The Wembanyama Mania Edition

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: This podcast contains explicit language. If you want to know how explicit, keep listening.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hi, I’m Josh Levine at Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of October 11th, 2002. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole and what comes next for those two in their team. The Golden State Warriors will also discuss seven foot four Frenchman Victor Wembanyama for everyone in the NBA, calling him a cross between Kareem, Steph and some previously unknown higher basketball power. And finally, the Athletic’s Steph Yang will be here for a conversation about Sally Yates his report on abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League. I’m in Washington, D.C., and I’m the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast. One year also in DC is Stefan FATSIS. He’s the author of the books Wild An Outside Word Freak and a Few Seconds of Panic. Hey, Stefan.

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Stefan Fatsis: Hi, Josh. How are you?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I feel like we haven’t gotten a softball update in a while. The listeners are champing at the bit.

Stefan Fatsis: Well, you picked a good day to ask, and I did not set you up because in our doubleheader last Friday, I went six for eight. I mean, you could probably argue that two of the fly balls maybe should have been caught and might have been by like a 35 year old man. I was going to.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Say we need to crowdfund an official score. Yeah. These games. No, no.

Stefan Fatsis: No, you don’t. Absolutely not. Because it would bruise all of these over 50 and 60 egos, three singles, two doubles, triple over. Everybody said that would not have been caught by a 35 year old.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But who’s counting?

Stefan Fatsis: But I did. I’m counting. But I did take a hard ground ball off of my shin playing shortstop because I have no sense of depth perception anymore because I’m old and miss Ground Ball sometimes. Made a couple of good plays, though.

Joel Anderson: Did we talk about why you’re playing shortstop? Because I’ve been. I mean, because I’m good. Because you’re the best athlete on the team, Stefan. I mean, we have I mean, I’m.

Stefan Fatsis: The best athlete on the team.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The biggest kid on the team. Play a shortstop job. You know? You know how Little League works.

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Joel Anderson: That’s true.

Stefan Fatsis: I’m the best shortstop on the team. I’m also one of the, you know, four or five players that can still run and move laterally. So that helps.

Joel Anderson: A lot of athleticism out there.

Stefan Fatsis: A lot of good points there.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: With us from California, a man who never would stoop to revel in his former athletic glory. It’s the host of Slow Burn Seasons three and six. And like I said last week, a proud alum of undefeated Texas Christian University. Joel Anderson. Hello, Joe.

Joel Anderson: Hey, what’s going on? Excited to see TCU be undefeated. I’m still not quite on the Sonny Dykes train, but let’s see, they got another big game this weekend against undefeated Oklahoma State. If we can do that and win that game, maybe I’ll stop calling him September, Sonny. So I guess. Well, things remain to be seen.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Not quite on the train is at least progress from actively trying to derail the train by throwing things to the tracks.

Joel Anderson: I am going to be insistent that I’m going to be right that TCU should have hired Deion Sanders when they had a chance. But okay, you know, we got Sonny Dykes now, so let’s let’s work with what we got.

Stefan Fatsis: It’s almost like you’re not happy, Joe. I’ll be happy.

Joel Anderson: Well, I mean, you know, I believe in process and not results. And I’m not getting fooled by a50 start. Look, keep in mind, like.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They should have gone for it on fourth down, and they punted, and the other team muffed the punt.

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Joel Anderson: Exactly. Look, three wins, possibly the worst team in P5, the worst Oklahoma team in a generation, and Kansas. So, I mean, let’s just slow down a little bit even before we throw him before we start making plans to build him a statue alongside coach.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They’re they’re three wins, two against, you know, teams that have won national championships, historic powers, and then an undefeated conference opponent on the road.

Joel Anderson: Oh, yeah.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So it’s all about framing.

Joel Anderson: The historically powerful Colorado. That’s right. That’s true. Can Avis McGee shout out.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: In our Slate Plus segment, we are going to wallow in the New York Mets playoff defeat in the wildcard round and.

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Stefan Fatsis: Discuss with.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Favorite excuse me, the least favorite playoff formats. I know Joel has strong opinions about how playoffs should be constructed and we’ll hear them. And to hear that conversation, you need to be a Slate Plus member. Slate.com should hang up. Plus you get bonus segments, you get ad free shares, and you get to support us. Slate.com sashaying up plus.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Last Wednesday, the Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted sources Colin. There was a physical altercation at practice today that has the team considering disciplinary action toward Draymond Green. That team being the Warriors. Two days later, video of that, quote, physical altercation got leaked to TMZ. And what it showed was a dude, Draymond Green, clocking another did his teammate Jordan Poole squared in the face That video, as videos often do, changed the trajectory of this whole situation. Draymond has stepped away from the team indefinitely, but not before holding a 40 minute press conference in which he held forth on the embarrassment that he’d caused himself, his team and Jordan Poole. Here’s a clip.

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Joel Anderson: You know, I am a very flawed human being. And, you know, I, I think I personally know those flaws.

Speaker 4: Better than anyone.

Joel Anderson: And the work that I’ve done to correct those flaws, I think has been tremendous. And yet there’s still a very long way to go. I think that’s a constant working process. I am a constant working process and I’ll continue to do that work.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Joel You would have to guess that the Warriors and maybe the league are going to do more than consider disciplinary action against him at this point. And so as hang up and lessons Chief Frakes analysis and also hang up and listen. National Skirmish Correspondent What did you think when you saw that video?

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Joel Anderson: Before I ventured too much into that. I should point out first that so much of my commentary about fight videos is about how and why people should avoid fights. If I tend to make fun of someone caught on tape in a fight, it’s because they look juvenile and ridiculous. This wasn’t that. As you mentioned at the top, Josh, the video changed the trajectory here and I don’t think things will ever be the same. It’s really difficult to get over not only your teammate punching you out because, I mean, it’s one thing to say, oh, this was a physical altercation and we don’t have any idea about what it is. But what we actually saw was Draymond knock him. I mean, knock, knock, knock him out, but knock him down.

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Joel Anderson: And so let’s just say that maybe they were able to somehow get over that inside the walls of the team facility, the video getting out. Like with anything always changes the response to the team and how the team is going to respond to it. I mean, this is not the same thing, but I always go back to Ray Rice. Like Ray Rice was going to play in the NFL again until the video got out.

Joel Anderson: And obviously this is a much less significant news story, but I can’t imagine that the Warriors can, you know, go around, play 82 games this season and have that dynamic in the locker room. Other teams knowing what has gone on there, like just just imagine what it’s like on a night to night basis with.

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Joel Anderson: The Warriors opponents conceded Jordan Poole Draymond Green throughout the rest of the year. After this has happened, I mean, we know how competitive professional athletes are. Just imagine the sheer torque the Jordan Poole is going to have to live with it at least through the first few months of the season. So I find it really hard to imagine that the Warriors will be able to recover from this in quite the same way. Which does not mean that I don’t think they won’t be title contenders. It’s just a matter of will Draymond be there at the end of the season or not? And, you know, I’m glad that Draymond is proud of the work that he’s done to correct his falls. But obviously he still has a lot more work to go. And the issue is, are the Warriors going to want to stick around to see him go through that work or is he going to have to do it somewhere else?

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Stefan Fatsis: Oh, here’s the redemption narrative that you just laid out in some ways. Joel Jordan Poole gets trash talk. He starts to get upset. Who comes to his rescue? Draymond. On the court handle things where you got to handle them. Everybody’s happy. My mens are made. We move forward toward a fifth championship.

Joel Anderson: I think so.

Stefan Fatsis: That’s the scenario. I mean, what is interesting to me, Josh, is the way that the team responded to the leak of the video. You know, there were reports that TMZ didn’t spend that much money on it for it, like ten grand or so. Nobody really knows. And it allowed the team to have, as happens when things are leaked, to blame the leaker and to say that this wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been leaked. That’s what changed the dynamic here.

Stefan Fatsis: Steve Kerr said When things are kept internally, really it’s almost easy to handle them. It’s so much cleaner and smoother and you can move forward as soon as things are leak. Now all hell breaks loose and that affects every single player coach, but especially the players because of that, because everything is out there. The players are now having to deal with all this stuff. We are having to answer all these questions and it puts us in a very difficult spot. Which raises the question of what’s the issue? Was it Draymond clocking Jordan Poole, whose knees buckled and he had to be supported by the dudes that were standing near him? Or is it that this has gone public? And to listen to Steve Kerr, it was that this went public.

Joel Anderson: The expectation to me Steve Kerr is talking about here is that Paul is going to have to stuff it and keep quiet in the face of in the face of an institutional cover up. That’s a really bad dynamic and we’ll talk about it in another segment where people are abused at the workplace and expected to keep quiet about it. It’s not quite the same thing, but that’s what. KERR That’s the dynamic that Kerr is telling you that they have here. Like, Hey, man, we’re going to cover this up. We’re not going to talk about it. It’s not a big deal. And Jordan Poole is just going to have to deal with it.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, And like we saw with the Supreme Court leak of the Dubs decision and the focus on the mechanics of that and who leaked it is kind of a distraction from the fact that, you know, Roe no longer exists in this country. Another example of a thing that’s different in terms of weight and importance, but bears some similarities.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But, you know, if you’re inside the institution, whether it’s the Supreme Court or the Golden State Warriors, the distinction between them and us is they already knew what happened. So for them, the leak and the video, it’s like they didn’t learn anything new from the video. Like for them, that was the change and the dynamic was the fact that they have a leaker in their midst. So I understand why for them internally, it was a big deal. You maybe don’t need to say that publicly, though, and kind of give the impression or the reality that that’s the thing that you cared more about. But Draymond has always been a fascinating and polarizing figure, both externally and internally.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I think back to. An incident that happened around the time that they won their first championship when they were playing in Oklahoma City. And it shared a similar dynamic in a couple of ways. This was the game that Steph Curry made, that famous like 40 foot shot. At the end there was like the kind of Peak Warriors moment, and this game, it turned out, was Peak Warriors in another way, which is that at halftime Draymond got into a screaming match or just screamed at Steve Kerr saying with evident like pain in his voice that he wasn’t a robot. That Kerr was like trying to, you know, kind of destroy him on the court, destroying his confidence, telling him not to shoot and all of this.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the thing that was that that made this the story is that Lisa Salters was the sideline reporter for I guess it was ABC in that game and reported on it and said that this wasn’t just like an ordinary shouting match, that it seemed scary both because that Draymond again, the kind of emotion in his voice, made the whole thing seem like it went up like several notches beyond just an ordinary workplace argument. But also like that there were police outside the locker room that seemed like they didn’t know what to do and that they might have to go in. And apparently the whole incident like really shook the Warriors.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so, you know, managing him and knowing that when he’s at his best on the court and off the court, he has the key to kind of unlocking their their team, but also knowing that there are going to be these lows and have always been these lows that make you question, is it better for him and for us to have him? Off the team.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And you know, Bob Myers, Stefan, the general manager, has said repeatedly over a period of years that he has a soft spot for Draymond that they all love Draymond. And I think, you know, we’ve been talking about him and listening to him for years. Just an incredibly smart person and somebody who is gift with even before his podcast has given us kind of access to his inner thoughts to the extent that he has demons, to his demons, to his shit, talk to, to whatever. And so that’s what makes this, I think, so difficult and interesting is that we, to the extent that we know anyone in sports, which is a folly to think that we do, we probably know him Stefan better than we know anyone.

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Stefan Fatsis: And that’s why I think the release of the video is in fact so important, because in the abstract, when you hear that a couple of guys on the team got into a fight at practice, you think, Well, that’s routine, but because it is kind of routine. You know, Steve Kerr said, you know, I’ve been 32 years. I’ve probably seen 20 plus fist fights at practice. He was himself involved with one with Michael Jordan in 1995, and that was recounted in The Last Dance. And what that was.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: A fist fight in that they both punched each other. Don’t. Yeah, what do you call it, Joel, as our chief punching correspondent, would you consider this a sucker punch? Because Pull did push him first.

Joel Anderson: No, I mean, I without raising the stakes here and like, using legal terminology, I feel like Draymond assaulted him. He bumped. Okay, you know what? This is the this is the best, better time. I’m going to use this. Draymond bum rushed in. You know he didn’t need him. Yeah. The thing that I think that is key if you watched the video and there was a coach standing right next to them, nobody thought a fight was about to happen, you know, because we know what it’s like when guys are talking shit and it looks like it’s about to get active. And we didn’t see anybody step in between or like look concerned that something was going to happen, which is why.

Stefan Fatsis: The absence of audio is. Yeah, here.

Joel Anderson: Right.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: There’s also these people know Draymond and his temper better than any one on earth.

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Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, there was no rebound. There was no elbow thrown. This was not in the course of play. Jordan Poole was a stand on the baseline jawing.

Joel Anderson: Yeah. And so I, you know, and I think people were getting a little lost a little bit sucked into the sucker punch talk of it. And I think that because there’s a lot of male performance around sports, like a lot of male theater like stuck a point stay ready tough guy talk. Who’s the alpha in this team, You know, that kind of stuff. And I really don’t understand like, you know, we’re a couple of generations into this now, but like, why haven’t we talked about what our expectation should be for men in a professional sports environment? Because you’re right, I’ve been in fights in the locker room, like in high school, in college, and I’ve seen them and I’ve heard about them and reported on them. But why is that acceptable behavior? Like, I mean, I don’t I understand a confrontation in the heat of competition.

Joel Anderson: Right. And so I can understand a moment where, you know, guys lose their tempers are fighting for something. It’s really intense. And we get into a fight or even at training camp in practice when it’s really hot and guys are hitting each other all day and maybe somebody takes a shot at you and it gets a little bit out of control. But like the idea that people us should accept that sometimes, man, I’m going to take a punch, I’m going to swing at you because I’m upset. And this is just sports. That doesn’t make a lot of sense and it doesn’t really like the message that we want to see. Like, is that the message that people send their kids into sports with all the time that, hey, man, you know, you might got to stay ready because somebody might punch you for talking shit in sports? I don’t get that. Why? That is something that we continue to accept in sports.

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Stefan Fatsis: And that’s why the video, I think, was so important here, because without the video, the Warriors could just look at this internally and Draymond and Poole could look at and say, All right, we got there was, you know, I lost my cool, I hit you, I’m sorry, whatever. But the video is pretty graphic, especially without audio. It looks unprovoked and it looks like he could have really hurt that guy because Draymond Green is a big ass man.

Joel Anderson: I remember the Brian Westbrook Steven Davis fight that happened with the commies back in the day or, you know, Oakland. Cruz for Chicago Bears broke a teammates jaw during a fight or Steve Smith you know legendarily attacked two teammates and broke another teammate’s jaw.

Stefan Fatsis: I love the Joel can just rattle off these fights.

Joel Anderson: Oh yeah I.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Went most recently in the NBA with Bobby Portis and yeah was a nickel Ameritech.

Joel Anderson: Emeritus Yeah and I mean again I don’t know. Maybe those things would have been different if we’d caught the video of it. Although there was video of the Westbrook Davis fight that ultimately came out. If I’m not mistaken, I don’t I don’t know if Westbrook played for the Commodores again the rest of that year.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But yeah, now that you mention that, I mean, I hadn’t thought about that in a while, but there were all these conversations after that about like the different players manhood and like it rubbed me a little bit the wrong way. I’m curious of both of you guys, or either of you guys felt this, but I feel like in his press conference, Draymond was just going on a little too long about how embarrassing it was for Jordan Poole just like he was.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: He’s so embarrassed and his family is so embarrassed, and if that was me, I would be so embarrassed and my mom would be embarrassed was just like, What kind of point are you are you trying to like, just really emphasize the fact that you kicked, that you kicked his ass and it just I guess, like you were saying, Joel, just the notion that everybody in the entire world is going to think that Jordan Poole is like a wimp or something or that, you know, he’s going to get mocked on the court and off the court for getting his, you know, you know, ass knocked out. But it just that rubbed me the wrong way that Draymond really emphasizing the fact of how embarrassing oh was.

Joel Anderson: Why aren’t you embarrassed Draymond you’re 32 years he’s.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Embarrassed Isn’t.

Stefan Fatsis: That exactly.

Joel Anderson: How he is? But I mean.

Stefan Fatsis: Deeply embarrassed.

Joel Anderson: Focused. Well, first of all, he said that he is. We’ll see. We’ll see. I mean, I mean, this is has been a lot of incidents for Draymond where his anger has gotten the better of him in really critical moments. And so if anything, I think of Draymond is sort of pathetic in this way. And so there’s a couple of things that undergird all of this. Right. And we haven’t talked about the contract piece of it is that Jordan Poole and Draymond theoretically fighting in a manner of speaking for the same pool of money. The Warriors are way over the salary cap and they’re not going to be able to pay everybody. And they’ve got young guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole who are due for huge extensions and they’ve got guys like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green who are due for at least one more big contract. And it doesn’t seem like Draymond Green is going to be that guy.

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Joel Anderson: And this comes a few months after we were looking at Draymond Green in the NBA Finals against the Celtics and being like, Man, that dude is damn near unplayable now. He recovered and played decently in the last few games of the finals against the Celtics, but like we were looking at Draymond to be like, Man, I don’t know. You know, maybe the Warriors might have to take him out of the game because he when you’re when he’s out there, you’re playing for when he did.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Bench him at the end of one of those games.

Joel Anderson: Yeah. So in a lot of ways I’m the one that I’m looking at Draymond like, Man, you’re the one. This should be a bear. So maybe he is. But I mean, the other thing I think and I’ll I’ll let it go out to this is that Draymond’s lived on the edge for a very long time. Like probably few people have gotten more out of limited athletic ability and talent than Draymond Green. And the way that he’s done that is by being a fiery, passionate dude. It may take him to the Hall of Fame. It’s made him, you know, the focal point of fourth world champions.

Joel Anderson: But at a certain point, it’s also really hurt him and the team. It drove away. Katie, you know what I mean? Who knows what they could have done if they had been able to retain Kevin Durant. So, I mean, I think we’re looking at a guy at the end of his career looking at, Hey, man, I don’t know if I’m going to get the money that I thought I was going to get from the team. That values me more than anybody else. And we’re 32 years old looking at the possible end of his career. And if anything, all of this makes me feel sorry for Draymond Draymond. To me, it’s not Jordan Poole who looks like he should be embarrassed. It’s Draymond. He’s the one who looks like the pathetic figure here, even though he’s the one that landed the punch.

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Stefan Fatsis: And Jordan Poole went out and scored 20 plus points in the next game two nights later or whatever.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, and we’ve seen this dynamic again in the Last Dance, the kind of final year, the Bulls dynasty, how they were, they were fighting with each other, their issues with Pippen not getting paid. There was a not just a sense, but an understanding that their dynasty was was coming to an end. And like you said, we saw it with that Warriors team in 2019 that there is disagreement on how much the Draymond Katie feud really broke that team up. There’s you know, a lot of people think the draft was going to leave regardless, but everybody within that organization describes it as being a miserable year.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now, they ultimately were sunk by injuries, not by any of the personality stuff or at least the injuries made it. So we were never able to find out if they were going to get sunk by the personality stuff. But it didn’t seem like it. They didn’t make it to the finals. But the Warriors are I mean, we’ve you know, we saw Joe Lacob kind of famously say in The New York Times magazine that they were light years ahead of. Of everyone. It’s an organization that prides itself on being smarter than everyone, on having a better structure organizationally than everyone on having the best offensive system. On having a coach that is smart and thoughtful and enlightened and can manage everything.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And you know, ultimately with. You know, we’ve already talked about Durant. We don’t need the labor his kind of role in the dynasty but. The whole thing. Has depended for all of these years on Steph Curry and Draymond Green. They’re dynamic mostly on the court. They’re dynamic off the court as leaders as well. Steph gets hurt and they have no chance. Draymond punches LeBron in the nuts and they have no chance. You know, this these these various things that happen.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But the whole thing with the Warriors, we can kind of get too cute about, you know, what it is that they’ve they’ve done and how they’ve changed the world and how smart they are. But I don’t think that they want anything that any other team doesn’t want. They just want to win championships. And I think the whole the Draymond Green experience, getting them as a second round pick having him be. A Hall of Famer with his defensive ability, with his playmaking ability. They were not one those, you know, four championships without him. And he probably cost them or may have cost them a couple more. But any team, whether they’re quote unquote, smart and thoughtful like the Warriors are.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: You think the Sacramento Kings wouldn’t have taken the Draymond Green experience? I mean, everyone would. And I think if this is the end for them, if he doesn’t get an extension, whatever his final chapter ends up being with the team, they would have taken it a million times out of a million. And I feel like I don’t think his reputation, if we listen to this and look at it five years from now, he’s going to be on TNT talking about, you know, his how it was in the old days. And like Charles Barkley threw a guy through a plate glass window. It’s just going to be part of, you know, crazy Draymond, the winner who just did some.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Can you believe that he did that or that I. I did that. And if we’re not laughing about it, we’re still going to be watching probably people on a TV set, you know, laughing about it at some point of next Victor Wembanyama, the seven foot four teenager from France who LeBron James called an alien and.

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Joel Anderson: Possibly the best prospect in the modern history of basketball, made his UFC debut in Las Vegas last week. Victor Wembanyama, a seven foot four teenager from France, came to America to showcase the talent and physical gifts that have inspired some of the most daunting comparisons any of us have ever heard. Is he Ralph Sampson with Kevin Durant’s jump shot? Is he Dirk Nowitzki with a few more inches and a commitment to defense? Is he the Kristaps Porzingis that was promised?

Joel Anderson: No matter what, Wembanyama is going to be the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Barring an absolutely unforeseeable turn of events, he confirmed that in a pair of games against the G-league Ignite a select NBA minor league team. He scored 73 points in 70 total minutes, demonstrating one of the most diverse offensive skill sets we’ve ever seen from a seven footer at this age. His showdown versus Scoot Henderson, the presumptive second pick in the 2023 draft, was everything it was billed to be and more. So, Josh, I know you watched at least some of those games. What I want to know, should your pelicans brick for Vic.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: They are one of the few teams that shouldn’t because they’re good now and also they have swap rates with the Lakers. So we just have to sit back and watch the Lakers implode again. Then we get the number one pick, Baby Zion.

Joel Anderson: Oh, so you can get. You think? You think you can. You think you could somehow get them with Zion as well? That John wouldn’t have to go in a in a trade or something or.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now they get their swap rights with the Lakers. They get the Lakers pick if the Lakers get in the lottery. And. And the Lakers. The ping pong balls go our way.

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Joel Anderson: That wouldn’t seem to be fair, but go ahead. That’s fine.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: With him. To be fair, the Lakers are bad. Yeah, that’s.

Joel Anderson: That’s horrible. Or the Zion could somehow be on the same team. Maybe that’ll happen in an All-Star Game.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, it’s just, you know, all the. All the talent just goes to flows to New Orleans and the NBA. It’s everybody. Everybody needs to complain about that. We’re getting a little bit off track. It’s hard to say which has been more enjoyable, actually watching this dude play, which we should talk about what that looked like because it was absurd. Or watching scouts and writers and everyone around the NBA just kind of comparing it to lavish praise on this guy. I mean, I’ve heard. 100% chance of being a Hall of Famer. I’ve heard. Best prospect since LeBron.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I’ve heard better prospect than LeBron. Best since Kareem. There’s best prospect ever. So I don’t know, Stefan, if you can kind of describe what it looks like to see this guy play basketball and maybe you can kind of make your attempt to apply even more pressure to this young French gentleman.

Stefan Fatsis: Well, it’s funny because I watched the first game, I watched the first half, and he didn’t do that much in the first half. And then in the third quarter after a.

Joel Anderson: Couple of.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Blocks, couple of threes.

Stefan Fatsis: But it wasn’t like he.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Beating some.

Stefan Fatsis: Guy in the game and was doing absurd things. Most of that happened in the second half and the things he did were absurd. Shooting on the run, pulling up from 30 step back threes, reaching over the tops of of rebounders heads and grabbing balls, blocking shots into the stands. But it was mostly the you know, the thing that in some ways we have come to expect from big players, particularly big European players, that they’ve grown up watching Dirk and watching Durant and watching Big Man that can dribble and take over a game and pass and shoot threes.

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Stefan Fatsis: So for Wembanyama and he said this after one of the games, this was just what I did. I was I’ve been dribbling the ball and shooting from far away since I was a little kid. I never knew there was anything else but watching a seven foot four guy do that with the grace and fluidity that this guy possesses already was pretty amazing. I mean, I’m no NBA scout, but when like people like John Hollinger are using all caps in their stories to describe something that they saw him do, I’m going to I’m going to believe that.

Joel Anderson: I’m excited to be a Wembanyama hipster because I’ve been waiting for everyone to catch up. And I don’t know, I assume I’ve talked about this a couple of times on this podcast, watching him last year in the FIBA under 19 World Cup when France played the U.S. in the final game and that U.S. team.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Keep in mind, I get worked by Kenneth often Junior.

Joel Anderson: He did not. It worked, but I can’t. But you know who else was on that team with Chet Holmgren? And a lot of people at that point had not seen Chet Holmgren play. And they also had Jaiden Ivey, who was another lottery pick. And by far Wembanyama was the best player on the floor. Chet Holmgren did not have shit for him, and at that point I was like, Man, I’m I’m all in. I’m ready for the Rockets to start thinking for him now. And when you come, he was absurd then. And so it was really interesting to see everybody see with the Zach Close and Jonathan Givony have been saying for, you know, a year or two at this point that this dude is the real deal.

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Joel Anderson: And when I looked at him, what I thought about it because everybody’s been talking about the Bryan comparison or the Kevin Durant comparison. And what I thought about actually was Ralph Sampson and I looked up the first Sports Illustrated story about Ralph Sampson in 1979 when he was a freshman at Virginia. He was listed at seven foot four, £207, and they were just talking about how he was the leading scorer, a rebound, a field goal shooter, shot blocker ball stealer that, you know, this is what they said. Sampson is everything he was supposed to be, which is good and not close to what he is going to be, which is even better.

Joel Anderson: And I don’t remember I don’t know if a lot of people got a chance to see Ralph Sampson play. I did when he was with the Houston Rockets in the mid eighties. But that dude was supposed to have been the future of basketball and it didn’t work out because he got hurt. He had knee injuries and he didn’t last as long as he did, although he did make a couple of All-Star teams.

Joel Anderson: If this guy manages to stay healthy, which is always the thing with big guys, not just not just basketball players of this pedigree, but just big guys and especially skinny guys because they have foot injuries, all sorts of stuff. Usually that comes up. But if he can avoid all of that, I don’t think anybody’s lying about him being a Hall of Famer, man. You know what I mean? Like, I’m trying to figure out the ways in which if you just stick to the floor, if he just manages to play 35 minutes a game for the rest of his life, I’m trying to figure out the ways in which he won’t be. A success. And I don’t see it. I mean, I didn’t I didn’t see any weaknesses in his game, even when stuff and thought that he wasn’t doing much in the first half. I was like, Holy shit. Like, Henderson was brave enough to take it in on him. But like for the most part it was very difficult for G League at night to get anything at the rim, even though they won that game.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, the play of the game or the play of the two games for me was when Scout had successfully challenged him at the rim a couple of times. Then it was like the third or fourth time. Victor just stuck his hand out and just just fell out of the sky. And that’s what his role as in the NBA, even if he had no ability to shoot as he’s and there’s the picture Rudy Gobert was at the games and you know, sometimes these guys like you don’t know how tall they are because they undress, they undersell their height or they oversell it like he made Rudy Gobert look like a normal sized person, like this guy is a legit whatever he is seven, four, seven, five, whatever with, you know, an eight foot wingspan. And so it’s not only that whole block your shot, it’s that he completely distorts the game and their areas of the floor large areas of the floor that you just cannot go into. And so that’s like a Hall of Fame floor at that point. But I forget I apologize.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I didn’t I don’t remember who shared this list, but like every player of like seven foot three or higher, the only two that have not had just massive injury problems are the two most plodding players on that list, which are Mark Eaton and Rick Smits. And this guy does not play like Mark Eaton and Rick Smits. And the big weakness in his game is that he is not strong enough at this point and that is intentional. He has never lifted a.

Stefan Fatsis: Single weight.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: In his life because the people training him is agents. He’s got like a full time, you know, physio. They don’t want to tax his body. They’re people seeing him do these routines on, you know, in practice in Vegas where you’re just spending 45 minutes on activation. He’s doing all this stuff like with his feet and he’s you know, they’re being very thoughtful about how much he plays and all all that stuff and stuff. And whoever is like behind this and handling them seems like they’re doing it absolutely the right way. I mean, they’ve also talked about like sending him to specialists, like preemptively I mean, this guy is like worth a hypothetical billion plus dollars, probably an NBA contract if everything goes the way that people think it is.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But you have to think that some of it is just like wishful thinking isn’t the right word, but the idea of like if he stays healthy, like the track record is that somebody like this is not going to stay healthy. So it’s you know, we’re hoping, you know, hope is in a plan they are planning. But there is a certain kind of like, you know, gritting your teeth.

Stefan Fatsis: Fingers are crossed all around the NBA, Right. I mean.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And Joel, you’re right. Like people, you know, that the cognizant, the Joel Anderson’s the Jonathan Givony is are like this guy is going to be great. But not none of those people, by their own admission, thought that he was going to play as well as he did in Vegas, traveling across the Atlantic in the first time, playing in a game like this. I mean, it’s ridiculous.

Stefan Fatsis: It is the first time playing in a 48 minute game, a first time playing with NBA rules, first time playing in front of like a hundred media members and scouts from every team and NBA all stars sitting courtside.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so Stefan like one of the big talking points kind of is like, you know, him saying, Oh, well, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t shut it down with people saying he should just like put himself in bubble wrap and not play before the draft. How much of that do you think is like performative macho bullshit? And they should be even more careful with him than there being? And how much of it is like, you know, now it makes sense. Like, you know, this guy is a basketball player, he needs to play basketball and.

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Stefan Fatsis: Want to learn to play basketball too, because for as good as he is, he’s still How old? What did we say?

Joel Anderson: 18, 18, 18.

Stefan Fatsis: And by his own admission and by his coaches admissions, he still needs to play basketball and he plays for this team in France. That is not one of the top teams. And apparently he intentionally moved to a not top team because a national team coach agreed to stay with this not top team and he wanted to stay with him.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Metropolitan 92.

Stefan Fatsis: Stefan And he has the ability to run this team. And be the focal point of the offense and defense, which apparently, you know, the French league is still grown ass men playing a grown ass game. And he’s 18. And here he had the commitment that he would be able to be the focus of the offense and play a lot. So I think the deliberative ness here is, you know, from a basketball perspective, probably makes sense. This isn’t football where, you know, he’s going to get a concussion or you shut it down because you’re not getting paid. He’s getting paid and he needs to get better. And even though he doesn’t need to impress anybody in the NBA because of this very smart thing that the NBA did, which was stage this event, to generate this attention for all of the people that didn’t know who he was. And I will put myself in that group.

Stefan Fatsis: This made a ton of sense. This has created not just the external hype for this guy and the excitement for this player who has played one game in the United States to get two games now. Sorry, it now has created internal hype within the league. And this leads to, I think, the next point that we should discuss, which is NBA owners all wanting to land this guy and the conversations about how much should we tank are undoubtedly ramping up inside front offices.

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Joel Anderson: Before we dip into that, I would like to say that I am amazed and really happy at this for this generation of athletes because there was a belief that you had to go to the NCAA, that the only way for school, Henderson and Victor Wembanyama, to get this sort of attention and get this sort of training would have been to go to Duke or Kentucky or something like that. And we’re seeing this alternative pathway that seems like it’s working out and involves a lot of athlete care and protection in a way then you don’t know that you’re getting if a guy played for, you know, I like John Calipari, but I mean, let’s just say, you know, was was homeboy in Auburn, Bruce Pearl, You know what I mean? Like this is there’s a lot of care and that that goes into setting up this pathway into the NBA and there’s intentionality.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, that’s intentionality. Yeah. And I’m really excited about that. I mean, we all tuned in. What was the last college basketball game that wasn’t in the tournament that we tuned in to watch and talked about like this, to watch these guys. I do like that piece of it. But to your point. Stephan Yeah, man. I mean, the incentives to think for this guy are extremely high and I think you’re probably going to see we get to the season and there’s going to be teams that are like, okay, maybe they’re four games, you know, maybe we’re 40 games to the season and you’re four games out of the play in tournament. Well, what the hell are you competing for? Is it is it better to compete to be the eighth and the eighth and ninth seed in the West? Or is it better to give it all up? And I wonder how NBA fans and like let’s say you’re a fan of like the Pacers or something like that, like why do you give a shit about this season as a Rockets fan?

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Stefan Fatsis: What do you want the next Rick Smith’s?

Joel Anderson: Yeah. Why that was. Who was the other lumbering guy who was.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Mark Eaton baby?

Joel Anderson: Oh man. Did Mark Eaton die recently? I’ll repeat anyway, but yeah, man, I mean, even if you get Mark Eaton if you got Mark Eaton with the number one pick in the draft, you probably would be happy about it regardless. Even so, you don’t sound like it looks like act like Mark Eaton wasn’t an effective NBA player, so and I think he probably made about as many All-Star games as Manu Ginobili. So the incentives to tank are really, really high. And I mean, the NBA doesn’t want to talk about it. They don’t you know, this is they’re trying to discourage teams from doing that. But with a guy like this, this is who you tank for. You don’t tank just so you get more shots of Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren. You tank for dude like this. And it would be really hard to to compel all these like I look at Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs who slowly, slowly but surely dismantled his team this past year. I’m like, Huh, Maybe pop bitches as smart as everybody says he is. You know.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: When you said This is who you tank for the song, This is What you Came for by Calvin Harris and Rihanna popped into my head. I think Rihanna, the NBA fan, the Jazz should do a Victor Wembanyama tribute song. This is who you tank for. I will not sing it. I will not talk to you.

Joel Anderson: About even that’ll be in the bone, even.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Even for slave class. I wouldn’t torture. But 14% odds are for the top three teams. They flattened them out. They both decreased the chances that the worst team will get the number one pick and they’ve flattened it. So every one of the top three got a 14% shot. And so there’s no incentive to like, do a Sixers style mega tank. Like, we won’t see the first attempt. To go an 82. But with Scoot Henderson also being great. If you only get the number two pick, that’s a pretty good consolation prize. Plus, it’s purported to be a deep draft there. These like Thompson twins, who are not the Thompson twins from the 1980s, different Thompson twins who are very good. There’s a guy at Arkansas who’s going to be at Arkansas who’s very good. Look, a guy in college, John, reason to watch college basketball. So the incentives will be strong.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But I think what’s going to happen and I’m laughing at the Knicks already, I haven’t even invoked that you’re going to get irrational like like how Knicks fans with their 14% chance or whatever, it was just convinced themselves that 14% meant 100% and that Zion Williamson was definitely going there. You are going to get irrational fan bases, you’re going to get irrational media members, you’re going to get probably a rational team executives who just like think that this guy.

Stefan Fatsis: You’re going to get something to the owners is what you’re going to get, right? Because the front office has probably already made its calculations. John Hollinger in The Athletic wrote that he thinks that there are 23 teams that are trying this year and seven that are actively not trying and are almost locks for the lottery. So it’s the fringe teams that have to decide, you know, do we want to win 30 games or do we want to win 18 games?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I just think the Lakers need to put Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup, run the offense there, play him 42 minutes a game and that’s their best, their best chance. I think that’s America’s best chance.

Stefan Fatsis: Joel, just for the record, I think we should wrap it up here with this. The website tank often NCAA.com has San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City as the bottom three right now.

Joel Anderson: I mean, aren’t they all in the same division? Who’s supposed to win that in the next segment? Steph Yang, a staff writer with the Athletic on abuse and women’s soccer.

Stefan Fatsis: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team friendly against England last week was supposed to be a showcase for the sport. The 2019 Women’s World Cup champions against the recently crowned 20 €22 champs. A packed Wembley Stadium in London. A tasty preview of next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. England won 2 to 1, but the match was overshadowed by the release of a report by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates into years of misconduct by male coaches at the top levels of women’s professional soccer in the United States and the cover ups that followed by Club and National Federation executives, most of them male too. Joining us now is Steph Yang, who writes about women’s soccer for the Athletic and has been covering the Yates report. Welcome back to the podcast, Steph.

Speaker 5: Thanks for having me on.

Stefan Fatsis: The year long investigation commissioned by the US Soccer Federation was prompted by reporting in the Washington Post, the Athletic and other media outlets. Yates and her team talked to more than 200 people, including more than 100 current and former players. And the 173 page report includes new and sometimes sickening details about the manipulative creeps who manage to get job after job, despite example after example of sexual and emotional abuse of players. Steph Can you start by summarizing in broad terms what the report does and doesn’t accomplish?

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Speaker 5: Sure. We’ll start off with the scope of the report, which they’re careful to note, which is that this is covering the National Women’s Soccer League, only getting 200 people just to, you know, cover one league. Kind of gives you the idea of the scope of an investigation of this size just for NWSL alone. They had, you know, about a dozen lawyers at any one time working on this. And obviously after a year, the, you know, personnel hours must have been absolutely enormous. So they weren’t able to go into any kind of misconduct necessarily specific to the women’s national team, even though it did cross over in that area or youth soccer. Although another note, as they noted, you know, a lot of this behavior is rooted in youth soccer, but unfortunately, that wasn’t their remit. So they were able to pretty thoroughly dismantle some timelines within the National Women’s Soccer League, but they had to stay focused in that area.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Some of the new information in the report staff is about Christy Holley, the coach for the Louisville franchise and the NWSL, and the pattern there with his behavior. How was a batted is similar to some of the other reporting that we’ve seen. Kind of what did we learn about him and what stuck out to you with the reporting on the Christy Holley case in particular?

Speaker 5: The Holley stuff was shocking, even though it’s kind of a sad thing to say. It kind of shouldn’t have been right, given everything that we’ve been reporting on for the past year. Plus the report that was probably the newest information that people received was the actual details behind Christy Holley, who was dismissed for cause, quote unquote, for racing Louisville. That was the language that they used, the time that they had dismissed him for cause. And then everyone was very tight lipped about it. And, you know, and the players and I think we found out why with this report, which is that he had sexually coerced a player, he had sexually harassed her. He had groped her during film training sessions, that sort of thing. And then overall had repeated a pattern of being very verbally abusive to his players. That was repeating from his previous job at Sky Blue FC, which is now known as Gotham FC and plays in the New York, New Jersey area.

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Joel Anderson: So it’s tough.

Joel Anderson: I mentioned at the top this should have been a really big week for women’s soccer, the team friendly at Wembley Stadium. So what’s been the mood around the team and the program in the wake of these revelations that like has in the response that you’ve even gotten to the work that you’ve put out there, what do you would you say that’s been like?

Speaker 5: Well, I was in London at the game to cover it and, you know, there were a couple of different press conferences and the mood was always the most grim, somber affair you can imagine for good reason. Right. And I think it’s kind of encapsulated with Lindsey Horan came out and did pregame press. And at the end, you know, there is question about the game itself. And she said, thank you for asking a soccer question, basically.

Speaker 5: So I think the players understand that this is kind of. I don’t want to say their duty, but they understand it’s something that’s just they have to do it and they’re going to be asked about it regardless. They kind of talked to the media about how they’ve talked amongst themselves about, you know, who’s going to go out there and talk to the media because they understand whoever goes out there is going to get asked really difficult, emotionally hard questions.

Speaker 5: You know, many of them knew the people in the report who like Kristi Hawley or or the officials of the Portland Thorns or Paul Riley, the North Carolina Kurd, played for them or played with someone who played for them. They talked about feeling, you know, a sense of personal betrayal. It’s not an academic exercise for them. These are people they looked in the eye and saw face to face sometimes every day, who hurt people that they would consider, you know, friends or at the very least work colleagues. So it was a pretty down mood. And there was definitely a sense of wishing that they could, you know, just talk about soccer, but understanding that they absolutely couldn’t just talk about soccer.

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Stefan Fatsis: And I think what you’re getting at here is something that has existed for this team for a very, very long time. These women are asked time and time again to take up causes in their own defense for the most basic accommodations, basic rights that are also huge societal rights, accountability for coach abuse, equal pay, Title nine, Roe v Wade, field conditions. I mean, the list goes on and on, and the women of the national team are put in this position of having to basically be the agents of change for the sport.

Stefan Fatsis: And I think we saw that last week, you know, whether it was the team captain, Becky Sauer, Brune being the sort of spokesperson for calling out leadership in American soccer or whether it was Megan Rapinoe who had the of they did what she does, which is be the blunt force here. When she was asked about two of the coaches, Rory damns and Paul Riley, she said Rory’s been an asshole for the entire time that I’ve known him. Paul’s the same.

Speaker 5: Yeah, it is something that they’ve been asked to do for a really long time where they even have to go to bat just to get basic living conditions. Like if where we mentioned Sky blue AFC a couple of years ago, myself and some other people did some reporting on them, you know, living in really bad accommodations or living in uncomfortable accommodations where they were put with host families and then the host families would basically expect them to be like a built in babysitter where it’s like, no, I’m a I’m a professional athlete and I’m being put here because my team can’t or won’t, you know, pay for my accommodations. So, you know, if you if you go back any number of years, there’s any number of things that the players have constantly had to advocate for.

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Speaker 5: I think things are changing, as we saw with the report, but due in part also because the players have started collective rising university unionizing, not just the Women’s National Team Players Association, which has been together longer and I think has a little more institutional knowledge and, you know, room to maneuver just through having been around longer. But now the NWSL Players Association is officially a union and they have an executive director, Megan Burke, and so they just negotiated their first collective bargaining agreement. I think that kind of stuff is going to be really important moving forward where it doesn’t have to be kind of like this haphazard emotional labor here and there where they can like collectivize this and pool it and really aim it in the right direction.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So Megan Rapinoe, the blunt force, called for married Paulson, the Portland Thorns owner, and Ana Whistler, the Chicago owner, to be out of the league. We saw an ownership turnover with the Washington spirit here in D.C..

Stefan Fatsis: Which had attrition coaching abuse scandal.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: There is an ownership group in L.A., Angel City FC. That’s all. Mission is around empowering women. You’ve talked about what’s happening at the player level with unionization and the strength and power that can come from that. What do you see? Is there hope with it’s, I guess, probably simplistic to say bad owners, but let’s just say for the sake of simplicity, with bad owners getting pushed out and more enlightened donors getting in, is that something that we should hope for? I think as possible.

Speaker 5: I think the league itself is definitely probably reviewing their vetting procedure, not just in terms of character, but also in terms of while the team valuations are going up. And that means that whoever they invite to come in also has to have a bigger reserve of money. And, you know, maybe with more at stake, there will be tighter controls because as grim as it sounds, sometimes people are more cautious when there’s a bigger fight. Luxury duty at stake here. One would hope they would do it just because it’s the right thing to do. And they’re a good person who doesn’t want to abuse their employees. But sometimes what you need is a really strong contract. So I, I think maybe at least someone’s probably having a conversation about that when it comes to the spirit. If you follow that, though. Yes.

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Speaker 5: Ultimately, Michelle Kong kind of came in and took the reins, but it was after a protracted monthslong back and forth battle where the players got dragged into the spotlight. And we just saw the Chicago Red Stars players had to do the same thing. They came out with a collective statement the night before that. We’re recording this the day before the USA Spain game. So, you know, saying we no longer essentially have any faith in Arnold Whistler. He kind of misled us. We thought things might get better, but it’s clear that they’re not going to he’s got to go out. Whistler’s already kind of removed himself from the day to day operation of the club, but he’s still the owner, so he still derives the profits from the club, what profits are to be had. And so I think what they want is him to be fully out. And I think what Portland fans, at least I don’t know about Portland players yet they also want Merritt Paulson to be fully out. But Portland’s a little more complicated because they’re entwined with their men’s team, the Portland Timbers.

Joel Anderson: So it’s not like the coaches went after a group of people who are known as wimps. The woman who led the investigation, Sally Yates, she’s the one who said the players affected are not shrinking violets. They are among the best athletes in the world.

Joel Anderson: And so I’m probably going to ask you a question here that steps a little bit outside of this. But my sense of this is that women’s soccer is so competitive, it’s the most popular sport for women by participation in this country that you would think it would be really difficult to advance as a man in a sport played by women as a known predator, because you’d think something or someone would stop him along the way. So I actually thought about what does this mean for women at the lower rungs of the sport, like we’re talking about, like club youth level, high school, that sort of thing. Like, what does that mean for the women and girls that play this game? So we have so much leverage than the women that are at the top of the sport?

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Speaker 5: Yeah, I think that’s an important question and it’s one I alluded to earlier with the Yates report, where they did note in the report that youth soccer is a huge element of this issue that unfortunately they didn’t have the time, money or hours to get into where you don’t become a professional athlete and suddenly become unable to identify that, you know, you’re in an abusive workplace because someone screaming at you and yelling profanities and using slurs and that sort of thing. A lot of these players are conditioned to accept a certain standard of inappropriate behavior from the youth level onwards.

Speaker 5: It’s not just women and girls who see it in boys sports, too, right? Where things that coaches do on the field would never be acceptable in the classroom. I think that’s a comparison that people are starting to really draw on, and I think it’s apt. And this is someone you’re trusting to teach your child for several hours a week and you would never put them in a classroom and say, Oh, you have no training, you’re a volunteer, there’s no contract in place and there’s no supervision. And also you’re going to demand that you be allowed to take my child out of state on and out of state, you know, tournament, whatever, a couple of times a year. And I’m not allowed to go with you. It would just never fly.

Speaker 5: But for some reason, when this happens in the sports context, everyone’s just been normalized, not just the players, but the parents as well. They’ve been conditioned to think, yeah, that’s how sports are gone. Go travel with the coach, you know, a couple hours away, here’s a couple hundred bucks, you know.

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Speaker 5: So there’s a lot that goes on in American youth sports that I think we need to have another larger, almost like meadow level reckoning with where we think about what actually do sports mean to us and why do we tolerate these things happening to our children just because it’s sports.

Stefan Fatsis: And I think that’s a really important point and raises an important question, which is will this report, the NWSL and the Players Association are preparing their own report, You know, will this be different? Sally Jenkins and The Washington Post wrote last week, every time one of these abuse scandals breaks, the people in positions of power feign ignorance by soliciting some sort of report and then act surprised when the results are so scathing. How many more times are we going to do this charade? Is there a reason that we should think anything will be different this time? Is it because, you know, the players have some agency and are driving this and seem to be able to exert some force over owners and sponsors and other executives? And because more women are in power here, should we be hopeful that this will lead to change?

Speaker 5: I think so. You made a note, more women being in power. I think that actually is part of the equation. Cindy Parlow Cone became president of U. US soccer from her predecessor, Carlos Cordeiro. And then you kind of saw almost immediately movement forward with the CBA negotiations between U.S. Soccer and the women’s national team. And then they came to an agreement like this historic agreement. It wasn’t just the women, but was also the men folded in. And from the way that Becca Ruth, executive director of the Women’s National Team Players Association, speaks. Part of that was being able to be more collaborative with Cindy Parlow Cone, who herself was a former player. I think it does matter who’s in charge, and I don’t want to say it has to be a woman, but it you know, it certainly didn’t hurt in the situation for it to be a woman who had similar experience to the players. So I think that is part of the equation. Hoping for change.

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Speaker 5: Yes. I think another part of it is this report highlights really part of the problem was that no one person had all the pieces of the puzzle at the same time. Some people had more pieces of the puzzle than others, that’s for sure. And they’re certainly the ones that you’re looking at being like, maybe what’s the culpability here? Because a lot of people told you a lot of things over the years. But we saw that there was this ability to kind of push problems off to the next person. Like a lot of forwarding of emails in the Yates report going on.

Speaker 5: Right. So, you know, oh, this is a league problem. Oh, this is U.S. soccer’s problem. Oh, send this general council or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I think now that someone has really laid out in stunning, graphic, awful detail, you know, how disconnected all the pieces were. And U.S. Soccer has talked about this. There’s, you know, maybe hopefully going to be some organizational reform where it no longer becomes possible to ignore this. For example, having like a dedicated safety officer at U.S. Soccer and NWSL who have to give regular reports on certain metrics around player safety and that sort of thing. So, sure, I think there’s maybe more reason this time to hope. But, you know, as always, with hopes, I mean, but you have to take on faith.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. Just a couple final things for me. Cindy Parlow Cone was interviewed for this report because in 2013, when she was a coach for the Portland Thorns, the head of business, for the Thorns and the Timbers, this guy named Mike Golub asked her, What’s on your bucket list besides sleeping with me? She is a victim here, as well as a person who’s now in charge of, you know, trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other women. And the thorns at the time said their response to this was there was no formal complaint. So basically, it’s not our fault that this happened.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And, you know, the things that stood out for me to me in the report is the timeline. There are references in here to 2013 to 2014. There’s an anonymous player survey in 2014 that detailed a lot of this stuff. And there is an alternate timeline and pathway, an alternate history where, you know, eight or nine years ago, if the players had been listened to, how many women’s lives wouldn’t have been, you know, racked in a lot of ways by these these terrible coaches. And that’s my final thought.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: If you stack up these women on the national team in the NWSL, what they’ve contributed to society, what they’ve contributed to the world versus these coaches who, if they didn’t exist and had never gone into the sport, no one would care or no. Like these guys to me seem a dime a dozen.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the fact that they were protected and that these women were not it’s not only just horrible in terms of like what it says about our society, but it just it boggles the mind that it that the sport and the society could be so sexist, so patriarchal that there wouldn’t be an understanding that it’s the women who are the entire reason that this league exists, that the sport exists, that anyone cares about it, and who cares about these these horrible men, Just replace them with men who aren’t as horrible or with women maybe.

Speaker 5: Yeah, that’s part of the report as well. Right. Where these guys went job to job. And then there was this whole network behind them of people who would call each other and be like, What’s up with this guy? And I’d be like, He’s great. No problems. Hire him. Would hire him again, right? Or even if there was kind of a little hiccup, we’re like, Oh, because we saw right with Paul Riley, a couple of people who were, you know, calling each other Brett recommendations because he went from the thorns to the now defunct western New York flash to the North Carolina Courage, and this whole time also owned a youth academy in the Newark, New Jersey area. There were people who mentioned like, hey, there may be a rumor that he had two players up to his apartment and they were drinking and he asked them to. Each other. What’s that about? And then that kind of just like, petered out several times. And then even afterwards, when it was confirmed, I believe to Steve Malik, the owner of the North Carolina Courage. Where did that go? Where did it go? It just kind of vanished into the ether like a fart in the wind. You know.

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Stefan Fatsis: I mean, Josh, you said eight or nine years. Steph did a timeline on the Athletic that sort of traces all of the abuse scandals. The first entry about one of these coaches where he names is from 1998. This is about a career of abusive behavior and being enabled to get to the highest levels of the sport in America.

Speaker 5: Yeah, the Rory Dames part is so disheartening. Like you said, it goes back to 1998. There’s an original complaint, you know, when he’s still just a youth coach in the Chicago area. And it talks about how there was an officer who talked to a bunch of people and they assembled some, you know, pretty concrete examples of complaints like, you know, touching a player, a youth player inappropriately while they’re alone on his sofa, punching a male youth player in the stomach, repeated verbal abuse. And then it just once again kind of goes nowhere. There’s a conclusion that, like there’s not enough there to really go after him. So case closed, and then he continues to abuse youth players throughout the years.

Speaker 5: I believe The Washington Post also did an article like talking about the the youth players that Rory Dames at screamed at over the years and called names and, you know, commented on their bodies and made inappropriate sexual comments to for years. I believe Rory Dames is actually still owner of that club Eclipse in Chicago. So even if he’s not actively coaching, once again, we see this pattern where the men involved are still deriving profits from, you know, the properties that they own.

Stefan Fatsis: Steph Yang writes about women’s soccer for the Athletic. We’ll post links to her work about the Yates report and her reporting into abuse in women’s soccer on our show page. Steph. Thanks so much for coming back on the show.

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Speaker 5: Thanks for having me on.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s prune juice, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, who says it was okay. And I’m going to keep it short and sweet here in honor. A person who was not short, but was, by all accounts, sweet. Mark Eaton, The seven foot four Utah Jazz Center died last year, as Joel noted earlier. He actually crashed while he was riding a bicycle, very sadly. He had the highest career blocks per game average in NBA history at 3.51. And he only got started in basketball when a community college coach spotted him at his job as an auto mechanic in his New York Times obituary. Eaton said the best advice he ever got was from Wilt Chamberlain, who once told him, You see this basket? Your job is to stop players from getting there. Short and sweet and accurate. Stefan. What is your Mark Eaton.

Stefan Fatsis: In our discussion about cheating in chess? Last week I sort of defended the 19 year old American Grandmaster Hans Neimann, who at the time had admitted to having cheated twice when he was younger. Josh called me, I believe, naive. And then the Wall Street Journal reported that an investigation by the popular platform Chess.com concluded that Neimann had likely cheated in more than 100 online games between 2015 and 2022, including during events with prize money. Score one for Joshua’s understanding of the human character. Chess.com then released a 20 page report plus 53 pages of appendices. And I’m not going to back off something else that I said that it still feels like Hans Neimann is getting a raw deal, especially from world champion Magnus Carlsen, who started the controversy when, after losing to Neimann in an in-person tournament game, pulled out of the tournament all but accused Neimann of cheating and eventually did accuse him of cheating.

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Stefan Fatsis: As I mentioned last week, all of the alleged online cheating occurred when Neimann was younger, between the ages of 12 and 17. Lots of people, especially kids, cheat online in chess and in my game Scrabble, which I’ll get to in a minute, Neimann admitted privately to Chess.com in August 2020 that he had cheated during some games. He was kicked off the site but allowed to return in early 2021. And the report said We are unaware of any evidence that Hans has engaged in online cheating since then. Neimann hasn’t admitted to cheating in the 100 plus games cited in the report, which is why the report only says he likely cheated or appears to have cheated in those games.

Stefan Fatsis: The cheating detection algorithms that caught Neimann basically compare moves made by a player to what a computer would have done if a human mimics a bot’s best recommended move too often or during crucial turns. That’s a flag if a human plays way above typical past performance. That’s a flag. If a human toggles from one browser, a game to another, an analysis program, that’s a flag. If a human takes very little time to solve a complicated position. That’s a flag if a particular move or outcome is statistically improbable. Flag for top players.

Stefan Fatsis: Chess.com creates something called a strength score to assess past performance versus individual move or game results. And then it calls in grandmasters to look over suspicious cases involving top players. The CHESS.COM reports that over more than 15 years, its cheating detection software has snuffed out hundreds of titled players. Players that have a title like Master or Grandmaster dozens of grandmasters and elicited cheating confessions from four players in the top 100 of the international rankings. The algorithms are amazing. Are they infallible? No. That’s why a confession usually precedes a suspension.

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Stefan Fatsis: So did Neimann cheat in 100 games? Maybe. Probably in at least some of them. What we know for sure is that Neimann wasn’t truthful after Carlsen went public last month. The reason Chess.com gave for naming him because it didn’t name other top players who have cheated online. And also that Neimann benefited from some cheating in money tournaments or in rating points to gain stature. We also know that he’s been clean, likely online for two years. On balance, not good, but maybe he’s changed and eyes are going to be on him forever now.

Stefan Fatsis: The bigger problem, especially for Neimann, is that Chess.com effectively conflated his online cheating with his in-person play. They’re different. Almost half of the report is devoted to Over-the-board chess, but there’s no actual allegation against Neimann to probe. So the report mentions is statistically extraordinary and record setting and remarkable rise in classical chess and growing suspicions and apparent anomalies about that ascendance. But after analyzing his over the board games in the end quote, Chess.com is unaware of any concrete evidence proving that Hans is cheating over the board or has ever cheated over the board. Maybe there are some smoking anal beads to come, but you won’t find any in this report.

Stefan Fatsis: The 2022 U.S. Chess Championship got underway in Saint Louis last week. Neimann and the other players are being scanned for electronic devices before entering the room before Tuesday’s games. Neimann seeded seventh of 14 players, had one win, one loss and three draws tied for fourth with seven other players. He lost to the top seed Fabiano Caruana drew against the five, six and eight seeds and beat the ten seed about what you would expect based on rating. Eight more games to go. All right now a little on Scrabble much smaller world. Millions of daily players on chess sites, thousands on competitive Scrabble sites.

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Stefan Fatsis: But same issues, incredibly easy to cheat online, much harder in person. We’ve never had any cases of electronic signals and over the board scrabble most cheating cases, and they haven’t been that many have involved surreptitiously palming the blanks and essays before a game and extracting them from the lap at the right moment, or maybe peering inside the bag or various in-game shenanigans. Has someone taken a bathroom break and looked up a rack or the validity of a word on their phone? I guess maybe Escher.

Stefan Fatsis: I asked my friend Cesar Del Solar about online versus IRL cheating in Scrabble. Ceasar is one of the founders of the best place to play online. A two year old free community run site called Wiggles. You can go sign up at W og l e s dot i o Wiggles dot i o CSR on the site’s other programmers developed Scrabble First Cheat Detection program, which can analyze individual plays, pass games and other performance stats to determine if someone is likely cheating.

Stefan Fatsis: CSR told me the system has caught dozens of players, usually because the software isn’t automatic yet. It doesn’t run on every game on the site. In online tournaments, when Wiggles folks are watching or when a player reports a suspect in Scrabble, a player is likely cheating online if they’re playing way above their typical historical performance level or making the top move suggested by an analyzer every turn a computer or finding every possible bingo award using all seven tiles on what those sites are said. Cheaters have created second accounts and then toggled from the game they’re playing to the sites, analyze or function and then pick the best play. More common is using a phone app to check Iraq for bingo. So if a player is SSR said finding Death Cup or whatever an obscure word, this one is a kind of a mushroom but is missing an easy three tiles z play. The software will spot it. As in chess.

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Stefan Fatsis: A few top players have admitted to cheating some when they were young, but it’s not always easy to know for sure. Playing an obscure word might lead an opponent to accuse, but who knows where someone learned a word like my play of Bushveld that I wrote and talked about a few months ago online, an opponent might have accused me of cheating. A computer might have flagged the play is too low probability for someone with my rating to know if it was a rare event, I wouldn’t get flagged. But if I played low probability words over and over, the case file against me would build. CSR said You can play two very good games in a row, but playing 12 or 14 good games in a row is difficult. In other words, you can’t outrun Big Brother algorithm forever.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So is the idea.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Stefan, do you think with Neimann that now that there’s all this attention on him, if he suddenly started to play a lot worse over the board, do you think that would, if not provide confirmation that he had been cheating, at least provide more grist for that mill?

Stefan Fatsis: Oh, of course it would. And people are watching his performance here. If he finishes dead last in the US championships, people are going to wonder whether he was cheating over the board to generate that huge meteoric rise in rating over the last few years. I mean, I suspect that yeah, he cheated like a lot of people do online because it’s easy to do. But also that he put in a shit ton of work between the ages of 17 and 19 during the pandemic when a lot of people had a lot of time, particularly with young people. And that’s what got him to be better over the board because it really is so hard to cheat over the board in chess. I mean, you need accomplices, you need electronic devices, you need anal beads, you need something.

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Joel Anderson: I mean, just think about all the I mean, all the effort that goes into cheating. I mean, so I’m not going to be like this kind of guy, but like, do you get rich at chess? Like, if you’re really good at chess, like, if you become, you know, top, you can.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, you can have a career. Whether you can have a career playing, analyzing, teaching, broadcasting, live streaming. Yeah, you can make a lot of money if you’re an X, if you’re a grandmaster player.

Joel Anderson: There are so many worlds out there, man.

Stefan Fatsis: Wow, You can’t do that in Scrabble. Unfortunately.

Joel Anderson: You can’t. You can’t get rich. You can’t. If you become, you know, top five Scrabble player in the world.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: What if you write a bestselling book about it?

Stefan Fatsis: One would argue that I’m the most successful Scrabble player of all time, and that’s pretty sad.

Joel Anderson: Well, we’re going to start arguing that actually, now that you said it, that we know it’s out there, we might as well just go in that it.

Stefan Fatsis: Won five U.S. championships, North American championships and three world championships, who I’ve mentioned on here before. Nigel Richards certainly has made a fair amount of money playing this game.

Joel Anderson: Nigel Richards I know. I should know better than this. That name though, with the C your brother.

Stefan Fatsis: Now, he’s. He’s not a brother. I’m sorry. He’s from New Zealand Joel.

Joel Anderson: Okay. All right, well, just sport enough.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now that that has been resolved. That is our show for today. Our producers, Kevin Bendis plus Natasha as and subscriber, just reach out, go to Slate.com slash hang up. You can email us and hang up at Slate.com and please subscribe to the show and read and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis I’m Josh Levin Remembers Elmo Baby and thanks for listening.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now. It is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. And we’re all in mourning with the New York Mets, despite their 101 win regular season going out and the wild card round to the San Diego Padres. Of Juan Soto Manny Machado. Not as Joel would have us remember. Fernando Tatis Jr. But they still they still somehow had enough to knock out the team with the superior regular season record.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Joel, You’ve treated us many times over the years to your animosity about playoffs and postseasons and how they don’t reward or choose who the best team is. But well, you can make fun of me about the Mets if you want. If if we need to take a couple minutes for that before you get into this. But I wanted to give you an opportunity, instead of being a hater, to be a force for positive change here and to advocate for how should champions be determined? What is the best postseason system? Is there a sport, whether it’s in the U.S., whether it’s internationally, that does it the right way, where you would want them to be in charge of every postseason in every league?

Joel Anderson: So I don’t follow European soccer like you all do. But it does seem like at a distance teams that are excellent in the regular season get more rewards over there than they would over here.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Namely that you are the champion if you’re the the best in the regular season. I mean, if.

Joel Anderson: You’re the best of the regular season, yes.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It is diluted. I mean, I don’t know if you would agree with the term diluted, Stefan, but like there is, you know, you get if we use the Premier League and as an example, you win the title if you have lost points in the regular season. But there’s also like the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League, Europa League and all that. So there are many opportunities to win a trophy, even if you’re not the best team over that long period of time.

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Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, and English football has taken some steps toward Americanizing a little bit in the in the championship the second division they do playoffs at the end of the season to determine who gets promoted.

Joel Anderson: Yeah I mean look I would never argue that playoffs are not more compelling. They they’re very good entertainment. But doesn’t it say something about American sports that within our lifetime the best NFL and NBA and made Major League Baseball teams, teams that have won more games than any others within our lifetime did not or don’t get remembered as champions. And I’m talking about the 27 Patriots. The 20 is the 2015 and 16 Warriors are 2016 and 17. What I can’t remember anyway, the 73 and nine Warriors. And I’m not going to get to baseball when running back.

Stefan Fatsis: Seattle Mariners, one of the.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Mariners one games, 116.

Joel Anderson: One 116 All the best teams in our lifetime don’t get remembered as champions. And I think that’s more fault of our playoff system. And I would argue that the NBA probably does it the best because at least, you know, that’s a fairly representative sample and it tends to be that the best teams in the NBA when barring injuries, which the playoffs compound, they make it so that you have more opportunities for the best players are important players to get hurt. So so we for instance, we know that the Raptors won the championship one year. Nobody thinks that the Raptors were the best team in the NBA that year, Right. But they were the champions.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That was because Draymond Green and Katy were fighting, as discussed.

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Joel Anderson: Earlier and.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Also everybody on the Warriors got hurt.

Joel Anderson: Everybody except Steph, Right?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, I mean, that’s another maybe a smaller downside, but if you’re the Raptors, you get people like Joel Anderson talking shit about you. Yeah. Years later that I.

Joel Anderson: Like Toronto’s nice town, but let’s be real about what happened.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah. So I guess baseball is the most interesting out of every sport because I follow the sport way less closely than I used to. But like. I still follow it. And I had no idea what the format was, what the system was. They seemed to change it every year. The Mets and Braves tied for the division championship and for the, I think, Stefan.

Stefan Fatsis: For the first time, the.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: First time in baseball history that there was no one game playoff to determine the division winner. They just used a tiebreaker head to head and the regular season. And so many of the great moments in baseball history, a shot heard round the world, etc., etc. from those one game playoffs.

Stefan Fatsis: Yankees Red Sox 1978 Bucky Dan.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah and so you’ve got the first round is now not single elimination its best of three and it’s the you know there’s no travel the team with a better record gets to host all the games and then it’s like best of five next round the best seven. It’s like impossible to remember and it seems like it’s sort of like what we’ve talked about with college football. Stefan It’s like there’s no way that whatever I, I’m, I might even gotten some of that wrong. Whatever the system is now is not going to be the system in five years from now.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so they’re kind of fumbling their way towards and this supports Joel’s point, not the system that would in any way determine who the best team is, but the one that would like maximize television revenue would maximize, I guess maximizing fan interest is a good thing that the leagues do, but they just have not figured out the balance. And I don’t know if they even care about figuring out the balance between rewarding sustained excellence, which is baseball is the sport in the entire world that does the best job, that has the most data points.

Joel Anderson: To.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Determine.

Joel Anderson: Look who’s whining about playoffs. No, I don’t.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I honestly, I honestly don’t care. I barely even followed the Mets this year. I barely even followed the Mets this year. But it’s the sport that has the the biggest disconnect between what is actually proven on the field and what happens in the postseason.

Stefan Fatsis: Yeah, and the reason for the disconnect is the the inventory in baseball playing 162 games between April and October does not leave much time to have four rounds or three rounds of seven game series, place series playoffs because they play the game outdoors and you can’t play it in December. In many cities in America, though, in a few years that should be possible with climate change. So yeah, they’re fumbling a little good. But I give them credit actually for changing when a system does not appear to be working so well.

Stefan Fatsis: And if you’re going to complain about a three game, first round wild card round, well, I mean, it’s a lot better than a one game crapshoot for finishing second. And that’s, I think, an improvement. And having three home games for the team with a better record creates an advantage and addresses some of the the the potential inequity in asking a first and a team with 100 wins in the Mets case to have to play an undignified three game series when they deserve so much more. So at least they’re trying. And some of that trying was influenced by the pandemic and the changes in the structure of the season.

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Stefan Fatsis: And, you know, ultimately, probably what makes the most sense for baseball is recognizing that the postseason postseason has this fan and commercial TV value and the regular season doesn’t end persuading owners at some point to dial it back to the old 154 game season, which would free up another two weeks for playoffs. And you know the bigger picture here, Joel is getting off of your and you never will. So I don’t know why even saying this getting off of the idea that you’re trying to determine the best team, you’re trying to determine the team that wins the playoffs and wins the championship, the best team is something that is much more ineffable. And you can say that the team with the best record over the long season is the one that deserves that title. But that’s not what these sports leagues crowd.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The nuances definitely reflected when people talk about how many championships athletes won.

Stefan Fatsis: Which is stupid, I mean. Right. Yeah, But it’s another you know, all of this is a level it’s fine to talk about how many championships athletes win because they won them.

Joel Anderson: It’s yeah, it’s just interesting that when we when we sum up a player’s career, we talk about sustained excellence as opposed to, you know, the very random nature of a postseason. Right. That, you know, so we we know that it’s more important for an athlete like Gale Sayers is the is an exception everybody. So he didn’t play that long, but he was so good that it didn’t matter. But for the most part, that’s held against athletes, you know, that you’re you’re you know, you’re great for a little bit of time and it is earned every. To build up on that. So you would think that that’s something that we would want in baseball. I mean, in all sports, but I don’t know. But you’d be surprised to hear this, though. I actually love the baseball postseason. I think it’s probably. Let’s go to maybe. Yeah. I mean. Yeah. Well, yeah. See, this is going to work against me because the Astros should be the World Series favorite. But if they fucking lose, it’s good because they’re in this stupid, you know, this, this, the stupid contrivance.

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Stefan Fatsis: But all rock on Astros T-shirt, by the way, for those who can’t see the podcast.

Joel Anderson: ATX, ATX. I’ll come and take it anyway. But.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But the people banging on your door, they’re not in gravity and they’re banging on your door to to me.

Joel Anderson: Just talk about I should have. The most basic thing about him is that he’s a mets fan, by the way. I mean the Mets. Bruce Springsteen, their Marriott Rewards points, their middle school and Columbia Journalism School. It’s just like it is the most basic sportswriter thing about you. And I can’t. Yeah, I’ve got to be. I can’t lie, Josh I’m a little tickled.

Stefan Fatsis: Curveballs come and Joel.

Joel Anderson: I mean, I guess maybe, maybe, maybe those teams shouldn’t be so predictable, huh? Maybe they should change up their calls. I mean, if it does that point to you? Seems like you change it up.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I don’t think we’re going to improve on Joel correctly mocking me. So maybe we should end there and just leave some Astros meat on the band for when they inevitably march through the playoffs. Thank you, Baseball fan. Joel Anderson. Thank you, Stefan. And we’ll be back with more next week.