S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hello I’m Josh Levine Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen. This is Slate’s fourth podcasting up and listen for the week of September 9th of 2019. On this week’s show The New Yorker’s Louisa Thomas will join us about Bianca and Rescue’s big win over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. And Rafael Nadal is remarkable five said victory over Danielle Medvedev.
S3: Our colleague Ben Mathis Lilly will also be here to assess Antonio Brown’s transcendent if short lived career with the Oakland Raiders and his escape to the New England Patriots. We also discussed the Clemson Tigers college football dynasty and perhaps over the top maybe creepy techniques its coaches and staffers have used to build and maintain it. Joining me in Slate’s Washington D.C. studio is Stefan Fatsis he’s the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. Stefan I’m upset with you. Why. You know you know why. Because at the end of the Greece U.S. game in the basketball world cup your countrymen the lesser Antetokounmpo fantasy flagrantly maliciously fouls my countrymen Harrison Barnes and no apology from you from any other Greece.
S4: I apologize to no one for nothing.
S3: No one for nothing. I like it. That’s the Greece the national motto.
S4: Yes. Since when are you big Harrison Barnes defender anyway.
S5: Love Harrison Barnes. You know anyone who wears the red white and blue and the stars and stripes.
S6: I’m a fan of theirs and whoever wears the blue and white. I’m a fan of Zito I love that.
S3: All right agree to disagree.
S7: Serena Williams won her twenty third Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open beating her sister Venus while amazingly she was pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia a year and a half later after a difficult pregnancy and birth and a bunch of injuries.
S3: Serena even more amazingly made it all the way to the Wimbledon final before losing to Angelique Kerber at the next grand slam after that she lost to Naomi Osaka and the U.S. Open final. The match made famous by her series of confrontations with chair umpire Carlos Ramos this year after losing in the quarterfinals in Australia and the third round of the French Open Serena made it back to the Wimbledon final where she got blown out by Simona Howe up and this past weekend and yet another U.S. Open final Serena Williams failed for the fourth time to secure her 24th grand slam losing in straight sets to Canadian teenager Bianca and rescue. Here is Serena in her post match press conference. It is really hard right now to take that moment in and to say. You did okay.
S8: Because I don’t believe I know. And I believe I played better and I believe I could have done more. And I believe that I could have. Just been a better been more Serena today and I honestly don’t think Serena showed up. And I have to kind of figure out how to get her to show up in Grand Slam plans.
S7: Joining us now is Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker. Great to have you on as always. Louisa Great to be here.
S3: So if there was any doubt before Serena Williams losing in Grand Slam finals is now officially a thing. We just heard in that clip Serena acknowledge as much it was for her a very open and introspective Q and A session and rescue played very well. We’ll talk about her more in a minute. But it seemed to me Louise I am curious if it did to you that Serena was struggling mentally in that match.
S9: Absolutely. I mean it came out in her second serve especially Serena’s serve has always been her most imposing weapon. And Okafor ASR and her second serve just weren’t there this weekend. You could tell that she was tight. She was nervous and this is definitely a pattern.
S10: It’s also true that Bianca and rescue is probably the best player in the world right now not Serena Williams and that probably unnerved her too except that Serena was so dominant in the earlier rounds.
S11: I mean she completely demolished Maria Sharapova in the first round of this tournament. She completely demolished her opponent in the quarterfinals. What was that 6 1 6 love. Twenty four minutes in 44 minutes. Amelia did not look going into this final like Oh Serena still on the way back. It looked like she was back.
S7: She is healthier. She’s moving better as you wrote in your piece.
S10: Louisa the movement really stood out in this tournament every other slam going on and I was you know what this is. She is such a fierce competitor that I always thought you know she would really have a strong sense of coming through. But she was moving so well and in that semifinal match against the latest that. She was moving phenomenally. I mean she was moving as well as as I’ve ever seen her move. I really thought wow this is Serena as Serena would say Serena is back but it wasn’t there.
S7: So you know to answer your question Stefan I think one of the reasons that she looked so dominant and you know the first big chunk of the tournament was that she was playing well she got out to Leeds and she was playing opponents who she could dominate both physically and mentally. Like none of the folks that she was playing in the first six matches in the U.S. Open were on her level. She lost a set to Katie McNally 17 year old American who did not look afraid against Serena. But nobody else really went up to her level. But in this final as it happened with Simona how up and Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber in the previous finals she was up against an opponent who did not fear her who got out to a really good start and perhaps the fact that you know Serena was not clearly the best player on the court. That’s what led her to kind of spiral and get down so far that when she did finally come back it was too little too late.
S6: It definitely felt like the emotional vulnerability was exploited by undress. Q I mean the announcers I don’t know who was whether it was Chris Everett or John McEnroe but someone said at the very beginning that undressed you deferred she won the coin toss and could have served first but she allowed Serena to serve first knowing that if she broke her that she had this plan if she broke her she knew that would affect Serena immediately and she broke her she always likes to return I believe she said afterwards.
S12: So that wasn’t so much a power play but it did work. And it’s also true that in our press conference she said that you know she thought that maybe. I mean it was a little bit intimidated by her returns and I heard what I was like wow I really never heard anyone say I think that I intimidated Serena Williams. But you know what.
S13: Maybe she’s not wrong because her pressure on Serena service was really stood out Serena certain terribly. That is absolutely true.
S10: She was returning really well and really aggressively. The amazing thing about her though is that that’s not all her game. She has touched she feels she takes a lot of piece off the ball sometimes you know anyone who just watch her in the final thinks oh my gosh this woman hits the ball just 90 miles an hour and that’s true. But if you watch some of her other matches you would see someone who’s playing with a lot of variation a lot of the spins.
S7: I mean she’s one of the reasons she’s so exciting is that she is a complete game will get Nadal and Medvedev in a second but there are a lot of parallels between undressed Q and Medvedev in terms of how strong they’ve been this year. They’ve had the best kind of run up to the U.S. Open of anybody in the game and you saw that confidence with both of them and with the rescue. You know we can play a little bit too much of this but it’s hard not to notice her yelling out. Come on. Just being so demonstrative in a way that in Serena’s matches it’s usually Serena that way and that a woman on the other side of the court is silent but addressing you is not deferential. She had no reason to be. She’s the best player has been the best player in the world on forum and on results all year. And in order for Serena Williams to win this match even though she’s look good she was going to have to play the best match that she’s played probably in her her comeback. And she just wasn’t able to muster that in this moment. There was one thing like Chris Everett was saying in the post match like in all these finals and all four of them like these women play the matches of their lives. I don’t think that’s true that’s an exaggeration. And
S6: Jessica has been playing awesome all year as ADA now against top 10 players in her career.
S7: And I think it’s just putting blinders on to say that Serena had nothing to do with this and that undress. You just played like super lights out you saw when Serena started to play well in the second set that she could hang with her and could beat her. She just wasn’t playing well enough.
S6: Yes you can start though until she was down 1 5 in the second set.
S14: I mean I completely agree. How did play the battery life and rescue. Didn’t I think that a lot of Serena’s hesitation might have had to do with the fact that you know we talk about her quarterfinals which she wondered 44 minutes. I saw that described I can’t remember who did it. But as batting practice. And that’s true. You know if you tee up a certain kind of ball for Serena she will pound it for winners all day long. But her skin really had a plan as you probably had a backup plan and a backup plan and a backup plan and Serena knew that to back to and rescue for a second.
S15: How much Louisa do you feel like players like her learn from Serena. I mean this is a young woman she’s 19 you know four years ago she said that she was writing her name on fictitious U.S. Open trophy checks to get psyched about her future career.
S7: But she plays and you get arrested for passing bad checks.
S1: Yes. She lived in Zeta every year.
S11: This it’s not just that she is strong and powerful and has adopted a lot of the tactics that Serena has used against weaker opponents it’s that she displays this raw aggressive confidence. There is no fear there. This is no bullshit athlete.
S14: It’s hard to know what’s inherited or what her own personality. I mean I look at her mother and I think OK this is a girl who was raised in a family that you know really encouraged her to be herself in the very best way. But also it is absolutely true that Serena Williams helped establish this real life right for young women to stand up for themselves and be strong and be proud and competitive and ambitious in ways that you know maybe they haven’t always in the past. And I really do think that she modeled a certain kind of confidence that in their schools is showing and in spades.
S7: Last quick thought on this is that I think similar to LeBron James we can maybe punish Serena for making these finals and losing them just like LeBron has a bad day in the finals because he he actually made it there. You know Roger Federer who’s very similar in age to Serena 38 years old loses in the quarterfinals kind of goes away against Dimitrov whether it was because of stamina or injury. We don’t know. But you know Federer was not in the final to suffer a mental lapse like like Serena Williams did. So it’s you know nobody in the sport despite the fact that she hasn’t been able to get number 24 has had a strong run of Grand Slam performances as Serena Williams has had since she came back from having her child. That’s very impressive.
S14: Totally impressive for her final. I mean it’s it’s unbelievable. Nobody’s shown that high level consistency.
S16: Somebody pointed out that Serena Williams is the same age as Lindsay Davenport. Martina Hingis. Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. It’s amazing.
S3: Let’s talk about the men’s final on Sunday Rafael Nadal took a two set lead over Danell Medvedev even Medvedev himself said he was starting to think about his loser’s speech. And then he came back from a breakdown down the third one the third one the fourth and fell behind and the fifth but actually had a breakpoint to get it back. Even in the fifth set before Nadal prevailed 19th Grand Slam title for an at all one behind Federer for the all time lead. But let’s talk about this match and talk about Medvedev. This was an incredibly impressive performance and comeback by Hamm and the match was just played at an unbelievable level.
S7: The baseline rallies were long and torturous and they were still playing at that level after four and a half hours.
S14: This guy is amazing. I had no idea what to expect. I took it a friend after Nadal went up 30 love of the match and I said is not going to win a single point. I texted him you know a few minutes later and said because this friend actually I think has a game that looks just like Ben but I was like Congratulations You’re making me your grand final next year you’ve got this ability to suffer in front of our eyes and he just brought it. It was it was unbelievable. I had no idea what to expect at any point in that match.
S17: We haven’t seen anybody. Stefan I think like him that’s he’s tall and skinny six foot six but he knows it doesn’t move well for a big guy. He moves as well. I think as maybe anybody except for Novak Djokovic and all of men’s tennis. And I don’t know who’s training this guy but somebody has like it usually takes a long time. Like he’s never won a five set match. It usually takes a long time for guys to build up stamina. But his ability to hang in with the doll and these long baseline rallies and actually get the better of Nadal for a long period in the match in these long rallies it’s not like he was only winning when he had big serves. This guy is like weird. He’s like a freak.
S15: Physically you do not look at Medvedev and think oh fantastic athlete. This guy is going to be at the top of the sport for for 15 years but that I mean the intensity of those rallies were incredible. And as Louisa you just pointed out the fact that he was on the brink of losing in straight sets and losing that third set like 6 2 and comes back and pushes at the 5 was really remarkable. And what makes it difficult to go the distance against Nadal and how did Medvedev do that.
S13: I think that he sort of once he decided to again. He was like well it’s going to be five hours and it’s going to hurt. And here we are. And he did. I mean I do think a couple of things one. It’s amazing the way he didn’t did it. I just sent Doug in but it’s not like he just kept grinding. He started serving in volume. You know he was doing all sorts of weird different unusual things for him. He’s one of these people who just is willing to try anything and everything if it helps him win. And lately it’s been helping him win a lot. I do think maybe we’ve all been a little pumped. Oh he looks like he’s about to keel over but actually you know you can almost outlast the guy that nobody in the world can at last. I think that he is so much fun to watch his game is really weird. It’s very like public courts. You know it’s kind of really interesting why he looks like he’s just been almost self-taught.
S14: I was sort of joking that Bianca Andress goes like Medvedev with technique you know. I mean he’s just like I don’t know how he learned to play tennis or where but I want to go sign up.
S7: So and rescue as the first player man or woman to win a Grand Slam and singles that’s born in the 2000s. Medvedev In this match became the first man born in the 1990s to ever win two sets and a grand slam final.
S3: Like that’s how our whole generation he’s like redeeming to like a lost generation of men’s tennis with this performance. And you know kind of joking but we’ve been waiting for a decade to see somebody from the next generation stand up to Nadal Djokovic which Federer and to some extent Murray. And this has never happened even with this match for the last three years. It’s only the big three that have won majors and Medvedev is you know. Maybe he saw rescue and got inspired. Like he didn’t look afraid. He hasn’t looked afraid all summer. And maybe it will be inspiring for the whole field that he fell behind two sets against the greatest fighter and maybe the history of the sport. And he didn’t succumb and all and like had Nadal it looked like for for a minute where it where he wanted him. And it’s not like he lost the match because of any kind of weakness like he just got beat. That’s all.
S15: The other reason I think this is hope inspiring is that you know we’ve still got four or five more years of Nadal and Djokovic. They’re 32 and 33 and they are performing still at an incredibly high level so I think it’s really important for men’s tennis that someone from the younger generation has demonstrated they can get to a final and make a run at a final against one of these guys.
S5: Let’s talk about the other factor with Medvedev which is his personality and attitude. I
S3: talked a couple weeks ago ahead of the curve on this people about how he got defaulted from a match on the Challenger Tour for saying that a black chair umpire and his black opponent were quote unquote friends which does not reflect super well on him. He also threw coins at an umpire at Wimbledon. Then at the U.S. Open he kind of took this pension for conflict to a new level in his third round match with Feliciano Lopez he snatched a towel away from a ball man and that led the crowd to be increasingly angry at him and boo him and Medvedev won. And this is what he had to say to the crowd after the match.
S18: First of all what I can say that. Thank you all guys because your energy tonight. Give me the win because if you are not here guys I will probably lose the match because I was so tired that was rampant yesterday. I saw it out for me to play. So I want all of you to know when you’re asleep sleep tonight I want because of you when you sleep tonight I think is the best part.
S3: Luisa How did he go from that moment of playing like Hamish Lee playing the villain and trolling the crowd to being a guy that people were like celebrating and chanting his name on Sunday.
S13: I mean it was really moving in his concession speech or whatever you call it. I mean it is positively this time. You guys really carried me through and I think you mean it. There is a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing with him. You know I think sometimes I’m court he seems overcome by this like rage and he can’t seem to see past and this is something he’s talked about pretty openly. People have compared him to you know a guy like me curious. But he seems very different because he does seem actively to be working on this. He has a psychologist sitting in his player’s box. You know this is something he has kind of own a little bit in the past. It’s really important to acknowledge that he is acting like a bad guy. In the past he said some really awful things. It’s also great that he’s owning up to it and kind of working on it. So I give him a lot of credit. I think he’s a little bit crazy. And maybe it was going to take a guy with a little bit of crazy to be the first one to break through because there is no traditional deference to him.
S3: There is just a little crack that I can’t peer into and it’s often I would push back on that a little bit because I think curios has also been open and talked about how he needs to work on things and and fix that and I think part of it is just like we need to wait and see and see if his behavior changes and how it changes he’s definitely now gotten affirmation and the benefit of the doubt from the crowd. Based on his his play and his very can be a very charming guy. I think the big difference with between him and curious Stefan is that Medvedev has shown in a shorter time in the spotlight of the sport but that he can use and channel his anger in a positive way as far as results go on the court like it. I haven’t seen an example at least this year of him getting mad and him them playing worse. It seems like it’s actually the opposite.
S11: Right. Nice on no evidence you saw no evidence in the Nadal match particularly of him getting frustrated or down or banging anything or throwing anything in in the first two sets plus.
S4: And as far as the crowd goes he definitely challenged them. But it also felt like this was like the classic example of a New York U.S. Open crowd trying to behave like it thinks a New York U.S. Open crowd is supposed to behave. And I didn’t feel like they went far enough in the final it was still predominantly Nadal focused than Rafa chance if the New York crowd really wanted to live up to the to the stereotype it totally should have gone all in on Medvedev during the comeback.
S3: Louisa Thomas thank you so much.
S19: Thanks so much for having me.
S4: I feel like this next segment like some famous person receiving some dumb award needs no introduction but it is worth noting that the last two months of Antonio Brown’s life certainly are the first in the history of humankind to involve a hot air balloon cry or therapy induced frostbite football helmet certification standards the word cracker a possibly illegal wiretap a professionally crafted Instagram video. Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick one of the best wide receivers of the last decade is a New England Patriot now and I have to say that against all logic I love this outcome with the fire of ten thousand suns. Joining us now is Slate’s Ben Mathis. Lily Hey Ben. Hey you guys. We’re doing good. Not as good as Antonio Brown though. Brown saga is at once totally absurd and amusing but it’s also really serious in what it says about the rules that govern where professional athletes get to play and how they can maneuver to do that. I don’t think there are any angels in this story.
S15: Josh there were problems with Antonio Brown’s entire career and the way he’s behaved certainly at the end in Pittsburgh but at the same time I’m actually kind of sympathetic to him wanting to get out of a toxic situation and get out of you know playing in a place that maybe you didn’t want to from the beginning a toxic that you helped create it was pouring the poison into a barrel with a skull and crossbones on it already.
S17: The thing that’s the most fascinating about this is like working backwards through your whole list if you want to read that list to us backwards now it’s Stefan it ends with Belichick and then you have the surreptitious tape bang and then you go back through the whole mat and the hot air balloon and the cryogenic foot burning like I don’t think he would have intentionally blistered his feet in a cryogenic chamber. But I think everything else has now been called into question Was he sincere in not wanting to play because the NFL didn’t allow him to wear his helmet or was that a way to get the Raiders to be annoyed with him and release him. It seems like towards the end we now have enough reporting on you know Chris Mortensen reporting that he brought in social media consultants to like how do I do bad tweets. So the Raiders will release me like he legitimately brought in consultants to figure out how can I frame what’s happening with with me and the Raiders so that they will release me at least part of this is clear like intentional bad and disruptive behavior so he can orchestrate his departure. I’m going into New England right.
S15: And also his agent is Drew Rosenhaus and it would not surprise anybody if Rosen House was involved in helping to orchestrate some of this. I mean that Instagram video that was really professionally produced when somebody sat around and said Let’s tape your conversation with your head coach and then let’s use that tape in a lovingly crafted Instagram video that will annoy the shit out of the organization and certainly lead to your release.
S5: Do you have outside help with your bad tweets banner they all year.
S20: Well I like the ideas that he had to ask someone if posting private correspondence from his boss where they find him for conduct detrimental to the team would be good or bad for his relationship it’s always good to make a phone call and consult an expert just to make sure that you have things right.
S21: I certainly want to know how much that consulting bills per hour and you know I mean obviously high and maybe become a part of that firm.
S7: Let’s listen to an excerpt from that video.
S22: I met John and the races there weren’t that many if you weren’t married. So you.
S23: Know it’s a question that’s been written. Do you guys want me to be read.
S24: Please stop the show. How hard is. Your learning.
S23: I’m more than a football player. I’m a real person in about a football. Not a rash. This is my life. I know more.
S17: Than I think the most fascinating thing about that surreptitiously taped call with Jon Gruden is that like a private phone call Gruden is the exact same as public written so well like Antonio Brown is out there just like saying different stuff to different people every second of every day like Gruden who seems like the most like fake and cartoonish coach is actually just being confident all the time. You’re saying he’s a fake and cartoonish person. I wouldn’t say that. I’m saying is cartoonish This is real. He’s keeping it real.
S25: Yeah I think that the strange thing given as you guys have mentioned that this was clearly a professionally produced and kind of premeditated video is that he kind of came out of it thinking like yeah Jon Gruden is the one who is handling the situation correctly. You know like he’s like Hey you’re a great player. I’d love to have you on the team but like you’ve got a like actually play for the team. I mean is there anything really inappropriate about what Creighton is saying in that conversation.
S15: No and that’s probably where I Gruden said. I thought it was amusing. He didn’t say I’m hiring a lawyer to like investigate you know felony illegal wiretapping charges but that’s the way it’s odd.
S17: It’s like obviously the team is not going to look despite what Gruden said it’s like not ideal to have a play here release a video like this with private communication. But I don’t know if Brown was trying to make Gruden look bad or what his goal was here because if he was trying like he’s the one who ends up looking more more like a heel and you know posting the letter in which the team find him on Instagram as well confronting mark maybe or maybe not calling him a cracker.
S3: I like my OK the general manager whatever Antonio Brown’s intentions where he got to where he wanted to go in the end but people whether it’s in the NFL fans commentators nobody is like thinking super highly of Antonio Brown today and so from like a PR brand maintenance perspective I guess he just like values being on the Patriots and potentially winning a Super Bowl more than like having people like him.
S6: It’s not as if people really liked Antonio Brown before he became an Oakland Raider number.
S17: Not that much to lose I guess.
S6: No but let’s also evaluate the way the Raiders handled this. I mean yeah it is incredibly difficult for NFL teams to deal with this sort of behavior. You know the distraction theory of how training camps and NFL hierarchies are supposed to run but at the same time it was their choice to make a public show of finding him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
S15: It was their choice to go in front of microphones during training camp and ream him out. They knew what kind of a personality they were dealing with when they traded for him. So either you make real changes in your behavior you make exceptions for someone like Antonio Brown or you don’t trade for the guy in the first place.
S25: It’s an mystery on almost every level and I think that maybe the best explanation is just that neither party knew what they wanted. I think that’s where the theory that he was orchestrating the move to the Patriots kind of falls apart is as Mike Gloria pointed out. I’m pro football. He lost what 21 million dollars in guaranteed money here and generally being on the Patriots you know being on a good team for almost every athlete is not worth that much money. So I am not entirely convinced that this was a as they say in politics at twelve dimensional chess. No it kind of seems like he wants to just do whatever he wants and he wants people to respect him for that. And beyond those two goals I’m not sure if he had any kind of premeditated strategy to this.
S6: Well I don’t know I’m kind of of the mind fuck Mike Murdock and fuck Jon Gruden and fuck the NFL. Antonio Brown found a way to subvert the most draconian absurd salary system in professional sports.
S15: He’s clearly a different person to put it mildly. But he also recognized his value his agency. His agent advised him correctly how to fuck over his ridiculous employers and he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. So he makes maybe up to 15 million this year so half of what he was guaranteed in Oakland and he gets to hit the free agent market after playing in New England and presumably obviously no guarantees here.
S17: But if past is any predictor that he will behave and catch and do well we should also say that when the Raiders as you said make a made a public show of finding him all this money they also voided the guarantees now in his contract and so at that point at that point what was he gonna do. Well at that point it became obvious that Brown was trying to get released and even said publicly release me.
S15: Well at that point it was obvious that the Raiders wanted to get rid of him.
S3: Yeah. So there was some kind of mutual interest there in this outcome if not in the outcome of him going to the Patriots. I don’t think anybody but the Patriots wanted him to go to the Patriots and Antonio Brown. But you know Ben as we’re making this this calculation Stefan sounds like he becomes an unrestricted free agent now after this season. And so it’s not like he was actually he could have signed with anybody before he made the deal with the Patriots so he lost all these guarantees. But he could have gotten any kind of contract with any kind of team that he wanted to. He just chose to take this deal with the Patriots and then become a free agent again presumably after having you know he’s betting on himself that he’s gonna have a strong season.
S26: Sure. And you know it’s football you know betting on himself having a strong season and remaining healthy which is obviously a lot more fraught.
S21: I mean even you know even in other sports basketball baseball you know generally players don’t like to make the bet that they’re going to remain healthy for an entire season and then this is much more dangerous sport than any of those. If he is doing this I mean it’s it’s it’s got to be one of the most extreme if not the most extreme level we’ve seen in the player empowerment area you know to give you about 20 million dollars in you know betting on yourself.
S3: I mean what we’ve seen in the last few months I can’t imagine Antonio Brown doing something extreme like what are the chances that he would do something bizarre and unprecedented.
S25: Well that’s that’s kind of what goes back to the Raiders mistake and all of this. I mean like the idea that you’re going to get Antonio Brown to play for your team and then just not and now you’re going to bring him to heel. I mean that’s that’s obviously to me their central mistake right. Like you get this guy on your team and you you’ve got to let him do whatever he wants. I mean that’s just you know I that’s not maybe fair. But this is someone who I was just looking at this. He either went to or considered and had a problem with going to Florida State Alcorn State North Carolina tech crap Florida International and Central Michigan that’s just his college. So the idea that you could get this person at his age and kind of by like just using fines get him into making into a kind of Gruden grinder. I mean that’s to me the most ridiculous mistake and all right.
S6: And that’s the conceit of people like Jon Gruden and the NFL more largely I mean if you watched any of hard knocks Gruden standing in front of the room you know calling these guys man and screaming at them to buy into the Raider way and you know treating them like they are now college or high school players and you know Gruden believes like you said Josh he is a caricature of himself. And to believe that that sort of behavior was going to work with a guy like Antonio Brown is foolish and was foolish from the beginning. And in terms of early resentment for Brown’s going to the Raiders Charles Robinson of Yahoo reported over the weekend that the Patriots were interested in trading for him back in the spring in the office they’re even willing to trade a first round pick and steelers didn’t want to do it that probably didn’t endear Antonio Brown to whatever team he was going to end up with either.
S17: So I can imagine a scenario in which you guys would say that it’s wrong for a team to accommodate an asshole prima donna jerk player and to set different rules for him. I think I don’t want to come off sounding like a management stooge and the Raiders are clearly like stooges not the the best run franchise and Gruden and Mack both seem like a little bit high on their own supply. That being said I can imagine being a guy on that team and not wanting Antonio Brown around based on they already were setting different rules for him like based on you know that in the first episode of Hard Knocks they made this whole big like thing out of this. You know undrafted rookie from last chance you know he got hurt and they will cut him to make a point about how oh you got to like really want to be here. And Antonio Brown is off like fuckin doing whatever the hell it is he’s doing like not practicing with the team doing his own drills with his own trainer and they’re talking about what a great guy and what a great talent he is. I mean they were. How differently can you treat someone and there has to be a point at which look again I have no sympathy for the Raiders. I think that the NFL CBA is bad but like what are what are they expected or are supposed to do with a guy who won’t play.
S6: Teammates hate this shit they made they were no doubt in the locker room when the hard knocks cameras were turned off rolling their eyes and getting pissed off that this asshole was making a mockery of their own work because they are there doing the work that is required of them and he wasn’t. Teams players despise the kind of behavior. They don’t like having these prima donnas dictate.
S15: Having said that the Raiders chose to trade for him and that is the part of this that leaves me with zero sympathy for these assholes. So either way I decide that like you want to bring someone like Antonio Brown And with all of the baggage you’re not going to bring him to heel maybe Bill Belichick really is the only coach in the NFL.
S17: No the Steelers and Mike Tomlin and the Steelers and Mike Tomlin kept him around for like eight years and he wasn’t until the very end that that relationship broke apart and so we don’t necessarily know by the way because he threw a football at that office.
S1: And yeah nobody likes Ben Roethlisberger. So I think no.
S3: But seriously I think when that went down we sat and everybody said really that the Steelers were being dumb and they were losing all this. This cap room. The Raiders were getting this like great talent for just a few picks but maybe behind the scenes the Steelers and Mike Tomlin or whoever else we’re doing an amazing job keeping everyone together. Maybe Antonio Brown didn’t start acting in the more kind of outward public teammate and management pissing off way until later in his tenure. But this is really the Steelers fault for making him seem normal for for most of his career. But let’s talk about the collective bargaining agreement. HOWARD BRYANT tweeted. It appears players are finding new and and disruptive ways to engineer their unrestricted free agency. I hope this kind of effort goes into the next CBA and so the argument there and this is kind of tied end to the Anthony Davis thing and players demanding trades when they have increasing amount of time left on their deals in the NBA. But this notion that in the absence of more player friendly rules and collective bargaining agreements for four four leagues that players will find a way that in this era the empowerment era players will figure out how to get where they want to get. You think that is is what’s going on here Stefan.
S6: I think partly that’s what’s going on here. I mean it’s hard to be an NFL superstar even and look at the absence of guarantees though those are those are happening with more with greater frequency Leo Jones Leo Jones’s contract over the weekend.
S3: Yeah just got like a deal that’s like ninety seven percent guaranteed. That’s precedent the league top receiver deal in the league. Antonio Brown did not have a deal with that many guarantees and even before the guarantees got voided right.
S6: So players and their agents are notice all of this. They’re not dumb to the lack of guarantees and the lack of influence that they have over their careers and they’re going to do whatever they can to to engineer that in their own ways especially when they look at the NBA and they look at other sports that do have those sorts of of of promises built in to their contract. So the question is what happens in the next CBA.
S11: How does the NFL give something and what do they get in exchange for giving players more guaranteed money and maybe more power over getting out of contracts at different stages of their career. You know the talk is like moving to an 18 game season and what trade offs do you need to do to achieve that goal. We probably pretty high tradeoffs. One of the things that’s been talked about is the 18 game season the NFL would have to give the players a lot to get to more games back. So another thing that people talk about as an expanded playoffs. But regardless more games more hits more deterioration more injuries a lot of revenue is going to come from the players or a lot more in terms of player freedom and of guaranteed money.
S3: That’s the final kind of story here Ben is the Patriots. They blew out the Steelers on Sunday football this week. Brown did not play against his former team he’s going to be eligible to play in week 2. But this is kind of a classic Patriots move it’s like how they dealt for Randy Moss from the Raiders more than a decade ago they now went from having a fan receiving corps to having Julian Edelman Antonio Brown Josh out court and now this is I think both for fans and for other teams just like yet another data point of this franchise kind of having dominion over the league in what seems like an unfair way an annoying way. I don’t know how you would frame it.
S27: I think that what really remains to be seen is whether Antonio Brown actually likes playing for the patients. I think we’re kind of assuming that. But I think given what we were just talking about this is someone who doesn’t seem to really like rules or being told what to do and that is kind of incompatible with playing professional football.
S25: So I wouldn’t be surprised if we were here you guys are having discussion again in a week where it went after Antonio Brown attackers.
S21: You know I think yes I think I think it’s either the Patriots have built up this reputation through Moss and through through other players but I think that this as it is for the CBA as it was for the Raiders will be perhaps the most extreme kind of test case for player empowerment that they have seen as well.
S3: Yeah I guess we’ll see very soon how much of this was performance art and how much of it was real acting out.
S11: Yeah and it’s fun for the media to sort of talk about Bill Belichick and make fun of him. You know the grumpy old guy in front of the microphone a press competence. But the thing you always hear is that players actually like playing for Bill Belichick.
S7: They respect the fact that he’s such an asshole and will cut them at that at the drop of a hat. Everybody loves that.
S21: That’s the great irony isn’t it just that he likes you fine if you if you quote unquote do your job. I mean that’s kind of that’s all that seems to be what Antonio Brown in his way has been asking for this whole time. It’s like this let me show up when I’m gonna play the game and if I play the game well then let me do whatever I want. And that’s kind of I guess how it might go. New England.
S6: Yeah except that the Patriots over the years have found ways to deal with the players that come in with some baggage. Randy Moss I mean they’ve made exceptions for the way that Tom Brady behaves. They’ve made exceptions for the way that Rob Gronkowski behaved with the team.
S19: So it’s not unprecedented that the Bill Belichick can find a way to accommodate Antonio Brown’s personality.
S5: All right I wanted to let you know that in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members Stefan and I. And Ben will discuss the opening weekend of the college football season with an emphasis on Michigan’s near defeat to army the phenomenon of the near upset and college football. Let’s discuss. If you want to hear that you’re not a member you can sign up for Slate Plus it’s just thirty five dollars for the first year. You can do that signing up at Slate dot com slash up plus on Saturday afternoon and Clemson South Carolina.
S3: The Clemson Tigers played what was supposed to be according to the Vegas oddsmakers their toughest game of the regular season. The Texas Santa Maggie is who played Clemson close at home last year did not present any kind of challenge though Clemson dominated 24 to 10 when it was 24 to three until the final seconds. Clemson destroyed Alabama to win last year’s national title. They now have a clear path to make the college football playoff for the fifth straight season under their Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Ben you are still with us. You wrote a great piece for Slate last week about how Clemson became a football power because before when he took over 11 years ago it really was not a football power. In that piece you focused on a guy named Thad turn up seed. Who is that Turnip Seed. Why did you want to write about him.
S28: Well I was kind of interested in the idea in how college programs succeed or fail. And like I said and as you said Clemson was a fine program under Tell me about and you know they won more than they lost. But I don’t think anyone thought of them as a leader blueblood school it was kind of you know they won a national championship in the 80s but that would seem kind of like an outlier.
S27: And and it was after last year’s national championship where as you’ve mentioned they were so dominant over over Alabama which of course is is the dominant team of this generation in college football and they just embarrassed them in the final. And I kind of started wondering well how do you do this. Hadn’t just made this out of out from scratch.
S21: And so I looked a little bit into the program and then it happened and I had to be honest I found that Turnip Seed because I was looking at the names of people on Clemson coaching staff and support staff and I thought he had the most interesting name. Turns out he also has one of the most interesting jobs because he runs their recruiting program and he built their football facility which is like in you know the perpetual arms race of college football facilities. It is the nuclear bomb to destroy all nuclear bombs. It has a wiffle ball field. It has a bowling alley. It has a nap room.
S1: It has an arcade when you said Wiffle ball field Stefan committed a Clinton committed to Clemson immediately.
S29: I think I have eligibility and as I to the point I made a new piece and with that turn of seed and with Dave Sweeney they had covered it kind of every base on that intended about a certain kind of 17 year old 18 year old prospect would want.
S6: This is a tactic that every big school we just talked about LSU building that a huge facility designed to basically cradle to grave. The football players so they’d never have to leave. It’s really dark forth for two years. Cradle to Grave the idea is that they are completely under the sway of the program every big school has figured that part out. That’s why there are tutors inside the athletic department building and that’s why there are all these amenities and that’s why there are nap rooms. And that’s why there are their own cafeterias.
S11: Clemson though it seems is just taking it to the highest possible level in terms of spending 55 million dollars to renovate the football complex and the sort of as you say explicit literal goal of keeping the players there as much as possible.
S29: Yeah. I mean it’s. And it pays off. As I mentioned in the piece if you look at their EPR which is academic progress rate it’s a measure the NCAA uses. They keep players in their program.
S28: The key players in school they keep players you know making their grades. And when you look at the people on the field it’s upperclassmen so they really do you know with this facility and other things about the program a very impressive job of getting players developed and you know this idea of keeping around the facilities so they have more time at the coaches are very impressive.
S4: Also Orwellian I mean they check into the dining hall scan their thumbs and they’re told what to eat.
S27: Yes I think that there are two ways of looking at it right. Yeah I mean as is the college football fan I’m impressed as a person and a little taken aback by the extent to it to actually go with some of this stuff.
S30: Well it’s kind of the opposite of what we’re just talking about with Antonio Brown it’s the ability to have players conform and all be doing the same thing in the same place at the same time all the time and actually be happy about it and want to be there. And I think Clemson more than any other school you know top level high level football program has figured out how to do that. And I think a big thing that distinguished them from Alabama which has been their big national rival over the last five years is not just the ability to keep the players there but the ability to keep the staff together. Alabama is constantly having to churn top assistants and I think that you know there’s an argument that that finally caught up to them in the national championship game last year whereas Clemson has these dudes. I mean you wrote about you know Turnip Seed having an amazing resume to be an athletic director and just deciding I don’t want to leave I want to be here with with Dabo because this is where I’m meant to be Brent Venables the defensive coordinator a million schools would want to hire him and he just hasn’t wanted to leave either. And so that’s been where you know I found it really interesting in your piece your description of how Dabo and Clemson kind of convinces these guys that there is no higher ideal than working for Dabo at Clemson right because you could argue that the players really don’t have a choice.
S4: If they want to leave they’ve got to sit out a year in most cases they’re not getting paid the coaching staff there are millions of dollars more in some cases awaiting them if they were to go elsewhere.
S27: Right. And I think that goes back to kind of the one you know the uniqueness and Clemson situation it’s in a small town town about 17000 people. You know it’s hard to put Bates in the mountains. It’s not a metropolis. I think what what David does very well is he finds people who are going to want him to stay in that situation. So he finds people like that Tatum seeds from his farm Alabama. He finds people like the coordinators who you know I think he pre selects the people around him to be content. You know in a small town in the south just caring about football you know and and obviously you can you can get some really pretty talented people that way.
S29: And then and then there’s the other part of it where you know he kind of repeatedly and surreptitiously uses the phrase bloom where you’re planted at every possible opportunity kind of like builds a whole ethos around the program that you know being ambitious is not that great you know. So you know again there’s two sides in it. There’s the part where you know some of these guys I certainly understand why you know for for you know for the coordinators like you know why move yourself to a Kansas job that’s always coming open to lose eleven games a year. You know when you have your family you had here you had your life you get paid a ton of money. That’s the other part of it. They pay their coordinators to you know two million million dollars a year. So you know I could see you know I could see their perspective on it.
S7: So a couple of folks that we work with who don’t really follow college football read this piece band and said that it was incredibly creepy and that they didn’t like I think for us we’re like this is just kind of how stuff goes this seems like kind of an extreme example like the anecdote of the guy at the Clemson all in meeting who silenced his phone even though his wife was nine months pregnant and missed seven calls from her like that seems like on the outer limits of college football where somebody calls were her calling to say I’m going to the hospital now.
S17: Whatever details but like people who who read this stuff and I think this is a broader comment actually about how unbelievably strange and often inhumane college football and college sports culture is and that like we as college sports fans band have just kind of internalized that and see it as normal and it sometimes takes an outsider to be like this is incredibly bizarre.
S15: I thought Ben did a really good job of persuading even someone that follows sports the way that we do that this is really creepy. I mean the paragraph where you quote a bunch of different people repeating Dabo Sweeney’s catchphrase bloom where you planted. I was completely creeped out after I read that and my notes say it’s a religious cult is what Clemson ends and football is at the center of it.
S28: Sure yeah. Football and church. I mean that’s that’s the other part take part of it. You know is dad as an outspoken evangelical guy. He recruits people he tells them that they’re going to you know they’re going to have a Christian focus in the program. The coaches are Christian. A public school by those again right it’s a public school and you know and then as I said in the piece they’ve said that they they comply with every every law regarding the separation of church and state. But at the same time we know that they have baptisms after practice sometimes and end upon next to the practice field. So. So right that’s it. That’s another key part of it is that you’ve got got to get people who you are willing to you know be not even put up with that but to take part in and you’ve got to find players you’ve got to find coaches who are willing to do that and that at a public school and then you know then maybe they cross a line there.
S11: Sports Illustrated had a piece this week also about just that and the extent to which Clemson is the sort of religious football factory that would take someone to you know there’s been investigations by outside groups that have raised questions about whether this is legal or not.
S7: The way that he runs this program the Chronicle of Higher Education that are really long and comprehensive peace about this way back in 2013 like the Sports Illustrated piece is valuable. But most of what was laid out there was already known because of that that great Chronicle reporting from six years ago.
S15: Yeah. But it would take someone challenging this legally you’d need plaintiffs basically to bring Clemson to bring a case against Clemson. You know to us looking at it I mean to me it is creepy. I mean the Turnip Seed you say in the piece is said that recruits are screened for prayer fulness among other things during their on campus visits. Do they open the door for a lady. How do they talk to their mom. Do they pray before they eat. This is fucked up. And whether as is repeated over and over again that when doesn’t proselytize or pressure or discriminate. He says I’ve had atheists on this team I’m sure that it’s again it’s a public institution and the issue of whether this appears to be OK is what is central not whether he actually does something to restrict non Christians from being on the team.
S26: Well I think that the point about about the success of the program is crucial and the need for a plaintiff. I mean right. Like in that sports Illustrated piece you had guys talking about actions that certainly seem you know it is a side guys saying I was in his office and I was a player a former player saying I was struggling off the field you know and he said well hey why don’t you help you become born again. And you know to me seeing a public employee say that is probably improper.
S31: But the player says well it was great and I did it it was great for my life you know. And so as Josh has pointed out you know you’ve got six guys fasted last year. They won four conference championships. They won two national titles that senior class. So it’s going to take someone who’s unhappy with that before before anything and stand and change and right now when you’re when you’re winning your toughest game of the year by 14 points there’s not going to be a lot of unhappy people in that locker room and the players are self-selecting.
S30: I think to a large degree I mean in the recruiting process you often hear about the importance of recruiting the parents and if you’re recruiting especially in the south and you go into a house and talk about you know God and and church and prayer from this that’s not really going to limit your recruiting pool going to help and telling parents that you’re going to take care of their child spiritually. You know in the Sports Illustrated piece one of the parts of it that was new information was valuable was talking about how that helped Clemson get the number one quarterback recruit in the 2020 class a great D.J. ukulele. And Trevor Lawrence the star quarterback is a sophomore now is Christiane and talks about it a lot. And so I think Clemson is definitely helping itself rather than hurting itself by taking this approach as part of this larger approach around program cohesion. And creating an environment that’s enticing to teenagers.
S11: It’s a it’s a very cloistered environment it’s a restricted environment and Swinney is certainly not a progressive when it comes to anything having to do with player rights and college football. He openly has talked about his his opposition to the idea of players ever being compensated. I mean this is not a guy that is there to go to. He’s a guy that’s there to find the best football players and win championships like most of these guys but there is zero evidence that he has a sort of larger vision for what college football could be for these kids that he’s recruiting.
S7: He also talked about how players protesting were like disgracing the legacy of Martin Luther King and this is the guy who has the highest paying contract in all of college sports for a coach. I guess the question Ben is you know we’re picking on Clemson a lot here. The religious aspect is Clemson specific but a lot of what we’re talking about is more common in college football. So is it right for us just to focus on Clemson because they’re on top or should this actually just be a bigger conversation about what the norms are in college football.
S31: I think yeah I think the latter. I mean I I I agree with with that with everyone who said well listen you know some of these behaviors are kind of creepy. But I I it’s like you’re saying I think basically what they’ve done is they’ve taken everything that happens in every college football program or most college football programs and they just do it. I know 10 percent or 15 percent more. They just take it to a little. I mean certainly they’re not the only college program or the coaches espousing Christianity. I mean they’re not the only college program where people watching recruits on an official visit probably go back to their spreadsheet and document that. Recruits think that that happens other places too. And so yeah I absolutely agree I think that that. And what what Gatto has done is he’s taken this existing system is status quo and he’s just taken it to an extreme that kind of kind of exposes some of those absurdities in a way that maybe maybe other programs don’t.
S20: But yes absolutely. I don’t think that there’s programs where you know I don’t think that there is by contrast any program where the players are encouraged and you know spend time on their own and think freely and you know come into the football facility a couple hours a week if you want to I don’t think that I don’t think that happens anywhere.
S30: Another thing we should note is that if true you know there’s this allegation FBI wiretap a Clemson assistant basketball coach said that the reason that the football program is so successful is that they pay players under the table Clemson the athletic department has said what did they say exactly planned that they would do it and there’s no credence they give no credence to it.
S26: Yeah they’ve said that they they would investigate it and that the latest word from them is that they have not found anything improper and they. That again if they if they were doing it would they be the only team in HCC doing it.
S1: One team in the South doing it certainly that area might think it would be nice for the players if they’re giving a lot of money would make Dabo and a bit of a hypocrite but that’s okay as long as they tie of some of the money that happened by the boosters.
S30: Ben we’ll post a link to your story on that turn. See it in Clemson football on our show page. Thank you for coming on the show this week. Thanks guys.
S5: Now it is time for after balls. Let’s go back to Serena Williams. There’s been a lot of talk about how she won the U.S. Open 20 years ago. She was 17 but Serena Williams first Grand Slam final came in 1998 when she was 16. It was in mixed doubles at the French Open and her partner was I’m sure you’re gonna guess this. Now I’m not going to guess it. Louise Lobo of Argentina of the immortal Louise Lobo Serena and Lobo lost in the final to her sister Venus and Justin Gemmell Stubb the less said about Justin Gemmell Stubb the better. Just google him. But anyway a short while later our Wimbledon Serena won her first Grand Slam title also in mixed doubles this time with Max Murphy. That September Serena suggested that Lobo and Bernie could have a wrestling battle to see who could continue on as her mixed doubles partner with Murphy saying sure there is no indication that said wrestling battle ever happened now. Serena and many did win the U.S. Open that year while Lewis Lobo became a coach you worked with Carlos where David Nalbandian won Monaco and in 2019 he became an after ball name. STEFAN What is your.
S32: Luis Lobo the high school football season has begun which means the reports of Friday night carnage have resumed. There have already been by the Google counting and retweeting of Kent Johnson who tracks this stuff at least three catastrophic brain injuries a half dozen airlifts and dozens of rides and ambulances in the name of King Football. Last year I became obsessed with real time injury. Weeds from our fields of glory compiled and distributed mainly by three football and brain injury gadflies Johnson Kimberly Archie and a Twitter user named concerned mom. I read a bunch of them here and I keep rereading them now. The happy play by play of a game in a place you’ve never heard of interrupted by the report of an injury a hushed crowd the player down for X minutes teammates and opponents on a knee hands held the player stretchered off. The good news of the player thumbs upping the crowd the game resuming. The final score reported matter of factly but the tweets are sometimes accompanied by photos of the ambulance on the field removing the wounded. They are scenes so uniquely American they could have been painted by Hopper or Rockwell like the words collectively they are repetitive and numbing and familiar and banal. Individually though they are grotesquely mesmerizing. They convey the stillness of tragedy and in so doing drain football of what makes it alluring. The speed and violence and testosterone exposing it finally for what it is an injury delivery system. They are a perfect representation of our most popular sport in these times. CTE porn with kids. Here’s an archetypal one last Friday Apollo Ridge vs. Carlin Tim in western Pennsylvania local reporter Kyle Dawson tweets the news. Carlin opens Chauncey Mickens is down after a first down carry and they’re bringing a stretcher and an ambulance across the field to attend to him and he attaches a photo. The red ambulance is on the far side of the field parked between the forty five and thirty five yard lines. Framed perfectly by the yardage sticks behind it in the foreground on the field a group of Apollo Ridge players kneels in front of the coaches the bench players kneel along the bottom edge of the frame. The Carlton players kneel just be on the ambulance watching their teammate his body hidden from view get loaded onto a gurney. It’s night. The field is bathed in light. The refs and the ambulance cast long shadows lurking in the dark in the distance as a yellow school bus which I imagine took the visiting players home except for one this past Saturday night. Ventura County California two ambulances parked side by side on the 35 a giant illuminated image of a lion. The home team mascot glows behind metal bleachers. Players from Oaks Christian and Sierra Canyon High School’s cluster in a V formation like geese as senior linebacker and running back Mr. Williams is loaded into the ambulance with a neck injury. Williams remained nearly motionless on the Oaks Christian stadium turf for more than 20 minutes after being tackled on a running play with 132 left in the third quarter. The local paper reports Big Bear California Aug. 20 third. The ambulance is parked at an angle on the clumpy grass field. The oversized coaches hover over the fallen player three refs stand a few feet away. The game ball at their feet ready for the inevitable restart. Two people watch from a small camera tower above the stands. Injury time out for Big Bear injury on the fourth play of the game. Tweets the photographer Kathy portly senior editor of The Big Bear grizzly the local paper no details on injury bears down to 23 players suited up for the game on and on they go there at least a few every weekend. Here’s one more. The most morbidly beautiful photo I found from the Moab Utah Times August 15th Grand County High School. Full pads preseason practice. It’s twilight a single strand of lights fronts a Courtney line of trees which fronts the rust colored mountains. This ambulance is parallel to the yard lines pointing at empty stands topped by a press box. The color of Roland Garros. Clay labeled Red Devils in a funky font. The players on their knees face the rear of the ambulance. A single fireman walks in the foreground across the track toward the scene. The unnamed player suffered a bruised spinal cord. The paper reported it was unclear whether he would be able to play in the team’s first game.
S11: Later that day will post links to some of these images so you can get a feel for what the ambulance on the field photo looks like and why they’re so captivating.
S3: Josh what’s your Louise Lobo on Saturday night in Austin the LSU Tigers came away with a glorious 45 to 38 win over the Texas Longhorns as a hot and humid day. Temperatures nearing 100 players kept leaving the field with cramps on one long drive in the third quarter four guys fell to the ground and had to leave. It turned out that every single player who cramped up during the game was on the LSU defense. There’s been some speculation on message boards and in the Texas based media after the game that these players were faking that they fell to the ground to slow down the pace of play catch their breath and stop the Texas offenses momentum. And they did this. So Ellis you didn’t have to call a time out or take a penalty a couple of LSU players Grant Dale Pitt and Michael divinity. It was reported did go to the locker room to get a visa. So if they were faking it that’s pretty amazing commitment to the bet. But it is certainly possible that not all of these were legitimate cramps and so now Stefan and you talked about real football injuries. I will talk about fake football injuries fake cramps have been an epidemic in college football since the rise of high speed up tempo offenses particularly in the last decade. The New York Times ran a piece in 2010 about the injury faking opponents of Chip Kelly’s hyper speed. Oregon Ducks noting that cow actually suspended its defensive line coach for telling a player to flop intentionally a year later. There is a mini controversy after the Giants faked injuries to slow down the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. An item in Pro Football Talk noted an earlier incident in which quote Patriots linebacker Willie McGinnis went down with an alleged injury late in the fourth quarter of a 2003 game against the Colts only to quote recover. A minute later to get back on the field and make the game saving tackle Pro Football Talk also mentioned that opponents of the Boomer Esiason Sam Wyche no huddle Cincinnati Bengals of the 80s and 90s used to fake injuries in their wage quote thought the referees should award his team a touchdown as a penalty for a palpably unfair act. So college football and the NFL have rules to deal with injuries in the last minute in college and last two minutes of a half in the NFL. They charge that injured players team a time out. There is the potential to have a run off of the game clock so that clock stopping just can’t be as easy as having a guy fall down. And so I was interested to learn when all this started it wasn’t actually with or again it wasn’t even with the Cincinnati Bengals. I thought that this was just a scourge of modern football but it turns out that this has to happen all the time and that those rules about the last minute of the half and in college actually stem from a particular incident November 21st 1953. I also learned about this from that same Pro Football Talk item by the way on November 21st 1953. Number one Notre Dame played Iowa in South Bend. I’m going to read the AP story on the game which I found on newspapers that column in a newspaper in Cedar Rapids Iowa. The Gazette. This is the Iowa spin on the game. The headline is very Kayani should get an Oscar. Frank very CUNY Notre Dame’s 205 pound junior tackle from Natick Mass. Qualified for an Oscar Saturday for his dramatic portrayal of an injured football player as the clock ticked off the final seconds before halftime. Becky only let out a squeal on the field held his back and began staggering. Officials called an injured player timeout stopping the clock with one second remaining in the half. Very cute and he was replaced with time for one play.
S33: Notre Dame scored on a 12 yard pass the conversion was made giving the Irish a 7 7 halftime tie the game eventually ended in a 14 14 deadlock. Very Kuni played all but a few minutes of the last half. Was he really hurt in his dormitory room two hours after the game. A reporter and I’ll pause to say here there’s an intrepid reporting a reporter found the husky tackle lying down and looking at the picture of health. He would not admit anything. He said he had no comment whatsoever no use asking questions because I’m not going to talk about it he insisted. A reporter asked Don’t you think feigning injury to stop the clock was using your head. You didn’t know how many official timeouts the team had and you didn’t want to take a chance with the team later getting penalized for too many time outs. I’m not saying anything very he replied. We saw you get up after the play just previously. The reporter said then he looked at the clock and started screaming and holding your back or leg where you really hurt. What do you think he parried Johnny Ladner. Notre Dame’s all-American halfback was asked about very CUNY. He said pretty smart thinking wasn’t it that tricky tricky fighting Irish. Frank ferry CUNY died last year at the age of 85. He became known as faint and Frank the Cedar Rapids Gazette actually printed a poem about this incident that began Oh Paddy dear and did you hear the news that’s going around how Notre Dame is winning games with players on the ground. The first to hit the ground this day was frank very closely. The Irish claim that he was hurt but others cry baloney.
S3: Neil Rosendahl had a good blog post on this that noted the consequences of this action. Notre Dame fell in the AP polls which back then there is no B.S. yes there is now that the AP poll was actually what determine the national damage up so they fell to number two. They ended up behind Maryland so this is the reason for Maryland winning the national it’s only national championship. Notre Dame could not climb back to number one in the polls. Another consequence is that rules were put end about stopping the clock at the end of each app. As I noted earlier and then there’s this is like actually controversial and I’m not sure who is right here but frankly here the legendary Notre Dame coach of the day did not coach after that season it was reported at the time and has long been believed there was because of health reasons. But this blog post I read by Neil Rosendahl and I’ve sought some other people make this argument as well that Leahy actually reputation only was damaged by this moment and by Notre Dame getting the reputation for feigning injuries. This blog post says the public stands by only his retirement though and there is for health reasons but Notre Dame’s administration particularly father Herzberg was incensed by Leahy’s fainting Irish tactics and essentially let Leahy go.
S2: So if anybody is a Notre Dame football historian wants to weigh in on what the real business. Let us now. That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan the listener passions and subscribe or just reach out to Slate icons I hang up and you can e-mail us and hang up. Slate dot com. You’re still here. Stick around. We’ve got more hang up to come. If you’re a Slate Plus member in our bonus segment this week we talk with Ben Mathis lately about the phenomenon of the near college football upset as exemplified by this weekend’s Michigan Army game.
S34: You’re looking at Michigan playing finally against army and looking at when the guys line up looking at kind of an epic loss. And then you can just feel the air getting taken out of all the games that come out. Which is why in a weird way watching that game was worse in some senses than watching Ohio State last year which was like another crushing defeat.
S35: You know at the end of the season here that conversation don’t play plus it’s just thirty five dollars for the first year. You can sign up and play but hang up. Plus for Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers amo. Thanks for listening.
S7: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Ben Matheson L.A. is back with us. He barely survived Saturday due to what happened with the Michigan football team against the army black night. It’s always great to see one of our service academies go down to defeat when they’re playing Mary.
S20: I told my wife I was gonna be on the show today and she said are you going to tell me you cried about the Michigan Army game and I said I did not cry. I just looked like I was going to cry three and a half hours. And that is that is what happened. That was probably the least fun I’ve ever had watching a football game that ended in a victory for my team.
S3: So I think the larger conversation I have here Ben and Stefan is about the concept of the near upset so Michigan is familiar with the concept of the upset from the Appalachian State game of of low those days many years ago. But there is something I think in college football in particular just because one loss especially to a not particularly highly regarded out of conference opponent is just devastating. It destroys the the season like you know LSU and UAB or LSU and Troy I could I could list them though I’ll offer you. And so there is just something uniquely miserable about a college football game that you just went through bad. And the fact that it ended with a victory it doesn’t necessarily make you feel better but like the season is now still alive right. And it’s really like not like if Ami had made that field goal at the end Michigan would have played any better but it’s just the total binary outcome like the season would have been dead and now it’s alive.
S28: Yeah I mean that’s the thing when you’re watching college football you’re not just watching the game you’re watching you’re watching all the rest of them in your head and you can you know right. And I mean you’re looking at Michigan playing poorly against army and looking at when the guy is lining up field all looking at you know it’s kind of an epic loss and then you can just feel the air getting taken out of all the games that come after it which is why in a weird way watching that game was even worse in some senses than watching Ohio State last year which was like another crushing defeat. You know at the end of the season because at least that game is like well we lost the game but we won all of us.
S36: You know we add the rest of the season to to enjoy still and there wasn’t any kind of like sense of dread or foreboding in it whereas you see his team playing poorly against army you start to worry about how they’re going to play in the Big Ten schedule and yeah there’s just really like higher stakes to any early season you know upset in college football then to really at any other any other sport any other contests.
S6: I think you can make an argument that losing the army would have been a better outcome because you know Michigan was exposed as a pretender by having played so badly they got to play Wisconsin next week Wisconsin won its first two games over out of conference opponents by a combined scorers by week.
S1: So we have a little we have a little bit of time highway to recover from the early crying.
S4: So you have a body you have a week to sort of get your hopes back up again before you realize that this is not the season that you probably hope it is going to be right now.
S3: So counter argument is that Oklahoma went into overtime against Army last year Army seems to be maybe army is just good accessible.
S1: You know the guard is good and I made the playoff and I really want to say.
S37: Yeah I mean that’s an interesting thing to for nerds is that army plays this very specific Saturday on watch the game. I mean this is the kind of security quicksand right. Like they they never pass the ball they gain basically three yards on every play. And so they expect if their if their drive is you think they had a touchdown right. It could take about 90 minutes. And that as it did with Michigan as it did with Oklahoma is kind of induces panic on the other team. They think well anytime they have the ball I think on this one last time to hand the ball the entire game. So you know they you know they’re pressing their their play calling is maybe not what it would be otherwise they’re going for it on fourth down it’s Michigan date because they would never have another chance getting stopped. So yeah army has like really taken this particular style to the extreme and had one I think the previous twelve games which was one of the longest winning streaks in the country outside of Clemson. So yeah they maybe they’re OK. I don’t think they’re probably a top. I don’t think army is a playoff team but it might not be as ridiculous as it seems to be in a nail biter with them.
S7: I’m now recalling that I think I did an after ball when LSU lost to try saying that I was grateful for it because it allowed me to give up hope and that I think the season earlier I think I was in denial. I don’t know if I with it if I would trust anything I said within 48 hours. Of that game. So just just keep that in mind. But there’s a lot of bargaining that goes on before during and after a game like this. I mean well so was the Appalachian State golf course and all ends with death.
S4: So it’s not a likelihood that’s where you’re heading back.
S7: Was that. Well that is state game worse than any other loss like any Ohio State loss.
S20: Oh absolutely. I mean I didn’t see that game. I was at a wedding. I mean and I just I think I saw like the highlights in my room the floor.
S36: Thought you know going down for the wedding and like and then we’re just shellshocked for the next two years.
S25: Yeah I mean it’s that it’s like we were saying like that. That was special because not only did it reveal a ball in the team that used team it kind of revealed like a little lack of foundation the entire program which we’ve been seeing for the next 10 12 years and it’s like that’s all. Hey yeah.
S36: I mean you know that the team had been really good the year before but there were some things that were going wrong and that kind of put them all into. And then into sharp relief as they say. And so it was fear. I don’t know if you’re going to get better than that for a great game that causing a reckoning with the weaknesses of the team our program. Hopefully this one can you know kind of work out some kinks with the new offensive coordinator and start another dozen years of misery. That’s that’s fine. I
S7: think that’s the difference between a missed field goal and made field goal.
S11: Thank God all those seven year olds that watch that game and thought oh I’m going to go to Michigan and have to fail a little bit.
S7: Any upsets that are springing to mind for you. Stefan there were there were life defining. This is the problem with you not growing up with college football. I can’t really relate to real Americans.
S1: Like now I can’t.
S21: Now I was thinking wondering about that actually. What about us.
S3: I mean new s missing the World Cup I mean there’s there’s been some that Trinidad has kind of the Appalachian State of the CONCACAF region.
S1: It’s like college football these are college football. No but that I think there is there is an analogy to be made there that was particularly brutal. I mean I could get through it all that Appalachian State. Yeah played 10 more games at least. And they they have a season the next season rather than having to wait four years in Arizona. Fair point.
S11: And the revenue keeps coming in no matter what.
S3: Yeah well she lost to Miami of Ohio two and Carli Harmon was the coach. That was bad. Just going back through back through the years. But there is the you know the opposite like ah did did Brown lose to Columbia when you were an undergraduate.
S7: I wouldn’t know. You know kind of S.E.C. football spoiled me for that garbage version of the game that they play in the northeast. All right Ben good luck to you and the mayors and blue for the rest of the year hopefully this will not just prolong your agony. Thanks guys. And thank you. Slate Plus members will be back with more next week.