In This Episode
This week on Takeline, Jason and Renee talk to directors/producers Joe Lavine and Ross Greenburg about their HBO documentary ‘Extra Innings From 9/11.’ Jason reveals his sports superstitions while discussing week one of the NFL and college football season. Plus, Renee and Jason debate the state of tennis after the 2021 U.S. Open.
Don’t forget to smash the subscribe button at http://youtube.com/takelineshow
Renee Montgomery: When these tennis players win, I don’t know what they be doing, I would have started crip walking, I would have started shouting. Their prize money be like $2.5 million out here! So it’s different in tennis. We don’t win those championships in basketball and I’m talking women’s basketball, where you win a $2.5 million bonus for winning.
Jason Concepcion: At 18!
Renee Montgomery: 18 baby.
Jason Concepcion: At 18 year’s old.
Renee Montgomery: They handle it so well. I saw one tear drip down her face as, you know? I’m a tell you right now, I would have acted a fool up there. Don’t let me win that 2.5 million in one tournament. You might not see me for a couple of years.
Jason Concepcion: Anything with more than one comma in it is a lot of money.
Renee Montgomery: 100%. Congrats to Emma.
Jason Concepcion: Renee, it was football overload this weekend, starting last Thursday with the Cowboys losing to Tom Brady, who is not wash, still good. News flash. But there were some surprising results as well. Aaron Rodgers, uh, just in his overall demeanor, is a wash looking fellow. I’m sure he’s not washed. And his Packers looked out of sync against the Saints. The Browns look like they might stomp the Chiefs, but Pat Mahomes put the kibosh on that. We will talk about his belly in a little bit. Plus, we have some major upsets in college football. Plus, Djokovic losing his chance at a single calendar grand slam. And then man, it is a battle of teens on the women’s side of the U.S. Open. Lots of stuff to start with. Let’s start with the NFL. Tom Brady. I watch Cowboys games for two reasons. One, my mom is inexplicably a Cowboys fan. And then my good friend Jason Gallagher is a Cowboys fan. And I just want to know how much he might or might not be hurting. And then for this particular game, I tuned in basically to see, OK, what’s up with Tom Brady? And it was wild watching it and then checking in on social media, because everybody, you could feel people just like hanging their heads like, fuck, he’s still good.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Jason Concepcion: How is he still good!?
Renee Montgomery: It’s almost like how people turn into, like, the Jake Paul fights or the Conor McGregor fights. There’s a group of them that tune in to see those people succeed and to see them do awesome. But there’s also a large group that tune in just to see them fail. And it’s interesting because Tom Brady, it’s almost like he can tell that there’s that energy behind a certain group. He ain’t going for it. It’s like that TB 12. He is a poster board for it. It clearly works because every year, like the Patriots, think about the Patriots statement now, two years later then, because every year people think, surely this is the year where Tom Brady doesn’t look like Tom Brady. And it aint 2021, I can tell you that.
Jason Concepcion: Let me just say that Daniel Jones threw 50% less interceptions or turned the ball over 50% less than Tom Brady. And what does that mean? I’m not sure what that means. I can’t say. Let’s go let’s go to Saints-Green Bay Packers. A lot of buzz about this game because of the off season churn and the drama with Aaron Rodgers – does he want to stay with the Packers, does he want out. How is that going to affect anything that happens? And the freaking Saints just demolished the Packers. They came ready to play. Absolutely embarrassed us today, said head coach Matt LaFleur. By the way, when he said this, like I, go watch it, I think he chokes up. Like he legitimately like had a tear in his eye. Rodgers would later say, like, I’ll let, I’ll let the coach use words like that, but was pretty open about how badly everybody played, including himself. He put himself front and center there. It’s time for a haircut. Is that the way to, how do we, like, that’s the only thing. Like, let’s maybe [unclear]. Let’s switch the energy. I think we need different energy.
Renee Montgomery: Well, you know, I mean, Aaron Rodgers is every like athletes really have this thing about you train how you play and you play how you train. So with this off season and so much going on, I mean, we saw, Aaron Rodgers was living his best life. Like I was actually here for it, he was going on, he was going on trips with his girl. Like they was at cabins, karaoke, they were going on walks on the trail.
Jason Concepcion: He was in the back of a pickup truck, he was in the bed of a pickup truck riding around to [unclear]. Seemed fun.
Renee Montgomery: Completely unbothered. He was living his best life. And the reason I say that is because sometimes that stuff comes back to bite you in a sense of your week one game. I’m not saying that Aaron Rodgers might have a bad season. I mean, this is his worst quarterback rating at 36.8 since 2014. He’ll clearly bounce back. But I don’t know if I’m surprised just from the athlete mentality of, when everyone’s not on the same page, that shows up sometimes on the field in a sense of the chemistry and maybe they didn’t have enough time to build enough chemistry yet. So the season not over, but I’m just not surprised.
Jason Concepcion: How does that, you know, obviously one of us is an elite athlete and it’s not me, and has played at the highest levels, but like when somebody has off season something, right, drama with the team, friction with how they’re being used, with their contract, etc.—I mean, y’all are incredible at compartmentalizing, but how does that bleed into what you’re trying to do when you do take the court or the field or whatever?
Renee Montgomery: No, completely. Like compartmentalizing is like my best friend in a sense of in sports, you just have to do that. But there’s like, chemistry is the thing that’s built over time. It’s kind of like when LeBron James and Chris Bosh went to the Miami Heat, everyone thought they were going to win instantly. Like, look at all that talent, you got to win right now. It doesn’t work that way. Like sports, you have to build a certain thing like the trust, it’s the camaraderie, it’s the chemistry, it’s the timing. And so I think in football, timing is everything as we know. And so if you haven’t built that relationship with your wide receivers yet, with the timing on the plays, it’s going to show up. And then you are going to have the teammates that’s like, all right, bro, come on with it, like alright, enough vacation. I would be the one to text in the group, chat to Aaron Rodgers like: you done yet? You ready to come hoop? But the thing is, the thing is, Aaron Rodgers was actually standing up for his teammates. So I think it’s probably the reverse for him. They probably were texting him like, yo, bro, I appreciate what you’re doing, because even when he came back, we all remember the speech he gave. He let everyone know exactly why I wasn’t coming back. And so I don’t know. I think with Aaron Rodgers, he’s going to have his teammates support. So I think it’s more so about just the timing and building the chemistry that just takes time to do.
Jason Concepcion: Next up, Pat Mahomes’s, Pat Mahomes’s Chiefs rally, 33-29 over the Cleveland Browns. Let me just say I believe in moral victories, I am a moral victory person. I understand that the Browns are now on year 17 of not winning an opener. Fine, but, I’m a Browns fan, I’m like, hey, we look pretty good. Let’s tighten up the defense and we’ll figure it out. Like we gave Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs a run for their money. Now, all of that is important. But what I think is more important is the realization that there is a term ‘water belly.’ We were discussing Pat, I was like in the pre-pro meeting, I was like Pat Mahomes has a little gut, right? Little belly, little belly protruding over the over the waistband. And Renee, you said, you said he has, what?
Renee Montgomery: I said he has a what? I was like, you mean his water belly?
Jason Concepcion: I love it.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Jason Concepcion: What is water belly?
Renee Montgomery: OK, so I’ve been talking about water bellies for a long time since I was young, because everyone knows when you chug a lot of water, it makes you get a little— [laughs] If you chug a lot of water, all of a sudden you might get that little hangover, you might get that little bloop over the belt buckle. So I used to always you know, when you push your stomach out, you can fake pregnant, everyone’s done it.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Renee Montgomery: You can get that natural water belly when you drink a lot of water. So athletes could come out of time out, we’ve seen, I think James Harden lives with the water belly. We saw he had a water belly in Houston. He got traded and the water belly was gone. It was no longer there in Brooklyn! Everyone was wondering where the weight loss come from. I’m like, yo, that got to be a water belly. You drink a lot of water. We hydrate, people. That’s a water belly! Patrick Mahomes, you carry it well!
Jason Concepcion: Now, I will say that this water belly would seem to fit what happened in the game because again, the Chiefs were getting run by the Browns. Halftime comes, maybe Patrick Mahomes goes and goes to the bathroom, comes back, and all of a sudden his clothes are a little bit better. He’s able to move around a little easier.
Renee Montgomery: OH m y goodness.
Jason Concepcion: And that ball is moving around. Here’s another, it’s funny you mentioned James Harden because. I have a, I have a similar thing, body shape term, which I call “round face syndrome” or “round face disease.” A lot of Asians have this. I have this, my brother has it. And what round face is if you just have like a round-shaped head, you always look like you’re carrying a few extra pounds, even if it’s not the case. And I think that’s why it’s like James Harden with the beard, it’s a great idea. Because he has, if you look at, he has cheeks. Eric Gordon’s another guy like this, a very round face. Carmelo Anthony, very round face. And it just people would always be like, oh, man, Mel is out of shape. I’m like, he’s not out of shape, he just has a round head.
Renee Montgomery: That’s a good point. You know, that’s actually a really good point. Something that people have to stop saying about athletes—they’re not out of shape, even if you look at them and think that they got a little baby fat on them. I just want people to know that in general, the worst out of shape athlete that you guys may see is probably in amazing shape in general, if you’re looking like for visual. But round face, Jason? I never, I never heard of it, but as you say it, one hundred percent, I could see how that could be a thing. Especially some people, the first place they gain weight is in their face. It’s unfortunate like, but if they start to put on weight, you can literally see it on their face. You know, some people it might go to your love handles. So for the round face people, if they do get a little more cheeks, yeah, we got to stop body shaming athletes. I’m standing up here right now for the athletes.
Jason Concepcion: Yes. Thank you.
Renee Montgomery: This must stop. We have to stop body shaming athletes. The round face, the water bellies. What are we doing here?
Jason Concepcion: The water bellies. [laughs] The water bellies.
Renee Montgomery: What are we doing here!?
Jason Concepcion: I had never heard of it. I love it. But we did all notice it. We did all notice it.
Renee Montgomery: We did all notice.
Jason Concepcion: Little bit of a water belly.
Renee Montgomery: And you know what, though, as far as the quarterback position is concerned, I don’t ever think of them about chiseled gods anyway. Like as I look around the league at the Roethlisbergers of the world, I just don’t think action figures when I think of them. So maybe it’s best that quarterbacks have water bellies because they got to stay hydrated out there. They’re talking a lot. They’re calling the plays, audibles. I’m just saying, I don’t know.
Jason Concepcion: He’s 25 too. He’s a young guy. Mahomes. Like, yeah, at that age you’re just you can run off even if he’s not like in, if he’s not like a gym, gym, gym rat.
Renee Montgomery: Right.
Jason Concepcion: You’re young, he’s you can run off youth fuel at that point.
Renee Montgomery: And I mean, by the way, he got three touchdowns, 337 yards, 27 for 36. So if he does have a water belly or if he does have a little bloop, it don’t matter. He out there getting busy, baby.
Jason Concepcion: He’s insane. I mean he had his, his running touchdown was like a 40-yard run and it looked, it’s, he’s like Steve Nash in that like he doesn’t seem fast, but he just makes the decision at the right time to change directions. And it’s the perfect decision.
Renee Montgomery: He gets just to where he needs to go. He knows exactly where he needs to get to. He gets there and it’s over like, yeah, I agree. It’s like he’s not going to razzle dazzle you, but he gets it done.
Jason Concepcion: Water belly and all. [whistle blows] With the legal gambling market expanding, sports betting hits record numbers during NFL opening season. GeoComply Solutions, which is a Canadian geolocation company, said Monday that it recorded a record number of transactions placed between Thursday night when the NFL season began with Cowboys-Bucs through 7p.m. on Sunday 58.2 million geolocation transactions across 18 states and Washington, D.C.. 126% increase from the same period over 2020 in the NFL season. The states that saw the most activity: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Arizona. This is just more evidence that sports betting is here. What a turnaround from a few years ago when it was literally just not a thing you talked about, and now it is just absolutely part of sports in general and part of the revenue streams for all the leagues that are participating in this.
Renee Montgomery: It’s wild, what’s going on right now. I mean, it’s really wild because there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle in a sense of going back. This is a part of sports now. It’s like a part of the sports culture. DraftKings generated 614 million in revenue in 2020 and expects to cash in one billion this year. Like the numbers are crazy. So you imagine a business that’s making that much money. I just can’t wait to see this play out. I know we talked about this before, but this, the way it’s going, the trajectory of how it’s going. 81% spike from 2019. I mean, that’s dramatic. It’s is changing the sports culture, like at such a rate, that I’m just curious at what, where is it going to cut off? If, you got to think because sports are ran on money. Now I know people think sports is a game, but sports is really a business first. If the DraftKings of the world are really bringing in that certain type of revenue, they’re going to run the sports world, like it’s going to be their, everything is going to be revolving around betting instead of the betting revolving around sports. I know it might sound crazy, but money moves things.
Jason Concepcion: I mean, here’s the thing: one, this is an activity—aside from whether this is good or bad—this is an activity, whether it’s legal or illegal, that people just want to take part in, number one. And two, I think you’re exactly right in terms of like we don’t understand, we’re in the middle of it now. We don’t understand how this will shape sports going forward. Like we, yes, more money coming in, etc., etc., etc. But we don’t understand what the real effects are going to be, because to your point, I mean, this is a lot of money that comes separate from—
Renee Montgomery: That’s a lot of money!
Jason Concepcion: —different from TV contracts, from all the other partnerships that come with so many other strings attached. This is just the faucet of money that we’re skimming off the people who want to gamble, and they, people across the globe want to gamble. So, when these numbers as we watch these numbers rise, what are the effects going to be? What are the effects going to be when, you know, when we start regularly going into the billion dollar regions? It’s, we don’t know yet, but it is it’s fascinating to think about because, yeah, I agree with you, we don’t know how this will change sports. We just simply don’t.
Renee Montgomery: And, we don’t know, like, think about too, when now DraftKings is sponsoring jerseys. They’re sponsoring the commercials. They’re sponsoring the event. They’re like, it’s going to be to a point where they could, like betting, can almost monopolize certain things because who can keep up sponsorship-wise with them? Like if you have companies that have so much money that they can pour into it—we already see DraftKings on podcasts, we see DraftKings on Turner. You know, like they’re already everywhere. So it’s like they’re going to start betting, the whole betting world, everything is going to start positioning around it because like you said, to get those billion dollar incomes, you usually have to have a four-year deal or something. You have to show X amount of game. This is every year they can make one billy.
Jason Concepcion: It just comes in. It just comes in. And you don’t have to do anything. It doesn’t matter who the stars are in that particular game. You don’t have to worry about selling a particular game to your broadcast partners. You don’t have to worry about them selling commercials. It’s just the activity that is already going on and would go on no matter, essentially who is playing. It’s a spigot of money and we don’t know what will happen with it.
Jason Concepcion: Crazy.
Jason Concepcion: Let’s go to college football. I want to talk about something that we brought up in pre-pro. The Ohio State Buckeyes were upset by the Oregon Ducks, 35-28. OSU did not play particularly well. But a lot of people are blaming the performance on a Buckeyes drum major who came running down the ramp out of the tunnel and just goes headfirst into the ground, which is an incredibly funny video if you want to look it up on social media. It went viral on Twitter. And I got to say, I’m watching it, I have it now and it is, like Jason Gallagher in our pre-program meeting called it a cartoon fall. And it really is. Like it’s like—
Renee Montgomery: It’s crazy. Because imagine this poor guy, first game of the season, I’m running out there leading the charge and I bloop! That’s the worst thing that could have happened. Jason. And I had to post it because my dad is from Ohio. We have Buckeyes everywhere in our family. So I had to post it to my story and say, like, man, it was a tough day for Ohio State fans. And Mama James, shouts to LeBron’ mom, she’s cracking up. I just sent her my condolences. Like, I know that was a hard blow all around. Like they had a tough game. They took it to heart. And for some reason, Ohio State fans thought that this drum major had something to do with the poor performance of the football.
Jason Concepcion: No, well that’s . . . OK.
Renee Montgomery: Come one, Jason! Sports fans, we, like athletes and sports fans got to be the most superstitious people known to man, because if anything goes wrong, THAT’s why things went wrong.
Jason Concepcion: So he comes out, he comes off the ramp and it’s like, I’ve been there before where the top half of your body is going faster than your feet and you are just, and you’re trying to catch up, but you can’t. And then he just goes down.
Renee Montgomery: It is not level. It’s not level.
Jason Concepcion: It’s not level. And it could have been worse. Like he could have gone into the stanchion. He misses the stanchion, which is lucky. I’ll say this like, you know, as an athlete, sports, anybody that is involved in sports as a player or as a fan or as a whatever, you’re superstitions period. It’s hard to win. Sometimes, you know, luck plays an outsized role in winning and losing. You can be, you can be the most well coached, most prepared, most whatever team, and a bounce of the ball can change everything. Right? So luck matters. I used to, I was telling you guys this in pre-pro, when, I would watch Knicks games as a kid, if the Knicks hit a shot when I was in a certain position, I would freeze and not move until they missed.
Renee Montgomery: Jason. That is wild, Jason.
Jason Concepcion: I would sit there like if I had a bowl of cereal, like and I had just taken this move, I would sit there like with the bowl of cereal positioned, like with the spoon up. I would not move.
Renee Montgomery: There’s no way!
Jason Concepcion: I did that. I would do that! And listen, it’s insane that people would blame him. But also it makes sense, doesn’t it? Come on. Didn’t you have any superstitions as a player? You didn’t have any like things?
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, listen, I’m a tell you right now, I might be like, when I was a player, I was one of those I have a routine and I stick to it. I’m eating at a certain time, I’m taking my nap at a certain time. I roll up to the gym at the same time and, you know, they say certain athletes, you can set your clock by them. You see them walk in, you know, it’s 5:30. If you see them leaving, you know, it’s like—I was that athlete. So I don’t know if routines are superstition, but when I my routine was off, I felt uncomfortable.
Jason Concepcion: What would you do. So if, let’s say if somebody, if somebody either you forgot something heading out or somebody calls you when you’re in the middle of whatever and holds you up for five minutes, ten minutes while you’re in your routine, what would your reaction be?
Renee Montgomery: You know, I would have to, it would depend. So like for me, I always try to figure out what’s the quickest way to get back to the routine. So basically, like, if I needed to go back and get something, it’s going to take too long. Not doing that. There’s got to be shoes at the gym or something. I would wear old shoes before I’d go back and get the shoes with all the traction, because that’s just too many of the routine now falling apart. So I would have to get the no traction in the gym beaters before I would go back and get the game shoes, because to me then I’ve missed three routines instead of just the one or one thing. So for me it’s like the, what’s the quickest way to get to the problem solving? One of the things that athletes, it’s the family. When families come into town, families want to just have a blast: Oh, we’re in L.A.! We’re playing Vegas! Let’s go! No, y’all go, I’ll have to chill out. So I’m really like, one of those, I’m chilling.
Jason Concepcion: Would they know your routine, though like after a while?
Renee Montgomery: Oh yeah.
Jason Concepcion: And they would like, and I would imagine because I’ve seen, I’ve been around stuff like this where it’s like somebody has a routine and the family knows about it, and they will play the interference person for anybody, they’ll be like: they’re in their routine, don’t bother them right now.
Renee Montgomery: 100%. And my parents, here’s how my parents, how bad they are: if I’m texting in the family group chat and it’s during my nap hour, everybody kind of goes silent. Like they won’t even respond to try to engage because they don’t want me to try to engage with them. So my family’s like for real for real about that. They want to make sure, like they would never want it to be them that—everyone knows too, like I’m very routine-y. Even like I sit like—this is going to sound bad—but I’ll even like on the planes, I like certain seats, like if I can get—
Jason Concepcion: Oh, I do the same thing. I need my seat.
Renee Montgomery: OK. Perfect. Yeah, I get the same number on the same seats. I like to just be in normal—
Jason Concepcion: Row 12.
Renee Montgomery: Listen, I’m 10A alright. Come on with me. That’s what it is. So I’m just, and I’m a window girl so that’s, that’s what I do. And it doesn’t matter if it’s sports or not—I got rituals, I got routines.
Jason Concepcion: The U.S. Open finals were this weekend, which is a thing that at certain points in my life I really, really cared about. I tried out to be a ball boy at the U.S. Open once. I did not make the cut. 25-year old Daniel Medvedev of Russia, who is six foot six and should think about shooting guard in the NBA, handed Novak Djokovic a stunning 6-4 6-4 6-4 loss. It was a dominant performance from Medvedev and it denied Djokovic—Joke-avich—a single season grand slam win. Djokovic said, I was glad it was over because the buildup for this tournament and everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot, it was a lot to handle. On the women’s bracket, a pair of teenagers, incredible display from two young players Emma Raducanu, who became the first qualifier ever to make it to the finals of a major. Incredible. 18-years old from Britain, beats 19-year old Layla Fernandez, a Filipino hero, overnight, basically, from Canada, 6-4 6-3, making her the first British woman to win the U.S. Open since 1968 and the youngest grand slam winner since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at age 17 in 2004. This was a really fun, it was a fun weekend. I love the U.S. Open. I was a big tennis person for a lot of my life. And the fact that we had like an all Asian women’s final was super fun. And then one of them was Filipino, was amazing. I’m sad she lost, but it was an amazing run. In the Superdome.
Renee Montgomery: That’s really dope. You know. Well, first thing, tennis might need to reevaluate how tennis does business. Because all I hear from a lot of tennis players is that they’re mentally, emotionally drained, depressed.
Jason Concepcion: Yes!
Renee Montgomery: This is on the men’s side. You heard Djokovic talk about it on the men’s side. We all know, Naomi Osaka talks about it quite often on the women’s side. Serena Williams has talked about it. Venus Williams has talked about it. So just in general now, as I heard you read his quote, I started to think like, I know it’s an individual sport and that’s a lot of pressure because sports puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders, even for a team sport. But something about what’s going on in tennis, it feels like everyone’s depressed. And I don’t, like I don’t know, not everyone, but it feels like I hear a lot of people talking about mental and emotional wear and tear on them, that they need breaks or they need to get away or it’s tough. That’s the first like just hearing you say that about Djokovic. And then secondly, Emma Booboo Emma. When these tennis players win, I don’t know what they be doing, I would have started crip walking. I would have started shouting. Their prize money be like $2.5 million out here! So it’s different in tennis. We don’t win those championships in basketball and I’m talking women’s basketball, where you win a $2.5 million bonus for winning.
Jason Concepcion: At 18!
Renee Montgomery: 18 baby!
Jason Concepcion: At 18 years old!
Renee Montgomery: They handle it so well. I saw one tear drip down her face as, you know. I’m a tell you right now, I would have acted a fool up there. Don’t let me win that 2.5 million in one tournament. You might not see me for a couple of years. I know a lot of them Jason, you have a feeling at that. But that’s a lot of money to win at one time. Congrats to Emma.
Jason Concepcion: Anything with more than one comma in it is a lot of money.
Renee Montgomery: 100%. Hello!
Jason Concepcion: Anything, listen, with a comma in it I love. Two commas in it? Amazing. I will say back to what you were saying about the pressure and the wear and tear and the stress, Chris Everett, after the women’s match, after the women’s final said—I’m going to paraphrase now—but like something to the effect of, I hope these young ladies—because, you know, when you have something like this, tennis seems to be a sport where teenagers break through with more regularity than in other sports. And when that happens, especially when all of a sudden they’re in finals, you hear a lot of the future of the sport, the future of the sport, the future of the sport. That’s a lot to put on an 18 and a 19-year old. And Chris Evert said after the game, she was like, I hope they have people around them that allow them to be teenagers, that insulate them from all of the things, and just allow them to be kids. And it got me thinking again, tennis is a sport where people break through young. Monica Seles, Chris Evert herself, Tracy Austin Roddick, like a lot of teenagers breakthrough. Naomi Osaka, Coco Goff. But it’s becoming rarer and rarer that these teens have long careers. Like, it just seems like, you know, Coco Goff is a great example of somebody who, like, broke through and then has kind of faded away. And I don’t know what the answer is, but I do wonder what it is about tennis that one, allows young people to break through, which is exciting and fun, but then also seems to burn them out so quickly. Because it really does seem like, you know, Naomi will likely have a long and great career. That said, I think where we are now, if she decided to step away for eight months or a year or some amount of time, no one would blink, right? So I don’t know what the answer is. I just wonder what it is. Because I think that’s one of the things that keeps—you know, tennis has been in the state of, like, crisis for a couple of decades now where they’re like how do we get more people to watch? What’s wrong with American tennis? On the men’s side. The women’s side is fine. But like, what is it? What is it that is burning people out this, this quickly? I don’t know the answer.
Renee Montgomery: Well, it’s interesting because I don’t know what’s burning the players out. But now imagine a tennis world who on the women’s side is fighting to get viewership. No Serena Williams, no Naomi Osaka. That’s those, Naomi Osaka was one of those crossover-type athletes where people might not like tennis, but they love Naomi Osaka so they’re going to watch tennis. They know her.
Jason Concepcion: Tiger Woods.
Renee Montgomery: Tiger Woods. So even those players, it’s even a little bit deeper than that for tennis, because if you had these childhood teen stars that you’re banking on being your future star, and all of them are starting to burn out quick, take breaks, are mentally struggling. That’s why I said tennis has to figure out the business of tennis and maybe how to do it a certain way that the athletes don’t get so burnt out because burnt out athletes isn’t good for viewership, is not good for the athlete, it’s not good for the sport. And I don’t know, there’s something about tennis. And even when you look at a Djokovic, he’s one of those guys that a lot of people talked about Serena Williams’ outburst—he has a lot of outburst too.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, he is a fiery guy.
Renee Montgomery: He throws a lot of tantrums right there in front of everyone to see. And I know that on the men’s side is not judged as harshly is on the women’s side, but—
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. To put it lightly.
Renee Montgomery: You know, I was trying to put it nicely. He’s somebody that we watch him melt down on a regular. And I’m not saying that to, there is that, Jason. But the point I’m trying to make is that these athletes are melting down right in front of us. Like we’re watching them. We watch Naomi Osaka go through it. We’ve seen Serena Williams go through it, and we literally watch these tennis stars break down mentally on the tennis court right there. And so that doesn’t usually happen in sports, like basketball, where a player might be on the bench going off, but the camera’s at the game so you don’t necessarily see them losing it on the bench. Tennis players don’t have anywhere to hide.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, there, it is, on the one hand, compelling. Like I remember one of my favorite matches when I was a kid watching tennis was Michael Chang beating Ivan Lendl at the French. Michael Chang, they had him listed at five nine. I don’t know. He looked smaller than that. And he was having like these cramps. And so he had to sort of underhand and then Lendl, like, just should have beat him but he just melted down in his own mind, like he was unable to cope with whatever it was. And that is compelling to watch, when you can see that something is not working and that feeling of I don’t have an answer. It is a, it is a compelling watch.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. That’s tough.
Jason Concepcion: On the other hand, for athletes who are 17, 18, 19, 20-years old, I can’t imagine, like a life where you can’t even share, there’s not a teammate that can, like, put their arm around you or anything, like you’re just there. That’s you, just melting down in front of everybody, in front of the entire crowd. It’s, it’s a lot.
Renee Montgomery: And you’re not even supposed to talk to your coach, by the way. Like, you know what I mean?
Jason Concepcion: They all do it.
Renee Montgomery: The weird thing about today, is even while—I know they do it, but the fact that the way it’s shaped in frame, you’re not supposed to, but would else are you supposed to talk to when you’re melting down, you can’t figure it out, you need a strategy, you need help. It’s like tennis really puts tennis players on an island.
Jason Concepcion: I can’t wait to see more from both of these players.
[news clip] Clearly, something devastating happening this morning at the World Trade Center.
[voice] We’re trying to process what actually happened.
[voice] To be here, it’s hard to believe. Bad dream.
[voice] Baseball just happened to be the right vehicle at the right time to help us cope.
[voice] I feel honored that we gave the people something to feel good about.
Jason Concepcion: That was from the new documentary “Extra Innings From 9/11: 20 Year Later.” It tells the story of how baseball helped aid both New York City and the nation recover in the weeks and months following the attacks of 9/11. We’re joined now by the producers and directors of the documentary, Ross Greenberg and Joe Lavine. Fellows, thank you for joining us.
Good to be with you.
Jason Concepcion: You’re both acclaimed Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmakers. Ross, you were the president of HBO Sports for 10 years. Both very experienced people in the industry. What what made you want to take on this particular subject?
Joe Lavine: I’ll let you start that off Ross.
Ross Greenberg: OK, well, I got a call from Sandy Montag, who, great entrepreneur in our business, and he had sold this concept to Turner, who in turn had HBO Max standing by to broadcast it. So he asked if I’d be interested in producing and directing this film. So immediately I said yes, because I had had the great joy of working with Joe Lavine on a similar project that we did 15, 16 years ago for HBO when we were there. And we had done something right after 9/11. A couple of years later, we did a piece called “Nine Innings from Ground Zero” where we looked at this same subject, but from a different point of view. So I immediately called Joe and said, Would you like to do this with me? Because we like to work together and it’d been a while. So we ended up embarking on this journey and loving every minute of it.
Joe Lavine: It’s an important piece. I think it was, and Ross even correct me, I think it was Howard Cosell that said that sports is the the toy department of life. It really did take on a lot of importance and a lot of responsibility, and I couldn’t wait to work with Ross on this.
Renee Montgomery: You know, I never heard: sports are the toy section of life. That’s awesome. I’m going to steal that.
Joe Lavine: Howard Cosell.
Renee Montgomery: Love that. Thank you. And so for those who don’t know, you all actually made another 9/11 documentary 20 years ago, Nine Innings from Ground Zero.” This new film features interviews from some of the family members of the fallen people two decades ago. But what stood out to you the most after revisiting this story 20 years later?
Ross Greenberg: One of the things we did was enlist Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine to be our guides. That was important to us. You know, they had such a unique perspective, having been inside with the Mets and Yankees as the managers and heading their ship. And so it was important to enlist them. The thing that surprised, I think Joe and I the most was basically that now we were living in a pandemic and for us to kind of go back and see the desperation that existed in New York in our city, because Joe and I both lived in New York at the time, and then to see where we are as an entire country today, and to kind of just look back and say, OK, how did we get back to some normalcy then? How did we get out of that funk then and return to life with a smile on our face from such a devastating tragedy? And, you know, the surprise was that we came out of this process, and Joe and I love the fact that we had hope. You know, it gave people hope, even though everyone’s shedding a tear, we’re getting reactions now for those who watch it and everyone’s crying their eyes out. Those tears aren’t of supreme sadness. They’re of, kind of hope. And that what we love about this film.
Joe Lavine: Yeah. You know, I just want to say, when Ross and I did this years ago, I have to admit, I was skeptical. Because here I’m finding out, what? Baseball helps these people who just lost someone near and dear to them, and it’s baseball!? But when we started to do the research and we started to talk to people, I was shocked to find out that, in fact, was true. I was finding out that for, two, three, maybe four hours a night while they watched the game, they could kind of get back to normalcy a little bit. And it started what we call the healing. So then to take that and what I learned back then and now to take it 20 years forward and to go back now and talk to some of those same people who we talked to back then and then new people, because this does have, most of the stories in this show are new stories to this subject that we did back then. There’s only a couple that we go back and revisit. But I was skeptical in the beginning, and it really it surprised me. I mean, started with Ross, I’ll never forget walking past his office after game three, which was the game where George Bush threw out the first ball, and Ross looked at me and he says, I have our next documentary. And I have no idea what he was talking about. I mean, you know, this is just a couple of weeks after 9/11, and he’s telling me that. And Ross can really touch on that better than me, but that was, you know, the first time I thought, what, you could do this as a show? And yeah, I mean, that was all Ross at that point.
Ross Greenberg: I had been to game three. I was sitting there witnessing it. And then as I left the stadium, I high-five ten cops, because I was a Yankee fan—full disclosure. I high-five ten cops and at that moment when I high-fived the 10th, I said, oh my God, I’m living a documentary. And that’s why the next morning I pulled Joe into the office.
Jason Concepcion: What do you think it was about baseball in particular that allowed people to rally around it? Of course, the Yankees were involved and they were a great team at that time, and they were in the World Series. But it feels like a lot of this is particular to baseball, unique to baseball.
Joe Lavine: Well, first of all, baseball is played every night as opposed to football’s once a week. You know, hockey hadn’t really started yet. Basketball hadn’t really started up yet. Football had just started. So baseball is in every, you know, it’s there. Especially in New York at the time. The Mets had had a great year, the year before had been to the World Series and played the Yankees. So there was still a lot of interest there. And of course, the Yankees are the Yankees. They were in the postseason, starts early in the playoffs. So every night you could turn and watch this drama. And not only are you watching the Yankees, the Yankees and the Mets, they started to symbolize New York. You know, it’s like, oh, they’re fighting back. And whether you bought that or not, it was being displayed every night. So that’s why I think the timing of it had so much to do with why so many people turned to baseball.
Ross Greenberg: And in both cases, there was a, there was a development with the community you know? Bobby Valentine, we went into depth this time with the Mets as well as Yankees, because we wanted to kind of show how Bobby Valentine led a core of of Mets, including John Franco, who was an all-the great Met who grew up in New York.
Jason Concepcion: Brooklyn guy, yeah.
Ross Greenberg: Brooklyn guy. So we wanted to kind of portray that and then lead into the Piazza game, which to this day is one of the great homerun moments in the history of the game, not just because of the drama of doing in the bottom of the eighth, but set against 9/11. And then, of course, the Yankees run all the way through the World Series. You know, the other thing is 60,000 would congregate at this stadium every night. And then, of course, you had millions watching, especially when it was the World Series. So the drama went up a notch. And the fact that 9/11 was so closely followed by all this incredibly insane drama on the field, these home runs of Jeter and Tino and Brosius out of nowhere, it just, you know, those moments would never have been forgotten but the fact that they followed 9/11 make them insurmountable.
Renee Montgomery: You know, it’s interesting because Jason asked about what was it about baseball for 9/11, but I’m curious, what is it about sports in moments of tragedy? You know, you look at 2020 and what happened with the civil unrest and basketball took the lead, you know, because, again, timing of it is what you talked about. Basketball was in season during it. We know the athletes went to the bubble and their perspective wubble. So what is it about sports in times of tragedy that just makes the community or our nation gravitate towards it?
Ross Greenberg: I think it’s because you can get so many people in one setting, first of all, so that when Bush goes out to the mound, you can chant USA in unison. And millions are also watching that kind of energy. And so on the field, you know, wherever you are during a moment of crisis, that’s where people congregate. If it was a concert, that would be fine, too. But there aren’t these moments where you can feel the energy from so many about one historic kind of moment. And so tragedy turns into momentous occasions, I guess.
Joe Lavine: And I think it also has a little bit to do with the, as I call it, the healthy distraction, you know, that you could get away from something that’s so horrific for a couple hours at a time. And I think that’s why people turn to whether it be sports or, you know, something else that’s near and dear to them. But in our case, absolutely in sports.
Ross Greenberg: And you know that the one thing I also thought about with sports is that the passion people bring to it, to root for their team, you know, and their heroes, that also, that connection, you don’t get that in anything else, but you get that in sports. So if Mike, if you’re a Met fan and you’re watching that game, it’s—I’m getting chills, as I say it, I’m a Yankee fan—bottom of the eighth, you know, man on, down by a run, post 9/11, first game back at Shea, and Mike Piazza gets it.
Jason Concepcion: It was one of the loudest bat cracks too, that I think I’ve ever heard. It was like, [Puck!] You just heard it.
Ross Greenberg: You’re right. You’re right. Whoever did the audio that night, that game should be rewarded. You’re right. Something else.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. A big part of this doc is about the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks. New York went down two games very early, then rallied back in the series, winning three in a row. And ultimately, the D-backs took it in seven. But it’s an interesting what if, right, like what would have happened if the Yankees won that? What do you, what do you think
Ross Greenberg: We thought about that. Joe and I have thought about that for 20 years. You know, at the end of the day when we ended this one—and Joe will expand on it too—we felt like we kind of encapsulated the fact that games three, four and five were really the story. The fact they were at Yankee Stadium and those incredible homeruns happened down to the last out and four, down to last out and five, two homeruns to even up the score, back-to-back on consecutive nights, the Bush pitch, you know—I think it was Bernie Williams in the doc who said it best, he kind of said: I was proud to be a professional ballplayer during that World Series. And he meant those moments. You know, that’s what, that’s what it was all about. The fact that the Yankees were doing that at home post 9/11, that’s what it was all about. It wasn’t the fact that Mariano got lit in the ninth inning in game seven, that was just—and in a way it kind of, to see the Diamondbacks rejoice and their fans go wild—that was OK, too. It was like defeat sometimes can bring out more drama in a story.
Joe Lavine: I don’t, personally, I don’t think it would have mattered that much. I mean, it certainly wouldn’t have changed anything, anyone’s personal situation. But in talking to these people back then and now, this new group of people, it was more—I know it sounds corny, but—the journey. Three, four and five, the fighting back—that’s what meant so much to everybody, that they represented New York in such an unbelievable way. You know what the Mets did, what the Yankees did, that it didn’t matter at the end of the day that the Yankees lost. It was what they gave back to New York and to baseball fans everywhere.
Renee Montgomery: The film is “Extra Innings From 9/11.” It’s available on HBO Max right now. Check it out. Ross and Joe, thank you for joining us on Takeline.
Ross Greenberg: Thank you for having us.
Joe Lavine: Thanks for having us.
Jason Concepcion: Thanks, fellas.
Renee Montgomery: [crowd noises] All righty, then. You already know, I don’t have to tell you, you know what that sound means. It’s time for the Buzzer Beaters. Where we talk the stories we didn’t cover on the show because of time. And I want to start with, Jason, Jackson State and Deion Sanders. I know there was a little, it was a little tricky in the beginning with the coach thing and ‘call me coach’ and all this and that. But when I tell you, watching how Jackson State was on the sidelines, they had Terrell Owens there. Imagine being the players that went to that HBCU and you have these NFL legends on the sidelines coaching you, and then also just dropping in to show their support at the game. Deion Sanders. If you didn’t see the locker room pregame turn up where he tells them to “play that thing!” and he starts the dance—I’m telling you right now, coaches like that, if HBCUs continue that culture of getting dope coaches that are from the NFL that are leading the brand, it’s going to change everything for that landscape. So I loved seeing what happened with Jackson State. They even got the win. But just what’s happening in HBCUs. My parents went to one, my sisters went to one, so I’m just so here for that. What’s you got, Jason?
Jason Concepcion: Well, the TV show Survivor is coming back soon. I’m a big Survivor fan, as evidenced by my creation of Take Survivor, which has, again, nothing to do with the official Survivor program. I’m just mentioning it. And so I’ve been re-watching some of the seasons, just some of my favorite season just to get ready, and I mean watching Season 37, Davids versus Goliaths. Let me just say, for those of you who are like: my dad used to watch this, or my grandma used to watch his show, I haven’t heard of, I haven’t thought about this show for 20 years, or I don’t like reality TV, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah—if you want to get in and just kind of see what it’s like. Season 37, Davids versus Goliaths is great. Super fun cast, really fun gameplay, all the characters are awesome. There’s some really fun strategic play and I don’t want to spoil anything else, I’ll just say it’s one of the best seasons of all time and certainly one of the greatest recent seasons. And it’s a really, really, really fun watch if you want to watch it as pure entertainment, as just kind of like a stand-in for sports that you don’t think too deeply about. You can watch it like that. If you want to watch it as like a show that reveals something about people’s true personalities, their true nature, you can watch it like that. If you want to watch it as like a strategic show, you can do that. It’s just a really, really fun season. Check it out.
Jason Concepcion: That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. And check out my new podcast, X-ray Vision, where I dive into the highly-anticipated premiere of “Y: The Last Man” and MCU Star Simu Liu joins us to talk about his experience making Marvel’s latest box office success Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. X-ray Vision on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Goodbye!
Renee Montgomery: Let’s go!
Jason Concepcion: Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Carleton Gillespie and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Our contributing producers are Caroline Reston and Jason Gallagher. Engineering, editing and sound design by Sarah Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter 4, and our theme music is produced by Brian Vásquez.