S1: The following podcast includes explicit language not restricted to words, beginning with F. S, B and Q.
S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of November 16th, 2020. On this week’s show, fan graps Meg Rowley will join us to talk about the Miami Marlins hiring of Kim NG as the first woman general manager in Major League Baseball, or for that matter, in any of the major North American pro sports. Also, ponder whether this year’s NFC East is the worst division in history of pro football. And we’ll talk about our nation’s insistence that sports must go on no matter the state of the pandemic.
S3: And the state at present is bad and it’s getting worse. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen and the host of Slow Burn Season four. Also in D.C., Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan. Hey, Josh. Thank you for the cheeriness, we’re going to need it. With us from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, host of Stober and Season three and upcoming Season six on the L.A. riots, Joel Anderson. Hello, Joel.
S4: Hello, Josh Stouffer.
S3: Nice even to earn more in keeping with the mood of America. So one thing that we haven’t mentioned recently is the fact that people can subscribe to this show. It is possible their various subscription buttons attached to various subscription services. And you can also read and reviews and Apple podcasts. If you’ve just been kind of wondering lately to yourself, what is it, then I just a lonely podcast listener out walking the dog, washing the car, just staring into space. What can I do to help Joel and Stefan and Josh subscribing to the show and writing and reviewing us and Apple podcasts is the thing to do it.
S5: Can I can I say something about. Sometimes we get emails from people and they really are touching. I’ve never, like, been part of a community. Wait, what am I saying? That’s not true. I’ve been part of a community. But, you know, you can’t really get immunity. A podcast community. There you go. And you just really get the sense that people whenever people reach out, sometimes I feel bad because I’m always behind on emails. I don’t know about the rest of you all, but when you do reach out and send us a note, we do get it. And it is actually meaningful. And we get ideas often from folks when they reach out. And I’m always surprised at the breadth of people that listen and reach out to us. So, yeah, reach out.
S3: Yeah, it’s really nice. Hang up at Slate Dotcom if you want to drop us a note or suggest something stuff and you also like it when people are nice to us.
S1: I do. And people usually aren’t mean to us, which is nice. But I think that’s because we are generally nice people.
S4: We’ve cultivated our community as well. We live in a bubble stuff and we do a good job. Good job.
S1: In nineteen twenty seven, the Cleveland Indians hired to run their team, a veteran umpire named Billy Evans and gave him the title of general manager. Evans was baseball’s first GM. And in the 93 years since then, countless others have followed all of the men until last week when the Miami Marlins hired Kumgang. Gender aside, ANCs hiring is about as conventional as they come. She turns 52 on Tuesday. She’s worked in the majors since she was 21 years old for the White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, the American League and for the last decade in the commissioner’s office in New York. In a statement, NG said, When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team. But I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. Meg Rowley is the managing editor of Fan Graphs and a co-host with our friend Ben Lindbergh of the podcast Effectively Wild. Welcome back to the show, Meg. Thanks for having me, Meg. The mood surrounding Ng’s hiring is excitement about the first woman GM in any major American sport, tempered, I think, by a reminder that it took a long time for this to happen, especially for her. I looked at the first mention in media touting as the possible first female GM was in 1998.
S6: Oh, gosh, yeah. She she is a baseball lifer. You mentioned that this is in a lot of ways a very conventional hire. It is conventional in part because she had so much time to accumulate an August resume with which to interview. I think that as fans of baseball and as analysts and observers, we can be unreservedly excited. Right. Kim is wildly qualified. She is inheriting a roster that is very exciting, a farm system that is very exciting. She is in a lot of ways really set up to succeed and take this Marlins team through its next phase of its rebuild. But I think that we should be skeptical of any back patting that the league wants to do, because you’re right, this took this took an absurdly long time. I was joking with Ben Lindbergh that we’re all going to have to learn some new names, because I think that camming is just been the name that people have thrown around for years. Who’s the first female GM going to be? There’s an opening and we just assume that she’s interviewing that she’s still interested in the role. So it is very exciting for us. And I think that it is a good monkey for baseball to get off its back. But we shouldn’t let them be too self-congratulatory because there have been a lot of GM openings over the years and Kim has been qualified for a long, long time.
S3: Do you have a sense of how seriously she was considered for jobs previously? She’s interviewed for decades for pretty much. This is only a slight exaggeration for every open GM position. You heard her name and so was she just not the best person for the job? Like eighty seven different times, I guess. I’m sure that some teams considered her more seriously than others.
S6: I think that that’s right. I don’t have particular insight into all of the interviews that she did. I think that there were some that were sadly just for show and others that were much more good faith. You know, she moved into very senior positions on the league side as the years went on. So one of the kind of uncomfortable things about the conversation with her, I think, because she was the go to name was for a while it wasn’t clear. Did she want to be a GM still or was she happy having this very important, very senior role in the league office? I think that there were plenty of teams that really did consider her, but the fact that it took so long that so many other younger, less experienced men were hired to be general managers should make us skeptical that all of those interviews were conducted in good faith.
S5: Sometimes when my friends are looking at football and college football and you’ll see like a black guy get a job and we’ll be like, oh, he got that San Jose State, you know, something like that, brother, the cleanup job. And so I heard you say, you know, that the Marlins, you know, they got the farm system, you know, in the playoffs this year. But isn’t this still sort of a difficult job given, you know, the small payroll and not much fan support?
S6: I think that Miami is a difficult market to break into. You noted some of the factors that have held the team back in the past. They’re they’re an odd organization because they have had sort of cycles of big spending that they have then immediately followed with periods of sell off, just as they’re kind of getting close to contention. You look at the outfield that they traded away. And I think that if you’re a Marlins fan, you’d be forgiven for not thinking the team loves you back as strongly as you might love it. But I don’t think that it’s as bad a position as maybe folks who are more casual observers of the game might think. Like I said, like their farm system is legitimately exciting at farm grass. I think we have them ranked fifth right now in terms of their farm system value. They do have complications. It’s not clear how they’re going to be able to spend. They embrace. Some pretty significant austerity during the pandemic, so it isn’t a perfect situation, but I don’t think that, you know, we should look at this as her getting sort of a bad job. You know, it’s funny, the angels have Mike Trout. The interest in that position was their open position was deep in terms of the number of candidates that they interviewed. But the perception around baseball was that that was a less desirable job than the Marlins job because the owner tends to interfere. They treated their baseball operations people pretty badly during the pandemic. So I think that, you know, she’s not becoming the GM of the Yankees or the Dodgers. But this is not a terrible situation to find herself in. I think helping a team navigate out of that period of rebuild is always challenging and delicate. And you have to know, you know, which are your prospects you hold on to and which ones you leverage and trade and when to spend strategically. And all of that is complicated by the economic environment that baseball finds itself in and that the Marlins find themselves in. In particular because they are low payroll team, they’re very heavily levered. So it’s not clear exactly what she’s going to be able to do there. But there are foundational pieces here that are really exciting.
S1: One of the things that I found interesting, Meg, is that Kim and it feels like had almost given up on the idea of being a GM. I found a clip from an interview she did just this march with Hazel May of SportsNet and we can play this year in which she talked about her career largely in the past tense. Yeah. And well, let’s listen to that and I’ll ask you a question coming out of it.
S7: You know, I think the most important thing, though, is that I did get those opportunities to interview. I think I didn’t make a good showing. Know, you work long hours and you want to obviously see your dreams come to fruition. But if they don’t, my God, I mean, the most important thing is that I still had a great job, you know, still worked for a great team.
S1: I think we’re going to add that music to all of our support for the idea. She’s been out of team operations for about a decade and a lot has changed in baseball since Kim left the Dodgers as an assistant general manager. I mean, she came of age before analytics were a significant component in baseball operations. The structure of front offices has changed dramatically in the last decade. How does that, do you think, play into what she’ll be able to do in Miami? And does it even play into her benefit? I mean, she’s going to a place where she has connections and this obviously contributed to her hiring. Derek Jeter is the president of the organization. He knew coming from his time with the Yankees. Don Mattingly worked with him in Los Angeles when he was on the coaching staff under Joe Tauri when she worked there. So is there a comfort level to her going to Miami, given that she’s been away from from the team side of the game for a decade?
S6: I think that that certainly helps. I mean, she’s been very heavily involved in the league sort of international operations. She has a ton of transactional experience. So I don’t think that there’s a particular concern that she is sort of out of step with where the game is. Now, if you look at what Miami has done to their front office over the last couple of years, since the ownership change, they really spent the first year or two after the ownership change, laying the the infrastructure and intellectual foundation to be a modern front office. They hired a ton of people away from the Yankees. So I think that there is a good sort of baseball operations situation that she is stepping into. And the level of comfort and familiarity she has with senior people in the organization means that they’ll probably operate as a cohesive whole. So I don’t think that that’s particularly troubling. That clip you played is is heartbreaking and not just because of the music. I think that it’s you know, it’s really easy to focus on coming being the first woman hired into this role. She’s, you know, depending on how you’re counting it, the first or second Asian-American in that role. So she she had a pretty strong head wind and a lot of different directions. Right. It wasn’t just being a woman. She was also, you know, trying to rise as a person of color within the league. So I am glad that the perseverence was able to last just long enough for the league to catch up to where her talent was. But it’s she’s a baseball lifer. And I hope that I ever display the kind of perseverance that she has, because it had to have been incredibly discouraging to sort of try to navigate this process and come up short so many times.
S3: So she and her, you know, franchise might succeed. They might fail. She might do a great job. She might do a bad job. We don’t we don’t know. The important thing here is that she has qualified compared to other people who have gotten these jobs and that other women should be given the opportunity to interview for these roles and get hired for these roles as well. You mentioned that we’re going to have to learn some new names. Magg, like where are we now in twenty twenty in terms of women in baseball. Who? We are going to have these next opportunities, will this hiring change things materially for those women or will it encourage other women to get into baseball and think that they might have a chance to get hired? Now, Camming has been hired.
S6: I always struggle with exactly how much the representation matters in a practical way in the midst of a hiring process. But I will say that when her hiring was announced, you know, I’m a woman who works in baseball media, so it’s a little bit different than being someone who works in a front office or scouting department. But it means a lot to know that the thing you know is possibly true is literally true. Right. It makes a difference to be able to say that, you know, we have the first one figured out, I think that MLB has has a gap in its talent recruiting pipeline. When you talk to women in the game, they say that there is actually a good deal of opportunity at the junior level. And there are some women who have managed to ascend. But there is a gap in sort of the middle management rungs when it comes to women’s participation in the game. And so I think that there is still pipeline building that needs to take place, because when you hear about these jam openings and we always get one or two a year, sometimes more, you know, it’s the folks who were sort of heads of departments, assistant general managers with other franchises. They are in a better position in the interviewing process than folks who are more junior than that. And so we really need to backfill some of those positions across the league. And it’s not just when it comes to women. It’s true of people of color. It’s especially true of women of color. So there is sort of an important gap in the talent pipeline that needs to be backfilled. I think the place where a senior hire like this makes a difference is that hopefully not just in Miami, but across the league, you know, the mentorship of more junior women starts to be taken more seriously. I think that what we’ve heard from from Kim in past interviews is that that responsibility is something that she is both aware of and take seriously. So I think it matters to other women to see someone succeed in this way. I, I know women who work for teams who you know, it was like their first unabashedly good day in the twenty twenty season when this was announced. It is deeply meaningful for them. It needs to be followed up with intentional and consistent action on the part of front offices and the league to make sure that it isn’t just a symbolic hire, that it is the first of many, so that when, you know, the next G.M. opening comes up, we do know some of those names and are able to say, gosh, that candidate is really qualified and she is one of many.
S8: You know, I was kind of I mean, speaking about the symbolic piece of this is that, you know, this is the first Asian-American general manager in baseball. And I just was kind of shocked that given the Asian influence on baseball, you know, that even if that was a piece of this that had not been filled in by now, yeah.
S6: Baseball never ceases to amaze you with how disappointing it’s been in its hiring practices. You know, when ownership is putting its thumb on the scale for Tony La Russa, you kind of realize how far we still have to go. Right. But, yeah, it is it is a historic hire for any number of reasons and I think demonstrates how far we’ve come, but really how far we still have to go.
S3: The question for you, Stefan, which is if we can broaden out to other sports, is it surprising that baseball was the first tier, given that we’re always praising the NBA for its progressivism? Becky Hammon was a first and has interviewed for a bunch of head coaching jobs that their know coaches and front office exacts and that and the NFL. What are your thoughts on kind of the broader landscape here and where baseball fits and compared to those other sports?
S1: Well, it’s funny. It feels like baseball almost is sort of singularly sexist in the way it treats its sport. You know, basketball, women’s basketball has taken far more seriously than women’s baseball or softball is at higher levels. And in football, the numbers of women coaches is still really low. And that’s without a single sex corollary to play the sport.
S9: I don’t know if it’s useful to make this comparison, but I think football might be more successful in baseball. But that’s a debate that there’s no winner.
S1: Yeah, they can they can slug that out. But baseball’s inability to embrace the fact that women play the sport and that softball is a sport that is worth encouraging. I mean, in baseball, it’s certainly done certain things, but that is a reflection on how women are viewed inside the league and its numbers aren’t great. MEGG, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the Richard Lapchick group that rates gender and racial hiring in leagues, gave baseball a C for gender hiring last year. That’s not great. The NBA typically gets a much higher grade. Only ninety five out of about five hundred vice president jobs were held by women.
S6: Yeah, and I think that there was this hope. I mean, it’s. I hope that. I have had that with the role that analytics has taken in the game, that there would be this opening up of opportunity, right, because none of us nerds played baseball at a competitive level. Right. That was not going to be an important part of this. But what we saw is that the skill set that was identified with the analytics revolution tended to prioritize and sort of privilege white men. It was just a different set of white men and it actually came at the expense of some racial diversity, also because the player pipeline to senior roles within the league started to not dry up, but narrow. Right. And so I had hoped that the advent of analytics, which we don’t have to debate all of the ways that was good and bad, but that it would sort of open up the the pipeline, go find the best, brightest young woman in the applied math department at the university down the street and see if she likes baseball and hire her to your team and have her build your models. And we have seen some of that. And I think that it has allowed some opening up, but it has also served to kind of solidify some of the educational and socioeconomic disadvantages that come with the resumes that you need. I post job postings for teams, fan graphs, and I you know, these people could work for NASA. Some of the postings that come up, they do kinds of physics and chemistry that I don’t know what all the words mean. Right. So it is certainly something that a lot of different kinds of people are capable of. But what we have seen is that it tends to identify white, upper middle class Ivy League graduates in some ways, campaigns resumé coming from the University of Chicago winds up really well with the the typical resumes that we’ve seen. It’s just been with a different kind of person walking through the door. So I don’t quite know how to solve that problem. It seems like there are some obvious and fertile grounds for recruitment for different kinds of folks in front offices. But baseball has not been good at capitalizing on that yet.
S5: And it may not be possible to answer this question, but I’m going to throw it at you. So the Yankees made her the youngest general assistant general manager in Major League Baseball in nineteen ninety eight and twenty two years later, she’s a GM. Like, under what circumstances would that happen for a man, a man who was identified that early in their careers, you know, as a phenom and then them have to wait twenty two years? It wouldn’t happen, right?
S6: I mean, I can’t imagine a circumstance where someone promoted that young isn’t the next GM hire the following winter. Wow. I’m sure that there have been instances where someone hasn’t panned out or they’ve gotten into a senior role and people have realized that the the young phenom isn’t quite as phenomenal as they thought. But twenty two years, I find that very difficult to to fathom for someone who is still in the game, I think that’s a good place to end.
S3: But before we go, I want to mention the mega site. Fan graphs have been very open about the struggles of, you know, trying to make it during the pandemic. And you can subscribe and become a member, you know, as little as twenty dollars a year. And I’m sure Maglite appreciate that. But also you get a lot of great stuff on the fan graph site. And so it’ll be to your benefit to subscribe and become a member as well.
S6: Yeah, I think that we’ve been blown away by the support that our readership has shown us, and having a season as short as it was definitely helps. But as we kind of stare down what we anticipate to be a slow off season, if you’re in a position to become a member, whether at some of the lower levels or at the ad free rate, we would sincerely appreciate it. We want to be there to provide stats and analysis and all of the great tools that we have for everyone from the twenty, twenty one season. And we can’t do it without your help.
S1: Make Raleigh is the managing editor of Fan Graphs, which you should go subscribe to right now. And she’s a co-host of Effectively Wild Bag. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks for having me.
S9: The worst division in NFL history was the 2008 NFC West, cumulative winning percentage of 344, 34 percent as of Monday morning.
S10: The twenty twenty NFC East is worse than that, and it’s not even that close. Your division leading Philadelphia Eagles are three, five and one. The Giants three and seven. Cowboys two in seven. Washington football team two and seven combined winning percentage to eighty four. Twenty eight percent. Some fun facts for you guys. As we started the segment. The NFC East has 10 wins. Cumulatively, the Pittsburgh Steelers have nine wins. Cumulatively, just the Steelers NFC East teams are eight and eight against each other. They are two eighteen and one against the rest of the league. Those two wins were a miracle comeback by the Cowboys against the Falcons. That was back when Dallas still had Dak Prescott and Dak Prescott. Leg was still intact. The other one was Eagles over the forty Niners when San Francisco was missing, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and a whole bunch of other players there. Only four more divisional games left for this putrid foursome in the NFC East. That means they’re not going to be that many more wins for any of them to pile up. So there’s a scenario in which a four win team will win the division. And since division winners automatically make the playoffs and the NFL, they’ll be in the playoffs and actually host a playoff game as the number four seed. Joel, this is a storied division. That’s the only division in the NFL in which every team inside division has won a Super Bowl from before we were born up to the present day. This has been the showcase division for the league.
S1: It’s the one with the biggest media markets where we were away from before the two of you were born. I’m talking to Joel right now. I’m sorry. Our conversation continues.
S9: I said, Joel, it’s always in prime time. The Sunday night game. The Monday night game. We’re always treated to cowboys. You know, if the Cowboys could play the Cowboys, the NFL would show that. But now what we’ve been left with is Daniel Jones leading the Giants to victory over the Eagles on Sunday, becoming, in the words of The New York Times, the Giants are now the least inferior team in the NFC East. So where did this division go so horribly wrong? And why are the gods punishing us by making us watch this football?
S11: Well, first, we’re being punished because we don’t deserve football in the first place, let alone good football. So like in a season where the league is counting on its area of programming to keep things afloat until they can pack stadiums again, its marquee teams are just putting up these shit shows every weekend, which is great.
S5: You know, I mean, one thing that I don’t miss about living in New York, and there are a lot of things I don’t miss about living in New York, is that if you don’t have RedZone or NFL ticket, you get stuck watching the Jets and the Giants. And that is I’ve never seen a Jets, particularly Giants game that has looked interesting in my life since the eighties. Like, I can’t like I can’t I can’t I can’t remember a time maybe those two Super Bowls against the Patriots. But other than that, any time you see the Giants on TV, you just know it’s going to be boring. Disrespectful to. Yeah. Eli Manning. That’s right. Where that’s boring.
S8: I’m sorry, but more seriously, I just think that, like, it’s a quirk of this unusual season and that’s like the twin issues of injuries and covid an extremely bad QB play. So, of course, the football team gave up on Dwayne Haskins and they continued to play Kyle Allen, who I always like to know, got beat out in college twice. Like first he got beat by calamari at Texas A&M and then he got beat up by Kyle Postma at University of Houston, left college early and still got drafted in the NFL. And I just I still don’t understand, like the trajectory of Kyle Allen. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but whatever. And then they had to turn to Hobbled as Alex Smith The Giants rolled the dice on Daniel Jones. And he’s bad. Dak isn’t playing anymore. And then you’ve got the Eagles who have been, like, historically crippled by injuries. So that’s why the ball is so bad. Like if you look I mean, if you break down football to quarterbacking play because they’re so responsible for the way a game will look in the flow of the game. The quarterbacks are so terrible right now. And then the Eagles themselves are just so beat up, it’s impossible for us to expect much more than what we’ve seen so far.
S10: The saddest part about this stuff and seeing everybody kind of talk themselves into the Giants like they started the year one in seven. They’ve now won two in a row, kind of up and coming in this division. The most like notable play in this division all year was Daniel Jones, like breaking free and like running very fast down the field before falling down on his face and then a few weeks ago. But like you can actually make a case for the giants of the best team in this division because there’s only like one unit in all of the NFC East that’s any good. And that’s the Giants defense.
S1: And the Giants offense is a little better. Daniel Jones had a pretty good game on Sunday. No turnovers. They. Scored points.
S10: They won without the first game in his NFL career with no turnovers. The guy’s a Denver machine, as it were, but he’s on the he’s on the upswing, clearly.
S1: Yes. I mean, there are two things here. One is that in addition to all of what you just talked about, Joel and Josh, this is a crazy season. Also, teams just didn’t have a chance to prepare the way they normally would, which is going to affect some teams more than others. And it’s going to affect teams that get a lot of injuries more than others because the players that are asked to step up might not be ready to step up to the Washington situation, you know, starting with the the whole name change in the summer through their myriad front office problems with Daniel Snyder to there’s bizarro world of Alex Smith starting and throwing for three hundred and ninety yards, by the way, on Sunday. Granted, it was against the Detroit Lions, who, for all intents and purposes, should be part of the NFC East this year. They’re that bad. They would be leading the division.
S5: They would be just not to overlook it.
S1: Didn’t Ron Rivera still dealing with cancer right now to someone coaching and popping back down as necessary, you know? Yeah, the whole thing is insane. And back to Alex Smith on top of all of the badness. Watching Alex Smith play football is really uncomfortable. So even if you’re a fan, I think of the Washington football team, there is still this this player staring you in the face, reminding you why all of football is morally dubious. I will say that the most satisfying part of the Washington football team’s game on Sunday, which was really bizarre and I happened to turn it on for the last few minutes, they tied the game on the worst two minute drive that you’ll ever see in football, 17 plays pass interference, delay of game penalty by the offense. Seventeen, seventeen plays in two minutes. That’s impressive. And then they score with 16 seconds left in the game. Plenty of time for Matthew Stafford to go far enough down the field, abetted by a roughing the passer penalty by rookie Chase Young of Washington and a fifty nine yard field goal by Matthew Prater, NFC East football baby got all. Love it.
S10: So the Eagles won a Super Bowl not that long ago. So this division is not characterized by total and utter incompetence for like a generation. There is there has been some good football played in that division in the not so distant past. They have been totally destroyed by injuries for years now. And, you know, if you put them in one category, it’s like the entire array of ways in which a team or organization can be bad as represented in this division. So the Eagles, you could say like there’s some talent there, there’s some organizational intelligence there, and they’ve just had such bad luck in terms of health. And Carson Wentz can’t stay healthy and all that with Washington. It’s just total from top to bottom organizational incompetence and dysfunction, starting with ownership. And that’s going back decades. Then you have the Giants who, you know, the general manager seems like an idiot, always making bad selections. They bring in this coach who seems like a total dumb ass. Who’s this like? I’m not going to name any starters going in preseason because I need to see all these guys plays like a special teams, former special teams coach. He doesn’t have put names on players practice jerseys. It’s all this like dumb college shit. And this guy just like seems like he’s, you know, totally high on his own supply. And the fact that they’ve now won two games in a row, he’s probably going to think that everything that he’s doing is working.
S5: What do they even get this from? Because he is a Belichick guy like Belichick isn’t a isn’t a dummy like that. Right. He’s not into that sort of like theater.
S1: Yeah, it’s not like you get Belichick coaching tree is full of like pale the Marcellus Mangena and them. Yeah. I mean, you certainly don’t get some sort of vaccine when you go on Belichick staff against being a shithead old school football coach who needs to scream. And maybe it’s maybe it’s like being under Belichick, you know, for all those years. Like you have all this pent up now Masseria that needs to be released to someone, to the team.
S10: Let me just get to the Cowboys quickly. That is that is a team that was promising going into this year. And they just have a really top heavy roster. Everybody said that going into the year, that they have really good players who make a lot of money and after that they don’t have that much. And Dak Prescott gets hurt. They’ve again got a lot of injuries, but they don’t have anybody behind them to take these spots and, you know, at least try to keep keep the team afloat. And so that was just like they took a gamble on these guys staying healthy.
S11: They weren’t able to do it, and this is what we’re left with within recent memory, the Dallas Cowboys were really good, you know, like within this last half decade. And the reason they’re not good anymore, I mean, in addition to being hurt, is if that offensive line that they had, that was to some people’s mind, one of the better offensive lines in the last 20, 20 were credited for being so smart, for building through the line and not like drafting Johnny Manziel and taking a guard instead and write that line. Got old really quick. That’s football, right? It’s funny you said that, Josh. You said, you know, the Eagles have won a Super Bowl, you know, recently, but like in two years, cold things can change. I mean, the Jaguars, you know, a couple of years ago were like a competitive football team. They were like a bad half away from one of the Super Bowl. And now all of a sudden they’re tanking.
S9: The thing that’s unusual is to be good for a long period of time. It’s actually not that unusual in the NFL to be bad for a long period of time, but it’s unusual to be good for many years in a row.
S11: If these teams weren’t so bad, if this was another, you know, another year, if there was just one team that was like marginal, you could make a case in one of these teams should think, you know, they would be like, all right, well, kind of throw in the towel and hope that you can get Trevor Lawrence in the draft. But nobody is everybody’s so bad that you can’t, like, guarantee that tanking will get you anything, you know what I mean?
S1: Like, you could all but everybody kind of is tanking because they have to play each other and they’re going to probably split, which is what’s happened so far. Right. Eight and eight into division record. And then they’re losing to everybody else. There’s not much more you can do, Stefan.
S10: You have to split and the division, you have to mathematically.
S1: But everyone is saying that they are splitting is my point.
S9: You think you think the teams are going to somehow end up going like O and 16 against each other? That I don’t know if that if that would work, that that might break the law.
S1: No, no, no. I mean, everyone has an equally splitting. Nobody is going to it. Oh yeah. Anybody else understand vision is in aggregate ending up at five hundred.
S8: Right. There’s no guaranteed win or loss in any given week. Like you just don’t know what the hell is going to happen in that division. But like usually there’s one clearly bad team. But who is the clearly bad team in this division. It varies from week to week.
S12: So who is the most hopeless team? I guess it would probably be Washington just because of the the Snider factor and the fact that they took this first round quarterback, Haskins, that they clearly don’t believe in after like one year. It’s just there’s no indication that this franchise has any idea what it’s doing, has any plan. And, you know, you could say with the Cowboys. All right, we’ll be back. And he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. They could be good. Again, the Eagles have personnel and management that’s like done it before and so they could theoretically do it again. And the Giants, I mean, I don’t I don’t think that they have good reason to be hopeful, actually. The fact that they’ve won a couple of games in a row now people are happy that could actually be the worst thing to happen to them because that could convince them that they have something going here when they really don’t. But at least I would rather be them than Washington.
S5: That’s an interesting case. Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I mean, you know, the thing is owned by Dan Snyder, the Giants most valuable property say Barkley is hurt. And we don’t know like what that a knee injury will do to a running back. Right. He may never be the same. Hopefully he will. But I just that’s a tough one, man. I don’t know which team I would go to be.
S1: Could make a case for the Eagles just on the field right now this season. And they’re leading the division by more than a game that they’re the worst.
S3: Yeah, I think so.
S1: I think from a fan perspective, if you’re not a fan of any of these teams and I grew up as a Giants fan, if you’re not a fan of any of the NFC East teams, this is satisfying because all of these teams are reviled mostly by each other’s fan bases. So everybody loses. On the other hand, everyone is so bad, the fan base, I think they all have a chance to win the division. So they all get pumped up about themselves. On the other hand, if they win the division, they’re going to get mocked anyway. So it’s this glorious, vicious circle for everybody who hates these four teams, which is a large portion of the NFL, the NFL’s fan base.
S3: It’s only two teams have ever made the NFL playoffs with below five hundred records. Both of them actually won playoff games. The Seahawks in twenty ten and the Panthers in twenty fourteen smote the Beast mode. Seahawks the Beast, quick run. Yes, that’s right. Against somebody. So there is always, when this happens, a lot of kind of consternation about how can this happen and why do they get a home game? I think it’s not that big a deal. Honestly, it doesn’t happen that often. It’s funny, which is, you know, a good thing unless you’re getting run over by Marshawn Lynch. It’s unfair. But like, I don’t know, I can’t explain why I get so mad about teams. Stopping the clock with with taking intentional penalties, but this doesn’t make me mad, but it’s just like you can’t you can’t make everything fair and it doesn’t offend me the way that some people act all offended when a bad team makes the playoffs.
S1: Yeah, if you’re going to keep divisions, it’s going to happen. But, you know, equitably, you get rid of divisions and you just align the teams up the way the Premier League does in soccer. But that’s not the American way. So every so often you’re going to get a glorious batch of of tomfoolery and incompetence. That is the NFC East this year.
S3: And just to make Joel’s point, if you look at the kind of inverse of the NFC is to have the NFC West with three teams that are six and three. And the forty Niners that made the Super Bowl last year are below five hundred because they’ve had a lot of injuries. Jimmy Garoppolo has been out, but who are the quarterbacks of the six and three teams? I mean, I guess Jared Goff is they kind of average, but they made the Super Bowl two and then Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray or two of the best in the league. And so when you’ve got good quarterbacks, healthy quarterbacks, you know, all those teams have good skill position players and reasonable defenses as well. It’s like not anything like super interesting or surprising to say about what that set of teams is good and why the NFC East teams are bad.
S1: If you can’t mention Kyla Murray without mentioning the Hail Mary on Sunday, that was one of the craziest plays you’ll ever see in the NFL.
S5: Yeah, I thought that game was over. I just averted my eyes. And then all of a sudden I see, you know, DeAndre Hopkins on his back create a little I mean, you know, people talk the talk about hand size is overblown all the time. Pretty much like usually it doesn’t make a lot of difference. But that was one of the rare times in football that I was like, oh, that guy’s hands literally helped him in that situation. Like, you could just see his hands emerge from the crowd and bring him in and hold onto the ball as he was being jostled around and go into the ground. It was a crazy play.
S1: I don’t recall what Kyla Murray’s hand size is, but the dude was running left running to his left, throwing off balance with his right arm to get that ball to the end zone about fifty five yards away.
S3: This, I think, is probably and we can end here like the number one example that should always be cited when talking about how quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame because like, sure, he like rolled out and threw the ball in the air and then DeAndre Hopkins caught the ball in like a sea of defenders.
S9: And people are talking about Murray magic. I mean, come on, man.
S1: Hopkins, who did you see? DeAndre Hopkins. You couldn’t see him. He was surrounded by three defenders.
S4: Yeah. Maybe that’s why you didn’t get him credit, because nobody could see him. They couldn’t tell who it was. Houston Texans. You gave that guy away for nothing. I hope you enjoy it.
S13: The US has set the daily record for coronavirus infections every day for the past four days, by the time you hear this will likely be on our fifth straight record day. NPR put it this way. One in every three hundred and seventy eight people in this country has tested positive for covid-19 over the past week. The uncontrolled national outbreak has threatened to shut down our schools, restaurants and many other businesses. It seems clear that our lives are about to grind to a halt again, but not sports. NFL and college football in particular have continued to play through the pandemic in the NFL. They’ve postponed games, but so far not had to cancel any commissioner. Roger Goodell said he expects to complete the season and play the Super Bowl as scheduled on February 7th in Tampa, Florida. The virus has taken a much larger toll on college football, where 15 games were called off because of outbreaks, beating the record of 10 the week before. We’ll see what this week holds. But the Arizona State Colorado game scheduled for Saturday has already been canceled. Also, consider that we’re going to have a bubble this basketball season starting in the next few weeks. So Stephon asked this question on Twitter over the weekend, but it’s worth repeating. What the fuck are we doing?
S1: We’re making it up as we go along. All or pretending that sports are more central to society than public health or education. To name a couple of things, a few more bullet points that I wanted to mention. I mean, you did a great job there on that round up. More than 200 NFL employees, players, coaches, staff have tested positive. That’s a lot of people. One player has been hospitalized. Fans have tested positive after attending games. Coaches have refused to wear face masks as required. Players have eaten in restaurants and gone to big parties. Three teams have been or are about to be punished for flouting the protocols, including your saints. Josh for dancing Marcellus and eating A.W. in the locker room to celebrate beating Tom Brady last week. College football. I think it looks more and more ridiculous every day. BYU is played eight games, Utah has played no games and they’re in the same state. That’s just bizarre. Arizona State, you mentioned, doesn’t have enough scholarship players available to play. Last weekend or next weekend. The state of Michigan announced a three week shutdown that includes all in-person college classes, but college football is exempt. Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds responded to the news on Twitter. He wrote, I’m happy we have the opportunity to keep playing, but there’s no way to say that we aren’t employees. And that’s it. It’s the illogic and the indispensability of the whole thing, the absurdity of the whole thing. Pat Fitzgerald, the coach of foreign owned Northwestern, was asked on Saturday what it will take to contend for the Big Ten title this year, what you have to do, he said, you got to be covid free. There’s your stat got to be covered.
S9: Frehley the league and in covid negative tests, college football is exempt, I think is the phrase that you said that really resonated with me. It’s this magical thinking around. So maybe it’s not even magical. It’s like everybody in the sport and around the sport seems to think that you can set rules for everything else in a state, everything else in the country. And because college football is college football and for no other reason, it can just continue on. As it was, the SEC postponed four games, four out of the seven scheduled games this past weekend, including LSU, Alabama. The commissioner of the conference, Greg Sankei, said he was shaken but not deterred. Should have been deterred. Greg should have been deterred, not just shaken. I mean, on the one hand, you could say, like, at least they’re postponing the games. That’s the part that I that I find a little bit odd. Joel, it’s like you’re Sesi. I think we could imagine a universe in which it was actually worse, in which they just kept playing no matter what. They didn’t postpone anything, no matter. They ignored the test. They let the players play despite the test. They didn’t even test the players. But they’re doing it in this half way, sort of way where there are rules. They are quarantining people, they are testing them. They’re holding people out, but they’re still proceeding and they’re still adding weeks to the season at the end to make up the games. They’re still allowing fans in some places. It’s just not having the courage of your convictions, either not do it at all or just admit that you’re going to do it totally because they’re doing it in this half way way. It doesn’t actually make anything better. I don’t think it’s better for public health. I don’t think it’s it does it certainly doesn’t set a good example for people in the States or around the country. And so what you’re doing is just kind of I mean, it’s not the worst possible scenario, but it’s so far from the best that almost might as well be the worst one.
S1: And every so often, Joel, the truth like leaks out accidentally. Utah’s athletic director, a guy named Mark Harlen, said last. Week after another Utah game was canceled. I don’t know where college football’s going, guys. I really don’t.
S11: Well, I mean, I think that’s sort of a lie because, I mean, we knew that they were making it up all on the fly. And so I go back to that story that obviously now it’s been forgotten. But they ran in The Washington Post on August 1st and they got audio of the meeting between the SEC officials and players. One of the officials for the SEC said, and I quote, There are going to be outbreaks. We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SCC. That’s a given and we can’t prevent it. And he was absolutely right. He lived up to his promise. And so that tells you that they never cared. They knew that it was going to happen. This is exactly what they wanted. I’m not going say what they wanted to happen were games. They didn’t care how it happened or who got hurt in the process.
S9: And they seem to find it confusing that there that they are actually postponing games and quarantining players.
S11: And when they do test positive, I see, I, I wish maybe that we should get another attorney or something because I don’t know if this has anything to do with some sort of legal liability or maybe it has something to do with that. I, I don’t know.
S1: I just don’t know if public relations strike them look like they’re trying and they’re concerned.
S11: You want to be seen as if you are trying to prevent outbreaks, even though you’re sort of helpless, but you also don’t want to be seen as creating outbreaks. Right.
S3: And like playing in the middle of it would be let’s let’s take them at their word and imagine the best possible case that they would make on their side. And I don’t think anybody with the SCC, a coach, a commissioner, would say that they want anybody to die, whether a player or a fan, like deep in their in their heart and publicly, I don’t think any of them would say or believe that they want anyone to die. They also want to maximize revenue. They’re probably worried about losing all this money and people not be able to have jobs. They don’t want to deprive fans or players of the opportunity to play the season. They want to make everybody happy. And they think that there is like a needle to thread where you can do this and the safest possible way and make money and allow there to be a season. And there’s just no recognition that in this year, given the circumstances we’re in, it’s not possible to do this in a half way way and have it work like. The thing that just is just so galling is the idea that they’re are going to be fans, whether it’s in college football or pro football or the NBA or college basketball, like all these people know better than that. And so if you’re going to. If you’re going to say, like, we need to play and we’ll do it in front of empty stadiums and we’ll like bubble people as well as possible, and we’ll make the TV money, like, I can understand that. Like, I don’t think it’s like the most defensible thing, but I think that you could make that argument. But to say we’re going to, like, let fans in and we’re going to encourage people to get together and obviously they’re not going to wear masks and then there’s going to be all this like, you know, congregating outside the stadium. But beforehand, there’s just no way to defend that. I mean, for the marginal amount of revenue that that’s going to generate. Like, I just don’t see how you could justify that to yourself that that’s a good idea.
S5: Well, we know better. And we had Nick Green for Slate, talked to a global health researcher for our website, and he asked them about the plan.
S3: The Golden State has to have half capacity home games, but to have that rapid antigen testing or whatever, and this is for the progressive NBA that we believe like it has some values compared to college football.
S5: Right. And the guy was like, no, this is a bad idea. Like, that’s stupid. I would that it’s not safe to go to a game. So all the science is here. Like, it may be incoherent in some ways about like protocols of the way that you can, you know, protect yourself like it is difficult. Like we live in a society now where we basically have uncontrolled spread. So even if you’re trying right now, you could infect yourself. And I understand the limitations of that. But the NBA, college football, NFL, they’re also just kind of leaning into it, like you said, by having fans and doing all these things that are sort of courting disaster. Right. You know, there’s no reason to have a half capacity basketball game because, I mean, just bottom line. I mean, you’re not going to get a home court, a home field advantage by having a half field stadium. Right. In normal times, we’d say that’s pretty poor attendance. No team really derives any advantage from that sort of thing.
S3: And you’re going to make some money if it’s worth it for you to make some money. I mean, Stefan, maybe you can bring in the Ivy League here, which canceled of winter sports after canceling all of Fox Sports. They’re not going to have basketball or anything else. I mean, all of this just feels like it’s crying out for someone to be a leader and say, you all are insane. Why are you doing this? We can’t allow this to happen. And just the number of examples of people in sports, whether college or pro, who’ve done that, it’s like we can count them on like two fingers.
S1: Oh, we can count on two fingers, a number of people that have said that about our country for the last four years, too. Why are we doing this? This needs to stop. And that is a fair analogy, I think. And, you know, the Ivy League has been sort of a canary in the coal mine for all of this. They were the first league to say they weren’t going to hold their postseason basketball tournament and they weren’t going to participate in the NCAA tournament last spring. And now they’ve said the same thing about their winter sports. You know, you can say that, oh, it’s the Ivy League. It’s a joke. Sports don’t matter. But basketball does generate revenue for some schools. And and playing in the in the NCAA tournament generates a fairly large chunk of revenue for athletic departments in the Ivy League.
S3: And as we’ve talked about, like at these schools, like a large percentage of the undergrads are athletes. So it doesn’t matter. It matters to them. I mean, it matters and it does matter to the school, even if it’s not like Ohio State or LSU football.
S1: Right. So if you want to look for leadership, I mean, that’s leadership. The question is, how is the Ivy League articulating it in the broader NCAA and do they have the ability to influence other people in the NCAA, leaders of the Big Five leagues? I think definitely not. Well, except let me jump in there. You say definitely not. On the other hand, look, Ivy League commissioners serve or the presidents of the Ivy League serve on all kinds of NCAA committees, including the NCAA Division One basketball committee in other roles. Yeah, I hear that.
S8: And I think, you know, kind of broadening it out a little bit is that what’s most jarring to me is that these billion dollar enterprises don’t have a plan but get through it. You know what I mean? Like like is that I don’t know. Do you guys find that disconcerting or not? The NFL, the NBA, the NCAA, all these billions of dollars at stake, they’ve had time to ramp up and prepare themselves for this and to come up with a good plan. And none of them seem to have a real contingency other than let’s just figure the hell out. And maybe that’s just the reality of the situation. But it just seems like this disorganization is like really pronounced and particularly in college. And I have to think that if players were unionized, if everyone were looking at the bigger picture here, that there would be more guarantees, that there would be more rigor in protecting these players other than like, hey, man, sorry, I don’t you know, you guys are going to have to go out there and get get infected. And that’s just the way it is. But it just seems like we don’t there’s nobody in control. And I guess we’ve known that for a while now. But just even for their own sake, you’d think that there would be a little. A bit better planning, a little bit better protocols in place to avoid the sort of disaster it seems we’re headed toward. And I mean, I don’t enjoy any sport watching activity more than college football on Saturdays. And that, to be honest, like I just have not found this season to be enjoyable at all. Like, I don’t know who’s playing week to week. You don’t know what teams are compromised by infections or outbreaks or whatever. I do wonder if in addition to like the other like regret that they’ll have about putting these players and the people in the communities at risk. If we’re going to look back and this is going to be a tipping point for something else in terms of like the way people look at sports, because I’m just really not been into it this year. And I don’t know if you guys have felt the same way, but something is really off, like even just in terms of looking at the actual ball on the screen, like it has not been enjoyable to me this year.
S3: Well, I think what’s going to happen is you mentioned 15 games cancelled. You mentioned the record number of cases. We have Thanksgiving coming up and we’re in this, like, horrible moment where the pandemic is getting worse and adherence to best practices around distancing and mask wearing actually seems to be getting worse in large areas of the country. Just because people are sick of it, it’s become politicized. And all of these ways that I don’t need to get into because you already know. And so it’s a recipe for numbers to go up from even the record highs now. And everybody is going to be indoors this winter. It’s going to get horrible. And it’s converging on playoff season for college football playoffs for the NFL. I mentioned Greg Sankei talking about will add this extra week of games at the end. You know, Roger Goodell and the NFL, they’re talking about contingencies for the playoffs, maybe adding more playoff teams if they can’t finish the regular season. These two things, the like immovability in our kind of mind and the cultural calendar of football playoffs and the UN deniability of what’s going to happen with the pandemic, like they’re going to converge and it’s going to get real. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But like, it just seems hard to imagine that these games are going to be able to be played unless they compromise what little principle they’ve shown so far to like as I said, they are actually postponing games and canceling games. And so what’s going to happen? Are we going to move the games to March? Are we going to just not have them? Like I said this when we were talking about the pandemic, like back in February or something like I can’t imagine that, like, no matter what is happening in the world, like if we’re all, like, encased in plastic or if like the, you know, any scenario you can imagine, I just can’t foresee the Super Bowl moving off that date like the NFL does won’t allow it to happen. But like, you know, it all seems kind of up in the air right now.
S1: The Super Bowl is not only the most watched television program in this country, it’s one of the biggest gathering weekends on the calendar. Tens of thousands of people, apart from those who go into the stadium to watch the game, will go to Tampa to participate in this two week run up to a football game.
S3: Frontline health workers and Super Bowl fan fest attendees will be a first in line for the vaccine. It’s all good.
S1: Maybe that’s the answer. Yeah, first responders, meaning first people to respond to getting on a plane to go to Tampa or see the Super Bowl do a good job.
S3: You want the last word on football playoffs and what’s going to happen?
S8: Yeah, I mean, you know, I’m a Korona, bro. I’m rooting for not the coronavirus to defeat the country, but I’m rooting for people to finally understand that, like, we just don’t have to do some things. We just don’t have to do this. This this is years an anomaly in almost every way in our lifetimes. And we just don’t have to have the fucking Sugar Bowl.
S4: Man, I’m sorry, Poulan weed eater bowls another another matter altogether. Oh, yeah. If this was the Bluebonnet Bowl, then I’d be singing a different tune.
S1: Now it is time for after balls in my intro to the segment that we did about Kumgang, I mentioned Billy Evans, the first GM in baseball in sports history with the Cleveland Indians in 1927. Dude has a really interesting background. So there’s a terrific SABR bio by David Anderson that I got all this information from Billy Evans, ombud in the American League from 1986 to seven and the dead ball era called six World Series four no hitters. He also wrote a nationally syndicated sports column while he was working as an umpire called Billy Evans Says. He said Walter Johnson through so fast that he closed his eyes in self-defense before making a ball or strike call, which seems suboptimal for an umpire. In nineteen eighty seven, his skull was fractured by a bottle thrown by a 17 year old fan who didn’t like a call. Evans refused to press charges because the kid apologized and his parents were nice. And then in 1921, the pinnacle of the guy’s career, he got into a fist fight with Ty Cobb after a game Ty Cobb was mad about a strike call told Evans that he would fight him right there at home plate, but he’d get suspended if he did that. And Evans said, let’s fight after the game. Quote, The brawl itself took place under the stands with players from both teams forming a ring for the combatants. According to some accounts of the incident, the fight ended in a draw and was the bloodiest they had ever seen. Cobb was suspended for the next game, which Evans umpired wearing bandages. Billy Evans after he was hired by the Indians. He worked there for a while. He was credited with signing Bob Feller. He worked as a farm director for the Red Sox, GM of the Cleveland Rams, of the NFL, president of a minor league. GM of the Tigers, retired in 1951 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, only the third ump to get in to the hall. Josh, what’s your Billy Evans?
S12: The ATP Tour Finals in London started on Sunday with no fans in the stands, no Roger Federer on the court. He’s recovering from a knee injury. One player who is there is twenty three year old Alexander Sasha Zverev, who won the event in twenty eighteen and who came within a couple of points of winning this year’s U.S. Open losing to Dominic team. Last month, the German Zverev ex-girlfriend, a Russian woman named Olga Sharapova, publicly accused him of domestic violence, first on an Instagram post and then in two interviews. One of those interviews was with Ben Rothenburg and published online by Racquet magazine. The story she tells is incredibly harrowing. And I should say that Zverev has called her allegations totally unfounded and simply not true. Those allegations include descriptions of alleged emotional and physical abuse. There’s corroboration from contemporaneous WhatsApp messages and photos at the twenty nineteen U.S. Open, she told Rothenburg. Zverev covered her face with a pillow and sat on her so she couldn’t breathe. She managed to escape their hotel room, she said, but wasn’t wearing any shoes. And some strangers helped her hide from Zverev. When she went back later to retrieve her things, she said Zverev had dumped them in the hallway but had kept her passport. Rothenburg spoke to friends of Sharipova, who said they encouraged her to get back together with Vereb in New York, quote, because none of us believed her, a fact that these friends feel very guilty about today. When she reunited with him, Sharapova said her passport reappeared. Later, she said, at a tennis event called the Labor Cup in Switzerland, Zverev punched her in the face for the first time in the aftermath. She told Rothenburg she attempted suicide, explaining that I just wanted to leave in some way because I can’t stand it anymore. Sharapova told Rothenburg that she’s considerably happier now that she’s left Serov and has found an outlet for her story. Again, Zverev has denied all these accusations. He reiterated that denial at the ATP Tour Finals, saying at a press conference, That’s not who I am. That’s not how I was raised by my parents. That’s not just simply who I am as a person. It makes me sad the impact that such false accusations can have on the sport, on the outside world, on myself as well. I truly apologize that the focus has shifted away from the sport. As too many carry all noted in a piece published in The Guardian, that was a shift in tone from what Zverev had said on court a week ago after losing in the final of the Paris Masters to Daneel Medvedev, he said in an on court speech. I know that there’s going to be a lot of people that right now are trying to wipe a smile off my face. But under this mask, I’m smiling brightly. I feel incredible, uncaught. Everything is great in my life. The people who are trying can keep trying. In that Guardian piece, Kerry all describes the silence of the men’s tennis tour, the ATP, which has said that it fully condemns any form of violence or abuse, but is unable to comment further on specific allegations. There’s also been near total silence from the other men on the tour in a conversation with a fellow player, Gail Mumfie, that was broadcast on Twitch. Andy Murray made vague reference to Zverev off court issues, which hasn’t looked good for him. And so far as I can tell, he’s the only male player who said anything to women players. Dario Gavrilov and Nicole Gibbs have backed Sharapova on social media, but that’s all I’ve seen. When the Paris Masters posted a photo of Zverev last week, Carol wrote in her piece, fans swarmed the comments to shame them. The tournament responded by deleting the post. Olga Sharapova told Ben Rothenburg that she hasn’t pressed charges against Vereb and doesn’t plan to pursue any criminal or civil action that she just wants to see the truth. So what will happen now and what should happen now? Tennis isn’t centralized like, say, the NFL, the Grand Slams and tennis are run by a different governing body than other tournaments. It’s also an international sport which makes adjudicating accusations like these incredibly challenging. We’ve got a German man who allegedly attacked a Russian woman in New York and Switzerland. Even when leagues are centralized and when they’re contained in one country, I don’t generally support them creating their own justice systems. But the alternative as seen here, isn’t great either. It seems like the sports powers that be and various fellow players will do their best to say and do as little as possible about these accusations. So where does that leave us? It leaves it up to the media, I think, here in the US and around the world to decide how long to keep asking questions and how much attention to give the story. Sasha Zverev is ranked number seven in the world. She’s got a long career ahead of him. He’s not going away. But if he and his sport have their way, these allegations, well, that’s good.
S9: Now, one last thing that I didn’t include in the piece that I think is important to note is that he doesn’t have to play in front of crowds. I guess. I mean, I mentioned it in passing about the tour finals. You know, it’s a good thing that they are not putting fans in the stands at the O2 Arena. But, you know, he is banned, you know, in this like strange tennis season and strange time in the world we’re having now. He’s been kind of going around the world playing in these tournaments without people there to cheer him or boo him. And so we haven’t heard what that is like or what that would have been like. And so it’s just a very odd time for for this to happen. And, you know, who knows when there will be fans in the stands again. And I would have been very interested to see how the media would have covered it if they would have gotten more attention if these accusations had come out before the U.S. Open rather than afterwards, because they’re just as especially in America, less attention paid on the sport, especially to players outside the big three on the men’s side when it’s not grand slam season.
S5: I mean, he’s ducking public accountability and pretty much every every arena there is. Right.
S2: That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. To listen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep, dot com slash, hang up. You can email us and hang up at Slate Dotcom. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to rate and reviews on Apple podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levine. Remembers our mobility and thanks for listening.
S12: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, it was not that long ago that the Rockets Russell Westbrook reportedly informed the team that he wants to be traded. But that’s all this because on Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Jaroussky, Ramona Shelburn and Zach Low, triple bylined special reported, and I quote that the idea of joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn is resonating with James Harden, that being Westbrook’s current Rockets teammate James Harden. If Harden does end up in Brooklyn, it’d be a reunion with Durant, his old Oklahoma City Thunder teammate who would also make for a complete set of all possible duos of the old Harden Westbrook Durant Trio from OKC. Duran and Westbrook played together after Harden got traded, Harden and Westbrook played together in Houston. But we’re not here to talk about set theory, Joel. We’re here to talk about why everyone all of a sudden wants to leave Houston, which you’ve led me to believe is a great place to live. So what gives?
S5: Man, nothing changed. I was still a great place. I bet no matter what happened, that James Harden and Russell Westbrook will keep a home in Houston, Texas, because it is it is that delightful. I think I think Jeff Van Gundy still has a home in Houston, Texas.
S9: So what’s going to happen is Harden will go to the Nats, but then the Nets will relocate to Houston. And that’s right.
S5: I think it was the fourth largest city in the country. It can support two basketball teams. So it was, what, about a month ago that I wrote about Daryl Morey resigning. And that move seems sort of predictable. And at the same time, it was predictable and seemingly came out of nowhere. I think this is all about someone. Fertitta, the owner like he’s a guy who, you know, in my lifetime, the Rockets had two owners. They had Charlie Thomas that Les Alexander, Les Alexander inherited a franchise that won two titles in his first two years. And they remain competitive for all those years after. Those were also guys I never heard anything from. Like you just didn’t they just were not like, you know, the big famous owner that gives press conferences or anything like that. Ever since Tilman, Fertitta has become the owner of the rackets, he won’t shut the fuck up like I just he’s like he’s everywhere. He clearly wants to be famous. And I think that he is a personality who is grating. I also think people don’t want to work for him. And I also see that he’s not willing to do what it takes to keep together championship teams or build a build an organization that people want to be a part of. And so I don’t blame James Harden for that, for looking up and being like with the two people that I believed in. Mike D’Antoni is gone and now Darrell Moore is going to. Why in the hell would I stay here and work for Tilman? Fertitta and why would I stay here and play with us? Is that also part of it wants to be gone? They seem to not want to play with each other and often very hard harden wanting to leave is kind of overdetermined.
S3: Like I believe the Fertitta thing is true, Joel, but like there’s no path for I mean, no offense to to the rockets, but like, you know, I’m not saying James Harden is clearly saying it, that there’s no path for him to contend for a title on this team and with this franchise anymore. And he feels like he’s you know, he’s thirty one is on the tail end of his prime unless he’s like LeBron and he wants to, you know, team up with some some other dude. Stefan Yeah.
S1: And why wouldn’t he I mean, this is the era of teaming up with other dudes and players have the ability to and God bless him for it for for making it happen. I mean, there’s already been plenty of sort of trade speculation and how the nets could make this work and what they’d have to give up and what it would mean. And I’m not here to analyze the basketball side of it. It seems like they would suck on defense. I mean, and that’s my expert opinion. And they’d have some issues with ball sharing. But what the hell, this would be exciting and fun and like, fire up your trade generators and let’s make this happen.
S5: Yeah, I mean, I think it would be fascinating to see if I mean, I just I mean, I just I can’t believe Kevin Durant would go from playing with Steph and Klay and Draymond, you know, guys that, you know, share the ball that was like, you know, the hallmark of those Warriors teams. They shared the ball. They were great. You played great defense. They just, you know, no ball stoppers. And then you’ve got James Harden and Kyrie Irving. You know, nobody has been said to really see Kyrie Irving go. I mean like the last two times, like, you know, no team has to play together.
S9: Yeah there was, it was their idea. Kevin Pelton right on ESPN. I think the best option for tonight’s Big Three would be to put the ball in Harden’s hands most of the time with Durant and Irving playing off him. So we are to what we are. We are to believe that Durant and Irving contrived to go to Brooklyn to play with each other, to like stand on the wing and watch James Harden Cook oh oh year. There is no this would be the most hilarious, like ill conceived, possibly successful trio like the talent is. You can’t argue with the talent, but the way in which this would fit together, the ways in which they would interact with each other and with the media would just be amazing to behold. Right. The what is it like for the basketball industry?
S1: And that’s why it’s why I said it would be fun. That’s what would make it fun. It could be a complete and total shit show. It could be a complete disaster. And watching it unfold would be glorious in the New York media market.
S3: And Steve Nash is the new coach, like watching him try to corral this would be a sight to see as well. But just like Kevin Durant is like the most thin skinned, sensitive superstar, Kyrie is like smart and interesting, but a total weirdo and tends to rub people the wrong way. Harden is actually maybe like the least weird out of these three, which is like maybe the only group of three that that could be in the league. But like, I don’t know. Do people like I mean, Joel, you would know this better than I do. People like playing with James Harden. I mean, I guess when they’re like winning sixty five games like people, he seems like a guy that is like really not fun to play with unless you’re winning sixty five games.
S8: I think, I think people come to an understanding that like I mean James is a great playmaker too, you know what I mean.
S9: Like in addition to being a good scorer, he is willing to wait around just like stand there for a while and wait for Wade for the double team.
S5: I tell you what, Clint Capela had a much better career in Houston than he has wherever the hell he is now. Right.
S9: All right Katie you’re so you’re like in the Clint Capela role in this team.
S5: You’re right they’re going to key into Clint Capela which I mean you know there’s something to be said for that. I mean in olden days KD would be a sinner, you know what I mean. So imagine him rolling off of that pick, you know doing the roll off the pick and roll. But does any, if you were a Laker, if you’re the Lakers like.
S9: None of this scares you, right, like this is this is absurd. Um, does it scare you? It’s really it’s really fascinating because, well, no one just the ways in which this would drive Knicks fans insane would also be worth it. But, you know, compare it to the Celtics who have built in this really smart and intentional way with like young talent. And they’re kind of coming up. The heat have like rebuilt after LeBron left. And they have this like young core and they’ve got like the grit and grind. Jimmy Butler culture. You got the bucks with Giannis and then you have this like bizarro like a group of like you know mercenary you know we don’t, we don’t like to use the word mercenaries because it’s not that we believe in player empowerment, but you’ve got this group of mercenaries comes together and doesn’t really make any sense. But it’s like more talented as a frontline trio than anybody in the NBA. And like, could it possibly work? It’s like, again, like one of these tests of like team culture and like sharing a ball versus like pure talent. It would be totally fascinating to watch. And, you know, I didn’t think the Lakers thing was going to work because they didn’t think they had enough depth behind LeBron and aid. And like for Rondo, like Rondo, how does that guy get it can play off like we have no we have no idea if it would work, but we would definitely be. We’ll definitely watch.
S1: The great thing about it, though, is that this wasn’t like cooked up in some general. Managers had right on some some spreadsheet. This was James Harden and Kevin Durant talking about playing together so we can sit here and say, oh, yeah, great, let’s watch James Harden dribble the ball around while Kevin Durant is forced into the Clint Capela role. And that seems absurd but they’re the ones talking about it and trying to scheme this into happening.
S9: Yeah I mean if it doesn’t work out they would have done it to themselves. We can, we can definitely say that we got to save a little bit, you know, because if and when this happens we’re going to talk about it again. So that’s a little preview SLEEPLESSLY first, thank you for your membership. And we’ll be back with more next week.