Hey audience. Thrilled by the response to our first week here at HoS, in terms of numbers, but also degree of intelligent feedback. Figured I could use this to my advantage and draft off the wisdom of my new customers. So I ask you: What should I be writing about in the coming weeks?
1. The NBA and China.
2. How the "sources" work (for example, why does Woj get so many scoops? What are the incentives teams have for providing him information?)
3. How do people really feel about player empowerment?
Let's bust that Overtown window right open with some "social taboo". I know this isn't the takeaway from your inaugural post but the quickest way you could get cancelled is:
1) discussing the USWNT lawsuit against the USF.
2) Other ways "woke capital"/culture is eroding the marketing appeal of major sports (hint, if you quit or break the rules during an international competition, you actually WON, the real winning is independence from your own sport!)
3) How Americans brutish, gladiator sensibilities lead the relative hyper-interest in football, Shaq, and dunking vs the finesse of soccer and Steph curry
4) Why Americans love socialism in their sports and only in their sports, while the international soccer universe is the ultimate free market
5) And for fun, how much KD & Dray lied about the "Dubs brass" being the reason KD left and their fight festered. The two dudes who screamed at each other on live TV are obviously blameless
Bonus: speculating on Lebron's real role at clutch, Silver making a business decision to suspend Dray G52016 and regretting the fox in let in the hen house (KD), Lebron & most american athletes likely being on some form of HGH for injury/general recovery
Along the theme of the Nike article: how much of the NBA rule changes have been an attempt to capture the attention of the "Undecided Whale"?
Having used the pandemic to watch games stretching back to the start of the Magic-Bird run, I find that the league has gone through it's ebbs and flows in the balance between watchability, rules-driven playstyle and the sorts of players it "selects" for.
The 80s still had pace to the game, albeit with static unathletic defenses and unsophisticated strategy (very much an awkward gangly, if excited, adolescent growing into their body phase for the league). The 90s Bulls run: perhaps it was just the MJ experience trickling downstream or a genuine talent supply for isolation artistry around the league that managed to find a healthy balance with defense (and occasional but not extreme physicality) such that the pace of game slowed just enough for each possession to feel like it mattered and leave the viewer with bated breath. Post MJ however through 2008, I think the physicality took a brutish, ugly turn and made the game hard to watch. The sweet spot to me was between 2008-2016, when the league was embracing the 3 but was either not smart enough to lean so heavily into it or the skill gap still existed that rewarded players of diverse skill profiles, added pace while retaining that 90s sense of anticipation.
The Warriors' success however has spawned pretenders across the league (erroneously if you consider how diverse and versatile the Dubs shot selection was/is) and led to a boring, predictable game style. The more annoying part of it to me has been the league failing to recognize just how much of an outlier Steph is (he benefits from but doesn't _need_ the current rules to make the impact; they did however make it easier for him to provide a proof of concept), and thinking that by making rules that disproportionately reward smaller players and shooters, they can manufacture a generation of "more relatable" stars. The problem is, many of us don't tune in for self-validation ie seeing a shorter guy do well and feeling like we too could have been in that position (I saw this line of reasoning being peddled quite a bit, along with class-relatability of Steph back when people were pontificating his popularity). I long for that sense of wonder, which sometimes comes only when you reward your best athletes for being able to push the boundaries of "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Moreover, this offensive explosion has taken away the possession-to-possession competitive intensity by reducing almost any defensive act to a foul.
This past season, I had a running survey in my extended social circle (mix of casuals and fanatics) and it consistently contradicted the NBA's claim that "higher scoring games rate better". A vast majority of those I surveyed most enjoyed the close games in the 90-105 scoring range, often with many misses and intense defensive possessions enabled by lax refereeing (yes, even some of the "slugfests" in the Nets Bucks series where KD was denied the space to fully express himself). This leads me to wonder, is this all for the Undecided Whale? Or an artificial way to create new superstars for the history of the league via inflated stats? Or, here's my Straussian read: a covert load-management compromise by the league, since it's impossible to undo the 82 games structure but also recognizing the undeniable sports science?
Sorry for the length.
You are a super talented writer and podcaster. I’d like to see you write about something cultural rather than sports related. Good luck on the new gig. Brave move. I’m sure you’ll do great.
Stuff Jim Barnett told you about behind the scenes stuff
The Victory Machine's core audience was "smart" Warriors fans who therefore love Andre Iguodala—for example, me. When you opened it with a tale of his cruelty to a hapless rookie, you really impressed me. You made multiple big moves in one:
1. delivering for your readers: giving us more insight than we could get elsewhere (including in your previous work)
2. demonstrating your commitment to the truth, at the cost of perhaps reducing your access to sources in the future
3. smacking us in the face with the shallowness of our perspective and the falseness of our commitments—we loved Andre and the Warriors for their apparent joyful team-above-self spirit, and you confronted us with the nasty reality of his merciless zero-sum individualism, attacking the very love that lead us to purchase your book
That's a heck of an opening act. Your work here, notably Press Box vs the Bleachers, is in a similar spirit and of better value because wider scope. Kudos!
But. Daniel Boorstin published The Image sixty years ago, Bouton published Ball Four fifty years ago, and on and on. Those who want to measure the cost of the illusion have ample tools for doing so. I work with my mind all day on real problems. In the evening, I search for structured silliness in which it can ramble. Your truth-telling can be its own entertainment. It's certainly excellent cultural journalism, but I'd like to ask just what the value is in maintaining this cognitive dissonance about sports: simultaneously deeply invested in it (per your opening comment about writing for people who followed more closely part-time than you were willing to full-time) and pleased by 2,000-word de-robings of the emperor.
I just searched for "victory machine" in my email to confirm that I had pre-ordered it (I had), and came across your interview with Ben Thompson. You seem to have sub-tweeted (sub-interviewed?) your own takedown of Andre:
"There’s this whole other issue where success often comes from people who are unbalanced and unpleasant in many ways, and it accounts for a lot of their drive and maybe the insecurity is fuel, and now we’re almost having celebrity ruined for ourselves as a performance because we know too much about these people. We want to believe that they are on a plane above ourselves, that they are just resting on their laurels after their careers, basking in their glories. But now we can see"
Your commitment to holding accuracy and moral judgment together without seeking release from the resulting tension pressure makes you a remarkable writer, one whom many "hard" journalists would struggle to match. I worry that, as entertaining and informative as these Substack pieces have been, ultimately you will need to choose between leaving sports for topics that can fully engage your skills and debunking illusions whose victims volunteered.
 https://twitter.com/sampenrose/status/1431467052066238468. The anecdote of Andre's calculated cruelty felt like your calculated cruelty (by excessive truth-telling) to us
i like whatever topics you write, as long as you have more SYNCED UP podcasts with Matt to discuss the topics (and/or more HOS pods featuring Alli's return)
As many have already mentioned, I am
fascinated with the Klutch-LeBron story. It is very odd how it’s off-limits by NBA media when it’s painfully obvious that Klutch is a LeBron James enterprise. I am curious as to the perception of Klutch inside the league front offices and locker rooms.
Assuming they are failing their fiduciary duty to serve the best interests of individual clients, why hasn’t the league office or union stepped in? How would have Stern handled its formation, growth, and influence?
would love to hear more about the shady side of the NBA: scandals, corruption, officiating, ratings fuckery. i want it all.
NBA player endorsements for sugar water and refined carbage.
Loving the posts so far - while I don't agree with some of your views, I respect the way you articulate them. Also, the comments on your articles have been of an exceptionally high calibre, adding diverse and challenging perspectives.
I would love to read about:
- why the NBA ignored the UK market for so long since the 90s until very recently.
- drugs, performance enhancers and the NBA. For such a physical sport how are PEDs not a constant and major issue? And there must be big weed consumption, is this banned?
- any thoughts you have on books you read. E.g. Would love your thought's on Matt Sullivans Can't Knock the Hustle which examines activism as something that the players feel compelled to do regardless of if the fans want it (or maybe especially if it makes the fans uncomfortable)
- the weird American obsession with high school sports and the constant search to anoint the next great one.
- similarly the bizzare tie up between institutions of education and essentially sports minor leagues. Its utterly absurb that university's essentially operate near pro level sports teams and why is does thus model exist only in the US.
How fluff pieces work and why do people enjoy them, even though they are really very corny and boring
I’d be quite interested in you responding more in-depth so some of the good faith critiques of your work. For example, Sopan Dep responded with multiple reasonable point to a recent article.
I completely understand not engaging on Twitter, but I want to hear what you think about counter-arguments. I worry that Substack is a bit of an individual exercise because I really enjoy your back-and-forths with with others, either in writing or on podcasts.
Matt Taibbi and Freddie Deboeer have gotten a lot of traction covering the insider baseball of their respective corners of journalism. People seem to like that kind of thing. For example, I think there’s been a lot to interest in Rachel Nichols losing her show and how it reveals the machinations of that business.
Nothing you've written on here yet seems particularly controversial to me. Did you really feel like you couldn't write this stuff at the Athletic? Like ur editor said, no, too controversial to these topics? Also, I'd love to understand how close to the NBA you remain, plan to remain, so I can understand the kind of access you will retain / lose? Can you get a press pass as a report for Substack?
Imagine a hypothetical Player's Association utopia where the top 500 players in the world determine rosters completely amongst themselves, with the only stipulation being that every player must accept/be accepted by each of their teammates. TBT model with NBA talent. How do you imagine those squads would shake out? Would players organize themselves by shoe company, college or AAU affiliations? Would French speakers stick together, citizens of the former Yugoslavia be reunited? Perhaps there'd be a wildcard factor, like which wives and girlfriends get along. Curious to hear your thoughts.
Perhaps in the weeds here, but I found KD and Dray's brief conversation about having their own family quite interesting. As a relatively new dad yourself, I would be curious about your view of how sports players evolve (or not) as they start family, what the modern father-athlete looks like, etc. Given you've had a front row to Steph and Draymond that could be interesting? Or maybe just to Dads like me.
My 2c is that you shouldn’t lose the tether to the NBA, since I assume we all think you’re among the smartest commenters on the league. I don’t care who you think will make the playoffs etc. But I’d be curious about your take on Jared Dudley going to the front office in Dallas; how does that situation compare to Miami and Haslem? You have a good feel for the topics I’m sure, but I’d hope to read an interesting NBA take from you maybe 1.5 times per week? Is that too frequent?
I would like to see stuff on what NBA types are thinking re the NBA schedule. The science on sports injuries is clear; once you get beyond 5-6 extreme physical efforts every two weeks (good stuff on this at True Hoop), the risk of injury goes way up.
Why aren’t the NBA schedulers taking this into account when making up their schedules? It can’t just be about $$. Stars getting hurt affects ratings. The upcoming season is roughly 6 months - or half a year. 26 weeks for 82 games is right around three games a week. So why do any teams play back to back games? The scheduling can’t be that hard to do. Football is doing great with games on just 2 or 3 nights a week (and mostly just one day a week). Why doesn’t the NBA look into a schedule that creates more destination TV viewing rather than multiple games every night (for example: games are typically Sat, Tues, Thurs with some exceptions for MLK day, etc)? There could still be just as many home games for teams, so no real loss in ticket revenue.
In line with ignoring the science - someone really needs to do a deep dive on PEDS in hoops. The testing is one of the most lax of any major sport. And it seems to be a taboo subject among both the NBA and NBA media. Any time I read something about LeBron (or anyone - he’s just the most visible right now) playing at a level “never before done” at his age, all I can think about are all the same stories written about Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, Armstrong, etc. Why is the NBA and NBA media studiously ignoring PED use?
I would like to see a piece about the affects of player empowerment on the NBA. Players forming cabals to create teams themselves is not conducive to a healthy league or a good product. I am usually completely on the side of workers but in the case of the NBA I think that it is hurting the business and could eventually relegate the NBA to 3rd rate sports league status.
You do you and chill, mate. Digging the dark side of sports business and anything else you find interesting. Even if it's regular updates on Justinian Jessup in Wollongong.
With Carmelo's recent comment that he never wanted out of Denver until they started a rebuild and other sports figures taking more control of producing current narratives and creating content/docs on past actions instead of documentarians, exploring what this can do to storytelling around sports. Will things become even more distilled to the point that a fan won't ever know what went on? Will outside access be almost entirely cut off?
I am most likely going to get an annual subscription to this site, as I have loved your writing on the Athletic.
One thing I've seen in the comments here and which really resonates with me, is that once the game starts, leave your politics at the door - I don't care if it's kneeling or flyovers/salutes to service - I just want to watch the game and escape for a couple hours.
Something I have noticed on the Athletic (and as I enjoy their writers, regardless, I'm not going to cancel my subscription) is that some (one in particular - TK) writers seem to revel in trying to be antagonistic towards their readers, attributing honest disagreements to "MAGA rage" or other silly nonsense. Is this a deliberate strategy on the part of the Athletic?
It is true that a great deal of internet discourse thrives on flame wars, insults and the like, but to see one of the writers consistently engage in it, to the point where he is baiting his readers - it lowers. I honestly believe that the Athletic may start to lose large numbers of subscribers as they feel constantly disrespected and insulted on a daily basis just because they posit a different point of view.
There are trolls everywhere, but it's disappointing when the Athletics (former?) Bay Area managing writer stoops to this level.
I say all of that to say that I look forward to each article you publish and have high hopes that the comment section avoid what has happened virtually everywhere else.
I’m curious to hear about what current writers/media members you respect. I’m a big fan of the “Intellectual Dark Web.” And this seems to be a space for those types of thoughts. I’m desperate to hear from people who dare to have independent thoughts and look at things from an objective point of view. Crazy, I know.
Why ESPN is going down hill and losing all their popular personalities. Would also love to hear about your experience working there.
1) Who the hell are all these people watching soccer in the US, why do they do it, and will US pro soccer ever really break through?
2) Will the amount and frequency of injuries in NFL football ever become unsustainable?
3) Why is baseball so freaking boring now?
Kinda want more Warriors/victory machine type stuff.
I'm interested in the following (not critical for coming weeks)
1) Do white NBA players think they have to toe the BLM line to be accepted by their teammates? What about the coaches? Are there "Drew Breeses" in the NBA that are just too scared (or smart) to speak out? Is this different for the white Euros?
2) Overall view on the culture of NBA locker rooms as Euros become more prevalent. Do players make any attempt to get to know their Euro/foreign teammates' cultures and understand their language the way MLB players do with Latinos? How is it different for the uberstars (Giannis, Dirk) and the mere rotation players?
3) Why is Steph so criminally underrated by the vast majority of his peers? Why are those that know the truth (easy top 2 PG of all time) so reluctant to speak out on his behalf? (I assume your subscribers don't really need much proof for this underlying premise)
4) Is there a difference in the way the different leagues would handle the Trevor Bauer situation?
5) Evolution of NBA refereeing over the past couple of decades. Donaghy was likely not even the worst ref in the David Stern era and this year Milwaukee beat a NY team on the road in Game 7 -- something unthinkable under the Stern reign. Maybe a broader piece on David Stern's legacy? Is there a definitive piece on this already written?
I’ve heard people equate it to the power of MJ’s agent in the 90’s, how does it compare or contrast? As a media-member, did you get the sense that some (agents, owners, media, etc) are biding their time until Lebron ages out before making their move to disrupt Klutch’s influence, or are they resigned to the idea that Klutch will only continue to garner more respect and power from here on out? How does the NBA justify the conflict of interest? What would it take for league action or regulation?
Release the Stern tapes!
1. The impact of 'veteran' status and 'young man' and player hierarchy based on tenure rather than how smart you are
2. The principle of 'veteran' NFL players deciding they're too good to participate in pre-season
3. What happens to really good college ballers who don't get drafted
4. Co-commentators who do nothing but tell you what just happened and add nothing to a broadcast
5. How much better is FIBA basketball (rules, national teams) compared to the NBA
6. Do American NBA players really care about international play not they have to try hard to win medals?
I'd love to understand how NBA players work on their techniques. Most fans here would have played tons of sports, and realized that it's really hard to change ones technique. One can learn new skills but if there's a glitch somewhere, one has to somehow work with it. Would love to get your insights on i) which players are the most natural -- sitting here, seems like Steph is that guy. He seems to be able to do anything - whether it's complex layups, floaters, behind the back dribbles or distance shooting. How much does he work on his craft to improve as opposed to maintain? Is he able to naturally add new skills like floaters? ii) Why are some players like Kawhii able to improve enormously? Kawhii has such a flat arc to his shot, but shoots close to 90% free throw rate, and is insanely accurate from midrange and 3point too. Whereas a player like Lebron still has poor free throw percentage? And Draymond Green can't improve anything in his arsenal...is it just work ethic or something else? iii) How much do coaches help? I don't mean head coach, but any private or team coach dedicated to improving skills. Anything else you can share about it.
Wouldn't expect this to be something for the coming weeks, but I was thinking about whaling and cultures that traditionally consume whale meat this afternoon.
I like whales well enough, but as someone who frequently eats meat and occasionally tries to be respectful of other cultures, it always struck me as a weird taboo.
Seems like it would be an interesting cultural third-rail topic to write about. This is sincere, not a joke.
How much do newsbreakers like Shams, Woj, Mark Stein actually impact eyeball hours for their platforms - i.e., is there a halo effect of being first to a scoop by 5 minutes?
What should the big platforms like ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, SI etc. do to revitalize long-form content eyeball hours? Grantland-type initiatives? Attach podcasts aggressively like The Ringer? Just partner with The Athletic?
Players say they want changes in this countries racist and unjust criminal justice system. The owners back laws and even make money that is directly tied to said racist and unjust criminal justice system. Those players get their money directly from those very same owners. Does the fact that there seems to be little to no friction between these two proof that nobody is really concerned with anything past how it affects them financially?
Friendly comment — a lot of thinly veiled sexism is being posited as a necessary and informative viewpoint for you in these comments. I’d worry about you being pigeonholed as a ~anti woke genius~ when (imo) seems more like you’re just a call it as you see it type. Love the work so far!
You should look up Dusty Imoo, a Japanese Canadian goalie coach hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this month who was fired within like 2 days for tweets he had liked. I haven't seen any stories that actually take a critical view of what happened.
Hi Ethan from New Zealand 😁. Would love to see your take on Andrew Bouguts new found hobby of celebrity covid expert. He's out the gate at the moment, feeding an wild crowd of government haters and covid skeptics with daily shit takes that are wild.
Aside from potential writing topics, do you foresee yourself doing more guest appearance on other podcasts, especially ones out of the concrete sports domain? Moreover, if you could let us know how the sausage is made regarding podcast economics (how much does guest get paid, how much do certain pods get paid, do celebs get paid or does it depend on relationship like Damon on Simmons).
Are there topics in politics that you feel drawn towards? I.e. Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 policies?
Great job so far! I would love some more bts stories from the locker room or just from the general reporting industry that you weren't able to tell whilst "in the industry." Obviously nothing you are not comfortable with, but I'm always intrigued at the things we don't see in public.
Please tell us the meaning of the song B-Flat Ontology by Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog.
I know you started this substack to expand the things you could write about but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on the warriors as the season unfolds…
Another thought is I’d be interested to hear what you think are the biggest misconceptions the average NBA fan holds about the league.
the BLM kneeling before Premier League matches in the UK and context around it
Two words: Bishop Sycamore
How did it happen? Who at ESPN decided that they were the optimal team and should have a showcase against IMG? Also how did no one at ESPN do any due diligence when there was a whole 1500 post thread on an Ohio high school sports message board?
Here's a proposed topic: Is the sports industry a bubble waiting to pop? How can the dwindling fan support and interest in professional sports (due to Covid, economic concerns, overriding issues of greater importance (like climate), use of computer gaming, increased time in cyberspace, higher degree of participatory athletic activities, etc.) possibly support the ongoing huge growth in player salaries, broadcast rights fees, licensing fees for merch, etc? A lot of NFL licensees lose money on their deals (but want the traffic and/or prestige). Lots of others simply don't have the $$ to throw at millionaire players and billionaire owners. Is legalized gambling really enough to carry these huge salaries, fees, etc.? Isn't the sports business bubble about ready to pop?
I have always enjoyed your thoughts on the following:
1. NBA/celebrity unhappiness via social media, etc (ie Durant, Taylor Swift comparisons you have made)
2. NBA views on social issues in USA in contrast to their stance on China
3. HOS interviews with non NBA ppl like Ben Thompson, Chotiner, etc
4. The NBAs view of itself vs reality (ratings, popularity, growth, etc)
5. California housing
Best of luck!
Are you going to continue doing the house of Strauss podcast? It was one of my faves I do miss it. I guess no Jade anymore though 😰