Josh Levin: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
Josh Levin: Hi, I’m Josh Levin, Slate’s national editor. And this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of July 11, 2002. On this week’s show, we’re cutting through the chaos of now and re-alignment and plotting out the future of college works. Don’t worry, we solved it. I’m also going to speak with tennis writer Ben Rothenberg about Novak Djokovic, his win over Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. And finally, we’ll look at the future stars and or possible non stars of the NBA summer league, including the seven foot £1,000,195 Chet Holmgren.
Josh Levin: I’m in Washington, D.C. and I’m the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year. Stefan Fatsis is off this week. But joining me from California and slate staff writer, the host of Seasons three and six, Slow Burn Joel Anderson Joel. I kind of mentioned the glasses last week, but I didn’t really linger on the glasses, and so I just wanted to give the audience a chance to hear you talk about the aging process, kind of getting decrepit and just what how that makes you feel.
Host: Do I look like somebody that could have gotten into Michigan or Brown at this point with my glasses on?
Josh Levin: Harvard. Harvard, not Michigan. Yeah.
Host: Okay. Well, that, too. I mean, Ivy League school, but, you know, do I look like I could do that one way or another?
Josh Levin: You always you always look like that job. Now you just look like somebody who’s old.
Host: Yeah, well, you know, I used to wear personality glasses in college. That was a year ago. Right? So it was kind of a it was kind of a summer when I was trying to think out and did wear personality glasses. So this is.
Josh Levin: Not like Coach Patterson was a little bit down on you.
Host: Well, this is I was already cut free from bus. I was free to do whatever I wanted. But you could see how you could see how he would have not wanted me around his team at that point. Yeah.
Josh Levin: Also with us this week, this is the Harvard guy, a man who, according to Wikipedia, I’m sorry you had to hear about it this way, because.
Host: Wikipedia was for.
Josh Levin: Was formerly a contributor to Slate according to Wikipedia. Well, I thought you were Slate colleague. I know you’re the author of The Hot Seat. You’re of outrage, pride and occasional games of college football out on August 30th. Preorder today. It’s Ben Mathis-Lilley. Hey, Ben.
Speaker 3: Hey, guys. I want to point out, for those who are not jacked into our YouTube feed, which does not exist, that Joel and Josh actually have pretty much the same kind of glasses. So I don’t I’m not sure what Josh is what Josh’s premise is working from that, Joel.
Josh Levin: I like Alex is my.
Speaker 3: Eyes and he does not. Okay.
Host: Did you go to Warby Parker? Is that what you you’re or you got two glasses from Josh?
Josh Levin: No, I went to some store. I don’t remember as the eye doctor. I guess.
Josh Levin: Had, like, a display on the wall. Isn’t that how it works?
Host: Yeah, well, I mean, I think I was trying to be a little bit more stylish, but that’s fair. I just want to know, because you did correct me about the Harvard thing. And I just want you to know, Josh, that, you know, back in the day when Ben and I worked at another shop, I would occasionally go to the Harvard campus, the Harvard football campus, and send a picture from the football stadium saying that I’d conquered Harvard. And this is a true thing, right, Ben? I’m not making that up.
Speaker 3: You would usually be, like, flexing or something. Yeah. Yeah, that happened more than once.
Host: Yeah, two or three times. It’s been more than a week since the Big Ten snatched away the PAC 12. Two biggest names, USC and UCLA, to expand its footprint from coast to coast. And now college football fans play a waiting game. Will Oregon and Washington eventually get an invitation to join the Big Ten? Will it be Cal and Stanford? Will the PAC 12 form a coast to coast alliance with the SCC? Will the Big 12 pick off the league’s leftovers to put the league out of its misery? There’s a lot of questions here, but clearly college football is in transition to something different from any configuration we’ve ever known. Unless you’ve always thought Rutgers and UCLA belong in the same league, but hear it, hang up and listen. Instead of belaboring our favorite games uncertain future, we’ve decided to embrace it. Today, we’re going to talk about what we think will happen and then pivot to what we want to see.
Host: So, Ben, our college football expert, if you had to guess, what do you think is going to be the next big move?
Speaker 3: I think the next big move is going to be two years of nothing, which I’m disappointed by. So I was kind of initially defending this this UCLA, USC thing. You know, the Rutgers part of it is still very strange, but there’s some historic kinship between the PAC 12 and the Big Ten, the PAC eight, the PAC ten. You know, been they play in the Rose Bowl. You’ve seen USC. If you’re old enough, you’ve seen USC and Michigan play in the Rose Bowl. You’ve seen USC and Ohio State play. So I wasn’t I wasn’t as alienated by some as some people are by that initially. But that was because I assumed that there were going to be other West Coast teams involved. I thought that like Washington and Oregon would be announced by now or, you know, Stanford is, as others have pointed out, the Big Ten East team that’s not in the Big Ten as far as kind of like pompous tennis about academics and the kind of muscular scholar athletes that. They’re there, they’re raising as fine men and women, etc..
Speaker 3: I am a little taken aback that this is not happening. And according to the reporting that I’m reading, a lot of good reporting in the athletic. The Big Ten is just waiting for Notre Dame now. So it does seem like there’s going to be at least a year, maybe more than that, where we are just playing these games where US, U.S. and U.K. are in every sport playing against Nebraska and Rutgers. So I’m just I’m disappointed by that. But yeah, I think I think the, you know, natural next big move is Notre Dame picks a side. And then from there we go to Washington, Oregon, Florida State and all that and all that stuff. But I’m curious how you guys who are not as blinkered by fandom of one particular team see all of this?
Josh Levin: That’s a strange accusation to say that I’m not blinkered by fandom of one particular team, but I’ll accept it. The big question that I have, kind of beyond the musical chairs aspect is that everyone from writers to conference commissioners to even like the Knight Commission has all said what’s going to happen. And what should happen is that college football should break away from the NCAA and form its own thing. And so they kind of did this in reverse. If I if I had led with the idea of college football’s going to break away, you might say, well, that seems a little like revolutionary, but like basically everyone connected with the entire sport, including some of the more like conservative entities, all talk about it as an inevitability. And so let’s assume if we’re talking about what’s going to happen, let’s assume that that does happen at some point in the next, you know, five years or something.
Josh Levin: My question and I don’t know if either of you guys have any thoughts or insight on this from the fan perspective, will that have any kind of effect on how we consume the game, or will that be more of a kind of bureaucratic shift that doesn’t really change the facts on the ground, doesn’t doesn’t change the game. It doesn’t change the way that this doesn’t change the structure of the playoff.
Josh Levin: Like Joel, do you have any sense of like what it would mean practically if we were to wake up in a universe in which college football was all of a sudden its own? Often it’s its own universe?
Host: I don’t think so. I mean, at least to you all, don’t you think the college football viewership is remarkably resilient? We’ve accepted a lot of changes, you know, within our lifetime. Penn State, Florida State, all you know, these schools have been independent within our lifetime. And then all of a sudden they were part of the Big East or the Big Ten or whatever. And we just kind of accepted it. And we watched the Southwest conference go away. We watched the Big East go away. We watched what used to be the WACC go away, and we just kept on watching football. And in fact, the viewership has grown bigger, stronger, more durable.
Host: So I think that, you know, just a change, a slight change in who’s making the schedules, who’s making the rules probably won’t be that big of a deal. I mean, I do think that, you know, like once we have everything aligned, like once these teams are in the leagues and they’re playing against each other and it unfolds, then we’ll see maybe changes in viewership habits or whatever. But in terms of who’s staging the games and who’s in charge of enforcing eligibility rules and things like that, I can’t imagine that fans will care. But maybe I know you’re the you’re the Michigan man, so you tell me and maybe you all will not stand for the NCAA not being involved and not having a clearinghouse involved.
Josh Levin: Well before Bingo’s like let’s think of maybe a more specific hypothetical. Okay? So one of the things that the NCAA does is enforce a set of rules for college football, but also a set of rules that are kind of working and happening in collaboration with the rules for other sports. And so let’s imagine that college football does break off. Does that mean 85 scholarships is no longer a thing? Does that mean that there’ll be 200 scholarships for for Alabama and Clemson and Michigan? What does that mean in terms of, you know, Title nine? I mean, if these programs are still affiliated with universities, you’d imagine that they wouldn’t be able to get rid of that requirement.
Josh Levin: But I guess maybe the the big picture version of that question, Ben, is like, how restrained are schools in? Is college football by the NCAA at this point or does like now show that there’s actually in practical terms like no restraint, that these programs are already kind of operating in their own universes without any kind of meaningful oversight or control?
Speaker 3: I think they are operating without any meaningful oversight or control for sure. And I think that’s why I’m a little more hopeful about the possibility that something like this would happen, that there’d be a centralized, you know, a commissioner of college football is the thing that whenever you talk to anyone in the sport about, like, why does this bad thing happen? Or this thing that. Most people find annoying it what they say, well, there’s no commissioner, you know. So it’s an it’s an indefinite arms race. And there is and there is no way that you believe.
Josh Levin: A commissioner could actually do good things and not be like Roger Goodell, who everyone hates and things that ruins the sport.
Speaker 3: Well, sure, I. I don’t like Roger Goodell. I don’t think he’s probably that great a human being or I don’t think his judgment is that great on certain questions. But I think the existence of like standardized rules for sports is good generally. Like, do you play sports because it’s a competition under a certain set of rules, like that’s the essence of what sports are. And the NCAA right now doesn’t really have rules. And so and that goes as far as like what conference teams are and, you know, or like what teams players are going to play for like in any given year.
Speaker 3: And I think that the sport would benefit just from a, you know, a narrative or viewership perspective from having some standardization, like, you know, what is I think contracts would help. I this is not like a neces there’s not like a right wing complaint. Like, I think like having negotiated contracts and like understanding, like what is an initial contract, which teams are in which leagues, like how many commercials are in games? Like I think that you can look at the other leagues that are the NBA and NFL. The viewing experience and the fan experience is a little bit more streamlined and coherent. And I think that would that would be nice. I don’t know I don’t know if that’s going to happen, because that required that requires a lot of people still way more way more stakeholders than are involved in a 32 team professional league like you. People talk about this like like as if that’s what’s about to happen in college football. That’s not really true. There’s still like, you know, 50, 60 teams that have a say in this and multiple conferences. So, you know, yeah, I’m I’m more hopeful about what it could what it could mean, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen to me.
Host: I’ve always think the commissioners and NCAA is sort of a misnomer here, that it’s a it’s like a best sleight of hand because a commissioner is empowered by the members of the league, the NCAA is empowered by the schools and the members that make it up. So they’re the ones making the rules. And they can always fall back and say, well, hey, the NCAA is making us do this. Whenever these schools break off, they’re still going to be sort of beholden to the larger collective.
Host: But I think the thing that you’re sort of hinting at here maybe then is that so when you lop off the Appalachian states and the Kent states and whatever, you’re less restrained in what you can do. And then yet then you can start making those contracts. You can say, all right, we’re going to pay these guys, we’re going to standardize and I’ll language, we’re going to do this other other stuff. So like right now, like, you know, Alabama is having to follow the same rules as, you know, a bunch of Mac schools. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But when you get rid of them and then you’ve got a bunch more like minded programs, then they can make up their own rules and they can follow it. But then again, the, the, the thing that they’ll lose is they’ll lose the ability to blame the NCAA for when things go wrong, the right cause it’s like, well, you, you guys broke this up. This is what you wanted to do. So, I mean, the NCAA has been useful to them in this up till now. Once they ceased to be useful for them, they’ll make up their own rules. But then people will find things to be mad about.
Speaker 3: Well, I think the problem is that, you know, I’m sure there are things of that that Appalachian State and Alabama disagree on. But I think actually the bigger problem from from my perspective, having, you know, talk to people around Michigan for the last two years or so, is that the big disagreement is is between Alabama and Notre Dame or between Alabama or, you know, between Oklahoma and Michigan. Like those are where the real conflicts over stuff like how much, you know, to what extent should football be connected to school? You know, like I don’t think, you know, I don’t even I don’t necessarily mean this pejoratively, but I don’t think the Southern schools, you know, have as much of a commitment to that. And, you know, there are people who know way more about this than I do. But that’s been true going back 100 years. And so I think that’s fair that you’re.
Host: Talking about the academic reputation of Mississippi State. How dare you call it?
Speaker 3: Sure. I mean, like, yeah, I you know.
Josh Levin: It’s this sort of anti southern like regional bias that is the fuel of college football rivalry. And this is what this is what we need to maintain.
Josh Levin: It’s funny, Ben, when you were talking before about the sort of solidity and predictability of, say, the NFL schedule or the NBA schedule year over year, when in fact it’s college football, perhaps more than any other entity in American life that has had that sort of predictability. I mean, affiliations have changed, sure, schedules change. But like you can count on that.
Josh Levin: The reason why it’s become so ingrained in your life is that you can mark Michigan versus Ohio State on the calendar every year. You can mark, you know, you used to be able to mark LSU versus Tulane on the calendar every year and we don’t have that game anymore. And so we’re used to as college football fans to these things kind of changing and evolving. But the thing that the sport I think really has to figure out is a way to maintain and embrace the traditions and the kind of factionalism that has made the sport endure and be so vibrant.
Josh Levin: Over the years while also just wanting to grab the kind of like Champions League, ask the sort of, you know, money and and TV dollars that sort of everyone is going for. And so I guess the question that we’re all trying to, like, fumble towards is like, what is the way to balance that and to have like college football still kind of exist in a form that we recognize?
Speaker 3: I think that when it looked like maybe we were actually going to do this to Super League’s thing, like the SCC was going to pull in the Florida schools and Clemson and maybe the Big Ten was going to pull in Washington, Oregon, that sort of thing. Like I was actually kind of I was kind of okay with it for that reason because like, I think David Roth said this, but like, he’s not a big college football fan, but he was talking about this. He said it kind of makes sense. It’s like your hoity toity Michigan Notre Dame type schools and the West Coast schools fit into that versus the South. And like, that’s actually a pretty good narrative. So like if that is the way the two super leagues are going to work, like I think that that does preserve like some of what makes college football interesting and, and distinct from like watching the Jaguars play the Jets or whatever.
Josh Levin: And you said when it look like you, you think that you feel like that’s less likely to happen now than you thought it was like a couple weeks ago.
Speaker 3: Like, you know, I did think that this was like a domino is going to fall and other ones we’re going to fall this this year. Just as an observer, like I like, why not put Washington and Oregon and now like it does kind of seem like where those schools are going to go somewhere. Like why? Why not just do it now? Notre Dame is going to go somewhere and why not just tune out Clemson, Florida State, like, let’s just do it, let’s get it over with. And that kind of goes back to what I was talking about before is like, I don’t really mind the reorganization like you’re saying, like University of Chicago used to be a major Big Ten rival to the schools that are still in the Big Ten. But like doing it one by one, one piece by one piece, every every couple years or every three or four years because of the TV rights, stuff like it just that that’s what feels really tedious to me.
Host: And that what we are here to do. Then I guess like we, this is the point we should pivot to what we actually want to see then. Right. You know, with a blank slate or I don’t know, do we want to do a blank slate or do you want to.
Josh Levin: Go for it? What’s what’s what’s your kind of blue sky plan job?
Host: Well, the big thing for me be before you even get to teams or whatever is making sure that the kids get paid. I think that would be, you know, the best way to make it a more equitable enterprise through the institutions.
Josh Levin: You mean not just through an eye, out?
Host: Yeah, through the institutions, not counting on I o collectors or whatever, but like actually giving them salaries for being for having jobs, which is what they have, which I think would lead to more bifurcation between the haves and the have nots. Right. Like, I mean, all of a sudden, I think maybe a few schools tap out. At that point, they’re like, well, we just can’t afford that. And then if you bump up the scholarship levels to the old, when I was coming up, it used to be schools gave out 105 scholarships instead of 85. Right. That’s another way to winnow away some of the other schools.
Host: And then for me, then at that point that you can set it up and run it like the NFL. You have like a Pacific division, a midwest division, a heartland division, a Southern division and Atlantic division in a northeast division and slot them in and then basically play a season like an NFL. So so then you don’t have to go 11 and one every year or 12 and oh to make a playoff like you have wild cards, you know, that’s the way that I think it should go anyway. I mean, I know a lot of people say, oh, you’re going to lose the regular season, you know, all that kind of shit. But I mean, come on, we’ve already sort of beyond that anyway. Like, I mean, no, I didn’t realize one year Auburn made into the playoffs and had two losses, you know what I mean? So, like, I don’t think people really care so much about that anyway. Like, you’re not going to make Auburn, Alabama less significant just because those two teams are like nine and three going into a wild card game. What do you guys have next?
Josh Levin: So I feel like it’s definitely. A a blue sky plan when you’re imagining the teams teams dropping out because they can’t afford fair labor costs and in college football. But. But we can dream. Yeah. I just feel really caught. In between feeling like what you laid out is is kind of inevitable in terms of how the sport is going to shape itself with having a kind of love and appreciation for the stupidity with which, like college football, you know, the one sport that didn’t actually have a champion that just like had random games at the end of the year and just like decided based on a vote of which team were you to.
Host: Go back to bowl season?
Josh Levin: Yeah, like I don’t necessarily want that to come back, but I think the tradition of college football is like kind of the opposite of what Ben said or it’s like it’s like what Ben just said is annoying. It’s just like things changing every couple years, like fumbling towards a system or around a system that doesn’t necessarily make sense. And so just imagining this world that’s like, organized into, like, divisions that all have the same number of teams that are that play the same number of games every year, it just seems like totally and at that, a call to the spirit of the sport. But at the same time, just like I understand that this chaos of the current chaos is not going to is not going to stand. And so what do you want to say.
Host: To your point? Like, this is how ridiculous it is like trying to come up with the Northeast Division in college football. Like I just tried to lightly sketch one out and I ended up with Army. Boston College. Navy. Penn State. Pittsburgh. Rutgers. And Syracuse. I mean, imagine them trying to, you know, trying to convince the Southern schools that that anybody out of that division deserves a playoff berth. Right. But, yeah, I mean, it’s really hard to do it that way if you’re going to preserve old rivalries and all the other the other schools that we like about football.
Josh Levin: So I don’t think you should re invade Suwanee and to get the University of Chicago back.
Host: Georgia Tech.
Josh Levin: No, I like I feel I feel lame. Ben And like feeling nostalgic for that the college football of my youth, which was obviously like fucked up and a lot of a lot of different ways, but I guess I don’t have the answer. But just like, is there a way to maintain the kind of like balkanized system that I feel like is actually kind of important? Like, I feel like the fact that it doesn’t make sense is kind of partly an explanation for why college football has its has its, its charms.
Speaker 3: I think that that you and everyone on the college football Internet way over nostalgia is the bowl era. And to me, the defining the defining image of the bowl era is like some guy named Gary who makes $950,000 a year to run the Fiesta Bowl explaining why, like Nebraska can’t play Penn State in the final. And they’re like, we hated that. Like, everyone hated that. That’s why that’s why this all happened. Because it was annoying. It wasn’t like everyone wasn’t like, oh, yes, the regional charm of not being able to see Miami play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. I love this. It’s such and such pure Americana like no one was saying that at the time.
Josh Levin: But just like the phrases Southeastern Conference and Pod System, it’s just like, Well, I don’t want to live in a universe in which those two those two things are together.
Host: And Ben, don’t you think I thought that the defining image of the Bowl era, where all this shit really goes left, is Scott Frost begging voters after beating the shit out of Tennessee like, Hey, would you rather play us or would you rather play Michigan? Like I always thought that’s sort of the defining image of the Bowl era and how we ended up getting here in the first place. Right. That split national title between Michigan and Nebraska that year.
Speaker 3: I support you bringing up yet another piece of evidence that Peyton Manning’s Heisman candidacy that year was was deeply flawed. He did not need class. He did not make Nebraska. Charles Woodson’s team was undefeated. I love the Rose Bowl. I think the Rose Bowl. You know, my dream is that we have we have these super leagues and there’s some kind of stability and common set of rules. But basically, you still play a regional schedule and that you play the final in the Rose Bowl. So, like, I’m not when I heard the word wild card come out of your mouth, I was like, Oh, my God, why? You know, like.
Josh Levin: I guess what I’m saying, what I would want is like pre NFL, AFL merger, pro football and like pre interleague play baseball. Like I want separate leagues. The never teams that never play each other except for a champ except for for a championship like that would maintain the kind of excitement and scarcity of like that’s that’s part of the cool that’s the one cool thing about balls you guys must agree is that, like, you get to see a rare a rare match up and it feels special.
Host: In the bowl season now or the postseason about.
Josh Levin: The old.
Josh Levin: Gold bowl.
Speaker 3: Season. Yeah, I agree. I don’t want to see Michigan. I don’t want to see Michigan and Oklahoma playing every year. Like, I totally agree with that. Like, I think that’s what like that’s the TV guy’s dream, right? Is like quoting David, I think. But like monster fights, they want monster fights every week because they want it to be brand versus brand. And that was like the whole idea behind the soccer super league. And it’s why everyone hated the soccer super league because because soccer fans actually do still want to, you know, see, you know, Liverpool playing Leeds or Norwich City or whatever. Like that’s part of the experience for them.
Speaker 3: So yeah, I don’t want, I don’t want to be these, I don’t want these games to be played in television studios like I. But that’s kind of my like top priority is preserving the, like the fact that going to a college football game is like fun for specifically, you know, it’s fun because there’s a lot of people there and there are people from your part of the country and they know the same kind of weird histories as you do. Like, I think that’s that even as a as a business, you know, as a as a factory and business strategy, like I think they have to preserve that. Like no one wants to no one wants to go to Jets Jaguars when they’re going to a college football game because they could just go to Jets, Jaguars.
Host: And the excitement. Josh talks to Ben Rothenberg about Wimbledon.
Josh Levin: On Sunday at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. I’m not sure who won the croquet, but Novak Djokovic won his fourth straight Wimbledon men’s singles championship, beating Nick Kyrgios in four sets. It was his 21st Grand Slam title one behind Rafael Nadal, one ahead of Roger Federer in what might be his last slam until next year’s French. Given that the unvaccinated Novak is currently banned from entering the US and was deported from Australia in January, and yet with all of this swirling around him, Djokovic mostly felt like a bit player these last two weeks as Kyrgios shouted and pouted and aced his way to his first major final, even as news broke out of Australia that he’s been accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend. Joining us now is Ben Rothenberg. He is a senior editor for Racquet magazine and he also writes for Slate about tennis occasionally. And he is the host of the world’s greatest tennis podcast. There are challenges remaining. Welcome, Ben.
Speaker 4: Thank you for that, Josh. Thanks for having me. And there was, I will say, a great article about the croquet by Chuck Culpeper of The Washington Post. Ran the tournament. No, no concurrent croquet event during the tennis championships. Unfortunately, though.
Josh Levin: All right. But don’t sleep on the and croquet club. Of course. Fact is the lesson here. Never. So. So from my vantage on my couch, the Kyrgios I saw on Sunday was a pretty familiar character. He played brilliantly at times. He shouted at his players box that they weren’t cheering for him loudly enough or correctly. And he also lost his head in just enough moments to cost himself the chance at a major title. What did you see in the stadium?
Speaker 4: No, I saw a lot of that, too. I’ve made the very lame joke that, you know, Nick Kyrgios is Nick is also kind of like N.K. North Korea in terms of the way that he’s repeatedly demanded these extravagant showings of support and emotion behind him at all times from his followers in his box. And it looks exhausting, honestly, being in there. A lot of times I feel bad for these people, especially the ones who are in the front row. The people who are in the back row can stay seated. Most of the time it’s sort of the front row people stand up.
Speaker 4: But yeah, he’s, you know, someone who’s always had a very chaotic energy around for most of his career and he was able to harness that and last for really throughout most of his term. He didn’t really lose it meaningfully by his very, you know, skewed standards in this final. I mean, he was he was complaining to his box a bunch during the second half of this match, but I don’t know that it ever really looked like it was effectively derailing him. I mean, maybe in the fourth set tiebreak, he had a kind of lapse of concentration early that could have been, you know, tied to some of the fatigue from all the extra curriculars in the match. But for the most part, I thought he played a pretty, pretty good final. And Novak was just really good and really focused and really sharp and played very, very well to beat someone who he knows is a dangerous opponent, who he had never beaten before in their two previous meetings you never want to set off of, and there are two previous meetings. So I thought actually just on a pure tennis level, the both of them did pretty well.
Josh Levin: Yeah, it’s funny because Kyrgios plays a style where a couple of points are going to be decisive just because he’s so good in his service games and that can work in his favor. Sometimes it can work against him. Like if you’re an incredibly volatile player who plays a style where you’ve got to be super sharp and a couple of pretty specific moments and matches that isn’t necessarily going to be in your favour. And there is a 40 love game and Kyrgios made it very clear to everyone in the stands and everyone watching on television that it was a 40 love game where he was just like so mad at his box that they like lost their focus, just like the dictionary definition of projection. I’m just curious whether he actually believes the stuff that he’s shouting at them or whether he realises that he’s being absurd when he’s, like throwing it on, like whatever his sister for not like cheering appropriately.
Speaker 4: That’s a good question I didn’t get asked directly today. But, you know, a lot of tennis players do rely on their boxes for external support. They’re very much alone, you know, in tennis and in a grand slam match. There’s no coaching allowed at this point. Sure, they’re going to change that rule a bit soon for experimental phase in men’s tennis for the first time. But, you know, you’re alone up there. And so he just wants to feel some connection to something. And he has these loved ones and close family of his, you know, sitting 20, 30 feet off the court in his box. And he just tries to have a conversation with them or feel connected to them during the match to to give him some sense of anchoring out there.
Speaker 4: But yeah, I don’t know that he really actually thinks he’s losing points because they weren’t clapping loudly enough after the previous point. But he does make them feel that way for sure. And they’re standing up. I mean, it’s a really a very khalistani experience being that Kyrgios supporter in a match up after every single point or any time he might be looking their direction, they’re standing and not wanting to look like they’re letting him down. So, you know, it’s his own sort of support system. And like I say, he’s a very volatile character a lot of times on court. And if this was something that his supporters, his team thought would help steady him, they were willing to put in the sort of. Bonds of steel workout that would have been standing up and sitting down hundreds of times during this Wimbledon final.
Josh Levin: So you’ve been going to Wimbledon for a really long time. You’re familiar with the British press and how the British press manifests in headlines and also in press conferences. You’re also familiar with British crowds. And I find it really fascinating to watch how Kyrgios, while kind of often abusing members of the crowd and abusing his opponents and chair empires, seem to me to become a fan favorite during this tournament.
Josh Levin: And then I was just wondering whether that was your kind of experience as well, but also whether that was at all reflected in the way the media treated him because he sees himself as being kind of unfairly attacked and maligned. And there were some ridiculous moments like when he was kind of attacked for wearing a red hat or whatever that just yeah, the just seem like they kind of missed the point of what’s problematic about Nick Kyrgios. But like, did you feel like the media treated him with kid gloves or was he getting asked kind of tough, inappropriate questions.
Speaker 4: By his standards? I thought the media was pretty okay this term. You definitely singled out the most ridiculous moment, which is when a reporter went on a long exchange with him trying to, you know, get get a gotcha moment about how he had worn red shoes on court, her red hat, and how the club was going to be speaking to him about this. And did he think he was above the rules and this very sort of preachy, ridiculous, performative moment, which, as you said, is in keeping with.
Josh Levin: Some Wimbledon hall monitor said.
Speaker 4: Yes, exactly. So and that is something there’s basically an interesting thing, a divide in the British press, literally. It’s sort of a divide in the aisle when you’re in the press room where they’re sort of the tennis correspondents for all the papers and they have what they call their news reporters, which is their what we would think of as like their tabloid reporters who are basically this. They’re to sort of, you know, stir shit up during the tournament. And those are the kind of people who are trying to get reaction, that people to try to generate headlines, who are trying to have, you know, gotcha sort of moments or, you know, even just things that, you know, if someone talked about the royals or someone talk about Boris Johnson or whatever might be some sort of non tennis headline that they can get out of Wimbledon coverage of Wimbledon. It’s a massive cultural event here, and it’s covered from all sorts of non-sports angles during the tournament annually.
Speaker 4: And so Nick Kyrgios certainly is game for doing a lot of that. But I think for the most part the press was pretty okay with him and not sure because he was winning, you know, I mean, oftentimes there’s a real sense in a crisis underachieving and not living up to his talent and and sabotaging himself. And it’s hard to say that when he’s marching to a grandstand final and only losing eventually to Novak Djokovic is a guy who’s won, you know, his fourth title in a row here and curious didn’t do anything to be a real disappointment on court meaningfully. And his antics as they were especially in the third match against hits a pass were definitely bad and he definitely it was almost more of the fault of the officials though for not cracking down on him or the term higher for not cracking down on him for what could have been dozens of verbal abuse code violations, just the constant stream of antipathy that that he was receiving without anything.
Speaker 4: And then also curious did have a point in that match that said surpass probably couldn’t should have been defaulted for whacking a ball into the crowd pretty hard in frustration and and yeah so yeah I think overall the press treatment of curious wasn’t at its worst. But I think also he’s gotten mature and he also had ways of of as the tournament went on really maturely you know because they have a new system the sort of post Naomi Osaka French Open last year world where they asked the players for to make their own opening statement and a press conference that was very general sort of like how was the match player name question everybody. And a couple of times Kyrgios really almost sort of filibustered on that and gave some long, like technical explanation of what he’d done to beat Brandon Nakashima, for example. That sort of set a tone of being very business like in the press room and sometimes that that held and maybe spared him some nonsense. It wasn’t immediately like, well, you know, I had a great time at the pub last night. It could have been his opening answer and other years, and this year he wasn’t doing that.
Josh Levin: So I think Bella wrote a piece for Slate that I thought framed the tournament really well. And you talked about this a little bit when you were with what you were just saying about the city past match of just being a tournament and kind of a sport with in the last two years, starting with a pandemic that just has not really figured out how to deal with a whole slew of problems, whether that’s Kyrgios, his behaviour Djokovic, his refusal to get vaccinated, how to deal with Russian and Belarussian players at Wimbledon, how to deal with COVID, basically no mitigation efforts at all. And the three kind of top 20 men’s players who ended up withdrawing did so voluntarily because that they then tested themselves and and tested positive and decided not to play. Right.
Speaker 4: Yeah, they were asymptomatic. Yeah.
Josh Levin: So it just kind of feels like the. And all that tennis deserved of like a player that maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to play versus maybe another player that maybe should be allowed to play at a tournament where players who probably should have been allowed to play weren’t allowed to play.
Speaker 4: Yeah, no tennis. I think it’s been pretty stark, especially in men’s tennis. I think the split, those sort of two pretty conjoined different events. Men’s tennis, I think is really sort of had a lot of dark feeling to meet the moment.
Speaker 4: Moments since the pandemic started and mentioned Djokovic. She’s had all sorts of missteps and things have aggravated people about how he’s approach public health and how he’s been use his influence in really poor ways and irresponsible ways, I would say, in terms of preaching different, you know, quack science things and not saying he’s anti-vax and what he views as the narrow definition of anti-vax, but obviously becoming sort of an icon of the anti-vax movement by willing be willing to sacrifice his career and not play lots of tournaments because of his continued refusal to get vaccinated. And so effectively, his actions are speaking louder, I believe, in his words on this front.
Speaker 4: And it’s I think you said before he can he’s currently posed under current U.S. travel rules. And we’ll see if those hold for the next six weeks, they might change. It’s been changing in a bunch of countries, but as of now, he wouldn’t be able to enter the US because he’s decided to remain unvaccinated still and they’re not letting in unvaccinated foreigners at this point across the US border. So yeah, they’re confronting different things. Have a tour handle, different allegations of abuse against different players in domestic violence situations, COVID restrictions and people finding different COVID protocols, the punctuated situation with a different geopolitical situation.
Speaker 4: But the tennis has met with different levels of courage. I think women’s tennis got very praise for standing up for for punctual and for pulling their tournaments out of China. The ATP still has their tournaments in China as of this year. It’s maybe not clear that there can actually happen because of various COVID crackdowns that are still happening in China. And life is very much not back to normal and they’re not really in a post-pandemic world in China, it seems like yet to maybe where they can be hosting big events. But there’s been a lot of moments. I’m sure I’m even blanking on some of them right now, just men’s tennis being frustrating and disappointing. And yeah, I think this tournament had a lot of those notes pretty pretty clearly you the Russian situation on the runway? No, Medvedev, not in this tournament because he wasn’t able to play and actually because then tennis responded by removing ranking points, which ensured Medvedev would stay at number one. Then there’s the whole we’re back in the situation at Wimbledon. Think we’re going to get to but you know yeah, it’s been a messy time for men’s tennis and left a bad taste in people’s mouths and many different flavors.
Josh Levin: Medvedev posted on social media that he was having a great Sunday watching the Formula One race.
Speaker 4: Yeah.
Josh Levin: So I’m glad I’m glad he was that he was enjoying himself. Yeah.
Josh Levin: Before we get to the women’s final, want to ask you about Djokovic described as a bromance during the on court interview after the match between Djokovic and Kyrgios, it seems like probably easier to maintain the bromance given the Djokovic one and Kyrgios lost that it kind of maintains their spots in the in the pecking order. I don’t know if Djokovic would have been so happy if the roles had been reversed, but Curious have been very critical about Djokovic as COVID tour. And in 2020, he’d been very critical of Djokovic arguing two years pandemic restrictions in Australia prior to the Australian Open, but then kind of turned around and criticised his own government, the Australian government, for the way that Djokovic was treated.
Josh Levin: And you know, before any of this happened on your podcast ban in 2019, Kyrgios said the Djokovic was basically corny and needy and like was basically pathetic for the way that he like was desperate for fans to like him the way that they liked Federer. I mean, that’s like a summary of that, but I think an accurate one. But anyway, what do you think? What do you think happened here? Is it that they both kind of see themselves as like poor, sad put upon people that are unfairly criticised and so they have run into each other’s arms?
Speaker 4: Yeah, honestly, that’s kind of right. I think on some level, yeah. I sat down with Kyrgios for this podcast interview in 2019 and he ripped Djokovic and it was a fairly did it all a really rip Djokovic and a lot of times in this interview saying that yeah, he was desperate to be like cringeworthy made fun of the celebration which I noticed that that Djokovic decided to do after he came back on the court from hugging his box. He did what we sort of mockingly called the boot throw celebration where he’s, you know, taking it hard, giving it to each corner of the crowd. So I did I did what? I joked with you that in a while I’m not sure if he’s been doing it consistently or not, but I did take note of him doing that today and thought that was maybe kind of pointed. But yeah, I mean, these are not two people have gotten along me. Kyrgios is so irreverent and mean about the times and Djokovic can be an easy target and Djokovic and he was saying things about Djokovic a lot of people say privately about, you know, trying too hard to be liked and things like that. But he was just putting it on blast in this very public setting in a way that was pretty shocking for a lot of people to hear another relevant top player say publicly like that.
Speaker 4: Yeah, I think when it came to just this year in Australia where joke would joke. It was in the middle of this massive geopolitical storm getting detained and then eventually held in America detention center and then deported for having his exemption for being able to get in unvaccinated revoked essentially. I’m not sure how much people care. So just being a contrarian and wanting to, you know, just seeing, you know, a chance to sort of go against the grain and thereby support your idea, which was very unpopular and very unsympathetic in Australia and how much she actually felt bad for the guy. But also, I mean that was a sort of specific circumstance. I’m not sure their personalities really line up to click together in any meaningful way. I mean, they were have this very bizarre insta story exchange yesterday, the day before the final as recording this, where they were joking about going out and having the winner pay for dinner. Then curses like let’s go clubbing and go nuts and stuff. And it’s just like this weird performative bromance that they’re doing just this just. Yeah, disorienting and confusing and strange as so much of this tournament was.
Josh Levin: Yeah. I mean, there’s just been this very strange, starting with the city past match sort of undercurrent in the tournament that feels like very middle school, like a lot of the conversation in the city past press conference and then that curious response was like about who is more liked in the locker room. And then you have this, like you said, performance of kind of a mutual affection done for the world’s benefit. And it’s not like tennis players are like the best judge of character. So I don’t know if if we should really put a lot of stock in who is like more or less, but just the way in which that became kind of a talking point during the tournament. It also just felt like, I’m not here to make friends, just like very kind of like reality TV sort of situation that overwhelmed the sporting aspect.
Speaker 4: And look, the reality TV might be the operative word because there is a Netflix crew that’s been following Kyrgios for much of this year. For this drive to survive as a show that the tennis tours are facilitating, the production of this year is going to come out next year. And so maybe Kyrgios is doing some of this to be admittedly performative for for that show.
Josh Levin: Yeah, that’ll be fascinating to see.
Speaker 4: Yeah. So and he’s definitely been a going to be a main character, but by every signal that this is what makes sense and he’s just a fascinating character period with the kind of stuff they’re getting behind the scenes. I’m sure it’s also going to be compelling in some ways, but yeah, definitely very middle school. I mean, and Tsitsipas said this bluntly, calling him a bully, which is, you know, a good middle school term that I do think applies in a lot of senses. And, you know, and saying, I mean, very evil is not a phrase you hear athletes say about their opponents very often calling each other evil. But that was what it said, the past said. And and Kyrgios responded by saying Tsitsipas is a weirdo with no friends, essentially. So it was, you know, yeah, very middle school exchange. So that was sort of level and the frequency we were operating on here.
Josh Levin: So on the women’s side, it was more of a sporting event, I would say, and a winner about, you know, who won the title and ons jabeur just both very interesting players, but also interesting in terms of what what they represent and who they represent. ONS jabeur first arab and first african woman ever in a major final. Eleanor backing a born in russia i believe still lives in Russia. Right? Her family is definitely in Russia.
Speaker 4: So that’s a great question, which she did not answer directly. She was asked because it says on her sort of the data we get for players that she was born, Moscow residents, Moscow adds. But it says on her page and she was asked, Where are you based now? And she was she said, I’m based on tour travel a lot. She didn’t really give specific answer for where she lived, but.
Josh Levin: That seems true. But she represents Kazakhstan because. Yeah, because I federation you wrote about this in a piece for Slate when this ban went went down originally and that a lot of players who were born in Russia were given money and support by Kazakhstan in a specific strategy to try to build up their standing as a tennis nation. They did pretty good scouting with Robach and her who is an amazing player who is kind of under resourced in Russia. But like, how should we think about this ban? I mean, this is a tournament that went out on a limb and kind of against really the prevailing wisdom in sports and kind of in society in banning individual Russian and Russian players for the actions of their countries. And then a woman who probably lives in Russia and definitely was born there ends up winning the tournament. Yeah.
Speaker 4: And Reebok and it did represent Russia in junior competitions as so if you look at old junior grand slam draw, she was in the Russian flag next her name in those so she definitely was definitely Russian at some point but and you know in the head of the Russian or the sort of Russian tennis federation czar, Ishmail Karpov chef, people may remember for his offensive comments about the Williams sisters years back, he was quick to jump in after remarking that with seven success at Wimbledon, saying she was a product of Russia.
Speaker 4: It’s time for Russia to be proud of, which kind of shows, I think that that the Russian people in tennis or whatever would have turned anything that happened Wimbledon into propaganda one way or another. And it was kind of futile for Wimbledon to think they could sort of outfox the Russian propaganda machine in any way and stop them from getting their message across. But I think that, you know, really on a more tactical level, which a lot of people within Russian tennis circles do agree with, is kind of shows a failure for Russian tennis to have this player, this immense talent in rock and to grow up in Moscow, and for them just to completely fail to give her the resources and to nurture her into the champion that she had a potential to be, and that she goes to Kazakhstan and has played for Kazakhstan for several years now. She played for them at the Olympics, played the Fed Cup, her Billie Jean King Cup women’s team, national competition.
Speaker 4: Now for a few years, you know, they let her slip through and she could have been their first women’s singles grand slam champion since Maria Sharapova when her last one in 2014. So it hasn’t been the richest generation of Russian women’s tennis success. And here they are losing a rock and a to a neighboring country. So I think in some ways, it should be seen as an embarrassing moment for Russian tennis, even if there is this potentially awkward moment. Yes. Of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, having to have the hand the trophy over to this woman who’s going to take some version of it back to Moscow.
Josh Levin: And that’s really what the whole point of this was. Right, is just trying to avoid the photo op in the in the PR. So I guess to that extent, maybe it wasn’t a success. And you know that an ONS Jabeur victory would have been the feel good story of the year. And just apart from kind of how much of an inspiration she’s been and how much of an inspiration she’s actively trying to be to women and girls in her country and in the Arab world. She’s just such a delightful person, just has a great kind of spirit and energy around her. And the fact that she lost doesn’t really take anything away from that, but it does feel kind of fitting that Wimbledon did not end up getting that that story and ended up with something a lot more complicated and harder to, you know, wrap your mind around, you know?
Speaker 4: And Jabeur is, as you said, she’s a pioneer for where she comes from, an Arab woman, North African woman. Pedro has not produced many female sports superstars globally and certainly in this biggest women’s sport of professional women’s tennis.
Josh Levin: She’s from Tunisia, I think.
Speaker 4: From Tunisia, yes. Tunisia. And to have her have this breakthrough is big on any level. And then on top of that, she’s just this unbelievably charismatic, magnetic, likeable person who be incredibly popular, you know, sort of congenial figure from anywhere and just happens to pair that amazing magnetic personality and charisma and showmanship or showmanship and just dazzling play on court with the pioneer stuff as well. She’s just incredibly, incredibly positive figure for the game and very well liked and really an important figure, you know, for her region and for the sport in a time it’s still trying to latch onto, you know, women’s tennis. It’s still in a bit of a transitional moment in terms of trying to figure out who the protagonists of the sport are. We had biggest fans that come into the tournament, 35 match went straight. That ended at 37 when she lost in the third round here. Not surprising, she hasn’t played her best on grass. And there’s a few other figures like Naomi Osaka who hasn’t played regularly for sure exactly where she’s going to, but direction she’s had it in short or long term.
Speaker 4: The Williams sisters were here briefly in the first week, and they’re not totally out of the sport yet, but are not seen as competitively most relevant in singles in terms of being full time threats on tour. So yeah, it’s a transitional time, but I think ons and what she brought was really, really positive and she was in a sort of largely feel bad event in a lot of ways. She was an undeniable feel good story and there was just a lot of goodwill that she created and earned here.
Josh Levin: Ben Rothenberg is a senior editor for Racquet magazine. He also writes about tennis for Slate and got to say it again, world’s greatest tennis podcast challenges remaining. Thanks, Ben.
Speaker 4: Thanks, Josh.
Josh Levin: Up next, Chet Holmgren. NBA Summer League.
Josh Levin: This week’s bonus segment for Slate Plus members, Joel and I are going to talk to Ben Mathis-Lilley about his book, The Hot Seat on college football, the teams, the programs, the schools that.
Host: Maybe he.
Josh Levin: Wishes he had covered Clemson. We’ll talk about Clemson if you want to hear that. Then you need to be a Slate Plus member and with your membership, you get bonus segments like this one, you get no ads and then you play podcast and you get to support our show. I will give you good feelings in your heart to sign up. Go to Slate.com. Cycling up, plus at Slate.com, cycling up plus.
Host: The NBA Summer League is underway. The annual showcase for the league’s rookie draft picks and ascending young stars. We’re recording this segment Monday morning so you won’t hear about tonight’s showdown between top pick Paolo BANCHERO and the Orlando Magic versus number two pick Chet Holmgren in the Oklahoma City Thunder. But you’ve probably already heard quite a bit about Chet’s debut, which came last Tuesday in the Salt Lake City League. Holmgren had 23 points, seven rebounds, six blocks and four steals in the Thunder’s opening win over the Jazz minutes after the final buzzer. Holmgren tweeted out a laughing emoji with tears in its eyes. Is that the joke was on us?
Host: But it’s next two performances, one versus the Grizzlies and another versus the Rockets. And its number three pick, Jabari Smith, were more uneven. Chet did some things well but struggled overall and didn’t send any more post-game emojis. Such is the folly of trying to divine anything from summer league performances but trash sometimes folly fun. What do you think of Chet so far? Rookie of the Year. Although a Canadian level bust.
Josh Levin: I love the introduction of all the work of Dion as an adjective. First of all, well played. You know, there’s a lot of talk about how representation is important, how just how powerful it is to see someone in the media, in the world who looks like you. And just, you know, having somebody who is, you know, got kind of inverted shoulders concave chest just like starring at the highest level is just feels very empowering to me. So your suggestion that he struggled in that game? I take that as a personal attack.
Host: But like if you can see it, you can believe it. Josh? Yeah. Yeah.
Josh Levin: And there is some tweet that you saw that that you shared. What was it that he had? Two blocks and 3 minutes at £195. Just imagine how good he would be at £215. It’s like a sliding scale. Every pound was another block on his ledger.
Speaker 3: I appreciated that because it’s like, just imagine how powerful this seven foot guy will be at the weight of, like, a regular Division two running back. Like when he gets up all the way to £215, which is like what some of my friends weigh.
Josh Levin: Yet there are some sports, right, where, you know, soccer or tennis where you have like guys that are just all different body types and that’s like a fun part of the game. And like, that’s not necessarily the case in the NBA. I mean, I guess there’s certainly like Mugsy Bugs and Boban Marinovich both exist. But like at this age, at this moment, in our the history of our universe, to see like a previously unprecedented body type make its way into the NBA was something that I that I didn’t see.
Josh Levin: And so, you know, to answer your question, Joel, and sort of to echo what Alex Kirshner wrote in the piece about chat for our our dear websites, late summer league is not a time to question. It’s not a time to problematize. It’s a time to embrace possibility and fun. And so I made a really horrifying mistake, which I would not suggest anyone do. And I actually watched the summer league game because I was excited about the Pelicans. I’ll never do that again. Please remind me never to do that.
Josh Levin: So highlights are the thing to consume during summer league and that highlight reel of chat like doing fun things and that opening when it was really great. And like that’s the version of chat that I will have in my mind until he actually plays a real NBA game and you’re not going to be able to address that for me, no matter how hard you try.
Speaker 3: I was going to kind of challenge you guys and ask when I saw Summer League on the topic last year, how many of you were going entirely off clips posted by worldwide web on Twitter, which is how I’m basically this is what I’m doing for my analysis, although I did because I did go to NBA dot com and watch NBA highlights also to kind of.
Josh Levin: Extra.
Speaker 3: Credit. Yeah. Build out that expertise.
Host: I actually had this summer league on in my office all weekend long. I’m not even bullshitting you like I had it on all weekend. I didn’t. I’m not saying how closely I watched it, but it was on the TV at a minimum.
Josh Levin: The thing about Summer League that I find so kind of amusing is that like the two strains of highlight and story are like Chet Holmgren blocks, like Pablo BANCHERO, 360 dunks, and he has looked very good, drank some really good for good for Pablo, good draft pick. And then like LeBron is sitting courtside with his own snacks and also Russ is there and they’re not talking to each other and like, Oh, Kyrie showed up just like the genre of like this person decided to, like, go and like, quote unquote support their t teammates. But it’s just like sitting there the whole time, like drama and just like, scrolling on his phone and like, whether they’re there to, like, see A, B, C, O, the other genres, like words talking to like Sean Marks and Masai Ujiri. It’s just like the kind of like people spouting.
Josh Levin: It’s all it it’s all part of the reality of the NBA, which is that this kind of sad reality of the NBA, which is that a huge proportion of fans care way more about like transactions and soap opera than actually what happens on the court. And summer league is like, you should definitely care more about what’s happening on the sidelines and the transactions than what’s happening on the court.
Speaker 3: I challenge that a little bit. Like one of the things I noticed when I was watching some of these chat highlights were just like the intensity with which the crowd is watching him and like the gasps in the crowd when he like when he or Pablo kind of like spins and dunks or does something. And I think that’s because like summer league, like I love the summer league sideline stuff too. And I think other sports should have like a special summer session for dorks and like mega fans because like, but I think that like that, that, that is where part of the interest is, is to see like how these guys actually play. And I think that’s why people are excited is like, oh, like he can actually do this against NBA competition. And, and like, I think it’s cool that, that there’s an entire crowd of people who, who you could get to pay watch a game that does not have any competitive stakes just because they actually like the they want to see like people over on the point or whatever like I think that’s cool. And I think that speaks to the NBA’s success. It’s not just just about the soap opera, although the soap opera is great to.
Josh Levin: Get NBA Pravda over here. Sorry. Sorry for question.
Host: No, I was going to say that’s just totally wrong. I mean I mean, a group of my friends have long talked about spending a weekend in Vegas to go to the summer league and just hang out and go to the games and, you know, just be there. I mean, the environment, yes, there is that part of it where, you know, you get to see.
Josh Levin: Yeah, Joel, would you would you and your friends be talking about going to Boise Summer League right now?
Host: I mean, there’s one in Sacramento.
Josh Levin: Like Vegas is doing a lot of fun.
Josh Levin: Not friends.
Host: But but a huge part of it is like seeing those those top I mean the think you know I follow like youth basketball, right? Like I don’t know what it is. It makes me weird. Like, I’m not going down, like watching eighth graders. Like, I don’t have a scouting report on Bryce James for you, but I follow a lot of those guys. Like, for instance, like about high school. James Posey’s kid is a star basketball player there and he plays it like a NBA camp league or whatever. And I follow that sort of stuff. So actually the Chet Holmgren thing I was I mean, I’d heard about him for years because I think the first time he ever popped up was in a viral video hitting Steph Curry with a crossover when he’s like 14 or 15 years old and just driving around and for a bucket. And I was like, Who the hell is that kid? But I don’t know if you again, you probably didn’t watch this because you’re not freaks. Last summer, I watched the U.S. Junior Olympic team. The Chet Holmgren was on with Jaden Ivey, Jamie Dixon, TCU’s own coach, that team to a gold medal.
Josh Levin: You know who their best player was, Josh? The guy who gave Chet Holmgren the business.
Host: Oh, yeah. Kenneth Loft. I mean, so I fell in love with Kenneth Lofton JR during that game. I guess as Josh is saying, Kenneth, Kenneth off in junior plays for the Grizzlies now. He was undrafted and he gave Chet Holmgren some work the other night to.
Josh Levin: Large gentlemen out of Louisiana Tech.
Host: I mean, again, representation man. I mean, you know, we haven’t had an Oliver Miller in the league in a while. You know, I hope I hope he makes it.
Josh Levin: But tractor trailer.
Host: Man, I forgot about tractor trailer r.p. But yeah, man, I thought, you know, the thing about Chet Holmgren that has always sort of fascinated me and you mentioned this earlier, Josh, it’s like the disconnect it trying to imagine someone with that body type succeed at this level that I haven’t seen before. So it’s like watching Kyler Murray, you know, like I know Kyler Murray is a great athlete. He’s doing things out there that are highly productive. He looks insanely athletic compared to everybody else. But I’m like, I don’t I don’t have I don’t have a comparison for that. I don’t know how that’s going to succeed at this level.
Host: And so that’s the thing with Chad is that, like, I just because I have never seen it before, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I was interested to see what’s going to look like. And I think that after this weekend. Fairly decent chance that he’s going to be pretty good. Like I don’t you know, people are comparing him to Kevin Durant or whatever, but I mean, that’s that’s absurd. But after watching him on the floor against other pros, I was like, okay, I’m pretty sure that’ll work. I’m convinced that it’ll work on some level as long as you can see if you can shoot. That’s a that’s a skill. That’s that’s prioritized. Nobody can block your shot. It’s seven foot one. So at least I’ll have that right.
Speaker 3: And did you see that guy who tried to dunk on him and hit him like in the like the part of your body that’s on the other side of your elbow like that? Because like like when like squarely into the front of his forearms. Yeah. I think he’ll work in the NBA in some respect.
Josh Levin: I feel like my my views are being misrepresented here perhaps by myself, like the reason to watch Summer League for me and I think for a large percentage of other people if Internet highlights can be trusted, was to get an answer to this specific question is like what will Chet Holmgren look like in these games? But, and, and I think it has been fun to see Pablo and Jessie J and Ivy.
Host: They I notice you didn’t mention Jabari Smith, which is good. But yeah.
Josh Levin: I was about to bring up Jabari Smith like a lot of these guys who are high draft picks who will potentially turn to be great players, it’s like not at all fun to watch them. Yeah, to watch them play for two, four, 15 or whatever or like struggle in the context of a summer league offense that’s being run by like, you know, a G League level point guard. And so I think what I realize maybe I’m like too down, they have gone too far in the other direction because like I was excited to see Dyson Daniels the Pelicans draft pick you like sprained ankle.
Host: They obviously.
Josh Levin: After like 2 minutes that game was just like a horror show and I was like, I’d never going to I’m never going to make this mistake again. And like, you know, it’s sort of it’s sort of like, I can’t remember where I’m stealing this from, whether it’s like a friend or a stand up comedian. Always a perilous situation to be on. But it’s like how you want to like, I want to order the sandwich or like the premade ball. I like the fast casual place. I don’t like want to go off my own order. Like, these are people that are experts at like making the meal for you. Like, I want to watch the highlights. I don’t need to curate my own summer league experience here. I don’t need to like do a deep dive and really like pull out something from the third quarter. Like, this is why World Wide Web exists.
Speaker 3: Ben That’s the problem, man. They let us.
Josh Levin: This is his time to shine.
Speaker 3: They let other guys play in these games like they let the teams like actually like this. And the dudes they, you know, like who like for the teams this is like who’s the 14th and 15th guy? And they like which obviously that’s what not should not be allowed. It should just be like Chet playing against Jabari and so forth.
Host: Yeah. Well, I mean, those are those guys are going to go play in China. You know, I mean, they’re playing to go play, you know. You know, Tel Aviv or whatever. But yeah.
Josh Levin: So the thing that you don’t like about Summer League is that it gives people an opportunity to not otherwise get them.
Host: Yeah. I mean, and so I’m going to hold you to this because that actually we should all make a plan to go to the summer league next year when Victor Wimbish Yama, the presumptive top pick in the 2023 draft, who played against Chet and Kenneth Lofton Jr and Jaden Ivey and all of these other college stars and was clearly the best player on the floor. Like, I mean, if you’ve seen, I’m sure, worldwide. Wow. Yeah. Some highlights of Victor.
Josh Levin: That guy.
Host: Is and he.
Josh Levin: Has a has an interesting body type himself.
Host: But once again, yeah, another guy who who doesn’t go heavy on carbs, apparently and I like that’s who I want the rockets to tank for. It’s like I want I think that guy is going to like revolutionize the league. But I thought Ben and one of our works likes the other guy. They say that, oh, his body is going to get broken, he’s going to be hurt. I mean you want to, you know, defend yourself in public again.
Josh Levin: Victor win by Jeremy you got to get out you got to get out in front of saying he’s a bust. You’ve got to be.
Host: Yeah, right. You’re what do you do? I think he’s going to clarify those remarks.
Speaker 3: I mean, look, I’ve got to be the naysayer here. I guess this is me evolving into my, like, my dad persona. But, like, what? Zion’s not on the court. Yao Ming is not playing. Like, that’s the thing about these unicorns is, like, their bodies are extraordinary. And also human bodies aren’t built to be seven foot three or to be, you know, have a 48 inch vertical and weigh £260.
Josh Levin: Remember how sad you were when the Knicks traded Kristaps?
Speaker 3: I was I.
Speaker 5: Yeah.
Speaker 3: That’s right. I’ve been burned. I’ve been burned in the past by these guys. And it’s like it is incredible to watch what this watch what this guy could do and what I can do. But like, I’m concerned for them. I’m concerned for their health. Like the feet, their feet. We got to develop better feet as a culture, these guys on the court.
Host: I’m glad. I’m glad that. Yeah, this is more of a maternal instinct than anything. Yeah, you.
Speaker 3: Know, I would love for that.
Host: You’re not going that this is not. You’re not doubting their skill.
Speaker 3: You guys, seven feet tall, you can run. That’s awesome. I love.
Speaker 4: It. I love it.
Josh Levin: And now it is time for After Balls sponsored by Bennetts Produce, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, he says. It was okay so I wanted to name are after balls this week in honor of a human who kind of connects the three of us. He plays high school football. Mm hmm. He plays high school football in the Washington, D.C. area. He’s a track star. He has expressed some level of interest in going to the University of Michigan and he spells his first name in y.s. k0ls Nicholas Farber feel like he could do for Nicholas what Dwayne Wade did for Dwayne Ben. This guy is like, what, 65 to 30 and runs a 10 to 800?
Speaker 3: That’s correct. And also very interested in academics and integrity and sportsmanship.
Host: It’s his way of saying that he’s not going to be considering LSU.
Speaker 3: He is, though. That’s because he’s really interested in running fast as well. He likes LCA track coach. So it’s it’s a it’s neck and neck, I think there.
Josh Levin: Is there anything you love more agile than a large football player who has transferred?
Host: Let’s make a plan. Since you guys don’t want to go to the summer league, let’s solve this together and go watch Nicholas play this fall and then go to a track meet. Well, he probably won’t be running track come next spring because I’m sure he’ll just be totally given over to football. But we’ve got to get see this guy live and in person. He’s one of mine, but he’s. He might be the new Najee Harris in my life.
Josh Levin: Wow. Mm hmm. High praise. Yep.
Josh Levin: All right, Ben. So I don’t know if it would be an illegal kind of booster activity for you to do this, but why don’t you ask me what my Nicholas Harber is?
Speaker 3: Josh, what’s your Nicholas Farber this week?
Josh Levin: So all of us were on high alert this weekend when Moses Moody scored 34 points in the first three quarters of the Warriors Summer League game against the Knicks. The all time single game summer league scoring record was under threat. Alas, Moses Moody did not score again. And so the records stood. But it is held by another warrior, the sharpshooter. Anthony Morrow.
Josh Levin: In 2009, Anthony Morrow out of Georgia Tech scored 47 points on 18 of 26 from the floor, including seven of nine four from three. Defying the Spirit of Summer League. He really should have gotten like five for 26 and one for nine. Four from three. But you know, we all make mistakes, he said after the game. I wasn’t thinking about it until I had about 42 and tied the record held by Marcus Banks because everyone was saying stuff. I wasn’t trying to force it. I just wanted to go out there and whatever shot I got may get. Again, completely misunderstanding the spirit of summer league in which I was trying to force it is, I think, the official motto.
Josh Levin: Despite all that, he did go on to carve out a very good career for himself, considering he was an undrafted player. He played for seven teams over a decade. He scored a career high 13 points per game for the New Jersey Nets in 2010 and 2011. And he shot a career 41.7% from 3/17 all time in the history of the league. He’s necessary between Klay Thompson and JJ Redick. But back to that summer league game, these things are so ephemeral. Despite what Joel and Ben might have you believe, that it’s hard to find an actual box score from a 13 year old summer league game. I did eventually dig one up. Thank you to the Internet Archive. And so I can tell you that Morrow was playing in the backcourt that day alongside a guy who put up nine points to go along with six fouls and three turnovers. Until this year, that player had never even won a finals MVP. Rough day and a rough career for Stefan Curry.
Josh Levin: Also starting for the Warriors that day was Joe Ingles, the Aussie who bounced around a lot on various rosters before becoming a key player for the Utah Jazz. He was just recently signed with signed with the Bucks after coming off an ACL tear. Joe Ingles scored zero points that day and zero for seven shooting. The Spirit of Summer League Live Strong within him.
Josh Levin: Rounding out the lineup for the Warriors were Juan Powell and Conner Atchley and this truly was the night the Golden State dynasty was born. They learned how to win. They began their record setting way as their opponents were the New Orleans Hornets. Your New Orleans Hornets and the Hornets starting starters that day are definitely a bunch of guys. You got Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton, Earl Baron, Julian Wright, Anthony Tolliver. And this reminds me of how I bet my friend Chris than Marcus Thornton would be a better NBA player than Steph Curry. And in that game, he scored 21 points in 26 minutes. So thanks for proving me right, Marcus. You’ll always be my guy. But enough about him.
Josh Levin: Let’s look down the bench past Luc Neville, Marc Salyers and Larry Owens to a guy who put up zero points and 5 minutes, 38 seconds. His career history on Wikipedia does not mention NBA Summer League. It does list in order. Spain’s CB Brogdon, Tar Tool, the cool slash rock who he helped lead to the Estonian national championship. Then back to Spain for best get Manresa, then to the Maine red claws and finally to ratio farm form in Germany.
Josh Levin: Yes, it is seven footer Brian Cosworth, Harvard Class 26. When he was with the Red Claws of the league in 2012, he said basketball was too much fun to quit. Now he quit a year later. He knew that he wanted to become a doctor. And so good for that guy because I found his bio on the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology website. Wow. He is a diagnostic radiology resident. On that bio. It says that his username on Peloton is that tall guy. If you want to follow him there. And his favorite website is The Ringer because he has a sports and pop culture nerd. And so.
Josh Levin: Ah ah conclusion to this meandering. After all, as I have profiled this did as the most likely player in Anthony Morrow’s record setting summer league game to be listening to this after ball right now. Though I do hope I do hope a regular on Quan Prowls podcast diet, not to mention Larry Owens and Marcus Thornton.
Host: We could really get that guy to listen to this. Like I’m I’m hoping that somebody knows him and taps him on the shoulder and that we get an email from him and that we we hear from that guy.
Josh Levin: Ben was probably in his like finals club or whatever the fuck they’re called.
Speaker 3: I was not in a finals. I was there. I was rejected.
Josh Levin: By Brian Cox. By Brian Cox, where.
Host: Has been already told you about what’s the the actress lady that you hung out with at Harvard wants.
Speaker 3: My class included in addition to Jared Kushner. Natalie Portman.
Host: Yes, that’s right. Yeah. I’ve heard that story a couple times. That’s a good story, though, you know? I mean, do you know anything happened? I’m just you know, it’s it’s come up.
Josh Levin: Do you know Brian Coatsworth?
Speaker 3: I don’t. But I actually was I was just looking at this. You can establish a chain between me in 23 graduated I think Brian cuss word starts at 426 Brian customer at graduates Jeremy Lin starts that fall so kind of Harvard’s three most influential important figures like kind of passing the torch to each other.
Host: You’ve got to come out here to see the Jeremy Lin. You know, there’s a little park right around the corner from where I am that, you know, Jeremy Lin is named after Jeremy Lin at a library right up here because he’s one of the high school’s biggest stars. Like it’s him, Jim Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh, you know, is a Palo Alto High and Devonte Adams as well. It’s another Palo Alto High Star.
Speaker 3: So it’s a rich history.
Host: A lot of connections here.
Josh Levin: That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bender Sports. Natasha is and subscribe or just reach out go to slate.com slash hang up and you can email us at hang up at Slate.com.
Josh Levin: Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Ben Mathis-Lilley. I’m Josh Levin remember Zelma Beatty and thanks for listening.
Josh Levin: Now it is time for our bonus segment for our Slate Plus members and then we’ll have you back. Don’t worry when it’s release time for the hot seat coming out on August 30th, pre-order today. The premise of the book is to air in college football and you followed around a handful of specific programs. Name those programs now.
Speaker 3: Michigan, Louisiana State and Florida Atlantic University.
Josh Levin: We talked the three of us talked kind of as you were doing the reporting before. You were doing the reporting about a bunch of different places that you were considering. And if you wanted to kind of tell the story of your in college football and you want to kind of capture the particular dynamics of different regions, different conferences, whatever, there’s a lot of different choices that you can make. And I know that you are considering a bunch of other places. And so folks can read about Michigan, LSU, Florida Atlantic and the book. But what are the other places that you considered and sort of why why would you have have wanted to write about those places?
Speaker 3: I think the one that I regret not being able to cover was Clemson, because Clemson really speaks to like a lot of the different things going on in college football and what makes it unique and why it’s changing. I really wanted to write about their coach, Dabo Swinney, the culture of kind of Christian evangelism around the around the program, the Southern history to it. I think the first black student at Clemson in its history was Harvey Gantt, who went on to be mayor of Charlotte and ran against Jesse Helms in these well-known Senate races. Michael Jordan famously did not win and off we in on enough for some people satisfaction. So there’s just so much going on there. And then Clemson also being like a really good and exciting football team is something that I wish I had gotten to do. And that was actually in the first version of the proposal that went out. It was going to be Clemson, Michigan and USC or Sea of Southern California.
Host: And you decided it would be better to hang out in Baton Rouge as opposed to Clemson, South Carolina?
Speaker 3: As I look, I thought Baton Rouge was awesome. This is the book. I think you’ve will see this chapter like Baton Rouge. They should be doing bigger things like it’s a great it’s a great lifestyle down there.
Host: Out here. I mean, look like is a fun place to go to school. But we don’t have to we don’t have to say that about Baton Rouge. I felt qualified to say that. But go ahead.
Speaker 3: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. The transit options are not great, but the food is good. So, yeah, I wanted to I you know, I think it would be fun to go somewhere like that just to see what it was, you know, to see one of these Southern powerhouse, you know, like NFL factories in action would be interesting to compare it to somewhere like Michigan, which still kind of thinks of itself as as really keeping campus culture and school integrated with football and actually does, you know, to some extent more than more than other places. You know, one, Josh, that had suggested which was which would have been interesting is North I think North Dakota State. I mean, that’s the that’s like the powerhouse of of war or whatever it’s called right now, a place where there’s really strong culture around a football team and a kind of a fun football team to watch again, but not really any of like the major commercial trappings or expectations that you that you get at a place like Bama or Georgia or Michigan. Those are two that come off the top of my head.
Speaker 3: Iowa State, I think is interesting because think they have a coach right now who’s kind of gotten to them to a new, new tier of performance. And so they’re like just like seeing the way I also know my aunt and uncle we’re we’re season ticket holders so like to see like those are people who like go to game is expecting usually to lose like 42 to 3 and like to watch fans kind of adjust from that to like being disappointed that they didn’t win the big 12 to make the playoff is really interesting. You know, in a place like Ames, Iowa that is not a traditional like blueblood like football location. Yeah, it just and then just, you know, kind of like see some cool stadiums would have been the other one to go to Oregon or, you know, to go to Nebraska to see some of those kind of like hallowed hallowed grounds type of places.
Host: I mean, I would love for somebody actually to do the the converse of what you did and go to the shittiest programs like, you know, go see like New Mexico State because I actually well, I mean, I don’t I haven’t read the book yet. I mean, we’ve only talked about it. But like I, I mean, and I’m sure maybe this is a through line in your reporting here. You’re trying to figure out, like what Florida Atlantic is trying to do this in the first place, like what is in it for you? And that’s what I think about New Mexico State, for instance. I’m like, What are you getting out of this? Like, why are you even? Why are you even trying? You know, so I’m assuming what Iowa State and North Dakota State were the schools that were the options in lieu of Florida Atlantic, is that right? Because you got to get a school that’s kind of out of the.
Speaker 3: I don’t know. I kind of thought Florida Atlantic was interesting, especially because Willie Taggart is the coach there now. And so that allowed me to talk about the state of Florida in general and its history with football and and Willie Taggart’s time at Florida State, which, you know, he was there for a year and a half, shorter tenure than almost any other coach gets. You know, certainly some of the backlash to him was racist in nature. And so to see where he ended up and to to be able to write about some of those subjects is why I picked Florida Atlantic think is very strange. You know, the kind of factoid I never tire of is just like. How big these Florida schools are and how recently they they’ve existed like like Florida. I’m going to guess Florida Atlantic has more students than New Mexico State. Probably about as many as University of Kansas, to name another one where it’s like, why are you doing, you know, another kind of why are you doing this classic school?
Speaker 3: So just like the degree to which these Florida schools and their kind of semi prominence in football reflects just like the two that the country has changed in ways that we don’t we don’t fully process. Like we still think of Nebraska as like being like a kind of bigger and more important place than like Boca Raton, Florida, even though, like, you know, they might have comparable populations.
Josh Levin: I think you could argue that Clemson is the most interesting program in the country.
Josh Levin: Because of the religion, stuff really fascinates me. Mm hmm. And though this has been been written about a bunch, but how it’s become so kind of integral to their program and it’s like not like liberty or or a school like that.
Josh Levin: But but at the same time, it’s this program that I feel like if we were having this conversation ten years ago, we would kind of like chuckle a little bit about Clemson and talk about them as like a perennial underachiever and one of these like classic schools where the fan base has like unrealistic expectations and they, they think they’re better and more important than they are, sort of like maybe we would say about Georgia as well, until very recently.
Josh Levin: But the way in which a school like that has managed to like break through and one of the more like hyper competitive industries in America and establish itself as a blueblood while like having this sort of distinctive. Character in that way that like I find kind of disturbing. It’s just a it’s a really fascinating story of both kind of achievement that is like surprising and and kind of unsurprising as well.
Speaker 3: I think I agree with that. And I think this is reminds me of something I was speaking with someone about last week. I was saying something about like, you know, as much as we give crap to Notre Dame and Michigan and Stanford for like, you know, having for making a big deal out of their values and their academic integrity and so forth, like there is a real difference between the kind of football player who chooses to go to one of those schools and one that might choose to go to Baylor or Clemson. And there’s like a degree of hypocrisy, obviously, you know, at work with with Baylor’s program. But like there is a real difference in what you’re getting at.
Josh Levin: This is maybe obvious people, but like Clemson’s a public university. That’s why it’s, like, different that they’re, like, kind of have this sort of Christian. Rhetoric and and values in the program.
Speaker 3: Right. I mean, I think that’s like I don’t think you’re going to squeeze that out of of college football. I don’t think even the Super League or whatever or whatever is going to squeeze that out. And I think that’s like Trevor Lawrence would only would never have would never have gone to to somewhere besides a place like Clemson. And I think that’s like that’s what sold them. They’re going to keep. Prevent college football from becoming a, you know, a place of like becoming like the NFL.
Host: Well, so since we’re pitching, you know, books that are, you know, better than been sincere, like I think this is actually the most I’m going to give three programs real quickly so we can get out of here. I think TCU, I don’t know, I’m going to seem biased on this is one of the most in it because I think TCU’s success convinced probably the bottom 30 schools in FBS that they could do it too, that they could take themselves from the fringes of college football back into the big time and spend a lot of money, get a lot of name brand recognition, all this, you know, win it football and compete with the big boys play in the Rose Bowl. Like all that stuff is an illusion. Like it just does not happen like that. What happened at TCU was not supposed to happen. And it happened. And it fooled a lot of other schools like.