Joel Anderson: Might hear a few curse words in this one. Just a warning.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor. And this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of September 22nd, 2022. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Boston Celtics head coach M.A. Udoka suspension and how it’s been covered by the NBA media who also discuss Roger Federer’s tear filled retirement. And Anna Wolfe of Mississippi today will join us for a conversation about her reporting on the massive Mississippi welfare scandal that has Brett Favre at its center. I’m in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year. The last episode of our season, ah, 1986 is out this week and it is a doozy. I must say. Also in D.C., Stefan FATSIS, he’s the author of the books Word Freak Wild and Outside and a few Seconds of Panic. Hey there.
Stefan Fatsis: Stefan. Mixed up the order. Wow. Keeping me on my toes.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Keeping you on your toes. You know, sometimes you got to do the one step drop, sometimes the three step. You know, you got to be prepared for all situations. And with us from Pacific Time, the host of Slow Burn Seasons three and six, the host of the one year episode, a boycott in Mississippi, the co-host of Hang Up and Listen. What doesn’t he host? Oh, honestly, it’s Joel Anderson professional host. He knows bar mitzvahs.
Joel Anderson: I wouldn’t be 16 quinceaneras. I’m you know, I’m actually really disappointed that I’ve never been to I came here or a bar mitzvah and it probably just shows to the you know, how limited my childhood was is very, you know, and I had my group of friends, but I never got to do one. I mean, maybe can somebody invite me to one at some point? One of our listeners, maybe.
Stefan Fatsis: You have a child now in 13 or 15 or 16 years, you’ll be there.
Joel Anderson: Are parents allowed to go to the parents of a child allowed to go to the bar mitzvah? Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You’re definitely allowed to. But, yes, generally only the parents are invited, you know? Not always, but always.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, sometimes. But if you’re friendly with the parents.
Joel Anderson: I want to go to one of those ones. They invite, like Meek Mill, you know, to as a guy is a guest performer or something. So if you if you’re into that, get me there.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Get to work befriending the rich people in Philadelphia and then that’ll be a possibility for you. We’ve just kind of eased in to the fact that all three of us are back together. What a glorious moment for us and for the listeners. So nice.
Joel Anderson: A summer of discontent followed by this fall.
Joel Anderson: So I’m excited that we’re all back. It’s been a long time while wearing glasses to even Kevin, our producer, and we all for four, four, four. Now, this new our.
Stefan Fatsis: Great national nightmare is over.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yes, it is. Two things before we get started. One correction from last week during our segment with Mark Spitz, he mentioned that he said it was never proved who committed the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Actually, Eric Rudolph was convicted of that bombing. So we wanted to correct that. And also in our Slate Plus segment for this week, we are going to allow Joel to unleash all of the college football takes that he’s been holding in for the last month while he’s been tweeting them. But I can’t wait to talk to Joel about Texas being back. That is something I’ve been looking forward to all summer.
Joel Anderson: They’ll be even back here next fall when Archie’s there. So I can’t wait. I’m excited going into the SCC on a high note.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: If you want months worth of Joel Anderson college football takes, you need to be a slate plus member to join. Go to Slate.com, slash, hang up plus and you get bonus segments, you get ad free shows. You get to support us. Slate.com slash hang up plus.
Stefan Fatsis: Last Wednesday at around 10:30 p.m., ESPN’s NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Twitter, Boston Celtics coach Imette Udoka is facing possible disciplinary action, including a significant suspension for an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines. A little more than 2 hours later, Shams Charania of the Athletic tweeted that Udoka had an improper, intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff. Later Thursday, the Celtics announced that Udoka would be suspended for the entire 20, 2223 season. In a news conference on Friday, Celtics team owner Wick Grousbeck and president Brad Stevens said that an outside law firm had conducted a months long investigation, but they offered no specifics about what Udoka had done.
Stefan Fatsis: Charania, however, reported that while the Celtics were told by both parties in the summer that their relationship was consensual. Quote, The woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her, end quote, which led to the internal review. Joel the late night timing of the initial tweets and subsequent information vacuum led to some predictably discord. US thing behavior online, people naming and sharing photos of women who work for the Celtics’ and also some predictably bad takes, notably by ESPN’s Stephen Smith. We’ll get into some details. But for starters, do you agree that both the media and the NBA handled this less than ideally? Yeah, it’s.
Joel Anderson: Tough because I spent the past few days trying to figure out how this could have been reported in a way that wouldn’t have devolved into a TMZ mess. And I’m struggling to come up with an answer because it’s a heart of the story. Here’s the head coach of one of the NBA’s finalists, himself a former player and a partner of a famous Hollywood actress. If you get suspended at all or if there’s even reports that the Celtics are considering a suspension and just a few months after that finals appearance, there’s no way to prevent that from getting out. And once you announce that, then how are you going to prevent people from digging into the prurient details or allegations at play here?
Joel Anderson: Right. I if you told me just in a nutshell, hey, man, head coach of the Boston Celtics who just was in the finals, I didn’t know his name. And he told his partners they’re going to suspend him for possibly a year after that finals appearance for having an improper relationship. I mean, your mind is going to go in all sorts of directions and it’s really impossible for somebody to not get hurt or get caught up in that. You know, that news cycle that we’re in. So in a lot of ways, I think the media is a convenient scapegoat for really unflattering story about Udoka.
Joel Anderson: And to me, he’s the one to blame here because even if it’s not against Boston Celtics policy, even if these relationships were consensual and I’m using air quotes, they’re to the extent that someone with that much influence in an organization can enter into a relationship with a subordinate consensually is not the sort of behavior you want from a man who was one of the faces of your franchise.
Joel Anderson: And so, at least for me, Josh, until we know more about what the Celtics knew and when, don’t you think it’s hard to blame anyone other than Udoka here? Or maybe or maybe I’m not taking Stephen’s comment seriously enough because I didn’t watch anything other than the most ridiculous parts of them.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So you’re right, Joel, that the person who deserves the most blame or is most responsible is Ime Udoka. But I think second place would be the words Shams tag team, because the way that we all knew about this story is 10:35 p.m. wednesday words tweets that Udoka was facing possible disciplinary action. Discussions are ongoing within the Celtics, then Shams a couple of hours later, said Celtics coach Emeka Udoka had an improper, intimate and consensual relationship. And it wasn’t until a while later that Shams added the nugget about there being potential unwanted comments.
Stefan Fatsis: That was after.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That.
Stefan Fatsis: Was after the Celtics announced the suspension. So that was his story about the suspension being announced.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So there are two issues there, Joel. Number one is words tweeting out this like vague thing that he was facing possible disciplinary action. And I guess we can talk about should he have not said anything until he knew or had confirmed what the possible suspension was? Because then that just leads to kind of wild speculation. Then the Shams thing, he advanced the story like he was, you know, words didn’t have the fact that it involved an improper relationship. So I guess he won Shams won that round. But again, it framed the conversation that, you know, wires. Why is this guy being suspended for a consensual relationship? Why are we talking about this instead of X, Y and Z? And so it’s not in these guys constitutions to like not tweet.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But, you know, if if you were the editor, Joel, or if you had something like this, what do you think you would do or what would you want out? Because this you’re right that this was going to come out an idea like that. We shouldn’t know what happened. That’s just like imagining a world that doesn’t exist. Like we weren’t going to know something at some point eventually.
Joel Anderson: Right. It’s just really tough because what do you we know that Walsh has a tremendous amount of pull in ESPN’s NBA division down to determining the people that work on the TV shows, the people that cover the teams. And when you’ve already given somebody that much rope, you know, you give them enough to sort of hang themselves. And so I, I mean, you would like to live in a news media environment where you don’t report any you don’t report those sorts of comments like are good put in a loaded term, like consensual until you’ve got all the facts. And but that’s just not what it is. That’s not what consensual is.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Such a subjective and loaded word.
Joel Anderson: Right. And how much do you think consensual has informed the interest in the women involved in this story? Because I actually don’t think like I do think that it is informed a lot of the resistance from some of the more, you know, caveman types that are like, why was this guy getting in trouble for having a consensual relationship with the woman? Like, I think that’s separate and apart from the idea that there are women on the staff of the Boston Celtics whose names and mug shots have been floating out on the Internet for the last few days. And, you know, being mentioned as possible partners with Udoka. I don’t I don’t think conceptual really has informed that part of it, which is sort of the most odious piece of this.
Joel Anderson: Right, that all these other people are getting caught up in this really salacious news story. And we don’t know how we don’t know their connection. And a lot of it is wrong, but I don’t even know if I really blame Rose or Shams for that. I mean, again, they’re doing what they’ve been told to do. And Lowe’s knows that if he doesn’t report something, Shams is going to do it. And that’s the only scoreboard by which they’re judged by in this news media environment. So I just.
Stefan Fatsis: Hope that doesn’t mean that there aren’t editors that could either help frame those tweets in a more cautious way that would, you know, not create the shitstorm that it created.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Do you think that word of the first tweet was very cautious?
Stefan Fatsis: It was very cautious, you know, largely, probably because he didn’t have the extra details.
Joel Anderson: Do you think that editors for tweets.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It would actually surprise me if nobody looked at that before it went up? It would it would surprise me, I don’t think, for every tweet, but I think for that one.
Stefan Fatsis: I would hope that someone looked at it. But there have been examples in the past where other reporters have apparently seemed to, you know, just tweet sensitive stories like that, which we can get into. But back to your question, Joel. I mean, the the use of that word consensual gave, I think, some leeway for the takers.
Stefan Fatsis: Right. This is how the you know, the sort of defending Udoka sort of takes emerged in the next few hours, the next morning. And what’s missing in that is that the issue of consent in a workplace situation where there is this power dynamic at play is different and it is nuanced and it is and there are rules in clearly in the Celtics’ organization about what’s allowed and what isn’t. And that, again, back to that vacuum without understanding what exactly the team’s guidelines were, what exactly happened in the situation, because we didn’t know and we still really don’t know and nor should we necessarily know it’s going to get filled by the kind of speculation that we saw.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You alluded to this earlier, Joel, but there is already interest in Boudica’s relationship, given that he’s been engaged to me along for a long time and I have a kid together. He’s also you know, he was somebody who kind of came on the scene and very quickly, like this was the past year is his first year. He’s like a young coach. He led the team to great things. There was there were a lot of profiles of him. He was somebody he coaches one of the two kind of showcase franchises in the NBA.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Then you have this kind of vague allegation and then, you know the note that it’s about a relationship. And I think it was just a perfect kind of combination of factors to lead to speculation, to lead to takes and memes about Nia Long, all all sorts of things. And like, I think we can get in trouble by comparing it to other situations. And it’s always like, well, he was suspended for this, for this, for doing that, and he was only suspended for that. So, you know, what’s what is wrong with with people and humanity is just like, I’m not sure we’re going to get anywhere there.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But, you know, I remember and you remember, Joel, the whole Bobby Petrino fiasco at Arkansas, where he lost his job because of having an affair with an assistant, the whole thing being exposed because he was in a motorcycle crash which led to him having a press conference while wearing a like ridiculous neck brace. There was the scenario where Pat Summitt’s son, Tyler Summitt, was the head coach of Louisiana Tech women’s basketball and resigned because he was having an affair with a player on the team. And obviously, there are lots of power dynamics and that’s a whole entirely different scenario. But the point being that, like, I feel like people were going a little too far in saying this is totally unprecedented, like somebody being suspended for something like this. It’s like, no, it’s not totally unprecedented. Like things like this have happened before.
Joel Anderson: And also we don’t know. It’s not like a professional or even a lot of college teams are responsive to the public in that way. They’re probably there could be suspensions, a discipline enacted behind the scenes that we have no idea about all the time right now. Don’t you all?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Jerry Ime Udoka is lucky he doesn’t work for a public university. So his texts are not for you.
Joel Anderson: Oh, man. I mean him and your boy. Who is it? It liberty. Freeze. Yeah, right. You know, like he didn’t. You never know when there’s a Houston nut out there on the case and not a Houston. Not me, but Houston. That the former college football coach, as I hope you all understand. But you know.
Joel Anderson: Don’t judge me, but I watched a lot of Undisputed on FS1 the show with Skip Bayless and it said Sharp and Skip talked quite a bit about how this was more common than we might have imagined back in the day about the idea that there are these sort of relationships that go on, on these sports teams that, you know. I mean, he didn’t mention these by name, but, you know, Erik Spoelstra, the head coach of the Miami Heat, is married to a former Heat dancer. Phil Jackson dated Jeanie Buss. You know.
Joel Anderson: Well, can I should I say the allegations about Barry Switzer everywhere he’s ever worked in people’s lives? You know what I mean? Like there’s there’s stuff like that that has always been out there. And so I think people are looking at those instances and saying, well, why is Udoka getting in trouble? But the problem is that for so long, men in these positions have just run roughshod over the women in their organizations. And so there was never a question of whether or not it was consensual or not, because those women often they didn’t we didn’t talk about consent like that 20, 30 years ago, like it’s a mainstream conversation. And so I think that people are finally waking up to the idea that, you know what, people in these positions will abuse them. And Udoka is, you know, depending on which side of you come from. Fortunately or unfortunately, the guy is going to pay the price for that. And.
Stefan Fatsis: Right. And as you said, Josh, credit to the Celtics for a acting on what the media really hasn’t acted on which is the the two key words were in Shams is followups the unwanted comments by Udoka toward this woman. We don’t know what the the you know what the the order of operations was in terms of determining what his punishment was going to be. But if that is accurate, that’s really important. And Woj and ESPN kind of ignored that aspect of it, which allowed the two days of screaming by people like Stephen Smith about how this is unfair and that I’m mad at the Celtics and they did the wrong thing here. I mean, Stephen Smith even said.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Should we go out on some Stephen, I hear.
Stefan Fatsis: Stephen we don’t have a clip of this one. But Stephen Smith on that Friday said it was a consensual relationship that violated organizational policy. So only he is in violation of company policy. The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation. To which Malika Andrews, who was on the set with him, said, Stop. And then Smith yelled at her.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, I think Stefan Stephen impression will suffice. So that that is our that is our clip of CBS meant for that for the show.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah you can use that impression.
Joel Anderson: He could have done a little more the.
Stefan Fatsis: I didn’t to try. I thought we were going to roll into the clip. I didn’t want.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: To say that. That’s a real thing. We’re done. We’re done.
Stefan Fatsis: Coming up next, Roger Federer’s tearful farewell.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: On Friday at the O2 Arena in London, the American duo Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock won a doubles match at the Labour Cup. It was perhaps the most irrelevant victory in tennis history, given that everyone in the crowd and around the world had tuned in to see Rafael Nadal pair up with Roger Federer in Federer’s final professional match. The 41 year old 20 time Grand Slam champion had not intended to go out this way in a glorified exhibition event, but his right knee never fully recovered after multiple surgeries that had kept him out since he lost in the 2021 Wimbledon quarter finals. Here he is in conversation with Jim Courier on court when the match and his career were over.
Speaker 4: It’s been incredible to watch this journey that you’ve been on.
Stefan Fatsis: It started as a boy playing tennis.
Joel Anderson: You turned into a junior champion, then a world champion.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And then you became a sporting icon.
Stefan Fatsis: What has that journey been like for you?
Speaker 5: It was never supposed to be that way. It’s just happy to play tennis and spend time with my friends really. And the an here. So it’s been a been a perfect journey. I would do it all over again.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It was actually hard to find a clip from that speech where Federer didn’t pause for a long stretch because he was crying or about to cry. It was extremely sweet, but for me, the most tearjerking moments came from Nadal Federer, his great friend and rival. They were on their team bench holding hands at one point with tears in both of their eyes. Then there was this, which Nadal said while Federer was sitting beside him.
Speaker 5: When Roger laughs, I am losing an important part of my.
Stefan Fatsis: Life in all important part of my life. It’s living.
Joel Anderson: With him.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Stefan. Damn, damn. What did you make of all that?
Stefan Fatsis: I mean, weeping with his rival. I mean, it reinforced every feeling I’ve ever had about Roger Federer and why maybe more than other goats. He was a magnet for admiration and respect above everything else. His on court grace and fluidity is astounding. Stretch of dominance in the mid to late 2000. His resilience for the next decade. His epic battles, especially with Nadal. His slam titles. His elegance. His Taylor perfect and tastefully UN logo in tennis outfits. His hair at its peak. His hair was perfect. Above all of that, what sealed the deal for me about Federer is that he seemed like a decent human being, which is incredible because he was in some ways the least relatable.
Stefan Fatsis: Sports superstar. Swiss. Fluent in four languages. Able to answer questions in form for representing Rolex. Mercedes. Credit Suisse. Moet Champagne. NetJets. He was on paper a caricature of European wealth and sophistication. But he wasn’t a sport, a crowd at all. He projected humility and generosity, graciousness toward opponents and family and his team and fans. He didn’t seem intimidating on or off the court, and that made him likable and endearing and also weirdly relatable. I think Louisa Thomas said it better than I can in The New Yorker the other day. Federer, who had once appeared to represent a kind of luxury that is well out of the reach of most of us came to symbolize something more approachable, a kind of sunny decency. He treated people well in public and behind the scenes. He’d faced disappointment and cried and got on with it.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. And you know, I think first off, you know, Louisa hits on this in that same piece that it feels like Roger Federer has been in the advanced age for tennis player and on the verge of retirement for more than a decade. And that him and Serena and Rafa and others have sort of helped us to reconsider what might be the time line for champion athlete. And so I just can’t believe that the day has already arrived because in some ways it was easy to believe that he was immune to the aging process.
Joel Anderson: But to your point, Stefan, I want to Christopher Clarey, who’s Roger Federer’s biographer, wrote an essay in The New York Times, and he mentioned something that’s obvious but doesn’t quite seem obvious enough, I think. He says, quote, He conducted himself on and off the court with class. That was in part because he realized as he rose in prominence that he did not want to project a temperamental image to his public, but also because he realized he played better under tight control, that the release provided by bemoaning the injustice of it all was seriously outweighed by the precision and focus acquired by mastering his emotions.
Joel Anderson: And to me, what I think of when I think of Roger Federer is that he’s an excellent rejoinder to those who believe the only way to show athletic excellence a competitive fire is by being a fire breathing asshole. And I wonder why people don’t take more note of all the different ways you can comport yourself in public as a champion. You know, as if the only way to project a winner guy is by being Kobe or Michael Jordan. Right. And Roger Federer did that. And, you know, some people could call it a performance. Some people could say, hey, you don’t know that guy. You don’t know anything about what his life is like behind the scenes. But in light of where we are in culturally in this country and in the world right now, I really don’t have a problem with somebody choosing to project decency as their public persona.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, that’s all really well said. There are lots of different ways that Federer has been a model for tennis fans, for his fellow competitors, for even non-sports fans. David Epstein wrote in his book Range about the Tiger Woods kind of approach that was really popular during Tiger’s rise. This idea that you need to get your kid into, you know, a maniacal kind of focus from the age of three and have them appear on the Mike Douglas Show from the age of three. Unfortunately, Mike Douglas does not no longer exist. Pathway is not available for today’s children, but that actually Federer is the better model. Somebody who played all sorts of different sports growing up.
Stefan Fatsis: He was a he was a really good soccer player.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Only focused on tennis later. And so yeah, Dave writes really well about the Tiger versus Roger kind of dichotomy there. But I think one thing that has been a little bit forgotten in these remembrances is that Federer has talked about being kind of a hothead when he was when he was younger. And that’s a part of the kind of origin story that at a certain point, as you said, John, as Christopher Clarey said, that he’d got that under control. That’s that part I think is pretty well remembered.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But there was this period during his peak dominance in the mid to late 2000 where he was perceived as being arrogant, but not in a way that that was he wasn’t an asshole, but he would just give these speeches after he won tournament after tournament where he’d just be like, Yeah, I was just like, unbelievable out there today. And people would like, people would laugh. You’re like, It’s true. And he’s just like, saying a thing that’s true. But he wasn’t somebody who was considered humble at that point. Like, certainly if you if we were having this conversation in 2007, nobody would say Roger Federer or what a humble star he would just be kick everyone’s ass and then just kind of shrug and be like, Yeah, I’m really, really great. Like, I am the great I am. It’s unbelievable. I can’t even believe it. And and so that was kind of how he was known.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And then this moment happened that it wasn’t the match of the Austin Nadal Wimbledon in 2008, where he that was kind of the first moment where this guy who, you know, he cherry had lost to Nadal on clay but not on any of his preferred surfaces. He was the king of grass. And then Nadal beats him. And what some have said is the greatest match of all time. And that really took him down a peg.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But the the real moment was the 2009 Australian Open where Nadal beat him in that tournament after having beaten him at Wimbledon and Federer could not deal with it. He cried. And that ceremony, to such an extent that he had to stop and the like tournament organizer had to come on and say, We need to give Roger a few minutes, he said, kind of famously, lose to me, God, this is killing me, and just just broke down and had to step back.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And Nadal, who at that point was like, you know, the kind of youthful hair flowing NADAL And just like coming on the scene like a house afire in that moment put his arm around. Federer kind of said something and his ear hugged him. And then Federer came back and finished and said, I don’t deserve the last word this guy does. And that to me was the beginning of this relationship. Stefan And maybe it wasn’t the beginning of it privately, but publicly that was the beginning. And it was really credit to Nadal there for like being the person that he is in a moment that created this sort of, I think what will be one of the most enduring relationships in the history of sports.
Stefan Fatsis: And I think we’ll be seeing a lot of the same things about Nadal when he’s done. I mean, he has comported himself in a similar way, though. He doesn’t project that air of, you know, European elitism that can come off of Federer, that sort of perfection in appearance and humor. But the two of them together, I mean, have we had in history a kind of, you know, rivalry where the players are defined by each other? And, you know, and I think you have to also throw in Djokovic and to a lesser extent, Murray, when it comes to Federer and rivals.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But well, Borg and McEnroe. Right. I mean, you were that was something that you were more present for then than we were Stefan.
Stefan Fatsis: What’s that?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Borg and McEnroe?
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, I mean, they were completely defined by each other, but the difference is that McEnroe was an asshole. And where you saw those moments of shared emotion, you never felt like, Wow, these are two people who not only respect each other for how they play the sport, but they genuinely get along and love each other and can relate to each other for being, as you know, about being as great as they are. And I think that that shared spotlight. Equally, equally brilliant rivals with comparable skills and gifts, but having each other to play off of, I think it enhances the character of both of these people.
Stefan Fatsis: You know, we talked about the 20 you talked about the 20 slams and and both Nadal and Djokovic have eclipsed that now. Federer also lost in 11 grand slam finals. Plus 15 more semifinals. 46 Grand Slam semifinals for Federer, 43 for Djokovic, Nadal for Nadal 38. That’s insane. And you take out Nadal or Djokovic and the numbers could have been staggering for Federer. And you can say the same for the other two guys as well.
Joel Anderson: Yeah, it’s interesting because you talked about, you know, is there another rivalry of this sort? And I don’t know if you would you guys intentionally limited it to tennis or not, but even if you expand it outside of tennis, like it can’t be Ali-Frazier because there’s none of that, obviously because of none of the personal animus that was actually there. It can’t be Magic Bird, because even though they liked each other and were friendly, they were in a public rivalry that made them represent more than themselves.
Stefan Fatsis: And they started up being marketing partners more than friends.
Joel Anderson: Right, exactly. Like, for instance, I don’t see Larry Bird on the annual Magic Johnson yacht tour of the Mediterranean. Right. So that to me, that kind of, you know, lets me know what that friendship is really about. But, you know, Brady Manning not really that warm. So, yeah, I mean, this is a really unique rivalry. I mean, a will in Russell. Right. They didn’t talk to each other and talk about each other in those terms. And I haven’t seen any video with they did anything like with Federer and Nadal did in that final press conference. So it actually makes me lead into this. And you all are much bigger tennis fans than I am, but I’m just fascinated by the idea that tennis fans don’t get distracted by goat debates. You know what I mean? They like.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They do.
Joel Anderson: They do. Do they really? Okay. Maybe I’m not in that. Maybe I’m not on those off message boards or whatever. But that’s kind of felt like, you know, you don’t see the sort of oh, no, it’s really Nadal nose Djokovic. You know what I mean? Like, I feel like it’s like, well, it could kind of be all three of them, if you really think about it.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I think the reason that it feels a little bit more civil and less distracting these days with the tennis goat stuff is that Federer has just clearly been surpassed. And so there is an aesthetic argument for Federer. And there’s an argument and and Nadal and Djokovic say this. All of the other players say this. They’ll say, like, he’s the greatest player ever, he’s an icon, or he changed the sport. But and I think the fact that his numbers have been surpassed is sort of like liberating, where you can celebrate him as the icon that he is without getting caught up in the like.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, he has 20 he has 19 years. Like because there was a moment there. It’s been longer than a moment. There’s a decade where there was this kind of hope, I think that he would like cling on to those records, that his aesthetic brilliance would be, you know, that you could make a statistical argument that it was that he was that he was the greatest.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But I think once that’s gone and now that you you know, this this last weekend and it’s all kind of circled back around the finishing of this thought, but it seemed really fitting and appropriate that Serena’s career ended the way that hers did and Federer’s and the way that his dad, Serena, maybe the greatest competitor in the history of the sport, deserved that ending. That was her fighting in Ashe Stadium in an actual Grand Slam, where she kept saving those match points and just would not give up until the very end. And she got all the acclaim and everything that Federer had, but she did it in that competitive environment. For Federer, it seemed fitting that it was in a kind of event of his own making the controlled environment.
Stefan Fatsis: No, I don’t think there was a match, but it.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Certainly would have been it would have been fitting if it was at Wimbledon, too. But this was an event that he created that’s kind of helped grow the game in a certain way. But more than that, it was just an event where people came to watch him because they wanted to see him play. They didn’t care what the outcome was. It didn’t matter ultimately what the outcome was. It was just a celebration. It was like going to see, you know, Elton John or something like that, like you wanted to see the artist perform. And so I think once everyone was in agreement that like this guy did amazing things and he just kind of transcends numbers. Then like it became Joel like less fraught than, like, Jordan and, and LeBron. It’s like not a it’s not a rings with a Z thing.
Stefan Fatsis: Right. And I think it’s it’s just it’s not relevant in as much as it might be in a Jordan LeBron argument because Federer, going back to his decency is like it’s feels unseemly to sort of argue about how good Roger Federer was and whether Djokovic is this much better or Nadal was that much better because they won one or two or however many. Grand Slams, it’s going to end up being more than Roger did. It just feels wrong because Roger was such a good person. In addition to being the most aesthetic, beautiful, successful, competitive, quietly player of his generation.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: We’re going to see, I think, in this upcoming Netflix documentary that I’m sure we’ll talk about, about the Redeem team at the Olympics, the sort of relationship that Kobe Bryant had with all of these players. And I think especially because of Kobe’s death, they all talk about having a sort of relationship and or friendship with him that transcended rivalry. But Kobe was also a huge asshole. Like that was like this clip that went around it, like a preview of this documentary. It’s all about how he like softened up Pau Gasol and then just like brutally fouled him on the first play of the game to like show who was alpha. And then there’s, you know, everything else about Kobe Bryant and that kind of sexual assault allegations that that make him just a more complicated figure than than Federer or Nadal.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But it’s you know, Joel, maybe we can end here like it seems. Like we should be able to make not just in tennis cross sport comparisons, but like in any sort of profession. And there’s something about Federer and Nadal that’s like the one person on the entire planet who understands what you’ve gone through, what your life is. And it seems, you know, and they’ve talked about they talk off the court. They you know, they’ve they’ve shared this thing on the court. So, you know, it makes a certain kind of sense. But I think even given that, what’s more common is like what Federer I mean, Jason, go talk to Federer over the weekend for a journalist Wall Street Journal piece, his relationship with Djokovic, which is like, we have a good time, we’re together and we never talk when we’re not around each other. That actually seems more common. And so the veteran Nadal thing seems like, oh yeah, like we should be able to find that everywhere. And but we but we don’t.
Joel Anderson: Right. Right. Yeah.
Joel Anderson: And to put a pin on that, like you say, I’ve been reading a lot about him the last couple of days and I’m just so impressed. And you hope that people that are sports fans or want their kids to get involved in sports, you know that there are a lot of athletes that you can take things from. And I would like to hear Roger Federer’s name and use a little bit more. And I’ll just say this, because this is I was an athlete and I wish that somebody had hit this, you know, bang this into my head as a kid. But he said, I’m happy. I don’t have flashbacks at tough moments in my career. I see more of the happiness me with the trophy, me winning, me winning moments. And I’m happy that my brain allows me to think this way because I know it’s not easy to push sometimes defeats and those things away. And that is a really tough thing to do when you’re getting into sports at any level. You know, do not obsess on the failure or the potential for embarrassment. So remember that, oh, man, this is actually really, really fun. And I’m out there doing it with my friends.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And I should think more about being the fastest ten year old and not the not fastest 11 year old.
Joel Anderson: I mean, you know, it is also fun to win, I got to say.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Of next Anna Wolfe of Mississippi today on the Mississippi welfare scandal and Brett Favre.
Joel Anderson: On the afternoon of August 3rd, 2017, Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre sent a text message to a mississippi nonprofit founder who annually received millions in state welfare funds from honing in on some of that money and have been working with the founder to take 1.1 million. That would then go to a new volleyball stadium at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. But five wanted to know something important about that arrangement. Here’s that text message. If you were to pay me, is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much? Turns out the answer is yes. And in the past couple of weeks, there have been more and more revelations about Farve, that volleyball stadium and the people instrumental in diverting more than 5 million in Mississippi welfare money to the former NFL QB. Anna Wolfe has uncovered the story for Mississippi today and she is here with us today. Thanks for joining us now.
Speaker 6: Yeah, thanks so much.
Joel Anderson: So you’ve been breaking news all morning and we can talk about that in a few minutes. But let’s start from the beginning here. How did you learn of our alleged involvement with this game?
Speaker 6: Sure. So back in 2020, the auditor’s office arrested six people in connection with this scheme to misspent tens of millions of dollars. But just in those indictments, the allegation was theft of about $4 million, 2 million of which went to a company that was developing a cure for concussions, a pharmaceutical startup company. And I was pretty quickly able to tie that company back to Brett Favre, because Brett Favre had been sponsoring this company and had been going to Mississippi officials trying to get them to provide some support for the development of this drug. And that pretty quickly led me to the discovery that he had also been involved in a building, a volleyball stadium at University of Southern Mississippi, as you said, which also received welfare money in the amount of $5 million.
Speaker 6: And so these stories broke back in 2020. But it wasn’t until more recently that we learned about the former governor’s involvement and particularly the relationship and communication that the governor had with Brett Favre about making these deals happen. Right. And those text messages that you read were just released in a court filing here a couple of weeks ago.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I am old enough to remember that the Brett Favre Mississippi welfare scandal was that he had been paid $1,000,000 to give speeches that he never actually gave. What is the connection of that to this most these most recent revelations?
Speaker 6: Yeah. So it’s interesting. The attorney for Nancy knew who was the nonprofit founder that you mentioned is attempting to bring the volleyball stadium into the fold of this civil suit that is ongoing right now. There’s a civil suit against Brett Favre. And Nancy knew other individuals about welfare money that was misspent in an attempt to claw back the money. And the volleyball stadium is not one of those expenditures that the state is targeting.
Speaker 6: But the $1.1 million payment to Farve is and the text messages just released recently revealed that that $1 million payment wasn’t really about advertising in the beginning. It was really described by Farve as a way to put more money into the volleyball stadium or get more money more quickly for the volleyball project so that they could go ahead and break ground. So while there was this kind of media frenzy around him receiving Brett Favre of receiving welfare money for speeches he never gave, you know, this larger story about his influence over welfare officials sort of, you know, makes that kind of a sideshow.
Stefan Fatsis: Let’s be clear here. The one detail we haven’t mentioned is that Brett Favre not only went to the University of Southern Mississippi, he was interested in building a volleyball stadium there because his daughter plays volleyball at the University of Mississippi or played volleyball, I’m not sure. So these are the sorts of, you know, politically connected, influential deal making that feels really icky here. And based on these texts and and the other reporting that you’ve done, I mean. It beggars belief that, far as his lawyer has claimed, didn’t know where this money was coming from and didn’t ask where the money was coming from. Do you have a sense of why Favre has not been indicted along with others here?
Speaker 6: So the FBI works really slowly. You know, we saw just last week John Davis, the former welfare director, was was finally just charged for the first time with federal crimes and pled guilty to them. Last week, you know, he John Davis, is going to be a key witness for federal prosecutors in targeting some of these other individuals who were responsible for directing this money. You know, he definitely is going to be a key witness against the former governor or at least a key person for them to probe when trying to go higher up the ladder on individuals responsible for this misspending. But they’ve got their work cut out for them in terms of, you know, sorting through all of this communication and evidence to to building a case.
Joel Anderson: Do we have a sense for why? Because I mean, obviously, you know, and I think we’ve mentioned this already, the father has denied his involvement in this. The money that they received, he didn’t know that they came from welfare funds. But can you give me a sense for how many people had their hands out and how did Brett Favre know that that was a way that he could potentially get the money he needed for a volleyball stadium above anything else?
Speaker 6: I think we’re still learning how exactly Brett Favre got connected with the welfare officials. So, you know, near the beginning, Brett Favre told me back in 2020 when I asked him if he had ever had a conversation with the former governor about this project, he told me no. Now we know that that’s obviously not correct, but we don’t know exactly when those conversations began. So the former governor is is still arguing that he didn’t have anything to do with setting Brett Favre up with the welfare officials. But that’s something that we’ll have to, you know, find out as time goes on.
Speaker 6: But it is important to note how Brett Favre was communicating about what Nancy was doing for him. So, you know, this money was committed to the volleyball stadium in 2017. Fast forward to 2018 and Brett Favre was trying to get money for this pharmaceutical venture that he was investing in. And he told his business associate that Nancy knew gave me $5 million via grant funds for volleyball. So that kind of shows his mindset about what was this money for? Was this money for an anti-poverty program that they were going to administer at this wellness facility at USM? Or was it for him? Brett Favre For the volleyball facility.
Speaker 6: There was another text where Brett Favre had suggested offering the former governor’s stock in this pharmaceutical company in exchange for his help. And he even suggested to the business owner offering Nancy New and John Davis stock in the company. And when he did that, he said that he believed that the welfare officials would be using federal grant funds for this project. So so that at least give some indication of where he thought this money was coming from federal grants.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So we will link to your author page and on our show notes and people can scroll back one, two, three, four or five, six pages on that author page to see how much you’ve been digging into this story and how this is not really solely focused on Brett Favre. This is an enormous scandal that you in Mississippi today have uncovered involving. Can you can you give us a number and tenor funds or other funds? It’s like close to $100 million.
Speaker 6: Yeah, that’s right.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That’s allegedly misspent. And so it’s a story that’s kind of close to my heart because of my own reporting.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And I think I’d love to get you to talk about this. But one thing that I think people might be confused by, because it makes no sense is why could you why would anyone even think that you could spend welfare money on a volleyball stadium? And the explanation is that it’s because of the Clinton welfare reform of the nineties that transformed aid to families of dependent children, to Tatiana TANF. You might have seen that acronym.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And basically what that did is give states block grants and say, actually, you don’t have to give money to poor people. What you can do is have Brett Favre give a speech, or you can have a class encouraging people to stay, you know, married. And so it became. And in the state of Mississippi, a state that historically has not given two shits about giving money to poor people in any kind of context, has always had the lowest payouts in cash. Welfare gives basically no in cash welfare. It gave them this huge. Slush fund, essentially. And you might want to be a little bit I don’t know if you want to talk about it in the same way I’m talking about it. But it basically gave them this slush fund that people like Brett Favre would have said, like, all right, if you’re not giving it to poor people, give it to give it to me.
Speaker 6: Yeah. I mean, you know, just as much as anyone about the ways that this program can be manipulated, you know, this the scandal is what opportunities were missed for families living in poverty in Mississippi. So, you know, you talk about the welfare check, it was about $170 a month for a family of three in Mississippi during the time the scandal occurred, which, you know, essentially the state was telling poor families that they didn’t deserve that money. They didn’t they didn’t qualify for that money. We were denying denied.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Less money than it. That’s less money than it was in the seventies. And that’s not even counting inflation, like exactly less than like actual dollars than than somebody could get in the 1970s.
Speaker 6: We didn’t increase it for 20 years until the scandal was uncovered. We increased it by $90 a month last year. It’s still one of the lowest monthly payouts in the nation. You know, the scandal is the the missed opportunities. As you know, most of this money does not go out to direct cash payments to very poor families. It is used on different services, mostly used as a way for the state to promote its its ideology and its idea about people living in poverty and what people living in poverty need to escape poverty.
Speaker 6: You know, you see a lot of money spent on parenting classes, these like family stabilizing, marriage counseling, types of fatherhood programs. And it’s really a way for the state to sort of push its ideology about families living in poverty with no regard, by the way, for the outcomes. And the federal government doesn’t require the states to prove how they are spending this money to prove how it is helping people. You don’t even have to say how many people you’re serving and what their results are after they leave the program.
Speaker 6: I’m very curious from your perspective, like, you know how lax the rules are. You know what states are capable of. But did you ever think in your research that you would have seen something as sort of egregious as what’s occurred in Mississippi?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. I think my imagination maybe was. Maybe I should have considered. I mean, any time. This is the allegation about recipients, right, Anna, is that if you give people free money, they’re going to and this is to be clear, this is I’m saying a racist and terrible thing that I don’t believe. The idea that if you give people money, they’ll spend it on alcohol, they’ll spend it on drugs. The sort of paternalistic pathologizing. Fast food or like steak and lobster that people can’t be trusted to. You know that poor, poor people cannot be trusted.
Stefan Fatsis: That it creates a culture of dependency, which is the argument that Republicans have made for generations.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Sure. And so but yeah, I mean, what your reporting shows is and Bennie Thompson said it, who we know from the January 6th committee, that the congressman that it’s Robin Hood in reverse. You take from the poor and give to the rich. These people need to go to Brett Favre need to go to a class to learn how to not be a terrible person.
Speaker 6: You know, Phil Bryant was the governor while this occurred, and the Department of Human Services, the welfare agency that administers this money, is an agency under the governor’s office. Phil Bryant was auditor before he became governor. He wrote a column at one point that said that people who steal taxpayer money or misspent taxpayer money need to go to jail. He said, In God we trust in all others we audit. This is this is the guy who who probably would know the most about the federal regulations and in the ways in which they could use loopholes to spend this money in the way that they wanted. And again.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: For 3 hours with you, which I thought was interesting.
Speaker 6: He did. Yes. Because when I produced the text messages that showed that he was agreeing to accept stock in the pharmaceutical company that received 2 million in stolen welfare funds, I don’t think he thought he had a choice but to address these pieces of communication head on. And his response, by the way, to agreeing to accept stock in a company that he was told by text message was receiving funds from the state. His response was that he didn’t read his text messages carefully enough to appreciate what they were saying.
Stefan Fatsis: I don’t believe that that will hold up in court.
Speaker 6: You know, it’s not my not my job. That’s the jury’s job.
Joel Anderson: I have a two part question about the process. Your experience of reporting on this one. These stories are not possible if you don’t get those text messages right.
Speaker 6: That’s right.
Joel Anderson: So, I mean, obviously, you’re not going to tell me how you got them, but when you get these text messages, you know that you’ve got a gold mine here, then all of a sudden, right? Like you’re like, oh, okay, this. They’ve been running bullshit on me for the last two years, correct?
Speaker 6: Yeah, essentially.
Joel Anderson: Okay. Okay. So what has been your experience in the response here? Because, I mean, obviously, we people have their ideas of like what a bunch of people in Mississippi might think about welfare funds. Right. So what has been your experience and what has been the response that you’ve gotten to these stories and your investigation into these very powerful and prominent Mississippians?
Speaker 6: So when I first started looking at the program, which was much before I knew anything about a scandal or any of this broke, I did know instinctively that we weren’t spending the money in ways that were actually creating positive results for families in need. Because I couldn’t see it. I knew there wasn’t any proof that we were doing that. I didn’t know that they were misspending the money, but I did I did know that, you know, we had this philosophy as a state that we don’t want to give this money out to in direct cash payments to people.
Speaker 6: And, you know, that is a public policy question that, you know, we can have that conversation. But ultimately, like, if the services that we are supporting with the funds are raising people out of poverty, then that’s a positive thing. And I wanted to highlight that. But they never would give me enough information. They’d never respond to public records requests in the way that, you know, I was asking for the records to, you know, expenditure reports showing how they were spending the money, who we were helping, outcome reports, that kind of thing. And so there’s this notion that, you know, if you’re trying to tackle what’s happening in this public assistance program, then you’re advocating for more cash welfare assistance to people.
Speaker 6: But honestly, no matter how you feel about anti-poverty programs in the state of Mississippi, you could be like a very conservative person. I don’t like government spending at all. Everyone has gotten together on this story. I mean, there’s pretty much there’s no way to to really have a different opinion about what happened here, because everyone is frustrated, everyone is disturbed by what happened with these welfare funds, no matter how you feel about. The program itself. Anyone can get around and get together on the fact that this money should not have been used to build a volleyball stadium at USM to pay for speeches from celebrities. These things that, you know, pretty much no one is going to publicly support.
Stefan Fatsis: So where does that leave Brett Favre in all of this? He’s, you know, a legend in Mississippi. He moved back to Mississippi after his long career in Wisconsin. Have do you have a sense of how public opinion toward Favre has maybe changed?
Speaker 6: I’ve got to say, I mean, a lot of the reaction that I get is like they’re not surprised that he would do something like this. He’s he’s been involved in other kinds of unsavory things in the past. You know, and I’m not even just talking about the text message thing, but he was connected to a pain cream scheme that was hundreds of millions of dollars, a scandal in Hattiesburg. There have been other things that that he’s been involved in that people, you know, are not happy about. And while he is, you know, one of our, you know, accomplishments as a state, personally, I don’t think people have a lot of faith in him as a actual role model.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I don’t have any more questions, but I just want to say I keep nailing these people to the wall.
Speaker 6: Thank you.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Anna Wolfe of Mississippi today, actually. This is Matt. We’re recording this segment Monday morning as she before she hopped on air with us, released a story that was about Ted DiBiase, junior and the former governor of Mississippi. And well, like I said, we’ll post your author page on our show notes so they can read that and all of your other great work into this story. So, yes, please. Now onto the wall. And thanks so much for joining us today.
Speaker 6: Thank you for having me.
Stefan Fatsis: And now it is time for After Balls sponsored by Bennett’s Prune Juice, endorsed by Kenny Sellers, who says it was okay.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That warms my heart to hear that coming from you.
Stefan Fatsis: Thank you. Oh, I’m glad I jumped right in because I knew you were going to try to do it, and I really wanted to do it. It was a whimsy filled Sunday in the NFL. First we had a swarm of bees that were attached to the goalpost in Tampa during the Bucs game against the Packers. ESPN reporter Jenna Lane did some excellent breaking news coverage. The Hive has not impacted play, she wrote, as the Packers scored in that end zone on their opening drive. It is unclear whether players are even aware of the bees who have mysteriously chosen the goalpost as a new home on game day. Florida is home to more than 300 species of bees, including 29 that are found nowhere else in the world, she added. That’s just good journalism right there.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: No, no, I mean it. Should we give her credit? I think she should have just started screaming on to the field. Are you aware of the bees?
Joel Anderson: I mean.
Stefan Fatsis: She was I don’t think she was on all this was not on air. This was in print. She’s just doing her job. She could still.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Have a megaphone.
Stefan Fatsis: Now, stadium personnel have been attempting to catch the queen and a source. Told ESPN that once the queen is captured, the rest are expected to leave. Making things more challenging is that the species of bees inhabiting the field. The field goal cannot be sprayed. I mean, I would have liked to have known which species. It was.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Also curious use of unnamed sourcing.
Stefan Fatsis: There. Yes. Yeah. Who would.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Not? Who are we protecting.
Stefan Fatsis: That Malcolm.
Joel Anderson: Gladwell does not know. Guys are still throwing the book.
Stefan Fatsis: The beekeeping community is deep with sources, but they want to stay private. All right.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So after she interviewed a beekeeper, actually, but they had that whole outfit on. So you know what?
Stefan Fatsis: Then we had the bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey losing his shit in the coach’s box after Buffalo couldn’t get off a spike to stop the clock to attempt the long field goal losing to Miami 2119 Dorsey slammed down his headset, a notebook and his tablet after the NFL told teams last week to stop mistreating the sponsored tablets. Dorsey was apparently known for his temperament when he was a field coach, which Josh Allen pointed out last summer, to which Dorsey responded, I like to think I’m not too much of a psychopath. That clip got a little bit of run on Twitter last night, maybe.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Joel, how do you think Gina Toretto and Steve Walsh would have would have reacted?
Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, Kenny Kelly. I mean, what I would really want to hear a little bit more from him on this, unfortunately.
Stefan Fatsis: All right. More wins. Jimmy G. Jimmy Garoppolo stepped out of the back of the end zone.
Joel Anderson: Man. The old Dan Orlovsky.
Stefan Fatsis: Yeah. Yep. Making Dan Arlovski feel good.
Stefan Fatsis: Finally, there were three safeties on Sunday. Three the Broncos got one to cut their deficit against San Francisco to 7 to 5. And I instantly, of course, checked pro football reference to see how many seven five games there have been in NFL history, only one 1938. Then the Broncos kicked a field goal, ten five, only one of those two, 1988. And then the Broncos scored a touchdown but missed the two point conversion final score 11 to 10, the second 1110 in NFL history, 2008 was the other. Mike Tirico mentioned that on Sunday Night Football immediately. All right. Safety number two was in Prince George’s County, Maryland. With the fourth quarter winding down, the Eagles led the Washington football team 24 to 2. I wanted this final score even though it wouldn’t have been new. 24 to has happened three times 1972, 1980, 2012. But any game ending in a two would have been awesome. But the WFP scored a garbage time.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Touchdown 24 to end Stefan the commanders.
Stefan Fatsis: I’m not going to say it. I’m the WFP to me.
Joel Anderson: Don’t you, don’t you? Don’t you think they have nice uniforms. So I mean those are those.
Stefan Fatsis: Are better uniforms. Yeah.
Joel Anderson: Yeah, those are really nice. Those are.
Stefan Fatsis: Good uniforms. Second 24 eight in history. The other one Joel your Houston Oilers on the winning end against the Lions in 1975. Safety number three was, of course, the best safety, the Miami possession before the bills failed. Last possession that led to Dorsey’s meltdown ended with Thomas, Moore said, punting the ball off the backside of his punt protector and out of the rear of the endzone. But punt but punt safety. Former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez of butt fumble fame tweeted at Moore said, whoa, stay out of my lane, bro. That’s pretty good.
Stefan Fatsis: For the record this was not the first recorded but punt thanks to newspapers dot com. I discovered one in 1993 by UTEP in a 50 to nothing loss to Hawaii in 2014. Youngstown State punter Joey Saludo did one of those Aussie puns but rolled out too far forward and punted. That same season. Nebraska punter Sam Foltz dropped a snap and punted into a teammates as an Iowa player, picked up the ball, returned it for a touchdown but punt six I think that should be called there was also a bad punt six in 2015 and a game between McKinley and Archbishop Hoban high schools in Ohio. There must have been more bad punts.
Joel Anderson: You talked about all these safeties and I was waiting for Iowa to come up. But, you know, not necessarily in the context I expected, but they did make an appearance. They did. Making the conversation about safeties.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So where does that rank? And Thomas Moore said career highlights compared to onside kick in the Super Bowl.
Stefan Fatsis: Number two right to you have to decide which is one and which is to the Joel what’s your blood punt.
Joel Anderson: My butt punt.
Joel Anderson: So about a month ago, as part of the one year 1986 podcast series, I hosted an episode called A Boycott and Mississippi Shut Out one year, 1986. It’s about how the black residents of a small Mississippi town seized control of their school system from Jim Crow era leadership. In the episode, I covered how community leaders in Indianola, Mississippi organized a month long boycott of local, white owned businesses and a walkout of the public schools. Their efforts helped to change the balance of power there, clearing the way for the hiring of Indianola, the first black superintendent. That story is about the roots of Mississippi’s entrenched resistance to black American progress, how people can make a difference in their communities, and how the civil rights battles of the 1960s are never truly over.
Joel Anderson: Among many other things, at the heart of the matter here is the belief that Mississippi’s white leaders don’t have to be responsive to their black constituents and the black state and the country. That government, from the state level to the local has no real obligation, financial or otherwise, to some of its most vulnerable and most oppressed citizens. There’s one anecdote from Indianola that didn’t make the final cut of the episode, but I think that illustrates that point very clearly. And it’s an anecdote that became more salient recently in the wake of our guest, Anna Wolf’s reporting about the state’s misuse of welfare funds and how Brett Favre was implicated in the unfolding scandal.
Joel Anderson: See, in Indianola, almost all of the black students go to public school and almost all of the white ones go to a private one called Indianola Academy. It’s sometimes called a segregation academy. Like many of the schools founded across the Deep South in the years after Brown v Board Indianola Academy represented in a way, white Southerners, large scale abandonment of public schooling. But yet they still managed to hang on to a piece of the local school district. You’re about to hear a clip that didn’t end up in the final episode. It’s from an interview I did with David Jackson, who was elected to the Indianola School Board in 1986. Somebody was telling me the Indianola Academy plays at the Indianola Junior High Football Field, and that Indianola Junior High didn’t even play there. Is that right? Is that true?
Stefan Fatsis: That’s true.
Speaker 4: That’s true. That’s true.
Joel Anderson: So David Jackson was the second black member of the five person Indianola School Board. His election was supported by black residents who’d grown weary of their children being deprived of the money and resources their schools deserved. One of their persistent allegations was that the school board improperly and consistently took money meant for public schools and funneled it to Indianola Academy.
Speaker 4: I’m not being sinister about it. And that and it’s just that it was what it was. Of course. I just remember people telling me how black principals was asked to sign off on invoices for materials that never showed up in black schools. Computers and everything else.
Joel Anderson: INDIANOLA Junior high football field was a more audacious power grab. The story goes this way a white landowner, at least the field to the public school district until Indianola Academy, needed a football field of its own. Their team, the colonels, took over the junior high field, and the Indianola Junior High Team had to take a bus about a mile away to use the high school stadium. That’s still the arrangement to this day. We.
Speaker 4: The junior high school team, could not play and has never played on the football field where Indianola Junior High is, even until today.
Joel Anderson: That’s Reverend Ozark Campbell, a native and pastor of two local Baptist churches. He graduated from Indianola schools and still goes back today as a tennis coach. I think of him as Indianola, as greatest ambassador.
Speaker 4: It has baffled me until this day. Indianola Academy has always played football on the Indianola Junior High School football field. This is even today.
Joel Anderson: Today, local leaders say the land is owned by the local American Legion and a profile of the town’s separate school systems. Sarah Carr of The Atlantic wrote Instead of sharing the field, the academy leaders put their logo i a on the buildings like territorial markings. There’s also a six foot barbed wire fence around the field’s perimeter, a stark reminder that outsiders should stay away. The kids who go to Indianola public schools, more than 95% of them black, have simply had to figure out other ways to make it work. The public high school in Indianola is called Gentry High School, and while it hasn’t been much of a power historically, I’m happy to report that they’re foreign won this season and seem headed to their first winning season in eight years. So shout out to the Rams.
Joel Anderson: But this all brings me back to Brett Favre and the Mississippi State Government. There’s still a lot more to report about this story. And at this point, there’s no telling if Five will find himself in actual legal peril. Farve is a useful but convenient villain here. He’s not the first person accused of stealing from Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens, and he certainly won’t be the last. They’re all working from the same playbook, and they’ve always counted on people not caring who wins or loses, whether it’s 1968 or 1986 or 2022 in Jackson or in Indianola, the game has remained the same.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That was a great deal. And your episode and what you just said, there is kind of the embodiment of what we’ve tried to do on one year, which is tell stories from the past. That kind of. You can look at them backwards in time and forwards in time. And it’s a story that’s relevant across American history.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so it’s, you know, hearing about what’s happening with that football field. It’s a microcosm of everything that’s going on in Mississippi. And we didn’t even talk about with Hannah. And you didn’t mention in the in the after ball the situation with the water in Jackson that’s been happening for the last couple of months. I mean, it is a that state is a catastrophe for the people who need the government the most to deserve representation. And yeah, stories like this one, like the ones that and has been doing, are an important reminder that, like, we need to be paying attention to this stuff.
Stefan Fatsis: I am just trying to imagine what it feels like to be a student at that junior high school, that middle school. To look out at that field and know I can’t play on it and that these white kids are coming over to play their games on it. And what the lasting impact of that is?
Joel Anderson: No, I mean, I think, you know, if in a vacuum, if you were to just say, hey, did you know that this state is taking money meant for this this explicitly used for it to help, you know, people that are in the most desperate of circumstances that you can think of in this country, and they’re diverting it to whatever, you know, this other white school or Brett Favre or whatever. In a vacuum, you do hear it. And you just know, surely that people looking out for that, that’s not the kind of thing that can happen. But it really is that audacious.
Joel Anderson: I don’t think that I would have believed that until I had grown up. Like I would have thought that there are people that prevent that sort of stuff from happening, that surely the people that need help get it and it’s not, you know, help for them. It’s not coming at the expense of, you know, or that the money going toward a volleyball stadium that’s not coming at the expense of all these people that need welfare funds. Right. But no, actually, that’s the sort of thing that goes on. And so it’s just a feeling of discovery every time you report on this sort of stuff down there that like, oh, wow, not as much this changes as you would like to think, you know?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, your episode was great. We’ll link to it, obviously in our show notes. Everybody should check it out. And that is our show for today, I think is that’s what I say at these moments. Our producer is Kevin Bendis Listener Passions and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate.com slash hang up and you can email us at Hang Up at Slate.com and please subscribe to our show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levin remembers Elmo Baby and thanks for listening.
Joel Anderson: Oh, remember Manu Ginobili too, because he’s just as great, remember?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now it is time for our bonus segment first slate plus members and. Joel. College football season is upon us. Have you noticed?
Joel Anderson: You have some. Some people were telling me about it that it got started.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Have you been able have you been able to watch?
Joel Anderson: I’ve I’ve I’ve got in a few games here and there to the extent that I’ve been able to watch TV, I’ve been able to get in a bit more than I thought that I would put it that way.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: All right. So I want to give the floor to you in a second, but just to catch you up on some of the developments so far this season, Texas has lost two games. What a close a close loss to Alabama. Yeah, they’re a close loss to Texas Tech. TCU is undefeated. Great. And LSU. Okay.
Joel Anderson: So Brian Kelly is acquitted himself fairly well, I would say.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But after after some special teams mishaps and game one. What do you. Yeah. What do you want to tell us about what do you want to talk about?
Joel Anderson: I’m going to start in a weird place. I’m just freestyling here. Okay. So Herm Edwards got fired at Arizona State just this past weekend. Yes. After, you know, I guess, what, a four or five year run turned the time that everybody knew that it was going to end up in this place. Like nobody ever thought that Herm Edwards is going to become Nick Saban. And so he inevitably got fired because that’s, you know, kind of the scope of his career. And there seem to be some limitations. But you know what’s interesting to me, Arizona State is in a class of school, kind of like Maryland, kind of like Rutgers. I think I’m missing a few. But it’s like, man, if they ever get everything together, you know, they’re in a place. There’s a lot of great recruits there. You know, there’s got a lot of energy. It’s a big media market pick. Kids have fun there. They’re going to be a great football team someday.
Joel Anderson: And I’m like, how, how long are we going to do that thing? You know, with Arizona State? I mean, Arizona State has been great one year in my life, the year that Jake Plummer lost in the Rose Bowl. Right. And they had a few years after that, they had J.R. Redman, who I really liked the running back slash defensive back but OC Arizona State, they’re in a state with a lot of recruits. They have great facilities well, yadda, yadda.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Terrell Suggs.
Joel Anderson: Terrell suck to t sizzle. Yeah. How, how how long are we going to keep doing pretending that Arizona State ever going to be anything? Okay, so that’s that’s kind of my first thing. Like we’ve got to start with this. Maryland is never going to be good. Rutgers is never going to be good and Arizona State is never going to be good.
Joel Anderson: The other thing that I want to talk about, maybe you guys, you know, we grew up in a time when Nebraska meant something as a national college football program, right? Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I can affirm that. Yeah.
Joel Anderson: Every every year, you know, you could expect that they if they didn’t contend for the national championship, they were going to probably win their conference.
Stefan Fatsis: I just hear Keith Jackson saying Nebraska.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Oh, man. You know, people under the age of 30 don’t understand, like Nebraska, O.U. Weeks and stuff like that like that. You know, you’ll we’ll never get that back. But maybe it’s time to admit something about Nebraska, too. And I’m not saying that Scott Frost was a bad head coach, that he wasn’t a bad head coach, not that he wasn’t a bad head coach, because he he appears to have been, although he was really good at the University of Central Florida. Right. And maybe Nebraska is not any good anymore either. And it never will be again. And and it it it kind of builds into this things that that we’ve talked about before, about how these schools change conferences, trying to link up with, you know, wealthier schools and get their share of TV revenue.
Joel Anderson: And I’m like, all right, Mizzou, this weekend you lost to Auburn 17 to 14 in their game. That was embarrassed. It looked like Auburn won and is embarrassed about it. And I like Mizzou. That’s that’s what your football program is like. You’re the SEC. You’re getting all this money. You can tell recruits that you’re in the SEC. And I know about your program right now is that Auburn is just as bad as it’s ever been. Still won. And it was an embarrassment. That’s what people think of your program now.
Joel Anderson: So is that like, are you guys still having fun being in this? Is that this what you dreamed? Is it everything you thought it was going to be in? That is my warning. Filed to Texas and Oklahoma. Right? Because everybody everybody wants these greener pastures and you’re going to you know, we’re going to bring them in and recruits are good. It’s going be a lot of energy around this. And, you know, an sec, it just means more. And you know what happens to you know, the SEC has, what, 14 teams right now? About nine of them to ten of them are getting their ass kicked on the regular and they’re irrelevant to the national conversation. And like that can be you like you all can see Texas and oh, you fans like don’t think that it can’t happen to you because most likely it probably will. And I’m excited to see that happen. So I guess I’m, you know, I kind of.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I got on a little. So you’re all right your own say?
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Oh, yeah. They should link up and go six and six every year for the rest of my life. That would be great, because that’s what’s going to happen again. Arkansas used to mean something like 90 that like Nebraska. Arkansas used to mean something. It was a nationally relevant program. They had players that people cared about. They had games on national TV, and now it’s just like, Oh, well, Arkansas is 301. Must be pretty good. Like that’s and that should be embarrassing to you. I think the last few weeks have just shown that, you know, Texas and oh, you are perfectly ready to move on to the next couple of decades of irrelevance in the SCC because, you know, they think they’re so much better than everybody in the Big 12, which is fine. I mean, you know, historically, financially, you know, there’s a lot that they’re way ahead of the pack. They stand a lot to gain a lot of money. If as if you evaluate.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It based on things like winning and money, then sure, they’re on top.
Joel Anderson: Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s the thing, though. They’re not evaluating these moves on winning, right? Like the move to the SCC has nothing to do with winning because if it did, they would stay exactly where the hell they are. But they, you know, they think that there’s, you know, the grass is actually greener over in the southeastern portion of the country. And they’ll see I mean, any anybody can be South Carolina or Kentucky, a Tennessee like I mean.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: He’s in the top ten and Tennessee is also in the top ten.
Joel Anderson: Great. Oh, great. Oh, right. Well, let’s see how that holds up. Let’s see how it holds up long time. And again, that’s another thing. Just the SEC, like whoever is undefeated, whoever collection of bums they be in September with maybe one conference victory over Mizzou or, you know, Vanderbilt or Auburn or something. And then you get to be in the top ten. Meanwhile, Kansas is actually has a fairly impressive resume so far and is undefeated through September and not ranked in the top 25. But anyway, that’s just, you know, again, it’s just all the SEC hype and I just can’t wait to see how those schools go over there and be miserable for the rest of their lives and become irrelevant in much the way that Arkansas, Mizzou did.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: If you’ve been listening carefully over the last few years, as I have, this is maybe Joel’s like most consistent take is reminding. Yes. Just like kind of going around the country and reminding different programs that they don’t matter and not only reminding them no matter, but telling them that they should acknowledge it, lean into it, don’t expect anything different. But I would say this from Kansas, you’re just like making the case for Kansas. How excited is Kansas after just I mean, that one good year in 2007 with Mark Medina, but how excited are they right now to be undefeated?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And then how about what about Clemson, which was just a joke for forever until they stopped being a joke. What about Georgia, who? We could have had this conversation a few years ago. Why? Why does this fan base think that they’re great? They’ve never done anything since Herschel Walker was there. And now everybody’s talking about Georgia like they’re the best program in the country. So why shouldn’t any of these schools have hope.
Joel Anderson: Or Georgia is one of those examples of it’s like the Arizona state that broke through. You know, everybody was like, oh, Georgia, man, when they get the numbers right and they start recruiting over there, that thing can get built up. And, you know, maybe they’ll be you know, they’ll be something someday. Well, that question.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: A question.
Stefan Fatsis: Why can’t they think.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Can happen that for them?
Joel Anderson: Because I just I mean, look, the thing is, is that it’s impossible for everybody to be happy in a conference like that, that somebody somebody there’s going to be a couple of big dogs and everybody else is mostly going to be irrelevant. And you have to think about like where you are traditionally, like how good and how strong is your program been since desegregation? Like don’t count the years in Texas when you were great in 1964 or whatever because you didn’t play everybody. Okay. So since then, when you’ve won one national championship in the last 50 some odd years and have been mostly a consistently a mediocre program ever since, you have no real right a reason to believe that it’s going to get much better when you play in a harder, more competitive conference, but.
Stefan Fatsis: Been consistently mediocre in one conference, as you’re arguing, why can’t I just be consistently mediocre in a conference that will pay me?
Joel Anderson: Well, you can be consistent. You can be consistently mediocre in your conference and still be fair like competitive in the way that Texas has been. Like they they’ve won the you know, they’re favored to win the conference most years, whether not, you know, whether their record reflects that or not. And so I think that, like, they’re prominent now because they’ve been able to sort of laud their wealth and everything else in a few good years and about 15 years ago into something else. But like, I don’t that’s not the shape of their program and they’re chasing that and I just don’t think that that’s going to happen for them. Again, they have no reason to believe that it’ll ever be as good as it was under Vince Young and Colt McCoy again. That’s all I’m saying.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: McCoy were that long ago, that was at least post desegregation.
Joel Anderson: Do you do you think kids remember Colt McCoy? Like, do you think the average 18 year old is sitting around for a man, those old Colt McCoy days?
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, just I go whenever I go and check. Targets are Colt McCoy.
Joel Anderson: Tick tock McCoy tock. That’s right.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I think we should just lean and we’re not getting beyond that.
Joel Anderson: You said we have to do fair. You sound like you do fans on Twitter. Who cares? Like, oh, yeah, well, you know, we won this east in 2013. All right. You know so much.
Stefan Fatsis: About count the number of schools that Joel has dissed so far in this segment. Rutgers, Maryland, Mizzou.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It’s a long season. We’ll get to other takes. But I’ll just say two things and then I’ll and then I’ll shut up and maybe Joel, let me have the last word. Well, see, Kentucky is a really good example because the SEC East has been really soft, except for Georgia and Kentucky has been able to compare to their history under Mark Stoops have a really good, successful and consistent run the last few years of it, not in terms of national prominence, but of exceeding their own expectations and historical standards. So that’s like a happy fanbase. They’re now in the top ten and they’re going to get probably knocked it back down to earth. But the structure of the SCC is such that if you had even a reasonable program in the East, you’re able to actually do something and become something. It’s the West that’s the real and the real problem. And that really knocked people down to earth.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But then with Texas and Oklahoma coming in, there’s going to be this like real alignment and pod system. We’re not going to we don’t know how that’s going to shake out. They could end up like just playing Mississippi State in a pod every year. Like maybe they won’t have to play Alabama and Georgia every season to get knocked back down to earth. And plus, with the 12 team playoff draw, it’s going to make programs, if you’re like the 12th, the best program in the country on a year to year basis in our lifetimes. And and you think that you should be a national champion. That’s kind of like Georgia was before the last few years. It’s like you’re a failure. But now they’re going to be able to, like, brand themselves as a huge success.
Stefan Fatsis: Except it’ll be harder for them. I mean, they won’t be getting the automatic berth, though, so they’re competing with a bunch of others.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But the.
Joel Anderson: Playoff.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They’ll be in playoff contention if.
Joel Anderson: They stayed in the Big 12. If they stayed at the Big 12, they would still have access to the playoff. Plus, they get to come in as a champion and not potentially a nine and three or eight and four team. You know, that year we’d also know in college football that the 12, 12, 14 team has no shot of winning a national championship like they will get they can get that playoff berth. But do you think like Michigan fans, they were excited about the year because they beat Ohio State, but like, do you think they once they got to the national play, the national playoff, do you think that they’re really excited about where their program is? Like, we could bring VML in and and say like, you know.
Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You mean thank you, Joe. Thank you, Slate Plus members. We’ll be back with more next week. All right. Three, two, one. You. You ready for after Balkan?