I’ve been a little NBA topic heavy of late, what with training camp and all, leading some readers to ask where the cultural observation articles are. Those are coming, it’s a balance, etc. Curious, though: What angles, in sports or otherwise, do you think should be covered?
Sports media, power dynamics - this stuff is super interesting and really under cover. Maybe a pod with James Andrew Miller??
Just being on klinman and do a tech segment 1-2 a month
Following up on your agency pieces, the vaccinations discourse and my comment on the vaccinations piece, I'd be interested if you did a deep dive on the communications and PR folks trying to curate the narrative and image around the players. I imagine they're on the rolls of agencies or sourced for the players through the agencies. Adam Mendelson would be a good start, shrouded character who seems to wield quite a bit of power in how Lebron is perceived. I contend individuals like him -- much like the ad execs at Nike you've written about -- have a huge role to play in the growing emotional divide between the players and fans (and the concomitant (corollary?) intimacy between superstars and a subset of the out of touch blue-check-mark elites).
Sports gambling.... not even close to being mainstream yet. Huge implications.
I would love for you to dive into social media use and the effect it’s having on athletes’ mental health as well as society at large. I think it’s only becoming more and more of an issue and would love to hear more about how the issue is perceived in different areas.
When LeBron and KD (and others to an extent) left their most recent previous teams, we endured years of widespread unsure “will they leave?” talk in the media. It seemed like the second they signed, the media consensus was openly “we knew this for a long time but couldn’t say.”
I’d be interested in knowing the mechanics of those types of major FA signings, which feel more like Tesla moving HQs from CA to TX than a team signing a small forward). To what extent it was widely known in league circles, by who, when, and what are the factors at play that are strong enough keep everyone in the know quiet. Hope that makes sense!
About 40% of the country is aligned with the Republican Party, year after year. Black stars and sports journalists, not so much. Seems like plenty to explore here.
Maybe this has been done before, but what happened to the large numbers of Black players in MLB? Lack of neighborhood sandlots to get kids started? NBA is cooler and pays more? Video games? Jackie Robinson seems like an eternity ago.
I’d like to hear about how the China influence works in sports and entertainment. I understand the direct influence on player pocketbooks. But how do you get social activists like Steve Kerr to say he has to study the Hong Kong situation?
The NBA is a league of young men still growing and developing, no different than the general public, who have large sums of money. Their ideas, behaviors, and thoughts about a complicated world are sometimes immature and not well thought out at times, no different than other young men. What are the influences and big money around them (i.e. shoe companies, sponsors, etc.) driving their behavior; decision-making?
I really liked your podcast with Matt! You two have great chemistry and he's really interesting. More regular episodes would be great.
I know you've written about the A's in the past, which I've loved as an Oakland resident. I'd love a deep dive into what happened to the A's fans that packed the place in the Bash Bros prime years, when they led or almost led the league in attendance. I personally love the Coliseum experience--midweek night games were an experiment in collective shared space. 3000 people in a stadium of 50,000, dueling vivazuelas honk at each other like whales across the bay. Booming sound system blasting outta right field and extra loud since nobody's there. Completely empty bathrooms. But all these things spell non-viability financially. So I'm wondering where did all the A's fans go? And why? Growing up in SF, the Coliseum was the bougie ballpark experience, warm weather, a view of the hills etc. I know about the Mt. Davis affect, ownership etc but I'm also wondering about shifting demographics in the East Bay, the Giants consolidating any new transplant baseball fan. How has it gotten so drastic that a team in the second to last week of the season was hosting small minor league crowds?
Would love a conversation or an article that examines or articulates why it is that those in media who are in step (socially acceptable) do not have a problem with how professional sports teams are comprised. Just in terms of its players. The players are on teams because for the majority of cases they are the best few hundred players in the entire world. Regardless of what orientations, demographics, and groups they may be identified with. But the same media types would not agree that professional organizations, non-sports related workplaces, etc. should have the same selection process. Is it willful dissonance?
I enjoy the NBA topics. Maybe you can take about how biased national media guys are towards or against some NBA players and what they gain from such polarized discussions .
You are a great writer and very smart, just write whatever you want to cover and your audience will respond accordingly... if they dont like it, fuck em... cant have too many cooks in the kitchen
This is a little meta, but what are the career risks for media figures who talk about sports and culture in the way that you do? And how might those risks shape the discourse of the media on those topics?
You’ve flirted with this topic in previous posts, but a deep dive into the media splint between “left” and “right” forces would be interesting.
Outkick vs. Meadowlark
The Ringer vs. Barstool
As the country changes into a society whereby population becomes flatter, immigration laws become tighter and the present population in favor of player watching and following rather than my baby boomer generation of loyal and fervent team loyalty, will these trends create a different metric for sports. As teams pay 60 million gor one player, will leagues change rules to have less players. Could nba play 4 on 4 with a smaller court? What will tv rights look like with sports except for nfl being a regional play? Hope its not too out of the box.
Curious what you think of the long term ramifications of analytics are to the NBA. I know there’s still a lot of style diversity between the stars, but every team is one way or another built to jack up 40 threes per night. Has this hurt some of the fan interest and does it drive some ratings decline?
Compared to the NFL, which is still in the relative infancy of its analytics movement, but thus far the consensus about how to apply math to the game tilts towards adopting riskier and more exciting strategies
Thinking of the Evander Kane incident down in SJ: it would be interesting to learn about the behind-the-scenes of how the leagues conduct player investigations.
Another idea based on your rightful sketicism about the "95% of NBA players are vaxxed" - what are the implications of a player lying that they are? Let's say a player cotracts covid and ends up on a respirator, and it comes out they ticked the vax box but weren't actually vaxxed, what potential legal ramifications are they opening themselves up to if it was in NYC, for eg?
So… when you coming out with an NFL/Jon Gruden take?
I have really gotten into watching competitive esports on twitch, not because I am a huge gamer or anything but the fact that you can watch a specific teams feed, and see them diagnose problems during the game, deal with defeat in real time, and handle team dynamics is super interesting and wonder if any of those lessons can be applied to major sports.
One NBA media topic that's interesting to me relates to former players as analysts.
The odds of someone being in the 99.9999th percentile for basketball ability *and also* being that good as an analyst is effectively zero, yet so many analysts on ESPN, TNT, etc. are former players. And it leads to a situation where you have the Kevin Peltons, Zach Lowes, Ethan Strausses, etc. offering analysis with the likes of Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, etc. The former group, without exception, is smarter and offers better analysis, but seemingly feels pressure to still be deferential to the latter group, even when that means listening to Kendrick Perkins doing his bad Steven A Smith impersonation or Charles Barkley not knowing which players are on which teams.
I'm curious what Ethan's opinion on this dynamic is.
One thing I’ve wondered about over the last few years is the NBA player's association and why guys like lebron and Chris Paul are the ones leading it. Seems like middle class players keep getting minimum contracts while a guy like Tobias Harris is getting paid like a franchise cornerstone. Are the players just okay with this?
Can you get names of people who have invested big into Top Shot / NFTs so I can make sue I’m not invested in any of their companies?
Hi Ethan, long time listener/reader, first time writer! Someone down below mentioned sports gambling - it has huge implications and I think it has already changed the NBA.
I was on the Count the Dings Friday show a few times and recently wrote this to Wos in Discord: "A common topic on the BS Report is the state of the NBA and what ails it, and lately a lot of that has specifically focused on the review system. I agree that it has really hurt the game - basketball is all about flow and reviews kill that. But one thing Bill never talks about - I think because he loves it so much - is how the introduction of the review system was driven in large part by the legitimisation of NBA gambling! The big gambling companies want certainty because they are the ones with the money on the line (and customers to please), so I have no doubt they pressured the NBA into introducing the review system as it currently stands for their own purposes. Check out the timing - reviews came in just before NBA gambling started to roll out legitimately across many US states. I think another reason this isn't discussed is the level of gambling company sponsorship of the NBA, the local teams and the NBA media. It's a very touchy subject when there is so much money involved. Anyway, like to hear your thoughts on that one although I doubt it ever comes out on the BS Report." Now perhaps you could talk about it given the constrained position Wos is in?
Coming from a country (Australia) where sports gambling has been legitimate since the 90s, it has totally infected the culture and broadcasting to the point it has been completely normalised for children. Problem gambling is a huge issue here, both sports and poker machines (what you would call slots). Worth investigating how it is affecting the states where it is now legitimate.
Steph Curry seems under covered
This article contains a cultural topic which I believe is worth your energy expanding upon:
New arena grifting, the power of shoe companies in the NBA, and a look at how sports agencies work and influence the league. While these topics are covered often it’s usually in a very friendly way, taking the statements those in power make at face value with very little skepticism.
Whatever you’re interested in will be good. I’d be interested to hear more about nba player relationships, amongst each other, with their coaches, and with their families and entourages. How does an image conscious guy like Lebron end up delivering the news that he was departing Cleveland in such a tone def way? Why wasn’t another team lining up to get Jordan after the second three -peat? How are ex player coaches like Steve Nash compared to coaches that come up through the ranks? Sorry if that’s overly vague.
Ownership in sports. NBA is nouveau rich owners. How did they get their $ and what is their politics. Baseball and football are relatively older money, but same question.
How does player empowerment play with many politically conservative owners?
There is a story to write about how the NWSL is self-immolating itself in real time. Both with respect to the failure to anticipate recent problems, and the predictable woke over-response. Is this a generational story? A business story? A power play by one group of insiders over another? It would be an interesting topic if covered fearlessly.
The privileges of victimhood and/or let's podcast about it!
What's the go with baseball? Why are there so many games? Why are there so many unwritten rules? Why do games go forever in a world where everything is bite-sized? Why are players paid so much? Is there every a point where the sport eats itself?
In many of your excellent articles you describe the progress of various facets of culture and society towards the era of problematic identity politics and hyper political correctness we are currently living through. In all of these articles you are at pains to deny the deliberate involvement of any malicious actors in this journey; instead preferring to offer circumstantial, case-specific justifications. Would you care to comment on or theorise an explanation as to why all of these unrelated facets started upon this journey to where we are now at around about the same time?
Have you ever looked into the circular relationships between Universities, the media and politics (particularly the Democratic Party)? It would appear that all three have swung together to the left and helped further the divide we face in America today.
I would love it if you examined what happened to Ben Domenech’s head. Too much gin or too much being married to Meghan McCain?