In This Episode
This week on Takeline, Alan Yang joins to talk about his career, the brand new season of Master of None (30:10) and sticks around to play Take Survivor (50:27). Jason and Renee give their thoughts on what the worst case scenario for the NBA play-in tournament would be (01:14) , David Griffin’s comments on the officiating of Zion Williamson (19:09), and Renee gives an inside look into the start of the WNBA season (25:42).
Don’t forget to smash the subscribe button at http://youtube.com/takelineshow for exclusive video clips and to watch ALL CAPS NBA. New episodes every Friday!
Jason Concepcion: Last week on Friends Like This, host Ana Marie Cox was joined by sports and business journalist Mina Kimes to talk about being the only female NFL analyst on ESPN, and the pressures that come from proudly representing her Korean-American heritage on screen. It’s a great episode. I think you’ll enjoy it. Check it out, With Friends Like These, wherever you get your podcasts.
Jason Concepcion: Is it time to flip the switch yet? Anthony Davis goes nuclear as the Lakers—I a playing—possibly against Steph and the Warriors. [sing song] He’s going to get fi-yund because he whi-yund about Zion: David Griffin blows up with the refs. Plus, our in-house sports team owner takes us inside preparations for the start of the WNBA season. And writer and director Alan Yang joins us to talk about the long-awaited 3rd season of Master of None, and to play Take Survivor. Takeline, coming up next. I’m Jason Concepcion.
Renee Montgomery: I’m Renee Montgomery. Let’s go!!
Jason Concepcion: Well, Renee, the NBA playing tournament is approaching and the biggest question mark in the east is so sad—unfortunately, the Celtics, if they lose the play-in round, you know Brad Stevens, you wonder if his seat might finally be getting hot in the Western Conference. It’s getting really fascinating because the Lakers, of course, have been shaky with LeBron out, AD out for a significant time. It certainly looks like there is a looming confrontation with the Warriors, or at least it’s possible. If that does happen, if we get Lakers-Warriors as a play-in, is that like the league’s worst nightmare, that it could be possible that LeBron James could bow out before the playoffs even begin?
Renee Montgomery: Of course. This is like worst case scenario. So you know how there’s that sound bite of LeBron saying: whoever thought of it should get fired?
Jason Concepcion: Of course.
Renee Montgomery: Well, if LeBron is knocked out, they, whoever created this wasn’t thinking that Steph Curry and LeBron James would be in that playoff game—like or I should say play-in game. This is worst case scenario because you would want LeBron James and the Lakers and Steph Curry and the Warriors to play as long as you possibly could. Like, if you could, you would have them play in the finals just because, you know, that type of star power, people will tune in for them. Not that they won’t tune in for other people, but Steph Curry is magical. We know that. So imagine we only, we don’t even get a series. So we’re talking play-in game. I would even take the first round because then you get at least seven games of it. A play-in game?! And LeBron James has been gone for so long, so you mean to tell me he might come back for that one game? I think this is worst case scenario for the league. And while I have my marketing cap on, I also think his best case scenario, because we know that that game’s numbers will be out of this world. So if they’re trying to prove why they did the game.
Jason Concepcion: It will be out of control.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, if they’re trying to show why they did this game, and they start to show the analytics and the numbers for a Warriors versus Lakers match up, well, they’re going to have all the numbers they could ask for.
Jason Concepcion: And this is, so this has been a point of conversation, Nick Wright notably of Fox Sports was talking about this, how this is a nightmare scenario for the league. I get that. And I understand how. Listen, if I was working in the league office, I would certainly be looking at the potential numbers for a LeBron-less or a Curry-less playoffs and just being like: ugh, that sucks. On the other hand, like as a fan, how much should I care? You know what I mean? Because I feel like this is the same kind of argument—
Renee Montgomery: It depends on what you’re a fan of.
Jason Concepcion: That’s true. But like I keep thinking of, you know, my friend Shea Serrano is a Spurs fan and the big knock on the Spurs for years and years and years were: they’re boring, they’re not interesting, the lowest-rated finals like of all time was Spurs versus the Cavs, nobody wants to watch it. And of course, Spurs fans—and rightly so—felt aggrieved by this. But like, how much, how much should we really care? Like, and shouldn’t, secondarily to that, you know, LeBron and Steph should have just won more games. I don’t know, just win and don’t be in this situation! But I’m like, how much, how much do we really care about this? Because I feel like, you know, it’s, it’s a little bit of a knock on—not that Lakers fans give a shit—but it’s a little bit of a knock against Lakers fans to be like, well, you know—and teams, and fans of other teams, because it’s like, OK, nobody cares if you guys get in. Nobody cares if, if the Grizzlies get it. You know, we don’t want to watch the Mavericks. That kind of thing.
Renee Montgomery: But then you’re hitting at the point of sports. Like what you’re saying is, sports in general. What we know in reality is sports is a business. So do you care as a fan? Yeah, because as a fan, this is a business that’s running and so if all of a sudden you’re—lets even, say, the New York Knicks, you know, and you’re that team that: wow, we finally made it to one of the spots that can be in, we know we’re in! We got the seed! And then they’re like: yeah, yeah, no, you got to play it out, you got to play it out and get in there. I mean, I can see it from so many different ways. Like what if you’re one of those teams that finally made it to that top eight, and then all of a sudden you’re hearing different rules and different things? I could see that being a problem from the other end of it. So, as a fan, if you—and again, they knew it before the season started, so it’s not like this was just a: up surprise! But as a fan, I think that your perspective just changes completely, like, I don’t know how to feel about it, really. It’s like, I’m one of those people that I have to see it play itself out to see how it worked out.
Jason Concepcion: Are you anti play-in or are you pro? Like, you know, based on what you saw last play offs, and like—let’s take the pandemic, because obviously this is kind of, it’s kind of like the worst possible timing. Obviously the disruption from the pandemic gave the league the opening to try this, but it’s also the worst possible time to do it because of the compressed schedule, and players are already so burned out. Now you’re adding extra games. Put all of that aside. In a vacuum, are you pro or anti the play-in?
Renee Montgomery: Well, let me just give some context here. The WNBA’s already been doing that. So for us, this is not a new model. Now, do I like it? No. I think that any time you have a one-game elimination in professional sports, it’s difficult for me because that feels more college-esque in a sense of the March Madness. And the thing that makes March Madness is you never know what can happen. The number 16 seed might knock out the number 1 seed. And the problem was that that I have when it comes to pro sports—and, you know, honestly, for that same fact, you know, you could think of it in college, too—but with pro sports, you work all season long, 80 games worth, to earn your position. And so then you earn that number 7 seed, right? But now I got to do a play-out game between the number 7 and 8 to earn, re-earn my seven seat again! Like, because if you win the game versus number 7 and 8 and you’re number 7, you get to just remain number 7—and so I just don’t like the fact that we can work a whole season for positioning, home court advantage. I want to series to play it out because it took us 80 games to get here. I don’t want one game to determine what we’re doing. So for me, it’s more about, you don’t ever know if the best team will win in a one-game elimination. That’s the biggest problem I have with it. You can see a number 16 seed knock off a number 1 seed, everyone knows the number 1 seed is better, but they had a bad night. Well, then how do you determine who is the best that year? That’s fine for college. I get it. But I want to, I want the best team in pro sports to win. So I guess I’m a fan of not that.
Jason Concepcion: That’s a, it’s an interesting point. And I think it’s a fair one in certain circumstances. Jason Gallagher, who is a producer on this and director of All Caps, has a take about Damian Lillard, which is that Damian Lillard ruins the playoffs every year because he’s knocking off the better team.
Renee Montgomery: Daim time!
Jason Concepcion: And it is often a bummer, like it’s exciting in the moment when an 8 beats a 1 or a 7 beats a 2, but it’s also that feeling of the next round is just going to be, not very, not very dramatic. I mean, that said, and I take your point—
Renee Montgomery: But, I have a question for you, though. I have a question for you, though, because you hit on it a little bit that with the Celtics, Brad Stevens, I mean, he was looked at is going to be, you know, one of the young guys that was going to be killing it in Boston, pretty much his whole life. And I’m not even exaggerating. When you heard people talk about him when he first got there, it was like—
Jason Concepcion: People, people were talking about like: what top-ten player would you not trade for Brad Stevens? Like, people were talking about it like they wouldn’t trade players for him.
Renee Montgomery: So, so now I’m glad. So knowing that, and now knowing if the Celtics were to be in that play-in game and lose it, what do you think’s going to happen with him? Like what’s going to happen to Brad Stevens?
Jason Concepcion: I think that, there’s several levels to this. The first is that, like many teams in the league, the Celtics have been affected by COVID. Jayson Tatum notably has to use an inhaler before he plays and perhaps during games. The lingering effects are that drastic. And of course, he’s really picked it up over the last month or so.
Renee Montgomery: He’s killing it.
Jason Concepcion: But that is still in effect that he is dealing with. Evan Fournier, who came over from The Magic, has really disappointed. He’s talked pretty openly about the fact that he’s dealing with aftereffects. He feels foggy, he feels exhausted often, and he’s just not being, he’s not able to give his best effort. And he’s called it heartbreaking at times. That said, like, that’s a, you know—it’s also a team with Jayson Tatum was one of the best young stars in the game, a player who recently scored 60 and put the Celtics on his back. Jaylen Brown, who’s one of the best two-way players in the game, period, and certainly one of the best two-way players under 25 years old. They should be better. I just feel like there’s been so much upheaval, and especially with the COVID wrinkles, that he would get another chance unless it’s a complete disappointment. But like there’s been a lot of injuries, you know. Kemba not playing well, Marcus Smart being in and out of the lineup, he’s really their best passer. And when you have those things together, basically no kind of backcourt effectiveness, no playmaking. A lot of the Celtics season kind of devolved in to this like: throw it to Jaylen, throw it to Jayson and they’ll make something happen, and the ball not moving around and you get a very shaky team. Now, I will say that some of these losses recently have looked like a team that is not even really trying to compete. That is scary a little bit. That’s the thing that is a little troubling. When they go down like 18 in the first quarter and it’s happening time and time again—I certainly think his seat will get hot, but I don’t think that he’s in any real trouble.
Renee Montgomery: OK, so he’s not, he’s not there yet, but—
Jason Concepcion: I don’t think so.
Renee Montgomery: He better, they got to get to it. Basically. If not this, the play-in game but next year for sure.
Jason Concepcion: They have too much talent, they have too much talent to be in this place right now. Like they just simply have too much talent. Right?
Renee Montgomery: I mean, I would say, yeah, that’s the problem. I think that everyone realizes that there’s so much talent there and that they’re almost underachieving, it seems like in a sense. But we know COVID, we know injuries, and so every team is dealing with that, though. I mean, look at the Hawks. We had one of the most changes to the lineup of any team this year, you know. We’re the top three in that. So is that an excuse anymore? Because, you know, like is that an excuse? I don’t know. But I’m just asking.
Jason Concepcion: That’s a good, well, here’s a good point, speaking of coaches on the hot seat. Right? So Nate McMillan fired from the Pacers. He goes to the Hawks, turns the Hawks around. His replacement, another Nate, Nate Bjorkgren for the Pacers, has, it’s not been good. You have coaches yelling at players, like Pacers players from the sideline. It just has not looked great there. And it certainly seems like, Nate Bjorkgren now might be on the hot seat. It’s, how do you, how do you keep the wrong Nate? I just don’t, you know what I mean? [laughs]
Renee Montgomery: Well, you know, the problem is though—and this is a whole other discussion, so I’m just going to say it, and then we’re going to have to pin it for another day—but we do know that a lot of times Black coaches in the NBA don’t get a lot of leeway. So if you don’t do well, whether it’s injury or whatever reason, you don’t have a lot of room for error. I mean, that’s just, it’s not, it’s not even, I don’t even know if it’s an opinion at this point. I think that coaches have been fired for way less when it comes to minority coaches. And then when we’re talking about other coaches, they might have a longer leeway. So that’s there. But to that point, Coach Lloyd Pierce got fired halfway through the season because we were not performing a certain way. Coach Nate McMillan took over the team. He’s killing it. But again, I mean, we were injured a lot in the first half of the season, and no one cares about that. I don’t think when it comes to coaching.
Jason Concepcion: Well, it’s you know, sports is just kind of like a no excuses space, right? Even if you have a great excuse. COVID.
Renee Montgomery: Yup.
Jason Concepcion: Players dealing with after effects of COVID not able to play, players being injured, whatever the case may be. Nobody, nobody wants to hear it at the end of the day. Like it’s did you win?
Renee Montgomery: Facts.
Jason Concepcion: And that’s not fair, but that’s what it is.
Renee Montgomery: So Zion Williamson is out indefinitely after breaking his left index finger, and the VP of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, which is David Griffin, has some choice words for the ref, saying that the way the referees were officiating Zion was going to get him injured. Now, the league went on to fine Griffin, $50,000 for those comments. So, Jason—
Jason Concepcion: Yes.
Renee Montgomery: Is Griffin right about the way Zion is being officiated?
Jason Concepcion: [sigh] I think that—
Renee Montgomery: I mean—
Jason Concepcion: [sigh] You know, historically, he’s right and he’s not right. He’s right in the sense that, historically speaking, players like Zion—these bigs, these big, strong players like Shaq, like Yannis—just end up taking more punishment. When they drive to the rim, they get hit, players are taught to come down with their full force to try and strip that ball out. That’s how you’re taught to play the game. A lot of times they’ll hit that arm. And for a player like Zion, just like with Shaq, at that size, it’s not obvious how hard they’re getting hit because they are so strong. Guys are just wailing on them. You know, it’d be different if it was like Terry Rozier getting hit in the same, with the same amount of force.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Jason Concepcion: So he’s right in that sense. But also the fact that this is an issue and has been an issue with big players over the—you know, for as long as I’ve been watching basketball certainly—tells you that that’s, it’s just going to have to be something that Zion figures out how to deal with. Whether it’s selling the foul, you know, yelling when he gets hit. Snapping the head back—which is, you know, someone would say, oh, you’re telling him to flop, I’m not telling him flop—I’m telling him to, when he feels contact, let the ref know that he’s feeling contact. Whether it’s like—
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, that’s a flop. [laughs]
Jason Concepcion: Developing that, developing that kind of savvy, you know. Where it’s like, you’ve got to you know, if you’re going to get hit, at least let the ref know that you are getting hit.
Renee Montgomery: to that point, now, people might have considered me a flopper in my day. I mean, that might, that might be a label or slander that was thrown my way. I call it embellishing. You know, sometimes like if I get hit, sometimes the refs miss it. Like, that’s just, that’s just how it is.
Jason Concepcion: That what it is.
Renee Montgomery: I’m on the whole other end of the spectrum because I’m actually, when you look on the court, I’m one of the smaller players out there. And so when you look at me and when I get hit, it looks dramatic anyway. Sometimes I wasn’t even embellishing, I was just getting hit by these gazelles of humans that are just running at a fast speed and I’m just caught in a trampede. Like that, that’s what happened. But, I also, the athlete in me, it’s tough—and shouts to my dogs Swin Cash over there at the New Orleans Pelicans holding it down in the front office—but it’s tough because everyone talks about how the officiating for the NBA is the easiest it’s ever been. They protect the shooters, like everything is about scoring. It’s to protect the shooters, to protect the scorers. So I imagine that the treatment Zion is getting, I think that old-school players would think that that’s a cakewalk. I mean, we’ve seen the clips. If you haven’t seen the bad boy days, the Detroit days, all of those, I think—yes Zion may be getting officiated differently, in a sense of they might not think that it’s hurting him or he’s not getting as many calls. But I also think, like, you know, I don’t know how to feel about it because I think that we’ve gone all the way so far to the end of the spectrum where people can’t even play defense anymore too. I’m a shooter, so I like protecting the shooter. So it’s like it’s a Catch 22 because maybe Zion’s getting officiated differently, but the officiating right now is very pro-offense.
Jason Concepcion: Right.
Renee Montgomery: So I don’t know what, I don’t know what to do with that information, Jason, but that’s just how I feel.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, just to tie it back to Griffin, I think that—again, this is a no excuses league—I think that he’s right in the instinct to protect his player. Right? Listen—
Renee Montgomery: For sure.
The Pelicans had a shot at the play-in before this. Now, with Zion out, they I don’t think they have any shot. And so that will certainly earn him some plaudits, like in the locker room, get him some political capital. The fact that he’s willing to come out and blast the refs and get fined to protect his players, I think is like, that’s a positive. I think the other side of it is, you know, refs are a real easy scapegoat, like in sports.
Renee Montgomery: Always.
Jason Concepcion: And this is a Pelicans team that has been disappointing. That for the amount of talent they have, should be better, and is not better. And so on the one hand, I understand David Griffin lashing out in what is a devastating blow to his team. On the other hand, it’s like, there’s been a lot of criticisms of that front office, notably from JJ Redick. They haven’t been winning. It’s also like a: OK pick it up. Like let’s figure out how to get this team on track. Like, let’s look in the mirror a little bit as well.
Renee Montgomery: To that point, if I had $50,000 every time I wanted to protect my players, I would. Like I think that, you know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil—
Jason Concepcion: Yes. That is so true.
Renee Montgomery: In the sense of when it comes to ref and you’re working the refs. And in sports, you see the coaches—even the players. Like people, get mad about how much Draymond Green was allowed the leash he was allowed, in a sense of how many times he’s allowed to go off. And you start to build that rapport with the refs, whether you like it or not. The refs start to say: Oh that’s just Draymond, I don’t care. Or the refs might know: all right, David Griffin is going to be coming at us if we don’t call it for Zion. They’re humans. I know that people don’t like it, but we know that refs are humans with feelings and it could work either way. But if it was my players and I felt like it was something that really cost us a chance at the play-in games, or something that cost us a chance at the playoffs—yeah, I think I would have some words to say about it, too. You got to protect your players.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, how many times have we seen it where, you know, in a playoff game, one team shoots many more free throws then the other team—
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Jason Concepcion: And then the coach calls it out in in the post game. Gets fined. But then you can feel it that the refs are really watching this more closely.
Renee Montgomery: Yep!
Jason Concepcion: And then they it invariably happens that, despite the fine, the coach gets what they want, which is a more equitable distribution of fouls. This often works.
Renee Montgomery: Whether you like it or not.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah! [laughs] And finally, Renee, WNBA season starts this weekend.
Renee Montgomery: Yes!
Jason Concepcion: You are our in-house WNBA owner. Take us into it. Take us into the run up. What’s going on? How are you preparing for it? What’s it like watching it from this perspective?
Renee Montgomery: Oh, man. Is been crazy. Today we had Media Day, and Media Day normally is a crazy day already because you basically have to capture all the content you need for the whole season from every single player! So that’s wild to think about to do in five hours. So there’s that. And then we have to sprinkle on top all of the COVID protocols, all of the different things, the hoops you have to jump through: the hair and makeup can’t be there, this can’t happen, the vendors, the lights— and so you have to keep everyone separated to a certain extent. It’s crazy. Like, it’s really crazy to bring it all together. But having said that, it was lit. I’m not going to lie. I can’t wait. I’m waiting on pins and needles for them to start sending me some of the promo clips that we’re going to have and some of the videos because we went all-out over here, OK. Welcome to the new normal Atlanta Dream fans! Welcome to the new normal WNBA fans! What you thought you knew about the Atlanta Dream—yes, we might not have been a team that invested in those type of things, we’re investing in it now. And so for me, it’s exciting because I saw the players dancing around. You can tell that the players know what it’s like to be treated a certain way, you know. You could tell that they felt that we were trying to cater to them, that we were trying to make them feel like professional athletes in every sense of the word. And so for me, that’s a proud moment because that’s what the players should feel all the time. And if you’re wondering, you know, why wouldn’t they? Well, in the WNBA, we haven’t necessarily always felt like the top professional are treated a certain way. It’s just we, it would be money issues, or that’s just not how we do things. And so to see that things are changing, and just the lifestyle, the quality of life of the players is changing. You know, it’s, I’m hype about it because I always want to be that player in the front office. I don’t want to be just an executive the front office. I want the players on my team to feel like they have just an extended player that’s in the front office fighting for them. And it’s crazy because I don’t have to fight, you know. Suzanne Abair, Larry G, they’re the ones that are right with me: like, yeah, we got to treat the players how they want to be treated. They’re the ones leading the charge. So we had Media Day to day. First game of the season, season opener is Friday, May 14! Get your popcorn! That’s all I’m gonna say. We got a lit team.
Jason Concepcion: I love it. One more question because I’m fascinated by this: what is—you know, I know you can’t speak for the players—but I can’t, I keep thinking about what it must be like for them to come in and see someone in the ownership group who understands exactly what it is to lace them up, and to play for a team, to have that kind of understanding from the other side, from the, from the C-Suite level, from the from the ownership level. Has have any of them talked to you about that or like what is the vibe that you’re catching in that regard?
Renee Montgomery: They have. Shouts to Tiffany Hayes. She actually was calling me just now during this, during us filming, So I didn’t answer Kiara, but I’ll call you back. But it’s dope because I think they know that I’ll take things the right way. So a lot of times with players and management, you always, if there is an issue, you want to make sure that you say it a certain way, that management doesn’t take it the wrong way, and also that they’re not going to think you’re ungrateful, or you’re asking too much. So I think there’s that freedom that they know that they can tell me anything. And I was talking to Monique Billings today and she was just like: man, I love that you got our back Nae. And I’m like: you already know. But it’s the fact that they just know it. Like, they don’t even have to ask. They know, like, things that I already knew was a problem, they know that I’m working on it. You know, the year before, we didn’t have training tables, which is food provided after practice. They know I’m working on it this year. COVID protocols aren’t allowing it to happen right now, but they know that that’s something that I know you would want as a player, and they know that we’re going to bring it to them as an ownership group and as a staff. So, yeah, it’s pretty, like I’m hype. Like, I don’t know, like if you can’t tell I’m hyped because it’s, I feel like we’re changing things.
Jason Concepcion: Woo! Joining us now is an incredibly accomplished and talented writer and director, Alan Yang. He’s written for, you know, some of the iconic comedies of our time: “Parks and Rec,” “Forever,” “The Good Place.” He is the co-creator of Netflix’s original “Master of None” which is returning for its third season shortly. Alan Yang, welcome to Takeline.
Alan Yang: What’s up, guys? Thanks for having me.
Renee Montgomery: Thank you for being here.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, it’s fantastic to have you. Yeah.
Renee Montgomery: So, listen, it’s been three years since we’ve had a new season of Master of None. So catch us up on where we left off at Season 2. Like, what can we expect in Season 3?
Alan Yang: You can expect something very different. So it’s like, we want to prep people. Like we want, you know, I saw some, you know, we posted some stuff on socials, like the show is coming back. And people were like: oh, yeah, we’re so excited. It’s like: I hope you guys aren’t expecting Dev and Arnold eating tacos, you know. [laughs] It’s not going to be just them bone around New York City. I think, you know, one of the things we were talking about is, you know, the show, it kind of was a different time in our lives, and honestly, like a different time in the world. [laughs] Like, if you look at the show, it’s like that’s a pretty happy comedy, it’s like optimistic, it’s like a single guy bumming around New York. And it’s like things have changed. Right? Things have changed. The show is very different. The first thing we want to let people know is the main relationship this year is centered on Lena Waithe and Naomi Ackie characters: Denise and Alicia. And so it’s about their relationship. And the season is called Moments in Love, and it’s about love.
Renee Montgomery: How did Denise meet her new partner? Is that, can you say that? I don’t want to—like how much time has passed? I have questions!
Alan Yang: [laugh] Yeah, there’s a there’s a pretty aggressive time cut. So, yes, that is that is part of it. And, you know, it’s a kind of a story we had been talking about telling since Season 1. I mean, there’s a there’s an episode in Season 1 called Morning’s, which is about as easy as character Dev and Noel Welles’s character, Rachel. And it’s like their relationship, mornings in their relationships. And even then, we talked about: wouldn’t it be interesting to do this kind of episode or this kind of season for Denise? And then, of course, Season 2, we did an episode called Thanksgiving, which centered on Denise.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Alan Yang: About her family and her relationship with Deb growing up. And, you know, I think we really, our watch with the show is, what’s most exciting to us and honestly, what’s most challenging to us. And this season was like: this is just way more exciting. It’s like, we don’t have, like we felt like, you know, we don’t have enough to write about and sort of, our lives are the same in some ways. It’s like, man, this is just such a different, different story, different tone, all of that. So, so that’s what got us really, really passionate about this season.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Part of that difference is the pandemic. You guys were producing this as that was going on. It’s, of course, still going on. How challenging was that?
Alan Yang: It was horrible! [laughs] It actually, like, no, I’m not going to lie, man, I’m not going to lie. Anyone who tells you, like: it’s a lot of fun shooting during COVID. It’s like it sucks. It’s really, it’s really, really hard. And a big part of that is, you know, so we we shot it in the in the height of the pandemic and we actually shot it in London and in the U.K. So there’s all the international travel for, you know, me and Lena were flying over from America. And it’s, so on top of that, there’s all the, you know, all the protocols and all that stuff. The simple fact of, you’re wearing a mask and a face shield on set. So I honestly like, you know, I had met Naomi and stuff, but I was like, man, some of these actors haven’t seen my face. [laughs].
Renee Montgomery: Crazy.
Alan Yang: Like, I was on set for weeks before we even, and like, how are you supposed to interact with other human beings?
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Alan Yang: How are you supposed to, you know, give acting notes and praise their performance and sort of, you know, sort of talk about the show and what the story is without, you can’t see each other’s faces! So just that is obstacle enough. Then you add on top of that, you know, false positives.
Jason Concepcion: Oh yeah.
Alan Yang: And, you know, separate transportation and all this stuff. That being said, you know, this season was written fairly long ago. You know, we came up with this idea years ago, quite honestly. And these scripts were kind of in the works for a long time, pre pandemic. And so it was kind of interesting when the pandemic started, we were in London, we were about to shoot, and we kind of pressed pause, and I flew back to America, and we were literally scouting locations when, you know, Rudy Gobert got COVID and Tom Hanks got COVID and Donald Trump went on and said no travel from here. So I was in an AirBnB and my girlfriend was like: fly home tomorrow. So I flew home the next day before, you know, travel ban and all that stuff. But you know, as shows started coming back up, we called Netflix and Universal and said: well, look, like we happen to have this show, and this season is ironically the most COVID-friendly show of all time. It’s mostly to people in a house talking. And so we’re like, in a way, it wasn’t big crowd scenes, it wasn’t, you know, a massive 500-person crew or anything like that. It’s like, not only that, but it was a, you know, a season about queer Black love. And that also seemed more relevant than ever, and humanizing this relationship.
Renee Montgomery: Hello somebody! I’m here for it. [laughter] Hello Somebody! You know, I’m part of the team, so I’m here for it. And you talked about it. You said that, you said that this one was actually written a long time ago and you’ve co-created two different series, “Master of None” and “Forever,” when you’re thinking of an idea, when do you know like that is actually ready to go? Like when do you know it’s ready to begin a new endeavor?
Alan Yang: You don’t know it’s ready, and you don’t know when you’re done working on it. [laughs] Like, honestly, like there’s that quote about like: a project’s never done, it’s just abandoned. And it’s like you, I think you really know when, when—again, I just have to go back to that thing of how excited are you and how, like when you wake up in the morning, what are you thinking about in the shower? You know, it’s, it’s just like it’s really a gut instinct thing. And that was really the case for this this this season with me and Aziz, you know. He called me and I was working on this movie that I that I made a year ago called Tigertail, and so we were talking about, you know, Master every day, but he started working on the scripts while I was on set for that movie. And so the scripts gradually started getting written and obviously we brought Lena into the process early on so we could get her perspective, seeing that it is her character being centered. So, yeah, it really is—you know, at any given time, I’m working on a few different things, and, you know, one will usually take center stage. And I try not to work on a million things at a time. Right?
Renee Montgomery: Right, right.
Alan Yang: I try to pick and choose and really focus so I can I can give creative energy to it. So last year, yeah, it was Master of None, you know. I flew over to England and we were on set and that was a big part of it. But yeah, it’s really, it’s all just boils down your instinct, man. It’s just your gut is like: I think this one is ready right now and this is the one that’s interesting. So, yeah.
Jason Concepcion: With that kind of like variety of work in mind, you got your start, sort of got your start as a blogger, essentially, like Fire Joe Morgan, RIP Joe Morgan, you know, in the blogosphere was a kind of iconic blog that was about analytics and this new way of thinking about sports, notably run by Michael Shur. You wrote for that for a while, totally anonymously. What was that like? What were you, what kind of itch were you scratching when you were writing 2, 3000-word blog posts for no money, like on a weekly basis for Fire Joe Morgan?
Alan Yang: Yeah, I think it’s borderline troubling, like what we were doing on that show. I think especially me and Mike [laughter], like we had full-time jobs, and it was like: honestly, what are you doing? Like, I like, like I think, you know, I think I was mostly single at the time, and like, you know, you’re in your 20s, it’s like—but seriously, I mean, that is an example of doing it for the love of whatever you’re into at the time.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Alan Yang: And it’s a weird thing to love, I will say this. But we had read Moneyball, Michael Lewis’s seminal book, and I think we were really passionate about the different way, the way sports was changing, the way sports were changing and was really interesting to us. And by the way, if you go back and look at some of those posts, it’s like they’re completely wrong. But to me that the overall idea of: is there an analytical way of looking at this, and is there a way to not just say this is the way things have always been done, and is there a way to look at sports through a different prism? Look, I think ultimately it’s a balance, and we don’t, we probably aren’t as dogmatic as we were back then. But, man, it was fun. And that blog originated because it was originally an email list and it was like: hey, let’s go watch baseball together. And ultimately, you know, people like me and Mike and Dave King were writing back to the email lists complaining about commentators and pieces and stuff. And finally, people, other people on the list were like fed up, were like: can you take this somewhere else, because I’m trying to live my life, [laughter] I’m not trying to take-downs of sportswriters in my email every day. So we literally just started a blogger account. And I think me and Mike and Dave were the ones who were just, like, crazy enough to keep writing on it every day, every day, every day. And I think Mike was on The Office at the time. And I think I was working on South Park a little bit. And I really didn’t even know Mike. You know, I’d shaken his hand maybe once or twice, and then later on when he got his own show, I was like, well, I’d love to submit a pilot. And he’s like: well, the good news is, not only did I like the pilot—and Greg Daniels read the pilot and liked it—I’ve also read roughly three million words of comedy you’ve written over the last five years! Which is really, I mean, it’s just, you know, I never wrote that blog to try to get a job, but it was really just I was really passionate about Juan Pierre’s [vorp], and like Adam Dunn’s strikeouts not being that bad a thing. Like that. That’s like such a great, but and it was, it was a weird lane to be in. And now it’s obviously commonplace. Right? They didn’t have this long conference, if they did, it was really unpopular. We didn’t have Daryl Morey. We didn’t have you know, Theo Epstein was still working on his first run as a GM. It was a different era. So, yeah, you look back and you’re like: yeah, we wasted a lot of time, but it is also kind of fun. So. [laughs]
Renee Montgomery: Well, you say it’s a different era, but how do you feel about it now? Do you think the analytics culture won, or the eye-test mentality like fell off a little bit? Because, I mean, I’m an athlete, so I could watch somebody play. I’m one of eye test people. I could watch somebody play and know everything I need to know about them in one game. I just know I can do the eye test, but I know that that comes from me playing sports my entire life. So do you think the analytics culture won? Because if you look at the NBA and a lot of other leagues, it’s very analytic based.
Alan Yang: I would say—and this is ironic coming from a dude who wrote for Fire Joe Morgan—but I got to say, in some ways I think it’s gone a little far. It’s gone a little far. [laughs].
Renee Montgomery: What?!
Alan Yang: It’s like, I don’t think well, I don’t think there’s, I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all catch-all in the NBA.
Renee Montgomery: Right.
Jason Concepcion: Right.
Alan Yang: I think the NBA is different from Major League Baseball, first of all, because baseball is like a bunch of individualized trials. Right? There’s a lot of data. The NBA is like, you, we haven’t quantified defense accurately yet. I don’t think we have. And I think like there’s obviously things that players, coaches who’ve been around the game their whole lives, are going to know better than, you know, someone who hasn’t done that, who hasn’t done the scouting. And again, I hate to use the cop out of “it’s a balance” but, you know, look, there’s definitely ways the analytics has won in the sense of like, yeah, look, you should shoot a ton of threes. Steph Curry should shoot 15-20 threes a game minimum, because that is a more efficient way of playing. You shouldn’t play like the way they did in the ’90s because, you know, if Kobe Bryant were playing now, you know, he would shoot a lot more threes, and he would take a lot less mid-range. That’s just numbers. But at the same time, you know, look, the joy of basketball and, you know, I’ve talked to your old friend Bill Simmons about this a while ago, but it’s like, it’s the different styles are fun.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Alan Yang: And the different characteristics and personalities of all these teams and players, and it is I don’t necessarily want to see it at all three-point shooting league, but you can’t argue with the numbers, right? So, look, analytics has won in one sense, but we don’t want to flatten the landscape and have it be boring. Right? We want to have we want to have different styles, and there’s things that obviously players recognize that that, you know, analytics dudes don’t always see. So, you know, look, there’s room for both. I think.
Jason Concepcion: Finally with Master and with your directorial debut, Tigertail, you’ve really been so adept at telling these immigrant stories, second generation immigrant stories, from an Asian-American perspective in particular. How did that evolve? And do you, at what point did your parents—because I know you were kind of like on a to med school track at one point—at what point did your parents understand what you do?
Alan Yang: Pretty recently. [laughter] I think it was like, I think it was honestly like, I think it was honestly like: dude bought a house. Like at one point I bought, I bought a piece of land, and it was like: OK, we’re standing inside a house he built doing this weird thing. But, you know, like in their defense, it’s like, why would they understand this job? You know, it’s like, why were they understand this? Like, you know, in the movie Tigertail which is, you know, loosely based on my family and my dad, it’s like you see, he grew up in a hut. He worked in a factory where they made sugar, where they refined sugar. It’s like he came to America and it’s like that is, he never thought like, you know: hey, my son is going to write for a blog about baseball analytics and then get a job on a sitcom and then direct a Netflix movie. It’s like that’s not a path, that’s not a path that’s very weird.
Renee Montgomery: Unreal.
Alan Yang: That is very strange. But they, look, I will say this, they are unbelievably supportive now. And they like, look, here’s my, here’s my thing, is like I think in the back of a lot of Asian parents minds is like: what can my kids do that I can brag about? And now they can brag a little bit. So it’s like, it’s in the Chinese newspaper. It’s like: OK, he got somewhere, something is happening, we kind of understand this. And they honestly they watch this stuff that I work on and they’re big supporters now. They, they kind of, they kind of get it, you know.
Renee Montgomery: Well, listen, let me give, let me give a message to your parents. Alan’s parents: in case you didn’t know, we’re interviewing him because he’s killing it! So you should know and feel comforted in knowing that you have a lot to be proud of. You have a lot to show off. Tell everybody about it, because Master of None Season 3 comes to Netflix Sunday, May 23rd. That’s a lot to be proud of. I just thought I would say that because I think a lot of coachers need to hear it from someone else, like they say. So, yeah, they got a lot to be proud of. You’re killing it.
Alan Yang: I appreciate. I appreciate it, Renee. I’ll send this to them.
Jason Concepcion: [laughs] Alan, don’t go anywhere, because Take Survivor is coming up next, and you’re on the island.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Awesome.
Renee Montgomery: All right, so now it’s time for buzzer beaters, where, Jason and I throw up some last-second stories we didn’t get to get in the show. And Jason, I’ll go first because I already started talking about it. But WNBA season opener: it’s the 25th anniversary this year. So the WNBA is doing it big.
Jason Concepcion: [claps] Let’s go!
Renee Montgomery: Yes, sir. Let’s get it! I feel like all the teams are taking it up a notch. I’ve seen their Media Days. That’s why I felt like we had to come correct with the Atlanta Dream Media Day. But I just love the vibes. I see so many tweets. I saw the fans, they were mad that the pre-season games weren’t shown on the league pass. I love that energy. I look, I wanted you guys to see it, but I love that people are mad that they’re not getting more content. I love that there’s just so many different things going on where fans are having an input like: hey, what’s going on with this, what’s going on with that? So let’s keep the energy going.
Jason Concepcion: I love it.
Renee Montgomery: Let’s keep that momentum going all the way into the season opener, May 14th. Let’s count it.
Jason Concepcion: I love it.
Renee Montgomery: What you got? What you got?
Jason Concepcion: Well, I think people would expect me to talk about the Knicks and their big win over the Clippers, but I’m not going to do that because there’s still unfinished business left to do. The Lakers looming on the schedule. LeBron is going to come back for that game. AD just went off the other night against the Suns.
Renee Montgomery: Facts.
Jason Concepcion: I don’t want to jinx it. What I will say and what I will talk about is an ongoing injustice in this country that is disgusting and it is despicable. Medina’s Spirit, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, is being framed!
Renee Montgomery: Oh my god!
Jason Concepcion: Bob Baffert, owner of Medina Spirit. You may know him as a villain from Eastbound and Down. He recently went on Fox News, which is an absolutely reputable news organization that is completely on the up and up, and he said that his, not only was Medina Spirit innocent of this, Medina Spirit never ingested any drugs. No one has any idea how the drugs got into this horse’s system. Not only that, but Medina Spirit is the victim of cancel culture—this horse is being canceled for speaking the truth and just doing what he loves. And I think it’s disgusting that in today’s day and age, 2021 in America, we can just slander and ruin and defile a horse’s legacy and reputation willy nilly, without any kind of respect or regard for this horse’s feelings. I think it’s terrible. I think it’s awful. And I think it’s reflection of where we are as a society! Medina Spirit is innocent!
Renee Montgomery: What?! And that’s on Mary Had a Little Lamb. You know, I didn’t think about that, Jason, but now I’m gonna think about that.
Jason Concepcion: [laughs] That’s it for us today. Follow and subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, wherever you get your podcast.
Renee Montgomery: Medina!!
Jason Concepcion: And don’t forget to subscribe to the Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode and more. Plus, my digital series, All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out! See you next week.
Renee Montgomery: Let’s go!
Jason Concepcion: Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Carlton Gillespie and Zuri Irvan. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Our contributing producers are Caroline Reston, Elijah Cone and Jason Gallagher. Engineering, editing and sound design by Sarah Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vazquez.