Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The following podcast contains explicit language, including the words Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Hi. I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor. And this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of August 8th, 2022, on this week’s show. On the occasion of Vin Scully of death at the age of 94, we’ll take an audio tour of the broadcaster’s life and career. We’ll also review the Showtime documentary NYC Point Guards on the great New York City Guards of the Eighties and Nineties from Kenny Smith to God Shammgod. And finally, I’ve got a couple of interviews with tennis players the French American Serve and Volley, or Maxime Cressy and Daria Saville, who was born in Russia and now represents Australia. I’m in Washington, D.C., and I’m the author of The Queen and host of the podcast One Year. Joining me this week.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Vincent Cunningham is a staff writer and theater critic for The New Yorker. And he promised us he was going to watch the movie Hustle, I think it was seven times by the end of June. And so it’s past time that we checked in on that. Vinson What is what is your account?
Speaker 2: Oh, man, I’ve let everybody down. The official count is three. I watched it two more times as a parent talked about it. I did. I’ve watched it. But I didn’t. I didn’t make it all the way. But. But check checking around Thanksgiving and you’ll be astounded.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Another update is that one show is now with the Toronto Raptors. I know everybody is. Want to know where Bo Kris landed? So he found another job in the NBA.
Speaker 2: Good for him.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Also with us from Paris this week, maybe our first co-host from Paris. Slate staff writer Henry Grabar. Henry writes about urbanism, real estate, transportation and sometimes sports like you did last week when he got ratio for accurately noting that most of baseball’s most exciting players pitch and hit on the West Coast. I’m sorry that the Internet couldn’t deal with the truth, Henry.
Speaker 3: Yeah, it’s all right. I can take the criticism.
Speaker 4: Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: We will get to that story in our Slate Plus segment this week. And if you want to hear that, it is, as I noted, about how now with Juan Soto going to the Padres. So many of the exciting players in baseball live in Pacific Time. And what, if anything, can be done about it if you want to hear that? Then you need to be a Slate Plus member and you can become a member by going to Slate.com slash hang up plus and you get bonus segments every week, add free podcasts, etc. and so forth. Slate.com slash hang up plus.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: When the baseball announcer, Vin Scully, died last week, we lost a living connection to America’s past. This was a guy who, in his early twenties called Jackie Robinson’s games with the Brooklyn Dodgers. And in his late eighties, that broadcast, Clayton Kershaw starts for the L.A. Dodgers. Scully saw and said a lot between 1950 and 2006 when he retired. Even as he became famous in that 66 year run for letting certain moments speak for themselves. Let’s start with a home run call that isn’t famous, because honestly, most of them aren’t. Here’s Scully on the radio, calling an ordinary Brooklyn Dodgers game in June of 1957.
Speaker 5: All right. Bottom of the third three, nothing. Brooklyn, Duke Snider, Gino Simonian, Gil Hodges Snider walked in the first inning. Does batting 245. Ron has a sign out Dick Wines and delivers basketball.
Speaker 6: Court on a. I drive to deep centerfield on a way back near the bleachers, just watching it had gone. We all just had to let it go. And the ball bounces out of the lower deck of the bleachers wall picks it up and throws it in the upper deck.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Henry It’s kind of remarkable how much of the Scully that we know is present back then, or maybe it isn’t remarkable. But the reason that I wanted to start there is that I hadn’t heard that call. I mean, there’s no reason I would have before I kind of started looking around on YouTube and finding old Scully games. But isn’t it just kind of incredible that we can be there, listen to a game in Ebbets Field with that voice?
Speaker 3: Yeah, it’s beautiful. I think the first thing that stands out to me is the voice, right? The voice is exactly the same. It’s got that weird mix of both a kind of an old timey Brooklyn accent and also a hints of, I think, what I would call like a transatlantic accent, like an old fashioned actor, like listening to Katharine Hepburn or something like that, which I think Scully had a bit of that, too. And that’s something that really, when you would hear him in, say, the 20 tens, that was the thing that would remind you most that this was a man who’d been calling six decades of baseball games because it’s just not the kind of voice that you hear very often anymore.
Speaker 3: And the other thing I like about that clip is that it’s a reminder that although some of the clips we’re going to be discussing today come from some of the historic moments that he had the fortune to call behind the mic. But in spite of that, you know, he was basically in an essentially throwaway medium calling games for listeners who may have only been half there. And he managed to make such a lasting cultural impression, not just for his general demeanor and his vibe, but also for just the way that he kept listeners company.
Speaker 3: Throughout the years, for so many decades. I mean, that’s the way most people would have experienced Vin Scully Not not by sharing a viral anecdote on Twitter, although I’ve really been enjoying the last few days of doing that. But it’s just a reminder that baseball on the radio would have been, you know, something people listened to only half there to buffer the passage of time over so many summers, hours and hours every day.
Speaker 2: And he did that. He was that companion, not by sort of trying to in some ways jolt you out of that have their ness or sort of contravene the mood that he knows that you’re in. But by sort of going with the flow of it, it’s like it’s like the home run has happened is out there that goes. And if you listen and great and if you’re not, you know, you’ll you’ll catch on. And there’s a sort of equanimity about that status that that you hear in that voice as well.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: All right. So before we take Scully from Brooklyn to L.A., just a quick note on how he got that job. It’s a pretty amazing story. He’s 22 years old, graduated from Fordham, Red Barber, the famous baseball announcer for the Dodgers and the Yankees. The Dodgers at that time was looking for somebody to help out with the college football game. As a reporter, Scully gets the gag, goes out, and there wasn’t room for him in the press box. So he ends up calling the game from the roof on a cold day. And that so impresses Red Barber that when there’s a spot open in the baseball booth, he gives Scully that slot.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Then Barber eventually gets in a contract dispute and doesn’t call the World Series in 1853. And Scully gets the promotion. I guess Bart Barber had been offered $200 per game and he had rejected it. So Scully, at the age of 25, becomes the youngest person ever at that point and still to call a World Series.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So there is a kind of ephemerality to what he did, as you said, Henry, but also he had become a national voice by the time he was 25 in the mid fifties. And then, as we have been reading about in the last week or so, when he gets to L.A., he becomes the voice of Los Angeles as baseball expands to the West Coast and as people out there are kind of learning the game, they have the transistor radios in the crowd. And so this next call that we’re going to hear on September 9th, 1965, Sandy Koufax is perfect game for the Dodgers. Some have called it the greatest call in the history of the medium. We can be the judge of that right now.
Speaker 5: The Dodgers defensively. In the spine tingling moment. Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg, the boys who will try and stop anything hit their way West Pocket. Dick Tracy, Whiskey. Maury Wills and John Kennedy. The outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairley. And there’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The call ends up going on for about 9 minutes, Vincent. We’ll post the transcript on our show page, but often cited for the kind of extemporaneous poetry and also the kind of ability to meet the moment that, you know, not many perfect games in baseball and in Scully got the opportunity to call this one.
Speaker 2: Yes. There’s just that wonderful sort of casual poetry, the spine tingling moment and what it strikes me, like what it might mean to be the best at something, especially like calling a baseball game, is to do the thing that’s most congruent with with the sport at hand. Right. Like he knows that there are these moments in baseball where you can really kind of expand and talk and narrate and sort of provide these codas or these introductions that are amazing, you know? One of my sadnesses is that I’m not sure that basketball has ever had that, like someone that just, like, gets the the cadences of basketball and can make it work with that game. But you feel this sense of just sort of casual ness and ease. That’s like, it’s beautiful. You you want to listen to it. I was upset when it stopped just now. Yeah, I. You want to just have it on?
Speaker 3: Yeah, I think that as a podcaster, Josh, I’m sure you can appreciate this, but the linguistic gift to be able to improvise, the kinds of lines that he comes up with, apparently off the cuff, without any filler or without any, you know, taking a second chance to to try and perfect what he’s just said. I think in that in that half inning, when Kovacs is dealing, there’s a couple more lines that stuck out. And we read the transcript of this. And in addition to that great line, 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. There’s there’s a moment when. Koufax throws what Scully deems is evidently a ball and the crowd starts booing because obviously they want him to complete the perfect game. And Scully says a lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts, just like. Wow. Well, I mean. Ah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah. A couple on that game. Scully apparently asked whoever was in charge of such a thing to make a recording of the ninth inning, kind of understanding the ephemerality of the medium, but this being one that he knew that they would want to save and you could actually buy a record. Last inning Sandy Koufax. Perfect game. Actual reproduction as narrated by Vin Scully. Look for that in a record store near you and Henry. The next clip we’re going to listen to or Vinson. I think it was you who is making this point is that we’re going to hear his call of Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This is, again, a moment where you know that this is going to be something he probably didn’t know about the Internet. You know, maybe he did. But he knew that this was something where he was going to want to get it right. And yet he didn’t prepare anything in advance. Milo Hamilton, the announcer for the Braves, no shade on Milo. He did prepare, but Vin was like, Why would I? Why would I do that? I got to see how it feels in the moment. So this is how it felt in the moment.
Speaker 5: One ball and nose drive and wait in the outfield deep and straightaway fastball. The highlight of the center field that goes back to the that. Marvelous Marvin for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country in the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So one thing that you didn’t hear there, Henry, is the incredibly long pause. We cut that out in the interest of time. But between his homerun call and his kind of broader statement about the significance, he kind of let the moment live and breadth for an incredibly long time.
Speaker 3: Right. Much has been made of Vin’s trademark silences in the days since his death. I think it’s one of the things that people think of as is associated with his knack for these big moments, his willingness to let the play speak for itself, his reserve, which I think was both a calculated decision, but also in some instances he has said that as a result of his own emotion, that he sometimes felt that he wasn’t ready to jump in and and give his $0.02 about about what had happened beyond simply calling the play.
Speaker 3: But I think in this case, it’s also, I think is Eric Nusbaum said in his piece for Slate, it’s a chance to let you, the listener, be there with the fans. In the case of Aaron’s home run. We can now watch the video of it with Scully’s commentary attached, which I think is the way most people we now see it attached to the video. And as you’re listening to this podcast, presumably you’re not seeing the video, so you would be experiencing it as as listeners did. And when you see the video, you realize that there’s a lot that Scully could have been describing because there’s a lot going on in the field. It’s not just Aaron trotting around the Basepaths. He’s shaking hands with the Dodgers infielders as he goes around. And then there’s these two guys who run onto the field and join him as he’s between second and third base.
Speaker 3: And I think that was sort of a scary moment because, you know, the the chase for 715 was was fraught for Aaron. And he was getting death threats. He really was not enjoying it. And his bodyguard in the stands said that seeing those guys run out, he worried that they had bad intentions. And in fact, what they do is they just go up to Aaron and congratulate him. And it’s sort of a beautiful thing. But but Scully leaves all that. I mean, he just leaves all that to the side. And so he lets you not only experience it with the crowd, but also maybe invites you in that long silence to take a moment of reflection with yourself. Just to think about what you already know as a listener is a is a historic moment.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, you can hear him sort of even though it’s good in the actual play call and maybe this is just my contemporary years, you know, I’m used to people screaming, but you can already hear him sort of pulling back into a kind of restraint that there’s like a push and pull between emotion and a deeper kind of reserve.
Speaker 2: One of the things that I didn’t really know so well about him that I’ve heard now of remembrance after remembrance, I think I heard the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Guay mention this, that speaking about a person out of time in terms of his voice, he was that way, too, in terms of his dress, you know, that he was a very well-dressed, kind of dapper guy. There’s the pocket square, the perfectly tailored jacket, and you can hear some of that, some of that restraint. There’s almost a kind of dapper anise to it, you know, a kind of style that, like, I can give you something, but I’m not going to get overly prolix about this. There seems to be almost an ethos at work there as well.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And the thing that’s notable about that call is that he does kind of step out of the moment on the field and talk about the greater social significance, which is not something that he typically did. You won’t hear that in any of the other clips. Right. And so there are a couple of things to say about that. Number one, it’s like, well, he did recognize that this was an unusual incident and one that actually had significance in American history and not just baseball history because, you know, it’s not like any of the other stuff that we’re listening to just on its own had that same kind of impact on the world beyond the sports world, but also maybe not being prepared.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You know, if you’re living in that silence gives you a little bit of time to actually write what you want to say in your head. So maybe instead of giving Scully credit for speaking the brainiest, maybe we should give him credit for writing quickly. Because when kind of like what you were saying, Henry, if you the minute goes by, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and you’re watching everything on the field and maybe not describing every last moment, it seems like the weight of history just started kind of weighing on him, and that’s what he delivered to people.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It is hard to think about and remember, but Scully had a game show he called golf, and from 1975 to 1982, he called NFL games for CBS Sports. The last game that he ever called was the famous 1982 NFC title game that ended with The Catch by Dwight Clark from Joe Montana.
Speaker 6: And of course. The young star, 49, is six yards away from Pontiac. Three. The right side, possibly Montana. Looking, looking, rowing in the end zone.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Six yards from Pontiac. Benson doesn’t have quite the same poetry as a million butterflies. How does it how does it sound to you to hear Vin Scully call a football game, not just a football game, one of the kind of most memorable moments in the history of the NFL.
Speaker 2: It’s so funny. Before this past week, I had not heard that call and I did not you know, I didn’t even know that he was that he had called that game. So it was it’s really interesting to hear. For me, it’s a little like because I my awareness of Scully has been so tied to his sort of like the sort of amber toned gold in our feeling of baseball. It does feel it does feel sort of like out of out of my comprehension. There’s a little like disjuncture there when I hear it. But it’s the same the same rudiments are there, you know, the same sort of almost narrative pacing, the sense of atmosphere, a sense of description that’s not in words but is in tone of voice. That sort of gives you a sense, a weird sense of space. And then again, that sort of almost muted climax where it’s like he’s raised his voice, but he’s not exploded, you know, the same sense of manners. So it’s great to hear.
Speaker 3: I think he is, of course, well known for his reserve. But what stands out about that plate to me is that he’s excited. And it reminds me of Joe Buck calling David Tyree’s helmet catch, which he does with such an unimpressed tone. It is caught by Tyree. I think that’s what he says. I’ll never forgive him for it, because every time I watch the clip, it’s just hard to. It’s just. It’s just. Buck just did not do it justice. And I and I appreciate the way Scully here, and we can talk about this in the baseball context more because he had such authority as somebody who had seen Jackie Robinson and seen Willie Mays and all these guys. But it was not afraid still to to raise his voice now and again and and impress on you the importance of the moment and and how it felt to be there and see it.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Bryan Curtis in The Ringer provided this amazing detail, and I’ll just quote from his piece. That season of 82, CBS had pitted Scully against Pat Summerall in a public bake off to see who would make a better partner for John Madden. The network decided that Scully and Madden were volume shooters who wouldn’t work well together. Can you imagine what an alternate history that would be of Vin Scully and John Madden together? All right.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Before we move on to some of his great 1980s calls that you’re probably anticipating a brief pause here for something a little bit different, which is in 1982, a San Diego Padres marketing executive named Andy Strasberg wondered, could Scully’s amazing voice make even a grocery list? Fantastic listening. Let’s find out.
Speaker 5: Sure, Andy. I’d be happy to. Well, let’s see. We’ve got a dozen eggs, a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a can of frozen orange juice, six small white onions, a green pepper, garlic powder, a package of American cheese, pickles, kosher, that is bananas, corn flakes, maple syrup, toothpaste, paper towels, toilet paper, six bars of soap, hot dogs, a quarter pounder, chopped meat steak, lamb chops packages, spaghetti, three apples, baloney cottage cheese, a pound of butter, two years of corn, beer, ketchup, peanut butter, soy sauce and a half a pound of coffee.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: What is your favorite item on that list, Vincent?
Speaker 2: It’s a package of American cheese. That’s. That’s the one where the technique really shows that roller coaster ride. There’s great. Also bologna. Very good.
Speaker 3: I’m going to go with garlic powder, but also pickles. Kosher, of course. Yeah, that musicality really comes through there, doesn’t it?
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It does. And we can just move right along from there. It doesn’t need to be overanalyzed. And this next clip doesn’t need any preamble either. Let’s just dive right in.
Speaker 6: Can you believe this ballgame at Shea? Oh, brother. So the winning run is at second base with two out.
Speaker 5: Little roller up along first.
Speaker 6: Behind the band it gets more but.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: One of the first sports moments that I remember actually watching in 1986. And Henry, the thing that stands out on that for me is this was on television. He called the World Series and in 86 and in 88, which we’ll hear in a second. And kind of in contrast to what you described with the Aaron moment. Every kind of fine detail of that Mookie Wilson bouncer at first base is described. So I can picture it in my mind right now. Everything that happened through his words, even as we’re not watching the video.
Speaker 3: And it’s interesting because you said and this was for TV, right? Yeah. And it just goes to show that the is one of I think one of the beautiful things about people who talk about baseball on the radio is obviously you need to to recreate the game for the people who are listening. But because baseball is composed of so many familiar actions, you don’t need to say that much to be able to conjure up instantly in the minds of the people who are listening exactly what’s happened on the field.
Speaker 2: What that clip shows me, too, is, you know, the interaction between there’s obviously this interaction between Scully and us watchers, listeners, whatever. But he also has a very fine interaction with the crowd that’s at hand where, you know, he kind of even in the build up moments, has has raised his voice because it’s how you comedians talk about surfing laughs and like stopping and talking again when the crowd noise has reached a certain pitch so that they’re kind of writing the sound that’s that’s coming back to you. He’s doing this in this this way as well, where, like, he kind of has found his like ocean of calm. But within the larger static of the crowd, there’s something really interesting about that. Just like just vocally, you know, he’s got to project a little bit more and then it goes up and up and you hear him in this kind of counterpoint with the crowd. It’s really I don’t know, it’s awesome.
Speaker 3: And then there’s the challenge, right, of calling the decisive moment of the game when it’s not a moment of triumph, but a moment of shame. Right. Something that would you know, you can’t he can’t give it that. It just doesn’t have the same spin. I actually I’m really curious to know what he said next.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So. Five things, I think, in the span of a couple seconds that he has to get across. Little roller up along first behind the bag. Gets through Buckner. Here comes Knight and the Mets when it no stumble or hesitation at all. And I think so many of these calls, there’s the opportunity to linger. Think about the right phrase, whether it’s Koufax steps off the mound and you have a second to paint the picture, or Aaron circles the bases and you have a second to think about it. This is no no room for error, no room to no time to think. You just got to say what happened. And he did it so beautifully and succinctly.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And then two years after Buckner in 1988, this is another point I got from Brian Curtis Scully alternated calling the World Series on NBC with Al Michaels, and good thing for him, he got even years. So in 1988, he delivered what’s probably, I think, become his most famous call of Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run off Dennis Eckersley. And this is another example where the clip that we polled strips out a bunch of time when he’s just letting the crowd roar. But this is kind of stitched together the standout trio of moments from Scully’s call, The Gibson Homer.
Speaker 6: And look who’s coming out. All year long. They look to him to light the fire. And all year long. He answered the demands. And with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice. This is it. In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: A lot of people have commented on that. She, Vincent said. It’s a ship from the 1700s. Yes. It’s sailing off over the right field fence there.
Speaker 2: And the you know, it’s funny, we’re talking about those there. But one thing that in some ways is kind of unchanging. But it does seem that he like as the years go on, Scully gets more and more intimate with the audience and kind of loosens the tie. I mean, that the sort of grit in the in that gone where like that’s almost like a yell like there does seem to be. And also the and look who’s like there’s a there’s a familiarity. It’s not informal, but listening to it in this way opens that up for me in a way that I hadn’t really thought about. But he’s got a, you know, his feet are up even if they’ve got some velvet loafers on him.
Speaker 3: And the back story about this car is almost just as absurd as the call itself, right? I mean, this story that supposedly I think story that comes from Scully himself, that Kirk Gibson was in the dressing room with ice on his legs and he’s listening to the TV and he hears Vin Scully say he won’t play, he’s too injured, he can’t come out here. And he yells out, Bullshit, Vinny, and he throws the ice down. And that’s what leads to him coming up into the dugout and making that pinch appearance.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Print the legend, I think, on on that one. All right. Our last clip comes from Scully’s final year on the air in 2016. And I should say, before we get to that, in 1988, I remember hearing him, he just seemed like a guy out of the past even then, because of what you said a while back, Henry, about like the kind of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant style voice. But just like I was a kid who was obsessed with baseball history. And this is the guy who called the Brooklyn Dodgers and now he’s on TV calling the World Series so I can watch it. Then we fast forward another three decades. Here he is in his final year on the air, 2016. And this clip kind of captures a facet of his broadcast that we haven’t gotten to yet.
Speaker 5: Two down, second inning, no score and first pitch fastball, first, Ryan, first of all, they say way back to the dawn of humanity there evolve number one, because ladies like them. And number two, it was the idea of frightening of adversaries and wild animals. The here’s the one strike pitch swung on administrating. In fact, it was so serious. If you look it up, there’s a divine mandate for beards in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. No balls and two strikes they count.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I definitely wanted to leave and just the like, no balls and two strikes in the beginning and end. Just because the baseball of it seems incidental, but it’s also essential. There’s just like a baseball game going on. And in the background here.
Speaker 2: My experience is like that. It’s so good. And it’s also how it is to watch baseball. My first time, it just gets me back to my first time watching baseball. My friend Jose shout out to Jose. He we would sit on his couch and his mom had the, you know, like one of those plastic covered couches. And we would talk and talk and talk. Watch what happened, watch the pitch, talk about it, go back. You know, doing that on the air is like some that’s high level stuff, man. I love it.
Speaker 3: Lauren Thiessen has a great piece in Defector, which is titled The Game Bent around Vin Scully’s voice and describes just this sort of anecdote where his style of delivery and the way because he’s doing both the play by play and the color he’s, you know, he’s doing he’s alternating between the balls and strikes calls calling, you know, a foul ball here and there. And his story. And it often seems like because he’s so good at pacing his story, that the at bats seem to progress in such a way that he manages to reach the climax right before the ball is put in play, before the inning ends or something like that.
Speaker 3: And, you know, I think it’s just an amazing thing when you think about it that he he called games for some 60 years. And while it’s easy to find these super celebrated, famous moments, people also have an incredible recollection for these random stories that he told. You know, I was listening to one that he told about a coach on the Pittsburgh Pirates giving CPR to his dog from a baseball game in the 1980s. And I guess after Scully died, somebody was like, Oh, I’ve got just the story for this. I mean, it just it just boggles the mind how many how many hours this man spent speaking to the people of Los Angeles through their car radio.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: What a great way to end. Thank you for going on this long journey with us. And up next, we will talk about the documentary NYC Point Guards.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: New York City is the Mecca of basketball. Just ask anyone from New York City. If you’re looking for empirical evidence, consider that the city has more than 500 public courts. And last I counted, two NBA teams. Never mind that both are currently in various stages of shambles. And then, of course, there are the legends, many of which are point guards. A new documentary on Showtime NYC Point Guards showcases a bunch of them who became stars in the eighties and nineties. Here’s a clip.
Speaker 4: It was a buzz in the city of Baltimore. A watched everybody’s packed in the park game is getting ready to start. Pearl is not dead. So you see everybody walking. They live in the park. They just see him coming in with a motorcycle. You know, he’s revving up the engine and you see everybody running back to his seat. So pro come to the games on a motorbike with a big gold.
Speaker 2: Pacman chain because he always eight of his opponents.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Makes me wonder what Rod Strickland would have sounded like. Calling some of those great moments in baseball history has a good voice, too. That was that was Rod Strickland and Todd Shammgod celebrating the Syracuse legend Pearl Washington. And that clip gives a good sense of the movie, the vibe of which is unabashed, unapologetic mutual appreciation.
Speaker 2: That’s all it is. And it’s one of the it’s one of the great things I’ve ever seen. For that reason. I love this movie. I do have my qualms with it. But one of the. To your point, Josh, one of the great things about this movie is the proliferation of sort of last generations, New York accents, and you can hear it. So, I mean, if you have an ear for this stuff, the like the sort of the, the Brooklyn, the ease of Pearl, the the Harlem Sound of God, Shammgod it’s just it’s so good. One of the great things that they did with this is get Cameron as one of the sort of major interviewees. Cameron was apparently very good at basketball. One of my sadnesses that I never saw can play in Harlem, but.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Apparently goddamn God’s best friend, Cameron.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, and he and the rapper Mays. Very good basketball players. Apparently, just the voices in this are so good. A lot of assertion without argument.
Speaker 2: To your point about how great New York is, which I’m fine about, I’m fine with. This was this was a really fun nostalgia tour for me.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Henry My first note here is New York. Solipsism good or bad question?
Speaker 3: My gosh, you know, I’m I’d be the last person to ask about, you know, whether the New York City point guard is a real phenomenon. But these guys certainly seem to think it is. And I think that’s what counts. And and that you know, I forget who has this recollection about Ben Wallace saying to him, oh, you must be from New York, this idea that the New York City point guard had a reputation in the NBA, there must be something to it.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Well, I think it’s a state of mind. And and that’s part of there’s this kind of recurring bit in the dark about the three characteristics of New York City point guards handles showmanship and toughness. And two out of those three things are not actual basketball skills, showmanship and toughness. It’s all that swagger. It’s all about the way you present yourself in the way that you think about yourself and Vinson part of this, like we were saying, is a kind of bountiful show of respect from one legend to another.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah, another part of it is this kind of tour of New York basketball history and New York history as seen through playgrounds. And my favorite part was this like little bit that came towards the end where they interviewed the New York City Parks blacksmith about the rims. I don’t know if you wanted to talk about that or any any other part that stood out to you.
Speaker 2: It’s very it’s so true. And I honestly do think that those are the best parts of the doc. So, yes, he talks he talks about these like all weather rims that can, you know, withstand all weather. But, you know, and I played on these arms, especially the double ones, these, you know, the bright orange rims that are about like an inch high, like over the sort of the net has the perforations that go into it. Obviously there’s like a smoothness and then there’s like there’s this ridge of like an inch that just makes jump shots impossible to shoot. That is a true thing.
Speaker 2: And I do think that this documentary was best or I guess like more rigorous when it tried to do things like that, talk about the built environment, talk about public space and and talk about the dire nature of New York at the time that they’re talking about, which the eighties and nineties, in some ways, this is just totally converse with a certain kind of hip hop nostalgia as well, how it gave rise to a culture.
Speaker 2: You can quibble about whether the New York Point guard was a phenomenon that you can trace in, like, you know, the development of certain players or in the NBA. But it’s undeniable that this was. A cultural element that did affect the way the game was seen in New York. And it had something to do with hip hop. It had something to do with drugs at the time. It had something to do with the Congress between. This was kind of brought up very surreptitiously. But the Congress, between the the style of the sort of street hustler and how that became part of the style and presentation of the.
Speaker 2: Of. Of a certain kind of. Not only point guard, but basketball player. Period. Those correspondences, I think, were the best part of this documentary. But to your point about like just sort of like the nebulous status of many of these claims. One of my favorite parts was early on in this documentary, Kenny Smith talks about going to UNCI and basically thinking he was better than he was because he came from New York and he says something like, I’m from New York. I had a delusion. You know, there’s like something there. There is a level of just like New York as a provincial place is on is on display here, Florida. I love it.
Speaker 3: I was thinking about that, too. Like what? What is it really about New York besides its ineffable New York ness? Or what can we sort of pin down in that ineffable New York ness that would contribute to a certain style, a basketball player, especially with with guys who I think come from pretty different backgrounds like Kenny Smith and Mark Jackson are both from relatively, I think, middle class families in Queens. Whereas like Marbury comes from the nature projects in Coney Island and I think very movingly talks about how much. Being, you know, going to Georgia Tech and then being drafted meant to him because of the support that he could give to his family.
Speaker 3: So I think but despite those different backgrounds, it seems like one thing a lot of these guys have in common is this culture of playing. In these public parks for huge audiences of people who are really, really invested in the game and sometimes even have a lot of money on the game, which I thought might have contributed to the, you know, a kind of like pressure cooker environment, especially as it relates to like being tough and being a showman.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah. The one part of of this that I felt like had a ring of truth that was it was like a kind of flash of insight for me was about the rims again and this kind of reputation the New York City point guards have for not being able to shoot. And you could argue actually, like, oh, well, if the rims are really tight and it’s tough to shoot it, maybe that would make you a better shooter, because if you want to, you know, get the ball through, you have to be like more precise. But actually now like if it’s if it’s game plan, you’re going to want to drive to the basket.
Speaker 2: Right?
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And shoot a layup, get a high percentage like that you can. So the ways in which the rim would actually discourage you to even attempt shots rather than to practice them and hone your skills. I thought, like was persuasive. There are things about this, doc, and maybe we can go around here if you guys have some too that I found a little bit weaker and that I was a little bit disappointed by. There are some ways in which the kind of swagger and the like, you know, you’re buying the ticket, you’re going to take the ride. But like there’s all this talk of like Pearl Washington destroyed the Georgetown press and the 1984 Big East. And everybody’s talking about I can’t believe he, like, totally ripped up Patrick Ewing like Syracuse lost that game.
Speaker 4: Like.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It’s like we’re just going to we’re just going to ignore that that point. I also thought it was a little bit odd that they highlighted some some women who kind of had the same qualities, but always in a pretty good glancing sort of way. And like, how easy would it have been to do like a whole segment on Nisha Butler, who played for the Gauchos AEW program as opposed to giving her like 30 seconds. And that would have been really interesting to see how. Her kind of journey and story were similar in some ways to that of, you know, Rod Strickland or whoever and how it was different.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And then you see the long list of executive producers and how these guys who are the focus have stakes in this project. It’s like a Kevin Durant Rich Kleiman thing. They are the first credited executive producers, but Vinson like, you know, God, Shammgod is an executive producer. So it makes you wonder like, okay, maybe that’s why they don’t linger on. Like, why this guy only played 20 games in the NBA. Maybe this is why, like, I had to look on Wikipedia to learn that, like, Kenny Anderson has talked about being sexually abused by a basketball coach. I mean, like, these are not the sorts of things that you’ll see in this documentary, and maybe that’s just better for another movie on another day. But like, yeah, it’s, it’s not, it’s not going to give you the full picture in like big ways and small ways.
Speaker 2: Right. And you know, when I spoke to Stephon Marbury a couple of years back, it was because he was doing, you know, a self-produced documentary of, like the kid from Coney Island. I think that, you know, this is if you want to think about it in this way, this is the sort of documentary expression of what we’ve talked about jokingly before, of this like sort of new media that is heralded by Draymond Green. More the more and more players have decided to take their not only their sort of NBA business, but also the business of sort of self narrative izing, self storytelling on their own. This is that that I think this is one of the the wages of that setup. And so it’s interesting to think about the way that there might be two sort of rival ways of doing projects like this, one that is more sort of hagiographic and player led, former player led, whatever. And one that’s the you know, the one that those people will be mad about.
Speaker 2: Right. I do think what you said about the sort of the women and basketball thing was so true and it was so bad that I thought that this must have been added at the very end there, like, oh, maybe we should get some some women in here. But no, because that’s that can’t be true because in the interviews, these men were sometimes asked about those women players like, you know, again, in a kind of off to the side way. So it just seemed to me a very faulty setup.
Speaker 2: On a less serious note, but deadly serious to me, the actual worst thing about this documentary was the weird slam poet that was like the narrator who’s like in between, he’s like, God Shammgod. So it’s like, Dude, I just heard this. I don’t mean to hear it in rhyme. Like, that guy was horrible. If there’s anything in this doc that sort of casts a negative light on on New York, it was it was him. I think it was. I don’t know if I’m ever going to mention his name. Maybe that’s true. I mean, but I mean, this guy was really, really bad. Really? They could have threaded this together in any other way. This slam poetry was egregious in this setting. I thought.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Final thought from you, Henry, on the slave trade or anything else.
Speaker 3: Well, I’m just glad I got to hear Chuck D say Microwave Square Garden. That’s going to stick with me.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Up next, couple interviews from Washington, D.C. is pro tennis tournament, the city open.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This past week in Washington, D.C., a bunch of the world’s best tennis players got together at the City Open, where a great time was had by all, at least when it wasn’t a billion degrees and or raining. The winners were Nick Kyrgios on the men’s side and Lyudmila Samsonova for the women. I did not talk to either of those people, but I did do interviews on site with two players who I think are extremely fascinating. First up, Maxime Cressy. He has just reached a career high, number 31 in the world. Cressy is 25 years old and represents the U.S., although he was born in France to a French father and an American mother. As you’ll hear, this dude really believes in himself, which is important because he doesn’t play like anyone else on tour. Hi, Maxime. So nice to meet you. Thanks for doing this.
Speaker 7: You too. Yeah, very happy to be here.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So one thing that I read about you that I find so fascinating is that you played a match when you were 14 years old. You hurt your elbow, and that kind of changed the whole arc of your life and career. Can you tell that story?
Speaker 7: Yeah, it’s a it’s an amazing story. I mean, it just I’m I’m the type of player who’s very competitive and I hate giving up. So that day when I was 14, I played club matches for for the La Guardia, seeing my club. And I was like, I didn’t want to let the people down. I felt a little hurt in my elbow area and I couldn’t hit any four and I couldn’t stay on the baseline. My my elbow was just killing me. And in my mind, I was like, you know what? I’m just going to serve and volley. And and and I was actually quite good at it. And I ended up winning the match, doing a certain volley and mostly charging the net. And I just fell in love of the feeling of putting a volley away. It was just incredible to feel that finishing at the net and ever since I never stopped doing it. So it was it was a revelation.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It says something about you that you have a revelation at age 14 and stick with it. Like a lot of the things that we think about it, fortunately it turns out to be wrong or we decide that we were wrong. But you’ve had the kind of strength to want to stick with it for, you know, more than a decade at this point.
Speaker 7: Yeah. And the difficult part is I had the revelation and I had the feeling of wanting to do that. And nobody in my environment encouraged me to do that game. Some of the voices I heard were that it’s not going to be the best game to win in the future, that it’s it’s from the past. Now things have changed, have evolved into a more baseline game so that I wouldn’t find myself in a professional to a successful with that, with, with this serve and volley style. So I needed that the strength and that I needed a lot of character to stick with it. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So one of the narratives around you and I’m curious if you buy into it, is that you’re maybe the most improved player that anyone’s ever seen. And I know some of your teammates at UCLA when you played in college have said that talking about the progress from when you were a freshman until your senior year there, now on tour. But as somebody who I know believes in yourself so vehemently, I wonder if you think that you’ve actually improved that much or whether you were always had the talent and just weren’t given the opportunity. Mm.
Speaker 7: I would definitely that the progress of achieved so far has been uh has been a consequence of having a mindset to be number one on my first mind, my first thought of being number one was to be at UCLA when I was a freshman, I was on the bench. I was not a part of the singles lineup. And, uh, and that gave me a lot of motivation to, to want to be number one there. And, and then once I achieved that goal to be number one there, I was like, Oh my God, anything’s possible. I’ve improved so much. And it’s really it’s becoming a reality. And I was like, okay, now I’m in the professional tour. I’m, I’m, what, 500 in the world? Let’s see if I can do the same on the professional tour as well. So then my first goal was to be number one on the tour as well. So I don’t I’m the kind of person that do not set any limits. I think there’s no such thing as limits, that they’re all in delusion. So that’s why I, I just go for it and I don’t look back. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So the first time that I had ever heard of you and seen you play was the Cleveland Challenger, where you made your breakthrough, I think, about three years ago now. Yes. And I was like, this guy seems really interesting, serve and volley. And also during that tournament, you were kind of kissing some of the other players off. Yeah, like I believe what chance me attacking you play it. Told you to shut up during the match. A guy from an adjoining court told you to shut up because you were roaring. Does that actually make you happy to like get in other players heads like that? Or how did you respond to the way that they responded to you?
Speaker 7: Well, my whole mindset around my my game is is to have a game that gets inside my opponent’s heads. I mean, I did not want to be that way in terms of like the rowing and everything, but not today. In terms of my game style. My main goal is to instill doubt in every of my opponent’s heads. And I think I’ve been very successful at it. And now I definitely feel confident that my game is limitless and it’s going to keep being limitless until the day I retire. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So another of the breakthroughs that you had was you made an ATP final in Australia, pre Aussie Open and you played Nadal lost him. But afterwards he said that you Maxime are going to be a very uncomfortable player for every opponent. So after the match you lost, I assume you’re pissed off, but like did it instill more confidence in you to hear Rafa say that you going to be uncomfortable? Any player to play again.
Speaker 7: I’m playing. Rafa was such an incredible experience because they also gave me so much confidence that even against, I would say, the top player from that time in the world, I was able to get in his head and he really felt nervous against me. And I was such a huge confidence booster for for the next part of the season. But I was definitely not angry at all. After the match, I was I had more of a humble response where I was like, he handled the match mentally much better than me. But I definitely felt incredible at the idea that even Rafael Nadal I can I can I can have a big impact on him. It was really special to me. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I forgot. The other example I wanted to bring up of your game style actually bothering a player was Medvedev and Hamm at the Aussie Open just clearly being discombobulated by what you were doing. I think he said this is boring at one point and then apologised for it afterwards. But that as opposed to the roaring that actually that must have made you feel good to the number one player in the world that you were getting in his head to that degree.
Speaker 7: Yeah. So I another experience against Medvedev adding on the list and now it got in his head as well and and I haven’t really played a player who wasn’t affected by my game. And Rafa said it perfectly that I’m going to be a very uncomfortable opponent for anybody, but I wanted to take it one step further and be like, I can beat anyone instead of making them uncomfortable. So I’m confident that that’s going to be the next step for me. Rather than being an uncomfortable opponent, I’m I’m going to be a very dangerous and dominating opponent. Yes.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You do have the ATP title at Newport and your most recent tournament. So you check that off the list.
Speaker 7: Yes. Yes. This this was a very nerve wracking experience to the finals of ATP events.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: How did you feel? I felt.
Speaker 7: Relieved. I didn’t even feel happy. I felt relieved that I had that first one done. Yeah, I knew the first one is the hardest. My first challenge, the title was the hardest, the first few choice titles the hardest. It’s always the first. That’s the most difficult one.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So during the Aussie Open, when you’re making your first big Grand Slam run at a presser, you said you were UNsponsored or you didn’t have a clothing sponsor, I think it was at that point and that you wanted to wait until you were maybe top ten to make those deals. I think that struck some people as like, again, wow. Like this guy, really, he’s like betting on himself to that degree that he’s like not even going to try to get a sponsor. Yeah. Do you stand by that decision? Are you like now at like in the low thirties? Are you like thinking about exploring where deals are? Are you still going to wait?
Speaker 7: I still have the same mindset because I go if my words of being top ten and then and then negotiating. So now my my goal for 2022 is to be top ten at the end of the year. So that’s why I was saying that is, is that I wanted to wait until at the end of 2022 to negotiate deals. And I think the best position to negotiate a deal is to be in the top ten and have a lot more leverage to discuss what I want from brands. And I just know that beyond ten in the twenties or in the thirties that you don’t have enough exposure to have that kind of leverage with the brand. So, so I’m getting there. Yeah. So.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: If you look at the atp’s stats, anything to do with serving, you’re near the top with is an hour, an hour. PALCA There’s one stat that you’re far and away, number one, which is second serve speed. There’s nobody who’s even close to you. And I was wondering if that’s like an analytics thing or if it’s a mental thing. What goes into your approach to want to hit a second serve that’s closer to your first serve speed than anybody else on tour?
Speaker 7: My mindset is more that I’m heading to second serve, so I consider my first as a second. So I’ve been able to hack my mind into thinking that I was only hitting second serves.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Because you don’t hit it as fast as hard as you can. The first the first officer Yeah.
Speaker 7: I don’t I don’t hit the first serve as hard as I can. You’re hitting the same rhythm with the same with the two serves. I have the same rhythm. So that’s why my second serve is getting me is getting stronger and stronger. And I really feel like I could have the best second serve in the world in history of tennis. I believe I can really have the best second serve. Yeah. Because of that mindset. Yes.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And one stat where you’re close to the bottom and ATP has return percentage, a break percentage of points won on return, is that something that you need to improve in order to get to the top 10%?
Speaker 7: Yeah, but I really believe it’s also because of my lack of patience also that I’ve not been able to break as much. I think I worked on that a lot and in Newport it was much, much better when I was close to what, 36, 37% of return points won, which is a lot better than what I’m used to. So I really believe it’s very mental. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Is it a little bit more challenging on return, given that you absolutely know what you’re going to do on the serve? You’re going to hit your spot and you’re going to rush through that and you’re going to put it away. Whereas on return you’re a little bit at the mercy of the server. You can choose that chip and charge. You can choose to stay back. There’s maybe not as much of a clear plan going into a match, a game or a point.
Speaker 7: Oh, now, in return, I’m actually like I actually have a much bigger a much clearer plan than before. And that’s why I improve so much. And that’s why I’m starting to win a lot of matches, because now in return, I feel like I’m actually the one dictating more the pace. After the serve. I’m able to read the serve more and and I’m really able to start dominating the serve, which I’ve done really well against Isner or Palkia on grass. I’ve improved so much and I may been one of the lowest guys on the on the top hundred and returns right now. But I really believe that that’s going to change really quickly. And that’s the little missing piece for me to be. Top ten or even being close to number one is to have more, more percentage breaks. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Maxime Cressy good luck. Rest decision making, I would say making it to the top ten, but I know you want to be number one, so I’ll say good luck making it to number one.
Speaker 7: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Now my second and final interview is with Daria Saville, who made a great run at the City Open, and she got all the way to the semifinals. If you’re an extreme tennis nerd, you may know her by her maiden name, Daria Gavrilova. She was born in Russia but has played under the Australian flag since the mid 20 tens and is now married to a fellow Australian player, Luc Saville. In our conversation I asked her about fighting through injuries, speaking openly about mental health implications of her decision to criticise Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Take a listen. I thank you so much for doing this, first of all. So I wanted to talk to you about a couple of ways that tennis is a very weird job.
Speaker 8: Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: We travel the world with people and you’re a very kind of social and friendly person and you developed friendships, and yet your livelihood is based on beating these people in tennis matches. So how are you able to compartmentalize that? I know some people just don’t want to make friends. And I think you’ve talked about how that was really hard for you when you were told when you were younger but don’t make friends and that just didn’t work for you.
Speaker 8: Well, I think tennis, it’s actually like it’s funny. It’s like it’s like a circus, like traveling circus, like and we’re kind.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Of under a big talk right here.
Speaker 8: Yeah. So I think it’s silly not to make friends, and it it can get pretty lonely if you’re just always by yourself. I know. Well, I have a team and I have a coach, but I still like to socialize with my friends and you know, it’s nice to.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And they can understand what you’re going the way that another player is.
Speaker 8: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. Like, you literally go through the same things every week and it’s nice to just share a dream with someone else. And it’s really easy to talk to my tennis friends. They understand me the most. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So in 2019, I think it was you were having problems with your Achilles and plantar fasciitis. And I read you wrote on Behind the Racket about how you had this really low moment at Wimbledon. Can you just kind of talk about that moment for you?
Speaker 8: Yeah, I had Achilles problems for a long time, like for a few years before the 2019, but that’s when it got really bad. And, you know, I still played pretty decent tennis, but I just wasn’t ready physically. Like, my tennis was better than my mental health, my physicality. And, you know, with the way I play, I need to run a lot. And, you know, I played Elina Svitolina and I actually put myself in a pretty good position in the first set, and then I ended up losing that set. And then I just was like, I don’t even deserve it. I don’t why am I here? And yeah, I like almost started crying during the match.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But anything like that ever happened to you before?
Speaker 8: Not really. Not like that. Now, where I normally actually really enjoy tennis and I want to be out there on the court. Even if I’m losing, I still enjoy hitting a tennis ball. So that was kind of tough. Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And it must be really hard when you think that you have to push through an injury. You’re probably only going to make it worse. You’re probably not going to play your best. You risk hurting yourself. But how do you know when it’s kind of time to like step away. Step away for gentle third prize money, stuff away for the potential four points, and just take that unfair, you know, mental health like you talked about.
Speaker 8: Well, I I don’t think I did know when to do that. I think, you know, with that injury, it’s really hard to explain, but I kind of had to manage it. I still have to manage it. It’s not something like it couldn’t really get much worse than what it was unless I snapped it. But what was happening is like, I just would never know when I would have, like, really high pain. Because sometimes I had really good days, sometimes I had bad days. So I kind of struggled with that.
Speaker 8: And so a few years later, I did have another problem with my Achilles and it was like, okay, I think we’ve given it all and now we can operate. So when I went for the scans, I was like so excited that there was something, something bad enough to operate on because like it’s gave me believe that, hey, like, it’s going to get better.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So with Naomi Osaka talking so much about mental health, it’s been a conversation in all kinds of sports. Was there a kind of moment for you? Was it around this injury where you felt better talking to other players and saying, like, I’m really struggling right now, I’m having problems mentally and I’m struggling on the court?
Speaker 8: Yeah, everyone knew. Like all my close friends, it’s not like I would go cry to them or, you know.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You can just have like a real conversation.
Speaker 8: I could just have a conversation with them. Yeah. And it was also like, nice because they would understand and then they would be like, you know, I’m going through this and that and I’m like, Yeah, I can relate. And then it’s just makes you feel like you’re not alone.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So you are originally from Russia. You represent Australia now. When the war started, you put a post on Instagram in Russia and it said Silence in the current situation is equal to complicity. Putin Stop the war army come. You also wore blue and yellow to support Ukraine. What led you to make that statement and wear those colours?
Speaker 8: Well, obviously I wanted to make a stance like I am against the war. It was really like hurting me. Like I still do like watch a lot of videos and you know, I obviously I wanted to stop and it’s not like I made the biggest impact, but I felt like it’s something I just had to do. I couldn’t just be like, Okay, well, it’s not my problem. I’m going to stay out of politics because I think everything is kind of political.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It must be really tricky for you to think about what you want to say. I know your family is still in Russia. You’re friends with a lot of Russian players. They’re also Ukrainian players on tour. There’s the issue that you guys all were asked about. Should the Russian players be banned at Wimbledon? How hard was it for you to think about kind of how to navigate those questions and what kind of things to say publicly?
Speaker 8: Sometimes I would talk to my family or I would talk to, you know, my husband, look and talk about it and be like, well, do should I say something, tweet something. And then I don’t just like tweet because I, I mean, I obviously think about it and I have thoughts, but you’re not going to tweet every thought you have. So, yeah, I guess I think about it and then I take it seriously. And then a few times I got in trouble, like, I can’t remember what I tweeted, but there was so many like negative comments and then people fighting with each other. I was like, Oh my God, what’s going on? So I’m like, I’m deleting that just because I don’t want this negativity and like, I don’t want to read and see it because I think it really does affect me in some way. So, you know, I definitely try and take it seriously and not just with every thought that I have.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So you’re good friends. Daria Kasatkina just did an interview where she came out publicly, which was amazing, and also criticized the war and also criticized Russian policies towards LGBTQ people, which was an extraordinarily brave thing to do, given that she does represent Russia, she does live there. What do you think of what she said?
Speaker 8: Yeah, I think it’s pretty brave. I think the more people are going to talk about it, the louder like the, you know, athletes or celebrities, the lot of they get, the more change you can make because I think that’s how you make a change. So I’m really proud of her. We’re always like face time and message each other. So when I was watching the interview, I was like messaging her and you know, at the end she cried where the interviewer said, Do you know what kind of consequences you can have? And she’s like, Yeah, I know. And she cried. And that like killed me. I was like also crying. And then my mom was watching it and she cried. And, you know, I still haven’t seen her, but, like, I really want to give her a big hug.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You also said at one point that you weren’t sure if you could go to Russia at this point. What’s kind of the status of that or how are you feeling about that?
Speaker 8: You know, I’m obviously not a politician. It’s not like they’re looking for me or anything like that, but I still haven’t gone. And at this point, I’m not really planning to go. And, you know, I don’t want to get in trouble. And my family is a bit nervous about that. And, you know, I would really like to see my grandma, but I can’t at this point. But it is it is what it is.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So you’ve been representing Australia since around 2015, 2016. I read that one of the things that you one of the reasons why you wanted to become Australian is the coffee.
Speaker 8: Oh, really? Right. Did I say that? That’s definitely not it.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Okay. Struck me. Strike that, strike that.
Speaker 8: But we do have really good coffee.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Not a good reason to become Australian, but it’s a great place to live, obviously. I think you might have a little bit of an Aussie accent at this point. I don’t know. But it’s also a really challenging place to live if you’re a professional tennis player. And I’m curious, let’s talk about that. I know you have a dog who I assume you’re probably not seeing from us for most of the year.
Speaker 8: Yeah.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: What is it like to be Australian live there but also just not be able to be there because you’re traveling?
Speaker 8: Well, yeah, we don’t really come back home as much as, you know, Europeans or Americans. But I wouldn’t change it. I love my home, I love Melbourne. I, I mean, I do really thing, it’s like one of the best countries to live and it does suck when we kind of have to pack for like a few months on the road.
Speaker 8: You know, this time around I don’t even know how long I’m away for because the calendar is kind of challenging and it’s challenging for everyone because the calendar after us open like there is now no real swings like there’s a tournament in Europe is the tournament and ending in in Japan. So I have no idea where I’m going to go after U.S. Open, whether I’m going to come back or go to Europe and then or go to Japan. But I guess it’s a challenge for everyone.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: All right. Last question. You’re married to a beautiful Australian tennis player. He’s here. If you guys are both playing. There’s four different things that could happen. Both when both lose you. When he loses, he wins. You lose. I think both winning is probably the happiness scenario.
Speaker 8: Yeah, but.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Like, how would you rank the other scenarios? Like, if you lose, would you want him to lose to so you can be sad together?
Speaker 4: Or do you.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Always want to win?
Speaker 8: I want him to win. I think we separate it like it’s like win or lose. It doesn’t really change what our relationship or I don’t actually get really upset if I lose. Like I’m probably angry for a few hours, but I’m like, okay, well, it’s not like group inside. Yeah, it’s not like I haven’t lost before where there’s this.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Player and get a lot of practice losing.
Speaker 8: Exactly. Every week you lose. So it just depends if it’s early rounds or you might win a tournament. But a few years ago, we played Wimbledon. That was when Luc was still playing singles. We played first round of Wimbledon, so he just qualified and we played right next to each other. And that was kind of crazy because I kept on looking to check his score while I was playing, and my coach would be like, It’s five all in the third, like and jus, okay, concentrate on your court. And the reason why she would like tell me what the score is because I wouldn’t let go. I would need to know.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: She was telling you the score while you were playing.
Speaker 8: So, yeah. So then I can like just focus back on my court. But the challenging part is like if we play at the same time, or even if we’re not playing at the same time, we kind of just spend more time at the courts then I guess someone who doesn’t have a partner that also is competing because then we watch each other matches and like support each other. So it’s probably like more energy draining. But if, for example, like I’m playing a live match and he has to play first match the next day, he’s not going to come back. So we kind of still try and be as professional as possible.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Daria Saville good luck in DC and thank you so much.
Speaker 8: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s princess, endorsed by Kenny Sellers. He says it was okay. Okay. So putting my money where my mouth is a bet on that comment about NYC point gods. I wanted to honor Shannon Bobbitt as our after ball namesake of the week. She is in the documentary. She gets a little bit of screen time, but if we’re talking about like swagger and getting by on like toughness and guile as well as ball handling skills, this woman is five foot two. I don’t know if this means anything to you guys, the New Yorkers.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: She went to Murray Bergstrom High School, led the team to two straight PCL and State Federation titles, ended up having to go to junior college as her way into the sport at the next level. Maybe being five foot two is a reason for that, but then transferred into Tennessee by Tennessee to the national championship in 2007 and then made it to the WNBA. L.A. Sparks also played in Turkey. But what a great example of a New York City point guard. Shannon Bobbitt.
Speaker 2: So Josh, what’s your Shannon Bobbitt?
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: All right, more NYC playing gods. We left a little meat on the bone in that segment, so and there is a lot of potential grist here. So as we discussed, it features the legend God Shammgod and yes, that is his real name. And he is the namesake of the Shammgod, which is a kind of crossover dribble. And this is going to I’m going to ask you guys to maybe help me out here, because this puts my verbal skills a little bit to the test. I would describe it as a kind of crossover dribble where you throw the ball out, toss it out with one hand, and then snatch it back with the other from across your body. It’s kind of hard to visualize. I know maybe Vin Scully could do it more justice, but how would you guys describe the Shammgod? Maybe Vin Scully couldn’t do it any justice at all. I don’t know. You’re giving the man unearned credit.
Speaker 2: You’re totally right. But crucially. After you throw it in front of you, you have to readjust your. You’re kind of doing a skip move with your feet that like if you do it with your lead foot forward with the the same hand that’s throwing the ball forward. But then you need to figure out a way to get the other the weak leg in front when you’re about to do the cross so that there’s like a a misdirection, it seems like you’re about to drive toward the ball that you’ve thrown switch up boom, and then you’re ready to go. One of the great moves.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: We should have listeners mail us videos of them attempting to do the Shammgod based only on that description. Before I see how close we got.
Speaker 3: In the stands, that the ball seems to float in front of the opponent as if they could just reach out and grab it, which is one of the things that makes it look so good when Shammgod just sneaks right by them.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: All right, so God, Shammgod made his move later, his namesake move famous when he was playing for Providence College. He pulled it off against Arizona in the elite eight of the 1997 NCAA Tournament. I actually remember that Providence team in that game. That was an incredible NCAA tournament game. And even though he barely played in the NBA has moved does live on in the league Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook they’ve all done it. And when they do, the originator guy Shammgod almost always gets his props, except maybe he wasn’t the originator.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This February, The Athletic published a story headlined The Unknown History of the Shammgod Crossover or, as Philly calls it, the Pooh. Allen So Stefan is going to be so upset that he’s not here for this because Jerome Allen played at the University of Pennsylvania Go Quakers. And this athletic piece describes Pooh Allen doing the move in a 1993 game that was televised on TNT. In that game, Allen was playing on a team of college stars against the Second Dream Team, which was preparing for the basketball world championships. There’s a grainy clip. It’s embedded right there in the article where he does the move. And then there’s another clip embedded in the article where he does the move again in the NCAA tournament, three years before Providence played Arizona in the Elite Eight. This is the 1994 NCAA tournament.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: My favorite part of the story, this athletic piece and we’ll link to it on our show notes, is that when Jerome Pooh Allen was an assistant coach for the Celtics, she would apparently carry around a videotape of himself doing the let’s call it the Pooh Allen and showing it to people to prove that he had done it. And the longtime NBA player, Marcus Morris, who grew up in Philly, he gives a testimonial. He says, I never heard about the Shammgod all the way up until maybe like when I was about to go to college. And then I seen it and I was like, Wait, Pooh Allen created that.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Now, for his part, Allen credits an assistant coach at Penn named Fran O’Hanlon with showing him the move, which O’Hanlon called the reach across. O’Hanlon played at Villanova in the sixties, then in the ABA and in Europe. And so maybe we’ll get to the Europe in a second. That is the connection to the other people who claim to have invented the so-called Shammgod. When Chris Paul tweeted during the 2022 playoffs about doing the Shammgod in front of God Shammgod, who is now a coach for the Mavericks. So when the Suns were playing the Mavericks, Chris Paul did the Shammgod in front of God.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Shammgod NBA players Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Vucevic both said that the real inventor was Dejan Bodiroga Bodiroga is Serbian. He was drafted by the Kings in 1885 but never played in the NBA. He instead became a superstar in Europe, according to a piece in Basket News.com. His version of the dribble was known as a la Tego or The Whip, and there’s a video embedded in that basket news article that does indeed show him Shammgod ing away or whipping or handling or doing the Pooh. ALLEN And to give credit where it’s due, he supposedly learned the move from a Croatian named Danko for teaching in. Further study will require us to learn who Degas for teaching and learned it from.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So I am happy to report, I guess, that there doesn’t appear to be any beef involved with any of this in that athletic piece. God Shammgod is quoted as saying for Bodiroga to Jerome Allen. Props to them too. So I guess the lesson here is Vinson. If you want to move named after you, then have a cool name and maybe also be from New York.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t know that I was going to be party to Shammgod truther ism. I feel I feel like a traitor. I feel somehow sullied. I don’t know what to say. I just want to be like everybody out there. All I did here was sit and sometimes laugh. I’m sorry. It’s in my city. God, you’re still the guy. But, you know, there’s only so many things you can do with your body. I feel like.
Speaker 4: This.
Speaker 2: This move was out there. It looks beautiful, but it is simple. Of course, someone’s done it before, but God is still the God.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That is our show for today. Our producer is Kevin Bender. Plus, in the past years and subscriber, just reach out. Go to Slate.com slash hang up and you can email us at hang up at Slate.com. And don’t forget to subscribe and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts for Vincent Cunningham and Henry Grabar. I’m Josh Levin remembers Elmo Baby and thanks for listening.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members and we’re going to talk about baseball again. And Henry, you wrote a piece for Slate after the Juan Soto trade. He went from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres. The Padres now have three of the maybe all that I’ll let you tell us three of the most exciting players in the entire sport. And Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. And there’s this concentration of both great players and fun players to watch in the Pacific Time that’s out now, right, Henry?
Speaker 3: That’s right. Josh, I crunched the numbers on this because I knew I had to come prepared because people were going to be mad. Turns out they were mad anyway. But I brought the numbers and here are the numbers.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Slay plus members. They’re always very friendly to us and generous, generous of spirit.
Speaker 3: I don’t know these Southern California baseball fans. When they told me, I said I said all the best hitters in the game are playing in the middle of the night. And they said, you’re sleeping in the middle of the day. But here’s here’s what I learned. So we’ve got some of the top ten hitters in baseball over the last three seasons, measured in wins over replacement. Five of them are now playing in Southern California. That’s Trey Turner, Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts with the Dodgers, Machado and Soto for the Padres.
Speaker 3: But that doesn’t quite state the extent of it, because 11th on that list is Fernando Tatis Jr, who misses the top ten only because he did not play a full season until last year and two other guys were missing. From that list are Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, who need no introduction, but for various reasons. Each of them also didn’t make it onto that top ten list, although I think they’re indisputably among the top ten best and most exciting players in baseball.
Speaker 3: So yeah, I brought some I brought some receipts here to show that there are very a very large number of very good baseball players playing in Southern California. And furthermore, that this is a problem because many of their games, about half, if not more, start at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And the other number that you brought to the discussion, Henry, is that one in six Americans. Live in Pacific Time. And so just based on math, at most, two of the top ten players should be in that Pacific Time zone. It’s one of 611 in six.
Speaker 4: Of the best players.
Speaker 3: That’s that’s right. And I think it might be about right.
Speaker 4: I don’t know.
Speaker 3: We know that one in six Americans live in the Pacific Time. So that part is that part is true. Yes. Well, as for what to do about it, it’s complicated. Right. And I don’t think we should necessarily redistribute baseball talent purely according to population density. Although if we were doing that, obviously New York City would be in great shape, but it already is. So, you know, we’re pulling our weight here. But I do think it’s a problem, right? Because baseball has a name recognition problem with its biggest stars. Nobody knows who what Mike Trout looks like to say nothing of all these other guys. And I think part of the problem is that they all play baseball and and. All right. And I’ve heard many, many counterarguments as this piece is published. And Southern California baseball fans do not agree with me, but I think that they should start games on the West Coast a little bit earlier.
Speaker 2: I would be all for that. Also, one of the one of the solutions.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Had and of.
Speaker 2: Course, one of the solutions is if you’re the Boston Red Sox, don’t don’t trade Mookie. You know some of this as the East Coast, some of this is the East Coast’s fault. So I’m not a fan of the Nationals. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m not so quick to blame our siblings in Southern California.
Speaker 3: No, I know. If anything if anything, they are blessed to have baseball teams in their in their areas who are investing in top talent, competing, actually trying to win. I mean, it’s it’s an absolute blessing for them. But let’s think about the sport and in particular, the sport’s aging fans on the East Coast who do not want to stay up until 12:30 a.m. to to catch a Dodgers Angels interleague matchup. Those fans should be treated to perhaps some Saturday afternoon games that are playing at 4 p.m. Eastern. Would that be so much to ask?
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah. I mean, maybe that’s the compromise is more day games on the weekends. And I feel like the thing that you’re pierces is sort of. Getting at is this question of baseball being a local sport versus a national sport. And that issue or question is, I think, going to be more pronounced than ever with this enormous concentration of talent on the San Diego Padres.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And all credit to the Padres for wanting to spend, for wanting to for trying to put together a winner in a sport where so often, you know, too much credit, I feel like, has been given for teams like, oh, they’re doing it on the cheap. How smart has sabermetrics sophisticated of them? It’s like know like give credit to the team that gets the best play, that gets a lot of great players and tries to put a good product on the field, entertaining product and also winning product. So like go Padres.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But this is not a team, Henry, that has any sort of historical footprint where there’s any kind of national reputation, national fan base for this team. And this is a sport that operates on hardcore local fandom, you know, people going to the games, watching on, on local TV. There’s certainly Padres fans, but also these like national name brands, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers. And so, like, how do the how do the Padres fit into that? And does the sport have room for a team like the Padres that has all these great players but doesn’t evoke anything when you say the Padres?
Speaker 3: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think there’s a bit of a there’s a chicken and egg thing going on here. People are local baseball fans, in part because well, for one thing, it demands a lot of your time to be a fan of a baseball team. I mean, we’re talking 3 hours a game, 162 games a year more, if you’re lucky. That’s it’s a lot of hours already.
Speaker 3: But part of it also is for a long time, it’s been basically impossible to watch a team that’s not your own because there’s only a few nationally televised games a week and you never know which team is going to show up in them. That is not the case anymore, right? Like MLB has rolled out these premium audio video products where you can follow any team you want. And I think there’s an opportunity should they decide to take it to to help people maybe follow along with some of the teams that have gotten the best players and making sure that that, you know, baseball fans who have a general sense of the sport maybe start to follow some some of these guys and some of these teams. I think that, you know, if Judge makes a run at 60, 61 home runs this year, knock on wood, I think you might see a national audience tuning into Yankees games to watch that, for example. So I don’t think it’s impossible that this might happen, but baseball certainly hasn’t tried.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yeah, I mean, Vinson, I don’t think there will ever be the same kind of following around of players as a fan as we get in the NBA. Like I just don’t think that’s really baked end to baseball. And I don’t I mean, I think there’s some some wiggle room, Henry, as you’re talking about. And obviously, if I was running the sport, I would be thinking really hard about how to make it as hot, as popular as possible and having these star players become national figures. But yeah, Vince and I just don’t feel like they’re going to they’re just not going to be. A lot of Nationals fans are going to become Padres fans. Now that’s just like not how it works.
Speaker 2: I do think that it’s not how it works because partially because of the profile of the game now and also because of the sort of, as you mentioned, the local news. But I do think to Henry’s point that it’s better for the game if they don’t. It’s a weird thing of like, that’s probably true, but it’s better for the game if they keep trying to make it matter. Like it’s better for the for the game if they keep pushing as if that is one day attainable, therefore the new people coming into it, there can still be this sense of rejuvenation.
Speaker 2: I mean, I just want to send out a prayer, a thought to Mike Trout, who’s always the guy that’s mentioned and nobody knows what Mike Trout looks like. He must be he must hate hearing that, not like he’s the one that we use for that. But it’s true. And I mean, I don’t think they should stop trying to not make that true. And Mike, trade show hey to the Yankees for the good of all of us. Right? Like we need that so that that so that we can all see him. There are things that can be done. Practical things like sending away the best player on one team, just. Just for the enjoyment of me like that. We can do some of the stuff.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The continent might actually tip over. Henry Just because of all that star power on the West Coast. It’s for for public safety.
Speaker 3: Too many big bats over there. It’s a fire hazard.
Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Thank you, everyone. Who sent Henry Henry a comment on that piece. They were all incredibly polite and well-intentioned and thank you. To everybody who as a slip up plus member. We’ll be back with more next week.