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January 10, 2019 42 mins

Joshua David Stein, a physical education philistine, gets schooled on the social, emotional, and educational benefits of team athletics by co-host and "Wall Street Journal" sport columnist Jason Gay. Making the case for sports as a cultural foundation, Gay enlists the help of famed NBA writer and not-so-famed youth soccer coach Sam Anderson to convince Joshua that competition can help kids find joy and friends -- if their dads can manage not to be total pricks about it.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:15):
Welcome to the Fatherly Podcast. If you don't recognize this voice,
I'm not going to take it personally. This is Jason
Gay guest co hosting with your real superstar here, Joshua
David Stein. But I'm starting it out because it's third
reil time for you, Joshua, third real time. You know

(00:35):
what that means, sports talk, do not enjoy. Don't enjoy it.
But yeah, thank you Jason for that assist. Yes, yes,
could I say thank you for that layup? No assist work?
So okay, yeah, great, thank you for that assist. Yeah.
Today we're gonna talk to um another sports guy. Jason,
as everyone knows, is a very friendly and approachable sport

(01:00):
writer and man. Mr Rogers, you kind of are not dissimilar.
And we're gonna talk to Sam Anderson, who is a
writer for The New York Times magazine and the author
of Boomtown, the fantastical saga of Oklahoma City. It's chaotic founding,
I think, it's apocalyptic weather, It's purloind basketball team and

(01:23):
the dream of becoming a world class metropolis. Sam Anderson,
I think does a really good job of translating the
particular world of sports into a broader story of human
frailty and glory. He's like a sports whisperer for the
non sports fan, which is what I am. And he's
also a dad of two. He was a coach of

(01:45):
his son's soccer team for a while, and because I
am a father struggling with how hard to push my
kids into sports and with my own lack of facility
in that language, I wanted to talk to him for
some guidance or if they might say, in sports coaching,

(02:13):
Welcome to the Foggy Podcast. I hope you'll enjoy the show.
I know about Sam because he wrote a really wonderful
profile of Russell Westbrook, who is a basketball player. How
did you know who he was before you read the profile?
I did not. Can you talk to me about who

(02:34):
Russell Westbrook is and why his story is so compelling? Well,
he's the definition of the kind of sports person. Were
you to sit someone in front of a basketball contest,
say you having never watched a basketball game, have never
had any kind of knowledge about Oklahoma City Thunder or

(02:58):
anything like that, you would within seconds look at him
and say, who is this person he plays at? Perhaps
I'd say, you know fifteen rpm faster than everybody else
on the court. He is a remarkably dynamic player. He
has you know, odd kinds of imperfections. For example, like

(03:18):
he can't shoot long range but still shoots long range
all the time. Um, he can be very frustrating on
his teammates. And yet you know, has statistically accumulated like
any but like nobody else in the NBA, he averages
this stat they called a triple double, which is, you know,
double figures and points, rebounds and assists, something that had

(03:38):
not been done for a generation and a half. Um.
But on top of it is this like sort of
wacky style van guard who dresses like you know Basquiat
and like is just uh you know uh icon sort
of cross culturally. I mean he's somebody like you know,
years ago, I say this with some authority because you know,

(04:01):
some men's fashion magazine writing experience, the designers didn't care
at all about athletes, are like, why do I want
to dress a six ft five guy? Like I can't
put him in my clothes? And now Russell Westbrook has
more influence on like French designers than any movie star
or something like that. So he's just this, you know,
he is a true one off, and uh, you know

(04:21):
I love watching him play. So now that I'm raising kids,
I am wondering should I pressure them in not pressure?
Should I suggest and make available to them the opportunity
of team sports, or should I suggest and make available
to them the path that I took, which was martial
arts and like a very individualized um way forward, what

(04:47):
did you what? What's your take? What are you doing?
I am at an interesting crossroads with I have a
five year old son who is beginning to express interest
in team sports. He's played a little little bit of
t ball, a little bit of soccer, um, and has
been playing basketball at school. And you know, you always

(05:08):
sort of are on alert for flickers of something with children, right,
and so now he's getting that basketball flicker where I
can tell that something has caught with him. And this
is gonna sound weird, but I feel weirdly guilty that
this excites me to no end. My son is using
like three syllable words and he's writing the alphabet, and

(05:29):
yet him saying he's interested in basketball excites me more
than any of that. Now I relate. Um, So yeah,
it's it's it's my my conditioning of many years now
taking form and ruining his life. Yeah, my older son,
Achilles Um he was into soccer cleats for a while
and wearing his mom's Brazilian and wearing like a Brazilian

(05:51):
soccer jersey, and that I was like watching him enter
into a life that I never had of being like
a sports fan and a participant enough so overjoyed that
he would to have those feelings of companionship and whatever
else jocks or athletes do. So you are not throwing

(06:11):
a log in the road of any of this. We're
your son to come home and say, like either one
of them say, I am a Mets fan and all
I want to do is watch Mets game. You're not
saying We're not doing that in this house. We're gonna
talk to Sam about this. I know because he's coached
youth sports. But I see your destiny, Joshua. At one
point one of these children is going to participate in

(06:32):
a team sport and somebody's gonna say we need an
extra coach for this, and it's going to I mean
it's a documentary, right, I mean, you like coaching like
a baseball team or something like that. Hey, the thing
to the fucking thing give it. You're gonna be teaching
him to run the wrong way around the basis, you know,
like yeah, and all the you know, short hand, all

(06:54):
the vernacular is going to be completely foreign to you.
I love it. I mean even all the Like my boss,
this guy Andrew who you know, like he talks and
he grew up playing sports. He talks in sports metaphors
all the times. Nothing nothing, I mean, now I understand
when he says things like, uh, like we're in the
red zone and he has some other thing like pushing

(07:14):
it over the like foot I think it's take over
the line, yeah, or something that people say a lot
is like yeah, this is like uh like fourth and down,
fourth and down. It's like fourth and down. I you know,
my you know pocket psychology um assessment of you is

(07:39):
that you grew up in Philly, and Philly is about
as hardcore, parochial a team sports town as there is
on planet Earth, not just in America. And like you know,
a child in London in the seventies rejecting like punk
rock or something like that, you are jactaning. So did

(08:01):
the community culture that was just everywhere and abundant, and
that that that the only suitable civic rebellion for you
was to just hate team sports or just not pay
attention to it. Let's call Sam. Wow, is that Sam Anderson? Yes? Yes, Yes,

(08:23):
last night I read your Russell Westbrook profile, which, for
a couple of reasons was mind blowing. One of them
is because I am, like, in the most profoundly way possible,
not a team sports guy. Um. And Jason is what
do you like like mountain climbing? Is a team sports guy,
which is a weird phrase to say. H m m A.

(08:47):
And Joshua doesn't like teamwork of any kind, doesn't like collaboration.
That's that's accurate. I just yeah, well we're side, We're
two sides of a coin. Yeah, I said to you
about those things. Yeah, it's my natural reaction to those
You didn't watch the Wilder Fury fight. Such. I don't
know what those words mean. I can't believe it. I've

(09:10):
never heard of that thing. You just know it's funny there. Yeah,
there's something like deep and spiritual right, Like, I'm just
not inclined to be interested in those things. Uh, they
don't grip me, but team sports totally do. And Jason,
I like both. You know, I can talk about the
Fury Wilder fight and the Oklahoma City thunder. I'm I'm

(09:31):
all in, you know, and also professionally, both of you
kind of are involved in sports and talk about sports.
And Sam, I understand from my boss who couldn't be
a bigger fan of yours. Literally he compares me to
you all the time. And I never come off. Why
can't you write sentences like this Google drive that's just

(09:53):
like a link to another writer. No, no, that's never
happened out. Yeah it's the worst. Um. But you have
a daughter, M and you coach one of those to No,
my daughter, UM is like you and not interested in

(10:17):
year old. Yes, that's that's what my daughter was like.
And uh, my son and my daughter's fourteen and my
son is now eleven, and when he was younger, I
got roped into coaching his little kids soccer team. Um.
This is not something I would have been inclined to

(10:38):
do at all. Um Number one, because I grew up
watching very American sports which didn't include soccer. Um, And
so I didn't really understand it on the level that
you would want a coach to understand something. But what
happened was I'm really bad with like logistics and deadlines,
and we were just late signing him up for his

(10:59):
soccer league that year, and my wife said, well, the
only way we're going to be able to guarantee him
a spot on a team is if you coach, and
then she just signed me up to coach without really
consulting me. So I was roped into being a coach
and I did it for a few years. Um, and

(11:20):
it was kind of a harrowing experience, Sam, did you
did you coach the children and more of a Barcelona
style tiki taka or was this more of a you know,
straightforward you right, well, you joke, but I went, I
I so overthought this because I was so aware of,

(11:44):
you know, my deficiencies as a youth soccer coach, Like
I really studied the game and I really thought about
like formations, O kidding, So you really did do a
deep dive. I kind of did a deep dive to
an embarrassing degree. Um. And I like feverishly sort of
construct these practice plans and schedules and drills and I

(12:07):
would like invent my own drills. Um. Um. Let's see
when we started, I think six or seven, and I
tried to like, you know, in a writerly way you
try to like translate uh sort of complex concepts to

(12:28):
a level that you know your audience can understand. So, um,
we laughed to this state of a day about my
invention of something called the magic circle, another thing called
the scary square. And there's a lot of my ways
of trying to teach these little kids. Um, what areas
of the fields were, you know, sort of most promising
and most dangerous on offense and defense? There's there somewhere

(12:53):
I don't know, I don't ever want to think about
this stuff again. It was it was really like, like
looking back, it was amazing how stressed out I got
it about it, and then how worried I got about
like what the parents that the kids were thinking about,
how they were performing on game days, and like like
I think I was a bad match for this position.
How how did you navigate that? Like you know, other parents,

(13:13):
especially because you know the children are just you know,
they're there to have a good time or score around
or whatever, but the parents are bringing their own expectations
to it. How was that? Yeah, soccer parents are notorious. Um,
and obviously, like I was one species of species of
that where I thought about this way too much and
took it too seriously. Um, even though I was never like,

(13:37):
I've never been like the aggressive, screaming Um, everyone needs
to overachieved, stytle soccer dad disappointed me? No, no, no, no, no,
I'm super super encouraging. I would. I love nothing more
than just praising kids for doing the right thing, no
matter how small it was. Um. And And I really,

(14:01):
I really didn't put pressure on the kids to win
or anything, because we were told not to do that
at that age. But there were some parents who absolutely
did not get that. And we're screaming and screaming and screaming.
Uh you address that, would you, like, you know, say hey,
can you take it down? Not? It's like, how do
you handle that? Um? I avoidance, yeah, occasional glares, Uh yeah,

(14:31):
you try to give social cues, you know, up to
the point of actual confrontation. UM. You know, some of
them were like in the same way that I was
conscious that I was overthinking everything, like they were conscious
they were aware that they were probably shouldn't have been
shouting about every single play, and they would try to
stop themselves, and some of them just couldn't. I mean,
we're all just like it's like you really see I mean,

(14:54):
we're all just like grown up kids. I mean, um,
and you see that when we're out on this sucker field,
It's like it's like the dad of the kid who
has like no impulse control and it's just all over
the field and won't listen to anything and randomly kicking
ball the practice into other children and hurting them like
that dad is the one who also has no impulse

(15:15):
controls the sideline and he's screaming about everything and yelling
at the ref and yelling at the coach and um,
so yeah, nobody grows or learns the intergenerational continuum of
poor decision making exactly exactly. Yeah, it's just yeah, it's
the the grand circle of pathology. We'll be right back

(15:38):
after a brief word from our sponsors. I'm totally on

(16:00):
the outside, and I feel like I've had this experience
so many times in my life of like being with
a couple of guys and they're talking about sports and
I have no idea, And it goes back to when
I was a kid and like I didn't have a
TV and kids would talk about Star Wars and I'd
be like, yeah, that's great, I'd be like, have you
seen Star Wars twenty five. I'm like, yeah, it's great.

(16:21):
You would try to like, yes, I was called out
every single time where Yoda cuts off Luke's heads. It
was very deeply harrowing. Um, but it does seem like
sports is a huge thing that fathers and sons and

(16:43):
daughters people just coalesce around. And it's like a type
of low grade, relatively non violent tribalism that engenders a
sense of bona me And I've just never had that,
And so I'm curious now that I'm raising. This is
a part of the podcast where I talk about questions
I actually have, uh raising two? I have two boys

(17:07):
or five and six and once turning seven this weekend. Um,
like are you there, m M a coach? Uh No,
my younger son, Augie. I tried to get them to
do jiu jitsu. Um. My younger son, Augie really likes
your rough house and the most I've been able to
teach him about jiu jitsu is how to tap when

(17:28):
you're getting choked out and how to do that like
I'm doing with Jason the high five into like a pound,
like you know, like that's how you start rolling to
do Randy or open training for him, I assumainly have
a grappling in a stand up coach though too right,
Uh there, I'm just know it's me. I mean like

(17:49):
I am even when we rough house, I am like
throw straight punches, like, don't do looping punches because they're slower.
Aggie knows how to do an arm Aggie's five. He
knows how to do an r bar in a rear
naked choke, and he knows how to tap. And honestly,
I know we're joking and you guys are maybe making
fun of me, but I do think it's important for

(18:12):
Achilles is older, he's like a lost cause. He just
he just likes to decorate things and he's not into sports.
But like for Aggie to understand what rough housing, the
difference between rough housing and fighting, and like the ability
to use his body and in wrestling, like to be
heavy on another person, like what that means to use
his weight. I've tried to sign them up at my

(18:34):
dojo and it's just like I don't want to push it.
Neither one of them really took to it this early,
and that's fine by me. Um, What does that mean
to be heavy on that. That's an amazing thing to say.
When you're heavy on someone, it means like if you're
in like full mount, which is the persons on their
back and then you have your legs over their hips

(18:54):
and under their arms. It's like a dominant position, um
that the person under you can roll or try to
get out and you're not toppled, so you can It's
almost like surfing on top of them, um and not
letting them up. There's different ways to, like, I don't know,
to use your body in which you exert more control

(19:15):
over them. Um. But my question is this, Uh can
you can you both of you guys, because I feel
like you're both equally adept A talking about this talk
about the developmental importance of having kids participate in that
sporting culture, something that I'm denying my own my own children.

(19:36):
I mean, how has it been, Sam, Like, how has
it been in your growing up as an individual? How
has being able to use sports metaphors, participate in in fandom, like,
how has that affected your development? I guess yeah. I

(19:56):
mean there are so many different levels of it, Like
you said, there's there. I mean it is a very
easy kind of lingua franca and among you know, a
large swath of American men or or you know, just
global men. To be able to talk about sports, to
be able to meet someone who's from like Senegal and say, oh, yeah,

(20:18):
who are the who are the famous footballers from Senegal
and talked about you know, these guys who were in
the Premier League and stuff. And it's just like a
way to very easily um relate that that leads to
deeper relationship, UM in the way that you would talk
about anything and then on like a personal level. I think,

(20:38):
you know, probably in the same way that UM martial
arts or any of that is too. It's like there's
a kind of feeling out of your own personality, of
your own boundaries, of your strengths and weaknesses and your
inclinations and um, you know, your capacity for discipline, and

(20:58):
you know, you just kind of like it's it's like
any activity you would do out in the world. I mean,
it's like painting or something. You it's a a tool
for figuring out who you are by pressing against this
kind of foreign activity. Hey, you check out his brush strokes.
That is some dynamic work there. That's not bad. I

(21:19):
would talk about that yeah, so so, yeah, it helps
you relate to people and it also helps you kind
of figure out yourself. I would say, do you have
memories as a child of those kind of formative experiences
watching sports? Though? Um? So, I was not into sports
in any way until my mom married this guy who Um,

(21:45):
who was this total blue collar Chicago factory workers, sports
and maniac who moved out to the West Coast because
he got transferred to the General Mills, the real factory
out near hut and they ended up getting married. And
he was like those characters from old Saturday Night Live
that balls, stuff, bears, stubballs. He was that guy um

(22:11):
and like he I was just just writing this the
other day. He was. He actually subscribed to the and
this was the nineties, there's no internet version. He subscribed
to the Chicago Tribune, had it mailed out to California,
so we would get it like five days late every day.
And then he would go to the sports section and
he would clip out photographs of Michael Jordan's and the

(22:34):
other Bulls and the Bears, and he would like build
them into these montages that he would frame and like
put over the TV. Um just absolute rabid sports head.
And he taught me how basketball worked, um, you know,
and he taught me like I remember one sort of epiphany,

(22:54):
um when he was like, all right, we're playing basketball.
You've got the ball. Let's say you're you're up at
the top of the key, like at the three point line.
If you're if you're a defender comes up close to
you like this, and he stepped really close, then you
can drive around him. If he steps back, then you

(23:15):
can shoot over him. And just that simple sort of
binary choice right there kind of opened up this whole
world of like a deep strategy and and thinking that
I've stosen since then, I've been an enthusiastic pick up
basketball player um to this day. And it's that, you know,

(23:35):
you you build structures out of those kind of simple choices,
and it's really fascinating. And so after that point, there
was a time in high school especially where I was
I was getting bullied and I felt really awkward and
out of sorts, and I remember really locking to basketball
in particular as this world where I could kind of

(23:57):
go and be by myself and be in control and
work on things and get better. So I would go
and I would shoot a hundred hook shots at a time,
and then a hundred free throws and every day I
would go and do this stuff. Um, and it gave
me this sense of like accomplishment on this small scale. Um,

(24:17):
you weren't practicing inefficient long tis, were you. Well that
was in back then, so that was like a normal
thing to do. We didn't shoot. No one really shot
threes back then. Um, yeah, which is still my game.
I don't really have a great three point shot. I'm
kind of I'm automatic after twelve out to twelve feet
if you leave me completely unguarded. But when you had

(24:42):
kids of your own, and Jason, this is also for you,
did you automatically think that they're going to play sports?
Was that a sam? You said your daughter is not
into it, but your son is, Like did you force it?
Did you not force it? I'm trying to decide for myself,
like do I sign my kids up for thinks that
they don't naturally like, because I don't want them to

(25:02):
grow up as deficient in this way, you know, like
did you force it? Did you not force it? How
did you navigate that? How did you figure out what
their game was? Did you let them you know, figure
it out? Yeah, not force it at all, um, I
think and maybe because of my particular experience of it,
it felt so individual. You know, I had this influence

(25:25):
from my stepfather, But if I hadn't, I was never
forced to play, and I wouldn't have enjoyed it if
I had been forced to play. It was such a
it was such this like spiritual thing that I needed somehow.
Um that for our kids, we just kind of left
left the door open. I'm happy to educate them about
whatever sport they want to know about, in the same
way that I'm happy to educate them about writers and

(25:47):
literature and artists or whatever they want to know about.
But no, I'm not I'm not a forcer. Have you
had the experience of and you know, you deeply immersed
yourself in this Thunder team, which for a whole bunch
of since has been one of the more fascinating franchises
in sports in general for a last decade or so. Um,
you know, have you had the experience of like sitting

(26:08):
with your kids and saying, like watch this, like watch
Westbrook or watch Westbrook and dur Aunt, you know, a
couple of years back, and you know, maybe teams Harden
and like, you know, sort of here's how how to
appreciate what these guys are, um, you know, in the
same way you know Joshua might with hammer Claus Uh oh,

(26:32):
yeah for sure. Yeah. Because again, like to me, sports
is just it really is just uh And I try
to write about it this way. It's just the thing
that humans do, like any other cultural activity that humans do,
and that's why it's interesting. Um. So yeah, because I'm
interested in it, my kids are kind of interested in it,

(26:52):
and when we're sitting there, of course I'll explain. You know, look,
how look how wildly aggressive Russell Westbrook is. I think
I think about what that brings to the table and
think about all the opportunities that kind of takes away
to Um. You know, if if I am pushy about
one thing, it is about being kind of thoughtful sports consumer. Um.

(27:16):
And I always if I'm preachy about something it do
not be an obnoxious sports dude. Where you say because
you love Steph Curry, you say that lebron James suck,
Um you love Ronaldo so messy suck. Yeah, don't be
that guy. Don't ever be that guy. Um. Yeah, that's

(27:36):
something I get on my high horse about. They'll react
by being that guy. My son actually is. He's kind
of rebelling by I'm actually originally from Oregon. So in
the years after my stepfather was around, I reverted to
being a Portland Trail Players fan, and my son is
from a very young age it's just been this obnoxious

(27:58):
l a Lakers fan because the Blazers and Lakers are
this kind of rivalry that many rivalry because the Lakers
just win. But yeah, he loves them, and he kind
of loves he loves the Warriors. And since Durant left
the Thunder and he knew that bothered me, he thought
it would be cool to love the Warriors. Here's another
brief word from our sponsors. I want to ask you

(28:27):
related to the book. Um, you know, we hear so
much about sports teams and what they can do for communities,
and I often just feel like there's a major whiff
of BS when you hear that proposed. But you know,
Oklahoma City sort of a testament to that idea, that
that that what the Thunder uh, you know we're pitched

(28:49):
as and what they became. And I know that this
is part of your book that um really sort of
you know, achieve that notion and Um, you know, do
you by it that it can be some sort of
galvitizing force for a city like, you know, anywhere. Yeah,
that's a really interesting question because my inclination as like

(29:12):
a cynical East Coast intellectual also it was to just
kind of call bs on that, um, because you know,
you can easily point to like the incredible public costs
of bringing one of these franchises to a city, Like
so much money goes into paying for the arenas, paying
for the practice facilities, subsidizing all kinds of stuff that

(29:34):
could have gone into you know, building social safetyness and
other more meaningful things. Um. But then you get this team,
and I would so you get this this kind of
international brand associated with your city, which for a city
like Oklahoma City, they were just absolutely desperate for because

(29:56):
it's been a place that people look past for many
reason for just decades. Um. And so suddenly you have
this thing that people in Japan know about, people in
Australia know about. And again it's that question we were
talking about earlier of like if you tell someone you're
from Oklahoma City anywhere in the world, now someone will

(30:16):
say to you, oh, Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook the thunder
um which turns out to be not a minor deal.
And I would ask people, there's a guy, um I
spoke with a lot when I was there. He was
the city planner, this wonderful um contrarian guy from Australia
basically called bullshit on everything and um and and was

(30:41):
not in any way thunder fan, and said he thought
it was the biggest waste of time and they just
the city couldn't even get things done because all the
city leaders were going to thunder games instead of going
to meeting and uh. And I said, well, okay, so
it's bs that this thing is brought all this public
good to the city and he said, oh no, no, no,
it has completely changed the kind of emotional fabric of

(31:05):
this city. And that is real, and that is incredibly positive.
And you have I think the biggest change for me
is like in Oklahoma City, it's one of those places
out in the middle of the country without a lot
going for it culturally, economically, and because of those reasons,
like the young people as soon as they hit high school,

(31:26):
they would just kind of leave. Soon as they graduated
high school, they were out. They're especially if they're ambitious
artistically or whatever. They were just gone to a bigger
city and now it's the place has been redefined as
a place that has this identity that is an important
kind of mode of meaning in the world. And so
the young people are staying. And as a result of that,

(31:48):
you get all these you know, cool coffee shops and
um funky T shirt stores and great restaurants and um,
you get like a bike share program and bike lanes
and all these things that are placed like that would
never have because the young people weren't there. And they're
all there now and they're living downtown and they're going
to thunder games, and the politics of Oklahoma City is changing.

(32:12):
They just flipped this district from red to blue for
the first time in like forty years. Um. And so
there are all these dominoes that fall, and I think
a lot of them fell because they got this big,
giant professional sports team on the same like, you know,
metaphorically speaking. The other thing that happened was Russell Westbrook State.

(32:32):
He had an option to you know, take his talents elsewhere. Um,
it would have been an extremely coveted free agent. However,
chose to you know, for a significant charge. Uh, stay
with Oklahoma City, and it was you know, I remember
watching the footage of the rapture in the city, but

(32:52):
how significant do you think that was sort of you know,
emotionally for Okay See, Yeah, I think that is the perfect,
um met aaphorical expression of what I was just saying
about the young people staying like here you have like
an ultimate like young person, like all university young person,
you know, who is cool and weird and um creative.

(33:15):
Yeah yeah, and uh from l A from l A.
So everyone thought he was going back there, as so
many other young people have from Oklahoma City, but for
him to choose that place was really kind of epic
and unexpected and so validating to the city. And yeah,

(33:36):
they lit up there ridiculously tall skyscraper with thank you Russ,
and the mayor declared every day Russell Westbrook Day. I
think I think one of the reasons I've always stayed
away from sports and I want to hear from both
of you guys, is because that tribalism that you've been
talking about is leading to you know, a wonderful connection

(33:56):
with other people also instills a sort of tribalism um
and sort of us versus them. Mentality, which is part
of competitive sport, and it's something that I try not
to that us versus them dichotomy is something that I
try not to instill in my kids very much and
something I push against. And I feel like that is
also an under that is a value that's pushed in

(34:19):
sports and competitiveness. So like how do you square that?
What's the what is it? What is it? Sam? The
magic circle in the naughty square? Like how do you
square that? Uh? You know that? Yeah it is. Sports
is a great way to belong, but it's also a
great way to inculcate. Um you know then yeah, yeah

(34:43):
that's the scary square. Actually, Um, that's a great point.
I mean. And and I think that goes right down
to like foundational human stuff is the units that we
make and who belongs and who doesn't, and what the
relationship is between the insiders and the outsiders. And for me,
I mean, I guess what I try to instill in

(35:06):
my kids and something that I police and myself very
strongly is just like I mean, it almost feels like
a like a old old timey like British sense of
fair play or something where you know, like I'm the
guy in the pickup game. Who if somebody hits an
incredible shot on me, you know, I compliment the guys

(35:27):
we're running back down the floor. So so it's like,
you know, you maintain your sort of pibolized rational self
even as within these very specific boundaries you're trying to
beat the person at a certain set of actions, but
that doesn't change you know, your your basic relationship and
respect for that person. But that's that's kind of what

(35:48):
I try to But you're right, I mean with figures
like Russell Westbrook, with figures like Michael Jordan who famously
you know, punched his teammate in the face at practice
and just trash talked everyone within an inch of their
life and like would would do anything to beat you
at anything. UM, I think there is something, like you know,
there can be something kind of sociopathic and that drive

(36:08):
to destroy and win. UM. And I think that fans.
So that's from a playing stand point, but also fans
and being from Philadelphia, like I've definitely seen Philadelphia fans
do this over and over again, like they just rage,
like they're so um wound up and and and made

(36:29):
into small heroes by like this glory that they've seen
that they just destroy things, and like they're so vehement
and they have such a anger that comes out of sports,
and that's always been something that I felt like very
uneasy about letting in into my world and obviously the
world of my kids. To your point of fair play. Though, Like,
I don't watch sports that much, but what I do

(36:51):
sometimes do is go on YouTube and watch like, um
they have compilations like h NHL which is like hockey,
like NHL would sports like Top twenty Sportsmanship Moments or
like Tennis like the Best Sense of fair Play, and
it's just like guys being like are you okay? Or
like waving or because I do like it's the same

(37:12):
reason why I just watch a lot of like um
SNL breaking character or the Office bloopers. I just like
being the veil lifted for a moment to see that
they're human beings below whatever their other identity is. And
that's always been for me, like that the jersey is
the fundamental unit of an individual. Yeah, that's interesting. I

(37:34):
would sorry to jump in. I would I would encourage
us to look at sports. I would I would encourge
us to look at those moments of fair play and
good sportsmanship actually not as like aberrant moments, but as
the one of the essential things, maybe the essential thing
that sports is teaching you is how to maintain that

(37:56):
level of respect and sportsmanship in the face of wanting
so badly to win within the confines of the sport, like,
because that is something that's you know, you can try
to keep sports out of your life, but you certainly
can't keep self interest out of your life. Um, and
so that's just like that's against it and self sabotage,
which I do all the time. Well, sure, I'll of

(38:18):
us do that, But sports, I think, is this kind
of metaphor for you know, this is maybe a cliche,
but it's this kind of concentrated metaphor for how life works.
And one of the things we have to learn to
negotiate in life, just everyday life walking around, is how
to balance our self interest are desired for good things
for us with the kind of community that we're embedded in,

(38:40):
in the interests of that community. And so I think,
again that's one of the essential lessons that we can
teach kids from sports. Sam, thank you for taking the
time to chat with us about sports. I felt like
I was part of a conversation with three dudes just
talking about sports, and it's a great probably flipped those burghers, now, yeah,

(39:02):
you were, it was fun. Are we done already? We're done?
This is a rap. Thank you so much for for
a chatting. I might give you a call later and
just talk about sports if that's okay. Oh yeah, absolutely,
and listen, watch watch the game tonight. What game? Yeah?
I don't know, that's just what you say. Oh, great game.

(39:23):
Let's let's watch a game together. Let's watch the game together. Bruskies, Bruce, yes,
those okay? Thank you Sam? All right, thankful guys. I
guess I'm not surprised. Sam was remarkably measured and like
saying about looking at sports, I think the thing that

(39:43):
I didn't internalizes. You're right that I only saw like
a parochialism in terms of fandom and not the beauty
of sports. It's it's all the worst of sports. And
this was like a highlight reel. Yeah, and and you
know you mentioned at the top his ability to you
explain sports for the non sports fan and make you
appreciate and that is like a very underappreciated and hard

(40:08):
to master skill that he has. You know, like they're
you're right, and you allude to it. There's so much
like our Kanda and just bizarre like trained behavior in
sports fandom that if you are not in that world
or at least a half foot in it, it can
be intimidating and annoying. Uh. And he just does a

(40:31):
terrific job of, you know, breaking down why he should
appreciate this stuff, and damn it, if you're not watching
five basketball games name, this has been a whole failure. Well.
I think the other thing that Sam mentioned from his
own personal experience as a father was just driving home
sports metaphor that sounds like a construction metaphor or U.

(40:58):
The each of home was even this guy, Sam Anderson,
sports writer, extraordinaire sports fan non plus um is that right?
Sports fan? An unequaled sports fan? UM doesn't didn't put it? Yeah,
that's right, non parai. Yeah, um didn't push his son

(41:20):
into doing sports. So if that dude isn't pushing his
kids to do sports, I'm not going to push my
kid to do sports. Well, we're at the buzzer oh

(41:46):
touchdown with Joshua David Stein. No, Well, I guess that's
a two minute warning for the Fatherly Podcast. I'm Joshua
David Stein. I'm your host and co producer. This other
guy who's in the studio, Max Savage Levinson is the producer.
Jason Gay's my lovely co host, Hi Jason, Hi, teammates

(42:08):
bye uh. Andrew Berman is our executive producer. If you
have fatherly questions that's questions about fatherhood, not paternally phrased questions,
please call us at seven three to seven one. Make
sure you tune in next week for the brand new
episode with Alex Goldman, the co host of Reply All,

(42:32):
my new favorite podcast and probably the podcast you've been
listening to for years. And with that, go eagles what fly?
Eagles Fly, Fly, Eagles Fly. Thank you, Jason, damn it,
We're going to train you.

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