The No Grand Slam for Novak Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language, including the words, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor, and this is hang up and listen for the week of September 13th, 2021. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Daniil Medvedev Grand Slam stopping U.S. Open win over Novak, Djokovic and Emma Raducanu is out of nowhere. Run to her first major title. We’ll also discuss Jameis Winston, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the other success stories and disasters of the NFL’s opening weekend. And finally, we’ll assess the U.S. men’s national soccer teams up and down opening of World Cup qualifying started sort of bad. Slightly more bad in the middle. And then that actually kind of OK, I am in Washington, DC and author of The Queen, the host of the podcast One Year, also in D.C.. Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic. And while the outside people are talking about wild and outside, more and more these days

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S2: it’s making a comeback.

S1: Todd Todd, Joel Anderson, our pal, he’s off this week filling in this Louisa Thomas. She is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She’s written as many books the Stefan has, plus she’s the co-editor of Losers Dispatches from the other side of the scoreboard. So take that Stefan

S2: much younger to

S1: the books per year ratio, it’s off the charts. Welcome, Louise. Always great to have you with us.

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S3: I’m thrilled to be here. Thrilled to be bettering Stefan in any way I can. Yeah.

S2: Not that hard.

S1: On Sunday in New York, Novak Djokovic was trying to be the first male player to win tennis grand slam since Rod Laver did it in 1969. Daniil Medvedev, meanwhile, was shooting for something that has proved just as difficult to become the first player of his generation to be one of the sport’s big three in a major final. Medvedev did that and stopped Djokovic from making history, winning six four six four six four in a match that was until the very, very end. About as straightforward as that scoreline suggests, it was when it was all over. Medvedev flopped onto the ground, doing the dead fish, a goal celebration from the FIFA video game series.

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S4: But I wanted to make it special for people to love, for my friends, to love when I play FIFA with. And I knew I’m going to make it. I got hurt a little bit. It’s not easy to make it on hard courts.

S1: I got hurt a little bit. Daniil Medvedev weird guy. Let’s get back to Djokovic Josh during the final changeover of the match as the New York crowd cheered him on. He covered his face with a towel as he began to sob. All the stress and the tension of the year seemed to overwhelm him, but not necessarily in a negative way. Here’s what Djokovic said on the court in his post-match speech.

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S5: I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special.

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S1: When the applause died down, Louisa, he told the crowd, You guys touched my soul. Djokovic has never gotten much fan support outside of his native Serbia, especially compared with Federer and Nadal. But he did get it on Sunday, and I can’t decide if it’s touching or sad that it meant that much to him.

S3: I think the answer is it’s both. I mean, I found it actually incredibly moving that he was so in this moment in which, you know, this thing that he’d been working so hard for and was very open about chasing. He never, ever downplayed what getting the calendar year grand slam would mean to him and surpassing Federer and Nadal and in Italy for the most majors. I mean, he was absolutely open that this is what he was gunning for and this was what his year was built around and and he was denied an almost embarrassing way. I mean, he played very badly. And and yet at the end, you know, he was he was crying and he was smiling and he was pumping his fists and there was something there was something moving about that, even if it also was an indication of, you know, how what a kind of complex position he is in and the sort of fandom, you know, I mean, I think there are people who definitely say that the Novak Djokovic Josh just wants to be loved. Narrative is way overplayed, and I get that. But in that moment, you know, you really did feel what I meant to him. And I mean, I was reminded of what you know when you played Roger Federer, you know, I think half a decade ago now and the crowd was just brutal to him. I mean, terrible and and how hard that must have been. And and to have that, you know, this kind of redemption moment. Even as he was losing in his press conference afterwards, he actually elaborated, you know, and he said he wasn’t just telling the crowd, you know, he wasn’t just getting one last tour, he said, You know, of course, part of me is very sad. It’s a tough one to swallow this loss. But on the other hand, I felt something I’ve never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me feel very special. He said that it’s something I’ll remember forever. That’s the reason on the changeover. I just teared up the emotion. The energy was so strong. I mean, it’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. That’s how I felt. Honestly, I felt very, very special. And yeah, I don’t know any ended up by saying, Yeah, it was just wonderful, and I don’t know if that’s how it’s going to feel tomorrow. You know that that that that kind of moment of ovation, that standing ovation was just as good as winning 21 Grand Slams. But, you know, he’s a sentimental guy for all the kind of, you know, the machine like narrative that also is built up around him. He’s some guy. He’s a guy who feels things really deeply and has this kind of like mystic way of mystical way of talking. And that moment did mean a lot. And it was and it was the kind of reminder of, you know, the the how important the crowd is, especially maybe in tennis, which is such a lonely sport. And this year, I think, you know, something maybe we should talk about is that the crowd was more important than ever.

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S2: Can I take a slightly more cynical view of what happened at at that match, which was that it took Djokovic losing the opportunity to win the calendar grand slam, the first person to do it since Steffi Graf in 1988, the only would have been the second person in like 50 years to accomplish that. So the crowd was it was almost like the crowd was pitying him. I felt like, yeah, it was a recognition, but it came only when he was on the brink of defeat. So from his perspective, it was definitely a little Sally Field kind of moment. You love me, you really love me. But at the same time, it was like, Oh, well, thanks for trying Novak. We really appreciate your effort. And, you know, but we’re also probably glad that Medvedev won.

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S1: Yeah, I don’t agree with that. I think that they were actually rooting for him the whole match, but it was because he was.

S2: Or were they rooting for for more tennis too, which is always typical in the third set when someone in the

S1: crowd has more tennis? No, I think they were rooting for him because they kind of greedily wanted to see history being made, and he was the guy at that match who was able of giving them what they wanted. It wasn’t necessarily that they were rooting for him. They’re rooting for this for this accomplishment, and it was crucial that he was playing against a guy, Daniil Medvedev, who has his own extremely complicated history with the New York crowd. I mean, fans, I think, have come around and like him now, but he’s not Federer, he’s not Nadal. He’s not somebody who is a legend of the sport. And he’s not somebody that on this occasion, most people in the crowd would have been sad to see Lee quite the contrary. But it’s just so it’s so funny. Louisa, this idea of like, Oh, the Novak Djokovic just wants to be loved narrative is overplayed. That is perhaps the least overplayed narrative. I mean, the Novak Djokovic just wants to be loved. Narrative was, I think, enshrined in cement forever, and I feel like a jerk for saying this. But it’s just kind of it’s a little bit like pitiful to me.

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S3: So, Nick, you and Nick Kyrgios, you know, I mean, I think one of the things one of the many things that carry us instead of I Novak Novak Djokovic is that it’s kind of pathetic. You know, and in that it’s not it’s just not cool. And it’s, you know, it’s true. I mean, it is definitely not things. I think that’s one of the things that people are a little bit turned off by is this kind of, you know, desperation and that maybe, you know, there are plenty people who think that if he leaned a little bit more into the sort of joker, you know, villain side, he’d have more, more fans and certainly his, you know, his fluffy talk about Thor doesn’t always play well and doesn’t serve him very well. I mean, he’s the guy who’s talked about lots of out there stuff which doesn’t, you know, help anyone, especially during a pandemic. But I do think that I think that, you know, it comes from a genuine place, and he doesn’t always read the room very well. But yeah, I mean, I think that both things can be true. It can not be cool in some sense. And also it can be, you know, it can be moving.

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S1: Yeah, I wonder if this will change anything going forward. And I think it was John McEnroe who said that there is nobody in the history of tennis who’s used the crowd’s antagonism better than Novak has, and that definitely seems true. But I wanted to play this clip from the 2019 open of Medvedev trolling the crowd just because it’s one of my favorite things that’s ever happened at the US Open. And again, it just it feels like Louisa this year, whether it was because the crowd was more energized and into it because there there was no crowd at the Urban last year, or just maybe were hearing it more just because of the absence of last year. But the crowd just felt like a much bigger factor than I remember it being. So let’s listen. Daniil Medvedev after his third round victory at the 2019 U.S. Open.

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S5: Well, Daniil quotes in the evening quotes an atmosphere in here you’re through to the next round. Talk to us about your emotions and how you’re feeling. Well, first of all, what I can say that thank you all guys, because your energy tonight give you the win, because if you are not here, guys, I would probably lose the match because I was so tired. I was cramping yesterday for thought that for me to play. So I want all of you to know when you’re asleep. The night I won because of you,

S1: when you sleep tonight. I think the crowd was mad because he had angrily snatched a towel from a barman, among other, among other transgressions. Here’s an interesting and complicated did like he is in many ways, extremely just like weird and charming. As we saw from that the FIFA goal celebration, which I guess it’s that the new generation Luisa with their their new celebrations. But he also like threw coins at an umpire’s chair at Wimbledon in 2017 because he was mad. He was defaulted from a challenger match in 2016 because he said a black umpire was friends with Medvedev’s black opponent. Not a great moment for for him. What do you make of of Medvedev as a guy and as a player?

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S3: I think deeply weird is probably a good place to start. You know, the sort of obviously racist incident is something that I don’t want to sugarcoat or downplay. I do think. You know, I do think and I also do think that there’s no obligation for anyone to sort of give him the benefit of the doubt there. But at the same time, like I’m going to give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt and saying that I do think that he has has grown up quite a bit. He himself has talked about that in the past few years. You know, he’s he’s credited as his wife. He’s credited, you know, various people, psychologists, whoever. And also, you know, just being on tour longer and becoming a little bit more worldly. He was actually one of the players who was asked on Friday about, you know, would the ATP be welcoming to a player if he came out and he gave one of the more thoughtful and eloquent and accepting and embracing even the idea answers which you know he’s from a culture that is not he’s Russian, is from a country that is not totally welcoming to LGBTQ player, you know, people. So what I’m saying is I’m not saying, you know, therefore he’s not he’s not racist. This is not a bad guy or anything. I’m not saying that at all, but I’m just saying that, you know, I do think that he does seem to have learned a little bit and grown a little bit without, you know, totally losing some of his son of some of his jargony weirdness. Yeah, I mean, I think he’s a kind of in some ways, I think, you know, again, bracketing, you know, the more serious issues aside, like, I think that he’s he’s pretty refreshing in a lot of ways because he is so much his own kind of person and his game style matches this kind of dead fish weirdness. I mean, he plays like he’s carrying a shovel, sometimes Meyer’s, gawky, long limbed, you know, awkward movements. He sort of I think McKennie Futterman in is right up with the match, described him as scurrying around the court, which I thought was perfect. His follow through is often, like, extremely awkward. I mean, he doesn’t play like you’re supposed to play. And yet here he is. He’s a grand slam champion. He’s also has a weird kind of grace and consistent style to his game. So I think it’s I think it’s I think it’s kind of a little bit of an antidote to the to the federalization of of sport. And yeah, I’m into it.

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S2: He played really, really well in that final. We should also point out the Djokovic had been on the court for like five and a half hours more during the matches leading up to the final than Medvedev had. But Medvedev did something that the other young players have been unable to do. Josh right? He, you know, allowed Sasha Zverev lost the two zero sets lead last year and a dominant team. My former guy, Stefanos Tsitsipas, lost a two zero lead to Novak Djokovic at the French Open this year, but Medvedev hung on and the crowd was against him at the end. I mean, they were making a lot of noise during his serve. He double faulted what three or four times in the last couple of of of of his service games. But he hung on and he won and he outplayed Djokovic.

S1: Yeah. Let’s move on to the women’s side. And Luisa, you wrote a couple of really great pieces on the women’s final and the women’s finalists Leylah Fernandez from Canada and Emma Raducanu, the champion from England. And she was, I think we can say, with no risk of hyperbole, the most unlikely grand slam singles champion of the open era. Is that fair?

S3: Yes. I mean, there’s there is, you know, unprecedented. And then there’s like actually unprecedented. And we’re talking about actually unprecedented. No qualifier had ever won a major title and ever made a five year final. Yeah. And she was appearing in her second main draw at a slam. She was appearing in her fourth tour level event. You know, just a few weeks ago, she was playing in and not winning a challenger event, and Landis Will Pennsylvania, for which she won two thousand dollars for her effort. She walks away from this tournament with two point five million dollars and will very shortly become one of the highest paid female athletes in the world. Her agent is Maria Sharapova, former agent, so I think you can pretty much guarantee that.

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S1: But it wasn’t like so. So the kind of crazy thing here is that totally unprecedented, totally unexpected. And yet on a match to match level, she was just mowing people down, did not lose a set and wasn’t ever, you know. This is somebody who pulled out of Wimbledon in the fourth round because she was having breathing issues, which it seemed like maybe at least part of it was the stress of the moment. So somebody who has never put under stress and just played with the kind of lightness and joy throughout this tournament and just like absolutely destroyed a very, very strong field.

S3: It was thrilling. I mean, there was nothing compromised about this tournament. And obviously, you know, Serena Williams wasn’t there, which was, you know, unfortunate for all sorts of reasons. But, you know, she she really won this title. This was not like, you know, the dominoes fell and she was the last one standing like she absolutely proved that her ranking means nothing. It’s sort of one of the things I was thinking about is like, sometimes there are chess players who have these low ratings because they haven’t played very much and they’re kind of improving by, you know? Just leaps and leaps and leaps and bounds like every single day because they’re in this weird plastic moment. And I was just thinking of her like, it’s it’s just it’s like you were actually watching herself figure out how to play tennis and how to deal with things. And and she did a couple of things that were. Really smart. She put her phone away for the tournament, which is not everyone does, she just seemed to have a very kind of calm and collected way of looking about things. And she talked about, you know, one of my favorite moments in a press conference was when she was asked, how did she sort of surprise herself? And she said, Well, I’ve always wanted to learn how to slide. And suddenly I was just doing it, you know, and there was something kind of really like thrilling and useful. And yeah, I mean, the whole thing just kind of made me. This was this was especially the women’s side. This was a tournament that just like, made me happy in a way that a sporting event has not and a really long time. And her her success and the kind of like joyful success and charisma of her opponent was was a big part of that,

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S2: and the whole thing was so astounding. I mean, she apparently took off most of the last year and a half because of the pandemic, but also because her parents insisted that she study hard for her A-levels or whatever exams she was taking in England, so she didn’t get back to tennis full time until a few months ago, right, Louisa. And that’s just how you could achieve what she achieved. And this is not also to discount what Leylah Fernandez, the Canadian opponent in the final, also achieved. And I think her run to the final was even more difficult than than than Raducanu. Raducanu was beating Naomi Osaka to top five players, another former champion to get there. So how does this even happen? I mean, it is it. Was it just sort of coincidence, serendipity, everything falling into place for these two young women at the exact same time? Or is there something about the makeup of the of women’s tennis today that allowed this to happen?

S3: I think for one thing, women’s tennis is incredibly deep. You know, Raducanu said that, you know, anyone in the draw can win any tournament. And she I guess herself, as is proof of that. But at the same time, I don’t think that’s quite true, but it’s pretty close to true. I mean, there are just there are at least, you know, 20 players who in any given tournament, you know, you’re not shocked to see walking away with the title, and that’s a testament to the tour’s depth. You know, I also think, though, that the crowd also did play a big part of it, especially in Fernandez. She knows she she really worked how to sort of collaborate with the crowd. I mean, she really harnessed their energy and use them, you know, really conducted them in this kind of masterful way. And maybe that was different this year. And I do also think that, you know, there is a little bit of a sense of solidarity, you know, between them. They also there was an 18 year old Carlos Alcott Alcaraz who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, an incredible five set match, and Emma Raducanu talked about wanting to join their group. You know, I mean, I think she was she was pretty explicit about being inspired by their performance. And so I do think that that was different. We’ve seen incredible runs from single teenagers. You know, you get frantic, you know, blasted her way to the French Open title at the age of 19 last year and a performance like a dominant performance that was Nadal ask. But but this was there was a sense of movement here. I mean, there was a sense of a real kind of something is happening in the sport. I mean, I began it thinking being feeling pretty pessimistic about tennis, feeling that I was in a kind of bad place and I and then feeling just like honestly uplifted and and their success was a huge part of it. And and they’re sort of and the sort of sense that, you know, I mean, it’s a cliche, but you know, there was just no outcome that was going to be a bad outcome. You know, I mean, they were I mean, at least for the moment, you know, whatever happened, whatever was happening was good and it was good to just like, let yourself feel that way for once.

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S1: So one of the marquee match ups of the first round was Sloane Stephens versus Madison Keys. They played in the title match four years ago. That’s a testament to the depth of the women’s field, and I did mention both them are unranked at this moment, and they both played really well. And if you watch that match and and and Sloane Stephens beat kids, you’re like Madison Keys could probably win this tournament. I mean, she has the the tools and, you know, she hits the ball harder than probably anybody else. Maybe the sight of Sabalenka in the field. And then Sloane Stephens beats Coco Gauff, who is the teen sensation of the tennis world at least prior to this tournament. And Sloane Stephens looks like she’s probably. She can win the tournament. Then she loses to Angie Kerber and then Leylah Fernandez Betts Andy Herber. And if we go back one round prior to that, Leylah Fernandez beat Naomi Osaka. And after that match, Osaka was just so distraught, so down, saying that even winning doesn’t bring her joy and she’s not sure when she’s going to play again. And just the contrast between what Osaka was saying and thinking and feeling and how these teenagers were just processing this entire tournament is incredibly stark. And, you know, back to the crowd, Osaka started at the US Open in that match with maybe the the most intense crowd experience and at least that I can remember at the event in the match where Serena Williams was getting into it with the chair empire. And we all remember that and and know about that. And just, I guess, Naomi Osaka just never really had that moment that these teenagers dead, even in her great victory. And that’s even more clear now. And this kind of contrast. And even as there is this sort of joy and lightness and and happiness, even in defeat for somebody like Leylah Fernandez, it does feel feel bad for Naomi Osaka that she’s in the place where she has, and you hope that she can find that joy at some point soon.

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S3: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that was a wrenching moment. And you know, I I can’t imagine how hard this summer was for Osaka and maybe moments over the past couple of years. You know, she’s referenced. You know, I do think. You know, Naomi Osaka has called herself shy, and a lot of this experience has been obviously pretty hard for her. You know, and I do think that we don’t know what’s going to happen with these teenagers. You know, they did have this, you know, experience that she didn’t get to have us. You know, where the crowd embrace them, you know, at the same time. Emma Raducanu is about to be in a spotlight that that very few people in the world have ever experienced, and we don’t know how she will. She will experience it. And Leylah Fernandez, you know, whatever else she is, she is not shy. But at the same time, you know that she obviously took that loss very, you know, she was smiling in moments in the end. But she, you know, that was a hard loss for her. She’s obviously extremely competitive, and she’s been very clear that her family has made incredible sacrifices to get her where she is and her whole life and her family’s life is riding on her success on the tennis court. And that’s also a hard place to be in. So I don’t mean to be naive about, you know, where we’re going to end up. You know, I mean, I think I think tennis is one thing that’s become clear is this tennis is a really hard sport and it’s it’s a mental sport, and that’s why we’re having all these conversations about mental health. But yeah, I mean, Naomi Osaka is is I hope. Yeah. Fines, whatever help and support she wants, she’s about to be hosting the Met Gala. So she’s not exactly disappearing from the public eye. You know, and I hope that that’s fun for her or whatever she wants it to be. So, yeah, I mean, at some point she needs to find the balance, or I hope she finds a balance that lets her be do what she wants and thrive in whatever field that is.

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S1: Up next, Jameis Winston, the Jacksonville Jaguars. You know, their stories from week one

S6: of the NFL.

S1: The Saints and Packers were supposed to play in New Orleans on Sunday, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, they took the field in Jacksonville instead and on an unfamiliar field full of familiar Saints logos and unfamiliar Saints quarterback wearing a familiar uniform led his team to a shocking 38 to three when the three part. Obviously a big part of that Saints defense held Aaron Rodgers to one hundred and thirty three passing yards and no touchdowns, two interceptions. But the bigger story was Jameis Winston, who threw for five touchdown passes, no interceptions in his first start since 2019. Here he is talking to Fox’s Tom Rinaldi after the game.

S5: How did the defense in the running game give overall shape to the way this played out? Jameis. I just think we were prepared. You know one thing my my trainer, he told me, he said, What do you say? He just told us to be prepared.

S1: I don’t know if I’m prepared to even say what I feel about that. Early returns Stefan suggests that his pairing with Sean Payton could be quite fruitful on the field, but this is also a guy who is credibly accused of rape when he was in college, though, he was never criminally charged. In 2018, he was suspended by the NFL for three games after allegedly groping an Uber driver. And now my favorite team has put me in a position where I have to root for this. I mean, I guess I don’t have to, but I feel somewhat obliged to root for the Saints. And so here we are, and it feels very awkward.

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S2: Stefan Leylah. I’m sure it did feel awkward Josh. But these are the dilemmas that we face as fans. Sports really do force us to confront with who we are as human beings flip deep within our sport where you would have to grapple with life’s most challenging moral and ethical questions. And then in the end, you root for the uniform designs that we all loved as children. So I feel for you. But also, Sean Payton, let’s not forget, was once suspended for a season for participating in an operation to pay Saints players for injuring opposing players, and now has a cameo in a heartwarming movie produced by Adam Sandler about coaching his kids middle school football team during his banishment from the NFL, which, according to TMZ, will focus on Peyton’s time away from his job and how he grew as a person because of the experience. So we love our redemptive narratives. Maybe Jameis Winston can reflect on his past now and not throw 30 interceptions while also throwing 30 touchdown passes, as he did in 2019.

S1: Yeah, I mean, the redemption arc for Jameis Winston Louisa, both on that broadcast and also in the coverage that followed, like in Peter King’s column on Monday. It’s about his redemption from having thrown 30 interceptions right as Tampa’s starter in 2019, and he talks to Peter King about what’s the throw that he’s the most proud of and he talks about, Oh, was this throw where I threw the ball? It wasn’t. One of the five touchdowns was when I threw the ball away and I was like smart and didn’t force it and potentially throw an interception. And I mean, maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch, but I kind of connect that with what Winston has said after the hurricane and saying, I want to thank all of the first responders in New Orleans and all the people on the ground right now. We’re with you. We’re going to represent you. I mean, this is a guy who both in terms of like the football guy stuff and the off field stuff. He definitely knows what to say, and he is saying, quote unquote, all of the right things. And that doesn’t make it any. And maybe it makes it even more uncomfortable. This is a guy who’s like acting out the role of like sensitive smart star quarterback for beloved local franchise.

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S3: Well, he’s well prepared. You know, if we know anything about him, he’s he’s well prepared. No, I mean, I think, you know, all joking aside, you know, it’s hard. You know, what do you what do you do with the art of monstrous man? You know, it’s it’s an old question. And in sports, it’s it’s particularly difficult because it’s not just it’s not just the work, but the compensation and everything that goes with it and in the broadest sense of the word. So, yeah, at the end of the day, being a sports fan is to be put in a compromised position. But I also think, you know, you guys are right that what redemption generally means in sports or what adversity generally means in sports has to do with, you know, drop passes and not, you know, really kind of messed up stuff. And and and that’s where we find ourselves. And I guess at some point we made that. I mean, that deal, you know, I do think that people tend to be complex and it’s. Perfectly plausible to me that he actually cares about first responders and also did these terrible things, I mean that he’s allegedly done. You know, it wouldn’t be the first time that a person has has done great things and done terrible things. You know, and it wouldn’t be a first time that, you know, we’ve conflated, you know, skill and success with some sort of like moral fiber. But it’s important to keep these things in mind. And also, you know, I think that we this is a sports podcast. You know, we we are able to make some distinctions between our the people we root for and the laundry.

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S2: I mean, Josh, the allegations against Jameis Winston are from three years ago when he was in the league and when he was in college. And the NFL is dealing with a contemporaneous case right now. Deshaun Watson did not play on Sunday for the Houston Texans. He is facing these allegations from more than 20 massage therapists about sexual harassment and assault.

S1: The Houston Texans overcame that adversity, beating the Jaguars and in game one behind backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. I mean, Lewis, I’ve been thinking not just about how we talk about, quote unquote overcoming adversity in sports, but also like what are the kinds of controversies that are safe to talk about and in the US Open? You had ESPN’s commentators declining over six rounds to say anything about the allegations, you know, published in Racquet Magazine and Slate against Sascha Zverev accused of abusing an ex-girlfriend. But they did talk about quite extensively was the controversy over Stefanos Tsitsipas bathroom breaks. And then there’s like, I can’t remember which round it was, but there was this kind of joke that I guess it was Patrick McEnroe made to Djokovic on the on the court where he’s like, there weren’t any, you know, bathroom breaks in this match and it was just all like fighting and blah blah Djokovic. It’s like, I actually need to stop you right there because I feel like Stefanos Tsitsipas has gotten a really bad deal. And like, he’s not doing anything that’s not in the rules and the bathroom breaks he’s taking. And it was just like, these guys are like going really like deep and intense on this, like on this very kind of safe controversy. And there’s this other one that’s like elephant in the room that nobody is even touching or talking about are addressing. And just the fact that the Jameis Winston stuff didn’t come up in the coverage during the game or in the coverage after. It just feels like, you know, another example the same phenomenon.

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S2: And then if you wanted to criticize Tsitsipas for anything, it should have been that he basically trotted out some misinformation about vaccinations and being anti-vax. I mean, the Greek government came out and criticized him for his irresponsible and a scientific remarks about it

S1: that did definitely feel like conscious or unconscious sublimation. Louise, just how much focus there was on this dumb non controversy controversy during the U.S. Open?

S3: Absolutely. I mean, I mean, it’s it’s hard to know sometimes when you are a semi news and semi entertainment organization, you know what kind of calculus is going into that? Is it that they don’t want to get in legal trouble? Is it that they’re so comfortable for whatever particular announcers is that they don’t think it’s going to be good for ratings, whereas you know, something as dumb as bathroom breaks is kind of captured the imagination of, you know, a scout, ecologically minded, immature public. I don’t know. I mean, it’s it’s hard to say. I mean, I think that, you know, I think that broadcasts have an ongoing tradition of blowing discussions about a lot of these things. I mean, I think, you know, in the first game of the season, Chris Collins was referred to Antonio Brown’s million dollar smile and some quote some off the field stuff, you know, referring to really serious allegations against Antonio Brown. So I mean, I think that networks need to do a better job at, you know, facing this public information. And it does seem that this is a sort of no go area, which is is is pretty inexcusable and needs to be addressed in some way, either by the networks themselves or by the public that forces them to do it.

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S1: I think as the season goes on with the Saints and with Winston, this will be talked about more. And I think this week one storyline of first start they blew out the Packers is maybe going to push things in the direction that we’ve. And talking about, but we’ll see. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t used to be ignored, but someone at some point or a lot of someone at some point are going to address this and we’ll see how he deals with it, how the team deals with it, how the NFL deals with it. But, you know, Stefan, one of the more notable results from week one is just how terrible the Jaguars looked against Tyrod Taylor and the Houston Texans. And there was a story that came out by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports before the game even started. I think there was just about how Urban Meyer Mr. rah rah college man is. Everybody hates him there already. I mean, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you know, wanting them to take the preseason games more seriously and being mad that they lost them just seems like a really, really bad recipe for for an NFL team. Stefan. And just kind of like almost a cliche of like how college guys don’t succeed in the NFL, just like treating the players like children and et cetera.

S2: Yeah. And the inability to recognize that these are two different businesses. Whenever a college coach comes in to the NFL or very frequently is kind of amazing. It’s almost as if. Shockingly, football coaches don’t spend any time reading about anything else but their own teams and preparing for the next game. And even after this game, the Jaguars lost. I mean, people that thought Trevor Lawrence was going to be, you know, an all star quarterback, an All-Pro quarterback out of the chute were wrong. I mean, this is still a an untested rookie quarterback in a very different and more advanced league. And after the game, Urban Meyer said it’s inexcusable the things that need to be fixed, three preseason games, you’d think we’d have that fixed. So that’s something we’re that we’re going to do. I would guesstimate you would not see that again. That’s inexcusable. That sort of garbage will not go over well in the locker room. And the fact that Urban Meyer doesn’t recognize that these are grown up adult players and not college students, that he has complete and total control over ills, if not surprising, at least entertaining. For those of us who can’t stand the sort of sanctimonious bullshit that college coaches spout,

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S3: I think unhinged is one of the words that came up in the CBS report about him. But yeah, I mean, let’s not forget that he’s not like he had a reputation for really knowing how to treat college students. Right? I mean, there were there were. You can look at the red flags for years. I mean, I do think that one of the things that’s interesting that’s come out of some of these reports and also the first game is the kind of, you know, incompetence that you can trace back to the coaching staff. I mean, a lot of the you can talk about drop passes and things like that, but you know, there were there were they were penalized for illegal formation three times. You know, I mean, there, I mean, they’re inexcusable.

S1: Why are you trying to do it all?

S3: I mean, it’s just it’s just a kind of, you know, in the entire season, he had difficulties figuring out the NFL’s schedule. You know, he was sort of overriding people. I mean, it, it sort of it is like a joke. I mean, it is funny. I mean, this is the guy who brought back Tim Tebow. You know, I mean, it’s like he’s living his own like hard knocks life.

S2: He didn’t cut Tim Tebow. However, and I’m sure it was a very, very difficult decision for him in the staff to make.

S1: Let’s finish by talking about, I think, our favorite moment of the past week, which was Cam Newton’s 43 minute what TMZ described and a phrase that still makes me laugh every time I see it. A sit down interview with his dad. I laughed. I laughed. In that interview, Cam Newton said that his aura, his hairstyle, the way he talks, where he dresses and the way he dances is the reason Bill Belichick cut him last month.

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S7: The reason why they released me is because indirectly I was going to be a distraction. Could I be in the starter without being a star? Yeah. And this was how verbally or in the locker room, my aura. OK. Just my aura.

S1: Patriots started Mac Jones, the rookie they lost to the Dolphins. Stefan was this. Tell us a little bit more about the sit down interview that Camden had with his dad. And would you say that this actually was this kind of display of self-awareness and Cam’s part?

S2: I mean, he seemed to be pretty candid. You know, he he said that they that he thinks that he would have been cut regardless of the fact that he seems to not have been vaccinated and had to miss five days of practice. As for violating protocol, he thinks that basically that Belichick decided to go with Mac Jones. And interestingly, in this interview with his dad, he also said that that he felt that he couldn’t have been a backup there because the Patriots thought he would be a distraction because quote, I told you this off camera that this is my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton to your facility, when you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are people are interested by the mere fact of who is he and he. He claimed that he would have been happy to be Mac Jones, his backup. And this is my favorite part of the transcript of this interview. His dad says Cam, giving his son a skeptical look, suggesting that his body language that even he didn’t buy this, according to a write up in Defector Cam. Listen, Cam said, the truth of the matter is he would have been uncomfortable, so he gets him to admit that no, he could not have been a backup and it would have been a distraction. In fact,

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S3: I can’t believe that a guy would give a forty three minute sit down to his father might have been a distraction and a closely thing.

S2: Coming up next, a conversation with a bit emotional on my part about the U.S. men’s national soccer team. In the last two weeks, we hear they finally come, they play for Chelsea and Barcelona and Juventus and Manchester City, they’re ranked 10th in the world now. Ma’am, this is going to be so much fun. United States men’s national soccer team played its first three regional qualification games for the 2022 World Cup. It went like this two hundred and twenty five gouge my eyes out minutes against sixty fourth ranked El Salvador, fifty 59th ranked Canada and sixty third ranked Honduras, two and a half games and then a final forty five. That prevented me from throwing a blunt object through the television screen and burning my old Landon Donovan t shirt. Actually, I love my old Landon Donovan t shirt and would never burn it. The Americans tied El Salvador and Canada, which is frankly pathetic, and we’re losing one to nothing to Honduras when a trio of subs and an 18 year old playing in his first senior international match save the team’s ass with four second half goals. Hope might not spring eternal, but it’ll get me to the next trio of qualifiers in October. Josh There were reasons to not jump off a cliff over the US team’s performance, namely injuries and a Covid positive to key players Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest and Christian Pulisic. But after a summer of genuine optimism, I sure felt a large surge of the old, familiar anger, frustration and nausea. Watching this team?

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S1: I feel like I just listen to an Urban Meyer postgame speech there.

S3: It was inexcusable.

S1: I mean, all the illegal formation penalties against El Salvador, I mean, it was hard to watch. You’re right. Yeah, I wish I could say that I was above it all in shame on you. But I also felt kind of deeply annoyed watching those first two and a half games because I’ve become invested in this team and certainly bought into all of that hype. And there’s. People like Landon Donovan, who has been saying a bunch of smart things, particularly on Grand Walls podcast about the series of qualification games, he is like a thoughtful and extremely knowledgeable guy. And he says repeatedly like the thing that the fans don’t understand is how hard it is to win away and CONCACAF games like in Central America with these crowds and these teams in these fields. And so there is a certain sense that like, oh, as the like sophisticated and savvy and not knee jerk fan, I’m going to be all like sensible about, you know, a draw in El Salvador. It’s not like a terrible result, but like that game against Canada pedophile, the first half against Honduras pedophile and a certain point. It just seems like an excuse that isn’t particularly convincing. And like that kind of any any results on the road in South Central America is just explained away by like, forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown. But in the second half of the game, we’re like, Oh yeah, you can score a bunch of goals and beat this team that’s like clearly doesn’t have as much depth or as talent. And and that’s like a thing that’s possible even in an away game and CONCACAF. And another thing that was said on Grandchild’s podcast that I thought was actually really smart and interesting that maybe the thing that is the problem for the U.S. or has been the problem for the US is that they’re actually trying to be too smart and trying to be too tactically sophisticated, like playing all these like playing formations that they’ve never played before or playing Cam lineup combinations that they’ve never played before trying to like. Do all this like tiki taka passing bullshit when. The reality is a national team soccer Louisa, and like we can translate this across any sport, it’s like, you know, Olympic basketball or something. These guys never play together. The the whole national the national team barely ever gets together. These line ups never play together. Why are you trying to do all of this, like sophisticated like line up passing type stuff just like bash the ball down? Use your superior talent and just like be super aggressive and try to score some goal. Like it’s a very I’m an unsophisticated soccer viewer and commentator, but it just seems like they’re trying too hard and like trying to, like, be too smart when it’s just really not what’s called for in these situations.

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S3: I mean, I think that that that sounds right to me. I mean, I’m I’m even less of a sophisticated soccer person than you are. But I mean, I do think that coaches often over think things, especially when you have a group of players who are maybe extremely talented but don’t know each other’s patterns and habits and can’t anticipate, especially a group that is as young as the soccer team is, this, you know, the national team is I mean, we just saw it in the, you know, the Olympics with the USA Basketball. I mean, it’s it’s not like those guys are bad basketball players, but it took them a minute, you know, to figure out how to play together. And you know, I think the one thing that we’ve seen on the women’s side with their overwhelming success is that they played together for for so long and played together so much and that massive. We know that that’s a big part of their success and it’s going to take a while, probably for this team. And it’s also going to take some intelligence from their coaches to figure out not to make things hard on them.

S2: I don’t I don’t think Josh that it’s a it’s a question of, you know, changing style so much or like playing tiki taka soccer. It’s really a question of the history of the United States’s relationship with these other CONCACAF countries on the field. This is the sort of over thinking and and and over managing which we saw in these games from the coach, Gregg Berhalter, who should have been fired if they had not won against Honduras, is that it’s borne of like 30 years of not being that much better than Honduras or El Salvador and not believing that we should beat every one of these teams in our region, except for Mexico and maybe Costa Rica by three or four goals every time they step on the field with them because they are that much better as soccer players, even the 18 and 19 year olds that are on this team. And, you know, so the El Salvador is in the Honduras. I, with all due respect, are ranked, you know, 50th and 60th in the world for a reason. And until I think the mentality is adopted by everybody in the U.S. program, that there is no excuse for not winning these games by multiple goals, it’s still going to be a struggle, particularly on the road. But maybe that second half against Honduras showed the coaching staff and the players, too, that, you know what, we should just be ramming the ball down these teams throats and scoring four goals that will.

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S1: I just love how much this turns you into, like a dumb sports program, really.

S2: I just and I enjoy happy that I get to do this once in a while. For that,

S1: I enjoy it so, so much. Yeah, I think you’re right. I think the fair criticism is not about they’re trying to pass the ball too much. It’s more about in that Honduras game, like playing guys out of position, playing them, playing a formation that they hadn’t played before. Why not? If you have the superior talent, play the same formation every game, and Berhalter does have a preferred formation and get the players on the team used to it. And then you can like, plug and play different guys, like if players aren’t fit or if you know you need to rotate players, just plug them into it. You don’t need to outsmart these teams. You don’t need to do anything that they haven’t seen before, or they’re not expecting what you saw in the second half of that game. And I think a part of it was this was the third game in a short period of time. Honduras players were clearly gassed, and so a pressing style and a more aggressive attacking style was more inclined to work then than it did in the first half or in these earlier games.

S2: And credit to Halder for making subs early, which he didn’t do against Canada. He went into like the 80th minute to bring on fresh legs.

S1: Yeah, but I do. I do think that there is. I think you’re right that somebody like Landon Donovan, who is incredibly smart and thoughtful and not unlike back in my day, a guy he is actually I. I think a little bit of a prisoner of the past here, because this is a different era, and so a result that was good in 2004 or in, you know, a pick some other random year. It actually isn’t a good result for this team anymore. But Stefan the problem isn’t that they, like, have a mentality where they don’t think they should win these games. I mean, Tyler Adams, the captain and the most vocal leader on the team, went into this three game series and said, We’re going to win all three games and get nine points. And then he was criticized for being naive and not understanding the rigors of CONCACAF. I mean, it’s I feel like it’s less about thinking about it and having the mentality and more about just like getting out there and doing it. But like, look out after all of that and have like, decent position to qualify. A bunch of new players made debuts. Ricardo Pepe, the 18 year old Luis, scored a goal and had, you know, a great assist and looks great and is like, maybe finally a guy in that position who can score. And so it’s not. Don’t don’t listen to Stefan Betts. No, it’s not all. It’s not all gloom and doom.

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S3: They just need to believe in themselves, right?

S2: It’s not all gloom and doom. Josh You’re right, and I am I for all of this and this is just like a party. Do you like what you like to call this? Supposed to be angry?

S1: You like to cosplay the gloom and doom guy and,

S2: you know, irrationally exuberant and after forty five minutes of joy?

S1: Yeah. And these games are, you know, scoring is so difficult and one kind of shot off, you know, a Christian Pulisic shot off that the post like changes the result of that Canada game and, you know, a Stefan for all of your like shit talking of of all these other countries, I mean, the best player in the region, if it’s not Pulisic, is Alphonso Davies of Canada. And the goal that they scored was just a moment of brilliance by him and that there are some problems with the U.S. defense in that play. But like, you’ve got to give credit to one of the best players in the world making a great play for his country.

S2: Fatsis Oh, totally, totally. And I guess the flip side is that we have great players in the world now too. Well, not great players in the world, but we have really good players and some of them are doing dumb ass things. Luisa, like Weston McKennie, who was sent home and didn’t play in the last two games in this qualifying window because he broke Covid protocol. Apparently he brought in unauthorized guest to his hotel room and went out the night before that too. So speaking of growing up, you know, they are still young, but this struck me initially as like, All right, you missed the Canada game, really. You’re going to send them home for the Honduras game and jeopardize qualifying. But I guess since it worked out, it is a message to Weston McKennie to grow up. I don’t know. Landon Donovan was pissed about that, too, and

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S3: well, he should have been. I mean, how hard is it to slip by yourself one night?

S1: Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, honestly. And he had hosted a party when he was at Juventus and Italy and gotten suspended by his team for that. So on the one hand, where you said Luis, on the other hand, if we’re being like, maximally generous, we can say this is the pandemic. It’s really hard to be by yourself. I mean, the thing in Italy is a way more understandable, like it’s hard to be by yourself in a country that you’re not from with not that many people that you know in in isolation for a very long period of time and you have some people over like that is seems totally excusable in this case. It’s like you’re in a hotel trying to qualify for the World Cup, just like get it together did. It really doesn’t make much sense and definitely does. You don’t want I don’t want to like I, and I don’t want to like, you know, make it out like he’s some evil person. But it does really make you question someone’s judgment, and this is very poor judgment.

S2: Before we wrap up the segment, I wanted to mention on the women’s side, Christen Press of the US Women’s National Team announced that she was going to step away from soccer to focus on her mental health. She said I’ve made the difficult decision to take some time away from the game to focus on my mental health, spiritual growth and processing grief. So her mom had died in 2019 at a very young age. I think she was 58, and this all came right. As press was still a couple of weeks after press was announced as the marquee first signing for a new expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League in Los Angeles. Angel City FC and it is obviously the latest example of an. Fleet stepping away from her sport.

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S3: You know, I mean, Angel City has made a very big deal about being a new kind of football team, you know, a more empathetic, more community base, more more everything, you know, more progressive. And here is a real example of that in some ways. You know, the person who is the face in the team, the only face of the team right now and the person who’s embraced being the face of the team is now saying she’s she’s stepping away from the sport. I think it’s good that she’s taking the time away, obviously, and she can get her herself to a place where she’s excited to come back to it. It’s also a test, you know, I mean, I think that there is so much public excitement about this expansion team, and there’s a kind of assumption that this is going to be who’s going to change everything for women’s sports? And maybe it will. But you know, it’s it’s it is a kind of test of that philosophy. And so, yeah, it’ll be interesting to see see what happens

S2: if you go to that team’s website right now, it’s all Christen Press not about her stepping away from the team, but about buying her jersey shop. New Christen Press merch now, and the team has billed itself as not just another football club. We’re not even a women’s football club, which kind of is a weird thing to to. Tagline. So I assume the assumption or the hope here is that she takes the winter off, which, you know, soccer players play way too much. Yes, she takes these months off. She does. She’s not going to play in the four upcoming meaningless U.S. Women’s National Team exhibition games, which are a sort of send off for a Carli Lloyd. And then this this new team has to hope that she’s she’s willing and able to play come spring.

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S1: It is crazy how much they play, especially like for like these U.S. men’s players. You know, they play three games in this 10 day window, traveling all of these miles, then go a lot of them back across the Atlantic, and some of them were playing immediately for their teams again their club teams over the weekend, like something I think needs to be done with all these like international windows and how long the club season is. And there’s talk ridiculous talk of having the World Cup every two years now, which I would like. You know, you’d like to dismiss it and say it’s not going to happen, but who the hell knows? And and that sport

S2: the only good idea in there is Rory Smith pointed out in the New York Times was a suggestion from Arsene Wenger, who is sort of FIFA’s now like consultant on these sort of big picture issues is to create a solid qualifying window for the World Cup that would last like a month or five weeks rather than breaking these up during the season. And that feels to me like something that should be explored, both because it would be really interesting to have the sort of mini tournament lasting a few weeks that would settle once and for all who’s going to make the World Cup and also create a sort of more rational travel schedule for players who are forced to fly all around the world to compete for their countries in these windows?

S3: I am generally a fan of localizing all of the stuff, you know, cutting down windows more back to back to something more like what the NBA did this this season, you know, to try to make things a little bit saner. But yeah, I mean, these soccer players are traveling many, many, many thousands of miles every month, and it’s it’s insane.

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S1: Now it is time for after balls and for people who listen to last week’s after ball segment, I must inform you that biotech vendors on troop lost in his quarter final match to Daniil Medvedev, but he took a set of a Medvedev, the only man in the tournament to do so. So congratulations to biotech Luiza. Who else should we be knowing about or remembering from this year’s U.S. Open?

S3: Well, there were actually were two golden slams. Juan Novak Djokovic was unable to pull it off, but the two wheelchair singles finalists Diede Groot and Dylan Alcott both achieved golden slams, winning not only all four grand slams and wheelchair tennis, but also their Olympic gold medals. So huge congratulations to them.

S1: All right, Stefan, what is your Diede? The Groot and Dylan Alcott a double after ball. Name what an honor!

S2: The 2021 22 Champions League begins group play this week. The usual suspects you’re Manchester City’s, your Bayern Munich’s you’re Barcelona’s. Of course they are all there, but so are the unfamiliar names that round out the field. And this year that includes FC Sherif Tiraspol, the first club from Moldova ever to qualify. On the surface, this sounds like a classic good sports story plucky team with funny name from tiny nation crashes. The Grown UPS Party Moldova, which I would struggle to locate on a blank map, is a former Soviet socialist republic surrounded by Ukraine and Romania. Its population is less than three million. It exports some wine. It’s one of the poorest countries in Europe after winning the top Moldovan division for the 19th time in 21 seasons. Sheriff knocked off to Utah of Albania, a lost carrot of Armenia, Red Star Belgrade of Serbia and Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia to qualify for the Champions League. And now the Wasps, as they are known, begin play on Wednesday at home against Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine and travel in the coming weeks to face Real Madrid and Inter Milan. But Sherif isn’t your typical underdog tale. For starters, the team is based in the capital of a Russian backed breakaway state called Transnistria that’s recognized only by a few other unrecognised breakaway states. And the cute name Will FC. Sherif is part of a holding company named Sherif that was formed in the early 1990s and is controlled by two former KGB officers. An excellent 2019 article in Foreign Policy magazine says that Sherif monopolizes and controls almost every aspect of life in Transnistria, from supermarkets to gas stations to a TV station to construction, liquor and cell phone companies. Sheriff has been accused of money laundering, illegal trade in cigarettes, alcohol and food, contributing to electoral fraud and even of plotting a coup in Transnistria, which it has denied. Sheriff The football club was founded in 1997 by the company’s oligarchs, Viktor Gershon and Ilya Cosmology. A few years later, it built a lavish $200 million stadium complex. Sheriff has achieved Moldovan football dominance the same way that Man City and PSG have by buying up talent. Its competitors can’t afford. The team’s roster includes players from 19 countries, including three Brazilians named Fernando, Cristiano and Bruno. Three Greeks, two Colombians, one Trinidadian and a Luxembourg. And seven players from six African nations. Many of them are young and are sold to teams slightly higher up the European soccer food chain. I read a bunch of stories about how Moldova has been tilting west in elections. In July, a pro-Western party rooted a pro-Russian one and is attempting to combat staggering domestic corruption and illegal trade, which has in turn helped push Transnistria toward Moldova and away from Russia. But I would also recommend a much more jaundiced, rollicking Twitter thread written by a Soviet born sometime sportswriter who lives in Baltimore named Slava Malamud. Malema begins by noting that he grew up 15 minutes from Tiraspol. Transnistria, he writes, considers itself the last functioning outpost of the Soviet Union, an entire country living in nineteen ninety one as if nothing happened. There’s actually a statue of Lenin and a Karl Marx street in Tiraspol, and the Transnistria flag features a hammer and sickle. Malema describes the sad history of Moldovan football. The national team is currently ranked 175th in the world. The shady workings of Sheriff, the company, the lavish stadium, literally the only modern building in. The entire country, malaman says the only building of any size without Soviet mold growing on it and the assemblage of foreign players hired to play in it. Money’s got to get laundered somehow right now, Hamid says. And finally, now the bizarro anomaly of a team from Moldova, but also not from Moldova playing the likes of Real Madrid. Never let anyone tell you not to dream big kids, Malamud writes in that Twitter thread. There is nothing, nothing that positivity. Hard work, a secret nation building, KGB plot and an international gun trafficking ring can’t accomplish. It’s probably also worth mentioning that sheriff’s opponent on Wednesday. Shakhtar Donetsk is owned by a Ukrainian oligarch named Rinat Akhmetov, who was named by Paul Manafort in court documents as part of the former Trump campaign manager’s work with Russia backing political parties in war torn Ukraine. That team is nicknamed the moles, wasps, moles oligarch. The oligarch should be a good match.

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S1: Do you think there’s a Moldovan Sports podcast where the host is like furrowing his brow and worrying about having to support his local hometown and super team despite the, you know, compromises that must be made morally?

S2: I would hope so.

S3: Maybe he’s on the payroll, though, so you know everyone else’s.

S1: All right. Well, we’ll all be tuning in Wednesday Stefan. Look forward to an update that is our show for today. Our producer this week was Kevin Bendis, plus Natasha’s unsubscribe or just reach out. Go to Slate.com slash hang up. You can email us at Hang Up at Slate.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Louisa Thomas, thank you so much.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S1: For Stefan Fatsis Cam Josh Levin remembers, I’m over 80 and thanks for listening.

S2: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Let’s continue our football conversation, shall we? We didn’t get to the Washington football team, which has been getting lots of good press in recent months. You know, it’s got a new front office trying to do the right thing, trying to race the stench of these sexual harassment allegations against Dan Snyder and others around the team who run the team.

S1: What have they said about a stench?

S2: Stefan Cam might have been a deliberate choice of words because of things on Sunday took a turn for the worse in Washington. They had signed Ryan caught Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard grad 38 year old now still has a giant beard as their quarterback. He went down very early with a hip injury and then a pipe broke in the stadium, dousing fans with water.

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S5: That’s huge. That’s how we.

S3: It was rainwater, Stefan rainwater.

S2: That’s what that’s what FedEx Field said. Louisa, do you believe them?

S1: I look forward

S3: to. Not for a second.

S1: The investigative work that will go into this, I demand

S2: fecal coliform count from the water that fell out of the luxury suites and onto fans.

S1: What is it that the team said it was? Here’s a WFP spokesperson. The leak came from a storage tank filled with rainwater. We gave the fans S. The option to move to a suite for the rest of the game, and we’re going to give them tickets to a game of their choice in the future. They were also given Washington football team gear.

S3: Well, you know, they needed it

S2: like a poncho with a boot.

S3: Exactly.

S1: First prize was not getting Washington football team there, but I’m. So yeah, I mean, this team was I mean, they made the playoffs, as I recall, seven or nine. They won the division last year, but and they have one of the best defenses and the NFL and in Ranford, Pat Fitzpatrick, they have at least a competent NFL quarterback. There was an extremely plausible scenario whereby this team was going to be improved this season and then Fitzpatrick got hurt. Sewage water, they lost. I just am so delighted when this team does port. It’s one of it’s one of my great joys in life.

S3: Louisa Betts. I’m forgetting grumbling on your own three yard line.

S2: Did they see that tree?

S3: Yeah, they did that. Yeah. Missed a field goal. I mean, it was all happening. Hey, hey,

S2: hey, hey, hey. No blaming kickers for missing field goal field goals get missed. Hard to do.

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S1: All right. But Stefan mentions the the good press. Let’s talk a little bit about the bad press, Louise. Tanya Snyder is now supposedly running the team, while Dan Snyder is in self-imposed, allegedly self-imposed exile after the results of this investigation into the team’s toxic culture. So tell us a little bit about Tanya Snyder’s leadership has looked and sounded like

S3: she gave a interview with Adam Schefter in which she sort of this was supposed to be her sort of like her coming out, you know, her sort of becoming the public face of the team, a kinder, gentler team, of course, these days. And she talked a lot about how how difficult the previous year had been. She said, I think it’s the cross between, I don’t know, a crime show and a nightmare movie. She was not actually talking about the experience of the women who have, you know, been in enmeshed in this culture, this very toxic from everything we know, really horrific culture. But actually her own family is experience poor, poor Dan Snyder had people saying mean things about him, she said. I think it’s the pain from our family, from my children, and just a lot of the tough times that we’ve gone through. And just as you know, the media, it is what it is. Everybody’s going to say whatever to which I say whatever. And a lot of people who went through it, Meghan Amber, who work for the team from twenty eight to twenty eleven, wrote on Twitter, So sorry for what you’ve endured the past year, Tanya. Imagine living it. Others followed suit. It’s it’s a pretty. It was a pretty demoralizing interview. You can talk about changing the culture all you want and then something like that happens and you see how far we’ve actually gotten

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S1: very snide area. And dare I say, I mean, Jason Wright, the guy that they hired to run the team, basically, I mean, has really good credentials. People say positive things about him, but it’s just hard to imagine anything ever changing with this organization for as long as the Snyders are in charge. And do I actually believe that? Let me think about it. I mean, it’s. Is there a scenario Stefan in which the Snyders remain terrible, say and do terrible things and yet manage to let people who actually know stuff about football put together a team? I mean, they have put together a really good defense. We’ve seen NFL teams transform on the field in very unexpected ways. I mean, it’s only week one, and as we know, there are 17 games to sort things out during the regular season. Is it actually plausible that the Snyders wouldn’t have to change at all for the product on the field to improve? And then for there maybe to be a Jameis Winston halo that conflates their on-field success with their off field like change of heart and mind or something?

S2: Well, I mean, 20 years of failure would argue to be extremely suspicious of that happening. I mean, but it’s also true that there have been plenty of loathsome owners in professional sports who have achieved success because of their hires of front office personnel and of players. And that’s plausible here, too. I mean, you’re right, the Jason writes. Hiring former player African-Americans sort change the the the, you know, very open about changing the culture of the place was a great hire. Ron Rivera, the head coach, has been pretty progressive about getting players vaccinated for Covid. And all of these were sort of signs that Snyder was stepping away. But this reflects that these people can’t stay out of the spotlight. I mean, it is truly remarkable that this woman made herself and her husband and her family out to be the victims of what’s been reported by The Washington Post. And what happened to more than two dozen? Two dozen women who worked in this organization over the last decade, plus they will never earn any sympathy, certainly even if the team, you know, manages to win a few more football games.

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S1: There’s also this saga of the name we’re down to eight, apparently.

S2: Can I interrupt you, though? Josh because I went back and I found a a 1999 profile in The Washington Post of Tanya Snyder, in which she says, and I quote about herself and her husband were very humble people.

S1: Proceed, sure. With humility, I will note that the finalists are read hugs, defenders, armada presidents, brigade commanders, red wolves, Washington football team and the Snyders, the Washington insiders. That’s not. It’s not really on the list. I’m surprised that they’re so humble as to face themselves, you know, not include themselves on this list, Louisa. That’s a sign of progress.

S2: Clearly, that’s not like any of these women, either. But just all the while. I mean, pick an animal. That’s fine. I mean, you know, our modern defenders, brigade commanders give me a break.

S3: I’m sort of surprised that our model was allowed to say this is not a sort of like a picnic in these days, is it?

S2: I don’t know. Just go with Carlos. I mean, we get it over with, you know, the pandas.

S3: That’s a good one.

S2: Thank you.

S1: Well, tune in in weeks to come to see if the Washington football team listens to their unpaid advisor, Mr. Fatsis. Louisa, thanks again for doing the show. It was a delight.

S2: Thank you and thank you, Slate Plus members for being Slate Plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.