S1: The following podcast includes explicit language, in other words, might get a little blue in here. Hope you can handle it.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor. And this is Hang Up and listen for the week of June 7th. Twenty twenty one on this week’s show, Sam Anderson will join us to talk about his story in the New York Times magazine on the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant in the asteroid crash that formed Chesapeake Bay, which, trust me, makes more sense in context. We’ll also talk about the U.S. men’s national team’s win over Mexico in the Conflict Nations League final and what it portends for U.S. soccer. And finally, we’ll have a conversation about the impending retirement of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. What we make of Coach K’s accomplishments and legacy. I’m in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Queen, the host of Slow Burn Season four on David Duke and the upcoming one year. Going to have to trim those credits down a little bit, but we can work that out in weeks to come. Also in D.C. is Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak. In a few Seconds of Panic, many other fine books and articles tell us, Stefan. Hey, Josh. Hi. With us from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, host of Slover in season three, the upcoming Celebratin Season six, and many fine articles, podcasts and other various and sundry products. So, Anderson. Hello, Joe.
S1: Hey, you really giving me a lot of credit? I’m only working on one thing that isn’t this right now.
S3: So you’ve worked on many things.
S1: That’s fair. But I guess I get to carry my, you know, our resume with me, my CV with me. So. Yeah, sure.
S2: And what a thing it is. The thing that you’re working on. Let’s not let’s not underplay
S1: interviews and interviews going on
S2: right now. This podcast in history is that that’s that’s true. During the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played only around two hundred minutes together. Each of those dudes missed a bunch of games due to injuries and and Kyrie Irving case being Kyrie Irving in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics, we finally got to see what it looked like when they were on the court for an extended period of time and what that looked like was extreme dominance. But then in the first minute of the Eastern Conference semis against the Milwaukee Bucks, Harden left the floor with a tight hamstring. It was the same one that caused him to miss a bunch of time before the playoffs. But the good thing about having a big three is that three minus one is two. And the Nets beat the Bucs one fifteen one to seven, even without the beard. Joining us now is Sam Anderson. He’s the author of the excellent book Boomtown, as well as a piece for the New York Times magazine headlined Kevin Durant and Parentheses, possibly the greatest basketball team of all time. Sam, welcome. And it’s hard to say when things are in parentheses, in audio form. So, yeah, I best
S4: say those parentheses really loud because a lot of people miss them. And obviously, you know, as a writer, I didn’t write that headline. I wouldn’t have written that headline, but I got a lot of loud sports dudes in my mentions lately arguing that headline.
S2: Well, we are quiet sports dudes who will have a nice, polite conversation about your excellent story. Now, beyond the headline. And I wanted to start where your piece does. Can you explain why you wanted to tell Kevin Durant about an asteroid and how that ended up playing out? I want the whole scene. Well, first, I want your thinking about the asteroid, but then I want you to describe the whole scene of like Sam Anderson sits down and tells Kevin Durant. So here’s what I want to talk to you about today.
S4: OK, great question. I mean, originally, this story was going to be just a big giant cover story about the Brooklyn Nets, the phenomenon of the Brooklyn Nets. And I kind of got into that reporting and all the frustrations of trying to report an NBA story during a pandemic. You can’t go in the locker room. You can’t get anywhere near the floor. You know, I’m talking to guys on the team for fifteen minutes on the phone, and that’s like the extent of our contact. You just can’t really get the color and the things I need to write the way I like to write. So eventually I was able to get in touch with Durant through his kind of corporate arm and get some real significant time with him. And so the focus of the story shifted a bit. And I’ve always wanted to go deep on Kevin Durant. I mean, like like all of us, I’ve been thinking about him for fifteen years, pretty much nonstop and wondering about him. And I thought
S2: maybe you’re part of your book and.
S4: Oh yeah, because I’ve been around him a lot and I’ve kind of observed him a lot and have always been really struck by just I think he’s a unique human being in a totally bizarre place for that kind of human to be in the world of professional sports. So it’s kind of a dream come true to have some time to sit down with him. And so in advance of the interview, I had a lot of time to think about how I wanted to approach that and. He’s been profiled really well by Zach Barron and GQ a couple of times and other people, and so I wanted to get to stuff that hadn’t been got to before. And, you know, I really wanted to situate him kind of in American history, like like if America is speaking to us through Kevin Durant, what is America telling us? And so I started researching pretty deeply the history of the place he grew up, which is which is right outside Washington, D.C., right off the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, Prince George’s County, Maryland. And I just went deep down that rabbit hole and read all about Prince George, like, who the hell was Prince George like? This is a kind of basketball mecca in Maryland. And like Prince George was this this Danish aristocrat who was born in a castle in Copenhagen and never even came to the U.S. and they named this county, you know, in his honor. And it’s just like all this bizarre stuff.
S2: And to be clear, this was not in the piece at all.
S4: No, no, no. This is so much it didn’t make it into the piece. I mean, Maryland is a fascinating place.
S2: We’re getting the DVD extras now.
S4: Yeah. In a million different ways. You know, I could it could have gotten civil war history. I could have gone more Frederick Douglass like like so much stuff just kind of got squished into three sentences that could have been, you know, the twenty thousand words. And the shorthand for that kind of became for me, this asteroid thirty five million years ago, because it was almost like in a way, it was like almost giving the middle finger from me as a writer to the kind of superficial hot take sports media that happens so much around someone like Kevin Durant, like what’s happened with him in the last two weeks or six months. If we want to go real deep. And I wanted to say like, no, who is this guy? Like, in the context of world and human history, like where does where does his family come from? And so that ended up I just just reading about that region. I discovered this thirty five million year old asteroid that I’d never heard of that kind of blasted the East Coast and then ended up forming the Chesapeake Bay. What we know is the Chesapeake Bay. And so it was almost like a joke. You know, it was like this kind of like like a joke about going deep on somebody. And I thought he had the kind of brain that would appreciate that. And so I threw it out. There just is like it just is like a wild flyer. And if he didn’t pick it up, I would have let it go immediately. But but we sat down in his office and he said, what do you want to talk about? And in a very, like, open and relaxed way. And I was like, man, I want to talk about everything, like the meaning of life. I want to go deep. And he’s like, oh, great. He’s like, I don’t get to do that very often. Like, let’s do it. So I was like, you know, to understand who a person is, we got to go back to where they’re from and how not only where they’re from, but how that place became the place it is. And we got to go way back and like I was just reading about this asteroid and I started telling him the story and he was like, holy shit. Like, you’re blowing my mind right now, 35 million years. Like and so he was just into it. And that set the tone for our whole conversation. And he said something. I quote him in the piece. He said, like you saying that you just took me down a deep hole right now. And so he’s always had this instinct to be kind of like this. Is this like existentialist who thinks about things like like like think about the whole history of humanity. We’re so small. He’s always saying stuff like that. So I thought there was a chance and he picked it up and, you know, I didn’t think I would use it in the piece, actually, but I ended up starting with it.
S1: I find it really interesting that your story dropped the week after everyone had this sort of tangential, misguided debate about athlete press obligations, because like obviously, Kevin Durant has his own production company and media ambitions, but he still makes these regular appearances in other media outlets. And so when you talk to him, you said it felt less like an interview than a therapy session or late night dorm room philosophy check. So, like, how much time did you get with him? And you talked about him asking you questions, which is I mean, all of us, a journalist. And if you’ve been an athlete, locker rooms, it’s very, very rare, exceedingly rare for an athlete to ask you a question about yourself under these circumstances. So, like, how did that like how did that go down?
S4: It’s funny, going through the Brooklyn Nets organization, I got the sense right away that they could not get me, even if they wanted to, could not get me Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or James Harden, just like the Big Three were off the table. And my total speculation. But I feel like. Could you show us. Yeah, I talked to Joe Harris, Jeff
S4: Steve Nash and Shaun Marks.
S2: I mean it’s funny, but it does show like these are how hierarchies work and this is how the NBA works.
S4: That’s like the player empowerment era. And I think, you know, speculation, but I think. I think part of these this level of player coming to a place like Brooklyn that’s very player friendly, it was like, guys, we’re not going to hassle you with media obligations in the way you used to be 10 years ago. So I couldn’t get them. So I emailed through like his his corporate arm and got a response right away. And they were just like into it for some reason. And they really wanted to highlight his business ventures and all that. So, so so I got invited to 35 ventures, corporate headquarters, four to hang out for a day basically. And I would have some one on one time with Kevin in there and I asked for it. I can’t remember what I asked for, but we agreed on an hour in his PR woman was like, I can’t imagine, you know, he’s kind of a quiet guy. I can’t imagine him really talking for an hour. So I said, let’s just do it and see how it goes. So. I go in, I’m hanging out, I’m getting the vibe of the place Katie comes and right away he pulls me aside, pulls me into his office and says, let’s do this interview. And we start talking about the asteroid and all that. And we’re going strong for pretty much for like an hour. And I’m like, we’re coming to the end of our time. And he’s like, oh, I got to go do like meetings and stuff. But but I want to keep going. So he goes off and does a meeting with Nike and he does a podcast with ESPN and then he pulls me into a different office and he’s and he’s just like just hanging out. I mean, just as relaxed as could be and just wants to talk about whatever I want to talk about. And he’s showing me the lock screen on his phone and I’m asking if I can look at his Twitter mentions and like, all of a sudden he’s just willing to go anywhere, you know, ask them, like, what’s your what my favorite interview question. What’s your very first memory? And he just went there back to being like two years old, strapped into a stroller on the porch at his grandma’s house. And like, it was great. I mean, he was just like he was present. And this is what I talked to Kevin Durant for a total of 17 minutes before this back in 2012. And I always remember that conversation because he was deep in seventeen minutes. He was deep. And he told me this childhood story that I use in my book about a time his dad came back and like essentially like kind of roughed him up in the driveway and bullied him in a game of one on one that was like really deep and meaningful to him. And and so so I got essentially two hours of that. And it was I kind of expected him to be in corporate mode, but he was in complete full on Kevin Durant chill philosopher mode, and it was awesome.
S3: Did it surprise you, though? I mean, what we know publicly about Durant is that he goes there, right? He’s this vulnerable, open, sometimes immature or juvenile on Twitter, arguing with with people dying in him in his mansions that we know that that’s there. But what you know, what the the profile did for me was make me understand him better, that this isn’t just sort of an insecure guy who’s, you know, who were grafting our own impressions as fans on to this is actually genuinely interesting, dude, who likes to think about shit that isn’t basketball or business.
S4: Yeah, totally. Totally. I was worried that his evolution would have stamped some of that out of him and that he would have been, like I said, kind of on message and pushing the brand. But but he wasn’t that at all. No, he was who I expected, but more so and. I I’ve always wanted to know more about I knew kind of the general outlines of his childhood and all that stuff, and I just wanted to get in there with him and and go as deep as I could go on all that. And so, yeah, I mean, that’s that’s who he is. He’s like he’s like in some ways he’s kind of emotionally like still very much back there in his childhood and other ways he’s like out sort of exploring the world, trying to find what what he’s going to resonate with. I mean, he’s such a kind of searcher. I did leave the conversation thinking like. Back in twenty sixteen, you know, when he made that free agency decision that lit the world on fire, like I really thought from my OKC perspective, like I really thought it was like 80, 20, he was staying in Oklahoma City. I look back at that now after this conversation I had with him, after seeing what he’s done since and like, that is insane. He was never going to stay in Oklahoma City like any he’s not going to stay in Brooklyn like this guy is not staying anywhere. This guy’s going to end up living on Mars and like starting a basketball league on Mars or something like this guy is just looking for something and always will be.
S2: So I now feel like a little bit of a dick for starting the segment by talking about like one to one seven and two hundred minutes. Like, all of that seems just so mundane now and that my pivot here is like the reason we care about this guy is because he is in many ways the best at what he does, like even on this big three he transcends and even in this sport where there’s never been more talent ever he transcends. You have a sentence. Durant wondered out loud, for instance, why he has devoted his entire life to basketball. And so there is that central conflict and we have it with all of our great athletes and particularly the thoughtful ones. Is that why if you are somebody who has this questing nature and who has so many interests and who thinks about things beyond basketball, has he devoted his entire existence to this game and the sport to such an extent that he has mastered it? Do you feel like you have any better answer to that question than you did going in?
S4: I feel like I kind of confirmed with him what I suspected, which was, you know, and it’s hard to say how much of this is me projecting, because part of why I identify with this guy is I feel like I have a similar story, like I came from a very in certain ways, unstable childhood. And the thing I latched on to really hard as a teenager was was wanting to become a writer and make make a name for myself in writing. And I think he latched on to the stability of basketball, like age seven, eight, nine, and became, as I say in the piece, this kind of monk of basketball and really lived his life with this aesthetic religious devotion.
S2: And so you think that the mistake that you made is thinking that he would want to latch onto the stability of Oklahoma City?
S2: Realizing that as long as basketball was like basketball would be wherever he went.
S4: Exactly. He belongs to the religion of basketball and not to any specific church of basketball. And he’ll go anywhere. Yeah, I think that’s what I didn’t realize. And he talked in those terms a lot. He is the in one of the quotes I use, he says something about like if you look at it from a universe perspective, and I really latched onto that because he was always doing that, like the universe perspective, like like and this is something that got cut out of the piece, too. But something is interesting about where he comes from is like people always say, he grew up in Seat Pleasant. And that turns out to just be this kind of convenient shorthand. That’s the name of this little tiny area of Prince George’s County where the rec center was that he played a lot of his grandmother’s house, which was the center of his life, was actually in Capital Heights, Maryland. But as he pointed out to me, it’s all as he said, it’s all the same shit, like it’s all the same place. It’s like you walk two minutes and you’re crossing, like into D.C. and then into Seat Pleasant and back to Capitol Heights and then to Fairmount Heights and like it’s just like one hundred thousand separate towns that are the same thing. And so I feel like that. Maybe set the cast of his mind a little bit because he did that about everything, he was like I was like, what about playing for like the fans in Brooklyn, like the most diverse fan base in US sports? Like, does that matter to you? And he is like, no, not really. It’s all one fan base. The NBA, like, you just go up a little bit and like all the teams are essentially the same. And like and the way he addressed the super team issue, like the controversy of players having too much power and forming super teams, he’s like, look, he’s like front offices have been doing this for the entire history of the league, like they’re always stealing each other’s best talent. Coaches are running each other’s best plays. Training staffs are using all the same equipment. They’re using all the same techniques like the like promotional. People are using the same promotions like it’s all the same. It’s just one big giant league. And we all just need to be looking at it as we’re all in the same team and we’re working together and like we get competition on the floor. But but in reality, we’re just all one big entity. And he was always doing that thing where he’s like rising up 300 miles above and looking down and seeing that we’re all just connected. So so, yeah, that was that was a long way of answering that. But I think the details that we argue about and scream about whether he’s playing for this team or that team, whether he likes this team or that team, I don’t think mattered to him that fundamentally.
S3: And isn’t that one of the fundamental distinctions with between Durant and other megastars like LeBron James or Michael Jordan? You draw one comparison in the piece where you say where James appears to be visibly calculating his next move at every moment, often in corporate terms, Durant tends to follow his feelings. And when we think of Michael Jordan, we think about this uber competitive control freak. Durant doesn’t seem to embody any of those characteristics, and yet he is still one of the greatest basketball players of his or any generation. Does that distinction matter to him? Does he view those guys differently or does he just accept the way he’s built and just go out and play basketball as well as they do?
S4: Yeah, I think the second one of those, I think he accepts that. I mean, you catch him in a certain mood. He’ll probably say that he’s just like those guys and he’s hyper competitive. And I think, you know, he he talks a lot of junk on the floor and like, he really gets into it with people and he contains all of that stuff. But, yeah, the top note of Kevin Durant is very different from Kobe or Michael or that that kind of like sociopathic drive. He’s just way more chill, is way more chill. And it’s and that’s part of the novelty of it is watching that guy with that personality be right up there with the greatest basketball player you’re ever going to see. I mean, other than, you know, rather than someone like Russell Westbrook who has the Kobe thing, who has that almost superhuman crazy drive. So it’s like trying to understand how a guy this relaxed and thoughtful also has that Michael Jordan drive. I still don’t quite understand that. I think that’s something that’s kind of ineffable and part of the fascination of this guy.
S2: Sam Anderson is the author of the book Boomtown and his piece headlined headline I Read by Sam Kevin Durant and possibly the greatest basketball team of all time from the New York Times Magazine. We’ll link to it on our show page. Sam, thanks so much.
S4: Thanks. My pleasure.
S3: After Sunday night’s instant classic between the men’s national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico, our friend Spencer Hall tweeted, a guy jumped off the broadcast set and presumably straight into hell. And it wasn’t the tenth wildest thing. I counted at least 14 things that were arguably wilder, not including first time commentator and longtime U.S. hero Clint Dempsey’s camouflage sports coat. In the end, the USA came from behind twice to win three to two on a Christian pulisic penalty kick in like the four hundred and thirty third minute of play and collected the very first CONCACAF Nations League Championship Trophy. Joel, you never forget your first CONCACAF Nations League Championship. The relatively low stakes, however, should not obscure either the utter insanity of this match or what it indicated about the future and even present of the men’s team, which are rather significant. I think you watched did you order a Western McKenny jersey right after the game? Because you should have you know, he was born in little Allen, Texas.
S1: I you know, I’m just now learning because this Western McKinnie person. But you said low stakes. The way people reacted yesterday, I thought that this was actually meaningful in some sort of way, that it meant that you qualified for the World Cup. I don’t you know, I guess I get confused because there’s so many CONCACAF competitions in the U.S. men’s team is on TV every few months and everybody gathers around the TV to root for them and everybody gets really excited or dramatic about the result. And then you find out, oh, wait, that actually doesn’t have anything to do with like World
S3: Cup to team soccer fandom. JOL Yeah, yeah. It matters because there are so few games. Right. So this was an actual competition. And there is this distinction that between like a friendly match or a match where, you know, where the manager is trying out new players and something that actually has a title. So, you know, I set relatively low stakes because, no, it’s not qualifying the World Cup. This is a bullshit manufactured tournament that is designed to generate some TV revenue in the absence, sort of instead of a friendly match that has no prize attached. But, Josh, there were real stakes here and that was like are all of these young, terrific European based players who are being thrown on the field together for basically the first time in any meaningful competition and in the run up to the qualification for next year’s actual World Cup, how would they do? How did they do?
S2: Are you getting, you know, with ping ponging back and forth between calling it meaningful and meaningless about six to eight times? And that are you getting is meaningless?
S3: The the game itself and the what it portends are meaningful. It is possible to hold those two contradictory thoughts at once.
S2: Yes, we’re complicated people with complicated thoughts. So it was the first, quote unquote, competitive match for the US men’s national team in over five hundred days. And it was meaningful for the fan base because there’s been this sense of anticipation of will this be the generation to both kind of redeem the failures of the team, the loss to Trinidad in twenty seventeen and didn’t make the World Cup, but also in a larger sense, to bring the United States men’s team to international glory. And Mexico is the measuring stick and has always been and probably will always be the measuring stick for the US men’s national team. And it’s gone back and forth of who’s been the most dominant in the region. But I think there is always this anxiety about how to stack up against the Mexican national team, especially the Mexican team that’s been really strong in recent years. And so that’s why there is so much anticipation around this game. And that’s why this victory, I think, is meaningful and not just to fans, but you get the sense from watching the game and the reaction to it that it was really meaningful to these players to like these guys had never played together in a game like this. And the fact that the goal scorers were Christian, Pulisic, Western, McKenny and Garena, who are sort of like the leading figures of this new generation that also felt meaningful.
S1: Well, yeah. I mean, I have to take your word for it, right. That it’s meaningful. You know, I familiarizing myself with the FIFA international rankings and because I’m just like, OK, they’re excited about beating Mexico even though this is a meaningful or meaningless match. So we don’t quite know the stakes. But I was like, OK, well, let’s see how good Mexico actually is. And then I see that Mexico was ranked 11th. In the most recent FIFA rankings in the US was number 20 and I’m like, OK, I guess that sounds pretty good. Like if the U.S. is ranked somewhere between 10 and 20, does that mean that they’re returning to glory or. You know what I mean? Like, I. I guess I just don’t kind of understand.
S2: Well, I think the ranking the FIFA rankings are always kind of front. But in particular, since they haven’t played a competitive match in more than five hundred days, I think the number of data points that we have to rely on about how good the US is, but how good like really any team is right now. So I think this was a kind of measuring stick for them.
S1: Yeah, well, I mean, and obviously, like you said, I mean, the players were obviously hyped about it, although I can’t imagine that, like as an athlete, if you play in some international competition with some atat stakes and you win in that dramatic of a fashion, that it wouldn’t resonate to you and not make you excited. Like, I can totally get that. But I guess the thing is for me is that American soccer fans are always like living and dying by the results of the next game. And it means something
S2: to fans of any other team.
S1: I mean, you know, actually not because I like basketball, baseball, maybe less football, but like each week doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to it makes it reflects on the legacy of the upcoming team or that the trajectory of a team like sometimes the game is just a game. But in soccer, I’m finding out, particularly with the US men’s national team, that we don’t feel that way, that every game is a referendum on the status of the national team status in the world. And I mean, I guess it’s just sort of confusing to me to keep up with, you know, the last time we did a segment on the U.S. men’s national team, they had won a game and lost the game in the same weekend because there were two different things. And it was like people were frustrated with the US national team. And then all of a sudden they weren’t. So like I guess it just seemed sort of exhausting to figure out which of these competitions actually matter and which should I take a lesson from, because it just seems like every time it’s different.
S3: That’s the beauty of international soccer. Well, I mean, it really is. You get to ride the wave of emotion, a sort of a sign over value to every game. And that’s kind of what it’s about, because you look like you’re the coach of the men’s national team, Greg Baldor of the US in this case, who was not a beloved choice. He’s like the brother of one of the chief executives of US soccer at the time when he was hired. He’s an American when there was a lot of clamor for the United States to go hire a prominent international coach who could nurture a lot of these young stars who were playing on top clubs in Europe, the biggest collection of Americans playing in top leagues overseas ever. So, you know, you don’t play that many games. So his job is largely recruiting and planning. So every game does have this added meaning. And then the Mexico rivalry, which I think you have to be blind not to see, is incredibly intense, both in the stands and on the field of players don’t like each other even if they don’t know each other that well. I mean, I mentioned that I mentioned Spencer Hall’s tweet at the top, but the game was insane. I mean, Mexico scores a minute into the game. And here’s my list of shit that happened. There was a pitch invader are the U.S. goalkeeper, got a weird injury play, was suspended after a fight went to Mexico. Player tried to kick the ball out of the American goalkeepers hands. Mexican fans delivered this homophobic chant that that’s been happening for years, that that authorities have been unable to stop get play was stopped for that. There were three VA reviews, one resulting in an overturned goal to resulting in goals. The Mexican red coach got a red card. An American player was hit in the head by a bottle of Coke during a gold celebration. They played about one hundred and forty or forty five minutes of soccer. It was insane. And I think that goes back to what you said, Josh, about how this appeared to matter, because players also get indoctrinated into rivalries. Right. And this is a rivalry that for a lot of these players they’ve never experienced before, particularly some of the European based players and dual nationals that haven’t been on the US team for a long time.
S2: Yeah, and like Kristian, Pulisic scores the penalty and rips off his shirt and goes to the corner where a lot of Mexican fans wear and they start getting shit thrown on them and Granna gets hit with a drink and like it didn’t it seemed at the time like it was a lot worse than it ended up being. But like he has people going up and, like putting that moving a check and see if he had a concussion. I mean, so that sequence, it was really interesting because on the one hand, there’s something incredibly authentic and sincere. About the joy that Pulisic felt after being very involved in the qualifying failure and being the best player in America and coming up big in this moment and wanting to celebrate that. But I also got the sense that there was this sort of performance aspect to it, like I am going to now do the thing that you do when you are a great player and like, I am going to, like, seize this mantle as Captain America and I’m going to do the thing that you do when you do that. And like, we are now going to, like, enact what one does in this rivalry. So I’m not trying to say that it was like inauthentic or fake, but it just felt so clear. And then back to this distinction between meaningfulness and meaninglessness in that moment, it just felt like these young players were very consciously like performing how one performs in this game and this team and like wanting to take this mantle and be these people.
S3: I think they wanted to recapture the feeling that American soccer players and fans have occasionally had over the last 20 years. And I think they all they’re not dumb. They recognize that they’re really good. There were six Americans, twenty two or younger in the starting lineup, Western McKenny. Mark McKenzie, the defender who got burned in the first minute, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sergeant Sergeant Dustin Goralnick, who’s just 18. So they’re learning to be the emblem of U.S. soccer. They are trying to sort of capture some of the excitement that has largely gone to the women’s team who has been so successful. I think they want to feel that. And like a lot of these players have been on US youth national teams, they’ve played Mexico in competitions before at the youth level. But this really is different. And that was not a full stadium, but it sure as hell felt like one. And Joe, you must have felt like, wow, people care about this. This looks intense. And it was intense.
S1: Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to deny that the game had its moments. And I should also be clear that I was watching the Jake Paul Floyd Mayweather fight for a good portion of this game. So I was kind of going back and forth. Right. But it’s certainly down the stretch.
S2: Speaking of things that are both meaningful and meaningless.
S1: Yeah, right. I’m serious. That should be our fifth segment today. I mean, it clearly meant a lot. It was clearly intense. It was hard to not sort of get caught up in the intensity of the competition. I guess I’m going to circle back to what I said in our previous segment about U.S. soccer. I’m a little wary of expressing patriotism through international sports. And the reason I say that is because it seems to bring out the worst in people, although we’ve had a lot of, like, bad fan behavior all over in sports and not even just fan behavior like human behavior since the pandemic has got started. But like it just the fan behavior last night was just sort of like a catalyst for all the things that I’m wary of when it comes to this sort of competition, the chance, the throwing stuff at players. And then I’m looking at my timeline as the game goes on and I’m seeing people like come very close to saying racist things about Mexican fans. And I’m just so that’s why I’m just a little less enthused about American greatness in any sport. But certainly this because it just seems to lead to some really ugly places, although I would not deny that it was sort of hilarious that when Mexico goes up, you know, the first few seconds in American soccer fans respond it like Cleveland Browns fans, they just go, oh, God, this is terrible. Things are going to go horrible. You know, they just expecting everything to go wrong. And so that was kind of cool. But I guess I’m just a little I just again, I don’t know that I need American Americans to be great at soccer for me to enjoy soccer or for, you know, whatever. I just you know,
S2: I headline Joel Anderson hates America. I, I do think that it’s it’s really fair to ask a question of like, why is there a carve-out to the extent that there is one for this horrifying behavior in the context of the USA Mexico rivalry? Because when you see a guy get clocked in the face with a soda, let’s say, in an NBA game, then there’s a whole segment that is only about a guy getting clocked in the face with a soda and an NBA game. It would be about what’s wrong with fans. Is it because of the pandemic? What do we need to do about our society? Whereas in this game, it’s like what an amazing atmosphere this is the traditional long, heated continental rivalry that we all love and did not make it even more kind of fun and exciting that the guy got hit in the face with soda.
S3: Anyway, go ahead and I’m going to respond.
S2: That is traditionally what happens. So I’m sure that. Not everyone felt that way, but Stefan, I do genuinely feel like there is a kind of exception made in international soccer for this kind of behavior and that it is worth, as Joel said, like thinking about what are kind of the darker undercurrents here and what is it exactly that we’re celebrating?
S3: Yeah, nothing none of that is new, of course, right. At a stadium in Mexico City, fans would throw bags of urine on American players in the nineties. And two thousands of Europe European stadiums get shut down because of fan behavior, which we mentioned on the show last week. The problem is one of failure to enforce this is a problem at the organizational level. This is a problem for FIFA and it’s a problem for CONCACAF, for, you know, if the punishment is, oh, in the ninety nine minute of a game, we’re going to put up a a message on the Jumbotron and stop play for a few minutes like that’s going to eradicate this, this long standing, awful chant that has been repeated over and over. Stefan, I know. And the third step is never right. You never get to step three. Certainly, probably could have gotten a step three last night.
S2: The referee starts counting one. That’s right. Two, three. We’re going to go home if you don’t stop for now.
S3: And where was security to stop people throwing shit on the field or throw them out immediately? I mean, the guy that dump popcorn on Russell Westbrook was escorted out of that arena in two seconds.
S2: But we can’t deny it like the fans of the national team and of the sport. Love this.
S3: And I don’t think they love the people throwing shit on the field. I’ve been to US Mexico Games and did not throw anything.
S2: People are going to be like, remember that amazing game where people threw shit on the field? People might claim that they don’t like it.
S3: But here’s what you people have been
S1: reveling in that atmosphere since that game, since the
S2: game. I, I agree with Joe.
S1: Yeah. People I mean, I think that is a huge part of the appeal because like to you know, we’re talking about meaningful and meaningless. The the the fan response imbues it with meaning. And you can see that like it obviously means something to the fans and the players when that sort of thing happens. And that’s all that’s not all people were talking about. But that was a huge part of like the excitement that people seem to have about the game. And that seems to me to be an undercurrent for every one of these international competitions, like how the fans respond or they throw in shooting people were their fights, that sort of stuff. And I think
S3: it does overstate it a little. I want to end the segment with a soccer happy note. I want to play the game.
S2: We need to get Stefan back to his happy place. Oh, get off my tongue.
S1: It’s your fault if you all at fault.
S2: OK, well, don’t you love fights? You love fights. Oh, I love a fight. You have a fight.
S1: So fight.
S3: Whatever that is. That is, that is that is the arm his hand around western McKennis neck man. Joel, you should have been down there defending McKenty. I don’t hear you defending Western McKenny.
S1: Well, I mean, I told you I’m not certain that I’m in the USA soccer fan yet. They’ve still got some work to do to convince me before I’m going to take a I get to my stuff. OK, go for it.
S3: I don’t get back to my happy place. Right. All right. So one hundred and twenty fourth minute. VAR Video review gives a penalty to Mexico Pulisic and scored 10 minutes earlier, Ethan Horvath, backup goalkeeper to Zach Stefan Stefan plays for Manchester City. Ethan Horvath barely played for a club in Belgium this past season. Comes on, makes a couple of brilliant saves and now he is called to make to stop a penalty that would tie the game. Let us listen to the clip first in English and then in Spanish.
S4: What double from this spot.
S5: And he’s the. Ed Gordon with the sound of his life. The hero asked
S2: the banks for the
S5: U.S.. And he got into those safe hands.
S3: All right, that was on the CBS Sports Network, and here we are in Spanish, the call this was on Univision seeing about 50
S1: that we had a nice chat about in Venezuela, not only in.
S5: But, Dana, what about what about what about. For God’s sake, he got up.
S3: Out to Helen, and the great thing about that clip is that he tries to roll into what would be the traditional goal call by saying let it go. He takes it, but then Horvath makes the save.
S2: I’m glad you’re in your happy place.
S3: I feel much better.
S2: I was in my happy place watching the game. I got to admit,
S1: I’m not I’m not going to talk about how these penalty kicks seem to have like disproportionate weight in a game where there’s not very many goals scored. That’s a ton of fun at the time. OK, thank you.
S3: Coming up next, a conversation about the legacy of Duke basketball coach K.
S1: Last week, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that he will retire after the twenty twenty one twenty twenty two season. That means the 74 year old Chizhevsky, the winningest coach in Division one men’s basketball history, will likely stage an eye roll inducing farewell tour in his final year on the sideline. But our very own Josh got the sendoff started Thursday in a piece headlined What Was Mike Sharkey’s Mission Really? In the essay, Josh opened with opened the piece with an anecdote about the time Chizhevsky some in the sports department of the campus newspaper to berate them about an article about his team that he didn’t like. Josh, you also close the piece by writing that Chesky was a vicious competitor, a self-appointed moral arbiter and a basketball coach, and kind of blew the whistle on anything but the crooked pastime that he made his own. OK, so, Josh, you’re very busy, man. We all know this. What about Coach K and his announcement that day made you set aside some time to eulogize the end of his career.
S2: So it’s like if you go to see her in concert and they don’t play, take on me. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to play the hits, Jol. You’ve got to give people what they want. And this is what the people expect from me. And I don’t want to disappoint the readers. I don’t want to disappoint the listener. The thing that always has rankled me about Coach K, and I think people sometimes misunderstand. It’s not that I think that he is a particularly loathsome character compared to his peers. It’s that I think he’s exactly like his peers and that he and his program, his school and their fans make him out to be something that he isn’t. And what he is is the most important figure in modern college basketball, the best coach and the most successful coach in modern college basketball and a person and this is a point I made in the piece that has never done anything to change what college basketball is and what it will be. And so I think his legacy, Stephon, is one of continuity and maintenance. And he is somebody who I think, as far as the NCAA is concerned, was a godsend in creating this image, however accurate or inaccurate or was of college basketball, as this moral endeavor, as a place for education and learning and where, you know, that kind of transcended the mundanity of a mere sport. And I don’t think that that’s true. And I think that that’s a damaging image that he helped to create. And it’s one that’s I think in recent years people are becoming wiser, too. But to the extent that that fiction was maintained for as long as it has been, I think he was a major reason for that.
S3: And the fiction was maintained at a time when other coaches were getting taken down, when college basketball as an entity was viewed with increasing skepticism, not as if it wasn’t in the 1970s and 1980s before Shamsky rose to power. But what Chayefsky has done, I think Josh and Joel, is that he exploited the willingness of the public to believe that it was possible to run a major college sports program in a way that defied the popular notion of what college sports had become. And Chayefsky did that in two ways. One was for many years recruiting players whom he encouraged to stay for his own benefit. Of course, because the older and more mature and better they got, the more likely that Duke was to win a championship. But also, as a matter of public relations, what Schakowsky did was give Duke the motor to raise millions upon millions of dollars for that institution and cement its ability to be a power in this sport.
S1: Yeah, well, I mean, I think it’s important to remember that he is a former player and mentee of Bobby Knight, who was the all time winningest men’s coach in Division One history before Mike Krzyzewski. And that is exactly, you know, the the binary by which Bob Knight lived by. It’s important to remember that Bobby Knight is was posed as sort of alternative to guys like Jerry Tarkanian, Eddie Sutton, who finally just now got inducted into the college to the Basketball Hall of Fame. So being part of being a sanctimonious, grandfatherly figure is like part and parcel of being a legendary college coach if you come out of that. And to thrive in that ecosystem, you pretty much have to pose as someone of moral rectitude, but also for somebody for whom basketball means more than a game. Keep in mind, that’s John Wooden. First of all, before I move on from John Wooden, I mean, in retrospect, we know that John Wooden wasn’t clean. You know, he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t this perfectly clean figure. I mean, if anybody just Google Sam Gilbert in UCLA, if you want to know about how UCLA got it done in the 50s and 60s. Right. Or think about Joe Paterno, Bobby Belt and all these guys who sort of built up this image of moral rectitude and it’s sort of like kind of has fallen away as they retired or after they retired. So, I mean, to Coach K credit, he made it through all that with very few, very few controversies that stick to him and his legacy at the end of the day, like he’s going to retire with honor because he basically got through this time without having one of those big blow ups like his mentor, Bobby Knight, or he didn’t get busted for running a dirty program, even though, you know, there are allegations that he did. And so he got out at the right time and talked to the extent that, like I have any admiration for him, is like he navigated a really dirty business, profited off of it and got out before the cycle, ran its course.
S2: Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think I always want to kind of take pains to give credit where it’s due and not exaggerate what I think his failings are and where I think the credit is due is like I think there is some sincere belief that underlies what he’s done in his approach. Like he’s a guy who came out of Chicago and got an opportunity to go to West Point and credits it for and his experience with Bob Knight with like molding him into the person that he is. And we’re all products of our environment. And so I think he felt like what had benefited him and what had been done to him and for him would benefit others. And also, I think we really need to acknowledge that his players seem to really revere him. It’s not like there’s a trail of Duke. I mean, there might there might be some I don’t want to like Universalise here, but it’s not like there’s an enormous number of Duke guys running around and saying Coach K is a fraud or Coach K didn’t. You know, more common is like he’s the most important person in my life. And like like what Jubilo said this this past week. And so by the standards of that, he said for himself and by the standards of his profession, he had not only succeeded, but excelled. I just think the standards of the profession are whacked and I I think will wait as well. I think all of these guys are whacked. And just again, the thing that rankles for me is the way in which. He was only judged by the kind of morals and ethics of the sport and not by a larger kind of system of morals and ethics that would maybe guide someone away from being the dominant figure in this sport that has profited off of unpaid players that had him making millions off of a Nike deal when his players got nothing, that had him out of the things that we’ve discussed at length and for years on this show about this.
S3: But and isn’t just the the the issue that Coach K had, the ability he had the authority, the moral authority to change the system,
S2: maybe more than anybody else, like to the extent there’s no commissioner of college basketball. But he is the closest, I think, that we had to somebody who could have been played that role. Right.
S1: But you’re asking him to do something that he fundamentally doesn’t believe in, though. Where are you going to be like that?
S2: I totally agree. But it just feels like a missed opportunity and something that when we’re talking about his legacy, you have to think about the opportunity cost. Like what could have what could someone who actually was the person that people say that Coach K was like, what could that person have accomplished?
S1: Yeah, but here’s the thing. So, I mean, I get it because obviously, you know, I believe that it’s morally wrong to not play college athletes. And I balance that while saying, you know, college athletics are important for a whole swath of people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to get a free college education. But I mean, we sort of expect of Coach K like what did we really expect him to do in this environment? And keep in mind, it’s only very recently that people have sort of come around to the idea that players have some sort of you know, they have a right to their name, image and likeness or that maybe there should be some alternatives for people who don’t want to go through that NCAA pipeline. Like only now is that sort of opening up. This isn’t, you know, a thing that has been going on for a couple of decades. And furthermore, most people don’t even believe the things that we believe that, you know, most college sports fans, most college athletics fans don’t believe we what Coach K to believe in this instance. So it doesn’t like I’m sort of judging him by the standards of his profession and the people that that he would consider to be his constituency. And by that standard, Coach K basically did about as well as you can do, you know.
S3: Yeah, but there’s more to it, though, because, yes, I think Coach K is universally regarded as a good person. His relationship with Jim Valvano is often cited as an example of Coach K’s generosity and decency. But when Coach K was challenged or there was a situation where, you know, maybe Duke lost, he did not always come off as to put it mildly, a generous person or a good loser. Albert Brunetto and defector in the piece in a piece titled See Later to This Butthead wrote, He is also in arguably the greatest self promoter in the College of Games history, a thin skinned and vicious bully, a sanctimonious scold and a petty sore loser who has mostly successfully portrayed himself as a humble and principled educator and molder of honorable men over the nearly half a century during which he reaped fortune on a claim beyond measure off the work of unpaid laborers. So there is a personality thing, and if you are not a Duke fan, you absolutely latched on to that.
S2: Yeah, I actually feel like the personality stuff is a little bit overplayed. Like the people are like, oh, he curses. And so but in public he. Doesn’t use curse words, it’s like, yeah, he’s a coach. It’s like that part I feel I feel like the critics of Coach K, it’s like you get a little bit out over your skis if you’re focused on that stuff.
S3: I don’t know, calling a bunch of student reporters to the.
S2: Hey, I made that the lead of my pick.
S3: I know you did. I mean, what does that reflect? I mean, it’s a long time ago. And he claims that he had some sort of, you know, come to Jesus moment after that and was troubled by it, but still complained that the kids should have apologized coaches any time
S1: for the most part. A lot of them right to be. You can’t be a good coach without being a parent. Yeah. Yeah, right. You have to be sort of a control freak. And, you know, you sort of have to believe you have to believe in your way. And like few people, you know, lived up to that in the way that Coach K did. But I guess like it’s interest, because I kind of wanted to talk about how good he was as a coach, though, because, I mean, for all the things that we say about him, that he’s stuck in sort of this old this old archetype of what a college basketball coaches, he was extremely great at, like, adjusting to the times like like at least when it came to, like, program building, he was fine and adjusting like he figured out a way to stay relevant and great and near the top of his profession from the start to the finish of his career. And that’s just not something that you see a lot.
S2: Yeah, I think that’s totally true. And, you know, obviously, he was a great game coach, too. You know, that his career is long enough that we can’t really linger on any of, you know, even if we don’t have time to talk about any of the five championships individually. But he was there. There weren’t many people that you would argue were better at X’s and O’s or roster management than he was. But the fact that he moved to more of the one and done model, kind of starting with Kyrie Irving moving into Jayson Tatum and then kind of Zion Williamson is the last kind of talismanic player, the Coach K era. I’m curious what you guys think about that. And also, you know, in the interest of fairness, we should note that he came out publicly in favor of name, image and likeness, not like he was a big leader and in it. But he even if he grudgingly came along, he did come along. And so that’s something that that’s worth noting. But I guess my question is with the sort of like move away from all players have to stay for years and that’s the only way to do college basketball to like one and dones are OK. And I’m going to recruit them and hopefully they’ll lead me to championships. Does that to you feel like kind of moral compromise and I only care about winning, or does it feel like here’s a guy who is adjusting to the times and like, good, good for him and like one and done is more moral than like saying, oh, we only take four of year guys.
S3: I think the on the on the morality scale, I tip toward Calipari and Kentucky saying, like, look, I’m here to help these guys get careers, to help them become successful professionals and make millions of dollars in the NBA.
S2: And that’s way more honest than saying, oh, these guys are going to have a chance to get, you know, get an education. I mean, the guys that are going to Duke are the ones who generally the reason that they would go there is because they have pro aspirations. And the best thing that Georgievski could do to prepare them for the NBA not to, like, help them get their degree and whatever, like you can do that in any Division One program.
S3: And I mean, I think if you look at the adjustment that she made, it was out of necessity, Rachel. I mean, it wasn’t as if Mike Chayefsky was standing up saying, like Calipari, like, hey, this is in the best interest of every player that I’m going to recruit. You know, Elton Brand says that she told me to go pro because it was the right thing to do. So I’m sure every one of these power coaches felt that conflict. And there was a point in all of their careers where they recognized that they could not publicly maintain the same position that they had for the first thirty years of their careers, which was that everybody should stay for years because it’s great for you as a human being. And you’re going to get a degree.
S1: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I definitely think self-interest drove that, you know, that that evolution. Right. But I do think that and not to be ageist, but I mean, you know, Coach K is going to be seventy five when this you know, when the season starts. And for him to have evolved in that way constantly over and over again over the last twenty, thirty years is impressive to me. And it speaks to why he was able to retire as the winningest coach in Division one basketball history. And I don’t want to seem like I’m a Coach K fan. I like I said, just for the record, like I hate to do growing up, like I was a unlove fan. I was a Fab Five fan. You know, all those teams that you know, all the teams that you don’t really see in college basketball anymore, like I rooted for. Am against Duke, but I guess like at the end of the day, I’m sort of like this, you kind of had to give it to the Duke, you know what I mean? Because like most guy, most coaches don’t end in that way. It’s it’s important to remember how Bobby Knight’s career ended in disgrace. Like he embarrassed himself and then got bumped down to Texas Tech and did OK, you know, but like I’m
S2: talking about a Mafia movie where the guy, like, rides off in the sunset at the end as opposed to, like, getting getting, you know, gunned down in a hail of bullets.
S1: I mean, the dude got out, you know, he’s got like Teflon in that way. And, like, I got to kind of give it to him, you know, like and and, you know, you know, I mean, we’re not young people, but like it sort of signals the end of an era to me where, like, college basketball was an important part of the landscape, like Coach K leaving, Roy Williams, leaving, you know, Lute Olson and John Thompson died last year. John Chaney died in January. It’s sort of the end of an era for college basketball and a lot of ways. And so, you know, as much as like I don’t like what that era of basketball represented in terms of like disempowering the players and like they kind of kept them out of the power structure. I also think that, you know, for those of us who grew up when college basketball meant something more than it does today, it’s sort of sad to see it kind of coming to an end right now.
S3: Well, Kurt Streeter, the columnist in The New York Times, made that point and an additional one, which is that this does feel like the end of the era of the Supercoach in college basketball, this dominant public figure who commands all respect and attention and at the same time a rising empowerment movement for players that we’ve seen to various degrees of success over the last two, three, four years, but that we are seeing continuously. And if the power balance is shifting, that’s a good thing. And I think it is a good marker for the end of the careers of people like Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski, who grew up in an entirely different coach centered universe.
S1: I’m impressed that you said Chesky and not Coach K this entire segment, and I wish I had that sort of boldness.
S3: And now it is time for after bawls, I was curious about the asteroid that struck the Chesapeake Bay, that Sam Anderson talked to Kevin Durant about that a little Googling. The U.S. Geological Survey says that the event was called the Chesapeake Bay Bolide Impact Bolide is a comet or asteroid. This one was three to five kilometers in diameter. It swooped through the earth’s atmosphere, very exciting and blasted an enormous crater into the continental shelf. The crater was discovered or identified by Sea Wiley Pogue of the U.S. Geological Survey. But neither the crater nor the asteroid have names. I say, let’s name the crater for see why we POGUE and name the asteroid for Kevin Durant. That would be awesome. The Kevin Durant asteroid. Josh, what’s your Chesapeake Bay bolide?
S2: Impact my age is the peak impact crater is about our man. Mike Krzyzewski didn’t want to let that drop. I did a bunch of reading as prep to write the piece that I did last week that was alluded to earlier. But there was one thing I missed that a guy named Michael Wright flagged on Twitter. And that thing is both nuts on its own, but also, in my view, extremely telling. And it begins in June 2003. That is when a Baylor basketball player named Patrick Dennehy went missing. A lot of folks are probably familiar with this. This is the reason that when people say, wow, look at what the Baylor basketball program came back from. This is what it came back from. So in June 2003, Patrick Dennehy goes missing. In July, his body was found in a gravel pit near Waco, Texas. An autopsy determined that Dennehy had been shot and killed and the man who did it, it turned out, was one of his teammates, Carlton Dotson. Two years later, in 2005, Dotson pleaded guilty to the murder and he has been in prison in Texas ever since. But let’s rewind to 2003. So unrelated to the murder, the then Baylor coach, Dave Bliss, had been paying Dennehy under the table. This was a major NCAA violation and Bliss did not want Dennehy is killing to expose it. And so, as Dana O’Neill wrote in a piece on ESPN, Dotcom Bliss told his assistant coaches he wanted to float the story that Dennehy was a drug dealer, thereby explaining away the money Bliss had given to him. One of those assistant coaches that Bliss was talking to was a man named Abar Rouse. Rose had been hired at Baylor just weeks before Dennehy went missing, when Rose told Bliss he wasn’t comfortable with the plan to smear Dennehy as a drug dealer, as raths, as a normal human being with some form of a moral compass. Bliss reportedly put a copy of Rouse’s contract, highlighting the portion that showed he could hire and fire assistant coaches in front of refs. And so the implication is very clear, right? Like do this or else in so embarrassed did something that, in my view, is quite sensible. He recorded Dave Bliss and on that recording, Bliss says reasonable doubt is there’s nobody right now that can say we paid Pat Dennehy because he’s dead. So what we need to do is create reasonable doubt. Routh gave that tape to the NCAA. Dave Bliss resigned and that tape recording ended up killing Abrams’s career. The story is told at length in the twenty seventeen documentary Disgraced. It aired on Showtime. The short version is that Routh never got a D one coaching job again. As of twenty seventeen, he had found work, consistent work teaching, and he was teaching in a prison in Fort Worth, Texas. So why did a basket blacklisted? Because in the messed up world of college basketball, Rousse was not a hero for exposing Dave Bliss. Rather, he is considered a villain for Tape-recording, his head coach. In a 2003 episode of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, three of the most famous and influential coaches in the game all said that what Álvarez had done was absolutely wrong. Those three Jim Boeheim, Kelvin Sampson and the Man of the hour, Mike Chatzky. And here is the clip of what Coach K said on outside the lines in 2003.
S3: How could you ever build a team of coaches? Forget about just this situation. But if one of my assistants with tape every one of our conversations with me not knowing it, there’s no way he would be on my staff
S2: even as a theoretical exercise. It’s hard to think of something that so clearly illustrates the skewed priorities and moral bankruptcy of big time college coaching. A normal person, I think would consider Álvarez a hero
S1: or at the very
S2: minimum would understand why he did what he did and realize that he was in the right. Then I guess the next category over it would be someone who believes that Rousse had broken some kind of moral coaching code, but maybe would understand that it’s probably not wise or good to say that publicly, maybe keep that to yourself if you feel that way. And then there’s the category that these coaches and make among them volunteer, which is publicly as leading figures in the sport, coming out and saying that refs had broken a code and essentially issuing a warning to others in the profession that they should look at what happened to Álvarez. I imagine that this case study isn’t taught at Duke University’s Fuqua Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics, nor do I think that there is an Álvaro center on leadership and ethics. But perhaps in both cases we should address that.
S1: Yeah, gives us some insight into how these institutions routinely cover up abuses and other terrible practices like Joe Paterno at Penn State, Michigan State. You know, every other kind of disgusting scandal we see, that sort of attitude prevails within these institutions and these these big programs that it’s much more important to them to preserve themselves than to, like, do anything that we might consider to be moral. So, yeah,
S2: I took, as I think you will note, and listeners were not like pretty great pains to try to be fair in our segment and give praise him when it’s warranted and give credit where it’s due. But like is just so unbelievable to me that it does, I think, legitimately raise questions about what kind of person would would do this. And I’m not trying to say he’s that coach is evil or anything like this. But my God, Stefan.
S3: Yeah, it seems like that was a pretty clear cut case where he had an opportunity to just say what happened was despicable and horrible. And and, you know, as a coach, it saddens me instead of having to weigh in on the the ethics of taping.
S2: Goodbye, Coach K, that is our show for today. Our producer this week is Margaret Kelly. To listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep. Dotcom’s lighting up. You can email us anything at Slate dot com and please subscribe. The show rate in reviews on Apple podcasts be a pound for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers OBD. And thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, back with us is Sam Anderson. Hello, Sam. Howdy. And it’s it’s free play. Free role. So I was thinking we would come into this talking about do the we remember you montage of first round playoff losers. So if we wanted to talk about Damian Lillard or LeBron or maybe even Luka Donchak, we could do that. Or if we have more thoughts on the Brooklyn Nets. Joel, do you want to start us off?
S1: Yeah, I mean, I guess it just kind of I did actually have Sam. I actually had a lot of questions for you get the piece. But but I keep doing that.
S3: And, you know,
S1: in the interest of time, though, like, I don’t want to fixate too much on that. But, you know, three months ago, he was fined fifty thousand dollars for, you know, the offensive and derogatory language stemming from his feud with Michael Rapaport. And you’re talking about now. Yeah, Kevin Durant. Right. And, you know, for the listeners who don’t remember, Rappoport posted private messages that he and Durant hits that he said that Durant sent him, which included threatening language and anti-gay and misogynistic slurs. And he told you, Sam, he said, anybody that’s crucifying me for some it says expletive. But I’m assuming he said shit that I said behind closed doors. I would love to see his phone. So my question is, your profile gave us a portrait of, like, a thoughtful, almost sort of a gentle sort of dude. How do you square that with that particular incident, having spent all this?
S4: A really good question. And, yes, something that definitely deserves more words than I was able to give in the piece. I think a couple of things. First thing is that in my experience of Durant and he talked about this when we talked about the Rappoport scandal, is he’s a real mirror for the person in front of him. Like he really returns the energy that you bring to him. He really watches you when you’re speaking. He’s like really there with you on a very deep level. And I saw him in Oklahoma City kind of kind of start to take on the persona of Russell Westbrook a little bit, especially with reporters. And he can kind of just like reflect the the most powerful, the loudest voice around him. And that’s what he said he was doing with the Rappoport thing. Like he gets into it with people. And if someone’s a big loudmouth like Rappoport and Rappaport’s using all that language and Cady’s putting it right back at him and they’re just talking shit like people do, you know,
S2: really interesting to think of somebody who’s like, again, one of the all time greats being a follower like that. Yeah, yeah,
S4: yeah, yeah. That’s why I like like I’ve always hated that language of like Alpha, Alpha versus beta, you know, assuming that a player has to be like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan to lead a team to be great. I think Steph came along and did a lot to break that that kind of paradigm in the NBA and let us see someone being sort of happy and joyful and kind and also leading a team, although there are plenty of loud sports fans who will start yelling about that, how he can’t actually be the best player on the team and et cetera, et cetera. But, yeah, he’s a bit of a follower in that way. I think he would admit to that. The other thing I think is like, you know, I wrestled with this question a lot because you obviously want to show a lot of respect to the people who are hurt by statements like that is some pretty aggressive, nasty stuff. And I think where I came down in the end was like. As aggressive and nasty as it is, you can see it’s kind of a script, right? It’s like the script of toxic masculinity that these guys are flinging back and forth at each other, which is just if you’ve been in the world of sports anywhere, you hear that forever. I mean, it’s funny, I was like jogging and listening to DMX after DMX died, and they’re just like whole songs that are nothing but sort of homophobic barock, homophobic rants, you know? And it’s like you can see where the language comes from. You know, you can see how once you tap into that script and you’re throwing back insults with somebody, how you can go pretty deep down it and say some things that would that would be horrible if they ever came out and hit the light of day, as they did thanks to Rappoport. And so, I mean, his his major defense and all that was like I was like, I hate that people saw me talking like this, but it was so far out of context, like this was just shit talking in a completely private way. I never, ever would have shown myself like this in public, nor would I ever say anything like this to, for instance, someone like me. When he was talking to me, he’s like, I would never say that stuff to you because you bringing a completely different
S2: energy not to get to like simplistic and cliche, but it’s reminiscent of how he had all those tattoos under his jersey and like, we didn’t have anything like on his arms or legs. And so people are like surprised that he has, like, enormous tattoos, that he just never lets anyone say,
S4: yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I think a lot about how alienating that that life would be and how that consciousness of the public versus private split would weigh on you. Just when I was first around OKC in 2012, it felt like that was the moment when Durant was really blowing up to like LeBron level. And it was kind of scary to see. And the PR guys were all telling me, like, we’ve never seen anything like this. And to live in that environment under that, like pressure per square inch for your whole life, I can’t even imagine.
S3: Does that explain a little bit too? Well, the Durant that we saw in in Golden State, the burner phones and talking to fans and clapping back. You know, you write in the piece about how Durant, like most athletes, is an abstraction to fans that they don’t really know who they are. They’re playing out some role that they envision for themselves and for the athlete. Most athletes just ignore that. But drought seems to want to connect to that.
S4: He’s a connector. I mean, he’s this, like, big human. I write about him as a big kind of empathy sponge when he was a kid. And I think he’s still that way. And he’s surrounded by all these voices and all these people. And I think he on some level, like desperately wants to humanize all those voices, even though that’s just like that. That just feels like such a losing battle to me. But I think that’s why that’s why he engages in that stuff. I mean, I remember again that first time I sat down with him in Oklahoma City in 2012, Kevin Durant, who I’d been playing like on 2K as a video game and watching on TV for years, sat down in a chair next to me. And I’m looking at him like he’s got like he’s he’s got like blotchy skin and he’s got like like this guy is made of like this guy’s a human being who’s made of, like, skin, and he’s just a guy sitting next to me. He’s not like a digital rendering of a guy. And it was a weird sort of switch that flipped like I hadn’t been around famous athletes before that, really. And so I think a lot of people walk around with that, with that completely like digital virtual image of him and and LeBron and every other athlete. But they’re just dudes who are living completely weird lifestyles.
S2: OK, so maybe I can connect the tiers of this segment, which turned out not to be enacted in this segment, which, as I mentioned, Luke and LeBron and and and Kawhi Leonard was also the like as as he often is, this enormous towering figure in the first round of the NBA playoffs. And when we were talking about this off the air, you were like, I want to talk about Damian Lillard. And so now, just like after this long conversation that we’ve been having and and thinking about all of that, I’m wondering is, does Daim actually seem like the guy who would be the most interesting to have a conversation with and talk with? Because both what he does on the court seem so supernatural, but also he does seem to have this depth to him that is maybe underexploited and he’s and like maybe a similar place that Durant was a long time ago where he’s being used as this like avatar of like loyalty to his franchise. And people are also now starting to question of like, you know, I’ve seeing people like Kendrick Perkins say like, all right, you’ve done your duty, time to go to L.A. or, you know, New York or Boston or wherever. Like, it seems to me like he would be a guy who, like you would want to, like, sit in a room with four, you know, two hours with and go go deep.
S4: I mean, I’m from Oregon, so maybe that’s just Trailblazers fans. So he’s a guy I actually like want to stand at the altar with in a marriage ceremony and the rest of my life to like in love with Damian Lillard. He’s my favorite player ever. No, but he yeah he is an interesting case because he does do super, absolutely supernatural things on the floor and yet he is like so obviously a really grounded, thoughtful. In many ways, normal guy, I don’t know if he’d be fascinating. I mean, I’m sure he would be I’d love to write a giant profile of Damian Lillard if he’s listening to this or
S2: boring for the first month to subscribe to Slate plus name
S4: just a fraction. Or he might be boring because he is so just like level and normal and I don’t know. What do you guys think.
S1: Well actually before we move on, Damian Lillard is your favorite blazer of all time as a porter over Clyde Drexler.
S2: Over Quintel Woods.
S1: Yes. Yes, Zach Randolph not. But I mean seriously danger. Yeah. OK, yeah. Yeah. One Did you not enjoy the Blazers of the early 90s.
S4: Well it’s funny. I had a stepfather at that time who really got me into basketball and taught me the game and he was this blue collar dude from Chicago. So we were always watching Bulls and stuff and they had that kind of rival with rivalry with the Blazers. And it was Jordan versus Drexler back then. And and I actually was not in Oregon, so I didn’t get swept up. Quite as much as I could have in that era, also Clyde left. I mean, we’ll see what Dame does next. But Clyde left. You know, Clyde had that incredible run and Clyde kind of notoriously like he was the opposite of Damian Lillard. You know, he could jump over the stadium and he had an athleticism that kind of rivaled Jordan, but he famously didn’t love to practice. He dribbled with his head down. He didn’t come in every season with some new skill. Damien, I’ve watched to learn from this. You know, this number six pick, four year college player, someone who everyone is like, well, he’s kind of at his ceiling to this guy who just like added superstar level skills every single summer to the point that he is just undisputed, one of the best handful of guys in the league and the most clutch player ever. And like he’s just responsible for so many moments that just made me like run across the field and hug other people from Oregon the day after they happened. So. So, yeah, he’s my favorite ever. He’s got these intangibles that I’ve never seen another player in basketball history that have the intangibles that he does.
S2: Joel is going to suffer in silence with that. Clyde Drexler,
S4: you got to you got to Clyde. Oh, you’re right. You’re right. You’re the guy. Yeah, you’re right. Well, you got him back.
S1: So which was the first time I ever loved
S3: you want everybody to love Clyde Drexler because he ended his career in Houston.
S4: I mean, incredible. I went back and watched game one of that finals, the Jordan Clyde finals, where everyone was like, who’s the who’s the better to guard? And everybody said, everyone,
S2: everyone that
S4: there were they were like, is Clyde at this level? And I watched that game. Clyde Drexler kicked ass. Clyde was awesome. Like people talking. People act like Clyde sucked in that series or something. When Jordan was shrugging and hitting his threes, Clyde was right there with them. I mean, not doing that, but but Clyde, like, go back and watch those games. If you if anyone thinks Clyde Drexler was not like near that level.
S2: Sam, thank you, Joe. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you. You’re welcome. Slate plus members, thank you. We’ll be back with more next week.