live in a certain nation, population 516,000, you won’t be cross to support soccer clubs called Hibernians, Valetta, Floriana or Lima Wanderers. They’ve won the most titles in the history of the top domestic league name of the nation.

S2: So there’s no way that any normal soccer fan or maybe even obsessive soccer fan is going to know the answer to this because it’s a small nation, on the other hand. And again, what makes this good is that it’s gettable, even if you don’t know anything. And this is what I love about so many of the clues in Apocalypse Shane is that they are structured that you can figure something out without knowing some. My new piece of sports trivia. It’s not about having some encyclopedic recall of every baseball batting average or Wimbledon champion. There’s a way usually to figure out the answer. And in this case, I figured out the answer because I know that the capital of Malta is Valetta and one of the teams was Valetta. So Malta. And then the secondary clue in there is that is the cross, right? And the cross is the symbol of the love of the island nation. So that’s what I liked about that one. And that was a good, good choice there, just to sort of explicate what makes a good question. But there are other things that make good questions, aren’t there?

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S6: Yeah. So, you know, when you guys asked me this over email, I forced myself to like really think about it in a like how would I classify sports trivia questions? And I think broadly I was able to you can break it down into two and it gets right at what you were saying stuff in the first category I would call just direct questions. So if I said, you know, who were number 23 for the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 season? You either know that or you don’t. Right. That’s something that you know, it’s Michael Jordan probably if you’re a sports fan. But there’s nothing about that question that gets you there if you don’t know it already.

S1: And the question that I the non Malta question that it is before it, the answer being Don Staley, I mean, maybe you could limit it down to a universe of women who you think might have attained those accomplishments. But that one that one’s probably more in the, you know, what are you doing category than perhaps the Malta one?

S2: Or though you may think, oh, it’s probably something that’s been in the news recently because often, again a good question leans on your, your recent knowledge of events.

S6: Yeah. And I do think a lot of people, you know, talk about those direct questions with a little disparagement. I think there is a place for them, but they’re not the ones where afterwards you’re going to go, wow, what a great question that was. You know, that would be the indirect questions. And just like you were saying, Stefan, I think what makes a good indirect question is that it kind of engages your lateral thinking a little bit. And so when you come up with the answer, it’s not something you can get right off the bat. You have to kind of like follow two or three steps, almost like you’re solving a puzzle, but there’s like a little sense of epiphany or revelation that’s always like an learned league, which you mentioned. That’s always something I’ve really liked. And his questions when you get there and you’re like, Man, that was awesome because it really you feel like you’ve accomplished something to do that. And I think, yeah, I think lateral thinking is the big thing. And then the other thing I flagged is like as a bonus, even if you know the answer, if it can give you some new facts, it’s kind of interesting. I always think that’s cool in a trivia question, just from a a writerly standpoint.

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S1: All right. So you’ve got a couple questions and you’re going to give away a book to a lucky listener. And then in our bonus segment, if you stick around, Stefan and I have written our own questions and we are going to get them evaluated by the Trivia as our sports are dummies, as he calls himself. But Shane, what are your what are your questions for our listeners?

S6: Okay, I’ll give you two and you can email Shane at Apocalypse Trivia dot com and I’ll take the first correct answer for each one. And yeah, send your address and I’ll send you a book. So number one, in the 1904 Summer Olympic Games in St Louis, a retired cricket professional named George Lyon won a gold medal as one of just three Canadians competing in an event that included 71 Americans and no other nations participated. Who was the next man to win an Olympic gold medal in Lyon’s event? And a fun little bit of trivia there is that was in Fortnite, one of Apocalypse sports trivia when it was run by email and somebody spoiled it by replying on social. So it’s not it’s not an official AFC question, but it could have been.

S1: That’s correct.

S6: And then the second question.

S2: Read a question. Read back the question.

S6: Oh, yeah, yeah, sure, sure. In the 1904 Summer Olympic Games in St Louis, a retired cricket professional named George Lyon won a gold medal as one of just three Canadians competing in an event that included 71 Americans. No other nations participated. Who was the next man to win an Olympic gold medal in Lyon’s event? And number two. Give you guys a hint. This is a Ryder Cup question. A private golf club in Florida developed by Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus, features a silhouette logo of the two men with their arms around each other, walking off an 18th green more than 4000 miles away. What’s the name of that private club in Florida? We do that one more time. A private golf club in Florida developed by Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus, features a silhouette logo of the two men with their arms around each other, walking off an 18th green more than 4000 miles away. What’s the name of that private club in Florida?

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S1: Thank you, Shane. You can email him at Shane at Apocalypse Trivia dot com. And the book is The Cup They Couldn’t Lose. Shane Ryan. Thank you and thank you for sticking around with us for our bonus segment coming up.

S6: Thanks a lot, guys.

S2: And now it is time for after balls. We never followed up on Josh is after ball from a couple of weeks ago about pelicans guard Jose Alvarado’s talent for hiding on the basketball court. Josh had asked what other sports were good for hiding. As soon as the show ended, our producer Kevin Bendis, mentioned the classic Hiding Sport. Dodgeball was a pretty good dodgeball hater in elementary school, I must say. Listener Brian Donovan wrote in to describe a wily hiding maneuver in ice hockey that sometimes occurs right when a penalty is ending and the penalized player pops out of the box behind the defense, leading to a breakaway attempt. Kind of hiding, I’ll grant it. Listener and team handball activist John Ryan noted a couple of hiding plays that are based on these sports substitution rules you can solve on the fly in team handball. On defense, the sixth court player will hide on the bench and then, according to Ryan Dart out of the substitution area and steal a casual pass. That seems very sneaky on offense, Ryan said. A team will deliberately overthrow a pass. The defenders will start running for a fast break in the other direction, only to see an offensive player step on the court and throw the ball back to the waiting offensive players who are now all alone. One more reason to love team handball. And then on Saturday. Hiding in soccer may be the apotheosis of hiding in soccer. Josh did mention this in his after ball, but this was just such a perfect example. It happened in England’s second division, the championship, in a game between Luton Town and Reading in the first minute of first half stoppage time. Here’s what went down. Reading keeper Yan Nyland slid to stop a cross by Luton town forward Harry Cornick momentum carried him into the net. Nyland then stood up, took a few steps forward and casually rolled the ball a couple of yards in front of him to get the ball into play as a keeper would do, but he didn’t notice. Cornick lurking about six feet behind him. And when Nyland dropped the ball, Cornick pounced, made a quick turn around the keeper and scored. Let’s listen to the clip.

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S4: What a mistake. Doesn’t see Harry Cornick lurking in behind. Oh, dear.

S2: The crazy thing is that this was a huge game. Luton town, which had lost seven to nothing to first place Fulham earlier in the week, needed a win to guarantee a top six finish and secure a spot in the play offs for promotion to the Premier League. They got it thanks to CORNISH sneaky goal because the final score was one to nothing and now you have to root for the Hatters. The town once made a lot of straw hats, so the Hatters low budget team relegated from the top flight of English football 30 years ago, fell all the way out of league football in the 2000, climbed back to the second tier in 2019, and now they’re just three games away from the Promised Land, all thanks to some timely hiding by a guy whose career has included stops at clubs that sound like made up English team names. Aldershot Town Havant and Waterlooville. Yeovil Town Gillingham. Good for you, Harry Cornick. And it sounds like Harry Connick. Harry Connick Vinson. What’s your. Harry Connick.

S3: Stefan. I want to talk a little bit about Draymond Green and his burgeoning media career. Draymond The sort of attitudinal Swiss Army knife for the Golden State Warriors has kind of famously been going on his own podcast, not only during the NBA season this past season, but during the playoffs, sort of giving mid-season, mid-season and mid series analysis of his team’s fortune in after Game one, for example, of the Warriors series against the Memphis Grizzlies after Draymond had been ejected for that game for a flagrant two foul. He talked about the flagrant right after it happened and talked about the the game as it had unfolded. And the Warriors win over Jon Lawrence Memphis Grizzlies after game two when his teammate Gary Payton the second was famously hurt by Dillon Brooks. Another flagrant foul. And sort of and fractured his elbow. Draymond talked about that but also about. John Moran’s amazing game in that in that game and what the borrowers can do moving forward to win the series. So unlike other people who have sort of managed. Media careers at the same time as being NBA players. Draymond is an analyst really performing a journalistic function. There have been other people who have done media work during their careers. Jalen Rose, the year before he retired, worked as a sideline reporter for the playoffs. Right now there are WNBA players like Candace Parker and Gina Ogwumike, who are between again, between seasons working as broadcasters, but nobody’s performing this dual function at the same time. And what it makes me think of is the other famous dual function for NBA players now abolished, which was the player coach, as we all know. Bill Russell was for three seasons between 1966 and 69, a player coach for the Celtics, and he was the first black coach in North American professional sports to win a championship and the first one at all. Lenny Wilkins was a player coach for the Seattle Supersonics and for the Portland Trailblazers. Eventually, Wilkins was the only player coach ever to be inducted into the NBA’s Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Dave the Butcher, great NBA legend, a great Nick was a player coach for the Detroit Pistons before he came to the New York Knicks and won a championship under the coaching of the great William Holtzman, also known as Red Holtzman, who is like, I am a product of the City University of New York. He was a player coach before before he went on to be a coach all along. Here’s the crux of what I’m about to propose, though. The player coach was abolished during the 1984 1985 season when the salary cap was instituted. Basically, it was about to avoid the possibility that a team could somehow get around a loophole in the cap by hiring the person for both functions. And the salary wouldn’t come under the cap. But we’re in a new era with new prerogatives, and I think, therefore, we need to get ahead of the inevitable new function of player analyst or as I would maybe call it, and maybe this is what Draymond Green is. The very first NBA ombudsman. What if on every team there was a player like Draymond Green who was charged not only to play but to serve as a public? Talker, a public sort of accountability engine for their team, who would not only sort of talk about the game as you do, and after post-game pressers or things like this, but would serve a kind of chastening function for the team. How could this work? I feel like Draymond could help us, but it would require some strict regulation by the league. So I wonder what you think about this. Number one, every team would be required to make at least one spot available for an ombudsman. Everybody wouldn’t have to have one, but they would have to make it available. And if they did, they would have to partner with a media organization who would fact check the pie, the column, whatever it is, the ombudsman. I just love this. The opposite would have to be miked up not only for every game, but for every practice. And that media organization would get to choose at least one choice. Quote from that Mike. The media organization would receive a token percentage of the player’s salary, up to 100 K some some amount to give to civic or journalistic education initiatives and also to. Acknowledge the fact that if you are a Draymond Green who’s on a podcast talking about your team but you aren’t working under media prerogatives, you’re basically. Also kind of being paid as a media staffer for the team and a player. I think it brings up a shrewd lawyer could say that know there’s some of the same problems with the player coach are inherent in the role of someone like Draymond Green. There should be a fairness doctrine. Under which at some interval, maybe it’s quarterly throughout the season, maybe it’s once before and once after the All-Star break. You should provide unvarnished criticism of a specific teammate, coaching staff member or in-game player or passage of action. And they should work with, again, this media organization that’s partnered with a team they should work with in assigning editor so that every once in a while assigns a topic that they have to address at the same length as they address other topics. Instead of the sort of brush off that we get at the press conferences, maybe they have a mailbag function where fans can send them emails and they have to then come out and answer those emails providing an open channel. And I think it’s only fair that they get some sort of and we have to work this out. Protection from management or ownership. If the ombudsman so designated by the team, perhaps the ownership isn’t privy to their contract negotiations or something else that helps us protect them in their role as a journalist. This is all based on, of course, my worry that the more sort of player analysts like Draymond Green there are, the further and further journalism gets pushed out of the sort of real journalism that entails. Access and time and everything else gets pushed to the peripheries of what it means to cover sports. So I think we need some chastening and some some real regulation around the future. Draymond Green to of the World, the NBA Ombudsman. Here we come. I’m excited for this era.

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S1: I feel like if Draymond had been the Warriors ombudsman when he got into his dispute with Kevin Durant, that drove Duran off the team, then maybe, you know, if he had had that title, Durant be like, he’s the ombudsman. I guess that’s okay. I probably I probably should stay here. Yeah, this is very interesting. We’re getting to a point where it’s like becoming a a thing, like, maybe that maybe it’ll just, like, happen organically that there will be one player per team that has a podcast like C.J. McCollum has won for the Pelicans.

S2: Danny Green was talking about his podcast with Shaq and Charles and Kenny after the Sixers game on Sunday night.

S1: There you go. But the thing this is coming up again soon is maybe a solution for Vinson is that at every postgame press conference, after every playoff game, there’s just the question of are they going to go on the officials and get fined 25,000 or $50,000? And it’s like players talk about that calculus openly. They’ll joke about I don’t how much of that you know Giannis can say yeah 20 that I need to pay for diapers does you know kind of a joke I think he can afford it but you know Chris Paul the big story after game four for Phoenix and Dallas was by kind of acclimation. Everyone was saying that the officiating was really bad and you’re not going to you’re not getting open and honest discussion about that because the players know that they’ll get fined if they talk about it. And so I wonder if.

S2: The ombudsman has free reign.

S1: Carte blanche.

S3: Carte blanche to talk about issues. No, no fines connected, no fines from the NBA or from their team connected to their commentary at in their role as NBA ombudsman.

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S2: Now, I wonder whether this will create a market for players like Draymond or JJ Redick or Danny Green, who are really good at this and are smart and have interesting things to say and and are about, you know, given their roles as players are about as open as possible, will this create more open dialogue and insulate the players from, you know, just encourage them to be more honest about the way the game functions? That’s part of the goal here, right?

S3: Absolutely. Just like, by the way, the Times Ombudsman or somebody like that or they don’t have one anymore. So, I mean, this is part of the problem. But not only do they help us understand how basketball the game is played, but what goes into decisions that are made. And there’s a big controversy. The ombudsman has to go and interview his teammates like what was tell me about that play, what happened. You know, that that would be a really great function for them to serve instead of just Draymond Green working for Colin Cowherd, by the way, which is what his podcast is on the Volume Network, which is owned by Colin Cowherd and iHeart Radio. It’s a joint venture and he’s also a strategic advisor, so he’s giving them guidance on talent and hires, which I don’t know what that means and Draymond’s case, but I want to bring that away a little bit away from sort of the hearts of the world and make it more useful to us.

S1: We’ve given a lot of people a lot to think about here. So we will we will take our leave to allow everyone to digest. That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bender course in the past year and subscriber just reach out, go to slate.com slash hang up you can email us and hang up at Slate.com. Please subscribe to the show and read and review us on Apple Podcasts for Vinson Cunningham and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levin remembers Elmo Baby and thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. And back with us is Shane Ryan, author of The Cup They Couldn’t Lose, proprietor of Apocalypse Sports Trivia. Hey, Shane.

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S6: Hey, guys.

S1: Maybe it’s the pressure of the moment, but I have no my mind is kind of a blank on those questions that you asked earlier, but we’re not going to say anything because we don’t want to spoil it for the for the emailers. But both really good questions. And now Stefan and I are going to try to show off our trivia question. Writing ability is not just our trivia question. Answering abilities. Who should go first, Stefan?

S2: I don’t know. But first, I do want to acknowledge Josh’s superiority here. I checked our our lifetime records. Josh has a record of 34 wins, 13 losses and 21 draws, and has answered 77% of the questions facing him in Apocalypse sports trivia correctly. My record is 25, 19 and 15, and I’ve gotten 67% correct. Our fourth mutual friend in this conversation, Dan Wachtell, 50, 28 and 35 with an 83% correct rate.

S6: So and I will say, too, about Josh, not only has he won two master chefs, but a Josh and the Uber chef, which is the grand championship of the time around a thousand people, you finish, what, seventh, sixth, fifth? Very, very respectable, high finish.

S1: I do feel like I have a little bit of imposter syndrome. Well, maybe, but maybe before we get to these questions, I did want to ask something like slightly serious about trivia, which is like I find it kind of annoying that I’m so good at baseball trivia. Like, I’ve only gotten one question wrong out of all of the baseball questions because I was a super obsessed with baseball as a kid and read all the baseball history books, watched baseball. And so I don’t follow baseball that much anymore. I don’t care about as much. I care. I follow soccer more. I don’t follow it like as obsessively as I did baseball when I was a kid. But my soccer is like one of my worst categories. So I guess my question is like, is there a way that you can kind of catch up ever? Like, I don’t I guess I don’t study soccer. I don’t study hockey either. And which is another thing I didn’t grow up watching and don’t really pay much attention to now, but it’s kind of an argument for trivia being like a thing that separates people who are like more casual fans or more serious ones, and it feels like a little forbidding or like scary, I think to some people.

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S6: Yeah. You know, I think what literally does so well and what we’re trying to do is for that exact reason, we want people competing against people of similar skill, right? We don’t want you going up against somebody who’s not as good or whatever. But yeah, to answer your question, you know, you guys are both much better at sports should be than I would ever be. But I had this moment of revelation where Sean Vincent, who’s one of our really, really good players, was doing a meister shift once. And, you know, he said, I think I’m going to do really well. I’ve been like, you know, I’ve been going through the flashcards and studying up on different things. And I was like, Yeah, I was like and you know, I know, you know, I wrote an article for Defector about online quiz league, which is like this general trivia thing. And the people who do that, I mean, they really do study. There’s programs that they study, they do flashcards. So to answer your question, yeah, I mean, if you ever wanted to, I imagine like you won’t in your life, but I certainly wouldn’t. But you could become good at soccer. I mean, you would, but you would have to make a concerted effort to literally it’s like.

S2: Wanting to go on Jeopardy. And this is the modern equivalent of wanting to go on Jeopardy! You study and somebody have thought.

S1: About just like looking at a list of like the top goal scorers in the NHL, but I just never have. Maybe, yeah, I will before the next fortnight, but I’m.

S2: Actually in exactly the same place as you. Josh Even though our ages are separated by a bunch, we both grew up being baseball obsessives and I’ve only missed two baseball questions. Whereas we are both professed soccer lovers and I’ve only got a 6460 5% get rate on the soccer.

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S1: So yeah, it’s really interesting. Yeah. All right. So I’m going to ask one of my questions, which is attendance question. And I feel a little bit abashed now because it’s I don’t know how fun it it. Well, let me just read it and then I’ll and then I’ll explain kind of the I think Eric.

S2: Campbell that put yourself there. All right. Let’s go.

S1: I tried I tried to I tried to write like how Shane writes, let’s see how I did. In professional tennis, the Masters 1000 tournaments are the most prestigious events outside the four Grand Slams since 2006. Just three American men have won a masters 1000 singles title. One of them beat Rafael Nadal to win the Indian Wells Masters in March 2022. The other two paired up at that same Indian Wells tournament and won the doubles title. Name all three men. I like that just because it’s like a cool fact.

S6: I think it’s totally a cool thing and that’s what I was talking about, where that would be an example of a direct question, but I think it’s a really good one. And you did the other thing that I really like, which is like, you know, I know the singles answer. I don’t I should know the doubles answer. I don’t think I do. But even though I would know one of them and I could know the whole question, it’s still like I learned something because I didn’t know that fact about, you know, just the Americans, that they’re the only Americans who have won since 2006. I also now have to rewrite an SD question for later in this fortnight because.

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S3: It’s.

S6: No joke. My question was, you know, it was much simpler, but it was like, who won the American Masters 1000 events this year. One is a young player from Spain. One is a young player from America. So sorry.

S1: Sorry for putting you up.

S6: Totally, totally cool. Yeah. So do you want me to answer the.

S1: I’m only hurting myself because I would have.

S2: That would be a question you would have gotten, right, Josh?

S1: Yeah. What do you want? Yeah. If you guys want to want to take a stab, go for it.

S6: If you know.

S2: I don’t know the doubles unless I’m getting I mean, one of the one of the players this quarter.

S1: That is not not correct.

S2: Okay. So I’m just going to go. Young American players. Go ahead, Jane.

S6: Well, Taylor Fritz won the singles and doubles as a men’s. Women’s doubles is really interesting. I don’t know.

S1: You can kind of figure it out if you think about American men who were good at singles but also play doubles were maybe not. I don’t know.

S6: Jack Sock one of them.

S1: Jack Sock is one.

S6: Yeah. Okay. Well, there you go. I know he’s a doubles ace who.

S1: Won the Paris Masters in, like, 2018.

S6: So I know he has been playing with one of the Bryan brothers, but I don’t know if that’s recent at all. Is one of them Bob or Mike Ryan?

S1: He had played with them in the past, but that is not the answer. It is John Isner and Jack’s where the were the winning doubles team. So the the flash of recognition. All right so I got.

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S2: That’s pretty good.

S1: But I’ll give myself a star for that one. What do you got, Stefan?

S2: I’ve got a slightly different I’ve got a question that’s more that does the misdirection thing. So here we go. Last week, the English Football Club Chelsea announced it would be acquired by a consortium led by American billionaire Todd Bowley. The club’s previous owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, was forced out because of the war in Ukraine 60 years ago. The owner of another football team was ordered to sell after failing to pay his players who went on strike and then bouncing paychecks. The following year the team was sold, changed its name and six years later won its only championship name the team.

S6: So that’s yeah, I like that because there’s a lot of things to parse. So first of all, 60 years ago, so you’re looking at 1962, you said misdirection. 1962. When you said misdirection, it made me think that you’re being tricky with the word football, as in your you said another football team. But does it mean a different sport than soccer? Doesn’t mean American football. And then. Well, say that one more time. They changed the name change their name.

S2: Team was sold, changed its name and six years later won its only championship.

S6: So in 1968, they would have won a championship.

S2: Do your math. 1972. 1922. 2022. 60 years ago. 1962. The following year.

S6: The following year. I’m sorry. So 63. They would have wanted maybe an NFL championship. Super Bowl wasn’t there yet, I think in 63.

S1: I have a guess.

S2: No. The following year the team was sold, changed its name, and six years later won its.

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S6: Oh, okay. So we were looking at 1969 for a championship. So looking at like Packers Jets maybe that’s the New York Jets in 69 Josh. I don’t know.

S1: I’m going to guess. Kansas City Chiefs. Dallas Texans.

S2: The correct answer is the New York Titans, New York Jets.

S1: Oh, there you go.

S6: Those are really good.

S2: Things to think about.

S6: I think it totally works. You would have so many people emailing you to complain about the trick, but they’re the wrong kind of people. You did. You did the right. You did the right thing. Yeah, I liked it. That’s such a neat question. And again, just like Josh’s, I didn’t know that fact about the Titans and Jets, but it’s gettable because you can do the math and say, okay, in 1969, I’m certainly not going to get it. Here’s the cool thing about that question, too, is you can get to the trick because you’re probably not going to ask me about a team that won an English football championship or whatever in 1969. That’s too hard, right? And so you can go, okay, he’s smart and he’s going to write a good question. So it’s got to be the winner of the Super Bowl in 69. And if, you know, roughly in 67 that that started, you know, the Packers won the first two and they certainly haven’t changed their name in decades. And you go, okay, who was the first non Packers team? It was the Jets. That’s a good.

S2: One.

S1: Thanks, man. Yeah, I should have gotten that 69 New York Jets. That’s that was a good question. All right. I have one more. I also like how we’re just like grade grabbing with the teacher. Here was my question to this one. This one, again, shows that I just care more about direct dumb sports trivia than Stefan does rather than being clever. But my question is as follows Members of this NCAA Division one conference, which formed in 1975 and dissolved in 1995, included. Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Florida State and South Carolina.

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S6: Blair should know this because this is getting late into my childhood of NCAA basketball.

S1: This is my question that I ask, hoping that Joel Anderson is listening from from leave. But members of this NCAA Division one conference, which formed in 1975 and dissolved in 1995, included Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Florida State and South Carolina.

S6: This is a great one because I know the minute you say it, I’m going to memories are going to flood. It’s going to be like Proust’s like Madeleine. Like worlds. Worlds open up to me when I hear it. But I almost for some reason I think the word America is in it. But I. I think I’m not going to get it. Do you know stuff I don’t.

S2: CIA, AC, Sun something I don’t know. I don’t remember.

S1: So this is a tribute to my childhood, going to watch Tulane basketball games at Fogelman Arena. And they were in the Metro conference.

S6: Yup.

S1: Yeah. The Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference, the organizing principle of which is like, let’s have teams and big cities. And and the kind of trick in that question, which isn’t a trick to make it easier, it’s a trek to make it harder, is that not all of those teams were in the conference at the same time.

S3: Right.

S1: They were members and various times. But I thought I would you know, people would be interested to be like, wow, like Florida State and South, like all these schools that we now like associate with. Like, Oh, that’s an SCC team. That’s a SCC team. We’re actually in the same conference.

S2: And I have I have a question and not another trivia question, and that is how to structure a good question around a fun fact, a fun if obscure fact. One of my favorite pieces of sports trivia is related to my childhood, and I witnessed it in 1976, the New York Yankees went to the World Series. They lost all four games to the Cincinnati Reds. The Yankees hit one home run. Who hit that home run? So you could address you could go at it as just pure Josh like direct trivia or find a more creative route into that by having to do with, I guess, something weird about the player or something weird about the situation. How would you, given that fact, Shane, try to come up with something that is gettable?

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S6: Yeah, it’s a really that’s it’s a great question. When I think about all the time, it kind of depends on the player, right? So I think you’re right in that something interesting about the player is the way to do it. And you also have to constantly be judging, okay, how unique was this? That how known is that? I should say that he hit this only home run against Cincinnati. I’m just get it sounds kind of obscure really you’d have to be right so direct question would be tough. And so you probably would want to state that in the question like this player was the only one to hit the home run against the Reds when they got swept in the World Series. He also blah blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. I think that would be the way to do it. I actually I actually brought two examples of questions that do this in a way I like one of them like to pat myself on the back as mine. I also have one of my all time favorite questions from Learned League that take what you just said. Like an interesting fact, but ask it in such a cool way. I don’t know if we have time, but I could read one of those for interested. Okay, let me do mine quick. So this one I think I don’t think it’s that hard, but keep in mind you have 24 hours to think about these questions when you’re playing. So anyway, in 1972, Jack Doucette and Claude Raymond were hired as the French language broadcasters for the Montreal Expos. The sponsor of the broadcast asked them to invent French language equivalents for baseball terminology rather than simply using the English terms. What term did you set in? Raymond Translate as ball. Papillon Literally. Butterfly ball.

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S1: Knuckleball, probably.

S6: Yeah, you nailed it. And I think it’s like when I read this, it was just reading Wikipedia, right? Studying like I want to read a knuckleball question, like, how do I write a knuckleball a question? And I read. And then there was just this little section of Wikipedia that had this, and I thought it was so beautiful, like a butterfly ball, like as you can picture a butterfly flying. And it really does look like a knuckleball where it kind of dances around and it’s not in a linear fashion. And I just thought that was a neat thing where yeah, okay. I want to ask a fact about the knuckleball. How do I do it? And then you get this weird piece of like barely connected trivia and it’s kind of a cool thing. And then you learn that cool fact about the the French announcers inventing sort of French baseball terms.

S1: Totally.

S6: And then do you want me to do the learned league? One, two, quickly. Okay. A small museum located in the Northern Ireland community of Colmar, just north of Derry, commemorates the life of what Kansas born pioneer, civil rights supporter and charter member of the 90 Nine’s who died around 1937. And this one took me hours to get guys. So it’s unfair for me to do. But let me let me just talk about the question and what I like about it. So, you know, I think right away you’re like, okay, Dairy Ireland, Northern Ireland and then Kansas. Like who? Who from Kansas would be in Dairy Northern Ireland. And I went through this question and I was like, I don’t know. I need the fact that Kansas born pioneer civil rights, I don’t know what the 90 nines are. But then there was a part right at the end where he writes, who died around 1937. And then you go, wait a second, what does that word around mean? And you’re like, Because it’s in modern history, right? You should know when somebody died. So then I started thinking like, does it mean somebody died under mysterious circumstances? And then I was like, okay, wait. Like, who died in 1937? Mysteriously, who might have disappeared? In my mind, eventually, again, after hours, went to Amelia Earhart. And then I said, okay, why would somebody have a museum in Derry, Northern Ireland, who’s from America? And then my mind went to the transatlantic flight and I was like, That must be where she landed. She must have landed in Ireland. And when I got this question right, it was like fireworks going off my brain. And I just thought it was such a cool, like artistically written trivia question, where literally one word, the word around opened this whole world to me and let me get it. Even though I didn’t know Amelia Earhart was a civil rights support, I didn’t know she had a museum in Ireland. So, you know, I think that’s another cool example.

S1: That’s great. Well, Shane, thank you for the hours of trivia entertainment. And again, it’s Apocalypse sports trivia. And again, the book is The Cup They Couldn’t Lose. So thank you, Shane.

S6: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

S1: And thank you, Slate Plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.