The Bengals and Rams to the Super Bowl Edition

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S1: Following podcast contains explicit language, including the words, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Hi, I’m Josh Levin Slate’s national editor, and this is hang up and listen for the week of January 31st, 2020 to on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the Bengals and the Rams making it to the Super Bowl, the Chiefs and 49ers missing out and Tom Brady maybe possibly retiring. We’ll also discuss the Australian Open, where Rafael Nadal won his record setting 21st Grand Slam title, and Grant Wahl will join us to assess the U.S. men’s national team’s frigid loss to Canada and where they stand in World Cup qualification. I’m in Washington DC and I am the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year Joel Anderson is off again this week, which means there will be no gloating about TCU’s basketball victory over LSU. And sadly for him, the statute of limitations expires today. Stefan Fatsis is here in D.C., and he’s the author of the book Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and Wild and Outside, and is a more elevated sports fan. He only roots for NFL playoff games to be boring and non-competitive, so he can win the argument that the 17 game season ruined football. Oh my God.

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S2: Seven years ago, you are not going to let that go. I am most happy that these games are being decided by field goals.

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S1: Also joining us this week with no petty kind of disagreements or score settling that I know of, although I will say it’s Louisa Thomas. She’s a staff writer at The New Yorker, the author of three books co-editor of Losers Dispatches from the Other Side of the Scoreboard. I’m sorry to drop you and to just this, this pit of vipers Louisa.

S3: My pettiness runs deep. Josh It’s so petty you don’t even know it.

S1: All right, I look forward to hearing it throughout the show. Late in the second quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, the Kansas City Chiefs and their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, scored their third touchdown on their third possession to take a twenty one to three lead over the Cincinnati Bengals. At that point, it seemed impossible that the Chiefs wouldn’t make their third straight Super Bowl, but then the Bengals scored a TD. The Chiefs get down to the one yard line at the end of the first half. They go for it, they don’t score. And then in the second half it got worse for Kansas City. They got two first downs on their first five possessions to gag up the lead and then down three with the ball at the Bengals five yard line in time running down. Mahomes got sacked twice. He fumbled on the second one. The Chiefs did recover and kicked the tying field goal, but then it got worse for the Chiefs. They won the overtime coin toss just like they did against Buffalo this time. Mahomes third interception the Bengals ever Nick fierce NEA kickers kept the game winning field goal Stefan. We’re going to talk about the Cincinnati offense when you talk about Joe Burrow, the heroic, brave, courageous, handsome LSU quarterback. Oh, 08, he’s on the Bengals now. We’ll talk about all that in a minute. But what happened to Mahomes and the Chiefs offense was almost spooky.

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S2: It was really weird. We’ll start with the decision by Kansas City Football Team head coach Andy Reid to eschew the easy field goal at the end of the first half, which would have given them a 24 10 lead. That was defensible in the moment there the KC after after all, but Mahomes execution on the play was poor a sideways throw around the five yard line. It was snuffed out by Eli Apple and it set the stage for a truly uncharacteristic second half. Bill Barnwell noted on ESPN that the Bengals adjusted their coverages. But we’ve come to think of Mahomes as able to swat away any defensive adjustments because he and Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are so good that it doesn’t matter whether opponents are rushing three or four linemen or where they’re positioning their linebackers and secondary. And what did Mahomes have like 50 yards passing in the second half? And those last two plays that you mentioned in regulation where they could have won the game, where he lost almost 20 yards running around in circles, missed an open Kelsey fumbled and was lucky that one of his offensive linemen was able to fall on the ball. Barnwell wrote it felt like Mahomes was unsure of what he was seeing at times during the second half. I’m not sure there’s anything more than just that. It’s hard to be transcendent all the time, and other NFL players are also very good at what they do.

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S3: You know, there were times earlier in the season when everyone was sort of, you know, clutching their pearls and saying, what happened to Patrick Mahomes? Remember way back when when he seemed like less than a a god, and then he reminded us exactly who he was and what a transcendent, as you said, quarterback he is. But I think that’s right. I think that I have no idea what happened except to say that, you know, sometimes people have bad days or bad habits, and it can be bewildering at some times, but it turns out he’s human.

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S1: So the Buffalo Bills, who the chiefs just made to look horrible and stupid, to put a fine point on it, they are the number one defense in the NFL. Number one pass defense in the NFL. So the notion that there’s some sort of adjustment right then one can make to stop Mahomes and the Chiefs seems a little bit silly. And yet it also feels like putting all of the agency on Mahomes is, you know, not fair to the Bengals because they did change things. They dropped eight into coverage, and that’s why Mahomes had all the time to run around and not find an open man towards the end. But, you know, they were double teaming Kelsey and hell. And again, usually like that means he’ll find hard or Pringle or, you know, McKinnon. And it just felt like when Mahomes was running around not finding anyone. This is the downside of a quarterback who, when he freelances and freestyles, you say nobody else in the league can do this. Nobody else in the league should do this. Nobody else in the league could get away with this. Stefan. And in this case, like he, he makes it. He makes the game kind of harder for himself sometimes than it needs to be. Like his Barnwell was pointing out, like Travis, Kelce has kind of been just like immediately on the play where he ran back 20 yards and got sacked. And so in the like five or 10 percent of games where he doesn’t play well, he looks worse than like a standard issue quarterback. Having a bad game he like looks better when he’s having a good game and looks worse when he’s having a bad day.

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S2: And in fairness, in overtime, the interception did not really feel like it was Mahomes fault. That was an excellent. Play by the defenders, I mean, the beat got right there at the last second to poke the ball out of the hands of the receiver, and it went right into the arms of a Bengals defender. So it’s hard to blame Mahomes there, but certainly you had those two quarters of utter Joe terribleness from Kansas City’s offense. I mean, the worst half in any game posted by Mahomes ever in his career. And to have it happen then obviously magnifies the badness.

S1: Let’s talk about Joe Burrow Louisa. He is in his second year, came to a team that had the number one draft pick, which by definition means it’s bad. They were bad again last year and Burrow tore up his knee. And so coming into this season, it was like, what a hundred and fifty to one or something that they make the Super Bowl? And that seemed generous. They have a bad offensive line, and so he’s getting pressured a lot. Is there something about him like, I think there’s a tendency when there’s like kind of a new young hotshot quarterback to feel like it’s the next Brady. He’s like Joe cool. Just like Joe Montana. Like, do you sense like a certain kind of charisma coming off of him that like that has led his team to, like, overcome its historical badness? Or is it just like, Yeah, this guy is like pretty good and they got good receivers and a good running back?

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S3: Well, certainly the myth making machine has been hard at work lately, cultivating the story that he likes to tell about himself. I mean, I am not sure I’ve ever seen such a young or cocky quarterback. Let’s say there’s a marlin, a little bit of a barstool to him, if that’s fair to say. But yeah, I mean, he’s he’s got a lot of confidence, let’s say that. And there have been lots of stories about his changing the team’s motto and James the team’s culture and, you know, can do anything. And you know, he’s still, you know, behind a bad offensive line, still, you know, face a lot of pressure. He is a he’s really good and he’s, you know, showed more than once. So he’s a kind of an escape artist, too. And that’s rare, you know, and it’s rare to have the kind of poise and when your team is behind by that much and confidence. But yeah, I mean, it’s always hard to say, you know, from the outside, how much how much does changing the team slogan from why not us to it is us actually makes any difference

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S1: based on the story for The Athletic that was like the collection of all of the like great moments for Burrow at LSU and like when he won over the team. So there was this one moment where the year before they won the national title, he threw a pick six against UCF in the ballgame, and a defensive player just takes a cheap shot on him and like planned some into the turf and like, he’s bleeding and they’re getting ready for the backup to come in. And he’s like, No, I’m staying on and he comes back out and just like immediately leads them to like all of these touchdown drives in a row. And I can imagine if I was his teammate, I would be like, All right, this guy is like, pretty good, and it’s like going to lead us to great places. And then there was like another story that’s like during the off season when he came, he like, stood up and gave a speech in the locker room and he was like, That’s our quarterback is like, Can you imagine Stefan? Like, how many like random dudes, random quarterbacks like stand up and give a speech in the locker room, and then the team goes out and loses or like he loses the job. Like that stuff seems like ex post. Facto right? Like this stuff on the field? You’re like, All right, like that guy’s probably going to be a good quarterback. But like all of the like off field changing the culture, changing the motto, I bet there’s like, I bet Sam Darnold did that about, huh? I bet he’s changed the motto like, you know, several times to

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S2: Sam Darnold has to change the motto as frequently as possible and hopes that something will stick.

S1: I was actually thinking of Sam Darnold with Mahomes thing too is like when Barnwell Bill Barnwell wrote like that. Mahomes didn’t know what he was seeing out there. It was like the Sam Darnold seeing ghosts. Then that’s how that’s how bad Mahomes was. He like brought to mind the Sam Darnold seeing ghosts.

S2: Ghosts were just, you know, more about Burrow than we do. I mean, what’s charming about Burrow right now is that he’s become sort of a character, right? Like, everyone is dredging up his tweets from high school that are just silly and ridiculous, and it’s almost as if he was, you know, and continues to try to create a persona that doesn’t match his appearance. How much of that is genuine? I mean, is he just a goofball football player? And how much do you think is sort of deliberate trying to just bask in the sort of nuclear loose kind of character that he seems to be? He seems to best represent? Well, there is

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S1: always this huge kind of mismatch between his perception of himself and his own abilities and the world’s perception going back to high school when he wasn’t, like, super highly recruited, although he did get there’s this like ridiculous notion. To say, like anybody who isn’t like anointed the world’s greatest immediately is like everybody. Nobody believed him. He got a scholarship to Ohio State. I mean, that’s like a pretty good football school. But then he gets there, doesn’t win the starting job transfers to LSU. Nobody thought of him as a high draft pick at that point, much less the number one pick. And so is there is truth to the fact that he’s like continually living up to his own belief about himself and proving other people wrong to a certain extent. But then, like, you know, when they win the national championship, he’s like smoking a cigar, a victory cigar in the in the locker room. And there is this, I think, very kind of conscious effort to cultivate not only like the quotes around like, yeah, I’m great and I think I’m great, but also just like trying to create like an iconic the imagery, the aura. Exactly.

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S3: But he does seem to be having fun with it. I mean, that is what is endearing about it. I mean, that’s what you hope at this point. You know that you know, he he’s he’s there’s a degree of self-awareness about how many diamonds are in his necklace and how many cigars he’s smoking. And there is a kind of a self caricature going on right. But at some point he was a Super Bowl, and then we’re all in trouble.

S1: And you know, the success that they had this year was because in large part of that combination of Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, that college teammates and in this game, talking about a defensive plan like the chiefs doubled chase all over the field and largely took him away. And just kind of like what Josh Allen did last week, when you know that the Chiefs took away Stefon Diggs, he threw for a touchdown, passes to Gabriel Davis. And so I guess we can’t praise the Chiefs too much for their defensive acumen. But like Burrow, took what the defense gives them apologies for the cliche and like you said, Louisa, there were just a couple of moments where he escaped pressure, ran for first downs and sort of defied expectations given what the Bengals line players. And it’ll be very interesting if we could transition into the second game. How Burrow and the Bengals deal with Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive line like they could get disgusting. Like it could be a problem that even the diamond wearing cigar smoking Joe Burrow is incapable of dealing with.

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S2: And yet we should be happy. I think that it’s the Rams making the Super Bowl and not the forty Niners. I mean, the 49ers felt and Kyle Shanahan, obviously, the head coach has created a team that plays this way, running more very conservative. And kind of you had to because you don’t have Joe Burrow quarterback, you had Jimmy Garoppolo, who has demonstrated his inability to close things out and rally a team. And in this case, you know, there was a point in the fourth quarter where Shanahan didn’t go for it on fourth and two from the Rams forty five and then after the game, defended it. And I was glad to see the team that has Cooper Kupp and then sort of rejuvenated Matt Stafford at quarterback and Odell Beckham Jr., demonstrating that that location does matter where you play in the NFL, getting to the Super Bowl, I think this will be a much more entertaining game, though maybe it will be ugly, but I don’t know. Burrow seemed to escape a few dicey situations and against Kansas City.

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S3: It is true. If it were Cincinnati vs. the 49ers, the Super Bowl would have a little bit of a feeling of an accident, you know, especially after the playoffs. But we’ve gotten so far where, you know, you’ve seen really high level play and some some truck and play too. But you know, it does seem like. The the team that should have won somehow managed to win.

S2: And not only that,

S1: John, the 49ers always beat the Rams. That’s, well, fair. It’s funny that you mention that this would be an accident because when we were growing up Louisa, the Super Bowl is always the Bengals and the 49ers. I feel like that there’s there is a certain kind of inevitability was coming into play.

S2: The Rams making the Super Bowl feels like an NFL team sort of getting away with their plan, which is interesting. You know, they traded Jared Goff in two first round picks for Matthew Stafford. They acquired Von Miller. They acquired Beckham and kept saying over and over, We’re going for it right now. We’re going for it right now. And it’s kind of worked in an NFL where that’s, you know, designed for parity. Obviously, the Bengals haven’t gone like six, twenty five and won the previous two seasons are now in the Super Bowl. This is an example of like planning and being able to change. Course quickly happens, which is feels kind of kind of interesting to me.

S3: You also feel there’s something sort of like Grant NFL plan about it. You know, you have the billion dollar stadium where the Super Bowl is going to be hosted. You have a kind of star quarterback who had never actually proven that he should be considered a star quarterback, but was somehow sort of, yeah, rejuvenated is probably a good word, but you have this kind of recognizable names, sort of. We’re called called into this like brand new idea of an L.A. team, which it’s sort of been so far more like an idea than than something real. And now we’re at the Super Bowl, you know, it’s something. Yeah, I think that I think that’s actually kind of interesting point. Like, there is something they’re getting away with. Something is missing something. Yeah, exactly.

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S2: And it seems feels very Potemkin Village Super Bowl team.

S1: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s something maybe less risky about what the Rams did, that it kind of sounds like initially like they got rid of like a bunch of first round picks. Did you mention Jalen Ramsey, too? They traded a bunch of picks for him, but they had a bunch of late round picks. And so and the NFL like volume in the draft is often more important than getting guys at the very top, although maybe Joe Burrow says that that that can be incorrect in some circumstances, but the combination of like getting a bunch of star quality guys and then kind of loading up on people that you need to fill out a big NFL roster like that. There’s a certain intelligence at work there, but if you have a top heavy roster, you just need health. And Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald von Miller, Jalen Ramsey. They were all on the field. And like how many times in an NFL season would you have seen, like two or three or four of those guys not be able to play or be compromised? And so I think they got lucky with health like their bet paid off. But I found it interesting that you were kind of A.. Forty niner because. All right. The case against the Rams as they built this like kind of ridiculous stadium that cost way too much money. They don’t actually have fans. They got like routed by the 49ers. And you think that it’s like better to root for a team because their quarterback is good, like the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is not a good quarterback by NFL, Sanders said. I thought the 49ers more fascinating to watch actually what they did with Deebo Samuel and putting him at running back like there’s no player. And I think that I’m speaking for Joel here as well. Just saying there’s no player. There was more fun to watch during these playoffs than Deebo Samuel. Like that the kind of strength and power that he runs with, along with the shifting s like he showed on that screen pass that he scored on. And so the way that they were able to patch it together, Demeaco Ryans, the young defensive coordinator, like putting together that defense. And I think Shanahan, for all that, he was like too conservative on that punt got like the way that he is was able to kind of get that team building towards what seemed like the Super Bowl when they’re up by 10 points was like a good, a really good coaching job. And so go forty nine ERS brands.

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S3: I want to clarify that I don’t think that the Rams are worth rooting for or the

S2: 49ers would just be a better football game to watch Cooper, Kupp and everybody else as opposed to just Deebo Samuel. But yeah, necessity is the mother of invention. So credit to Shanahan for four piecing that team together. Their running back were injured one after another during the regular season, and to come up with that creativity on the fly as the season progressed is a credit to them. Let’s finish up with some Tom Brady talk ESPN and really only ESPN is definitively reporting that. Brady is retiring after 22 seasons, and they’re going they were going all in on this Louisa. I mean, everybody else is hedging it. Quoting Brady’s agent saying that only Tom will announce when he’s retiring. The AP reported that Brady has told the Buccaneers that he hasn’t made up his mind yet. So I felt this kind of perplexing the sort of the degree to which ESPN is all in.

S3: I thought it kind of hilarious, to be honest, because I mean, it was like, we’re, you know, living in two different sports universes. You go to U.S. and there was the open letter thanking Tom Brady. I mean, there’s it’s like a whole package and the, you know, the story stayed at the top of their sort of news newsreel all day and all weekend and as it would if Tom Brady had announced that he was retiring. The tricky thing is that Tom Brady did not not announce that he was retiring. You know, it was a very, sources say, story and even the kind of back tracking, you know, that ESPN reported that his clothing line had had seemed to post a tweet confirming and then erased that. And, you know, other outlets were reporting that Tom Brady had called the Bucs and said, I haven’t made a decision yet. It does seem like he is probably going to retire. At the same time, there was no admission that there was any kind of pushback. And not just around the story, but the whole packaging of it. I mean, it was this kind of weird, you know, celebration of Tom Brady’s life and career. On the one hand, over here and everyone else being like speculation rising, you know, it’s sort of a weird, I don’t know, skipping. It was it was a weird it was a weird weekend. I was into it actually, because it was much more interesting to me than a sort of like straightforward Tom Brady retires story. But but yeah, it was definitely like, pretty amazed. ESPN’s just refusal not to spin even the, you know, semi denials, soft denials and to soft confirmation of their story.

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S1: I am pro ESPN here because they’re like in this business relationship with Tom Brady, right? Like there’s that ESPN plus man in the arena series that Tom Brady, I think actually has final cut on when he stopped producing.

S3: Yeah, yeah.

S1: But they’re their business partners there and a lot of the time with like, you know, everybody’s like, Whoa, George, great job. Were you getting that or a great job? Adam Schefter And what they’re doing is like reporting on things that we would know in three minutes, like if they didn’t report them. A lot of that stuff just seems pointless. But in this case, it’s very rare like announcement like this that they say it’s a legitimate scoop. And Brady’s denial. It’s not even a denial like an as you said, the TB12 sports account sent a tweet that confirmed the decision and so good on ESPN for not pretending to go along with this idea that Tom Brady isn’t retiring. It does lead to like an interesting epistemological question of like what is a retired retirement like? If Brady hasn’t announced his retirement, even though they know that he’s retiring again like that just seems ridiculous and like hairsplitting. And so the thing that I found the most interesting actually was the AP going with its own report, saying that he hasn’t made up his mind. You would think that it would be ESPN. There would be more like playing along and doing the kind of access he

S3: or the New York Times, The New York Times also being like speculation mounting, I think, was the headline, you know, after the s report, it was not, you know, reports are that, yes, you

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S1: know, I mean, the final chapter here could be Brady actually deciding not to retire just despite

S2: that. My question is, is it above Tom Brady to say I could play another year? All right, now I will. Why not?

S3: I would. I’m going to say, like much respect if you die

S1: of next Rafael Nadal and the Australian Open. Late on Sunday night in Melbourne, Australia, Rafael Nadal looked more down and out. Even the Cincinnati Bengals did in the first half against Kansas City. He was down two sets to none against Daniil Medvedev point away from going down a break in the third set, but Nadal climbed out of that game and the third set and the fourth set and then the fifth set. He came back for a two six six seven six four six four seven five victory and more than five hours. He won his 21st Grand Slam title, the most of all time in men’s singles, one more than either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. Louisa This was not the most dominant performance of Nadal’s career, but for me it was maybe the best example of why he’s great. He was coming off a long term foot injury. He hadn’t played for months before an Australian warm up tournament, which he won, incidentally. He’s also playing against the best hard court player in the world vaccinated male division, and for many hours he looked like the second best player on the court. And yet somehow he fought. He changed tactics and he was holding the trophy at the end, and I should say that I devoured the match. I said it for six hours, and when I turned on my TV at 9:30 Eastern time, I saw the first thing I saw was Medvedev holding that little plate and talking. And then and then when I, I spend the next half hour, many hours, you know, I fast forward and so I didn’t take that long. I was just like. Did did they give the winner the small plate this time as just like trying? It did ruin some of the suspense, but there was a lot of suspense and wondering like, wait, how did he turn this around? How did he do

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S2: DVR just to stick on? The DVR theme ran out at four three in the fifth set. I managed to watch the end on ESPN Plus’s Spanish

S3: feed, and this wasn’t even the longest Australian Open final that Nadal has played, which is a pretty unbelievable record. I mean, I think you could see how much this meant to him. I mean, I think he in some ways maybe even confirmed his greatness to himself. Not that, you know, we need that, but you could see how much it meant to him. Even after he won the semi-final because Matteo Berrettini, he was emotional in a way that you don’t normally see him at that stage. He has been very open about what a difficult month this has been. He called it the most emotional month of his life. Before the tournament, he gave an interview to Ben Rothenberg for the New York Times about how he was very close to retiring. He had a very difficult bout with COVID. He had foot pain that really seemed to not entirely go away. You could see it in this tournament affecting him as as matters went on. And I have to say this match exactly the opposite way that I expected it to. You would sort of assume that the 35 year old great would come out, you know, guns blazing and that he would fade, which has been what’s happened. He got heat stroke earlier in the tournament, but actually he he looked completely lost for two and a third sets. And the exciting thing was watching him figure out Medvedev’s game and exploit Medvedev, you know, weaker volleys and kind of will himself into a situation where he could win. I mean, he has not come back from two sets down, you know, in more than a decade. It’s just me. It’s incredible.

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S1: Stefan. When we think of Nadal, we think of grinding long rallies. And in the first part of this match, the grinding long rallies were pretty much all going Medvedev’s way, like they played an amazing match at the at the US Open. And it’s just a great stylistic kind of scenario when they when they play each other because Medvedev is the guy who is not going to be troubled by, you know, Nadal from the baseline, he could do that all day, although he was cramping a little bit towards the end. But so Nadal did was, you know, he did use a lot of drop shots and Grant Medvedev n. But he just started going for it like towards the end of the match and was like, All right, I’m not going to be like Grant Nadal, I’m just going to like blast the ball. And that’s kind of when it turned around and it wasn’t like he should have necessarily been doing that from the beginning. It made sense for him to play the way he did, and he took on more risk by hitting the ball harder and trying to play these shorter rallies. And he executed so kind of a risky strategy, but he nailed it.

S2: He had nothing to lose. Is there a little bit of that? I mean, he recognised I’m down two sets and he was down, you know, like you said, he was on the verge of being in and truly insurmountable position in the third set. He told Euro Sport after he was broken when serving for the match at five four 30 love. I thought, Fuck, am I going to lose like in 2012 and 2017, but I just kept fighting. I can lose. He can win, but I can’t give up. And it felt to me like he probably said the same thing to himself in the third set. Like, I should just go for this. I mean, it was also improbable. Josh you and I saw him in Washington last summer, in late August, early September, and it was like a miracle he was there. According to him and everything that was being written about him, that was not that long ago. I mean, it really is a remarkable recovery with very little tournament play in between and then to just sort of cruised through the early parts of the Australian Open. Survive five sets against a young player, Denis Shapovalov, in the quarter finals and then four sets in the semifinals against Berrettini. And then this crazy comeback in the finals. I mean, what a human and what an athlete.

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S3: And we’ll say that his more aggressive game style is something that he been showing throughout the tournament and his success. He had been sort of playing off the front foot in a way that we don’t normally associate with Nadal. But you know, he, as he mentioned himself in Stefan, mentioned like he has not played a lot of matches. His conditioning is not where it normally is. So he knew that he couldn’t go into these long grind out matches again and again and again. And yet he he knew he couldn’t. He still did. He’s somehow managed to win. I mean, I think if you’d asked Nadal whether or not he could have won a match like this before, before the match, he probably like everybody else, would have said no. And yet the kind of gifts that he has is that he could do it anyway.

S1: Let’s talk about Medvedev, who was just Medvedev ng all over the place and in all sorts of ways. Let’s maybe start with the semifinals and his match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, where he very loudly accused his opponent of being coached by his father. Let’s listen to that.

S4: And he’s got the. By the way, it’s fun to get. It’s hard to get the.

S1: Louisa not unusual for Medvedev to be voluble, let’s say. What did you make of his kind of on court and off court commentary and behavior during this tournament?

S3: Well, we’ve seen it all before, as you say, you know, has a long history of absolutely losing his mind during tennis matches and saying regrettable things and then going on to a press conference and more or less apologizing for his intemperance. He was asked again if he if he ever regretted these outbursts, and he says all the time, you know, he he does. He has a kind of impulse control problem on the court. You know, in the heat of battle and then and it’s sort of hard to know what to make of it because it is really it can get really ugly. I mean, at times it’s gotten, you know, he’s, you know, made a racist comment. You know, early in his career, he’s thrown coins at an umpire. I mean, he’s done some really kind of awful things in the past and you sort of think like, Oh, he’s he’s kind of growing up and maturing, but maybe not. But he called the umpire a small cat. We all know what he was avoiding saying in this tournament, you know, at the same time, by his own admission, it gets him going. You know, he sort of is able to channel his trollies ness into a kind of effective as tennis, you know, is very disruptive to his opponent and and it works. So it can be hard to sort of know how to sort all that out.

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S2: Well, he feeds on two things, it seems. One, the idea that he’s being wronged and to the antipathy of fans. You know, he had beef with Tsitsipas going back several years in 2018, when he was upset about Tsitsipas taking a long toilet break in the middle of a match. After the match, he said, Man, you better shut your fuck up, OK? Iconic, which is a lovely line, of course. And then the fan stuff, we sort of became a public phenomenon at the US Open a few years ago, and we saw that again here in Australia in the final clearly. And Medvedev, of course, knew that this would be the case. The fans were overwhelmingly supportive of Nadal. They wanted to see Nadal win a 21st dollars. Beloved Medvedev was pissed that the umpire didn’t control fans who were cheering when he double faulted who were making noise between serves who were booing his unforced errors. I mean, sorry, cheering his unforced errors.

S1: They’re idiots. You can’t say please with idiots, please doesn’t work with idiots.

S2: I mean, I mean, it’s a great piece of dialogue the back and forth between the umpire and and Medvedev there. Can I read the entire thing of what he said? Please, can you take control, please? Small please is not enough. Can you step it up? Can you step up? Say it every time. If you have to say it 25 times, say it every time they do it after the point. Say it every time. Step up. It’s the final of the match. Step up, please is not enough. They’re idiots with idiots. Please, it doesn’t work. Did he have a point? Louisa.

S3: Yes. I mean, yes and no, I don’t think you should ever berate an umpire or any of us all at the same time, you know, it’s in tennis code, you’re not supposed to call out between points. The crowd was behaving terribly. Tennis is not like other sports. You know, in other sports, we are used to, you know, the screaming cry. I mean, the crowd trying to really become part of the game and help there help their side. Tennis decorum is not like that. At the same time, the whole circumstance is different. It really, really is disruptive to have someone call out in between your servers. And it’s also the case. You know, I did feel a little bit sorry for him. Afterwards, he talked about his, his dream dying, and it also kind of like it was this long, rambling, you know, autobiographical, you know, sad like little speech he gave about about how, you know, when you’re a kid, you, you dream about the crowd cheering and now his, you know, he’s going to go play tournaments in Moscow instead of playing Wimbledon or whatever, because you know, he knows who cares. But at the same time, it’s true, you know, other sports have home games. You know, they might go on the field and they might have to face, you know, terrible vitriol from the fans, from, you know, 60000 people or whatever. But then they get to come home, you know, Medvedev doesn’t really ever get to come home. And that’s sad because it’s true. That’s what kids are dreaming about. They’re dreaming about the fans cheering for them. And it’s got to be hard when they are. Definitely not, you know, and Djokovic is someone who has struggled about with this. We saw how much it meant to him when the fans started cheering for him at the U.S. Open, even though he lost. You know, there are some people who never I mean, Roger Federer never faced. This is a hostile crowd. But but by and large, you know, Medvedev always does a little bit like Djokovic, and it definitely got to him.

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S1: Yeah, I’m hearing that press conference had sounded a little bit like a villain origin story, sounding very much like Djokovic and complaining that the fans never cheer for him and he doesn’t get his due. And so you can feel maybe like a tiny bit bad for him, but also it’s just like, that’s how it works. You’re playing as Rafael Nadal is going for his record setting grand slam title. You have one grand slam, you’re a good player. But like he’s been playing almost two decades, like just understand that that’s the way the world works and deal with it. And the thing that’s so funny that yeah. But but also the thing is he plays well when he’s when he’s angry and when the crowd is against him. And so you would think that there would be some sort of understanding or recognition that this is actually not harming his like career and his performance. And that also the reason that we know him and talk about him is because he has one of these personalities that I think transcends the sport and is a little bit more colorful and interesting. And you don’t oftentimes you’re like, Oh, he’s human. There’s that doesn’t mean that he’s like that, that his humanity is often like the best slice of humanity. But there is something fascinating about him as a person. And there are, even with all of the bad stuff that you listed, Louisa, there are moments where you do kind of root for the guy because he is such a good player and he plays in this just really charismatic and kind of non-standard way, and he is this funny and weird. And so I should

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S3: say, I think often rooting for him. Yeah, I’m totally reformed and I’m totally rooting for him. I mean, I mean, like, you can’t root for Rafael Nadal, you know, being Rafael Nadal, the fifth set of Australian Open or whatever. You know, I’m not saying that, you know? But but yeah, I think that Medvedev is absolutely a great addition to tennis. A few, you know, of the more extreme, you know, examples inside.

S1: I think unlike Djokovic, I could actually foresee a scenario where he does become a crowd favourite. Well, he

S2: kind of some points in New York, right? Didn’t his sort of anti-hero antics initially turn into the New York crowd adopting him because of the way he behaved? I think he was disappointed that he lost this match and he was hurt that the crowd was so rudely against him. His faces during the awards ceremony were hilarious. At one point, he apparently mouthed boring when the head of Tennis Australia was talking. But then when he took the microphone, he was absolutely charming. Oh yeah, he’s a tough to talk after five hours 30 and losing funny. He said, My wife isn’t here. Probably the TV is broken now. Funny, my parents and sisters. I love you all. If you are still watching funny. He is a charming and. Entertaining and interesting guy and Josh, you love him, of course, because all you tall people stick together.

S3: And also, as I’ve referenced before, he has some self-awareness, like he gets about that. You know, it gets back to the, you know, press conferences and he apologizes. He’s not someone who is like, can be a little bit clueless about how it plays or how it seems. Or, you know, he obviously gets carried away and it obviously does help him. And so maybe it’s never going to end. Maybe it shouldn’t. You know, if he feels cares about winning tennis matches. But yeah, I mean, I think he’s I think he’s a fascinating, complicated guy. I mean, I think it’s he’s very appealing in a lot of ways, and he has a really kind of weird, appealing game. I mean, it’s like it’s very much like Djokovic in a lot of respects in the sense that he can just grind anyone from the baseline and he can hit shots from contorted positions. And he has a big serve and he’s got areas he can work on. But he’s an amazing, weird backhand. I mean, there’s a lot of kind of weird, unusual stuff going on in his game, which is unlike anyone else. And that’s appealing to I mean, it’s like Djokovic only with like a big dash of weirdness. And, you know, I’m here for him.

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S1: All right. We’re going to cover Ashe, Barty and Danielle Collins and the women’s final of the Australian Open in our Slate Plus segment, and you will be back for that. Louisa Thank you very much for all of the Medvedev talk and the Chiefs talk and the Joe Burrow psychoanalysis, and we’ll be hearing more from you in a bit. Thanks. Thank you. Up next, Grant Wahl for the U.S. men’s national soccer teams lost to Canada. And this week’s bonus segment, of course, Slate Plus members, we are going to be joined by Louisa Thomas to continue our Australian Open chat. We’re going to talk about the women’s final between the loveable Ash Barty and the also lovable American Danielle Collins terrorist talk about ash and Danielle and the Aussie Open need to be a Slate Plus member. That membership will get you extra hang up segments, and you can listen to all Slate podcast without ads and get unlimited reading on the Slate website. It’s only a dollar for the first month. You can sign up at Slate.com Slash Hang Up Plus at Slate.com Slash Hang Up Plus.

S2: On Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario, the U.S. men’s national soccer team did something it hadn’t done since 1980. It lost to Canada in World Cup qualifying. The two nothing result wasn’t entirely surprising through 10 of 14 games in the competition among eight teams for three automatic spots in Qatar later this year. Canada is unbeaten and atop the table. The U.S. still sits second, but sphincters are beginning to tighten. Joining us now from a hotel in Burlington, Canada is our friend, Grant Wahl. He’s the proprietor of football with Grant Wahl, to which you can subscribe at Grant Wahl dot com. Hey, Grant. Hey, how are you? Welcome back! We’ll get to the American’s performance in this game and last week’s uninspiring one. Nothing win over El Salvador. But first, let’s give Canada its due. You wrote after the game that Canada is the best story on the planet in World Cup qualifying. Historically, Canada has sucked. They’ve only made one World Cup in 1986. Even this time around, they had to play in a first round of qualifying against the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Aruba, Suriname and Haiti. How has this happened?

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S5: You know, it’s pretty incredible. Canada’s men’s rise their women’s team has is terrific and has been for a while there the Olympic champions. But the the men’s team has had talent individually over the years occasionally. But they’ve always been sort of as a national team less than the sum of their parts and now the talents on a completely different level. With Canada’s men’s team, you’ve got the best player in CONCACAF. Alphonso Davies star for Bayern Munich, who actually wasn’t available for this U.S. game. They beat the U.S. without him. But there’s other great players, too. Jonathan David, who actually was born in New York City, a Canadian citizen forward worth about 50 million dollars on the transfer market with Lille and other players. Kyle scored the first goal against the U.S. yesterday, so the talent production has gone up, especially from the Toronto area and the Brampton part of the city. And these are players who are playing in Europe, they’re playing in MLS and they’ve got a tremendous amount of confidence. It’s truly incredible when you think about Canada’s been terrible for for a long time, they’ve only made one World Cup in 1986, and here they are undefeated. After 10 games, they played the U.S. and Mexico. The traditional regional powers four times. No losses, two wins. And so I think it’s fair to say at this point is enough of a sample size that Canada’s the best team in CONCACAF.

S1: There’s got to be something to the fact that Canada has a very clear plan like they knew what they were doing. And there’s always, you know, reading your newsletter, reading anything else. There’s just so much debate around, you know, going into these windows, even at this point in the qualification cycle. It’s just like the U.S. seems like they have almost too many options sometimes. And you know, you wrote about at the number nine position, sometimes just all the options are bad, but sometimes there’s a lot of good options. And but there is just a kind of clarity of thought and plan for Canada, especially when they took that early lead and it was almost sort of sad after the game or Gregg Berhalter is talking about how dominant the U.S. was of. Like, that’s not what the U.S. should be talking about at this stage and in soccer history, like you’ve got to win the game and Canada won the game and they won it. They won it the way that they wanted to win it. They knew what they were doing and they executed.

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S5: Yeah, I mean, Canada’s coach John Herdman gets a lot of credit for being this charismatic figure, but he’s also just a good tactician because Canada has played their their qualifying games in different ways, depending on the location, depending on the opponent and their identity for this game against the U.S. was very clear, as you say, especially because Canada gets the early goal in the seventh minute. They were perfectly happy to let the U.S. possess the ball. The U.S. had 64 percent of possession. That’s what Berhalter was referring to in his very rose colored postgame comments because possession is not the same thing as dominance. And I think we need to have a discussion here about what it means to dominate the game because it’s not like the U.S. produced many great goalscoring chances. There was really only one late in the first half. Weston McKennie had a header that was well saved by the sweatpants wearing goalkeeper Milan Boria for Canada, but that was the only great chance for the U.S. So to me, you can’t dominate the game. If you only create one great chance you can hold the ball 35 yards out from goal without doing much and on honest. That’s a lot of what the U.S. did.

S2: And one of the reasons that we’re talking about the lack of scoring production is because they’re not scoring your post-game piece is about the lack of a number nine, a striker. No one is emerging here in the last two games. Gregg Berhalter started to MLS players who haven’t played competitively in three months. He has left at home in Europe. Players like Josh Sargent, Darryl D.K. Jordan, Pitchfork, Jordan Morris is back on the national team and getting minutes for some reason. Again, not to harp on Berhalter, but why not? Because this is what you do in a soccer country. You know, he said after the game that, you know, he started his Louis Ferrara and Josh these artists in the last two qualifiers because he’s thinking about game plan specifics. And even though they’re not in season form, they get to play. It’s all very confusing to me. I mean, the US has had no answers. They have no goals in three qualifiers, one goal in three more, two goals in the last three games, two first half goals total in the 10 games so far. Why is this so difficult and why do you think that this revolving door of strikers in these games is happening as opposed to Berhalter trying to settle on someone?

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S5: I’m really surprised that Ricardo Pepe, even though he’s just 19, is not playing more minutes in these first two games of the window because, like you said, the guys who are starting in front of him. Are two MLS players, Zadan and Ferrera, who didn’t even make the playoffs, by the way, in MLS, so they haven’t played a game competitively at club level since early November. And so why would you choose those guys over Pepe, who is currently playing games in the Bundesliga? Maybe not, as well as he’d like to, but he’s getting playing time for Augsburg in Germany. And so for Pepe to only get 21 minutes in the first two games is is baffling to me. Now it’s not just about the centre forward position when it comes to the lack of goal. Production in the U.S. is only averaging one point three goals a game over these 10 games. That’s the second lowest in the seven World Cup cycles of qualifying going back to 1998. So pretty poor goal production and the chances aren’t being created enough, you know, and that’s also on the, you know, poor crossing are not taking advantage of transition opportunities. Christian Pulisic is in a funk right now, and he needs to have a big game on Wednesday night. The opportunity is certainly there against Honduras because Honduras hasn’t won a game in 10 in World Cup qualifying and they’re already eliminated. But this suddenly becomes a really important game for the U.S. to get three points if they want to feel pretty good about qualifying for a guitar.

S1: So on your podcast Grant that you do with Landon Donovan and Chris Winningham, Landon talked about how it didn’t look like Pulisic was having fun in the game against El Salvador. And when a guy who talks about his emotions and his feelings, he talked about them during his career a lot and so had some really interesting insights about Pulisic, kind of maybe for the first time opening up about how difficult it’s been for him at Chelsea and having the pressure on him playing for the U.S.. And I think I’m sort of caught in between here because it’s clear that he’s not playing well. It’s it seems even clear to me to say that he is trying to do too much, like just dribbling into trouble and that there’s just something off there. But this idea that you could see in his face that he’s not enjoying it? Well, why would anybody on this team be enjoying it right now? And Pulisic, often, like even when he’s successful, he’s often getting fouled a lot. And so there’s moments in games where they’re doing really well, where he’s like looking angry at the refs and at the opposing team. And so it feels to me like, yeah, for him to look like he’s enjoying it, he’d need to score a goal or the team would need to be scoring goals. I don’t know about reading too much into his psychology, like he’s not having fun, and that’s the reason why the team isn’t doing well.

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S5: Yeah, I tend to stay away myself from reading too much into body language and things like that, though I do think Landon’s comments were insightful and we have seen Christian Pulisic even earlier in the pandemic come out and say, Look, I have seen a therapist during the pandemic to help me deal with some things, and I think it’s great that he’s speaking publicly about mental health. Donovan was one of the first athletes I think to to do that very often. But you look at Pulisic right now and clearly what’s happening at Chelsea doesn’t have him in a in a great frame of mind. And what he’s required to do or what he thinks he’s required to do with the U.S. team is very different from what he does for Chelsea. And that’s what leads, I think, to trying to play Hero Ball and to try and dribble through the defense and not pass necessarily when he should. And you know, I think he’s putting himself under a tremendous amount of pressure right now that might be bigger than anything coming pressure wise from the outside. So, you know, for Pulisic, he’s certainly capable of these wonderful goalscoring moments for club and country. By the way, that goal that he scored against Mexico in November just a terrific, instinctual play to to get in front of the goal and finish and beat his man did the cross the goal. He scored a good cross. The only one we’ve seen for a while now with the U.S. And then Pulisic scored a terrific goal against Liverpool for Chelsea not that long ago, so he’s certainly capable of doing this stuff. And yet he’s not doing it very often in for the U.S. at least. Basically, he’s just dribbling into losing the ball more often than anything right now,

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S2: and his service has been poor. Paul Tenorio has a piece up at The Athletic after the Canada game that talks about the difference in in appearance, and this ties into Pulisic and other players as well. Canada looks like they are having fun, they are loose, they are successful, they have an idea of what they’re doing. The U.S. feels

S1: like they’re winning every Stefan

S2: Levin. I know. But you know, it’s not like the U.S. is losing every game either. They’re in second in the group, they’ve won five out of the 10 and tied three.

S1: Answer me this. Did they look like they were having fun when they beat Mexico?

S2: They did. They did look like they were having fun, but that feels like it was a while ago now. And that’s how that’s how this works in World Cup qualifying is game to game. So I don’t want to overdo it. But is there some sort of weight of expectation here that, you know, a they feel like they should be dominating the group of eight and B now that they’re not an Berhalter is really moving pieces around and not settling on a consistent group up front anyway and in the back a little bit. Is that part of the sort of bigger problem? You know, I think, are they pressing?

S5: Yeah, these are young U.S. players right now, early 20s, late teens in a couple of situations. A lot of them are playing for truly big name European clubs Chelsea, Juventus, you know, Leipzig, Dortmund know a bunch of terrific clubs and often, as invariably happens, the U.S. leaves the field at half time and they haven’t scored a goal. And they have sort of this look on their face like, I can’t believe we haven’t scored against these guys. And that’s a pretty regular occurrence. So I think they’re buying into this a little bit of like, here’s where we play on paper. We should be doing better as a national team, and I think that’s frustrating for them and that’s happening against teams like El Salvador, where it was scoreless going into the half the other night at home. So I do think this U.S. team really needs to have a game where it wins like five nil. And actually, theoretically, that’s possible on Wednesday night, as long as it’s not so frigid in St. Paul, Minnesota, that you know, that just shuts down the game.

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S1: Yeah. So they’re playing in the Arctic Circle on Wednesday in an igloo and Minnesota. No offense, Minnesota. But it feels like these games come up like once every one of these three game cycles, it’s like they’ve got to win this game or like it comes up every time in World Cup qualifying. And this is a game that Honduras has already been eliminated, so they really don’t have anything to play for. Whereas I think you wrote Central American teams have struggled in the third game of these three game cycles. If there is going to be any game that’s five nil in this tournament, this would be the one. And yet they’ve scheduled this game for. A place in a field that would seem to equalize a talent advantage, and you’ve also said, Grant, that U.S. soccer is sick of you talking about this, like do they feel like like you should be like cheerleading the team and like being like rah rah? Great. Great idea for for playing here like wired. Why are they not, you know, up for tough criticism of their stupid decisions?

S5: I mean, for me, that’s what it comes down to is this was a choice made by U.S. soccer, which could have staged this game in Florida or Texas

S1: or wherever we can just continue naming warm weather places Arizona, where it’s

S5: where, where it’s warm weather conditions, where the U.S. is clear talent advantage would have the best opportunity to express itself. So when you’re playing in potentially hazardous winter weather, obviously that advantage is not going to be as great and you create the possibility of weird things happening. And you talked about all of the circumstances around Honduras being eliminated. They haven’t won a game in qualifying. This should be a slam dunk for the U.S.. I kind of felt the same way before the game in Trinidad, in Cuba in 2017, when the U.S. was playing an eliminated Trinidad team who was playing their B and C team and beat the U.S. when all the U.S. needed was a tie to go to the World Cup. So I mean, crazy stuff happens in international soccer, and the storyline can change very, very quickly after just one or two games. You know, I think back to Jurgen. Klinsmann lost the first two games of qualifying in the last World Cup cycle and went in one week from totally secure in his job to being fired. And so I think Gregg Berhalter, if the U.S. were to lose this game against Honduras, his job would be in jeopardy.

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S2: If the U.S. were to lose this game against Honduras, the US is in danger of not qualifying for the World Cup, let’s be clear the schedule is not in the Americans favor. Honduras in literally zero degree weather, wind chill of what forecast for like negative 11 on Wednesday night in St. Paul and then the last three games of the cycle are against the teams that they’re competing with for spots at Mexico, Panama, at home at Costa Rica. There are no guaranteed points in those three games.

S5: No. And so you don’t want to leave this until the final window where the U.S. would be needing points at Mexico or at Costa Rica to places where the U.S. hasn’t gotten many points over the years, even when they were playing better than they are now. So there is, I guess, technically some margin for error as of right now in the sense that the U.S. is one point above fourth place. Panama and the fourth placed team will have to go to an intercontinental one game playoff against likely New Zealand in June in Qatar. If you’re the U.S., you don’t want to be in that fourth position if you can win your two remaining home games against Honduras on Wednesday and at home against Panama. In March, the US should be OK to finish in the top three and go to Qatar. But there’s really, really not much margin for error here.

S1: Can we just let the nightmare scenario here just for fun? So let’s say in this. On Wednesday, Panama, Panama beats Mexico and Costa Rica beats Jamaica, and the U.S. loses to Honduras. We’re going into the final and Canada, they’re basically gone at this point like that. They’ve qualified. You’re going into the two. The final three games with Panama. 20. USA 18. Mexico 18. Costa Rica 16. U.S. has to play at Costa Rica, so could theoretically get passed by them. Fifth place.

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S5: The nightmare scenario is Costa Rica getting back into this and and the U.S. at this point controls its own destiny, so you win at home, you should be OK. But Stranger Things have happened. We’ve seen it the last cycle. So many things had to come together for the U.S. not to qualify, and they all did. So you would think that was like a once in a millennium type situation. But maybe it’s not.

S2: Maybe it’s a twice in a millennium type situation, which is what it would be. Grant Grant Wahl. He creates podcasts and great stories that football with Grant Wahl. Subscribe at Grant Wahl dot com. Thanks again for coming on the show. Grant Great to have you as always.

S5: Thanks for having me.

S2: And now it is time for after balls on Saturday at the Melrose Games, the track meet in New York. A 38 year old middle distance runner from New Zealand, who lives in Ann Arbor, named Nick Willis, extended a crazy record to a round number. Willis is a five time Olympian, two time medalist and in New York, he ran a mile in under four minutes for the 20th year in a row. It was his 63rd sub4m mile. He just sneaked in, this time with a time of three minutes fifty nine point seven one seconds. Scott Katsina-ala wrote a nice feature about Willis in The New York Times. He reported that Willis stuck to the back of his 18 year old training partner, Hobbs Kessler, before they charged through the finish line. It was his second crack at the mark this month. He tried to do it just after midnight on New Year’s Day on the same track, but finished in four minutes and points to two seconds. We’ll post links on the site to Scott’s story and do a short documentary about Willis and his attempt for number twenty called The Midnight Mile. Willis finished nine seconds behind the winner of the race, but having a sub for is still that carrot to chase a worthy goal, he said. I’m very proud of it. He would not say whether he’s going for number 21. I love this story.

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S1: Josh you do. I love that you love it and I love it too. A little bit. So our Nick Willis this week is the dramatic conclusion of our three part series on that most dramatic of subject Stefan the goofy sports idea.

S2: All right, it is our hang up and listen honor to to be joined now by the winner of the Goofy Sports Innovation Poll. He Steve Jacobs, a software development manager who lives in St. Louis. Steve Welcome to the show.

S5: Hi guys, it’s great to be here.

S2: Thank you so much for coming on. All right, I’m going to go back so for our listeners and remind everybody what we did. So we actually solicited your ideas for goofy sports innovations. And then we had a little Twitter poll last week. The four finalists were baseball. For every three strikeouts you make in a game, you lose on out. In basketball, a cap on the number of three point shots you can take in a game. Again, baseball the scramble whereby a runner on base can score after a third out as long as he crosses home plate before all of the defensive players clear the foul line on their dugout side. And finally, multiple overtime, where an extra puck is shot onto the ice after each minute of overtime in hockey. The results were losing out six percent cap on threes 13 percent. The scramble? Thirty one percent multiple overtime. And even 50 percent of the more than 200 votes. Steve it was a landslide. I was kind of surprised. I thought the scramble was going to give you a closer, a closer race there.

S5: I think it’s a simplicity. I mean, multiple Joe says it all. And it speaks to the excitement of hockey already and just adds a multiplier.

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S1: So how did you come up with multiple overtime? Is this a longstanding idea?

S5: You know, I’ve been scratching my head all week trying to think of that. I think it’s probably back when as kids, we used to play the bubble hockey like foosball, and we just when things got boring, we just start adding extra pucks. And like you said last week, Josh, you know it is pinball, right? Pinball with multiple and multipliers. And for some reason, that’s just stuck in my mind. And back in the back in the 2010s, when NHL was working on some ideas for over time, this one just really came to me. I just never had a platform to share it and push it forward until now.

S2: Grateful to have. I like my innovation, my idea to make it like bubble hockey, where there is something hovering above center ice and the puck drops out.

S5: Yeah. One thing that was really amusing to me Josh last week when you started the idea with little puck, you know, fans would throw a puck out for a second in my brain. I just thought, Well, that’s ridiculous. Like, the rest of this is normal, but yeah, it needs to go on. It needs to be on the center line just like that dropped out or shot out from one of the sides. If both teams and maybe some randomization, right, sometimes it comes from one side. My wife said, Well, why wouldn’t the drone drop it or something? And I’m thinking, Do you really want the players looking up all the time? That seems dangerous. So, you know, it’s just implementation details, really at this point,

S2: they really it’s all it’s all in the details. Another idea, I think, would be to make it sort of like Rollerball, do you remember the movie where the ball goes spinning around a track and then shoots out, huh?

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S5: It kind of requires some changes, but yeah, I can see how that might might be an interesting aspect.

S1: All right. So Steve with any great idea, you’re going to have people that don’t understand its greatness. So let me embody the role of somebody who’s a multipart critic because you’re going to be facing a lot of of attacks and criticism from the purists who don’t want to change the game. They’re going to say this is like another gimmick. Like the glowing puck. Hockey is an ancient and storied game that needs to be treated with respect. Why are you trying to make it up with these ridiculous ideas and shooting pucks out of drones? How do you respond to those fierce attacks?

S5: I actually look at the look at the vote 50 percent. But, you know, is this the point where I have to like pretend I’m serious because I mean, obviously it’s a ridiculous idea, but I still think it’s a it’s a it’s a very interesting change on the current three on three overtime. I mean, three on three was what seemed like a really good idea when they implemented it. And, you know, a lot of open eyes rarity that you get to see it in real games. So that was unique enough. But I think most hockey fans agree that it’s gotten a little dull. It’s all about puck control because nobody wants to make a mistake. So a team will skate in looking for an opportunity. If they don’t see it, they skate right back out again. So it’s a lot of just meaningless retreating, whereas multiple puck is a free for all. Obviously, it would be just insane from the beginning. Yeah, it will change the game, but I think for the better and it’s over time anyway. I mean, each team gets a point. That’s just fun time for the fans.

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S1: I think you are serious. I think you are serious Steve and I think, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid to tone it. There’s a little bit of like, you know, I am serious, except if you’re not serious, then maybe I’m not serious. Well, we’re serious, so you need to be serious.

S5: OK, OK, I’m driving. And then Wahl idea that I had since we talked was why does it have to? It could start right at the at the 00s right, right when the regulation is over. Boom, the extra puck comes out. Well, you know, I was thinking though, we’d have to be a face off. And then after 60 seconds, no, no, no, no. Zero zero boom. The puck comes out the second. One minute later, it’s third. One comes out, right?

S2: So why? Why bother with another intermission? We’ve got enough intermissions in there, too long in hockey, right?

S5: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. The excitement starts right at the end. Teams with strategies that get fresh players out right before 00 and then then the free for all begins.

S1: What do we think? The record would be, let’s say you play this for a season, maybe 10 seasons, like once we get a sample size up, do we think that as soon as the second puck gets out on the ice, then a team would just score like pretty close to instantly? Do you think we would get two three four five? Like what? What would be the kind of world record most pucks on an ice on the ice?

S5: Wow. Well, you know, I have to see some testing in the minor leagues first and kind of get a feel for what what to expect because obviously teams would have to adjust to this. But yeah, I think I think it’s another, you know, the start of a new record book three pucks for pucks. Let’s just see how it goes.

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S2: I’m looking forward to the game where. And this is something that you’re going to have to account for in the rules where pucks crossed the line into both nets at exactly the same time. We got a VAR situation brewing.

S5: Yeah, I know that would definitely have to stop play and you’d have to review it. But you know, we’ve got those rules already for for one puck, it’s really hard to make those make those determinations. And there’s already, you know, if both pucks in that rare occasion when they both cross at the same time, play goes on right, you drop drops and more pucks and let’s get the start

S1: of the game. My last question is what happens if one of the pucks bonus both goes out of play like a player just hits it into the stands? Do you immediately drop another puck and or do you continue playing with one?

S5: You know, that’s where I go back to pinball. A ball goes down the center, you just keep going. It’s gone. You know, a goalie catches one, it’s out of play. Next, puck comes in 60 60 seconds. I don’t see, I don’t see the problem with that at all. Josh, you mentioned last week that you know about goalies are maybe Stefan mentioned goalies. My daughter had the idea of, well, it’s just like it’s multi. So you get a bonus. Just like in pinball 2x the the goalies get twice the pay 3x three times the pay, so they would be looking forward to it, I think.

S2: Steve Jacobs is the genius behind multi puck over time. And thank you so much, Steve, for not only the idea, but for for being a long time hang up and listen listener. We really appreciate it and it was fun to have you come on and share your brilliance. I hope that the people at NHL headquarters in New York are listening, and if not, I think we should make them aware

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S5: that it’s been a pleasure. And hey, I’m available NHL. Just call me up. Get me on Twitter.

S1: That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bendix, causing the passions and subscribe or just reach out. Go to sleep dot com slash hang up and you can email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and reviews on Apple Podcasts for Stefan, Fatsis and Louisa Thomas. I’m Josh, Levin remembers. I’m a baby, and thanks for listening. Now, it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members in back with us is Louisa Thomas Louisa Nick. So let’s talk about Ash Barty. World number one Australian but had never won the Australian Open, and she just rampaged through this tournament with a dominant serve. And then in the final against Danielle Collins, when she was really pushed for the first time in the tournament, came back from five one deficit and the second set and delighted the home crowd and is seemingly a delightful person and somebody who is extremely easy to root for.

S3: Absolutely. I mean, the Barty party is probably still ongoing in Australia. It’s the first time an Australian woman has won the Australian Open in decades, and there takes tennis very serious. They take sport seriously in Australia, they take tennis very seriously and Australia and Ash Barty is a is is an Aussie for Aussies too. You know, she’s got kind of hard working, no nonsense. I think about her. She is indigenous ancestry. She is just the kind of person you want to drink a beer with. And so, yeah, I don’t think there are many people who are sorry to see Ash Barty win even in the locker room. I mean, she’s just extremely well liked.

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S2: She’s such an interesting story. Louisa. I’m largely because she was a prodigy. Like most of the top tennis players, she turned pro at 14, but by the time she was like 17, she was burned out. But instead of being sort of forced to push through it, Ash Barty took time off and was counseled to take time off right and played professional cricket and, you know, did other stuff and had a normal sort of teenage life and had to be sort of sort of reminded that you could be really great at tennis. Why don’t you get back to it when you’re ready to? And she did.

S3: She did it in the first person that she hugged, actually, after winning the title on Saturday was her former doubles partner, who kind of brought her back into the sport, and she gave her a big kiss on the forehead. And it was a really touching moment because it was a reminder of that break and also a reminder of how she has managed to build a life for herself as the best tennis player in the world, and also a pretty seems like well-grounded human being. And we had actually two players in the final who seemed to have lives that you know, existed outside of the sport. Danielle Collins is a college graduate, former NCAA champion, a person who really kind of eloquent speaking on a range of issues, but also both of them obviously very intense competitors. And it was a really kind of appealing matchup.

S1: I enjoyed hearing Barty say the phrase under the pump repeatedly in her post-match interviews, which apparently means when you’re under pressure under the pump, just FYI. For our non Aussie listeners, it’s just a reminder that you never know what’s going on inside somebody else’s head, whether they’re a sportsperson or not, because she just seems like the most happy and well-adjusted person. And, you know, perhaps she has. But to omit to look at her now to imagine that she was ever somebody who struggled under pressure or struggled with the idea of expectation or wasn’t enjoying tennis is just like impossible to fathom and to her credit and to the credit of the people around her that they were able to recognize that and she was able to get a break and come back and still be so, so young. The idea that she could kind of like, take time off, it’s not like she really missed out on like a big chunk of her career, you know, doing so when she was a teenager. But just from an on court perspective, she is like a small person who plays like a heavy topspin kind of kick game that’s usually associated with, like larger players or with like male players. And she’s like holding her serve till, like a ridiculous degree. And again, if you have, like, look at her, you would not expect this to be a person that has a dominant serve. And yet she is. That’s kind of the big reason why she was so hard to beat in Australia.

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S3: Louisa physics should not work. She doesn’t have the levers, you know, she’s five five and she is the best server on tour right now. She might not have the biggest search. You know, she’s not Serena Williams, but she can hit her spots and she can produce a just tremendous amount of spin. She’s an incredible athlete. That’s why she was able to play professional cricket, you know, picking it up, you know, on the fly. I mean, I think that one thing that’s also true is that she is an incredibly hard worker. I mean, one player described, she just does everything a little bit. Better than everyone else, and she does a few things much better than everyone else these days. Serving as one of them, she has an incredible backhand slice. The players aren’t used to seeing and she knows how to exploit them with it. And yeah, I mean, you know, you also reference, you know, she took this long break. She’s actually had a few breaks in her career, not all by choice, because as an Australian, you know, living in a country with very severe COVID restrictions, she missed the, you know, most of the 2020 season, electing to stay at home. And there are pictures of her drinking a beer, you know, a sporting match during the Australian Open. And that was maybe that was good for her. I mean, I can’t say that Kobe was good for anyone. So, you know, that’s probably a stretch too far. But she elected to go home after losing in the third round of the U.S. Open last year and skipped Indian Wells again so that she could reunite with her family after being on tour. Basically the entire year, being away from home. And she, you know, so she she knows, she knows now how to build a kind of schedule and life that is working for her. There are at least one hopes, as you say, you can never you can never sort of see behind someone’s eyes. But.

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S1: Well, Nick, Nick Kyrgios has talked about the particular challenge of being an Australian on tour that you’re like, never home. Yeah, except you’re so

S2: far away from

S3: home. And that was actually that was all very literally true during 2021 because she could not go home to Australia and then leave Australia again. Usually there are a couple of pockets where you can sort of somehow make the long trip. She was gone. I mean, for almost the entire year. And you know, there was a kind of really touching moment, actually. After her loss, the U.S. Open, where as hard as that had been because she had been one of the favorites, you sort of felt some relief for her. You know, you thought or I thought, you know, she can go home, you know, and that’s, you know, something is important to her.

S1: So let’s talk about Danielle Collins, her opponent in the final. So many kind of interesting things to say about

S3: the one, the Danielle Collins.

S1: Yeah. So she came up and like more of a working class background, grew up playing against adults on public courts like she’s talked about. Her dad taking her out there, played college tennis, which is unusual on tour. Although Jen Brady also played college tennis, made the Australian Open final last year. So kind of not unprecedented, but like she’s been out of the play college since she transferred because the first program she went to, she like, didn’t even play. Then she wins the NCAA championship a couple of times at UVA still isn’t somebody who’s considered a top prospect or anything like that and just has this kind of personality that is so hard charging and like extremely voluble, like she’s known as Danielle y Wahl. And just like the way she comports herself on the court, I mean, I think there are some players Louisa who had bothered earlier in her career. Like they thought that she was like rude or intemperate or whatever. But the way that I maybe it, maybe it’s just in the last few years, like the way that I perceive it, it’s like not that she’s being like. Rude for lack of a better term. It’s just like she’s so aggressive in a way that’s like almost endearing. You just don’t hear people that are like that loud and aggro on a court. There’s like a certain kind of charm to, Oh,

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S3: she’s backing herself. Yeah, yeah. No. I mean, we talked earlier about Joe Burrow being someone who can maybe justify saying nobody believed in me, really, no one believed and Danielle Collins, you know, I mean, and and those who sort of saw how much she believed in herself didn’t really know what to think of her. You mentioned that she was benched her freshman year and then transferred. She said it was because she thought the coach thought she was too egotistical, you know, and now she’s not finals Australian Open. I mean, she has. Racquet Magazine did a great profile of her a few years ago, and one of the things that got into is that she is someone who’s just determined to show what she can do. And she actually had a very endearing line in a press conference during this tournament, which she said, You know, I always tell myself I’m the best at whatever I do. And then she sort of gave this like cackle and she’s like, even if I’m not, you know, it’s totally endearing. And, you know, I think also the fact that she’s so eloquent on, you know, about her upbringing and about, you know, various issues like women’s rights and stuff that were real big deal on the women’s tennis circuit has meant that she’s actually gained a lot of respect in the locker rooms. I think people maybe were kind of put off by her initially and now have really come to respect her, and I include myself actually in that category.

S2: She also complained to the match official when fans were screaming before points were over like Medvedev did, and she was justified in doing that. They were booing her. The crowd was rude. And then also like Medvedev, she was exceptionally generous in her comments after the match, thanking the volunteers and support staff at length. Not in a cursory way. I mean, she does seem to be the sort of person that, like any great athlete, goes to a place that you or I can’t understand when they’re competing. And in some athletes, it manifests as an internalized drive, and in others it manifests as Danielle. And I think that the more we understand that the kind of dedication and perseverance that is required for someone any athlete to be as good as they are. But for someone like Danielle Collins, who in a sport for rich kids didn’t have the resources to compete and at the at the places that that you think she would have needed to when she was a teenager, you feel like empathetic, like understanding and impressed at how far she’s come. She’s in the top 10 now.

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S1: Danielle Collins has been very open about talking about her endometriosis diagnosis. She had surgery last year. She actually had assessed the size of a tennis ball on her ovary. I mean, unbelievable. And but it wasn’t just that she’s talked openly about how her menstrual cycle was so painful that it like two weeks out of the month she, like, couldn’t really play at her best. I mean, and then there was a conversation about this during ESPN, where some of the women commentators we’re talking about. Yeah, like sometimes you had when I was playing Wimbledon, like, I would pray that my period wouldn’t be like, these are like conversations that are like real in the women’s locker room on tour and like to have Collins like, bring this up and then to have it be on the open like that. It was very cool to hear and like, kudos for her for sharing all of this.

S3: Yeah. IGA Swiatek also last year, you know, brought up how a period of can affect your play and these conversations need to be happening. They are happening, you know, behind closed doors. But you know, other it’s going to make it easier for other athletes to talk about it.

S2: And the one thing before we go that I wanted to ask you about Louisa is that and we talked about Ash Barty just now taking a break and recognizing that she was burned out and was having mental health issues. As an 18 year old, Naomi Osaka came back to this tournament was eliminated in the third round, but seemed like a different person, like she seemed happy and at peace and had good news conferences. So it feels like this is a an example of, you know, we should be talking about this more that Osaka seems to have dealt with what she needed to deal with in her own way and is back in tennis and with, you know, more time. Let’s hope she is back in the semi-finals and finals of these big events.

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S3: I mean, also, let’s not kid ourselves. She’s going to be dealing with us. I mean, one tournament, you know, in a couple of press conferences is fantastic, you know, and it’s wonderful to see, but that doesn’t mean that we should now have. OK, well, that problem is fixed on Steve, right? She better when the French, you know, probably she’s not going to get the French, you know, we’re we’ll see. It’s going to be an evolving thing. Maybe she she absolutely could. You know, and this is true of Barty as Wahl, you know. I mean, last year she she won Wimbledon, but she had several, you know, matches that I thought she should have won, which she had a a wobble yesterday, they say in tennis, sometimes, you know, I mean, obviously this none of these things are solved overnight or even in six months. And and it’s I think it’s part of the kind of exciting work that’s been done by some of these athletes to call attention to them and to call attention to the way in which, you know, these things don’t go away. There’s something that needs to constantly be addressed and re addressed.

S1: Thanks, Louisa always such a delight to have you on. And thank you, Slate Plus members. Always a delight to have you not on, but I

S3: messed around and I’m on.

S1: Well, you get you get you get it that.

S2: Hey, and we have a Slate Plus member on in the after ball segment Josh.

S1: So it’s been a banner day for Slate Plus James back with more next week.