S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children. Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of March. Twenty ninth, two thousand and twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the Sweet 16 of the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments, wherein Gonzaga still looks dominant and paid Beckers, as did her fellow freshmen sensation, Caitlin Clark. We’ll also check in on the good news. Bad news week for U.S. men’s soccer. Senior national team look quite nice. Under twenty three, squad failed to qualify for the Olympics yet again. And defector’s Dave McKenna will join us for a conversation about D.C. College of Idaho, Seattle and Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, who died last week at age 86. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m not sure between the slow burn season four on David Duke. Also in D.C., Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic and wearing his US Soccer. What what is that T-shirt you got? The KRESTEN?
S2: It’s the women’s the women’s shirt. Three stories, not four purchased before the 2019 World Cup.
S1: Is that your kind of mild expression of disappointment in the men for their failure to qualify for the Olympics
S2: and my support for America as a nation?
S1: With us from the West Coast, Slate staff writer, host of Slover and Season three and the upcoming Season six, wearing no U.S. soccer memorabilia whatsoever. Joel Anderson. Hello, John.
S3: Hey, what’s going on? I’m just wearing a gray shirt that my father in law got for me, just gave me a package of Hanes Gray t shirts. And I’ve found that they’re very useful for jumping on the resume with people.
S1: So so part of our soccer segment is going to be me and Stefan trying to convince Joel to become a US soccer obsessive. And so the grey is kind of your baseline where you’re at. And we’ll see we’ll see what kind of shirt you’re wearing by the end of that segment.
S3: Yeah, well, like I said, I’m neutral. Gray, I think, is a very neutral color. I could probably go either way, but. Well, we’ll see if you guys can convince me. I’m forty two. Watched a lot of soccer in my life. Maybe the next 20 minutes you guys will be able to, you know, change all of that for me. We’ll see. So as we record this Monday morning, we’re now one more round of games today and Tuesday from Final Fours in both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments and the women’s bracket. It’s mostly been chock so far. Three of the four number one seeds, Stanford, UConn and South Carolina and two more number two seeds. Baylor and Louisville have advanced. Perhaps the biggest upset of the women’s tournament came in the final game of the weekend, though, when six seeded Texas pulled off a sixty four to sixty one upset of Maryland and the nation’s highest scoring offense in the US. The Longhorns can finally say they have an athletic program that has an underachieved in some way. Three of the four number one seeds in the men’s tournament are still alive to Gonzaga. Baylor and Michigan have played well in their first three games and look as good as advertised. But after them, chaos reigned with twelve seed Oregon State and eleven seed UCLA both one game away from a final four. UCLA didn’t make it there easy, outlasting second seeded Alabama in overtime without leading scorer Giannis using Josh I’m hoping you didn’t totally tune out after your Tigers loss to Michigan on Monday a few hours after we recorded last week’s show by the way. But if you did watch any games this weekend, what stood out to you?
S1: I thought LSU played really well in that game was very entertaining. LSU provided some some joy and happiness to the American viewing public before they bowed out honorably. I will say that UCLA made it to the Final Four a bunch of times without Johnny Juice. And so they have a lot of experience. They’ve never made it with Johnny doing so. So so we’ll see if they can do it. But I always thought the Final Four was kind of a funny thing as like a branding exercise to have us think as sports fans who’ve been trained to only kind of value and respect wenning, to think that if you make it to the semifinals of a tournament, that’s basically winning the whole thing. But now they’ve screwed us because we’re doing the show, as you said, Joel, on a Monday morning, and where traditionally we would be talking about the final four with the new scheduling. We’re now like having to talk about teams that won in the Sweet Sixteen but haven’t yet made it to the final four. And so I’m going to rebrand if the NCAA can convince us that the Final Four is like some big thing where you should raise a banner, I’m going to say the Elite eight is actually the thing that’s the pinnacle of achievement in all of college sports. So we’re talking about this breaking point in the tournament where we talk about these amazing elite eight teams. But I want to start with Gonzaga, and I usually like to just talk about players and give them the most, if not all of the credit, as opposed to coaches or general managers or whatever we can kind of overemphasize. That, but I think it’s impossible to talk about Gonzaga, which is undefeated, which is going to for the first undefeated record in men’s college basketball since 1976 without talking about how they’ve basically figured out college basketball in this era that we’re in, they’ve really cracked it. And we saw this year with like Duke and Kentucky that as a lead blueblood program, there are ways that you can, like, totally screw up a season in ways that, like you can never imagine Alabama being bad. And it’s like not even possible in college football, but in college basketball. It’s a really hard needle to thread like you want really good players. But, you know, now some of those players are going to like G League or going abroad. And so the super elite players aren’t maybe even available for you. But Gonzaga like their starting lineup this year. You’ve got two guys Drew to Timmy and Corey Kispert, who are really good, but they’re like really good college players. You know, they were really they weren’t like the super high recruits. And so they’re going to stick around for a while and Kahir and become part of a team. Kispert is going to probably be a lottery pick. So he got to be better than they probably thought he would. Then you’ve got Andrew Nembhard. He’s a transfer from Florida. And we’re now in this era in college basketball, where pretty much every team has transfers, there’s more of an open market. And so Gonzaga got this really good point guard to supplement their team juice and transfer, by the way. Then you’ve got Joli, who’s from France. And so Gonzaga has figured out how to supplement their team for, you know, decades now with international players. And he’s a guy who stuck around two. And then the reason why an Alex Kershner wrote this on Slate, they may be the greatest college basketball team ever or maybe the greatest of the you know, this particular Micra of college basketball is they got Jalen Suggs, who is a super duper blue chip guy who decided to go to college and has lived up to his billing. And so, Stefan, when you have those five players, you see what you’ve seen from Gonzaga all year. And in the tournament, they look really, really, really good in a tournament where, you know, there’s a lot of upsets because maybe nobody so great and sometimes get hard and the threes. But it is it has been fun to see one team that’s like, yeah, these guys are awesome and really fun to watch.
S2: Well, and they’ve also got a coach in Mark Few that has stuck around at Gonzaga for like more than two decades. Right. And that makes a difference. I mean, that roster breakdown that you just gave, Josh, is really emblematic of sort of cracking the code. It’s not just the one guy from France. I got a guy from Lithuania. I’ve got a guy from Mali on the roster. They’ve got a range. I mean, I think, like every class is represented, freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. And there is a clear understanding of the way you can break college basketball today.
S1: But it’s interesting, don’t you think? It’s interesting that like Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari have been around for a while, too, and they have seemed at various times and not too long ago to attract college basketball. But Calipari lost to Johnny Gesang. He was at Kentucky and now he’s at UCLA. But like, do you feel I guess, do you guys feel like in certain ways the top programs can’t build in the way that Gonzaga can? Because you really have to go for those top players who, even if they are good, they’ll only be there for one year. And you can’t build in the same way that Gonzaga has built.
S2: Well, isn’t it partly, Joel, like reputation or Gonzaga now has, you know, two decades of this notion that they are different and that if you’re not, hey, necessarily a lottery pick, you’re not going to necessarily play with other lottery picks at the beginning of your career, but you’re going to play on a really good basketball team and improve the way that Kispert has. Or if you’re Jalen Suggs, you look at it as well there. You know, they are like going to a top team because they play like a top team. So maybe I’m not going to be surrounded by four other one and done freshman the way I might be at Kentucky, but I know I’m in good hands with the coach and with my teammates and I’m going to develop as a better basketball player.
S3: Yeah, I think there’s something to that. It’s clear that Gonzaga is anomalous among, you know, most college basketball programs and particularly the powerhouse level. You would know that if you’ve ever been to Spokane, Washington. I mean, have you all ever been to Spokane, Washington? I mean, I mean is extremely remote, extremely hard to get to. It’s not a place that you would figure to be able to build a blue chip program, but somehow they’ve been able to do it all. That said, I mean, you know, Gonzaga is great. They’re great this year. They’ve been great, you know, for the last couple of decades or whatever, you know, ever since maybe going back to Adam Morrison, I can’t remember if I can’t remember how good they were before I heard of Adam Morrison. Right.
S1: But so when they first came on the scene, it was like with Dan Deko and Casey Kaveri and they made the Elite eight as this. One of these Cinderellas that we figured wouldn’t we would never hear from again.
S3: Right. And then they built they built from there. But I just don’t want to read too much into one year, especially the year that this is right. Because, first of all, Gonzaga did not get to play as many nonconference games as they normally would have liked. They would have played Baylor earlier in the year, if not if that game had been canceled. So maybe they would have a loss on their record already and we wouldn’t be talking about them as one of the greatest teams of all time. And I mean, yeah, Duke and Kentucky fell short this year. You know, their model for, you know, the one and done and getting into the great recruiting classes didn’t work out this year. But I don’t know that that has to mean anything because it just how unprecedented this year has been. So I don’t know if there’s any real trend in that. I would say, though, that like one school that you see that is sort of struggled in this new era and they didn’t make the tournament and nobody’s even really talked about them. I’m sorry they didn’t make the tournament, but they they would not. Among the elite programs this year in North Carolina. And you see that they sort of struggled there like shit, we get the one and dones. Should we get guys that we can develop that might be here two or three years? And they sort of ended up in like this middling place for the last couple of years. So I think maybe the Carolina
S1: who beat Gonzaga in that in the title game in twenty seventeen.
S3: Yeah, right. Right. And I just, I just wonder if like again, we can’t read too much into this year and like, you know, maybe the better way to think about it is that college basketball is a one year every you have to retool every year that like every year we might see something different with the odds that the the elite programs are going to be up there every year. But there’s no guarantee because every year you’ve got guys transferring, you’ve got top freshman prospects who might opt out and decide to go the league route. There’s just no way to know year to year what it’s going to be like going forward. And maybe, you know, maybe if twenty twenty is indicative of anything, it might be that. But I don’t think that it’s that Gonzaga has figured out college basketball.
S1: I disagree because I think that Gonzaga is always good. I think where you’re right is that it is hard to tell how great they are historically given the context of this season, but also just given that there’s not as much talent in the sport as I mean, there’s no like, you know, Kentucky teams of the 90s when you had, like, you know, all of the or Kentucky teams, the 2000 like where you had all of this accumulation of talent and future pros and the roster. But but I don’t think there’s any kind of argument about where Gonzaga compares to the field this season. And they’ve you know, they’ve only had one game where they won by single digits. I mean, it’s hard
S2: all year, not in the tournament all year.
S1: Right. So it’s hard to minimize what they’ve done and say it’s a product of competition. They obviously have to win three more games. Baylor would obviously be great competition. There are really strong defensive team. And so I’m not like crowning them. I think it’ll be that’s the reason that I want to watch the rest of this tournament is to see how they do and to see if they win these next three games and go undefeated.
S3: Like real quickly before we move on, I don’t want to be the person that’s like downplaying how good Gonzaga is. Like, I watched them this weekend for the first time, like for a full game. And I was like, oh, they’re as good as everybody says they are. Like, they’re actually an entertaining team. You know what makes them different from most other college teams? They can hit their open shots. Like I was I was like one thing I noticed all weekend. I was like, oh, if you leave Gonzaga open, they’re going to make their shots. They’ve got. And Jalen Suggs, a guy who looks like an NBA guard, they’re a great team. I don’t want to take that away from them. But I just in in saying that they figured out college basketball, I think that’s the bigger disagreement I had with Josh. Not that they’re not good this year, that the Gonzaga is not a consistent power, just that I don’t know if they figured out college basketball because we don’t know what college basketball is going to look like going forward. I think it’s a year to year proposition at this point.
S1: I think the issue, if you think in college teams can’t hit open shots, is that you watched Houston play against the Syracuse zone. They didn’t win the game, though. How excited are you about the Cougars? I mean, you know, as as we’ve noted, by the time people hear this podcast. Well, now about the you know, the Hoosiers are going to put up that Elite eight banner, but well, know if they made the final four, maybe by the time you listen to this.
S3: Oh, man, of course. I mean, it’s just I mean, Houston, Houston sports fans could use some good news of any kind right now. And if if if the Cougars are going to go to the final four for the first time since nineteen eighty four, like, that’s just amazing. I mean, if you had been to Huffines Pavilion, their old home arena, like in the last decade, which was just I mean it was just trash like it was is one of the worst home arenas in the country to see where they are today under Kelvin Sampson. It’s incredible. And yeah, it means something down there in Houston. I mean, it’s a little throwback. It’d be like if the Houston. Boilers, like all of a sudden became, you know, it just it just makes me feel very 80s right now that they’re good and they’re just like a bunch of tough dudes, you know what I mean? Like, there’s not a great star. Quentin Grimes’s is the best player on the team. He’s a transfer from Kansas. But like, they don’t have any. No, there’s no accumulation ones. Clyde Drexler is on this roster like they’re just the other day.
S1: Jandro, as the best player, just because he has his name kind of elevates him. Yeah, I mean, it’s fair. He’s also he’s also very versatile. But I just love saying Janjua.
S3: It’s a very Louisiana name, too, I would think. That’s French. I assume it is French.
S1: DaGian Euro,
S2: Houston Oilers number one, Jol, Arkansas and Houston are my two favorite teams left in this field because they are more essential, more essentially college basketball. It seems to me they’re free wheeling, they’re aggressive, they’re a little out of control. It’s almost like they’re admitting like, you know, we’re just playing college basketball. We’re allowed to brixham threes and make mistakes. Let’s have some fun here. It’s a little streetball. And you also have to love the legacies. You know, you mentioned slam jamma from the 1980s with Houston, but also Nolan Richardson with Arkansas from a similar era. And it was also nice that they got Jim Boeheim and Buddy Boeheim out of the tournament.
S3: That was good. Yeah, right. UCLA is back. I mean, that’s like I mean, for those of us the throwback elite, it’s like. Yeah, right. It’s just kind of cool to see UCLA there, too, right?
S1: Yeah. And like, speaking of entities needing good things to happen, like it felt like in every sport, whatever they’re calling it now, the PAC 12 has just been bad and down and made fun of and so good for them having UCLA, USC and Oregon State in the Elite eight all all raising banners. Curious what you guys thought of the page Beckers, Kaitlin Clark match up and the Sweet Sixteen, which was really hyped just because they’re both really outstanding freshmen for UConn and Iowa and who are just play a very kind of fun and aesthetically pleasing style. Like personally, you know, you could look at that game and say they didn’t maybe score as well as they usually do and they didn’t shoot as well. But I found it to be kind of enthralling, like and and you could see the future. Of the sport, and you could see even as they maybe didn’t play up to their usual standard, you could still see the talent and the toughness and the skill. But I’m curious what you guys thought.
S2: Yeah, I mean, I thought that ESPN really tried to milk it as much as possible, even
S1: as the game was on ABC network.
S2: Oh, that’s right. They put it on the network and they were really struggling. And yet, you know, the graphics and the Caron’s were about the two of them. You know, Beckers has six points and Clarkie seven points. And meanwhile, other players on the court were going off and scoring in bunches and it turned out to not be a close game in the end. And I think that also diminished the the rivalry. Persay. Yeah, these are two extremely talented young. They’re both freshman basketball players. And and this Connecticut team, you know, you talk about about coaches and programs that have figured out how to stay consistent. I mean, Geno Auriemma has done that obviously through the strength of
S1: their strategies, get all of the best
S2: of the best players in the country, genius, because you have the name recognition and the success to back that up. I mean, there are six freshmen on this team. They’re bringing in AISI Foud from D.C., who’s regarded as the best high school player in the country, coming back from a knee injury. And she has recovered and is going to UConn. So this is going to continue. But they were not they’re not the they weren’t the top seed in this tournament. And that, I think, is making the women’s college basketball tournament feel like maybe there’s more parity and there is more competition. Texas beating Maryland on Sunday night certainly reflected that. That was a really exciting game. And there have been a bunch of exciting games in the women’s tournament as they’re having the men’s.
S3: I think the thing about that, that UConn Iowa game that I come away with is that you if you’re just limiting it to a one game sample, it makes you understand why elite women basketball players go to UConn. So you don’t have to face UConn like Caitlyn collected. You’re basically going it alone, like she had a great season, you know, scored twenty one points. I think. I think she scored. I’m sorry. She scored thirty one, scored twenty one points, but she did it on like seven or twenty one shooting. And you know, she’s like going through this thicket of defenders all game long, you know, trying to get off her, trying to get off a shot, playing against UConn. I mean, if you’re Paige, because you can you can have an off night, even though it’s not one of those like typically senior Laden dominant UConn teams, there’s still a lot of talent on the floor. You can you can survive at UConn if Paige Beckers is having an off night. Meanwhile, Iowa, it’s all on Caitlin Clark. If she doesn’t have the game that you need her to have, it’s not going to happen. So to me, that was just like another advertisement for Geno Auriemma in UConn. It’s like, come over here, let’s just go dominate everybody together.
S1: Yashida to Avina, Westbrook and Alli Edwards of UConn had great games. But I think what you said might not hold up for UConn, against Baylor, against other teams in this tournament, where I think as we get further along, UConn will not be able to win or survive without Paige Beckers having an amazing game. And UConn hasn’t won a title and going on a few years now.
S3: So a fading power, they failed.
S1: Well, so it’s not like they can steamroll through the tournament. They need their best player to play like the best player in the country. And she’s just a freshman. So that’ll be fun to see what happens.
S2: Before we finish up, I think we should talk about the two best games on the men’s side. The endings are Roberts and Arkansas and then UCLA and Alabama. I mean, those were both just really fun and exciting games to watch, start to finish, really. And Oral Roberts particularly hanging in against Arkansas. Max Asness, the nation’s leading scorer for Roberts, taking it the length of the floor and just missing a three to win the game. You know, that was a really well designed play, a ninety four foot play. And, you know, I’m glad Arkansas won for reasons we discussed and also Oral Roberts. But, boy, that was that was that was really fun.
S1: Alabama did execute that that play. If only Oral Roberts had run that Alabama play today that they used to tie the game against UCLA.
S3: I mean, it’s a testament to Alabama that they were able to keep that game close while shooting eleven of twenty five from the free throw line. I mean, that’s that’s like high school level basketball free throw shooting. And still they managed to get it into overtime. It would it. And at which point UCLA ran away with it without Giannis using it I think five or six times in the segment So shout out Johnny Johnson.
S2: All right, stick around. Coming up we’re going to try to turn Joel into a USA USA soccer fan. On Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico, the United States men’s soccer team lost to Honduras two to one and failed to qualify for what is still, for some reason being called the 2020 Olympics. A few hours earlier in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the United States men’s soccer team beat Northern Ireland two to one and didn’t qualify for anything. It was just an international friendly, same country, different teams. The US that lost to Honduras was the under twenty three national team because that’s the rule for men’s soccer in the Olympics. It’s a you twenty three tournament so as not to distract from the World Cup. That group consisted mostly of young pros from Major League Soccer. The US that beat Northern Ireland was the senior national team which featured many of the best Americans working for big name clubs in England, Germany, Spain, Italy and elsewhere Christian Pulisic, Sergio, Dast Reyna, et cetera. Josh, we talked to the other day about how the games on Sunday would be a first step in our campaign to turn Joel into a face painting, scarf waving American outlaw. Now I feel like we have to explain the weird vagaries of international soccer. Josh, I’ll give you a leading talk about to get started. Assuming that you agree with this, take talk about how the Olympics really aren’t that big of a deal in men’s soccer and why one should not think that the U.S. sucks at the sport because we didn’t qualify again.
S1: Again, again. Yeah. As far as a kind of validation of where the US is as a soccer nation like the Olympics will not ever provide that. It’s just not a tournament that’s considered to be particularly important. And, you know, I guess it’s similar to like the world championships in basketball or something like that, where some countries take it seriously, some countries don’t. And it is like this age group tournament. And the thing that’s funny about it is that a lot of the best American players are under twenty three. But just because of the weird rules of soccer and just the way that things have developed, FIFA doesn’t require clubs to release players for the Olympics or for Olympic qualification. And so the best players just are never involved in the Olympics. And so it’s kind of like this Gonzaga situation where in years past, maybe the U.S. was too bad to make it to the Olympics. And this year they were too good because all of their best players are just like their clubs would never in a million years allow them to be involved in this tournament. And so you have this kind of like second tier of American soccer participating and qualification. But all that being said, it is still disappointing. There is still enough quality in the player pool to beat Honduras. One would hope and think. And the fact and and, you know, this kind of gets to my first point about why Joel should be a U.S. soccer fan. It’s just more fun to root for something than to be passive and not care. And U.S. soccer is a thing that I have found as I’ve gotten more into it in the last few years, that it’s fun to care about, it’s fun to be angry about. It’s a thing where the stakes feel really high and you can, like, feel mad at Honduras for some reason. It just really gets the blood pumping. There’s just something about soccer, even if I was never a big soccer player fan, but there’s just something about it that is really tense and has really high stakes. And this Olympics tournament was like a good example of a thing that you can intellectualize and say it doesn’t really matter. But as you’re watching, it’s still like really intense work. So so I guess we’re just getting started then. Yeah. OK, hang on. Yeah.
S3: You guys are trying to you said you’re being passive and not care.
S1: I know it’s cool to be like, oh I don’t really care and like whatever.
S3: I mean it’s just interesting because like yeah I guess I cared about us women’s basketball and when they lost and it was embarrassing to the country like, you know, so, you know, I was like, oh, that’s, that sucks. I don’t want to see them lose to Russia, you know, like they did in nineteen eighty eight. Right. But on the whole, like, I just can’t bring myself to get too emotionally invested. But here’s the thing that’s really interesting to me, because it’s funny you always talk about, oh, it’s not a big deal that they lost and they’re not qualifying for the Olympics. And everything I’m reading, I like ESPN dot com and the athletic is saying this is a massive failure and US fans should be disappointed. And I’m just like with shit. Which is it? I mean, are we going or is it a big deal? I was also the other funny thing that happened yesterday. It revealing my soccer ignorance is that I’m telling you now getting up on Sunday morning. And I’m like, OK, well, there’s this game here at nine o’clock in the morning, Pacific. The US men’s team is playing and I was like, OK, watch that game, and I looked at our notes and it said that the US team was playing again later that day. And I was like, oh, I think they meant something else. They meant tomorrow. It was just a mistake. And I was like, oh, shit. They played another game today. They lost. And everybody’s mad about that one as opposed to the game that they won that was supposed to be caring about it. Just I don’t know. It was just very confusing. You can see how for somebody that’s new to this coming to this could be a little bit confused about, like what the priorities are here and with the allegiances would be because.
S2: All right. Well, the priorities, Joe, let’s just set it out to make it simple for you. The priorities are for the United States men’s national soccer team to become good at the world level. And that means doing well in the World Cup. And the World Cup is every four years and the 2022 World Cup. Human rights issues aside. Right. So everything else is noise. And I put the Olympics into that category. Look, not qualifying for the Olympics is kind of embarrassing. The Olympics is a 16 team tournament under twenty three. Great Britain’s not going to be there. Italy’s not going to be there. The Netherlands aren’t going to be there. Most soccer powers are not going to be there. The number one, it’s kind of lame to actually make it
S1: to the Olympics. All the countries that aren’t in the Olympics are like those countries care about the Olympics. OK, whatever.
S2: I mean, it is a failure of this team and it is a failure of the preparation that the US Soccer Federation put into doing this. Let’s get the Olympics, though, but let’s get off the Olympics and move on to the thing that really matters is that the dudes that played on Sunday and last week and another family in Switzerland against Jamaica are the dudes that we need to get behind that. I know that intellectually. And as a fan, you would like a lot of these players, Joel, and personality and ability are two things you really care about when it comes to supporting athletes. And there’s a lot of good people here for Joel to begin rooting for unfollowing, don’t you think, Josh?
S1: I think so. Do you want to step in here, Joel, or do you want me to to continue the persuasion campaign?
S3: Yeah, go ahead and continue the preservation campaign. Yeah.
S1: So, I mean, I think one of the things that’s actually really nice about this team in particular is that you’ve got guys from all over the world and all different backgrounds and we can never know about who these people really are. I mean, we’ve talked about this in the recent past, but it is a team that genuinely seems to get along and genuinely seems like good dudes. And I think that was exemplified by Younus Moossa coming into the team from, you know, in the last few months. He’s a guy who was born in the US, I believe was born in New York, but did not grow up in America and has come to some prominence by playing in the first division in Spain as a teenager, just like a really exciting, creative midfield player. And he came into the squad for these friendlies in November. And just the way that everybody kind of came together around him, the younger guys like dressed like Raina, like Western McKenny from Texas, like Tyler Adams noticed, they dropped the casual mention that there’s a guy from Texas.
S3: Mm hmm. I noticed.
S1: And he was kind of lured into this team and this idea that they’re building something and there’s this new generation of guys that’s like really fun to play with and fun to be around. And now he’s like all over the USA. He, like, announced he is playing with that kind of like give his international future to America. He was in the team and like played really well these last few games. And so, like, if Younus Moossa, who didn’t grow up in the U.S., didn’t grow up thinking that America is a great soccer power, if you like, he is Lordan, if he is buying Àngel, then shouldn’t you buy into
S2: because you’re you’re you’re buying low, Joel. And that’s what’s what’s great here. You can ride the crest to greatness. And if it’s not going to be in twenty, twenty two I don’t think but twenty, twenty six US is going to be hosting the World Cup along with Canada and Mexico. All of these players that we’re going to talk about in the next ten minutes are going to be in their absolute primes. You don’t want to be on the outside looking in. You want to be knowledgeable and on this bandwagon,
S3: well, just help me out. So, OK, so the guy didn’t live most of his life here in the United States, and yet he can just play for the I don’t understand, like
S1: Beckham and played for Russia in the Olympics. I mean, you’re familiar with the idea.
S3: I mean, it’s like Serge Ibaka playing
S2: just like you’re aware. No, it’s not like Serge Ibaka playing. Maybe it is. I mean, he’s got an American citizen. I mean, like Becky Hammon did, it’s fun, I mean, it’s just
S3: stacking the deck here. I don’t know,
S2: it’s got like American parents and they happened to be born in one place and grew up in one place.
S1: But seriously, like, it is a it is a vision of America that’s like much better than the actual America. Yes. And so many ways that, like, it is inclusive, like it’s a place that people want to be. It’s like a team that seems to enjoy the fact that there is a lot of immigrants and people from different backgrounds and that they all kind of come together and play this like like as a as a unit. And so, you know, I’m being a little bit sort of, you know, simplistic and glossy here. But there is, I think, good, plausible, non ridiculous thinking around the fact that this is a golden generation, an American soccer. And so I think what Stefan said is true, that it will be rewarding to follow these guys. And so many of them are like teenagers or early 20s now that if you buy in now, this is going to be a team and a group of guys that you can, like, get to know over a decade. Whereas and so many other sports, you know, if you know, I know you’re I think you like college football, for instance. I’ve heard that you don’t get to really get to know and follow a team over that amount of time. And professional sports, two teams kind of come together and break apart very quickly. It’s a rare opportunity in sports to really watch a team develop and get to know them over a longer time horizon.
S2: And I also think, Josh and Joel, that this is a team that is demonstrating real progress in American soccer’s ability to recruit players of color. This is not you know, this is a sport when I grew up in the 70s and 80s, was perceived as a white sport. And in women’s soccer, there’s still that perception. This team is just is just astounding. And in the progress that the United States has made in finding, recruiting and developing players in the US and around the world, I’m trying to think who some of Joel’s favorite players might be. We got some big, strong hold up type players like Darrell Dekay, this 20 year old who went to UVA
S1: from Oklahoma,
S2: from Oklahoma. I like Oklahoma. I was playing in Major League Soccer in Orlando and got spotted and signed by Barnsley, who play in the in the championship, which is the second division in England. And the guy is like scored five goals in 11 games and has lifted this team to to the brink of like being able to qualify for the Premier League. And he’s a really lovable, fun young player with tremendous potential that nobody really had even heard about a year ago. And to see Americans like running around on the field with Lionel Messi in the case of Sergio death at Barcelona and Ronaldo in the case of western McKenny, who plays for Juventus in Italy, is kind of shocking. And I think it’s to sort of step into the shoes of a fan of I don’t know, you know, someone in a European country that has a basketball player they love and then he ends up on ends up playing in the NBA with the greatest players ever. I mean, who’s played with LeBron that you would be like back home going, oh, my God, my boy is playing with LeBron? Because that’s what this is like. And there are a lot of really great personalities here that I think you would respect as athletes. Joel?
S3: Well, you asked that question about LeBron, and I just want to give this opportunity to say Daniel Gibson, Boobie Gibson, who’s from Houston, that was a guy that got players from Houston, Houston, Jones High School, which no longer exists. But, yeah, I was very proud of him for playing with Bryant back in the day. But OK, so that guy that you mentioned, Moossa. All right, so what where is Moossa from? Where’s his family from? Where could he be playing?
S2: He was eligible to play for the U.S., England, Ghana and Italy.
S3: OK, see, this is kind of, I think, OK, I this is it’s very random. He could have picked one of four countries to play for. He just happened to play for us, which is fine, I guess. Like, does the US have to be good at soccer? Like, do I think I mean, like what is the like the US is so great. Everything else, they dominate the the summer, the Olympics, they dominate all of these most of these other international competitions. I guess I just don’t understand, like the impetus between why the U.S. has to be good at soccer, you know what I mean? Like and I guess maybe that’s why I just have a body and I’m just like, it’s fun. I like we could be mediocre. It’s something at least like for once, like, let’s just admit we’re mediocre and like people deal with it. It’s like one of the actual few endearing things about the country that, you know, we’re bad at something and it’s OK, you know, but like now we’re not used
S2: to it because the US women are by far and away the best team in the history of women’s soccer.
S1: So you want the women’s team to be Worstall just to make you feel better?
S3: About America, I mean, I would like it if other countries around the world were better because then it would show a commitment to women’s sports in other countries, right. That we you know, we we have here by virtue of, like, you know, a lot of resources or whatever. Right. We have a lot more resources in other countries. So it would be great if other countries agree. But like, I don’t I don’t you know, I’d rather see. Got to be good at soccer.
S1: You’re not mad at Honduras, is what you’re saying.
S3: No. And I know being mad at Honduras is like a political strategy and a lot of careers, but very true. But yeah, like in Honduras, like Honduras have soccer. Like, let’s just I don’t know, just, you know, the impetus between, like taking players from around the country and giving them a big deal and like rallying behind them. That’s fine and all. But I just I you know, I don’t need the US to be good at soccer, to feel good about soccer. You guys know, we talked about the World Cup and we talk about me watching Chilian and Buppie.
S2: They want somebody to mention embrapa again. You’ve got to move on from there.
S3: Baer I know somebody somebody wrote in and accused me of being racist for saying that I like Chilian and Bapak, but I just like it because he’s fast. Like, I didn’t have anything to do with his ethnicity or nationality
S1: during that race with DeAndre Yedlin, see his see his face.
S3: Does the US have anybody like Klayton BOP Fast like that? A great athlete.
S1: Yes. Love the guys with the track speed. I think you got the wrong message. What I was saying about Moossa, like the reason the Moossa wanted to play for the U.S. is because he is attracted by this program and what guys have built, like Western McKinney, who grew up in Texas and came up through the MLS Academy in Dallas, and guys like Tyler Adams and like Christian Pulisic, who grew up in the United States. And I think that you make a really good point. I think the hardest thing to kind of get your head around and a thing you either get past or don’t get past is this idea that, like the US is dominant and so many other sports and basketball and the and the Olympics, for example, and is it do you kind of feel like an ugly American, especially in like CONCACAF qualifying or like man like we got to take it to Mexico, like like, oh, man, like the U.S. needs to really destroy Mexico because, like, Mexico is always awesome. And like, that’s not necessarily a feeling that one can get behind in most realms of society. But I do like look to this group of players again, who like deeply care and grew up like wanting this to happen and have clearly, like, invested a huge amount and tried really hard and are getting validation on the world stage by being at the club level, at the top level of the sport, but also like increasingly internationally. And so even if you don’t think that it’s important for America, America to be good at the sport, I think you can still feel some measure of like respect and pride for this group. And also but I mean, ultimately, Joel, I think the thing that I’ll win you over or not is just having an interest in the sport. And I’ve developed more of an interest in it over the years. And just like the amount of skill and the like, when a player comes together and the level of kind of teamwork and how a game can sort of culminate in one particular moment, and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, it just feels really amazing, like that’s the thing that I think will either be there or not, because you’re you know, it doesn’t make sense to just, like, root for America in a game or a thing that you don’t particularly care about.
S3: So, yeah, like, I already really enjoy the World Cup. Like, I remember watching the 2010 final where the Netherlands and Spain went into extra time. It was a scoreless tie. Like I thought that was fascinating. Like there was a lot of intensity. It was highly competitive. A scoreless tie was interesting to me. No soccer fan. I was fine with it. I watched the Copa America that year because I thought the Copa America looked fun and exciting. Like I was like, oh, I would love to go to a game down there. I guess maybe the disconnect for me is that, like, once they start breaking down and going to like the Premier League and all these other, like, random ass professional leagues, like, I just don’t give a shit to be on, it takes
S1: a lot of bandwidth to keep up with it.
S2: It really does. And it’s OK to sort of start by wanting to care about the national team. And, you know, for me, Joel, a lot of this was growing up as a soccer fan, living abroad for a little while, sort of monitoring the way that the United States was consistently and with good reason disrespected on the world soccer stage and to watch the sort of. Progress and the sort of care in a way that American sports fans don’t often get to care because we are sort of imperialists and believe that we’re better than everybody at anything. And you know what? We’re going to be better than everybody, a basketball forever. And we’re not you know, they’ve lost world championships and Olympic medal games. So for this, there is a sense of validation and a sense of rising to the level of the gifted, the very best in the world. And to see that happen organically is exciting. And to see, as Josh said, and it’s not just Moossa, but there are other players like Virginia, just who we mentioned, who are choosing actively to be part of the United States.
S3: Stefanov, why aren’t you reading for Greece?
S2: I always root for Greece when they make it, but they don’t make it that often.
S3: Oh, they’re not good. Or they’re not going to talk.
S2: They’re good at soccer, but they play in Europe and everyone’s really good in Europe. OK, yeah. I mean, when when Greece won the European the Euros back in what was it, 2004? I was at a bar in D.C. watching every game. So, yeah, I’m I’m they’re loyal. And I’m like one of these guys that could have played for either team. I could have played for Greece. I could play for.
S3: So if Greece plays this generation, this great generation of young American players of the future, who are you going to root for then?
S2: I’m rooting for America, sorry, Greece, I’m invested in these dudes. This is an exciting group of player. Also, did you know that the son of the current president of Liberia is an American soccer player? Real team. Tim Awaya, huh? It was world soccer player of the year, one of the greatest players ever, and now he’s president of Liberia. So, you know, we got some political
S1: this is a multi-step process. We’ll check back in with you later this year.
S3: All right. I’m looking forward to it. We’ll keep trying.
S1: Coming up next, Dave McKenna on Elgin Baylor. Elgin Baylor had a wonderful life, but deserved better. That’s the first line of Dave McKenna’s obituary for Baylor, who died last week at age 86. Baylor was in many ways the first truly modern basketball player. You could watch him and him alone as far back as the early 1950s with his jump shot and reverse dunks and see what the sport would become. But as McKenna wrote in his obit, Baylor’s early life was circumscribed by Jim Crow. He couldn’t play on the fancy all white playground near his black elementary school in Washington, D.C. He couldn’t play in the all white local all star games. He wasn’t recruited by the all white local colleges, McKenna wrote. I think all the time about Baylor getting on a train out west from D.C. in 1954, forced to leave town and everything he knew behind to chase greatness, which he would surely find far from home. That image tells me so much about what was wonderful about him and wrong with our country. Dave McKenna wrote about Baylor for Defector, the website he owns. He’s also written about Baylor for Washington City Paper and Grantland, neither of which he co owns and only one of which still exists. Dave McKenna, welcome to the show.
S4: Oh, thank you very much. I’m very sad.
S1: Let’s start with that train ride out West when Elgin Baylor left Washington, D.C. Can you explain where he was going and why he was going there?
S4: Yeah, he he was going to the College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, the middle of nowhere, a proverbial middle of nowhere because. No, as you as you said, he was ignored by local. There were no the even though he had only a few weeks before the NBA draft of 1954, he had played against Jean Schuh, who would be a would now be called a lottery pick and go on to a Hall of Fame career. And he had outplayed him and won MVP of the tournament, a high school player against a college senior and one of the best college seniors in the country, and yet was ignored by the University of Maryland, where she went, and Georgetown University, which would go on to have this reputation as quite a progressive school. And George Washington University, every school, every local team with a with a basketball program, they were years away from even considering a black player. And even on the national scene, he got no serious he got no scholarship offers. So another D.C. guy named Warren Williams, who had been a friend of his on the playground, and it was also a multi-sport athlete of football and basketball. All men from The Washington Post all met being all star, had a family friend who was a Harlem Globetrotter who had heard about a college in Idaho that was recruiting, you know, would would have would take all comers regardless of race and was putting together an athletic program and often called up. I told the coach about I got this guy back home who is the best basketball player on the planet. And what do you think? He said, oh, bring him along because of the football coach was also the basketball coach at the school. And next thing you know, Baylor’s on a train to Idaho, which he had never he had never been outside of the city, had the furthest away he had been to the Virginia border, West Virginia, West Virginia border, not which is not too far from D.C. to visit a relative. That’s the furthest he had ever been from home. And next thing you know, he’s on a train to Idaho some 2000 miles away. I’m very touched by almost everything about a Baylor story, but that image of of a black kid in 1954, getting on a train to go to Idaho, it just it kills me.
S3: I kind of want to follow up on this, because you say that they were Baylor and his friends were constantly aware of their status, I guess, for lack of a better term. Anomaly’s in Idaho. Right. And that but then it didn’t feel isolating. And you said he wrote in his autobiography, it feels as if W-W and I have wandered into a private and exclusive members only club. But rather than feel intimidated or excluded like I do in D.C., I feel invited. What made Idaho so inviting to him?
S4: You know, Idaho now is is the land where Mark Furman escapes to after the O.J. trial. It’s but that’s my image of Idaho. Yet these guys, they had five guys on the basketball team in Idaho was, you know, maybe the whitest state in the union at the time, were black and were treated wonderfully to a man. You know, I talked to three of them through the years and were treated well. And my only guess is that it was like a fourth. They were foreign exchange students. Basically, they were they were Italian said to the people of Idaho. They were you know, it was they were the novelty. And also, obviously, they. Right, newfound success to the school they went undefeated in the basketball team was undefeated the first time in the history of the conference that any school had an undefeated conference record and the first time, obviously, in Colorado’s record. So, I mean, I think those two things, maybe that the the the novelty and the obvious skills and talents these did, they introduced, you know, a new style of basketball to to the people of Idaho. And I think that that’s the combination that why they were treated. But again, no episodes of racism, you know, that they can recall. And none of them were kind of anything but being treated wonderfully like the they remember being stereotyped or maybe this better word typecast at parties when people would ask them to teach like Elgin and Warren both got asked to teach kids how to dance and but they took it very sweetly. They said it was from a place of sweetness that they were asked and because they had moves that, you know, Idahoans had never seen. And yet it was very, very uplifting. I mean, a very sweet tale to talk to them about this time.
S2: But it didn’t end totally sweetly, though. They had that one great season. They actually lost in the NCAA championship and they didn’t go back for a second year, right?
S4: Correct. The College of Idaho effectively canceled the basketball program. They eliminated the scholarships after one season, this great season. And that followed a Sports Illustrated story about this tiny little school, the College of Idaho, that, you know, has all of a sudden this incredible program. And you read between the lines. It’s like it starts out like you think it’s a positive story. But between the lines, it’s saying, hey, they only did it because they let inferior academic black kids in black kids without without the proper records. I’m sure that national publicity is what did it. That’s why they yanked they pulled the program, pulled the plug on it, which is, you know, it ended up being, you know, Baylor probably. I think he was unstoppable at that point. And he could have gone right to the NBA had, you know, at that point, if had been allowed, you know, it ended up being he likely would not have gotten it was an NCAA school. And in the end, it may have helped him because he went on to the College of Seattle University, which wasn’t too far away, and took them to the Final Four singlehandedly, which is an amazing, amazing tale.
S1: And another really telling aspect of that part of the Baylor story is that he goes out to Idaho with these two friends of his from D.C. and then goes to Seattle with a totally separate new group of friends from D.C. So it tells you a couple of things. Number one, that, like Baylor, didn’t want his success to be individual, like he wanted to spread it to people that he grew up with and that he knew and he saw that he had this opportunity and maybe this was like a better place and he wanted to give that to other folks, but also that Baylor wanted to feel comfortable that he he didn’t actually feel at home in D.C. because of all that we’ve talked about and all that wasn’t available to him. But he felt comfortable with the people that he grew up with and people in D.C. and he wanted to bring he wanted to be and like he wanted a part of D.C. in a place where he could feel more at home, right? Yeah.
S4: And again, I’m a sap about Baylor. And but talking to these guys like, you know, a teammate of his at Spingarn, he went back and he brought two guys from when he went to Seattle, he the two guys that Idaho went home and he went back and brought two guys from Spingarn because
S2: I went to see
S4: being on high school in Washington, D.C. He went and got two guys, another sign of his greatness before he said to the coach, to Seattle, you know, if I can bring some guys here, I’ll I’ll come and said, sure, whatever you want. And he went home and he shared, you know, like he shared the wealth, like and I remember one of the guys telling me about getting a knock on the door and saying, do you want to go to Kiowas Elgin Baylor over, you know, like some summer break saying, do you want to go to college? You know, like, come on, get in. We’re going to leaving tomorrow. Let’s go.
S1: OK, I was going to go to the Army and he was like, all right, I guess I’ll go to
S4: college and go into the next room and telling his mom I get to go to college. And he also got to play in the final four. But I mean, like he was you know, I talked to my half a century later, he was still just unbelievably touched, you know, his about how his life had changed from that knock on the door.
S2: And yet that also ended with the black kids getting accused of cheating and the program falling from its heights. And that is a running theme in Baylor’s young life. Right. And and it shaped the way he felt about DC and the way he viewed segregation from them from the second he left the city and into his into his career in the NBA.
S4: Yeah, the Seattle program was was. Put on probation because of the coaches recruiting another Spingarn player who would go on to an NBA career. They said he get the coach illegally, given him a plane ticket to visit the campus, which he now. And yeah, but like you said, like that pattern is it doesn’t look good on paper for the white power structure, where the two places he goes and brings to their their their their greatest heights athletically are then crushed by by the the machine
S3: moving forward just a little bit. Dave, I’m still learning about Elgin Baylor. Right. And like I was, you know, reading all the great things you’ve written about him over the years. Like, I’m just shocked, for instance, that he was a pair of Wilt Chamberlain. Like, you know, it never occurred to me that, like, not only was he up here, he got the best of Wilt when Wilt came and visited him in D.C. And I go back to your twenty eighteen essay in Deadspin that was headlined Elgin Baylor is finally ready to tell people he was great. And I’m just kind of curious to know, do you think he wanted to take more ownership of his story in later years because of how much his reputation suffered with the Clippers and working for Donald Sterling? Because that’s who I knew. Elgin Baylor is like, you know, just sort of this overwhelmed GM working for the Clippers, you know, the worst franchise in professional sports.
S4: First of all, the Clippers episode is one I wrote more words about Baylor than just about anyone, maybe Dan Snyder, obviously. I mean, Dan Snyder, I wrote more worse than anybody in my life, but Elgin is number two. And I never thought I would mention the sentence of the Clippers. I’d like disregarded that chapter because that’s not Elgin Baylor. He was he was put in a horrible situation and he deserves no blame for that. But as far as taking ownership of a story, if I may be incredibly honest, I think he took ownership of his story because people around him finally said, you know, time is running out. If you don’t do it, do it now. He was kind of I don’t think he really he didn’t care. He would I think being called boastful would be like the biggest insult to him personally. He did not want to come off as a guy who was self-centered and talked about himself, even though, like around here, like the John Thompson era, his peers here, you talk to any one of them about Elgin, like, you know, they shake their head first, like, you know, they like they remember seeing a ghost, you know, seeing him on the playground the first time. They’d never seen anything like it. It didn’t come easy to him to to talk about himself. And given the life story, like, you know, people like me, I would call him. I’d just call every couple of years for a long time, every now and then, and just bully him into talking about the past. And he was very nice to me and he would. But it definitely he did it for me. He didn’t do it for himself.
S2: The death of Elgin Baylor, I think juxtaposed with the death of Henry Aaron, feel like they go together. And a lot of ways the sort of overcoming roots and Jim Crow and not doing it sort of certainly happily or doing it without being angry. I mean, Baylor was so angry at DC, he never went back right there if he didn’t want any part of Washington. And when he left DC to go to Idaho, he turned down opportunities to go play at BCUZ because he didn’t want to be in a segregated environment. It had it had it had ruined him, it feels like in so many ways. And when he got to the NBA, there’s this story that you recount and others have recounted how when the Lakers were in Charleston, West Virginia, when he was a rookie and a hotel wouldn’t give him and other black players on the team rooms, he sat out the game. He was sick of it.
S4: And the anger is visible in his actions. There was sort of an acceptance and like he uses, that’s the way things were. You know, about. About why? Because I like I I would want him to be enraged. I would want him to like it. Just you feel bad for humanity to read about what he endured. And I remember him saying so it was.
S2: All right. There’s that quote from his memoir, from that episode in West Virginia, where his teammate Hotrod humbly ask him to change his mind about not playing in Baylor, says I’m a human being. He said that he told Hundley, I’m not an animal put in a cage and went out for the show.
S4: Yeah, I mean, that’s that’s a wonderful and understandable quote. And but he never had that that rate with me. He was always humility and and no boastfulness at all. No, no, no rage, nothing. Just know it’s not as if he would change much, I guess with the way things turned out. He worked with it. He got dealt a bad hand by most people’s standards and took the whole bottle. He did really well
S1: in some athletes, but also. Other famous people, celebrities, politicians, whatever, have that kind of ego, and it’s upsetting to them that people don’t know how great they were or remember how great they were and it’s not nearly as important. But he also never won an NBA championship, which is the way that our kind of dumb sports brands kind of categorize athletes. And so he had that against him and sort of being talked about in these like greatest player ever pantheon sort of conversations. But when you talk to the folks that he grew up with and in D.C., Dave, when you talk to his peers in the NBA, when you talk to people that, you know, writers, anybody that that saw him there, just know it’s hard to think about people that are talked about with such reverence. And that’s really a testament to both a life well lived and also to his greatness. And I think, you know, it makes me happy to see you being weepy. But the sad thing and Stefan mentioned Henry Aaron, is just like so many of those guys and this generation isn’t going to be around anymore to tell us how great Elgin Baylor was, this guy who doesn’t want to talk about how great he was. And that’s why I’m so grateful for all the stuff that you wrote that has that that testimony and has these stories. So.
S4: Thank you. Oh, well, I did it for me now. I mean, it was Daljeet. Well, it’s totally that because I’m a D.C. guy. And again, you talk to these and there’s so many stories. I mean, I I’d have to go to Microvision, you know, the 90s, because then the Post archives, the Washington Post archives that there weren’t the stories and enough of them in the mainstream papers. There weren’t enough there. So the Afro-American papers covered his exhibitions and would cover eleganza other stuff. Sam Lacey, the legendary sportswriter of the Afro-American who worked until he was 100 years old and saw an amazing I mean, you know, this guy, he had a life. He could tell some tales. He was a organizer of these exhibition games against white players. When after Elgin senior year, when Elgin wasn’t voted on by the newspaper reporters to the All-Star Game, they put together these games because only white players were voted on to the all star games, the all prep, all high game, which was The Washington Post put on Sam Lacy and others and a local promoter put on these games. They called mixed race battles to get him some acclaim in the area where he would play white teams and always, always went and everything comes together. America, America’s, you know, athletic history. He was changing the way basketball was being played, his senior year of high school. At the same time, the way school was structured in his hometown in America was being overhauled. The Brown versus Board of Education came in the final semester of his senior year. A main plaintiff was a Spottswood bowling, which was a classmate of balers at at Spingarn. And another basketball player at Spingarn was like changed the world and definitely changed D.C. like few Supreme Court cases ever did. The convergence of the changing worlds of sports and culture and race race in America all come together with Baylor,
S3: which said D.C. do to honor Elgin Baylor’s memory. Right. Like I know you, I’m sure you’ve got some ideas.
S2: Here’s my rage.
S4: This is where my rage comes out. It makes no sense at all that there is nothing for this guy here. The only thing named for him is genuine. The only thing named for him in Washington, D.C. is the soul crooner Ginuwine, whose real name is Elgin Baylor Lumpkin
S3: and God bless. I did not know that. Are you serious? Yes. His name is from
S4: yes, Elgin Baylor. He’s a DC native. And but other than that, like, there’s no park, there’s no basketball court. There’s no nothing like Seattle has a tournament in his name. Seattle has a basketball court in his name. Los Angeles has a statue. Washington has nothing. And there’s a Marvin Gaye park right next to Kelly Miller. Kelly Miller playground is where Elgin and Wilt played and where you know, where the legend was born. And there’s a Marvin Gaye park and Marvin Gaye surely deserve something. You know, he’s incredible in his albums are unbelievable. But he also had to go to L.A. to get this acclaim. He went to Cardozo High School here, but then he left and never came back. What’s what’s the excuse for Elgin? I mean, he made the rest of the world a notice, Washington, D.C., but something has to be done. I mean, it just has to be rectified. I mean, his story is amazing. It is.
S1: Dave McKenna wrote about Elgin Baylor for a defector and Washington City Paper. And Granlund will put links to all of his fantastic stories on our show page. Dave, thank you so much.
S4: I mean, I really do appreciate you’re doing God’s work by getting his name out there. It is sad that he had to die to get the publicity he always deserved.
S2: And now it is time for after balls and I want to honor a man who wrote into The Washington Post in 1954 about Elgin Baylor again, as MacKenna told us, a time when the paper basically didn’t cover black athletes in the city. It only covered white athletes and pretended that the white high schools were the only high schools in the city. And this guy, James A. Clay, wrote to the Post and he said, I’ve seen just about all of them with the Kiernan’s, Georgia’s, Sullivan’s, Kessler’s, etc. All are good or better than good basketball players. But before you do your selecting for all high, all prep all star teams this year go out and see Elgin Baylor of Spingarn. He is the greatest high school basketball player of all time. So forget the unwritten rule and watch him play so as not to do him the great injustice of leaving him off. Don’t take anyone’s word about him. See him yourselves then if you can lead him off. That’s a different story, James. A play two to six Fourth Street NW. Those were the days when they put people’s addresses in the newspaper.
S3: How about that man hemostat? I mean, how right was he? He didn’t even see all the other basketball players. Not like you could watch the McDonald’s game on TV in nineteen fifty four. So that’s good scout too. Yep.
S2: Ah, Joe, what’s your James Clay.
S3: Well, Josh mentioned that I was a college football fan earlier, and so I thought it was appropriate to pay respect to the memory of one of college football’s most memorable characters and program builders. How would Shellenberger, who died at the age of eighty seven over the weekend? So Shellenberger is probably best known for reviving the football program at the University of Miami. When Shellenberger arrived at Miami in nineteen seventy nine, the Hurricanes were on their sixth coach in nine years after Lou Saban. No relation to Nick that I know of. He left Miami for Army. All right. So at that point, Miami hadn’t won more than six games in a season. In twelve years, its best season had come in nineteen forty five the year it went nine, one and one and defeated Holy Cross in the Orange Bowl. So, yeah, at that point there was very little clue that the canes were anywhere near the cusp of greatness and has often been recounted in recent days. Miami administrators had even considered dropping football is losses mounted and morale dipped. And Shellenberger didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start, and that first season in Coral Gables, the CAMES lost three of their first four home games, including a three point loss in Tallahassee not to rival Florida state, but to Division one double play, Florida A&M. The turning point in that first season and maybe for the whole program, came later in the year with Miami at three and four. The Canes were heading into a game against nationally ranked Penn State on the first Saturday of November. To that point, the first Ellenberger and offensive ways who was the coordinator for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins had gone with Mike Rodriguez as the starting quarterback and were regarded acquitted himself fairly well given the circumstances, namely a pretty awful offensive line. Rodriguez was a good athlete, Miami’s first quarterback ever to benched three hundred pounds, and he also ran a four point seventy five forty yard dash. So like this is all according to Miami. I don’t know if that time is official, but that’s what they say. So whatever. Rodriguez was a sophomore who even started some as a true freshman the previous year, but Shellenberger knew he wasn’t good enough to be Penn State. So Coach turned to a redshirt freshman, the guy from western Pennsylvania who’d grown up dreaming of playing for Joe Paterno and the Lions. His name was Jim Kelly. Shellenberger didn’t even ask his coaching staff for their opinion about the quarterback switch. He just went with it. Having seen enough of Kelly in spot duty throughout the season that Saturday in State College. At the pregame breakfast four hours before kickoff, Shellenberger announced to the team that Kelly would start. Shellenberger said Kelly’s response wasn’t exactly confidence inspiring. He surprised me by promptly going to the bathroom and throwing up. I wondered what in the hell is wrong with this kid? Shellenberger told Buffalo News years later. Asked if he had second thoughts about his decision, Shellenberger said, Well, it was too late then, which Dylan Berger didn’t know that Kelly’s nausea was as much a part of his pregame routine as breakfast. In the end, Kelly validated Schellenberg his belief in him by throwing for two hundred and seventy eight yards and three touchdowns in Miami’s twenty six to ten upset of Penn State. After the game, Shellenberger told reporters, We came in with the idea that the lesser of two evils was throwing the ball, a sort of testament to the Kings offense. Earlier in the season, a local newspaper had written. Most of this year has been a bum with a wet fuse running to no avail in passing, sometimes as few as eleven times a game. So from that moment forward, a modern passing game would be a staple of the Miami program as long as Kelly’s in the game, Shellenberger said. We’ve got to use Kelly’s style of attack now. This move wasn’t the catalyst for an immediate turnaround. Miami lost its next two games, a thirty to nothing blow out of Top-Ranked, Alabama, and then a forty to fifteen loss to Notre Dame in Tokyo. But the Kings went nine and three the next year and nine into the following season, a year that ended with an Orange Bowl victory over Notre Dame. Two years later, in 1983, Shellenberger and the Hurricanes, when their first national championship that would be his last game at Miami, Shellenberger accepted an offer to coach a South Florida based team in the fledgling USFL that never materialized in 2011, Shellenberger said of leaving Miami. If you look at it objectively, it was the dumbest thing a human being could do, and Shellenberger wasn’t quite able to recreate that same magic elsewhere. He had one ten win season at Louisville, but finished his tenure there with a losing record. And he had a fairly underwhelming year at Oklahoma in nineteen ninety five, with the Sooners going five, five and one and his final chapter, Shellenberger created a whole football program from scratch at Florida Atlantic University, guiding the university from Division one double play to Division one. He finishes college coaching career with an overall record of one fifty eight one fifty one in three, which goes to show you that won loss records don’t always tell the full story of someone’s contributions to the game. But I think the real lesson here is don’t let a little queasiness get in the way of a good thing. So, Stefan, what is your snowline?
S1: Bulgar Two things about Howard Shellenberger. Number one, moustache number two. The thing that caught my attention is scheduling back to back to back Penn State, Alabama and Notre Dame in Japan. Yeah, whoever was doing the scheduling for Miami back then was, you know, didn’t didn’t give them the easiest read.
S3: Well, you know, Miami was an independent, so they had to cut. I guess they had to they were like, was it Boise State? We’ll play you anywhere. You know, basically that that was their motto. So they had to go anywhere. I mean, even Tokyo and Japan.
S1: All right, Stephan, what is your. James, a play
S2: on Saturday night. I was channel surfing during the NCAA and having to cross some playoff college hockey on ESPN. And then I fell asleep. When I woke up early on Sunday morning, they were still playing. So I recorded the game to see what would happen. And I’m glad I did because it was nuts in the fifth overtime. His regional final, after a hundred and forty two minutes and 13 seconds of play, North Dakota goaltender Adam, she’ll let a wrist shot from Minnesota Duluth freshman Luke Miller mock through his five hole and into the net dogpile tears the whole sports thing. It was really incredible. Truth be told, the goal that she allowed was kind of a softie, and I’m sure he’s blaming himself for the loss. But as my friend Andy Glockner pointed out, fans on Twitter were extremely kind to the goaltender. Someone hug Adam Shiel. For me, he is an absolute unit. One guy tweeted, head up, man. Another fan posted, you played a hell of a game and had a hell of a season. One guy posted a picture of his little girl and wrote, You made Macey’s first hockey season so memorable and we can’t wait for an even better one next year. The accolades went on and on Game of a Lifetime for Adam Shiel. Adam Sheilas is our man and you can come fight me about it if you feel differently. You played your ass off. No way. We lost because of you. Keep your head high, man. It was like Whoville after the Grinch stole all the presents. But there was even more goodwill in this game and it had to do with the play by play announcer Leah Hextall. Hextall comes from a hockey family. Her grandfather, Brian, is in the Hall of Fame. Her cousin Ron was the longtime goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers and is now the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last year, Leah Hextall became the first woman to do play by play for an NHL game for the Canadian network SportsNet. As part of an all woman booth on International Women’s Day. Hextall also did the last NCAA men’s tournament in twenty nineteen. She’s great, smooth and creative in a sport governed by nonstop action, a motive when the moment calls for it steady during moments of chaos. She absolutely nailed one super confusing sequence during the North Dakota Minnesota Duluth game, when a puck landed in the mesh on top of the goal and to go seven full periods. Plus, my voice is shot after doing this podcast, and the NCAA were her first play by play assignment of the year. But Hextall is, of course, a woman in sports broadcasting and women in sports broadcasting, especially women calling men’s sports, have to deal with male sports fans who can be sexist idiots. But again, in this case, the response was almost universally complimentary. There were tweets calling for ESPN to hire her when it begins showing the NHL next year. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Called her as good of a hockey play by play announcer as there is Canadian hockey broadcaster Darren Drager of T.S.A., who has a million followers, tweeted, Terrific work, a career milestone that’s tough to beat. But it was the regular dudes to Leah Hextall crushed the play by play. Lovely, a Hextall call of game. Leah Hextall is a friggin pro. You will be the next Doc Emrick, a user name. Zach Jack. Dad wrote, I have never heard you do play by play before. And I searched you out on Twitter to tell you that you are incredible and doing a great job. Fab Five hockey fans, Minnesota, five middle aged dudes with a Twitter wrote Well done. All five of us have been texting about how well you have done all night. And Manitoba accent is so fitting for this. Duluth and Grand Forks battle. A 50 something guy who enjoys barbecue, good wine and scotch told Hextall she should be hosting Hockey Night in Canada. RW wrote, You did an outstanding job and I am not being pissy. This was all great to see. But let’s not forget the too often the response online isn’t like this, particularly if you’re black or a woman. After his team was upset by Oral Roberts in the first round of the men’s basketball tournament, EJ Ladell of Ohio State reported that he received a slew of racist and threatening messages online, including one that said, I hope you die. I really do. And after his team was upset by Loyola Chicago in the second round, CofI Coburn of Illinois received similar messages. Hockey, too, has had long standing and ongoing problems with racist abuse and with sexism. If Adam Shiel were black, would fans have been as universally forgiving? Probably not. If Leah Hextall hadn’t been near perfect on her call with Bozo’s have told her that she didn’t belong in the booth, no doubt. And so it’s important to keep things in perspective. Maybe this was North Dakota nice or Canada nice or nonracist hockey nice. But whatever the reason for one game, it warms my heart to know that sports fans could respect valiant effort on a field of play and talented work behind a mic. In a better world, this wouldn’t be cause for an after ball. Acceptance and understanding and respect and appreciation would be the standard receptions, regardless of race or gender. Murder or sexual orientation, regardless of the outcome of a game and sports, would be so much better and much more fun if it were that way.
S3: That’s a delightful little story, because people can be nice and be fans, you know, very, very upbeat. Maybe twenty, twenty one is going to be different for twenty twenty after all.
S1: Maybe Stephan’s just got to stay up late and watch more hockey games. And that is our show for today. A producer this week with Margaret Kelly. Listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate dot com slash hang up. You can email us at hang up at Slate dot com and please subscribe to the show and rate and reviews on podcasts, which really helps us out for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. And Josh Levine remembers Elmo Beedi Indulgent Beiler,
S5: thanks for listening.
S1: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, and one of the most medium sized stories in sports last week was Shaka Smart, the coach of Texas, leaving Texas to become the new basketball coach at Marquette. And this occasioned a raging debate and the slack direct messages between me and our colleague Ben Mathis. Lily, who I have welcomed into our show as our invited guest to reenact that debate or perhaps maybe further it in the and the interest of intellectual development.
S6: Hello, Ben. Hey, Josh. I am just filled with rage and ready to continue this.
S2: Can I ask a logistical question before we begin? The two of you were subjecting the rest of back to your conversation about Shaka
S1: Smart direct messages.
S2: Stefan Directorate’s didn’t hear the direct message.
S3: So it was it was just me. I was just the only person being subjected to. So what was it?
S1: So Joel and Ben and I have a dream where we talk about college sports so we don’t subject the rest of the Slate staff to a thing that they are not interested in. But in this case, Ben and I were subjecting Joel to something he was not interested in. And now we’re going to subject him to that.
S3: Again, I was busy. Like I said, I wasn’t disinterested. I was busy. OK, you
S2: guys don’t leave me. Don’t add me to that slacker.
S1: All right? So Ben and I will hash this out. And then then Joel and Stefan, you guys can score it. So as the host, I will graciously began myself. So Shaka Smart, his tenure at Texas was not super successful. He was there for six years. They made the tournament three times. The tournament was contested only five times out of those six years, as we recall. But they did not win a game in any of those three NCAA tournaments losing this past year to a team that was really bad in Abilene, Christian, a 14 seed. And Shaka Smart did a pretty good job recruiting, got a lot of really good players. So you might know from the National Basketball Association honors roster, but they were never really able to be great in the big twelve or in the NCAA tournament. And yet I contend. But he is a good college basketball coach and that this was a good hire by Marquette to get him. And so I am actually being gracious, Ben, because I made the argument against Shaka Smart and now I am allowing you to continue and push that argument yet further before I respond.
S6: Well, I think that the thing about Shaka is that he’s he’s maybe, like, burdened by just how good and how successful his his first few teams at VCU were. And I don’t think that, you know, anyone. It’s really just you know, it’s not like those teams weren’t good for Atlantic 10 team. They may they were impressive in the tournament. They made the final four. They made it back to the tournament and won games. But the problem for him is just that he set the expectations so high with that that he hasn’t been able to live up to them. And that’s why I found this such a baffling hire. It’s not that I think and I you know, I I’m I’m happy to keep this as antagonistic as possible personally. But for the sake of argument, I’m not suggesting that I think he’s a terrible coach or an idiot. I mean, his you know, I mean, managing Texas to the degree he has, it’s clear that he’s not utterly incompetent. But, you know, Marquette could be a very you know, it’s a pretty top job in college basketball. It’s a pretty story program. They have a national title. They can get top you know, they can get top recruits, they can get NBA talent. And I was just surprised by it, because if you look at his last six years, I mean, just the results are not there. And it was surprising. It’s surprising to see someone get poached from a job where they’re not doing that. Well, I guess with my what my reaction was, particularly when they’re hotter candidates available well
S1: before Stefan chimes. And I just want to note for the listeners that when Ben described Marquette as an elite program, Joel made a face, but can
S3: continue a little bit of a stretch. I mean,
S2: they continue to lead program.
S3: Maguire It’s been a long time since Al McGuire
S2: in the nineteen seventies.
S1: Dwayne Wade, ever heard of him? Joel All right. Go ahead. Go ahead. Stefan, is
S2: it possible,
S1: Jimmy Butler ever
S2: sorry, cynical world, that a coach like Shaka Smart could look at where he was and just have been kind of sick of the bullshit that you have to contend with coaching a team at a school that thinks that it should win a national championship championship and everything and doesn’t do that and say, hey, you know, I’m from Wisconsin Marquette storied program, a little more East Coast basketball. Maybe I will enjoy my coaching life more if I go there.
S1: Josh, I mean, there was definitely a you can’t fire me, I quit aspect to this. So I don’t think it was necessarily that Shaka Smart was like, they love me here, but maybe I’d be happier there. Like he was either on his way out like now or he was going to have a very kind of unpleasant ousting there at some point in the not too distant future. So I think that’s important context. But what I would say is college basketball is a sport in which coaches get. Their reputation, they build their reputations on the NCAA tournament and then we talked about Shaka Smart in contrast to Porter Moser, the Loyola Chicago coach who similarly led his small conference team to a final four in this year. Probably best not discussed what happened to them in this 2016, but they beat the number one seed, Illinois, and had a really strong team this year. And so would we know who Porter Moser is or be talking about him? If, you know, in those very close wins they had two years ago, the guys had, like, missed the three or missed that? No, we’d have no idea who this guy is. And so it’s Shaka Smart. The thing that I found so impressive about him is that once VCU went to the final four, as we’ve seen these smaller conference teams do a little bit in recent years, they made the NCAA tournament the next year. And, you know, they made the NCAA tournament the year after that. And you know what? They made the NCAA tournament the year after that. And, oh, they made the NCAA tournament the year after that as well. And like Ben said, they won games and that’s how we got the Texas job. And for me, like in this era, we talked about this before you showed up. And but, like, it is very challenging to figure out how to manage, like, what it is to be a college basketball coach at one of these high major programs like John Calipari. You can have a season where they go like whatever they went this year, but it was really bad. And so you can foul it up and be a great coach. And so I’m maybe willing to be forgiving. And maybe his place is at a place like Marquette, which is like between VCU and Texas, maybe in the pecking order. But I think, again, it’s like a very smart hire for somebody who’s a distressed asset a little bit in the sport and probably shouldn’t be.
S6: Yeah, I think that I mean, I agree with kind of the overall shape of that argument. I think that the question with with with smart is just how is he capable even at somewhere on the level of Marquette and I mean, draws right to to kind of smirk given their recent record of of non success. But at the same time, like Marquette does have some I will stand by saying Marquette has something of a name brand. I mean, you look at the guys who went there, you listed some of them, Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, Jae Crowder, Wesley Matthews. You know, a number of recent draft picks like that is a place that expects to bring in and can bring in NBA talent. And I think the thing with Smart that I that I’m I guess I’m questioning is I don’t see any evidence that he really ever has been successful at that level with guys at that level. I think I you know, I went back and looked at his ten pom rankings, ten pom statistical index of basketball, college basketball performance, probably familiar to most of our listeners. I think his highest was eighteenth. I think his highest team was eighteen. That VCU. It’s great to the 18th at VCU, but that means there’s seventeen teams better than you. And at Texas, he never did better than twenty fifth. So if you are a place for that mark to market, when you have the resources and the expectations and you know the alumni and the player in the players who are alumni and you can kind of go out and get, if not anyone, probably one of the biggest names in the sport. It seems like settling for a guy who whose best performance is pretty good, run with an upstart team is kind of selling yourself short, I guess.
S1: So I’m going to throw an alley oop here to Joel because two of the guys in all of college sports who are considered to be just the absolute surest bets by everyone and I would include myself in this were Shaka Smart and Tom Herman. Going to Texas, and it didn’t work out for either of them there, and maybe you’re not I’m not asking you to make some sort of argument about why it didn’t work. I’m just asking you to revel in the fact
S1: it didn’t work. But if you want to make an argument about it, that’s fine. It’s just notable to me.
S3: Yeah. I mean, it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of fans of our alums see Texas lose the Abilene Christian and struggle like this. But I think the thing is, we’ve probably talked about this a bunch of times is that there are a lot of assumptions made about what Texas should be rather than what it is. And my entire life, everybody is like, oh, Texas is a sleeping giant in basketball and it’s going to be great. You know, we get past Tom Penders or Rick Barnes. And in retrospect, Rick Barnes actually was not that bad of a basketball coach as you’ve seen what he’s done in Tennessee. But it’s the same thing with football, same thing in basketball. The expectations wildly outpace the actual accomplishments or the actual record. And it I don’t know why it’s hard for people to meet expectations in Texas. I you know, I don’t like that school. I don’t like the people there. But Austin is a nice town. It’s cool to hang out there on campus. I did it a lot in college myself, but for whatever reason, they’ve never cheat
S1: on TCU by just going to Austin and hanging out at UT.
S3: And I went everywhere on weekends in college when I was in T.C., I did it all. But yeah, it was a cool as you all know, Austin’s a cool place to hang out if you’re a young person or if you’re an older person like myself. But, um. But yeah, no, I mean, I just think that, you know, Texas is just never exactly what it’s cracked up to be. And there are a lot of different tides there. I mean, it’s just there’s a lot of different, you know, boosters and people in charge of the program. And they’ve had, you know, maybe not necessarily, you know, the best athletic directors in the last few years. And so it’s constantly in turmoil and constantly in flux. And so it’s hard to do the things that people think you’re supposed to do there. So I can’t blame Shaka Smart for a not doing as well there as we thought he was going to do and be getting the hell out of there. It’s the first opportunity. Right.
S1: So this didn’t turn out to be as much of a heated debate as I as I wanted. But Stefan, as the person who has maybe at least involved here, you’re still allowed to say one if you want. And then we can and then we can sign off.
S2: I think the listeners one and I just you know, while you guys were talking about Shaka Smart, I went back and I forgotten. Wow. They had some really good players at Marquette in the 70s.
S1: Butch Lee,
S2: Dean Menninger, Jim Jones, Butch Lee, Doc Rivers. Yeah. Forgot about Doc Rivers.
S1: I mean, I also can’t believe that Ben is disrespecting Eric Maynor. I mean, this guy is a good first draft pick.
S6: Henry Hudson,
S1: Larry. Larry Sanders also is at VCU.
S6: Larry Sanders is very good.
S3: All right. Tony Snow play for he didn’t play for VCU. Did Tony Snow play for Tony Snow?
S1: Played like New Mexico. Am I remembering that right or was it.
S3: Oh, wait, was it that other school it was that made it to the final four that one year. But but Jim Lehrer Nagas team, what was George Mason? Mary Snow. So.
S1: Oh, yeah. That Tony Snow also mentioned.
S2: I’m going also name I’m also going to mention Jim McElvaine, which means he’s now made this podcast twice in three weeks because he was in.
S1: Oh, no, I think you’re thinking football is that guy’s name. Like Tony scanner’s a guy like that
S3: for Tony Skin. Oh, yeah. The one that Idrissa you I’m
S1: not going to waste the slave plus member’s time on any of this. But, Ben, thank you for coming on. We appreciate it. Thanks, guys. Congratulations to the Wolverines and Slate plus members. We’ll be back with more for you next week. Go Cukes.