S1: The following podcast includes explicit language, including, well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of March eight, two thousand and twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the NBA All-Star Game and where we are a year after the league suspended play due to covid-19. We’ll also discuss the new report about whose failures to deal with sexual assault claims and its failure to deal with its former head football coach, Les Miles. Finally, author Andrew Marinus will join us for a conversation about his book singled out on the plight of the gay baseball player and the inventor of the high five, Glenn Burke.
S3: I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen and the host of Slow Burn Season four on David Duke. Also in D.C. is Stefan Fatsis. He is the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan. Hi, Josh with us from the South Bay, the great state of California of South Bay, home of a statue of a car running on naked human legs. Slate staff writer has the slow burn season three and six, which I understand. Are you familiar with that statue? No, I’m not. What is that from? Actually, it’s in Bowdon Park or Bowdon Park in Palo Alto. Is it really OK? I should go out on a field trip and let us know. I know what it looks like.
S4: I’m surprised I’ve missed that. But, you know, hey, man, there’s a lot more to Palo Alto than meets the eye.
S3: OK, so later in the show, we’re going to talk about free throws. Last week, we had Nick Green on to talk about his book, How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius. And we ask people to send in their favorite free throws. And we got a ton of great emails. We’re going to go through those later. We will also get to pack the toy. Joel Anderson’s favorite word. We’ll get we’ll get to that and our bonus segment for Slate. Plus members, my triumphant return. But first, a year ago this week, Utah Jazz Center Rudy go there, tested positive for covid-19. That was on March 11th. Twenty twenty. The NBA went on an indefinite hiatus in an end up lasting more than four months. And then the players teams went into the NBA bubble now where little less than a year out from that positive test. And on Sunday night, Rudy Gobert was on the court in the NBA all star game. He scored ten points for the victorious team. LeBron watching the game. It did not feel though like the NBA had come full circle, maybe more like half circle quarter circle. A couple of players, the Sixers Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid ended up having to sit out the all star game because they’d been in contact with a barber who had tested positive for covid. The game was a benefit for historically black colleges. The marching bands from Grambling and Florida A&M played during player intros. They played remotely on big screens that were around the court. The biggest news of the day came when LeBron James, who barely played in the all star game, declined to say whether he was going to get vaccinated, describing it as a private family decision. Joel, I don’t want to make it seem like the whole thing on Sunday was totally morose. Steph Curry and Dame Lillard didn’t make a whole bunch of threes from half court Giannis did not miss a shot and won the MVP But the story for me and watching this game was just thinking about how far we’ve come or how far we haven’t come in the last year.
S4: Yeah right. And I think it’s fair to say they did a fair to middling job and trying to distract us from how little has changed in the world around us. And I think it was just sort of annoying at certain points, because what happened on Sunday was clearly transparent attempt at settling the NBA as a responsible, compassionate corporate citizen while basically being the host of a series of super spreader events around town, you know, in a place that has already struggled with the virus for the past few months. And so, like, I guess my theory is, if it must be raw, unfettered capitalism, charity, too, and promotion of bcuz isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s disingenuous. And, you know, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here, not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a lot of need in this country right now. And you know what they really didn’t discuss? They didn’t discuss how the pandemic has disproportionately affected black and brown people and communities. They didn’t talk about how black life expectancy dropped by almost three whole years, according to some studies, because of the impact of covid so big and bcuz it’s nice. Like I thought the Robert Covington, Tennessee state warm was don’t I want one of those for myself? And I thought it was like a high minded thing. But I also think what happened on Sunday was a bit of a dodge.
S3: So when you when you say that the NBA hosted a series of super spreader events, they were very clear about like there aren’t going to be any parties that aren’t going to be any events. But what you’re saying is you’re having the all star game in Atlanta. People are going to get together. Like if they didn’t have the game, then people with no reason to gather to to watch or. Do you celebrate or anything?
S4: The only other place that would have been more appropriate for it would have been like South Dakota. You know what I mean? Like, I mean, if you’re if you if you were trying to be irresponsible and encourage irresponsible behavior around an event, you hold it in one of a few places. Atlanta is one of those places. They move the game there because it was supposed to have been in Indianapolis. So I’ve used this word a couple of times, disingenuous for them to say, hey, don’t have parties, don’t gather and still be there in the first place.
S1: I think NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bet here, and I think he lost it. The league fulfilled its contractual obligations to Turner Sports to have an all star game and give them programming. And it did that. But it was, as you said, Joel, it was transparent.
S5: I mean, you know, two star players now likely have to quarantine because of the all star game, because they wanted to look nice for this game and went to a barber. And now we’re contact traced, you know, in probably a fitting conclusion to the night. Not a lot of people watched because more people were watching Megan and Harry telling Oprah about the royal family’s callousness and racism.
S4: It was that was a lot more compelling than the game.
S5: In all fairness and the game itself. You know, I mean, look, the all star game is always a kind of a farce, but this felt more farcical. I mean, credit to Steph Curry and the boyish genius who looks like he always wants to have fun and game Lillard for taking it seriously and wanting to jack up the farthest three that he possibly could. And Steph was really professional. He competed in the stupid three point shooting contest too. But LeBron sat himself down for like the second half of the game. That was just a reminder that almost every top star, including Giannis before the all star game, said they didn’t think they should be there and this was the wrong thing to do.
S3: Yeah, I think just from a pure basketball standpoint, if we didn’t have all this other stuff overlaying it, I think the takeaway that I have and maybe this is just going a little too far, but it does feel like this was the year that the three pointer overcame the dunk as the not only the like main kind of play in terms of like how teams win and lose and regular games.
S6: But like is the kind of showcase moment, an event in professional basketball, like the highlights where Steph hitting the final three in the three point contest to be Mike Conley. Like that was the only moment in this, you know, multi hour kind of affair that was really exciting. I was watching that contest and then during the game itself, Steph hitting the three and then turning around while I was in midair. Stefon and Dame Lillard shooting from the logo from half court shooting from beyond half court. And then also during the game you have Tzion Williams and missing a series of values.
S3: You have a dunk contest. That was. I think the psaltery would be actually an exaggeration. I mean years ago we had a Gerald Green blowing out a candle on a cupcake and then dunking it. In this dunk contest. We have Anthony Simmons winning by pretending to kiss the rim, but not actually kissing it. And so just a really bad year for the dunk overall.
S4: Been a great year for the three pointer. I mean, my favorite quote from that dunk contest, by the way, Josh, you got to kiss it. Ernie having sex. And I was like, OK, that’s appropriate. But it’s funny you say that, right? Because it’s true because. Who was in the dunk contest like Cassius Lee of Toppin and Phryne Simmons, but to your point, think about who is in a three point contest. It was basically all stars. All stars are showing up for the three point contest, and it’s the much more compelling all star weekend event. Now, in comparison to dunks like I mean, isn’t this true for you all that the three point contest is always better than I remember it being when it happens in the dunk contest, it’s always so much more worse or less exciting than I think it’s going to be when by the time we get to it every year.
S3: Well, I think the three I think the three point contest. Yeah. You’re always going to be able to get more talent to compete just because it takes less effort and there’s, I guess, less risk of embarrassment. I don’t know.
S1: And less risk of blowing out an ACL.
S3: Right. But the dunk contest is cyclical, like the dunk contest dies every like five to ten years. It’s not always comes back like it came back with the amazing like Zach Lavine versus Aaron Gordon. Contests like those were great. It came back. It was actually killed. They didn’t even have it at the all star game in nineteen ninety eight. They replaced it with two ball like this contest with WNBA and NBA players teaming up because it had been so bad in ninety seven when Kobe Bryant won and barely even like there were, there were no dunks of note and everyone was like the dunk contest is dead. But then it came back in 2000 with Vince Carter having one of the most amazing performances ever. So like maybe next year or in five years we’ll have a great dunk contest again. But like, the three pointer is just like it’s always there. I mean, the downside is that you end up in this game having like Nikola Vucevic, just like firing away from deep. It’s like that. That’s why we tune into the all star game, is to see like the Orlando Magic Center just like shoot from distance like that. That is the the down side of three points supremacy.
S1: Well I thought you were going to go even further Josh, and say that this game proved that the game itself and this whole weekend is kind of more pointless than it’s ever been. I mean, that game was a joke. I mean, you know, more so than ever. I mean, they still did manage to score one hundred and seventy points. The winning team team, LeBron, which was stacked by the way, Kevin Durant is a terrible drafter. Don’t make him become a GM. And it obscured nothing about this season. In fact, it enhanced the the problems that the NBA has had. I mean, 30 games have been postponed so far this year. It has been a slog. Players are frustrated. There’s tension about the protocols that have forced players to sit down. And Kevin Durant has had to sit down for a week, twice because of contract contact tracing. There’ve been a lot of blowouts so far this season. You know, half the teams are letting fans in, but the environment has not returned to normal, nor should it. And now you’re going to have this conversation about vaccinations, LeBron not being, you know, not taking a stance that I think a lot of people would have wanted him to take to help encourage people to get vaccinated. And you’re at the point where, you know, the NBA saying the players who get vaccinated are going to start being exempt from some protocols. So are we going to see more tension in the ranks of the players? So this just reinforced that this season isn’t just, you know, unusual because of the coronavirus, but it’s a downer.
S4: Well, I mean, I think maybe that strong stuff and that like I don’t think that the game of the weekend is farcical because the game is almost besides the point. Right. Like the all star game every year. But for like maybe the final four minutes of a game, depending like this was not a competitive all star game. Somehow, you know, Brian’s team blew him out, but usually near the end of the All-Star Game, both teams are playing really hard and it becomes a competitive game. Right.
S7: But I think the eliminating so the lose that which is which is often it’s a really cool innovation in the game. So I understand why they have to do that, because, like you said, they have to keep their TV partners happy. And it’s a showcase for the game stars in a way that is simply not duplicative during the season or during the postseason, but which I mean, you’re getting to see the players talk. You’re getting to see them in their natural element, talking to their friends, having fun, laugh. And, you know, all this fellowship that you normally don’t get a chance to see, you know, Steph and LeBron playing together and then complimenting each other afterwards. And even during the game, sometimes, like they’re trying out moves and shots that they’d never consider in a game. And, you know, like and you can see them playing with the confidence in their athleticism and playmaking abilities amongst themselves. And you never see them have with their teammates just throwing it up, you know, trying these crazy clubs. You know, we got to see Steph Curry throw alley oop to Chris Paul, man. We got to see Jayson Tatum, you know, matched up on Jaylen Brown. It’s like sleep away camp for gifted best.
S6: Football players, so I would say that the all star game actually was like a totally normal all star game with maybe even some like I’ll remember those like really deep three pointers. But there was not anything, I think, that was like totally unusual about what we saw.
S1: I don’t know, except for maybe LeBron acting out his frustration for having to be there by not playing much and scoring four points.
S4: I mean, who cares? I don’t think he’s old now, too. He is old.
S1: I think I was going to say that is one thing that I think became apparent with this with this game this weekend.
S8: Yeah. I mean, one conversation that I think is interesting, kind of circling back to the one year since the suspension is talking about vaccination and what responsibility LeBron and other players have.
S6: You know, I saw people saying, like, you know, don’t be mad at LeBron. Like it’s not his job. It’s not his role to come out and say this and be a proponent or make a public service announcement.
S3: All the shaking his head. No, I mean, I, I think it’s it’s disappointing. Like, I don’t I feel like there’s some middle ground where you can say, like, it would be great if LeBron didn’t have to play that role or like, we don’t need to expect LeBron to be like Dr. Foushee or something. But like, could he have an impact? Yeah. Like, is it disappointing to me that he didn’t come out and say something different? Yeah, it is disappointing.
S7: Yeah. I mean, that’s not the brand that he sells to the rest of us, right. That he’s socially conscious, socially responsible, particularly about black and brown communities. And he knows that the toll that the virus is taking on people and that his words actually do matter in a way that very few professional athletes do like. There are a lot of professional athletes who say lots of things, who are on social media, who have platforms that don’t really reach a lot of people or it doesn’t really matter. But LeBron is one of the very few in the country, in the world who can say something. And it actually matters. And and I know that we know that he knows that.
S3: And we know that we choose stuff like that. And we know that when he chooses not to say something, that it’s not like, oh, I don’t usually comment on stuff. So this is just another thing I’m not going to talk about. Like he’s making an active decision to, like, sit this one out.
S4: We’ll see. That’s the thing that’s sort of frustrating about LeBron. And obviously, like, it’s hard to not be a fan of the things that he does. But I’m reminded of the fact that when he was in Cleveland and Tamir Rice, for instance, was killed by the police there in Cleveland and he deferred, he basically said, I don’t know enough about that I to comment on it. And it’s like, dude, you’re right there. You talk about this stuff all the time. Why are you not willing to talk about it? You’ve been talking about coronavirus and the impact on it all, you know, for the past year. And now all of a sudden, you don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to be, you know, at the front of this.
S3: It just it bothers me slightly in his defense, like with the Tamir Rice. That was that was earlier in his life and in his career. And I think he has. But he’s become more outspoken since then. Like there, like George Floyd and other acts of police violence.
S9: Like, unfortunately, there have been lots of opportunities for him to speak out. Like, I don’t think he’s taken that same kind of stance.
S4: And that same LeBron was in his thirties, though. Yeah, but I mean, LeBron was in his 30s at that point. This was just six, you know, six, seven years ago. I mean, he wasn’t a child. You know, he was still fashioning himself. He was still telling people that he wanted to be seen as like the Muhammad Ali of his generation. It’s really hard to do that if you’re not willing to take a look to take a stand in something that’s happening within your own life. I mean, that’s just playing both sides of it is basically what I’m saying. I’m not you know, he’s free to say to talk about and not talk about what he wants, clearly. But I mean, I think this is a piece of that. It’s like sometimes like these very curious, you know, these very curious moves where he just decides to sit it out in this. It doesn’t make any sense why he would not want to say whether or not he’s going to get the vaccination. I mean, this is you know, he’s been out front about so many other things and out OUTFRONT or something. How could you how could you pass, given the opportunity right now?
S7: Can you imagine what would have happened if LSU had followed the advice of then athletic director Joe Oliver in June 2013? Back then, Oliver recommended that head football coach Les Miles should be fired after accusations of inappropriate behavior with female student workers. So think about how serious those accusations were. Miles was only one season removed from a year when he led LSU to the national championship game and in SEC title and had been named national coach of the year by pretty much every organization that awards the honor. Firing Miles then would have been a huge story, which is maybe why LSU didn’t follow the legal advice and let Miles coach three and a half more years before he was fired, not for allegedly cornering female student workers, but for opening the season two and two with the loss to Auburn. Very few people knew about this recommendation until late last week when news of those accusations against Miles were finally published by USA Today and then followed up by an investigative report detailing systemic failures by LSU to appropriately report incidents of athletic related sexual misconduct and abuse. Josh Miles is now at the University of Kansas, which placed on administrative leave Friday night pending a review of the allegations at LSU. It seems all but sure that Miles will lose his job there at Kansas. But what do you think should happen at LSU?
S10: Well, I mean, I think if Miles does lose his job at Kansas, they will be in large part because of poor on field wins and losses record.
S6: And that, I think, is the lesson that LSU, which you noted, is that it’s a lot easier to fire a coach for losing on the field is Nicole Auerbach noted in the athletic than it is to fire him for anything else? And I think there’s a risk in kind of overemphasizing the miles part of this long report done by an outside firm at Alicia’s request, because there is just an enormous litany of accounts here of failures by the entire school and the athletic department in particular. But there was one interview with the unnamed longtime staffer that I think does explain why the mile stuff is important in this long time. Staffer says in this report, you know, if Miles had been fired or they had at least done something more back in twenty thirteen, maybe that would have helped clean up a lot of other stuff that maybe wouldn’t have happened further down the line with not just him, with even players. Because sometimes if people see somebody getting in trouble and it’s made a big deal out of it, they’re not as apt to go. Well, I can keep doing that because nobody gets in trouble around here, even if the head coach didn’t get in trouble. So, Stefan, there is this kind of culture at LSU, which I think is demonstrated by the Myles situation, where it’s not just. You know, men behaving badly are worse than badly, it’s that when given the opportunity to do the right thing or even look into things to see if maybe their accusations are overblown, there is just this persistent move to not investigate, not tell the right people, not go through the proper avenues. And then when it’s particularly powerful people who are the subject to these things, it’s the choice to let’s let this go, let’s bury this rather than let’s do the hard thing and maybe the right thing. But the thing that’ll become public.
S1: Yeah, I mean, it’s the fear of upsetting the people that make college sports programs functional. And I mean that, you know, in a financial way, it’s a fear of upsetting boosters. It’s a fear of getting bad publicity. It’s a fear of making your program look bad, which will impact your ability to recruit new athletes. And it’s a fear of being embarrassed.
S3: Isn’t it also a fear of losing games if you fire a successful coach?
S11: I guess. But there are a lot of successful coaches, but it does become that harder to bring in another successful coach that might be willing to go to a program that’s viewed as somehow tainted. Universities delude themselves and university presidents, particularly let athletic departments operate as these separate fiefdoms and they take the word of the people that lead them. The most influential person on campus, the highest paid person on campus is going to be the football coach. And even as we’ve seen in the LSU case, when the athletic director tries to do the right thing, he’s overruled the culture of fear at these places. And the sort of the notion that they are above reproach or above indictment is really amazing. And it’s reinforced by the LSU case here. I mean, the stuff that Les Miles did and we can read from the USA Today story in the way he treated these undergraduates is just shameful.
S4: And I kind of want to double down on what you just said there, stuff about like the fact that less Miles is the most powerful person on campus and if not within the state, I mean, we know that he’s the highest paid government employee within the state.
S7: And I hate to be this guy like the I guess that people don’t call me WOAK or whatever, but I don’t understand why academics and high level administrators ever want to deal with this and why they don’t move to seize more power in the institution from these very loosely affiliated athletic departments. Like there are not very many athletic departments that give money back to the institution itself. There is this self-sustaining institutions on their own that are sort of loosely affiliated with universities. Right. None of this has anything to do with school. And when it goes wrong, as it often does, it reflects so poorly on the academic institution. Right. So when LSU wins, it’s great less miles. It’s great for Eddowes Ron. It’s great for Jama’a Chase and Joe Barrow. But when LSU has something like this happen, it’s terrible for the school president. It’s terrible for the university’s brand. It’s terrible for the students at large who know that their school takes accusations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment less than serious. And the blame is distributed so much more equitably than the credit when something goes wrong. Right. And it reminds me of what happened at Baylor and at Penn State and Michigan State. It just gives the appearance of bad men run amuck. And so, like the former LSU President F. King Alexander, he he left for Oregon State and suggested last fall that SEC was out of touch with reality for voting to play football when the PAC 12 initially voted to postpone Fox Sports. And he told The Oregonian at that time that the SEC battles political pressure to play that the PAC 12 schools don’t. And I’m just like, why would any why do why do academic institutions allow this to happen? Like, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that they continue to do this because the money that academic athletic departments make have nothing fair, virtually nothing to do with the academic institution themselves. So I just don’t understand what’s in it for them to go through this.
S3: Feel like you understand. Don’t we understand all having grown up and fine, having grown up and where we grew up, it’s because there’s no stronger cultural force and the places where we lived than than college football that can be forced to. We are evidence of that. I mean, look how much we still we still care about this thing, even as we understand and appreciate how broken and screwed up it is. But I would I would say a couple of things on Joe Jolivet. I think if he was on the right on this last mile situation, as this report documents, there are many, many ways in which he was in the wrong and was not a good steward of the athletic department. So I don’t want people to come away from this thinking that, like, he was this white knight and doing everything great. I think it’s important to get a little bit more of the detail in the less mild stuff, which is that while we’ve been talking about like, oh, he had just gone to the. Well, championship game and, you know, they were so successful, he actually and LSU fans, in fairness, saw that national championship game is an enormous failure, that getting humiliated by Alabama in that game and who and who and who who helped put that humiliation.
S4: By the way, just for the record, do you remember who it was?
S3: The former LSU coach, Nick Saban is no. Referring to Richardson. Richardson. OK, so so after that game, less miles attributed the failure, at least in part, to the women who are working in football operations and who are part of their job is to help recruit players.
S9: He assigns fault to them for not being attractive enough and I guess not luring in good enough players to beat Alabama. And so he directs, you know, the people in charge of this to bring in more blonde women and women with bigger breasts. And this would actually not be that surprising because at Oklahoma State, he did the exact same thing. They had this group called Orange Pride. And there is a Sports Illustrated investigation of it that was published in 2013 around the same time that Miles was maybe subject to potential firing. And so reading all that stuff about Miles. And also, you know, we should say that there’s an accusation that he kissed a student worker, which he denies, and just generally like acting inappropriately and like texting these these women when he really should not be be doing that. Again, he disputes this stuff. But like what struck me about all the Miles stuff specifically is that it seems like kind of normal. And that is actually what’s horrifying about it is like this would have been an opportunity, actually, for LSU to stand up and say like this behavior around, like using women in this way to like entice recruits and to, you know, potentially like break the law to let in terms of hiring and employment practices, to bring in only women to look a certain way. It’s like actually take a stand against that when that is, I think, a thing that’s like, unfortunately, normative behavior. And a lot of these programs like that would have been pretty awesome if they had done that.
S4: I was going to ask you, is that what you meant by normal when you say that this is fairly normal, that just the I mean, sort of the grotesque use of women? Yes. OK, OK, guys.
S9: OK, yeah, I like that part. I think like a lot of the stuff that’s described in this report about LSU is, you know, using the athletic department instead of the Title nine office to deal with responses to sexual assault allegations like that I think is probably not normal. Like, I would certainly hope that’s not normal. Like the Dolphins behavior is like more atrocious than other places. But some of the stuff I think with the male stuff, I think that it is like sadly probably more typical than we than we’d hoped. Stefan.
S11: Yeah. And I think it’s important to point out that the the outside report, hundred and forty eight pages by this law firm focused on the overall systemic problem at LSU. The problem that the Title nine office was understaffed and training was bad and reporting policies were unclear. And let’s credit the reporters here, Kenny Jacoby, Nancy Armour and Jessica Luther for their work in getting this stuff exposed.
S3: Yeah, and the bottom on this, by the way, LSU business information, LSU fought and the report actually says that their reporting was good like that must feel good. Yeah. And we love Jessica Luther. We’ve had her on the show, but like to actually have this like I would as I try and be like the reporters that are great like that must make you feel good.
S12: So this is much more of an institutional problem that goes far beyond less miles being a creepy guy that sexualize the athletic department and had numerous irresponsible communications and contacts with undergraduates, it’s that the whole system is set up to protect football players because any athlete that engages in in sexual harassment or abuse, which is also what happened here, I mean, this is also part of the same pattern that we’ve talked about on the show before, that Jessica and the other reporters that USA Today brought out into the open, that it goes well beyond, you know, the culture of the football team to the culture of the institution and what matters and what matters here clearly was not protecting the women who faced this harassment. And worse, it was making sure this doesn’t become public.
S4: Right? I mean, yeah. Yeah. To that point, like the investigation pointed out, that LSU has Title nine office has never been appropriately staffed or provided with independence or resources to carry out the federal law mandates of Title nine. And Nicole Auerbach, again, she mentioned in her piece that Ellis used Title nine office, has a coordinator and one lead investigator, while most peer institutions tend to have like.
S7: Three to six investigators, so you lasu even by the very piss poor standards of most other American college institutions like fall short. Meanwhile, the football team has 11 assistant coaches, 13 analysts, nine individuals connected to athletic training, nutrition and strength and conditioning for to handle equipment for to manage video production, three graduate assistants and 14 other off field roles. So it’s clear on the campus within that institution what is actually important. They’re like people. Anybody that works at LSU has to know that this is the culture there, that they just don’t care. And so the fact that, you know, something like this, a recommendation could be made for less miles to be fired eight years ago. Everybody there has to know or have heard something about these allegations. Right. From the coaches to the assistant, to the players, to the support staff. People know who and what matters there. And so it’s no surprise that it would take that long for this to not come out or to not say anything that would do anything, because they know that if you say something, if you do something, I’m at an institution that just doesn’t give a shit about any of this.
S3: I think it’s important. And I thought the report actually did a good job of this to note how hard it is to do this stuff. Right. And the thing that’s so frustrating. To read about it’s not that, you know, any individual case, there’s often difficulty with getting people to come forward or getting witness statements and people not cooperating, they just didn’t even try. A lot of the time they just like didn’t even try. And one thing that I and this report that really stuck out to me is about Drak Davis, the football player. And this was the third instance where he abused his girlfriend, then girlfriend, who was on the tennis team. And it was reported because a roommate or somebody in the dorm had heard her kind of call out in distress and nothing was done. Nothing was done about Davis for, you know, in a matter of weeks despite it being reported. But the woman, the victim was cited for having a candle in her room within two days. That violation was put on her record, which is just pretty stark example of priorities.
S4: And I mean, that’s that’s just I mean, that’s devastating. Yeah, I mean, it speaks to what’s going on there. Did you guys see those tweets from Blake Ferguson yesterday, by the way, the former LSU team captain and long snapper, and he was responding to more allegations against Derrius Guice. The LSU running back who last year was arrested and charged with, I think was domestic abuse.
S7: And the allegations that came out the other day with that, a 70 year old Superdome superior to security guard accused guys of sexually harassing her. And they passed along that information to a coach at LSU. And the coaches, just like, who do you want to do? Apologize? Like, what do you want to happen, Ed? So Blake Ferguson hearing all of that, called for a couple of, you know, staffers within the LSU athletic department to be fired, but also found it sort of interesting that he didn’t go further than that. Like I mean, you fired only one who said anything, right? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s the thing. Like, he’s the only one who said it, but also said he didn’t he didn’t talk about it or run. He didn’t talk about anybody else within the department. Talk about these. I mean, I guess there’s sort of high up in athletic department, but they’re not necessarily meaningful. Does that make sense?
S3: Well, Vergès, Barry Merriam’s Heeger, we’re the ones who were suspended for 30 days and in twenty one days, respectively, for failure to perform their their duties. And and I think it was remarkable, like whether it was them or somebody else to like. The upshot of all this is like nobody got fired, nobody was getting fired. And the other thing that stuck out to me, Stefan, and reading about this is like, oh, they they did this report. It’s like really lengthy. They’re 18 recommendations. She says they’re going to, you know, go through with all 18. There have been five reports like this is the fifth report. It’s like, what are they what are they going to do after this or are they actually going to do anything? Or, you know, is there going to be another series of investigative reports then like, oh, we’re going to get like an 18th outside law firm to look into this?
S9: I mean, just the amount of opportunities that have been available to change and do something and fix what’s broken. And the response is like, oh, yeah, well, listen to this report and we’re not going to fire anyone, but we’ll just send them away for a little while. I mean, like pretty it is pretty underwhelming.
S1: What zoom out and talk about the bigger macro problem here. I mean, again, this is because athletic departments are so big and so bloated and can get away with this stuff. You know, the NCAA is not going to step in here. Right. So what should be done? I mean, like on a on on a giant level, this is another signal that salary should be capped, that size of staffs should be capped, that the entire enterprise needs to be reined in. And I know this is a useless call. It’s futile, but it says again that something has to keep these organizations from running effectively amok and damaging people.
S3: I would also say that, like, we can’t just pretend that this is a sports issue. I mean, like look at what’s happening with Andrew Cuomo.
S4: And like I mean, look who was our last president. I mean, just to be honest, I mean, the allegations and stuff. Right.
S3: It doesn’t matter what the institution is or what the party affiliation is or what the realm is.
S6: It’s a societal problem with like not listening to women, not caring about these sorts of reports and deferring to powerful moneymaking culturally important men.
S3: And so to say, like, oh, it’s like an issue of athletic departments run amok. It’s like, yeah, it’s an issue of everyone running amok. And athletic departments are just a prominent example of that.
S7: Yeah, LSU is in special college football isn’t special. This is cultural and it exists in pretty much every institution that we have globally. Les Miles is no different than anybody else. So, yeah, I mean, LSU isn’t the problem here, but I mean, they do have a problem and they should be dealing with it. The.
S13: Forty five years ago next month on opening day seventy 1976, Glenn Burke made his Major League debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As Andrew Maraniss recounts in his new biography Singled Out, Burke sat on the bench pondering his future. Part of him wanted to become a star, come out as gay and tell the haters to go to hell. But another part of him, Marinus writes, unlike anyone else on the roster, yearned for mediocrity. If he hit to 50, he could remain relatively anonymous and guard his privacy. Ultimately, neither of those visions came to pass. Glenn Burke didn’t publicly come out until after his playing days ended, but still he was exiled from the majors for being gay. His story is complicated and fascinating. As the subtitle of Marinus book notes, he’s also credited with inventing the high five. And it’s also enormously tragic. Andrew Marinus is here now. Congrats on the book. Andrew, thanks for joining us.
S14: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me on.
S13: Glenn Burke grew up in Oakland. He was a legendary high school athlete drafted by the Dodgers in 72 at the age of 19. And it’s in the minors that Burke’s life really begins to take shape on the field. He was being compared to Willie Mays off the field. He was a naive young man discovering his sexuality. What was Glenn Burke like at this point and what happened during those four years that he spent in the minor leagues?
S14: Sure. So Glen was a tremendously talented athlete. He was a great basketball player and actually considered basketball his favorite sport and his best sport. His entire life, he had led a Berkeley high school to an undefeated season in a Northern California championship. As a senior, he really wasn’t interested necessarily in playing professional baseball. But the Dodgers came calling first before any NBA team or before major college basketball teams. As you mentioned, he was highly regarded in the Dodgers system. It was Junior Gilliam, the longtime Dodger player and coach who compared him to the next Willie Mays. Glen hit over three hundred five times as a minor leaguer. He said two different stolen base records, you know, in two leagues, in the minor leagues. And so he was someone that Al Campanis and the Dodger front office was watching very closely. But he also had this this inattention, you know, and it was in Waterbury minor league outpost of the Dodgers that he finally even to himself, you know, realized who he was, that he was gay. And that’s where he starts to first have gay relationships and begins to wonder, you know, if he truly lives out the life that he wants to, will he be allowed to have a major league career, unlike any other player in that system that we know of, there may have been other closeted gay players. He had this tension, you know, as as you described and read from the book, if I’m too good, people are going to pay too close of attention to me, you know, and I’ll be outed. And that could be the end of my professional career.
S6: So, Andrew, what was the state of kind of homosexuality in sports around the mid 70s? What were commentators saying? Who was out, if anyone like what was the world that Glenn Burke was operating in?
S14: Right. To the extent that anyone talked about it, it was typically that this is unheard of. You know, in professional sports, we can’t imagine that it would be the case. There was the advocate wrote letters to every Major League Baseball team at that time, you know, the gay magazine. And they said, we would like to speak to your to your gay players. The Minnesota Twins PR man wrote back to them, aghast that they would even suggest that in this, quote unquote, manly sport of baseball, that there would even be a gay player. Dave Kopay, the football player, had come out after his playing days. Lin Rossellini, a reporter at the Washington Star, had written a series about gay athletes in sports. It was primarily women athletes who are willing to go on the record. You know, and you see echoes of that today where, you know, lesbian players and soccer and the WNBA are much more outspoken, much more likely to be to be out than than even men’s players. And so for Glen, the idea that that he could play Major League Baseball and be out was essentially unthinkable at that period in history.
S4: You mentioned his earlier answer about how he was sort of torn about like how this might affect his career. And I saw that the insights sports story in 1982 from when he revealed he was gay and it said something like half of him wanted to hit 300 and become a superstar in a commodity and then secretly maybe he could tell them not to go to hell. And half of them said maybe a nice and conspicuous number, like two fifty would be better, that he could guard his privacy and might not find out at all. So do we have any sense at all for how this turmoil actually affected his play?
S14: Well, that’s a good question, because there are people that are detractors of Glenn Burke’s, you know, who will say it wasn’t his sexuality that affected his major league career.
S15: He played himself out by not being a good enough player, and I don’t think that’s the case and I don’t think that’s fair. Of course, there have been highly regarded prospects that never panned out. You know, like we see that all the time. But, you know, I interviewed Dusty Baker. He said that Glen was as good a defensive player, you know, as they had, that he got the better jump on the ball in center field than anybody else. The fact that he had hit over three hundred and said those stolen base records in the minor league show that he did have talent. He certainly wasn’t being treated special because of who he was. And one thing that a number of gay men that I interviewed for this book tried to impress upon me was the sense that the lack of support that Glenn would have felt and how that would have affected his mindset. You know, in baseball being such a mental game, if you feel that you can’t be yourself around your teammates, that those who are starting to figure out who you are may or may not be supportive, that the manager, Tommy Lasorda, certainly is not supportive of who you are, that the general manager has asked you to get married and offered to pay you seventy five thousand dollars to cover up who you are. That tension around you knowing that people aren’t going to go the extra mile to support you, maybe to spend extra time in the batting cage with you, you know, to give you extra playing time, that has to detract from your your performance on the field and not story about the Dodgers.
S1: GM Al Campanis bringing him into his office after the 1973 seventh season when, by the way, Glenbrook started in a World Series game and played a decent amount during the season as a fourth outfielder and had some amazing moments. It was that year where he and Dusty Baker invented the high five after Baker homers to set a Dodger record as the fourth member of a team with 30 plus homers. But at that point, by 77, Glenn Burke had started a World Series game. He had this amazing moment near the end of the season where he and Dusty Baker invent the high five after Baker hits his 30th homer of the season to set this record for Dodgers with thirty plus homers. And at this point he living as an openly gay man on the off season. And the Dodgers now know this. And when he refuses to get married, Campiness says to him, tells him the plan and and Burke says, you mean to a woman, you know he he takes a stand here and feels like a turning point in his life, like he’s deciding this is more important to me than playing the game that’s going to require me to stay in the big leagues.
S15: Absolutely. You know, and Tommy Lasorda son, Tommy Jr. was gay, spunky Lasorda and Birkhead struck up a friendship with him. People often want to know, is it more than just a friendship? And and Glenn Burke said that wasn’t anyone’s business. But regardless, whatever the extent of it was, Tommy Lasorda and companies didn’t approve of it. And so, as you said, after the seventy seven postseason where Glenn has started two games in the NLCS against the Phillies, he started game one of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Rick, Monday had been hurt quite a bit during the regular season. So Glenn got some regular playing time. He expects that this meeting with Al Campanis and the off season is to talk about his role with the team the next year. Instead, it’s this ultimatum. Either you sort of accept our bribe to get married or your days are numbered with the Dodgers. And Glen does have this moment of courage, I would say, where he stands up to the you know, the general manager of the Dodgers says, I’m no, I’m not going to do that. Drives back from that meeting to the Castro and knows that, you know, he’s not going to be a Dodger much longer. He’s traded to the Oakland A’s early in the next season, thinks that that could be a turning point in his career. He’s going back to the Bay Area where he’s from. The A’s at that point are the worst run team in the major leagues. Some games, they have less than 500 people showing up for the game. So he goes in some ways from this model franchise of the Dodgers that’s competing for a World Series to the A’s that Charles Finley, he’s trying to sell the team at that point. The next year, Billy Martin’s brought in is the manager and Glen thinks, OK, again, here is a chance for me to resurrect my career. We both went to Berkeley High School. Billy Martin is kind of a scrappy guy like Glenn considered himself. But right away, Billy Martin tells sportswriters in spring training he’s not going to let a gay player, quote unquote, contaminate his team. He calls Glenn the F word in front of other players, and he’s demoted to the minor leagues. And so Glenn never had a chance in the Billy Martin regime with the A’s.
S4: I’m really sort of curious about Dusty Baker, because it seems like he was really close to Glenn and that he supported him in a way that not many others were willing to put his dusty baker, his recollection of what Glenn had to go through, because obviously he seemed like he took it upon himself to make him feel at home in the clubhouse and to be, you know, sort of a sounding board for him.
S15: Yeah. Does he enjoyed that mentor role? And that was my favorite interview for the book by far, was having a chance to sit down with Dusty Baker for almost. Three hours and everyone had told me what a great guy he was and he certainly was, but Dusty told me that it was Henry Aaron that had taken him under his wing when they were when Dusty was a young player with the Braves. He knew how important that was to him, especially as a black man in Major League Baseball. He enjoyed that role that he had with other Dodger players. But Glen wasn’t even able to sort of fully take advantage of that because a lot of the guys would like to go out after games looking for women, you know, or at least talk about honestly what was happening in their lives in Glen, you know, want it to be at other bars after the games. He couldn’t be himself and open up about what he was going through. And so but the other interesting thing that Dusty said is that Glenn Burke was the most popular player in the Dodger clubhouse among the players. You know, and this is even on that famous veteran lineup that the Dodgers had with that infield together for almost a decade. Right. I mean, you can sit there and just rattle off the names here 40 years later. But it was this rookie that came in and was instantly the most popular player because Glen was funny. He loved to play music. He loved to dance. He would make fun of Tommy Lasorda. And he kind of kept things loose in the clubhouse at a time when there was a lot of pressure on this team to win a World Series. And so they appreciated Glenn being there when he was traded to Oakland. It’s written in the papers the next day. And these sportswriters don’t really know why Glenn was traded. They don’t know the back story that Campanis and Lasorda knew he was gay. But it’s written that players like Steve Garvey and Don Sutton were sitting at their lockers crying because this fourth outfielder had been traded. So think about the power of this charismatic personality that Glenn Burke had on that on that veteran team.
S3: Andrew, can you tell us about the last few years of Glenn Burke’s life and also how did he think about what he had accomplished, but also what had been done to him?
S16: The last few years of Glenn Burke’s life were tragic and painful. Briefly, after he had been run out of of baseball, he experienced probably the greatest moments of happiness in his life. But unfortunately, it was all too brief. He was living in the Castro district. He was celebrated as a former major league player. He was you know, he could be himself. He could be comfortable. He was around friends, people that loved him. He played on the gay softball circuit there. And, you know, it’s major league center fielder shows up on your softball team. They won national championships. He won medals in the first gay games in basketball and softball and track and field. But then the AIDS epidemic comes along. He sees his friends all around him sick and dying. Glen is hit by a car walking across the street in the Castro district and his legs are broken. And he loses his identity as an athlete, which first and foremost, Glenn Burke considered himself an athlete. That’s what he had always been since his childhood playing basketball at Bushrod Park in the East Bay. And so he can’t even play softball anymore. He had been introduced to drugs as a major league player. He turns to them to self medicate. I would say that the pain of the broken legs, but also the pain of not being allowed to pursue his career as a Major League Baseball player. He hadn’t made that much money in the major leagues, but the money he had made was quickly spent. He ends up living long periods of life, homeless on the streets of San Francisco, dying of AIDS. He’s rediscovered in the mid 90s and is in his last years by the media. You know, who wants to write stories about what’s what’s become of this former player who started in the World Series had been the first to come out as gay and now is dying of AIDS. And so people are showing up at his sister Luthe doorstep where he is living his last days. And Glen tells the reporters then that he hopes that his experience is difficult. It has been will open doors make it easier for gay ballplayers in the future, whether they’re kids or major leaguers? You know that somebody has been through this before, you know, and you can do it. And, you know, that’s what’s especially interesting about thinking about Glenn’s legacy now, is that we haven’t had too many gay players walk through the door that Glenn opened. And you can understand why. All you have to do is look around you and see players who speak up on social issues. In some cases, they’re celebrated as heroes. Other cases they lose their entire career. You know, it’s not an easy decision to make. I talked to Billy Beane, who is the second major league player to come out as gay, who works for Major League Baseball now. And he said, you know, you’ve got to consider that these players only have a short window as a professional athlete to make the money that they can. And, you know, is it they have to make that decision in their own minds.
S14: Is it worth it to come out as gay while they’re an active player or if they choose to do that, to wait until they’re retired and not risk their career?
S12: We’re twenty two years from Billy Beane coming out, eight years from Jason Collins in the NBA, seven years from Michael Sam in the NFL. There was a minor leaguer in the. Brewers organization that did come out a couple of years ago while he was playing, I think he’s out of baseball now, but it still feels striking to me, despite all of those those those practical things that you just mentioned about risking your career and having a short window to be a major league player. Does it surprise you? And do you think that Glenn Burke would be surprised that that twenty six years after his death, there are still no active gay players in Major League Baseball?
S16: Yeah, I think he would be disappointed if that was his his goal and his hope and wish on his deathbed, you know, that he would be disappointed. But in some ways, it doesn’t surprise me. I mean, you look at Colin Kaepernick, who’s just speaking up on issues that have been talked about for centuries, and he loses his career over it. You know, how can you be surprised that someone who has come out as gay in in sports, which is probably one of the more traditionally homophobic arenas in American life? You look at legislation. I live in Tennessee, where it’s one of the many states that is looking to pass legislation to prevent transgender athletes from competing. You know, even though we can say in some segments of society, there has been tremendous progress in terms of gay rights. And one thing I write about the book is the backlash to that. There was a backlash in the 70s as Glenn was living through it and conservative America. Right now, there’s a backlash against gains made by gay and lesbian Americans, backlash against progress in race relations, too. So I think when you consider just the context that these athletes are living in today, you know, you can’t fault them for making a personal decision that has a lot of ramifications.
S4: So I look you a publishing question because you made the decision to publish this book is young adult. Why a targeted that that reading went into that decision there?
S14: Yeah. So my first book was called Strong Inside, and it was a biography of Perry Wallace, who is the first African-American basketball player in the SEC, and I adapted that book as a young reader book for middle school kids.
S16: And that was really my first experience in this young adult world. And I loved it. It was really rewarding to go into schools and to see kids and have teachers and librarians come up and say, you know, this kid loves sports. They love to play sports, they love to play sports video games. But we hardly ever see him in the library, you know, but they like this book that just felt cool to me. You know, also, I think that with this younger age group, you have a chance to try to change things in the country. You know, I mean, if you want justice and equality for all people, it’s kind of hard to change older people’s minds sometimes. But maybe you have a chance at a younger age to present these stories and to develop a sense of empathy or justice in these young readers and have them start to act on it in their own lives. So my second book, Games of Deception, was about the first U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, which played at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. And that book was about anti-Semitism and fascism and the truth. You know, in this book about Glenn Burke, you know, homophobia, I think that’s a story that teenagers are totally ready for. You know, they want it even more. Again, living in Tennessee, speaking a lot in rural schools here, going to North Carolina. I remember I was near Asheville last year and the kids asked me, what’s your next book? And I said it was a book about the first openly gay Major League Baseball player when I was in middle school in the 80s. I think a lot of boys in the room probably would have snickered or something, you know, and I’m just honestly, I think that would have been the reaction. It wasn’t the reaction. They were excited about it, you know. And so I think even more so than adults. This is a book that the teens are really ready for. Having said that, this book was excerpted in The Undefeated and The New York Times. It’s not written in a way that an adult would think is beneath them, you know? So just like there’s a lot of why a fiction that adults read. I mean, Harry Potter is read by adults as much as kids. I hope that my books can be something that, you know, a parent and a child maybe could read together and talk about the issues that are raised and it could be really meaningful.
S1: The book is Singled Out The True Story of Glenn Burke, the first openly gay MLB player and the inventor of the high five. The author is Andrew Marinus. Andrew, thanks so much for coming on the show.
S16: Thanks so much for having me. This is a fun discussion and I appreciate it.
S1: And now it is time for after balls. This weekend marked the fiftieth anniversary of the fight of the century, Ali Frazier, one at Madison Square Garden.
S17: ESPN broadcast a remastered version of the fight, and I watched some of it. I’d forgotten just how badly the boxers beat the shit out of each other. It was really a vicious fight. Frazier was bloodied. His face was swollen. Ali was concussed multiple times. Frazier knocked him down in the 15th and final round and won a unanimous decision. The ring filled with people you couldn’t see either boxer on the screen. It was total bedlam. The pre fight was crazy to Frazier was the champion. Ali was getting his first title shot since he was banished from the sport for refusing induction for Vietnam. Ali began his long campaign of insulting Frazier on every level, called him an Uncle Tom Dumb ugly, according to Jonathan Eig biography. Ali, alife, Ali’s wife at the time, Belinda caught him in his hotel room on the day of the fight with a prostitute.
S5: The fighters each got two and a half million dollars, the equivalent of fifteen million today, and the garden was packed with stars Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, the Apollo 14 astronauts, Colonel Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken Fame.
S17: Hugh Hefner, Hubert Humphrey, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Miles Davis, Dustin Hoffman, Diana Ross.
S18: The list goes on.
S5: Ted Kennedy, Burt Bacharach, the real Colonel Sanders of the guy that played Colonel, the Colonel Harland Sanders, William Saroyan was there. One thing I didn’t know, and I learned this from watching some of the remastered fight on ESPN and ABC over the weekend was that one of the announcers was Burt Lancaster, the actor he was alongside. Don Dumphy was a play by play boxing guy in Sugar Ray Robinson, the former boxer. And Lancaster was a friend of the guy that produced the closed circuit production. And he was a boxing fan, hung around day and they had him go on the fight as the as as a color commentator. And he was quoted in The New York Times right before the fight saying that it’d be good to have him because Howard Cosell was a total blowhard. I think the big mistake that Cosell made on the last fight, he said, referring to Ali versus Oscar Bonaventure, which was one of his fights to get back into shape, was that Cosell talked too much. I was watching it in Los Angeles and the people there were shouting, shut off, Howard, let us watch the fight. Wow.
S4: There’s a lot of detail here. This is probably a little too prurient. But how did how did Muhammad Ali’s wife know that the woman was a prostitute?
S5: I mean, did she announced herself there is a full dimino 314 biography details. OK, Linda Wade calling the room hearing. The woman picks up, she bangs on the door after she realizes that Ali’s in there because she and her family are staying in the same hotel and she bangs on the door. I’m going to read now until Alioto door, he was naked. Belinda stepped inside and found a woman hiding in the shower, also naked. It’s not what you think, the woman yelled. You know what? Belinda shouted. I don’t even see what I’m seeing right now. This is not what I see. I’m going to need to kill both y’all up in here. She picked up a steak knife. I was just on the street. The girl screamed. He gave me forty dollars. I didn’t mean.
S4: Oh, she announced herself as a sex worker. OK, I meant what I mean. I have a lot more respect for Muhammad Ali’s performance. In light of all, I would just imagine going into the biggest fight of your life after that happened that morning. I mean, it’s even more heroic than I would have expected.
S1: And the source for that I just looked up was an interview that the Jonathan Eig did for the book.
S10: Sorry to get down to brass tacks here, rather rather than being all up in the clouds. But what are we calling after ball, Stephon?
S1: I think we’ll go with Burt Lancaster. All right. OK, fair enough. All right. It’s kind of a group after ball this week. So, Josh, I’ll throw it to you. What you know, Burt Lancaster.
S10: So last week we talked to Nick Green about how to watch basketball like a genius book. He interviews a bunch of different folks, game designer, ballet choreographer, to get insight about how basketball is played and what makes it great. We talked in that conversation with Nick about the mechanics of the free throw, and we asked you guys to send in your favorite free throws of all time. The response was overwhelming, even more overwhelming than the response about PAC part of this.
S4: But lot give away a book. I didn’t give away a book.
S10: Talking about, by the way, some people just want to win stuff by listening to our show. Can you blame them? So we’ve got a lot of notes. People sent in some really good answers about their favorite free throws. And Nick gave away some books before we get to the winners. I wanted to just run through what some of our emailer sent us because they gave away more than the two books that he promised. He was incredibly generous, generous, very nice. And so the first thing I wanted to note is the Harold Miner free throw routine, which a couple of people told us about Harold baby, Jordan, miner of USC fame. So every time he would go to line, he would put the ball behind his back between the legs, kiss the ball, hug the ball, and then bite his bottom lip, which one emailer said shows concentration. I didn’t remember this routine. Did you guys remember that miner free throws.
S3: And the only thing I remember about how minor is that the dunk contest that he was in? I don’t remember anything else about his career. Wow. Yes. I mean, that puts Herald in his place. Are there any other free throw routines that you guys know? I mean, the one that I remember from my youth is the like Bill Laimbeer routine, because it was like way too focused on like Bill Mears crotch area. And it made me uncomfortable.
S1: But are there any any that you guys mean the one that I practiced the most as a child with my ABA basketball was was shooting underhanded like Rick Barry?
S4: Yeah, I think the Rick Perry thing, I didn’t obviously I wasn’t allowed for a lot of Rick Perry’s career, but I remember that, like that specifically that underhanded shot.
S1: So, yeah, it’s pretty cool by red, white and blue basketball. By the way, Joel and I played that to the point where ABBA was it about maybe a red, white and blue ball. I wore that thing out to the point where the bladder popped through the the outside.
S4: Wow, man. How was your handled? It was terrible. You get to basketball and all that practice, and I love playing. It was terrible.
S3: All right. Another genre of free throw the people sent in was the airball free throw. I think we had five different free throw air ballots that people nominated. There was Aaron Gray, the center, Blake Blake, Blake Griffin, when he was with the Clippers, Joakim Noah in the NBA dysphonia. Diop, who was the lottery pick. You didn’t have a particularly storied NBA career, but is often cited as having the worst free throw in NBA history because it didn’t you know, it maybe came within five feet of the run. But the the worst, most clearly impressive airball free throw that someone nominated was by a player from Appalachian State named Brian, OK? And it goes like way up in the air and travels maybe like five to six feet just total.
S1: Like it slipped out of his hand there. Right. It looks like he intentional. I mean, it looks intentional. It doesn’t look like an accident.
S3: Like maybe he was confused about where the hoop was. He got disoriented. It’s like maybe he thought it was the fifty point basket from the MTV rock and jazz game. You remember that?
S4: Don’t do that. Yeah, I mean, I. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse free throw than that. Like, if that that something else had to have been going on there. I’m sorry that that’s that’s pretty bad. But watch his motion. It looks like his I’m looking at it now doesn’t slip out of his hands. We need to find out what his career free throw percentage shooting was, because I just think I will I will allow the listeners and maybe you, John Stefan, to research that while I am going through this. OK, good idea. All right.
S6: The next genre is the intentional mess. And we had four people nominated for different versions of this. But this is basically when you’re down by two or three points and there’s a few seconds left and a free throw won’t do you any good and say you miss it on purpose and hope to get a rebound. The earliest example, North Carolina State nineteen eighty nine. Rodney Monroe gets the mess from Kelsey Weems, sending the game to overtime where the Wolfpack the pack. But eventually when there’s the famed OKC Steven Adams to Russell Westbrook move there is Duke’s Trey Jones to himself against North Carolina. That might be the best one because he and all these other examples, you’re relying on a teammate to get the rebound. But Trey Jones just like spiked it in front of them and grabbed it and made the shot, went to overtime and and they won. But Joel, the one that I didn’t know about and I commend the emailer for letting us know was your target for Alston, the rockets and real skip to my Lou Alston missed the shot.
S4: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Yao did a great win. I mean, he throws out the front of the rim, it goes right back to him. And then Rafer Alston, who is not known for his shooting ability, by the way. So I mean, are people on the floor for Alston who could then.
S10: Do an impressive dribbling display as the clock right now.
S4: It would have been better if actually if Yao, when he got the rebound, his shot at himself, to be honest. Yeah, well, they needed a three. That looks like they’re down three. Is that what it was? OK. Yeah, I’m looking at I’m looking at it. Right. What a great play for. Oh perfectly executed. But that’s not the guy you want shooting.
S3: It’s like when you cross a guy up and he falls down and he missed the shot. It’s like it should be illegal. All right. So as we noted, Nick did give away a bunch of bucks.
S10: And Nick, you know, to his credit, he determined that there was actually a right answer to this question, which is an interesting let’s take it. But like, that’s his prerogative. And the thing that Nick decided was that the right answer is Bo Kimble shooting free throws left handed to or his teammate Hank gathers a bunch of people sent that in, among them, Douglas Becker, Steve Limn Jeff Lang and Brian her in the back story there for folks who don’t know is that Hank Gathers was just an amazing player. Loyola Marymount, these were the Paul Westhead running running gun teams of the 80s and 90s. And in March of 1990, Hank Gathers collapsed during a West Coast conference tournament game and was declared dead on arrival at a hospital. He was found to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. And this was right before the NCAA tournament, just a horrible, tragic thing, everybody loved Hank Gathers. And in the tournament, Loyola Marymount makes this amazing run to the Elite eight as an 11 seed. Bo Kimble was Hank’s friend and that other best player on the team. And he decided that to honor Hank, he was going to shoot the first free throw of every game left handed because Hank others had been just a horrible free throw shooter and had shot. He was a right handed shooter, but he had changed the shooting left handed to see if that might change his luck. And what Bo Kimble said about this, which I found so interesting and moving, was that what he wanted to do is and it didn’t matter to him if he made the free throws, even if he did, he did end up making them, was to honor the fact that Hank Gathers worked so hard that he was willing to to do this and that he thought that was the most important thing to honor was was gathers his work ethic. And, you know, it’s hard to think, actually of something comparable to this where the tribute is conceived of and executed. And it was so effective in being memorable and honoring the person and honoring them in their life. And what they did, like Bo Kimble, is like a genius for coming up with that. And it was like a moving tribute as well, just like so smart and empathetic.
S4: Yeah, I think for people certainly of our age, maybe not maybe if you’re 10 years younger or whatever, but what happened with Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble is like probably one of the more memorable college basketball sequences of our lifetime. Right. Like, I just, you know, Hank gathers for people that know I mean, you mentioned that he was a great player, but I mean, he would have been a first round NBA draft pick. I mean, I think he led the country in scoring and maybe rebounding, too. So, yeah. I mean, it’s just like one of those indelible moments that you’ll you’ll never forget if you were a college basketball fan around, then.
S1: All right. I got Brian Williams sports reference dotcom page open. He was a seven foot two hundred and forty five pound center, starting his career college career at Rutgers transferred to Appalachian State. This happened in December 2012 and for that season. Drum roll, please. He was three for 10 from the free throw line career, 13 for 27 at App State, five for 14. So he’s not even getting to the free throw line a lot for a big man. I mean, that kind of. I’m playing very much so. OK, yeah, he’s averaging, you know, a few minutes a game.
S3: That’s actually better than I would have expected seeing really for him. So. So, yeah. I mean, three credit to him for making those free throws. All right. A couple more winners. Amelio Magistrate wrote in and was awarded by Nick Green for a couple of UConn women basketball free throws.
S8: The first that she noted was Carla Bhairavi, hitting a pair at the end of the 1995 five national championship game between UConn and Tennessee. That was Yukon’s first championship. It kind of kicked off the dynasty. And there isn’t anything like particularly remarkable about these free throws. But what I wrote is that it was just formative for her as a basketball fan to see somebody step to the line and just like hit clutch free throws and in the last fashion, as she notes. So that was, I think, just a good example of like being kind of inspired and awed by somebody coming through in the clutch than the other one that she mentioned, which I didn’t know about, is when Cash, the legendary UConn player now and the New Orleans Pelicans front office, getting a defensive rebound on a free throw and then immediately going up for a jump shot and swishing it. You note that I said a defensive rebound. She, like, made the shot in the wrong basket, which I had never seen anyone do before. And she was like very, very sheepish about it. But it is a strange and amusing moment in a long and storied and celebrated career of Swin Cash.
S4: Yeah, about that. Can I can I briefly hijack this to with my favorite free throws or go for it? Nick Anderson, game one of the nineteen ninety five NBA finals for the Orlando Magic misses four straight free throws, allowing my Houston Rockets to get back into the game, steal game one on the way to their four game sweep of the Shaq Petty Orlando Magic. I feel bad for Nick Anderson. I feel bad for Anderson, who fails a moment, a key moment. But I mean, that championship was very sweet. So thanks, Nick, for helping me out and having a little fun when I was 17 years old.
S3: All right. That was callous, but I’ll allow it. Our final winner is Sam Quincy. This was about the Iowa player, Jordan Bohanon.
S8: He’s actually still on Iowa and he had made thirty four straight free throws, which was tying the record for the Iowa Hawkeyes. And that tied the record of an Iowa player named Chris Street. And Street’s streak was ended tragically. He died in a car accident after the last game of his junior season. So Bohanon knew about this and he had the chance to break the record and he missed his next free throw on purpose. Didn’t tell his coach. I think nobody really knew what he was doing until he explained afterwards. This was very meaningful, obviously, to Chris Street’s family and to Iowa fans. And Iowa did go on to win the game. But this was just another example of, I guess, the free throw as a stage for a tribute to a fallen teammate or somebody from your alma mater, which I guess I didn’t realize that was a thing that had happened recurrently. But the Jordan Bohanon example from just the last few years show that it happened again.
S12: And let’s bring this back to conclude with next book and the Naismith Rules, the original rules of basketball. There was a designated free throw shooter. We would have been denied all of these wonderful moments had that rule not been changed in 1923.
S3: So the book, again, is How to Watch Basketball Like a genius. Thank you so much to everybody who wrote in. It was really great to see the response and really so many personal memories. We appreciate it.
S4: I was skeptical when you guys started talking about it, when I was listening from afar. Like that sounds very boring. I don’t know how that’s going to turn out, but I was wrong. Just like you all were wrong about PIAC. I was wrong about the free throw.
S2: That is our show for today with every with everyone having been wrong once we can we can call it a show. Our producer this week with Margaret Kelly to listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, dotcom, hang up. You can email us about free throws or anything else and hang up at Slate dot com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and give us on Apple podcast for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. And Josh Levine remembers our mobility. And thanks for listening.
S3: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, and it was two weeks ago now on this very program that Joel Anderson. You try and you try to tell us all, but we didn’t want to listen.
S4: Yeah, I don’t I don’t, you know, I guess it’s just more evidence that you should be listening to me. You know this. I know a few things. Not just you know, it’s not limited to being the fastest 10 year old in the country. Slama, JAMA, you know, rockets trivia. I know a few things.
S3: All right. Let’s for those who don’t know what you’re referring to, remind listeners what we’re what we’re talking about here. What did you what did you tell us two weeks ago?
S4: Right. So it was two weeks ago. We were sort of offhandedly we were talking about our favorite dunks and offhandedly mentioned that I asked you all if anybody had ever heard of the term pack pack for a block or like, you know, kind of sort of the sort of block that would end up on the SportsCenter highlight reel or whatever a particular kind of blood. Yeah, it’s not just, you know, not tapped in a way like Bill Russell would do. There’s something sort of thing that Dikembe Mutombo might have done. Right. And nobody felt me on here. Nobody was. Listen, you know, you guys did not we’re not familiar with the term PAC, which leads me to believe that you all have never packed anybody in a game. But yeah, so but but we did there was an outpouring, an outpouring. When you say of people outpouring.
S19: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that you slanderous a little bit here. It is possible it is possible that it was just not a term of art where we grew up though. One of our respondents is from Louisiana. So Josh is not off the hook. No one was from Pelham, New York, where I grew up, who responded request for for for for confirmation of PAC.
S3: This is where your age and experience comes in handy, Stefan.
S19: It’s just a generational it could be that would be a generational thing. We had a different term growing up and our term, which was confirmed by one of our correspondents, was stuff for pack. You got stuffed and there’s a difference. And I think it’s important that we articulate the difference here stuff. And I think a PAC isn’t just a routine block where you knock the ball out of the air on its trajectory up toward the basket, and then you swatted away a pack or a stuff to me. And this is confirmed again by some of our correspondents, is where you are basically blocking the ball before it even leaves the shooter’s hands. You’re jamming it back down like you are packing. It’s humiliating, right? Or you’re stuffing something into a bag. Right. That’s the that’s the image that pack or stuff conscious.
S3: But here’s a question for Joel. Like for you, is it that specific action or is it any humiliating block no matter what?
S4: Yeah. Yeah. See, I thought it was more of any humiliating block. So guess if he gets out, if you get out of your hands, you know, if somebody packs it back to you to the stands and a half court, that’s that. Say they didn’t have to be within your hands. It also it’s interesting you said stuff because we said stuff for dunking. For dunking. Right. Stuff had two meanings. Yeah. Oh, you had to make it had two meanings and Pellom as well. Yeah. Not that I was never dunking. OK, yeah. We’re talking about that honestly. Yeah. No we use. No I don’t. The crowds were just stunned into silence when it happened. Let’s talk about this. You did. How many times have you dunked in your life, Josh.
S3: A lot I mean, I’m pretty tall. Yeah, well, I can’t anymore, but I used to be able to really.
S4: So you would like pull this out and pickup games and whatever.
S8: I couldn’t do any kind of dunk beyond just dunking the ball with two hands. I couldn’t palm the ball actually made my hands, aren’t I?
S18: But you were able to stand under the basket, catch the ball with two hands, jump up and dunk it.
S4: I couldn’t know how you said he did a drop, so yeah, I couldn’t just do standing under that.
S3: But now I used to I also used to dunk in the backyard. We had a hoop, but I like bent the rim so much that I wasn’t watching. It wasn’t that hard to do. OK, ok.
S4: Wow. I just was banging, banging them so hard they ruined.
S3: So what I’m saying is that people were just stunned into silence. So there is no terminology. So maybe that’s why I don’t know some of these fancy words. Mister, I’m curious for Mr. Etymology. Yeah. Over there. Isn’t this about the time of the segment where you tell us that this was first used in eighteen forty two is I could not find any challenge to Ben Zimmer and our other lexicographical friends.
S19: I couldn’t find a sort of reference. I couldn’t find a reference in a in a newspaper by going through a couple of databases to pack and I searched for sort of pack and blocked shot and basketball. But it does make a couple of wiki pages. Nicknames for block shots include rejections, stuffs, bushed fudged or notably double fudge to hand in blocks. I’d never heard that facial swat denial pack. OK, I mean, and there’s a definition in the wiki glossary of basketball terms to roughly hit down a ball that an opposing player has just released for a shot. So I think that’s closer to the I got it when it’s just coming out of its hands and I’m slamming it back down.
S4: There’s just no way to get your arms around this because clearly it’s part of basketball subculture. This is with NBA Twitter before NBA Twitter. Right. That, you know, this term sort of made its way around and you had to kind of be connected to know what I did.
S19: I did a geographic breakdown of our of our respondents, Georgia, Northern California, Raleigh, North Carolina, Santa Barbara, California, San Francisco, to people south Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, unspecified.
S4: So no place more eastern than North Carolina, North Carolina, and no place more northern than Wisconsin or Michigan, I guess. Right? Well, those are pretty northern. Where would get to use it to get to the north? Yes, we’re expecting like Yukon Territory and South Africa. Well, I mean, I just I mean, I had no way of knowing that it had made its way around the country, even to this extent. I mean, right now, we’ve got from California to southern Louisiana to North Carolina, we’ve basically covered the entire country.
S18: But but for the northeast coast, the northeast, there were a couple of good definitions from people that wrote in. Stephen Baggier said packing was more than a tip away. A good pack was a dominant block that might stop the shooters forward momentum or reject the ball directly back into their face or body. Many shots or block, but few are actually packed. A pack is an insult. Packing is the defensive equivalent to Posta Rising and Nicholas Salter wrote A pack was a serious block that prevented the ball from getting anywhere near the basket or sent it flying back in the face of the guy shooting. Not just a tip. I think we mostly used it in the past tense, as in he just got attacked.
S4: I’m jealous of Nicholas Salter because he said he grew up near Santa Barbara. So, I mean, I would love to know the kind, of course, he was playing on back in that day, because that sounds like a lot of fun. And shout out to your boy, Stephen Baker, by the way, because he said he was a fan of five Slama JAMA as well. That’s right. And there’s not a lot of us out there, so.
S1: Yeah. And Quinn Duffy shout out to Quinn Duffy, who confirmed that in San Francisco, stuff and pack were synonymous.
S3: One last thing, Stephen Baggier notes that Akeem Olajuwon was a great packer. He also cites Charles Barkley. LeBron, Shaq and Dennis Rodman. So I don’t know if from those five or maybe if you want to go off the board, Joel, who is the platonic packer when you when you imagine. Oh, it’s a Keyon. Brett Farve. Aaron Rodgers.
S7: Like, if I’m not mistaken, he’s the all time NBA leader in blocks, if I’m correct. And he was he was even more outrageous with it in college. Like that was like what I what I think of a team. And that’s a.T.M. Back when he was known like that in college, I think of the outrageous PAC like it’s probably why I got this from it probably all stems from a game. So it’s all things.
S3: Yeah. He is the all time NBA block leader and Dikembe Mutombo. I also think of Patrick Ewing as being an amazing shot blocker in college. But those were those were not packs he’s known for like the kind of goaltending block, like getting getting the ball at the top of his arc of its arc rather than stuffing it back in a dude’s face.
S4: Didn’t he, like, legendarily open one game with like four straight goaltending, some just to make a statement or something like that? I feel like I was you will score a bunch of points because. Right.
S6: Well, this was educational, at least for me and Stefan. Affirming for Joel and thank you to everyone from sea to shining sea for writing in.
S4: Well, except except for the Atlantic Northeast. Show up. Let us know if you wanna. Yeah. Reaches the.
S2: All right. Northeastern nurse, hang up at Slate. You know where to find us. And thank you. Slate Plus members will be back with more for you next week.