The Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer? Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains naughty language.

S2: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and listen for the week of February 1st, two thousand twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the latest NFL hiring cycle where one black coach got hired to run a team and a whole lot more did not. We’ll also look at the upside down world of sports in Australia, where athletes lock down for weeks and play in front of Maskell’s crowds. And finally, we’ll ponder the most important question of this or any age. Well, Curt Schilling, break the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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S3: I’m in Washington, D.C., not of the queen, host of slow burn season four on David Duke. Also in D.C., Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak, and also the book, A few Seconds of Panic. Just in from shoveling, I’m assuming. Hello, Stefan.

S4: Hi, Josh. First day in what was it like? Seven hundred and ten days that Washington has gotten more than half an inch of snow?

S3: That seems about right. I made a little snowman. Did you lose count after like seven hundred and two, then hexing off the days on my snow calendar. With us from Palo Alto, Slate staff writer, host of Slow Burn Season three and the upcoming Season six. Joel Anderson, what are your thoughts on snow?

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S5: Well, I’m glad that I live on the West Coast where it’s not snowing, but I guess we’ll have to trade that for wildfire season here pretty soon.

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S3: Yeah, that seems like a bad trade I personally hates now. I just want that on the record. We’re from warm climes, John.

S6: Yeah, I’m I’m very much tropical person. You are as well, Steph and Melissa. I mean, I don’t know what you know.

S4: No, snow’s great. Love the snow or love the cold. Really.

S7: All right. You’re welcome. Any time to come shovel the wintry mix in front of my house. I’ll leave. Leave the light on for you.

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S6: In May, the NFL made a few more tweaks to its Rooney Rule, that’s the league policy requiring franchises to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football front office positions. Those changes were meant to expand opportunities for the candidates and reward the teams that did their best to develop and hire them. But the first hiring cycle since their implementation has been a mixed bag. The Texans filled the NFL’s final opening with a black head coach, David Culley. And two weeks ago, the Jets hired Robert Solow, who is believed to be the league’s first Muslim head coach. Those two join Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Miamis Brian Flores and Washington’s Ron Rivera as the league’s only minority head coaches. And to be honest, those are pretty weak numbers in a league where about 70 percent of the players are black and other minority groups. Gosh, I bet that if we look back at the archives, we’d find that hang up and listen. Like most of the shows and podcast to cover sports has covered this ongoing failure. Every single hiring cycle, every single off season. There’s obviously nothing new about the NFL’s failure to hire or develop minority coaches. But in a year where four of the six coordinators for the two Super Bowl teams are black, including now perennial candidate Eric Benami, did this go round feel particularly bad?

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S3: I think it did, because and it’s not like there was a lack of awareness at any time in recent, you know, in modern history that the NFL is lacking in minority coaches. But given the tweaks to the Rooney Rule, given all of the conversation that we’re having in sports and elsewhere about race and equality, the fact that the hires that were made this offseason were made does feel like kind of a crisis, like if there is this level of knowledge and awareness and even kind of inducement and bribery to get NFL teams to change their ways. And this is the result, then that seems like, OK, what else can be done? Like there’s nothing that anyone from outside can do to change the face of ownership in the NFL. There are no black owners in the league and only to people of color that have major ownership stakes. And that, to me, feels like a fundamental thing that’s driving hiring here. But, Stefan, I mean, there there are ways in which hiring has changed. It’s not like things are static. There were three black general managers that were hired this offseason, which is a sign of progress, even if the total number is now just five, like three out of seven is like a good proportion. And Joel, you mentioned the number of black coordinators in the Super Bowl. That’s a really good thing. And those coaches can’t be interviewed for these jobs because those interviews have to wait until after team seasons are over. So it could be an unfortunate instance where, like all of these teams wanted to fill their jobs and they didn’t want to sit around for these highly successful black coordinators to finish their seasons. So, I mean, Stefan, it’s possible to create a narrative of progress here rather than one of total abject failure. But it’s also hard not to look at the top line and see that is extremely disappointing.

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S8: Yeah, I think you’re being generous. I mean, I think it is it is a sign of progress that more general managers have been hired. But these are distinct jobs. The general managers in here in Washington, for instance, as a former player. But he then went on to some success and accomplishment in the business world and then returned to the NFL executive suites. So that’s the sort of two different tracks. And the coaching track is significant because of the sheer volume of qualified candidates that exist. If you’ve spent any time around NFL coaching staffs, and I know you have certainly Jol and college staffs, too, you know that there are plenty of assistants who are qualified to become head coaches. And for a lot of them, nothing changes there. When I was in Denver, the guy that was the assistant special teams coordinator, he still is now. He’s a special teams coordinator in the NFL. That was 14 years ago coming up on 15 years ago. So they’re very often very little change. And it does come back to ownership. And I think we should talk about why this perpetuates. And this is not unique to football, certainly. But what is unique to football is that there doesn’t seem a corporate will to change the climate and the environment in which these hirings occur.

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S1: Right. And I think a lot of people have made this point before. But the Rooney Rule wasn’t some sort of function of altruism. It was a function of the fact that the NFL was potentially going to get sued by Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mary, you know, to civil rights attorneys. And so they did this under duress. And ever since then, since the implementation of the rule to.

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S6: Some three, pretty much all their moves gives you that we give you the indication that this is something that they did not want to do and they have to be forced to do.

S1: And I mean, another sign of that is that if they were just going to adhere to the spirit of the rule, they wouldn’t have had to sweeten the pot a few months ago. They’d be like, hey, we might improve your draft positioning. We might do these things for you if you consider more black candidates for these positions. So it’s something that they don’t want to do. And I think, you know, you’re right stuff. And you make the point about the owner class, right? Like the owners of the people that are they’re not the face of this, but they’re the spirit behind this. You know, Roger Goodell has to get out front of people and talk about the Rooney Rule. The head coaches have to get out and talk about this sort of stuff. But we never hear from the owners and the owners of the people, the only people that can make this change. And I guess what I would say about that is that these owners, you know, most of them, their primary business is not in football. They get their money from some other way. They work in some sort of the industry, and then they make enough money and they can buy a football team. Right. But the thing about these owners is that they come from private industry, which is notorious for not hiring black people and other people of color, people from marginalized communities to do jobs, tech, construction, anything, anything, real estate, anything that you can think of. Black people in this country are pretty much underrepresented in that field. And so, of course, it would carry over to football. And I just don’t know. I mean, like I said, we talk about this every year. This is a topic that comes up every year and we’re always at the same place. And nothing can change as long as the owners have no incentive to change, you know, like unless you make them they’re not going to do it. But I guess at a certain point, it’s like, how can you make them? Like, what instrument, what rule, what policy can you do to make them accountable for these these terrible numbers?

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S9: So in those industries that you mentioned, private industries and others, to all the excuses often that it’s a pipeline issue that like we’d love to hire black people or people of color, but there just aren’t enough candidates and we need to figure out how to fix that. The NFL doesn’t have that excuse, right? Like, look at the field. Everybody is black, not literally everybody, but like we round up and you get it. You get it to everybody. And so there is an issue here of perception and conscious and unconscious bias. And Richard Johnson had a really good piece in Slate last week that frame this in a way I thought was really smart, which is that NFL head coaches now are allowed to be, quote unquote, unconventional. But the only way that NFL, you know, the people that are doing these hires think of somebody being unconventional as if they’re white. It’s like, oh, you know, Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t a successful college coach, but like, I can see him being great in the NFL because he’s, like, handsome and has a good passing game. Or like Joe Judge, he was a special teams coach. But like, I guess John Harbaugh is the special teams coach and he was good. Or Arthur Smith, Kevin Stefanski, Matt Rule, you know, Zach Taylor. There are people whose names I don’t even know who are like, you know, young white head coaches in the NFL. And a lot of it is like, oh, Sean McVay was successful. And so we’re looking for the next Sean McVay. It’s like, well, Sean McVay is is great. But, you know, when you have Sean McVay, why is he the one that gets copied rather than Mike Tomlin, who is thirty four when he got hired and became the youngest coach ever to win the Super Bowl. It’s a failure of imagination is to kind of a way to phrase it.

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S4: But yeah, it’s bias. It’s bias. It’s inherent bias. I mean, and the difference, Joel, and I’ll push back on your analogy with the corporate world a little bit, is that corporations are under extreme duress to create programs, to bring in lawyers who help them comply with federal civil rights laws and to create programs that try to change the culture. And, you know, we’ve seen all of that. The NFL happens to be even more public than major corporations in America in a lot of ways. And despite everything that’s been happening this year in particular, you don’t see that movement. You don’t see that awareness that, oh, we need to do this. We need to be better at looking for the black head coach who’s probably as talented or gifted or innovative as the white coach.

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S9: But what do you mean you don’t see the awareness? They created this whole system of like giving teams draft picks. If, you know, black or minority coaches or general managers get hired, it’s the follow through the incentive to do it.

S4: And the one thing that I’ve read in recent days that feels a little different is he is drawing a comparison between what? Happened, say, in the NBA last fall, where the players got together and exerted their influence.

S8: I think it’s Bill Rhoden wrote a piece in The Undefeated that talked about the imperatives to take the next step that like action is now required and whether that action comes from the players association, which is run by a black executive, DeMaurice Smith, or whether it comes from players or whether it comes from corporations, that it’s almost to the point where something has to force ownership to change. And that pressure, again, probably lies in the players that do have power. And you can say, well, they have enough power to save Colin Kaepernick. Why would they have power to influence who old white owners hire as head coaches? But we won’t know until that happens.

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S1: You know, I guess I mean, I’m always reluctant to put more of the burden on on the play. It’s not fair. You’re right. And I’m less certain, especially now, like given what we’ve seen over the last few years of the way that, you know, the owners have sort of beaten back player power. I mean, the players got washed and CBA negotiations just a year ago. Right. So, like even within arguing on behalf of their own careers and, you know, their own professional standards, like they’re not able to really advocate for themselves as well as you would like. And so I just don’t know, you know, that they be able to do much for coaches.

S5: But I guess the one thing for me you’re kind of circling back on this is that, you know, we talked about coaches get hired from all these sorts of different things. There’s all sorts of different ways of hiring coaches and looking at coaching candidates or whatever.

S6: But for me, fundamentally, what it comes back to is black people in general and black players specifically never get labeled geniuses that I would like for you all to think back over the course of your life as a sports fan or whatever. How often is it that black players get credited for their mind or their IQ?

S5: Right. Oh, it always comes back to some sort of like, you know, physical gift or some sort of like instinct. But it’s never about genius. I’ve never heard of a black coach described in the way that, like Sean McVay is described or Andy Reid is described or Bill Belichick is described. And it could be because that’s just the dearth of candidates or whatever. But every year there’s a new crop of genius white guys that get these opportunities you never hear with black players. But that’s because it never happens with black people, you know. And so that’s so when you said you pushed back on the private industry thing, I think this is just sort of a problem that is just a function of the world we live in. I don’t I very rarely hear about genius black writers. I very rarely hear about genius black podcasts. I very rarely hear about genius, black accountants, whatever. You know, it’s just this is the world in which we live and it’s reflected in football. And so I think the NFL should change. It needs to change. And it would be great if somebody could oppress them in some sort of way to adhere to the spirit of the Rooney Rule. But like, this is a world problem. This is an American problem. It’s not limited to the NFL.

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S9: Yeah, I think that’s I think that’s right. And that is what makes this feel so intractable. And yet the answer can’t just be, well, this is going to be how it is. And there are people within the league who are trying to change this, like the NFL is not a monolith. And there are you know, whether it’s Bruce Arians, white coach in Tampa, who’s got so many great black coaches on his staff and hired a woman recently, Dan Campbell, the new Lions coach who we made fun of last week. And damn, he deserved to be made fun of hired black offensive and defensive coordinators. You do have these additional black GMs, which I do think matters.

S3: And so, you know, the other thing that Richard Johnson did in his piece that I thought was really valuable is enumerating. He listed a set of black coaches who are kind of of the same ilk of the like young unknown white coaches who are getting head coaching interviews and often getting head coaching jobs.

S10: Because the names that we often hear of these black candidates are people like Eric Benami or Todd Bawls. I mean, I could name a bunch of them.

S4: Marvin, let me interrupt. I mean, David Colley, who was hired by the Houston Texans, he’s 65 and he was the black head coach hired in the cycle. He’s been coaching for almost 40 years. And now he’s getting a chance with a team that was formed 12 that has a quarterback that is miserable and wants to be traded and is being set up for failure.

S10: And so the black coaches who are getting these these interviews and opportunities are ones maybe they haven’t been around as long as most of them, but we’ve heard of all of them because they’ve been the only names that are circulating. But you know what Richard Johnson did? Is he named Do Stehly? Aaron Glenn, Jeff Nixon, Tamika Raines, Patrick Graham, like these are the guys who would be head coaches, like people who have never gotten interviews, who are like young up and comers. These are like the judges. Matt Rules, Cliff Kliff, Kingsbury, Kevin Stefanski case like this is the category of coach that never gets a chance. The one said, like maybe they haven’t paid their dues, but they’re like young and smart and hungry and they could maybe lead a team. But nobody in this group, except maybe Mike Tomlin and except maybe Raheem Morris wherever like in this kind of group. And given that kind of chance.

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S5: And that’s why I very rarely like focus on individual candidates like Eric Benami. Right. Like, I have no idea if the enemy is a good candidate, would make a good coach. I don’t know a lot about Dan Campbell. Like whether or not he’s a good candidate will make a good coach. Like, but the thing is, is that you have to argue on behalf of a broader patterns within the league and whether or not everybody is getting a shot.

S11: And so that’s why. So, like, yeah. What Richard did there by naming all these guys, like, that’s a that’s a way to get sort of move, maybe move the narrative, put a few more names out there so that we’re not always leaning on Jim Caldwell, you know, Leslie Frazier, you know, guys who’ve gotten chances and maybe people will start to sort of shift that window and look at the younger guy and say, hey, maybe he might do something. And the other piece of that as well is that maybe people need to pitch. This is like a competitive advantage because you think that if you’re the NFL like you want to, it’s kind of we talked about with Major League Baseball when they named their first female general manager earlier this year. It’s like you have no idea the talent of the pool of talent that you’re overlooking when you just cycled through this same sort of hiring cycle, when you hire the guy that’s standing next to Bill Belichick, a guy who had coffee with Sean McVay once. Right. Like, you just you have no idea if maybe we should think about kind the running backs coach, you know, maybe the wide receiver, receiver, coach path or the head coach. Maybe we should consider that now because people really don’t. If we know anything about the NFL, none of these teams know how to hire a coach within a couple of years, three years. Everybody that’s hired now, with the maybe exception of one candidate, will probably be fired. And so it just seems like it would compel them, like if they want to win, if they want to maximize the potential of their players and their franchise and everything, that they think a little bit more outside of the box because it just seems like the smart thing to do, except the owner looks at candidates and looks in the mirror, you know, who am I comfortable talking with?

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S8: Who interviews? Well, it’s the guy that sounds like I mean, and then you put him in front of a microphone, as we saw with Dan Campbell or the Philadelphia Eagles, you know, hired Nick Sirianni, who gave a disastrous opening press conference. It’s how ownership looks back. And that’s why I go back to how do you pressure a team to look at candidates differently? You know, maybe the Washington football team is best positioned when Ron Rivera, who’s an older dude, decides to move on. You know, they’ve got both the president and the general manager who are African-American. Maybe we should be giving them credit for for that and the potential for changing the pattern of hiring among teams. But but something does need to change. And I don’t wanna put the pressure, like you said, Jamal, on the players, but it does require some sort of disruptive action. And Rob Graves, the head of the Fritz Pollard coalition, who lobbies to sort of monitor the Rooney Rule and works with the league, said that this past week that, you know, this is we’re at the point now. We’re just saying it’s a problem.

S12: We’re incentivizing ownership to do something different to you know, to be rewarded for doing the right thing isn’t enough.

S13: Up to 26 million covid cases and four hundred forty one thousand deaths here in the United States last week, the NBA writer Sekou Smith died of covid complications at age 48. Baseball reporter Mel Antonen died of an autoimmune disease and covid at the age of 64. The University of Michigan athletic department is in the middle of a two week shutdown because of an outbreak of the Bee one one seven covid variant. The Washington Wizards only recently resumed playing after six of their players tested positive. Two weeks ago, the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team followed the Duke women and choosing to end their season early. And in Australia, where the seven day average for new covid cases is six. That is the single digit number six, as in Bill Russell, Jay Cutler and Geese A laying there playing tennis matches in front of Maskell’s, crowds of 4000.

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S7: Stefan, this is like a dispatch from an alternate universe. And not just because of those Maskell’s crowds.

S13: Hundreds of the world’s best tennis players, among them Naomie Asaka, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, were quarantined for 14 days and hotels upon arrival for the Australian Open. Seventy two players total were not allowed to leave their rooms at all for any reason. For those 14 days that included Victoria Azarenka, Belinda Bencic, because people on their flights to Australia had tested positive for covid, it is perhaps not wise to have them play a major championship after being put in confinement for that long. But that kind of confinement is what is called for if you want to prevent an outbreak. And that is what Australia is doing.

S4: Yes, but I do need to say that you didn’t mention that the US men’s handball team had to drop out of the world championships in Egypt two days before the tournament was supposed to start because 10 players, the head coach and seven other staff members tested positive. We’ll have a little more on the handball world later. Well, back to Australia, there were some griping by players, Josh, especially the seventy two that you mentioned who were locked in their rooms for two weeks because someone on the flight tested positive and there was concern that they wouldn’t be physically fit to play. But that was all overridden by the important point. The country was not going to fuck up its success for a tennis tournament. Melbourne, a city of five million people where the Australian Open will start later this month, had gone has gone like twenty five or twenty six now straight days without a new, locally acquired positive case. And they’ve been able to do that because Melbourne’s province, Victoria, had a total lockdown for a hundred and eleven days. Total lockdown. People followed rules. They learn from mistakes, including a disastrous hotel quarantine system that led to hundreds of deaths last year. And now they get to have nice things like attending tennis matches. Australia obviously is a saner country than ours, and it decided that sports aren’t worth jeopardizing public health.

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S11: Yeah, I mean, when I read and see what the players are going through in Australia, it has me wondering, as I have so often over the last 10 months or so, is it really worth it? And by which I mean I get the sports need to continue to maintain the financial health of these individual organisations and industries and all that other stuff. And like the athletes need need the money and all the other stuff that comes with playing, too.

S5: But in terms of the spirit of competition and staging the best possible games and competitions, this doesn’t seem conducive to that, right? I mean, having players trapped in the room and feeding them like it just doesn’t. If I were preparing for an event of the calibre of the Australian Open, it seems like I would not be anywhere near my best if I had been trapped in my room and had a recumbent bike or whatever is my only means of cardio.

S4: Wait, wait, wait. You’re saying that hitting a tennis ball off of a plate glass window isn’t good preparation for the Australian Open?

S11: I’m no tennis fan, but it seems like that probably is not the best way to approximate tennis goes. So, yeah, I just. I don’t I mean, I understand that again, I understand it. The Australian Open needs to happen for whatever number of reasons. Right. But in terms of playing the games and especially under these circumstances, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me or. But do I?

S10: Heather Watson, British player, ran a five K in her room by just running back and forth. So this is what players are doing there. Yeah, I mean, Joel, I think another way to kind of think about this is there are really three paths forward and have been since Rudy Gobert tested positive and the NBA locked down a little less than a year ago. Now there is no sports. There is. Let’s do kind of crazy quarantining of the athletes to allow sports to happen or let’s do something in the middle and the US has picked let’s do something in the middle mostly and we see how well you know, that’s gone for everyone. You know, there was a period in which no sports was the prevailing option. And the reason that that changed and you don’t really see leagues or events. You know, there are a few small exceptions, but you don’t see, like, the massive kind of cancellations that we saw last year. The reason that’s happened has nothing to do with public health or safety or what’s going on in the world. It has it’s exactly what I that it has to do with, you know, I think probably ninety five percent of it is related to revenue. Some five percent of it was just like, you know what, I’m sick of this. We. Got to keep the same attitude stuff, and that’s like, you know, we can’t shut ourselves in our houses forever. We got to, like, move on with our lives like that, I think has sort of prevailed to some extent in sports in America along with everything else.

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S4: Yeah. So we skip the part of the 111 day Victoria lockdown, which would have gotten us to a better place now. But in spite of that, we’re pat ourselves on the back over here. Hey, we got through the NFL season and no games were canceled. Series. We won. We had a winner.

S11: I was going to say that that’s because we’ve been self-congratulatory about just getting through this right.

S4: Like nobody died. You know, there’s four Lugar who I like a lot. The Washington Post sports columnist has a piece in Monday’s paper that talks to people about, you know, we made it through, we’ve made it this far. And No. One, we affiliated with a major American sport. The operation of it has died.

S10: I mean, what about, like, the blast zone of sports? I mean, we’ve cited it before, but that study that showed that college towns had rates of covid positivity in deaths, places where sports were back in the fall was much higher than comparable places that they didn’t. Yeah. So I guess if you don’t consider that, then Cherry, the numbers look fine.

S5: If you don’t consider a guy like Kiante Johnson, the Florida basketball player who was hospitalized and, you know, briefly in a medically induced coma, if you don’t bring up Riquelme State, you know, the Jacksonville Jaguars running back who was hospitalized twice as a result.

S4: Yeah, I mean, the thing is alive, Joel, still alive.

S11: If you’re insistent upon playing, then of course, you’re going to finish. If you like, you like. Well, I don’t give a damn how many people get sick or however, you know, as long as nobody dies. If you’re insisted upon playing, of course, you can finish. And I guess you can take some sort of celebratory lap in that. But it just doesn’t seem like if the goal is to minimize exposure and reduce the risk as much as possible, every league has failed with that since the NBA tried the bubble. And yeah, I mean, the bubble was great for the most part. Like, the competition itself was amazing. The basketball was really good.

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S10: The WNBA and NHL had bubbles to.

S11: So they had to get. Let me not forget that. Thank you. And the soccer leagues. And I guess I have I should say, in terms of the competition that I watched every day at the time, I was like, I can attest to the fact that the NBA basketball was good. I can not quite testify about the soccer leagues or whatever and how they did. So I assume they played great ball. So congratulations to them. But but but but I mean, the thing is, you balance that against the toll that it took on the players to do that. And of course, they didn’t want to do that again. Right. And so I guess like getting anybody to do a bubble again at this point is probably not going to happen. But that’s where you’re going to see these half measures the rest of the way. And, you know, I mean, yeah, nobody’s died yet. I mean, that’s that’s something we could take solace in. But like and that’s just just like what we said yet. Sekou Smith is forty eight years old and he’s not he was not an old person. And I’m not going to pretend like I knew CICU well, but I knew him a little bit. And, you know, that’s that should be scary to people that, you know, so I. Forty eight years old, who, as far as I know, didn’t have like some sort of lingering illness or whatever to die under these circumstances. I mean, you would think that along the road there would be all these places where people were like, man, this thing really dangerous. We should be more cautious about this. And it just hasn’t happened yet.

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S10: Well, there are no great answers and solutions here because it’s a broken country and has been a broken country like nothing is working. Like see the debates about virtual school versus sending kids into classrooms, like both solutions are bad and imperfect and they’re good arguments on both sides. But the other side is totally wrong. And so there’s just no going to be no winning here and even in Australia. Stefan, I mean, I think what that demonstrates, I guess if if we’re talking about domestic sports in Australia, when you’re not like flying Serena and everybody else into the country, then it would probably be a different conversation, I would imagine, like domestic basketball and Aussie Rules football or probably having an easier and more more normal time than like the entire international tennis world trying to uproot itself and live in Australia. Now, like, that’s just going to have a bunch of problems associated with it. And like the thing that really scares me, it’s like we have conversations and like, quote unquote, normal years about how hellaciously hot it is during the Australian Open and how it’s like inhumane to have them play even when they’re training normally. And so it could be a bloodbath out there. But I guess we’ll I guess we’ll see in the next couple of weeks.

S5: Can I ask you a question? I know Djokovic is known to be a clown at this point. You know that he’s just been sort of anti his de.

S7: Hands were misunderstood. He was just trying to advocate for those who did not have a voice of their own.

S11: Well, I’m going to say something that probably is going to align me with a clown. But I actually given given what I read, like maybe I didn’t read it all, but his, quote, demands didn’t actually sound like I mean, if you’re going to do this with elite athletes, like, it seems like there should be some accommodations made for their workout.

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S10: You know, what did he would if he asked for private houses, more more private houses for players with courts? I mean, like, you know, I’m sure those are growing on trees in Australia.

S4: But wasn’t wasn’t the main point, Josh, to Djokovic was arguing on behalf of the seventy two who were Hotel one team because other people on their flights had tested positive, which was different from the situation that he and Serena and some other players were in. They were in a different city and they didn’t have that complicating factor. So they didn’t face as rigorous a 14 day quarantine as the ones in the hotel room staff. Right.

S9: I mean, he was partly arguing on their behalf, but he was also asking for a, quote unquote, decent food for everyone. So I think, again, it’s it’s like they shouldn’t be conducting a grand slam tournament under these conditions. And the stuff that Djokovic is asking for is probably below the level of what he would typically get on tour. And yet there’s both the perception and the reality of athletes shouldn’t be cutting the line or getting things that, you know, ordinary citizens aren’t getting like, let’s treat them the same. I think that sends a really powerful and important message, one that we’ve never sent right here in this country. And so, again, it’s like the options are have the tournament the way they normally would, and it would be a super spreader event. Don’t have the tournament and you have a huge revenue hit for everyone involved or have the tournament probably safely from a covid perspective and have the players be like super uncomfortable and annoyed and like maybe not in peak physical health.

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S14: I guess if you’re choosing out of those three, the third is maybe the best option.

S4: Yeah, I mean, because the third also goes with the head of the government in the state of Victoria saying there’s no special treatment here because the virus doesn’t treat you specially. So neither do we. So if you want to play, these are the rules.

S5: If this is this difficult. Right. And we saw in the news earlier this week that they’re still trying to determine whether or not they’re going to have the summer games in Japan this summer. Doesn’t that make you wonder how it’s even possible that they’ll be able to pull this off in Japan? Like, I mean, it’s still an open question. Japan says that they haven’t made any decisions. It’s still an opportunity. But I just you read about what’s happening at the Australian Open, which is a very small scale international event, many fewer athletes, and they’re having these difficulties. It doesn’t seem possible that they could try to pull this off in Japan this summer, right?

S7: Yeah. I mean, we should have that conversation, I think, more fully in a couple of weeks. But I think that’s one of the more fascinating topics for sports or anything else for this year, whether and how they’re going to try to pull that off, because the incentives to try to do it are going to be so insanely high for so many parties involved. And it seems like such a bad idea that there’s going to be you know, that’s a recipe for potential disaster and conflict. But it’s a really interesting situation.

S4: Yeah, the scale is just so much different from the Australian Open. I think, like twelve hundred people were coming from out of the country for the tennis tournament. The Olympics is tens of thousands of people. You’re not getting tens of thousands of fans going to Melbourne to watch the Aussie Open. But with the Olympics, you are. So it’s it’s the scale of the problem is just so much greater. And the other differences that and we will get into this when we talk about this more thoroughly. But Australia is down to less than usual number of cases in the country and Tokyo, Osaka, other big areas in Japan are under a state of emergency.

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S12: On this week’s bonus segment for Slate plus members, we’re going to talk about quarterback roulette in the NFL.

S4: In November, twenty sixteen, Curt Schilling tweeted out a photo of that T-shirt with the slogan Ropen Tree Journalist, some assembly required and commented on so much awesome here. Last week for the ninth straight year, Schilling was denied entrance into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Coincidence? Probably not. Journalists do not think that t shirt has any awesome. And journalists vote on who gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, Schilling has been spewing extremist right wing nonsense for years, including last month when he tweeted support for the US Capitol terrorists. And he came closer than ever this year to making it into the hall. After falling short, Schilling through an attention seeking tantrum and asked the hall to leave him off the ballot for what would be his 10th and final year of eligibility in the vote by writers. Josh and I know that you don’t care much for Hall of Fame debates, but Shilling’s candidacy even more than those of steroid era stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who also didn’t get in this year, no one got in this year could be shown, could be the one that breaks the Hall of Fame.

S7: And that feels a little bit interesting to me when we talk about Hall of Fame, debates of this ilk, the thing that comes to mind for me and it’s not funny, so I apologize for laughing, is do you guys remember when Peter King defended Darren Sharper’s candidacy yet in 2015? So Darren Sharper was at that point accused of a whole lot of rapes, just a horrifying number, was convicted and is now in prison for a long time. Peter King wrote in a series of tweets that Hall of Fame voters for the NFL are asked to consider only on field factors for ex players.

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S3: This is what I do. He’s a candidate. We would be shirking our duties if we did not consider him. What has happened since should not be factored in, he concluded by saying. If I said I will not consider Scharper for induction because he has been accused of multiple rapes, I would resign from the committee, Drew Magary said on an Deadspin at the time.

S7: Just a very strange hill to want to die on another Scharper Hill. It’s like I’m going to stand on this principle that if someone is accused of and later convicted of multiple rates, then we must consider him for the Hall of Fame and otherwise we’d be shirking our duties.

S3: I kind of feel this way about Curt Schilling. You can look at the rules. You can look at the different clauses that are involved with, you know, the Baseball Hall of Fame has, like you should consider, character clause and all that stuff. Like ultimately, gentlemen, just do whatever the hell you want to do, like it. And I can understand if you don’t want to vote for Curt Schilling because he is among the worst the worst of us, then you shouldn’t really I don’t feel like that requires an enormous amount of explanation. But like you see people like people I really respect, like, you know, it’s like Joe Posnanski or Trent Rosecrans are just like they’re so kind of tortured about it. And like these long explanations of like I voted for him for so many years and I decided this time I think it was because of that the insurrection and showing support of it. And it’s just like even for all of the horrible and indefensible things he said and done, it’s just like maybe that felt like the last straw. But it’s I feel like it’s a little bit overexplaining, just like don’t vote for the guy if you don’t want to vote for the guy.

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S7: Yeah. I mean that that that’s what I think. Jol, that’s my that’s my long winded and tortured explanation of why I don’t feel like the need to explain why we shouldn’t vote for Curt Schilling.

S5: Yeah. I don’t I don’t feel like that was overly long, long winded. I mean, I think that’s I think that’s pretty much right. Like, I think that if you know what it is, I think what people get a Hall of Fame vote, maybe I’m saying this as a person who has not had a Hall of Fame vote and probably will never get one, we got to fix that. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind voting for the College Football Hall of Fame or something, you know, but I think that, like, when people get a Hall of Fame vote, it feels prestigious and therefore you feel like you need to have these very long and tortured debates and discourse about what I did with my ballot. And this is why I did this. And it’s a sacred responsibility. It feels so. But I’m just like, come on, dude. I mean, it’s in a museum that, you know, not how many people are still going to Cooperstown, New York, right now. You know, I just it just feels a little bit like this collective it’s a collective decision by all of us to take it seriously.

S9: It’s like the Hall of Fame. I guess there is a way in which it’s like fundamentally important, quote unquote, important. If you care about this sort of stuff, but there is just, again, this decision that everyone in sports, writers, fans, whatever make to decide like this is a big deal, we have to take it seriously. And that’s like not the worst thing in the world. I can understand. I can understand that. But it can it can be taken too far.

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S5: Well, and I understand why it matters to the players, for instance. Like I know like that it can be the crown, you know, it can be the punctuation on a career, you know, and I understand that, you know, and it can mean money and opportunity and all these other things that go on in the future, like with the cars. We all like awards. If you’ve ever got an award at school to get an award. Yeah, but all of this other stuff, it just seems it just seems a little it seems out of step with the times. There’s so many important things going on right now that like worrying about whether or not Curt Schilling deserves induction into the Hall of Fame. Seems doesn’t seem to me at the moment. And I say that is somebody that, like, pushed for this argument because I thought, like, I pushed for us to have this debate on the podcast. And now I’m like, I understand this is not that big a deal. But I said that to the person who he should be in the Hall of Fame. I would vote for him if I had a vote. That’s what I’m saying, basically.

S7: Yeah, that’s what I was going to I was going to try to force out of you. Admit it. You’re right. I guess in our prep for the segment, you said, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame. Yeah, I probably should vote for him. Right. We’re seven minutes into the segment before you admitted that. So what’s the argument for him being in the Hall of Fame?

S5: I mean, I just you know, there’s a lot of terrible people in the Baseball Hall of Fame, presumably. And, you know, if I had to not present all that, we can we can say, yeah, if I had to just sort through, like, who’s too racist to be in the Hall of Fame, I would be a very difficult task. I’d just be like, well, I saw him pitch. He seemed like he was pretty good. Like it seemed like you could tell the story of baseball without talking about Curt Schilling. And if I cared about baseball in that way and I went to the damn Hall of Fame, I would kind of expect him to be in there. But if he was that, it wouldn’t kill me either. But like just for myself, I’d be like, well, he was good enough. He meets the standard. He can kill anybody. He’s just a bad person. But there are a lot of bad people.

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S15: The difference between Curt Schilling and, say, Barry Bonds is that a lot of people feel like Curt Schilling isn’t a Hall of Famer based on his career. Barry Bonds, you cannot make an argument that his performance doesn’t merit being in the Hall of Fame. Same with Roger Clemens. So, again, going back to the the hand-wringing and the moral responsibility that Hall of Fame voters put upon themselves, Curt Schilling seems also like a stupid hill to die on. The reason this is an issue is because Curt Schilling is a troll and he has made this an issue. This isn’t who I am. It’s the media, the media, the media. Look at Curt Schilling’s support for entry into the Hall of Fame. He was first on the ballot in twenty thirteen and he got thirty nine percent and his numbers almost every year have increased to seventy one percent in the most recent balloting. I mean, he went up from last year to this year. He went up 10 percentage points from twenty nineteen. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that every candidate who has made it into the Hall of Fame in the last decade, who has gotten more votes than Curt Schilling is now in. Right. So there’s a logjam that was clear. There were a lot of players that were obvious Hall of Famers, and now there are fewer. But Curt Schilling is whining belies the fact that a lot of people are still voting for the guy. And if he doesn’t get well, tough shit. A lot of good baseball players don’t get into this Hall of Fame. And if, you know, it was like 16, he needed 16 more votes to get him this year. Well, don’t fucking post a.. Tranz means don’t say Hillary Clinton should be buried under a jail. Don’t compare Muslims to Nazis. Don’t pretend that you weren’t fired from ESPN four years ago, five years ago for speaking your mind or for being a conservative. You know, the list goes on with Curt Schilling and a lot of the stuff that he has promoted and and defended are appalling. And he is every time said, no, it’s not me, it’s the media. So, look, you want to be in you want to make them all fine. Reggie Jackson said that you did this to yourself, dude, if you wanted to be in the Hall of Fame so badly, you shouldn’t have been a dick. Those were not Reggie’s words, but that’s what I was saying.

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S5: No, that’s exactly the thing, Stefan. Right. Like, he’s the one who’s made this an issue. Like he could have said he could have shut the hell up and been quiet and he probably would have gone to the Hall of Fame. I mean, nobody nobody has talked about Curt Schilling taking the mound with that bloody sock anymore. Like he’s and he’s the reason for it. We could we could totally talk about what it was at a baseball thing, the. What did you do stuff because you don’t think it was OK? Yeah, yes. But like, wouldn’t that be a more interesting conversation to have about Curt Schilling that if he didn’t make it about like all this other stupid shit that he’s been talking about for the last decade or so? Right. Like we don’t even talk about how you wasted seventy five million dollars of Rhode Island taxpayer money on some stupid gaming company. You know, like he said, all these other things that have come up along the way. And I mean, you know, unfortunately, people consider that when they look at their ballot and that is all his fault. He could have shut the fuck up and maybe people would have voted him in. But that’s just not what happened. He just can’t he could control himself.

S4: I want to go back in court. Reggie Jackson directly. He said freedom of speech. Got you free time in the Hall of Fame. Freedom of speech. Got your ass out of Cooperstown, bro.

S5: That’s really good, Reggie. I like that.

S9: That could have been our whole segment more concisely. So you made a couple of really good points, Stefan. No. One, I you know, in my initial statement, I was kind of giving a lot of attention to folks like and Rosecrans and Joe Posnanski. You publicly said we supported him before.

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S7: We’re not supporting him now, but his support level of support went up. It actually went up. So that’s that’s worth noting.

S9: And also, you’re very correct to point out that Shilling’s Hall of Fame candidacy is, if not entirely largely about narrative. It’s about postseason success. It’s about the bloody sock. It’s about longevity, too.

S10: Yeah, but he has, like, you know, he’s not he doesn’t have the greatest resume of anybody who’s who’s ever been like a starting pitcher in baseball to get in, like, you need to, like, kind of get into the history and really know about him and what he did.

S9: And then when you know, if that’s the case and people are starting to look at you and and things that go beyond numbers, then, you know, the stuff all that stuff is fair game and the thing that so I don’t find him to be a particularly interesting figure. I’m not like interested in psychoanalyzing him. But the thing that’s fascinating about him is that he got all of these awards for, like, good character and like being good with the media when he was a player and he did all of this like charitable stuff around Alhassan and other causes. And at the same time, he was, if not universally like, widely disliked by his teammates at the time, they thought he was an attention hog. They call him red light, curt and all of that stuff. And so if you add all that together, there seems to be like an awareness of how to pitch yourself and sell yourself and like kind of play the game with the media and like create a persona that like maybe behind the scenes people don’t like you, but like publicly you’re seen as this great guy. And like, at some point, he either stopped caring about that, like stop playing that game or he still, like, cares about it. But like, he became so hateful that he, like, wasn’t able to, like, turn the dials appropriately. He was radicalized. But that arc is just really interesting to me because he is a guy, I think, who if he was like as big an asshole as like we know that he is, could have still made that could have easily still made the Hall of Fame if he had just. You know, it’s all about personal behavior and responsibility. All we have a we have a culture of personal responsibility here in the house.

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S15: Can I just point out that when when Curt Schilling in twenty fifteen tweeted out some meme that compared radical Muslims to Nazis or Muslims to Nazis, you know, he was he was assigned to cover when he did this, he was covering the Little League World Series.

S7: So is he not going to make the Little League Hall of Fame either? Joe, here’s one for you. Hmm. There’s a question on Quora, which was a good question about has anybody ever gotten into a Hall of Fame and then actually had that membership revoked? Like, that’s it. That’s the ultimate of cancer culture in this country. If they actually let you in and then revoke it. And the one example that somebody cited was O.J., our man, Billy Cannon. Oh, we’re not O.J. O.J. has now not been kicked out now. Billy Cannon. So Billy Cannon, LASU great. LSU running back, Heisman Trophy winner. One of the all time greats in college football from the late 50s was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Joel Joel Anderson, a future College Football Hall of Fame voter, if I have anything to say about it. So he was, according to the president, why he was elected not yet inducted in 1983 when he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to prison. The College Football Hall of Fame withdrew his election. A number of years later, he was again elected and re-elected. So they did not have the courage of their convictions or they saw the error of their ways.

S5: However you want to phrase it, I’m going to get in my lifetime the only person that I could think of that was honored and sort of in that sort of way that was stripped of that trophy, Your Honor, was Reggie Bush like as anybody had something he got the Heisman taken? Yeah. That honors their career. And at the end of it, it gets taken away from him. And I can only come up with Reggie Bush, which just speaks to me. This says to me that, like, we really don’t have a standard for who belongs in these sorts. We don’t have a standard for how people should be honored or shouldn’t be honored. And I don’t think that we should come up with one. I just think that, like, if you have a voting panel and however they voted, however they vote because again, I’m a person, it’d be like put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and I don’t care. Like, that’s fine.

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S7: Christina Carl, we should note, said that she didn’t vote for Roger Clemens because of reports about his relationship with the singer Mindy McCready when she was 15 years old. I mean, there I agree with you, Joel, and I think that people should vote for whoever they want to vote for. And like it calls to mind for me, like the decision not to interview David Duke for slow burn to make this all about me. Yeah.

S14: And as I explained there, the reasoning there wasn’t because of any, like, rule of journalism and the rules of journalism kind of point in the opposite direction. It was just like me thinking through the problem and being like, I don’t want to give this guy a platform, among other reasons. And so I think ultimately there’s no substitute for people in this case, Hall of Fame voters thinking about what they want to do. You can’t look at some like ill defined or vague clause and have it guide guide. You you just look at it, think about it and do what you want to do. That’s it.

S15: And we’re also in a time where things are getting our name. We are reevaluating our history. We are re-evaluating Americans connection to to racism and other blights on our historical timeline. And the baseball writers took Kenesaw Mountain Landis name off of their MVP award because he was a racist. It’s now voting on whether to remove a guy named Gene Taylor Spinks name from the award that’s given every year to a writer or other media figure. Stink supposed he was a publisher of the Sporting News and opposed integration in baseball. So I don’t even think that this conversation is in any way unusual. This is what we should be doing as a society. We should be reconsidering the people that we’ve chosen to honor in the past. And if they were assholes and bigots, we can rectify that.

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S4: And now it is time for after balls want to go back to the world of men’s handball championship, Joe, I don’t know if you’ve been exposed to handball at all.

S5: I saw it for the first time when you sent that clip earlier this morning. Excellent.

S4: Excellent. Well, you’re going to come to love this sport which America should dominate. But America did not compete in the summer. They weren’t even supposed to like and qualify for this tournament. They were appointed to go because of their regional qualifications, were canceled because of Colgate. And then all the American players got covid got tested positive for cocaine and and they didn’t go. But the tournament went on. Thirty two teams. It was in Egypt. Denmark ended up winning on Sunday. They beat Sweden. Twenty six to twenty four in the finals. When they won, Denmark did back to back world championships for Denmark. Very exciting. I watched a little bit and I happened the other day to tune in when the goalkeeper for Sweden, the guy named Andreas Publico, did something that doesn’t look humanly possible. We have a clip and then we can describe it off the post.

S16: A brilliant recovery. Oh, what a sad guy. Public gets its foot around is it seems that and all those falling awkwardly gets his foot around his ear.

S4: He totally got his foot around his ear. He does like a full leg lift. His foot is like above his head, it seems. But then in the final, Denmark’s keeper, Nicolas Lundeen Jacobsson not to be undone. Also, Medisave, where he got his foot way up in the air. And I wanted to ask you guys which of these stands you thought was more impressive.

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S9: So there is one of them, I think it was by the Swedish did, where he made the save only after the ball went off the post.

S4: That’s the one we listen to. You can hear the ball clocking off of the cross.

S7: I have I have less respect for that one because he just got lucky on that, the first one. But the the Danish did he didn’t need a friendly crossbar.

S4: He just got the crossbar was the first shot and then it rebounded to another dude and then.

S10: Yeah but but if he hadn’t been saved by the crossbar would have just been a goal like you would have had the opportunity.

S15: That’s the way life works.

S7: Look, you ask for my opinion and I gave it to you. I know what you want from me.

S5: I’m I’m on board with Politica because I just like the way his name sounds. Calica.

S4: Yeah, I am, too. I am, too. I’m with the Swedish dude. I think he had a little more height on his leg and I’m going to give him credit for that. Josh, what’s your Publico?

S14: Jackie Robinson was born one hundred and two years ago on Sunday, January 31st, nineteen nineteen. We talked last week about how he inspired a young Hank Aaron who went to see Robinson play an exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama, in nineteen forty eight. But we should also remember how many people saw Robinson as a villain simply because he was a black man who advocated for black people. One of the people who hated Robinson was Bill Keith, the sports editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In his book, Integrating the Gridiron, Lahn Demas describes QIf as New Orleans most respected authority on athletics. QIf was also extremely racist. He described the rise of boxer Joe Louis in nineteen thirty six as the, quote, devastating march of the black terror. Two decades later, according to Demus, Chiefs attitude towards black athletes had softened somewhat when Pittsburgh’s Bobby Greer became the first black player ever in the Sugar Bowl football game, Keith acknowledged that Grier had played, quote, a whale of a game later that year. Nineteen fifty six, the state of Louisiana passed a law that banned integrated sporting events. So no boxing matches with black and white fighters in the same ring and no football games with black and white players on the same field. Bill Keefe didn’t come out and say directly that he supported the law, but he did argue that Louisiana shouldn’t be blamed for passing it. QIf rode that integrationists and northerners had essentially goaded the state into it by claiming that racist incidents had taken place around that 1956 Sugar Bowl game. And he also blamed Jackie Robinson, calling him, quote, an enemy of his race and a persistently insolent and antagonistic troublemaking Negro. QIf went on a long rant about Robinson flipping a bat into the stands, saying that if a white player had done it, he would have been suspended for the whole season. But mostly he seemed agitated by a piece that Robinson had written about integration, according to Keith Robinson had, quote, said he wouldn’t be satisfied until hotels. The South accepted Negroes just as they admitted whites, Keefe’s response to that, perhaps Southern hotel owners will get together and decide to bankrupt themselves. So Robinson will be satisfied. Robinson responded by writing QIf a letter. That letter, dated July 23, 1956, was published in Louisiana Weekly, a black newspaper. Here’s that letter in its entirety. Dear Mr. Keefe, I’m in receipt of a clipping in which you make reference to me in connection with the passage of the athletic segregation bill in Louisiana. I am writing you not as Jackie Robinson, but as one human being to another. I cannot help nor possibly alter what you think about me. I speak to you only as an American who happens to be an American Negro and one who is proud of that heritage. We ask for nothing special. We ask only that we be permitted to live as you live in is our nation’s constitution provides. We ask only in sports do we be permitted to compete on an even basis. And if we are not worthy, then the competition shall persay eliminate us. Certainly you and the people of Louisiana should be capable of facing such competition. Myself and other Negroes in the majors stop in hotels with the rest of the club. In towns like St. Louis and Cincinnati. These hotels have not gone out of business. No investment has been destroyed. The hotels are, I believe, prospering, and there has been no unpleasantness. I wish you could see this as I do, but I hold little hope, I wish you could comprehend how unfair and un-American it is for the accident of birth to make such a difference to you. I assume you’re of Irish extraction. I have been told that as recently as 50 years ago, one ads in newspapers carried the biased line. Irish and Italians need not apply in certain sections of our country. This has been forgotten or at least overcome. You call me insolent. I’ll admit I have not been subservient. But would you use the same adjective to describe a white ballplayer, say Ted Williams, who is more often than I involved in controversial matters? My insolence? Or are they merely insolent for a Negro who has courage enough to speak against injustices such as yours and people like you? I am deeply regretful that Louisiana has taken the step backward because your sports fans and I believe there are many fine persons among them, will be deprived of top attractions because of it, not for the Negro in Louisiana who will, because of your law, be deprived of the right of free and equal competition, but because of the damage it does to our country. I am happy for you that you were born white. It would have been extremely difficult for you had it been otherwise. Sincerely yours, Jackie Robinson. Oh, I first learned about this letter when Grand Valley State history professor Lou Moore shared those immortal last two sentences on Twitter a few months ago. Two years after Robinson wrote those lines, a federal court found that the Louisiana segregation law was unconstitutional. On its face, the US Supreme Court would agree. And as of nineteen fifty nine, segregated athletic competitions were over in the state, at least officially, though, the reality was a lot more messy than that. As for Bill Keith, he said in a later column, the two editors from the Black newspaper Louisiana Weekly had asked what he thought about Robinson’s response.

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S3: I told them it was a very nice letter, QIf wrote on August 10th, 1956. But since it had not changed my opinion in the least, I saw no reason to answer it. Two weeks after that, another black paper, the Pittsburgh Courier, published excerpts of a letter that Keith had reportedly written to an anonymous Louisiana pastor. I haven’t seen reference to this letter in any other publication. I haven’t seen any response that Keith had to the Pittsburgh Courier publishing it. But according to the courier, in that letter, Keith made his true feelings known, writing that the divine creator had segregated blacks and whites and saying that black people had thick skulls and apelike arms. Keith would remain the Times-Picayune sports editor until he retired in 1963 after 54 years on the job. He died in 1967 in 1982. He was one of four men honored with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s first ever Distinguished Service Awards. Jackie Robinson’s letter to Bill QIf is included in the book First Class Citizenship The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson, edited by Michael G. Long. That book includes correspondence with Richard Nixon, JFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and one New Orleans sports editor who Jackie Robinson was happy was born white.

S10: Joel Anderson, the look on your face at those last two sentences on the zem, you were you seemed blown away by that by what Robinson wrote.

S5: Well, it’s just a it’s another way of saying something that, you know, my mother used to say coming up when I was growing up, she was like, if they had to build me, they wouldn’t have made it. And that’s, you know, I guess that maybe this is was this was a, you know, a line that made its way around the south or whatever. But, yeah, I mean, it kind of blew me away. And he’s absolutely right. And just a week after we talked about Hank Aaron and what he had to deal with and you just wonder, as good as Jackie Robinson was like, how much greater he could have been if he had not had to take on all this other shit to a great writer.

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S9: I had not really spent much time with Robinson’s writing, but that was extremely powerful stuff. Yeah.

S4: Hall of Famer, by the way, I’m talking about your boy, if we ever keep the power that letter, it reminded me a little bit to bring back to my affable last week about the Torgerson brothers, just that saying that as as Robinson does in this letter that we ask for nothing special just brought me back to these two less famous baseball players, not famous baseball players, saying all we want is an opportunity to prove our ability as baseball players.

S15: Just this simple, simple declarations of request for respect and the ability to do what they want to do right on.

S9: All right. Well, we have another after ball for you guys this week, and it’s a very special one from a very special member of our crew, Melissa Kaplan. Melissa, it’s their last show with us this week. And we’re going to miss them a lot and we want you to hear from them. So, Melissa, it is your chance now. Stefan, actually, you got to tell you not to tell Leslie, because I don’t remember the Swedish guy’s name, Melissa.

S4: What is your Baleka?

S17: So my Opelika is the Philly fanatic as someone who, like Joel, takes a lot of pride in their hometown. There was one presence in Philly sports that always confounded me, the fanatic, a green, fuzzy, 300 pound Muppet. He’s beloved by most Phillies fans, but not all. I wasn’t a fan of the fanatic as a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, partly because I didn’t know what he was supposed to be. According to Team PR, he’s a flightless, bipedal bird from the Galapagos, which is not all that close to Philadelphia. I’ll admit I may have also been projecting some grief onto the fanatic because those were some pretty bad years for the team. Not counting when we made it to the World Series in nineteen ninety three. Had I been a little bit older, I might have attended games with the original Phillies mascot’s Philadelphia Phillies and Phillies. They were wide eyed, 15 foot fiberglass animatronic twins in colonial jackets, the intensely creepy brain children of the franchise’s director of innovation, Bill Giles, who came to the Phillies from the Astros in 1970, shout out to Houston. Giles had a whole big plan for the Twins with electronics and special effects, but they fell flat in practice, although Phillies did have a canon, which was pretty cool. If you want to visit them today, you can go there at an amusement park called Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. The twins didn’t work the field alone. They had the support of the Hot Pants Patrol, a group of young women in red jumpsuits, white go, go boots and yes, hot pants they depute. On April 10th, 1971, Veterans Stadium opening game 140 young women or Phillies, they were called recruited from four hundred thirty two applicants who’d been advised to wear your shortest skirt and tightest blouse. This classically lowest bar marketing campaign outlived the twins by four years, with the Hot Pants Patrol retiring in nineteen eighty two. So thankfully I never had to sit through any of that. The Phanatic was born in nineteen seventy eight when Bill Giles called up the firm Harrison Erickson, a group connected to Muppet maker Jim Henson. Giles said he wanted something big, green, fuzzy and undefined. This character was going to prowl around at Veterans Stadium, proud home of a jail built to house unruly Eagles fans. So this oddball creature needed to be strategically disarming. The fanatic snout is akin to a megaphone, and it’s got a long stick out a little tongue. It also has an active shooter, hot dogs into the stands, jagels its belly and honors the spirit of Philadelphians and expats by taunting opposing teams. The fanatic portrayed by David Raymond was an instant hit. A newspaper story published just a few weeks after its debut said it was beloved by thousands and thousands of fans. It also said that Phillies fans didn’t call it the fanatic. They called the creature simply the bird. Raymond was just a college age intern when he first stepped into the bird’s big sneakers. Far from a seasoned performer, he was nervous. And on that first day, he asked Giles, what do I do? I just thought about it and said, Have fun. And hastily added. As Raymond walked out the door, G rated fun, Raymond used his experience talking with his deaf mother to communicate with the audience through wild gesticulation, entertaining the crowd and shaping the Phanatic story. I can’t stay annoyed at the fanatic knowing there was so much heart inside that suit and that it was such a clear improvement from the 70s, a time when the. Stadium ran amok with animatronic nightmare children and chauvinism. I’m sorry I doubted you, Phillie Phanatic. I’m glad you didn’t have a creepy twin.

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S5: Yeah, oh, let’s do a celebratory clap. Yeah, yeah.

S4: Thank you. That was great, Melissa. I did not know about.

S5: So, um, fellas, did you know about the Hot Pants Patrol? Because I thought that if the hot pants patrol, I remember feeling, fellas, I didn’t know about.

S17: I think there’s a good reason. Just a quick Google search. They are just the scariest things. Yeah, they are like nonfuel. Yeah, very much so. I wouldn’t even venture to Egg Harbor Township to see them. And I love goofy road trips, but no, it’s nothing.

S9: All right. I was going to suggest a hang up road trip to New Jersey, but I guess that’s up. Melissa, we’ve loved having you on the show so much. It’s been such a pleasure to have you not behind the scenes for us, but behind the scenes for the listeners. And we’ll miss having you in our in our Zoome every week and wish you nothing but the best.

S17: Thanks, Josh. I’ll miss you guys, too. And it’s been great being number one listener every week and getting to make the show sound awesome, all of which you have done.

S4: And, you know, not just in the Zoome, but free kandak in the studio. It’s been a total pleasure having you chaperoned the show week after week. Melissa, thank you so much for all of your work.

S5: Thanks, Stefan. Yeah, I’m the new person here. I don’t have the history. Right, but I’m Melissa. You’ve just been incredibly generous and diligent and kind and sweet and all that stuff. And you’ve made me in particular sounds so much better than I actually am. I so and and people know this. It’s because of Melissa Melissa’s work that I’m actually moving I’m moving to another room because just Melissa is so diligent about our sound quality and maybe you all just take it for granted if you listen to the show. But like, that is a big part of what Melissa does and making this a great show. And so and the last piece is that working with you on the last last dance is one of the best professional experiences I’ve ever had. And it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. And I got glad I got to do it with you and just wish you the best going forward. I know you’re going to do great. Whatever whatever comes up next song.

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S17: My gosh, Joel, thank you. It was wonderful working on that with you. And I’m glad that you don’t have to record under a blanket anymore. Yeah, me too. Happy about that too. Good luck with the move. And they loved working with you as well. Do you guys mind if I do a quick shout out to my Twitter chorus, please. I’m on Twitter at MSG Culprit, so find me say hi.

S2: This is our show for today, our producer, No. One in our hearts, Melissa Kaplan, IBM’s culprit, Klusener Pasha’s. And subscribe or just reach out. Go to sleep. Dotcom softening up. You can email us anything at Slate dot com and don’t forget to subscribe to the show and to read and to review us on our full podcasts for Joel Anderson, Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers our mobility. And thanks for listening.

S7: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members. Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that there are roughly 10 quarterbacks locked into starting jobs for opening day of the twenty twenty one NFL season. You’ll recall that there are thirty two NFL teams, the ten out of thirty two. Not that many. Schefter said that his overunder on teams changed quarterbacks is 18, which sounds alarmingly high. But it was just a few days after that that the Rams and Lions swapped Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford. The Lions got two first round picks and a third rounder, along with Jared Goff, Joel, its quarterback Roulette baby.

S14: What do you think of that deal? And are you excited to see every quarterback in the league change teams?

S5: Yeah, I mean, I you know, I guess the thing is, if you’re down to swapping Jared Goff for Stafford, I mean, who could possibly give a shit? I mean, like, you know, they’re both Persch. Yeah. I mean, I think I former number one picks Jared Goff, a Super Bowl quarterback. Yeah. I mean, again, when we when you say Super Bowl quarterback, it makes people think that, like, that person is the engine behind the team that got them to the Super Bowl, but they just happened to be there. I mean, Jimmy Garoppolo is a Super Bowl quarterback. And, you know, he presumably will be in that number of 18 to twenty two quarterbacks. That will be changing addresses this offseason. So, yeah, I mean, I thought it was it’s not that I was shocked. I was just like, wow, this is a pretty big trade. And in the NFL, you know, a lot of what you see is people getting cut the cut for salary reasons or whatever and, you know, getting signed and free agency. But for teams to make this sort of a trade is, you know, a pretty big deal. And will it change the trajectory of either one of these teams? Well, I think for the Lions, it’s clear that they’re going to be significantly worse. The issue is like what it means for the Rams. And, you know, I know a lot of people think Matt Stafford is really good. You know, he’s one of those quarterbacks. It’s like, oh, he’s got a lot of talent. You see, he’s been held back by the franchise. And I just kind of, you know, I’m dubious of that. But maybe we’ll see something. Maybe Sean McVay knows something. That’s that’s the whole that’s the whole charm of the Sean McVay thing. Right. That he knows things about football that the rest of us don’t. So he sees something in Matt Stafford that I don’t see.

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S10: Well, Sean McVay seem to see something in Jared Goff when they gave him a massive contract extension. Right. So it’s I’ve heard and it makes sense that what seems, Stephon, like an enormous price tag for Stafford, these multiple first round picks and a third rounder, that a lot of that was actually the Rams paying the Lions to take Jared Goff’s big contract. Yeah. Off of their hands. But the other thing that that I think is a natural question after this is like, OK, if this is what it takes to get Matt Stafford, then like what is an unimaginable how will it take to get Deshaun Watson, who is it seems like there’s no going back here, like he’s going to get traded. Like it doesn’t seem like something could change.

S4: I don’t know. The Texans don’t seem to have any you know, they don’t have to trade him. He can hold out, but they certainly have him under contract. And there’s no obligation for them to trade in just because he has to be traded. As for Goff, he’s only twenty six years old. He’s regressed in the last two seasons. But that was the weird part to me, was just how little he was valued. That the draft picks that the Browns gave up to get rid of them seemed like a lot. The two first round picks and a third round pick plus Goff.

S14: That is just an enormous dislike. I mean, huge coming from the franchise that took you, number one, the coach that like built his reputation on you and like went to the Super Bowl with you to then pay massively for another team to take you and swap you for a guy that Joel rightly says is like seven years old and that kind of tantalizing talent and is like in his thirties, it’s a huge diss.

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S4: And maybe that’s an incentive for Jared Goff. It’s not like he’s a terrible quarterback. They were in the playoffs again this year. The NFL works in weird ways now.

S5: Yeah, I guess the thing is with Jared Goff is that Sean McVay and the GM there had been sort of hinting the last couple of months that they were dissatisfied with this potential and that he was the person holding them back, holding back that offense from its real potential, which in some ways I can understand. It’s like Sean McVay is saying, my brain is my genius, isn’t enough to make us a great team that we need, you know, a better quarterback or it’s that well, the only thing really holding my offense back is this quarterback. And, you know, if I get it going, the quarterback, right? Yeah, right.

S4: I mean, and golf is like this contract. Everyone talks about one hundred and ten million guaranteed. He’s only only still owed like forty three million, which is a manageable amount for an NFL roster. So if the Lions were to cut him, you know, you get into issues of debt cap and stuff, but yeah, it’s mystifying. I mean. Maybe he is just being scapegoated and sacrificed in the way that NFL teams are able to do that.

S5: Let me ask you all a question. Are those draft picks that big a deal? Because presumably the Rams are going to be playoff. You know, they’re going to be a playoff caliber team for the next few years. They better be given what they are doing this. So those draft picks will be presumably in the 20s, you know, something like that. And is that it is there that big a difference between having your second round picks and thinking I can, you know, do something with those picks in the second round that I can’t do? You know, is there that big a difference between the fifty fourth pick in the twenty seventh pick in the NFL draft? There’s a lot of guesswork going on at that point, right?

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S7: Well, I would say that there’s some truth to that. But the NFL is not it’s not like that. The NBA like I feel like just acquiring a bunch of first round picks and like getting a bunch of like young guys on rookie deals, given the salary cap is really important to building success in the NFL. And I just it feels like getting guys if you draft well in the back half of the first round, you’ll get great players that way. Well, they necessarily be better than guys that you take in the second round, like probably on average. Yes, but not necessarily. But I can understand, you know, what the Lions are doing there and like mock drafts have them taking, you know, just in fields or something like not necessarily thinking of golf as the franchise savior. The thing that I find fascinating, the storyline here is like Deshaun Watson apparently was pissed that the Texans didn’t interview Robert Sarla. The Jets have Robert Tyler. The Jets are kind of mocked and lambasted by everyone, including us, for not losing and losing out on the chance for the number one pick. Did they kind of back in and they have a lot of draft picks and stuff they can trade to the actually back into a better situation than they would have had if they had taken. Trevor Lawrence, if they can. You know, reports are that like Watson maybe wants to go to the Jets, that he prefers them over, like the dolphins, like could they be in like an amazingly good situation that they don’t deserve?

S5: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, you would would you not you wouldn’t mind having Deshaun Watson over Trevor. Trevor Lawrence. Right. I mean, I think that like. Oh hell yes. I would tell my God a thousand percent. That’s ridiculous. Steve, wait. Even it’s ridiculous. No, because I mean I mean, Trevor Lawrence might be great to like people to talking about him in the keyword.

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S7: There might it’s no, it’s not a slate. It’s like saying, would you prefer, you know, OK, would you prefer LeBron or Zion Williams or something?

S5: Well, I mean, OK, so Watson is not is not LeBron James and this.

S7: All right, fine. It’s like would you like would you prefer Damian Lillard or Tzion or something like that.

S5: I mean I don’t think that’s still not quite the same thing because Tzion although he is like a special number one pick. I mean people are talking about Trevor Lawrence in the way that they talk about Peyton Manning in the way that they talk about John Elway in the way they talk about Andrew Luck like these. Sure-fire, I mean, you can have a quarterback like I would take I would take to Sean Watson. Yeah, well, I’m just saying, is that like I mean, I don’t think it’s that clear that they made the right you know what I mean by playing themselves out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. But I do think that, like, you can look at what they did and say, OK, this is a pretty good I mean, if you didn’t get Trevor Lawrence, if you didn’t get the number one pick to get everybody excited, you got you might get Deshaun Watson. And that’s a pretty damn good thing to sell to your fans, right?

S7: Yeah. I mean, I guess the argument for Lawrence is that he would be cheaper and you wouldn’t have to get rid of the draft picks. But for me, and this is like a perennial discussion around like tanking and, you know, everything like that, I would personally prefer both as a fan and like a team to just be good right now. Like, why why wait to be good if I have the opportunity to, like, potentially win the Super Bowl, like, immediately? Wouldn’t you prefer that?

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S4: I would prefer that. And I’ve got Deshaun Watson, a twenty five who could play for the team for the next ten years and instantly upgrade it in a weak division. I mean, Buffalo, but after Buffalo and make the Jets maybe a potential playoff team, that seems pretty exciting to me versus picking Justin Fields and not knowing what you’re getting or even picking Trevor Lawrence and not knowing what you’re getting. I mean, maybe Peyton Manning, maybe.

S7: I mean, Joel, I know you don’t follow the Houston Texans very closely. I respect that choice. Yeah, but Deshaun Watson is if you look at this part of his career, it is not an exaggeration to say he’s one of the best quarterbacks ever in NFL history for the first four years of his career. Statistically, like he’s it’s I think you’re undervaluing him.

S5: I don’t think I. Well, OK, maybe I am, but I mean, as great as he was, I mean, the Texans still went for twelve last year. I think a pretty big indictment of the franchise. Yeah, no, it is they’re wasting him, but it also shows the limitations that one player can have on any one team. And if, like, I can build if I can get a generational talent like like Deshaun Watson is good. But nobody is saying that he’s a generational talent, that Trevor Lawrence might be right.

S7: And I think that there’s a I know I disagree with that.

S4: I disagree, too. And also, I think, Joe, you’re falling into the NFL fallacy of overvaluing future the way that NFL teams are enamored of draft picks and how many were stockpiling and what we can do to build. Deshaun Watson is a known, proven all star with ten years ahead of them. He is a generational talent man, generational talent.

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S5: I just don’t think anybody was saying that until this year. Like, I just don’t remember anybody saying to John Watson was a generational talent. Well, maybe they look like is a proven loser. They weren’t saying that.

S11: I mean, I guess here’s the thing, too, about tanking or whatever. It’s just like I can understand why a team might look, you know, three or four years down the line, because presumably the chiefs in the bills are going to be good for the next few years. Right. Like they’re going to be the dominant teams. You may want to have your peak come right after theirs. And like, that’s that’s the way to think. Well, OK, maybe we might be able to build a team that can compete with the chiefs in three or four years as opposed to like bring in Deshaun Watson and being like, all right, let’s go nine and seven against those guys and maybe, you know, we’ll be good.

S5: But let’s see. I mean, the Bears make the playoffs. Anybody happy with how that thing is going over there?

S4: I don’t know that it’s competing with the chiefs when John Watson’s twenty eight in pretty good shape.

S9: Just some incredible loser talk from your all.

S4: And by the way, John, you know, you compare you compare Trevor Lawrence to. And who else did you throw in there? What other way?

S5: John Elway. It just in terms of the guys that everybody knew was going to be the number one pick from the time they got in college and they lived up to that.

S4: Yes, maybe. Trevor Lawrence is Jared Goff. There’s another white quarterback, you know, a guy called Pocket Passer.

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S5: Can I hear it when people with Jared Goff with. No, what if that was the side that that was a weak draft and everybody knew it then and it is buried itself out.

S4: But you don’t know that Trevor Lawrence won’t end up being Jared Goff. I mean, I think it’s a fact. I know I know that Sean Watson is better than Jared Goff.

S5: The guys that have thought of this way very rarely flop. A guy thought in the way that the way that people talk about Terblanche very rarely flops.

S9: But my last comment that will win Joel over is that knowing which quarterbacks are going to be good is a thing that no one has ever solved.

S3: You have a quarterback who we know is good, more than good. You cannot.

S5: I think it’s different. I think I think Trevor Lawrence is different. I think everybody understands that this dude is going to be everybody always thinks everybody always thinks this guy is going to be different. It’s not it’s not it’s not always like this. And like even when Cam Newton, with no one, there was some dispute about whether or not he was going to be what he became with Trevor. Like, again, there’s always a few generational talents like Trevor Lawrence.

S9: And everybody knows if Andrew Luck’s career, would you think that that would be considered successful?

S5: But, yes, very much so. Very much so, absolutely.

S7: Don’t you think if you think Deshaun Watson has Andrew Luck’s career knowing based on where he is now going forward, do you think that would be, do you think? I think I think Watson is a very good quarterback.

S11: But I mean, like I do, I think that he’s going to be Peyton Manning. No.

S9: All right. Hang up at Slate Dotcom to decide who who won this debate. That was some good sports talk. Yeah, we were in sports. You there. Thank you. Slate plus members. Thank you, Deshaun Watson, for your excellence. And we’ll be back with more next week.