Jermaine O’Neal on Malice At The Palace + Roger Bennett | Crooked Media
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August 03, 2021
Jermaine O’Neal on Malice At The Palace + Roger Bennett

In This Episode

This week on Takeline, Jason and Renee talk to Jermaine O’Neal about the infamous Malice At The Palace brawl. Later in the show, they discuss the unfair media coverage of Simone Biles and what they think about Russell Westbrook being traded to the Lakers. Plus, Roger Bennett joins the show to talk about the life and death of the European Super League and how social justice movements by American athletes influence sports culture overseas.

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Jason Concepcion: This particular story, and many others, but this one in particular requires people like, you got to do the work. You have to know about this other stuff in order to be able to talk about this in a way that does it justice. And I understand that people aren’t ready to do that. And so it’s just been so frustrating to watch this happen.


Renee Montgomery: You know, a lot of times, Jason, it seems like, people, whenever they see a situation going on with an athlete or said athlete, you can replace Simone Biles, with any athlete, LeBron James, any athlete. If that athlete is going through something, people tend to—and it’s not for a fault, it’s just natural—like, people tend to compare their own situation to what’s going on with that athlete.


[clip from Untold] Some people have control over their emotions. I don’t . . . I was trying to find any way to escape . . .  I want the story out there. Like what happened, go frame by frame.


Jason Concepcion: That was a clip from the new five-part Netflix docu-series Untold, which brings fresh eyes to various epic tales from sports. One of those tales is the infamous “malice at the palace” the night that no one could forget when a melee between the Pistons and the Pacers spilled into the stands. One of the players at the center of the brawl was Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal. He’s featured centrally in the in the episode. He talks in detail about that night in Episode 1 and joins us now. Jermaine O’Neal, welcome to Takeline.


Jermaine O’Neal: Thanks for having me.


Jason Concepcion: Jermaine, one of the docu—the episode closes with Steven Jackson, yourself saying: man, I don’t want to talk about this, I’m done! I’m done talking about this. So thank you for talking about it one more time. Did you sense, obviously at that time the Pacers and the Pistons were big-time rivals, but did you, was there a point before it, before everything kind of occurred where you sensed that the atmosphere was just a little bit different?


Jermaine O’Neal: Well, honestly, you know, back then everything was super intense. Like the rivalries were real, friendships were put aside, you can never—that’s one thing that people don’t realize, that half of us on the Pistons and the Pacers actually were friends, right? So, but you couldn’t tell because it didn’t matter, right. We had a job to do. We got a job description that we had to fulfill in every single night. And we knew that we were in each other’s way to get to the ultimate goal. And that was, that was, that was something that fed into cities, right? They came to Indianapolis and it was a hard place for them to play, being in Detroit was a hard place for us to play.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting because, I have so many questions. I’m going to—like as you know, I’m an athlete and I feel like if I saw one of my teammates run into the stands, yeah, like “malice in the palace.” So what was your thoughts when you saw Meta run into the stands? Like what’s the first thought that went into your head?


Jermaine O’Neal: Well, let me let me say this first. One of the things—because that’s a very good question, very good question. [laughs] I got to say thank you to Netflix for allowing this vision to be a part of an incredible, you know, series of docs. The Way brothers, Floyd Russ the director. I’ve been trying to do this for ten years and I wanted to tell a story, not again, not to avid basketball fan, but to the person that I’m actually seeing in boardrooms and in business deals that are asking me about this but are not NBA fans, right? And so it was important for me to be able to tell a story that came from the people’s mouth that was involved. And it was difficult to get everybody there that we’ve got in this doc, but it was, it was something that was important to me because we took a lot of heat from that, right?


Jason Concepcion: Oh yeah.


Jermaine O’Neal: And I’ll get to your question. But it was important, too, because it became a cultural issue. If you [hit a doc], like, people are really, really saying crazy things. Some of the most respected people in media and that I respect, you know, were just taking jabs and wasn’t doing the very thing that put them in that position and that was getting information, real information, right? It was a quick to judgment scenario. And to a point, it allowed people to take jabs at us. You know talk about hip hop, talk about braids, talk about tattoos—and that was a problem for me. But I had to make sure I said that because that’s close to my heart, because I was still living it 17 years later, as people asking about this stuff all the time and it’s anniversaries for whatever reason. And I’m like, man, let’s just created a doc, tell the story and then we can move on with our lives. But back to, first of all, I couldn’t, it was it was a situation where you saw it coming, right? And the reason was that we had just beat the hell out of the Pistons on national television. We knew that was our year, right? We knew we were better than those guys. And they’d have phenomenally phenomenal team, and they had a lot of, you know, just come off a championship. So they had that pedigree. So we were going to be difficult, but we knew it was our time. So when when Ben started throwing all of the armbands, you know, already in a tough environment, right, in Detroit. Right? Tough environment. We started seeing people get riled up. So we’re standing there, we’re looking around, and then you see little things starting to be thrown, right, so that’s another thing people didn’t talk about, right? It’s like little things started to be thrown because if we are out and our energy is running through the crowd and we’re like this and tell them to do, yell and scream, the fans typically do what we ask them to do, right. And so they were mimicking what Ben was doing. And he threw, he kept throwing the armbands. And this guy—I don’t really say his name too much because he still has a special place, you know, in my dislike—


Renee Montgomery: To this day? To this day?


Jermaine O’Neal: Well, I don’t think he’s regretful for what he did, right? And so I think we’re all a little bit more mature. But he should, he was, instead of being really an ass about it, he probably should have been in some sort of sport because his aim was impeccable for him to even hit him with that cup.


Jason Concepcion: It was. Like I mean, it was. Like none of the liquid came out of the cup until it hit him! Like it was it was incredible. It was uncanny, the way that cup came down.


Jermaine O’Neal: He definitely chose, his decision on occupation, was definitely off [unclear]. And I think now, honestly, knowing what I know about Ron and how he handled pressure, right? Now, I think it’s important for you guys to know, when we did this doc, we didn’t record it together, so we did it all separately. Right? And so the first time I saw what he said was when they gave me the first rough cut of it. And I never knew how he handled pressure. Like I never heard him talk about that, because mental health back then wasn’t a real thing. It was like the death of a career if people thought that you were crazy, right? And so to hear him talk about the five count, right, and how he dealt with that, that it all makes sense to me. Versus now when you think about him running in the stands, he was already to a point of erupting, you know, literally. And so watching him run into the stands kind of threw me for a loop. But watching everybody else run towards us is what really got me going.


Jason Concepcion: You mentioned the way some of the most respected figures in the news media really were talking about this incident, from Bob Costas to everybody on CNN on down, you know, there was a I mean, I’ll never forget the weeks following this, but that moment played into a very specific, irrational fear in this country of, you know, black violence against white people. And it just snowballed to the point where people were calling you thugs, Bob Costas was calling you thugs, and it seemed like, and you mentioned this in the in the doc that like there was no platform, no way for y’all to put out your perspective, to say this is what happened to us, this is what we were seeing. Like, go through it and see it from our perspective, there was no opportunity to do that. And in fact, in the wake of that, you know, the NBA and David Stern put in there the dress code rules, which seemed directly aimed at tamping down this kind of perception of the league is too Black, too influenced by hip hop, et cetera. What were those days like where you just couldn’t, you know, I’m sure you had a lot of people advising you at that time. Were they telling you just don’t say anything at that time? And what would you like to say now about what was said during those weeks


Jermaine O’Neal: Well, one, we couldn’t. I think the thing that people don’t realize, you know, everything from, you know, this this whole process went on 7 to 10 years, like literally like the final thing on this happened ten years later, right? And so, you know, we basically had a muzzle, a muzzle on us because we had not only all the criminal stuff that we had to go through, which took a long time, but we had civil, and civil was the killer, right, because now people are suing you. So you have to be careful what you say and go through this process, and at the same time, while a narrative is being created on you, that isn’t really the truth. Right? You know everything, all the clips of the punching, right, you see all of that. But you don’t see you don’t see the guy grabbing me around my neck, like literally before you saw me slide over there for the punch, I had just got a guy that went up behind my neck and grabbed me, and I throw him on the table, I look to my left and I see Anthony Johnson. So you go back and look at the clip, you see Anthony Johnson in the Brown, who’s my teammate, had a broken hand. He’s on the floor. The [unclear] is actually standing over him. And so I run over there and I hit him, right? And at that point, it’s about leadership, right? In a situation where you can’t even believe that, wait you got on the NBA jersey and now you have fighting for your life because, you know, they’ve blocked all of the exits and there’s not a police in the building. Right? So, you know, it’s one of those things that was tough for me, honestly, because it opened, not only me, Steve and Ron up for criticism, but the league that I care about so much, that gave me an opportunity to live a dream—the Pacers, right gave me an opportunity to be the player that I was. You know, obviously, Portland drafted me, but Pacers gave me an opportunity to create a footprint. And I’m just watching people just culturally just gut us and we’re being told you cannot say anything. And so this narrative, it was almost like a, it became a part of our body armor. Right? Now, we’re wearing this thing every day, year over year over year over year, and it’s becoming a real conversation that, to be quite honest, shouldn’t have been. Now, I did understand that the league has a bottom line number that they have to get to. I understood that. I understood it was a penalty to pay for anything, but to the level that we had to pay—or at least from my perspective, had to pay—I was not OK with that. Especially when I took the NBA to court and won. People don’t know about that.


Renee Montgomery: Did people issue an apology? Did you ever receive any apologies basically, after you had won?


Jermaine O’Neal: I did not, I did not. And I understood why, I understood why, because it’s a business. And again, the NBA is a special place, it’s a very special place. And I don’t, even to this point today, I don’t feel like I need an apology because I just understand it. I have the right now to right the wrongs by putting the doc out. And that’s that’s kind of my OK, here you go, and if you choose to come to a conclusion now, you have, at least you have the real information.


Renee Montgomery: No, I like that. And something else that kind of gets lost in the story is that the season ended up being Reggie Miller’s last season and you especially had been vocal about winning a championship in Indiana. So as you reflect on this, what are your thoughts about Reggie and yourself not being able to get that ring?


Jermaine O’Neal: Special. Reggie’s always been special to me. To know how sports work, to know how players work, every player that’s on the team ain’t really for everybody. Right? And, you know, in a situation where Reggie was coming to the end of his career and just coming off of, you know, basically three years before that off a NBA finals and allow me to come in as a basically unproven player, he could have easily said, naw, if you bring him in, trade me. But he didn’t, right? And he had a conversation with me and said I’m going to let you be whatever you want to be, as long as you work for it. And that meant the world to me. And to be put in that situation, it was so bad and I guarantee you if you ask Reggie—Reggie probably had two more years to play, like literally by two more really good years to play. But, how everything was being dissected, and I tell you, we lived this, right, in our own cities, and everything becoming more race than actual facts, right? That was a problem. And I don’t think Reggie wanted to—matter of fact, I know Reggie didn’t want to have to deal with that, those questions and that level of attention has now become negative attention, and it’s not even about the game anymore.


Renee Montgomery: Untold premieres on Netflix on August 10th, the first episode is Malice in the Palace. Jermaine, thank you for talking to us today.


Jason Concepcion: Thanks, Jermaine.


Jermaine O’Neal: Thanks for having me.


[ad break]


Jason Concepcion: Last week, after Simone Biles withdrew from several Olympic events, the sports media, various people on social media all had an opinion and descended into a chaotic conversation about Ms. Biles’s legacy in sport. There were some, I think, pretty unfair comparisons across the board to Michael Jordan, to other athletes, as well as some discussions about athletes’ mental health within the context of other athlete-driven mental health conversations that have taken place recently. We should note that it was announced just today that Simon will compete in the balance beam final on Tuesday. But I think one of the problems we saw last week was how the discussions around Simon were framed. Renee, I have some thoughts on how we need to change the narrative around these types of stories so they don’t just become basic sports discussions. And I’m sure you do as well.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, definitely. I mean, was Simon Biles’ case—it was very interesting because the story, it was a slow roll, right? It was the first, she’s opting out, and no one had an understanding of why. So we got to see everyone’s unfiltered thoughts. We got to see, oh, no, is this another Naomi Osaka’s situation? What’s going on? We’re getting tired of this. Athletes aren’t like they used to be. Whatever happened to the Mamba mentality? We started to see all this kind are of language when before we knew about the twisties, like. And in full disclosure, I didn’t know anything about the twisties until I found out about the twisties from Simon Biles. But the real problem, and I think it’s kind of hitting on what you’re saying, is how we address situations going on with athletes that we maybe never seen before? How do we address situations going on with athletes that maybe we just don’t even know? Because the everyday casual fan, they have no idea about a lot of things like, OK, we didn’t know the twisties, but a lot of casual fans don’t necessarily know somebody has a bone bruise. What’s the timeline or what can a person fight through? What’s the norm? They’re just not in the locker rooms. They don’t see it all the time. So how we address athletes and maybe the things that we don’t know or understand going on with those athletes, I think that’s the real thing that’s happening now. Even with the Naomi Osako, when she says mental health, people are like, well, what actually is going on in your life that makes you not be able to perform? And it’s like none of your business, but is my mental health. Like people are having a hard time with the not knowing and with the OK, well, if this athlete is just going to do their own thing, then like fans are almost getting mad. Like, well, then I don’t have to watch her, I don’t have to be a fan if they don’t want to compete. And it’s like, no, they’re taking care of themselves, first of all. But this is just a new world, basically, that we’re in and I don’t know if the media nor fans know how to handle it Jason.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I think even within the kind of like broader conversation that has just come to the forefront of kind of like sports media discourse recently about athlete mental health, even within, even in the context of that conversation, I think I think someone Biles, the conversation about her is different. Because the thing that got to me was when people were like, oh, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan never quit for his mental health. Which, you know, he quit the sport for two whole years to go play baseball because he was traumatized after the murder of his father. When you point this out to people, they then say, oh, but he didn’t do it in the middle of a game. He didn’t do it in the middle of game six against the Suns. He was under contract, though, right? I mean, so what really gets me about that is what a tremendous, like disservice it does to the things she’s been through. As many will know, Simone and over 100 young women were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the team doctor. All of this was covered up by the USOPC, the US AG for years. It was brought to the forefront. People were informed about it. They didn’t kick it up to the authorities. It wasn’t until an athlete actually pressed charges that Nassar’s downfall was triggered. But this these allegations were buried by the people that were supposed to protect all these athletes while that was going on. She won, you know, like 19 world metal medals, six Olympic medals, including four gold medals, and in that context, like to put that ordeal in the context of an athlete, like overcoming an obstacle is actually like, that’s gross. You know what I mean? Like to put that in the context, to put that in the context of Michael Jordan having the flu is just so fucked up. And I think the thing that really frustrated me the most was number one, like, of course, if she quit at any point in the past, forget now. Forget, you know, during the Olympics, she owed nobody anything after what she’s been through. But the fact that during this whole time where she’s like 16, 17, 18-years old, and there is no like a players union for gymnasts, you know what I mean? There’s no protection. All the people that we’re supposed to protect her were actively covering this up. During that time, the thing that all those women were told was like, we don’t believe you and so therefore, we’re going to move on from this. And now when someone says, like, I can’t go, the reaction of so many talking heads, sports fans, etc., is like, we don’t believe you. What’s the reason? We don’t believe. Like someone came at me was like, yeah, but like this is the Olympics, this is the middle of the competition. So I’m like, yes, she must have a good reason then, right? Like, why don’t we trust that she has a very good reason. Forget the twisties. Like anything else that she’s been through is a good enough reason to be like, I don’t want to do this anymore. Because the USOPC, the USAG, these are not like new different organizations now that the Nassar thing happened. Like all that stuff is still ongoing. A lot of those testimonies are still under seal. They didn’t just, like, rip up the entire organization and be like, OK, here’s a fresh start, you guys will compete under this whole new organization. She’s working for the same organization that covered all this stuff up and she did it. And she’s been she’s been straightforward about this, she competed this year because she felt like there needed to be a survivor on the team so they couldn’t cover this up. They couldn’t actively cover up what happened, couldn’t just move on from it. In the light of all that, like, you can’t talk about this like it’s Michael Jordan game seven, or any other athlete winning a Super Bowl or something. It’s just completely different. And it just is so frustrating. And, you know, and like, I don’t actually, I actually don’t blame a lot of the people, like on social media who are like, who don’t know how to talk about this because this requires a whole new language to talk about. This is entirely like, for most people, sports is entertainment. They work an 8, 9, 10, 12-hour shift, delivering packages or whatever, and they come home and they just want to watch the Olympics and not think about stuff. Where this particular story, and many others, but this one in particular requires people like, you got to do the work. You have to know about this other stuff in order to be able to talk about this in a way that does it justice. And I understand that people aren’t ready to do that. And so it’s just been so frustrating to watch this happen.


Renee Montgomery: You know, a lot of times, Jason, it seems like people, whenever they see a situation going on with an athlete, or said athlete, you can replace Simone Biles with any athlete, LeBron James, any athlete—if that athlete is going through something, people tend to, and it’s not not for a fault, it’s just natural, people tend to compare their own situation to what’s going on with that athlete. So somebody might see what a very rich athlete is going through and be like, oh, well, I mean, I have to work 12-hour shifts while raising four kids and—


Jason Concepcion: I wish I was doing that. I wish I could be doing that right now.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah. And we have to stop doing that. We have to stop looking at other people’s situations through our lens. Like if we always look at everyone’s situation through our own lens, of course, we’re all going to be, oh, yeah, give me this or let this happen to me or not. And I’m not talking about the abuse. I’m just talking about in general, when we start to talk about mental health, when it comes to athletes, a lot of times it almost gets brushed away because people look at their circumstances in their everyday lives and be like, well, at least they have this. But when you look at what’s going on with Simone Biles, the pressure that the world has—I mean, I said, Twitter gave her her own emoji. Why? Because she was the most talked about athlete going into the Olympics. So you have to add on that worldwide USA pressure is there. She’s the most talked about athlete. It’s a fact. Twitter already put it out. So then you add on top of that that it’s a known thing, Jason, you said it. We’re here. I’m here because I want to make sure that there’s a survivor, that somebody has to be held accountable. A lot of people may not know because, like you said, to do the work, they turn down like a $200 million something settlement because they wanted to understand, they wanted people to understand.


Jason Concepcion: They want it to come out.


Renee Montgomery: Yes, they wanted the details to come out. Look, Aly Raisman, this past weekend, I was on Bob Costas, his new show, Back on the Record. Aly Raisman was also on that show and she spoke about it. She said, we turned down that money because we want to know who knew what and when did they know it? The gymnasts want answers. And so and even listening to her speak, she talked about, when she talks about what happened with them for sometimes days or even weeks, she’s almost just like un-manageable in a sense of she can’t, it’s hard for her to deal with to talk about that. So just hearing Aly talk about, it’s hard for her to even function in everyday life when she talks about this situation. Think about what Simone Biles is dealing with, again, being the most talked about Olympian, also dealing with the twisties. And this is something that people need to just think of this is like a physical injury in sports. If you can’t comprehend why she can’t compete, just think of it as a torn ACL or a pulled—like you just have to get your mind to shift to this is a physical problem. Even though, you know, she could come back from it, it’s physical in a sense of she could really hurt herself and it’s not OK. I mean, she even made the statement Simone made a statement: if you look at the pictures and my eyes, you can see how confused I am as to where I am in the air. So we already are dealing with the trauma of what’s happened in the past. You’re dealing with the pressure of being the most talked about Olympian, like period, and then you’re dealing with an injury to yourself. That’s a lot. And people don’t know how to process that other than saying, aw, she can fight through it, or because that’s her only, you know, like that’s that takes psychology. That takes other things, that takes work, as you put it, Jason. And it’s not for no fault of anyone else, we’ve never given athletes any time. We’ve never given athletes effort. It’s always been are you healthy? OK, play. Are you not healthy? OK, you don’t play. We never asked, are you mentally healthy? Are you physically healthy? Is are you healthy? Go play. And so I just think we’re just seeing a shift in the tides. I mean, if you just look at it, I, I’m, I have to just say it’s so impressive for all of those women. We talked about it. It was over 100 women to turn down $200 million, even if you had to split it between the 100+ women, that’s a lot of money. But to know that this could continue, that they’re still working for the same organization, the same people, that they might not have enabled it, but you knew about it and you didn’t stop it. That’s I mean, that’s just such a messy situation. USA Gymnastics after this Olympics, I mean, honestly, it should have been before this Olympics because we were talking about they wanted to sweep it under the rug for the 2016 Olympics, and here we are at the2020 Tokyo Olympics, that’s really happening in 2021, which is a whole nother year and it’s still not being resolved. So everyone needs to keep being loud about USA gymnastics. We need to keep praising the women for their bravery. But we need, like we need to as a general population, not let this go until they clean house. They’ve got to clean it up over there. That’s disgusting.


Jason Concepcion: They got to completely tear it up. It is absolutely insane. And then think about, you know, a lot of these women have talked about that the Olympics is for them, not necessarily a time of celebration. It’s when all those memories and all those things are brought back up. So they’re dealing with the pressure that no one can understand and that no one can really possibly try and, try and put their selves in the middle of. Unless they’ve been through something similar to that. And everything that they have done to this point makes them really beyond any kind of like sports criticism, like, that’s it’s just insane to me to be like, oh, how could you do this? She’s, forget like, she’s already won 25 medals, worlds plus Olympics, like—


Renee Montgomery: Who does that?


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, what more does she need to do? And even if she hadn’t won those right, even the girls who didn’t compete, beyond criticism to be like they don’t want to play anymore. And I think you’re exactly right. You said something that is, that I think about all the time. If you if she said, oh, my Achilles is sore, people wouldn’t even question not even for a second, wouldn’t bat an eye. But you say but it’s something to do with the brain, something to do with mental health, and all of a sudden everybody is an expert and says, well, why can’t you just fight through? Why can’t you just fight through it? And I think in a really kind of sad way, it’s a reflection of how bad we all are, we are as a country about dealing with our own like mental health, you know what I mean? Like that that is the message that we, that we get all the time is like, oh, you’re just sad, just push through it. No. Like, that’s not, that’s not fair and that shouldn’t be—


Renee Montgomery: You should try to make yourself happy in your everyday life. But Jason, a lot of people may not be happy in their everyday life. So they’re like, look, I deal with sadness all the time. That’s what I was trying to say about the lens, like, just because you’re dealing with something, it doesn’t make it OK that you’re not happy either. You know, like that’s the thing like misery, the statement misery loves company. Yeah. Let’s like let’s change that. Let’s get out of that. Because just because you might be sad doesn’t mean that they should have to fight through their sadness, like they might need help. And speaking of that, on that idea, can we stop silver shaming people?! Like I just—


Jason Concepcion: Silver’s a great metal. Who, has anybody out there won an Olympic any metal? You know what I I mean? You know how hard that is?


Renee Montgomery: I started seeing stuff about, aw, we’ll settle for the silver and this and we had to settle for a bronze. And I’m like, do you guys know that this is a competition of the greatest athletes in the entire world. And if you make that podium that means you’re the top three at that event. Yes, baby, you did that. And we all need to be acting like Raven Saunders and turning up and twerking and getting our medals and being happy. Like that is, we have to start celebrating more than we just kind of condemn is what I would just say.


 OK, so Jason, happy free agency week in the NBA! The rumors all have already started, apparently some unofficial trades have happened, and I’m putting unofficial in air quotes, because they’re unofficial. But Russell Westbrook has been a name that we’ve heard about a lot. He’s returning home to L.A. to become a Laker, joining LeBron and Anthony Davis. The Wizards got Kyle Kuzma, Montrzl Harrell, KCP and a draft pick. Again unofficial trades. But what are your thoughts out there, you know about the Brody joining The Lake Show? I mean I just, I’m just gonna throw this out there. I can’t wait to see the tunnel walks. I mean his fashion king is coming to L.A. I can only imagine what that’s going to look like. But what are your thoughts on the trades, unofficially?


Jason Concepcion: Well, my first thought is, of course, that tampering has never happened. That all of these, all of these deals, you know, when a deal is announced during the free agency period, and then as soon as the clock ticks over and free agency can commence, and then all of a sudden it’s announced that like such and such deal has happened and the contract has already been printed and already been signed and delivered—that despite that, there has never been any tampering. Of course, if Kyle Lowry is rumored to be leaning towards going to Miami. Whatever that is, I’m sure Pat Riley has never, ever had any discussions with Kyle Lowry, Kyle Lowry’s agents, Kyle Lowry’s representatives in any way.


Renee Montgomery: Of course not. Of course not.


Jason Concepcion: Of course not. I think that is, I think, two things about it. I love Russ. I love that he’s going home basically to where his basketball journey started, you know, just at both like as a kid and as an athlete at UCLA. I don’t, if LeBron James is the best shooter on your team, I think that’s probably a problem. LeBron is a fine shooter. But like, there’s a lot of, there are spacing issues to be figured out, but I love that Russ is in L.A. I think that’s great.


Renee Montgomery: Well, Jason, give them time. Free agency just started, so—


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. It just started.


Renee Montgomery: So I’m assuming that the Lakers have to be on the prowl. I mean, the same way that, you know, the shooting problems that could occur. Of course, the Lakers’ management, I assume that since free agency just started today, so since, well not, Monday is today, but it just started. I would like to assume that the management team, upper management at The Lake Show are trying to figure out, you know, Buddy, Buddy was a name that was thrown around a lot. And then when we heard the Russ trade happened, it kind of died down. But I still think that they’re going to have to make a play. Again, this is the first day, so we don’t know anything yet.


Jason Concepcion: Let me ask, let me ask you this. So, you know, tampering has been such a concern over recent seasons as free agents have, and their movements have become a prime generator of super teams, right, this is how super teams are assembled. Whether it’s LeBron and Wade and Bosh joining up as a member of the Heat or any of the various things that have happened later. KD and Kyrie and the Brooklyn Nets. What can like? Obviously, it looks bad when all of a sudden it’s free agency and then the contract is announced and signed, because clearly y’all have been talking before you should have been. But is there actually any way to stop tampering. Like from your perspective as an owner, as an athlete, is there any way that the NBA can make this not happen?


Renee Montgomery: There’s no way to stop tampering because you can’t stop friendships. So, you know, like if I’m talking to somebody that’s my homie and I’m like, yo, man, you need to come over here, let’s just team up, let’s play together, we could be on the same team, we can have wine every night.


Jason Concepcion: Tampering. Tampering. Tampering. Tampering.


Renee Montgomery: Listen. I can talk to the coach right now. What number do you want my G? Like I got you. What number you want. We could already have that figured out for you. Like that’s always going to be a thing in sports. I mean, look, Charles Barkley even jokingly, and now me say jokingly, said if he had known that people would have cared so much about an athlete retiring without getting a championship, that he would have joined his friends long ago. He made the joke because we’re starting to see the aftermath. The reason I brought Charles Barkley up is because it used to not happen. Everybody talks about in the past like, yeah, it used to never happen in the past. You were drafted with a team. If you were a superstar, you stayed with that team. But then you got people like Charles Barkley. And I know he said it jokingly, but that’s the problem. That’s how super teams become a thing. People don’t want their legacy to be, I was the great player without a championship. So if you don’t want your legacy to be, I was that great player without a championship, what are you going to do? You’re going to call up the homies and be like, our cap space is looking nice. Just talk to the GM. What do you want, man? We can’t do 50. This is, I’m just being real. Like we can’t do fifty million, my guy. But if you come here and you take a little bit less and then we go and we get this dude to, who could beat us? Who could beat us? That’s how the conversation has happened.


Jason Concepcion: You know, as speaking a Charles Barkley, he famously left the Sixers organization because they were not doing it for him, forced his way to the Suns, where he then made a finals and was named MVP. I think that Barkley’s influence is really important actually in this and I think not talked about enough. All of these players today, Durant, Kyrie, LeBron, Wade, everybody, they grew up watching TNT Inside the NBA and watching Magic, and later, Shaq and Kenny Smith roast Charles Barkley for not having a ring week after week after week, game after game, hour upon hour. There’s that famous, there’s that famous clip where they built like a club inside that inside the studio and it was like for champions only and then Magic goes in and Shaq goes in and they left Charles outside. They watched stuff like this for—


Renee Montgomery: That’s bullying!


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. For their entire, for their entire young lives. And, you know, the message that is unmistakable from that, if you’re an elite NBA star, is don’t be the one without the ring, right, because this is this is what awaits you, right? And I think that while we criticize the super teams for happening, and it’s fine to say, oh, man, I wish it was the way it was, let’s also not forget the influence of the way that we talk about sports. If we are going to say, hey, what’s going to happen is if you were a great player who doesn’t win a championship, we’re going to make fun of you for your whole life, then let’s acknowledge the role in that in motivating these players to not be that person nobody wants to be Charles Barkley, as great a career is he had. You don’t want to be on Inside the NBA ten years from now.


Renee Montgomery: Left outside the club!


Jason Concepcion: And you are left outside the club standing there.


Renee Montgomery: You can’t even get in! Come on. Like, that’s, that’s—you don’t want to be that guy.


Jason Concepcion: No, not at all.


[ad break]



Renee Montgomery: He is one half of the incredible soccer podcast Men in Blazers, but now he’s a New York Times best selling author. His new book, “Reborn in the USA: an Englishman’s Love Letter to his Chosen Home” is available right now. Roger Bennett, welcome to Takeline.


Rodger Bennett: Oh, Renee and Jason, it’s a joy to be with you, both.


Jason Concepcion: Thank you for being here. It’s our, it’s our honor.


Renee Montgomery: Yes, thank you for being here. So how does an outsider growing up in Liverpool in the 1980s become a Chicago Bears fan? Tell me!


Rodger Bennett: God. It’s funny you ask, I’ve just written a book about [unclear] There’s a long answer and a short answer. I’ll give you the medium one, which is Liverpool, one of the greatest cities in the world, although you are in another of those in Atlanta. And then I was just like, oh my God, ’80s Liverpool, dark and twisted as the north of England fell apart. And even like the football, it’s a city that announced itself to the world through Liverpool and Everton, they were the greatest clubs in Europe. But even back then, football was hooligan propelled culture. There was unemployment, there was a heroin epidemic, there was very little hope outside of music and football. But football was played on muddy pitches by large men who just really wanted to kick the hell out of each other and then go off the field for a pie, a pie and a cigarette. And then 1985, 1985, the NFL started to broadcast itself in England. But it wasn’t like massive. It was tiny on a tiny station, an experimental station for an hour a week. And it was just highlights. But of the previous—this is pre Internet—so the NFL was confident enough it could pull that week-old games, crushed down into an hour, just all of them on like running montages to like Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out For A Hero or John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire. I mean really, Joe Montanna would like fling the ball, it would go like 45 yards, and you would hear [singing] St. Elmo’s Fire. Honestly, if I put my fingers, jammed them into an electric socket, I had never seen anything like it, just so exhilarating. I didn’t know what the hell was happening. Flair passes, rushing, safety—it’s was all just like, oh, the cheerleaders, Bum Phillips—What?! There’s a man called Bum, and he’s a coach and he’s hilarious? And I was just like, oh my God, I want this in the face. Because ultimately it was about winning, it wasn’t about winning—the New Orleans Saints like 14 and 0, I was like, go beat up those Atlanta Falcons fans, they’re laughing at you. Go beat them up.


Renee Montgomery: Hey, wait a minute.


Rodger Bennett: They just pulled on paper bags over their heads. They’re like yeah, we’re the New Orleans Saints, and they drank more lite beer and they stuffed their faces with sausage. And I was like that place, they know how to enjoy themselves, they know how to laugh. And I loved every single second of it. And that of course, I mean led me to the Bears for more complicated reasons. But that just the short story and that was about seven minutes 23 seconds.


Renee Montgomery: Oh, wow.


Jason Concepcion: You write in your book Reborn in the USA, about how in addition to these NFL broadcasts, there were these nuggets of American culture, you know, Heart to Heart, Miami Vice, John Hughes movies that captured your imagination. What was it about those things that drew you in?


Rodger Bennett: So English television was, the three biggest soap operas that dominated the air waves were Coronation Street, EastEnders and Brookside, one was working class misery in Manchester, one was working class misery in London, and the other was working class misery in Liverpool. And essentially the [funny] proposition was, you think your life’s crap, watching at home?! You think your life’s miserable?! Shut up and watch these people, their life is really terrible. Now, don’t you feel better about your own? And then onto that kind of crashed Dallas, Dynasty, Beverly Hills, 90210, John Hughes movies, where the—Dallas and Dynasty was about the problems of having so much money, there weren’t enough oil wells or mink coat to spend it all on. And I was like, oh my God. Like this notion of aspiration—in England, it was like, shut up, don’t have dreams, they’ll only be shattered dreams, just stay where you are and behave and everything will be, that’s your life and then you die. And then in America it’s like, no, you, this is, this is, you can have joy. You can believe in courage. You can have some confidence. I said, oh my God, I want some of that. And I know, that was like, Run DMC. Now all of this. Run DMC, they would you know, it was just like human beings who use their mouths as firehoses, spat out rhymes, you know, talked about dreams and then use their mouths and their words to make them true. When you’re like 14, 15 and you see—I was like, you can do that? And I like spent, I I spent a whole summer teaching myself how to beatbox, which was really just me spitting on my bedroom mirror. But it was like, when you, this sounds flip like, that Miami Vice, obviously a show about narcos in Miami, but really it was a show that was—like Animal Farm is about horses and cows, deeper down, Miami Vice is a show aimed at 14 to 15-year old boys who are lost in the world, don’t know how to handle themselves, and Don Johnson is saying, be singular, be a man of style, find your own style, everybody else is when the Kevlar and the helmets and the protective stuff. No, you go meet your destiny dressed in periwinkle in tail, with the sleeves rolled up, linen pants, pleated, no socks and espadrilles. Be yourself at all times. And when you watched American culture from afar, it really did it said, if you are miserable, life can be different. And it gave, it was like, it was a marrow. Really sustained me and allowed me to survive.


Renee Montgomery: Well, you talk about that American dream and you even call American the gold standard for you. And we’ve seen in the last 18 months or so, our flaws are, pretty much our dirty laundry has been aired, our flaws have been put on Front Street. You know, we had the pandemic, the murder of Jorge Floyd—from someone who has such pride in becoming an American, and you talk about it like how you see America. What’s your perspectives on just the social issues of our country right now?


Rodger Bennett: I started writing the book when, I grew up with the skyline of Manhattan painted on my bedroom wall as a 12-year old. I moved to Manhattan, and that Manhattan was overrun by COVID. The Manhattan I loved, the Manhattan I dreamt about, the Manhattan I looked at every night longingly from afar. And if you go back to March, April, just the panic, the fear, the just the incredible, you know, there was Seattle and New York to begin with, that were just utterly and completely overrun, and in that moment when the present is fearful and deeply uncertain, not just, oh, my life, my job is a bit uncertain, but everybody, everybody just uncertainty as grown ups was totally F’ed. I, I think it’s a natural thing to do when the present is dark to revert to the past. And I did try and go back to happier moments and draw the contours of this idea, the American idea, which is the central one in my life. I mean, I’ve acted upon it. I’ve moved here. I’ve had an American family. I became an American citizen, which is still the greatest day in my life. But the year got worse, as you say, the Black Lives Matter, some of the agony and trauma of that, and then into the toxicity of the 2020 election, and there were times when I was writing this book in a manic fever dream that I was like, oh my God, only I would release a love letter to America just as it seems about to completely, completely implode. And I’d say this, like my book is about. My book is about love. A love of America that was born from afar. That a story is a bit more nuanced than I’m making it sound. It’s a multigenerational—you know, my great grandfather dreamt of moving to Chicago when he fled Eastern Europe in the 1900’s. It’s in our Families narrative that we ended up in Liverpool by mistake, and that I was really an American trapped in an English boy’s body. But it’s about, It’s about the American idea as a kid. A child’s love is very different than an adult’s love, and I think any listener who is in love knows as an adult, love is bloody hard. The object of your love always has strengths and always has weaknesses. And when you are in love as an adult, as opposed to being a child, a kiddy love an adult love, you have to bloody work at. You have to accept the object of your love as deeply, deeply flawed. And the American idea that shaped my life is very different than the American reality. I arrived in Chicago finally in 1993, and my first job was working in the Robert Taylor homes on the south side of Chicago. That’s a completely different story that I didn’t write into the book, but actually engaging with the American reality in one of the the most, I mean, that was traumatic in its own right. Dealing with the, what you very kindly called the flaws of America close up. But I did want to hold up the notion of the American idea in this book and the epigraph of the book, which is a funny thing. You use somebody else’s words that are so much smarter than all those that you write that followed, and I used the Langston Hughes lines: Let America be America again, the land that never has been yet and yet must be. And I think everybody who reads my book knows the difference between the American idea that’s driven me, the American reality. And I think we’re all committed to doing everything within our power to closing the gap between the two.


Jason Concepcion: Hmmm, I think one of the things I’ve been most fascinated by as a sports fan, a soccer fan, an American, a fan of international soccer is the way that a lot of the social justice protests that have happened here and the responses to those incidents that have occurred here have been adopted by athletes across the world, particularly in England and France also. And I think this was brought into stark relief when Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho were racially abused online after missing PKs in the euro final. What is, what is your reaction? What is going on with the kind of response to these, to the kneeling by Black players in the EPL and abroad? Is this seen is like a malign American influence on British culture. Why is there such antipathy to these to these athletes?


Rodger Bennett: Oh, Jason, you’re asking me that on the same day as the U.S. women have lost in the World Cup, which has led to a bizarre inversion where there’s a lot of right-wing—I think, may say this, by right-wing trolls who are reveling in American failure in a way that I honestly, I find so bloody traumatizing, it just makes my heart ache more than I can say. And I ride with Team America now/ I know my accent makes me sound like I live and die with the English national team. I, you know, I could, I got to be candid. I grew up in Liverpool and in Liverpool we have a strange relationship with the rest of England. And we really felt shafted. We felt marginalized. Mrs. Thatcher really left us, just scapegoated the city, painted the city in the darkest possible fashion in the 1980s to the point that the Liverpool City Council, when I grew up, debated seriously ceding for the rest of Britain and becoming the Republic of Liverpool, which I would have loved to have a Liverpool passport would have been so unbelievably magic. It didn’t happen. But like Liverpool, people have a complicated, we feel very close to America. You know, everything from America used to crash in to Liverpool first through the port. It’s why the Beatles came through America. Rock and roll came through America, came from—the Beatles came from Liverpool, rock and Roll hit Liverpool first. We always felt super close to America. And so I find it deeply traumatic that Americans are rooting against the American national team in the most, I think in most trolly way, probably at this point. But it still deeply, deeply, it’s just devastating. And to watch this English national team—look football at the end of the day, that the glory of football, the thing that makes football so bloody fascinating, soccer on the global level, is that it’s just a mirror. It’s a mirror to the societies that surround it for good or for bad. So when France won the World Cup in 1998 with a team that was so mixed and diverse and wonderful, it lifted up to France, Zidane, Algeria and you’ve got, you know, from all of the former colonies you’ve got, they called it the Black Blomkamp Blue Team. This is the new face of France. And it was joyous to see their faces projected against the Arc de Triomphe. This could be a new France. It was, football can be, can give you transcendent moments like that. But football, in the euros, watching Viktor Orban, the Hungarian, essentially at this point a dictator with his blackshirts in attendance at the Hungarian Games. Icelandic fans doing the thunderclap, 10,000 of them, is a wonderful sight. Victor Orban’s blackshirts doing the same thunderclaps, slightly more bloody terrifying. Not quite as [endearing]. And that brings us to the English national team, which, you know, I don’t ride with England, but I’ve got to say, holding a mirror up to society, there’s two Englands, two Britain’s right now. And there’s a battle for the future of the nation after Brexit. And there’s in England of diversity, of emotional intelligence, of empathy, of human wonder. And I’ve got to say, you know, football, fifteen years ago, elite English footballers were A-list celebrity wannabes, champagne, VIP room dwelling, buy a Lambo, crash a Lambo into a lamppost, laugh at he Lambo crash, go and buy another Lambo—that was the stereotype of footballers. These guys, these guys, Marcus Rashford, Saka, all of these guys names that may not mean a lot to your listeners, but they are young, they are Black, they are deeply intelligent, they are outspoken on issues, just the greatest issues. They’ll speak about, you know, gay rights, they’ll speak about the racism in the country, they speak about mental the challenges of depression in everyday life. And to watch them, I watch that and I was like that, I want that to be the face: diverse, intelligent, open, vulnerable, human being. I want that to be the face of future England. And as one of them said, when they finally lost like Sisyphus in the final against Italy, one of them said you cheer for us when we’re winning, but the second, and you know the second these three young lads, bloody brave as hell to go and take a penalty and shoot out. And Americans are like, it’s like a free throw. Why, what’s the big deal, they’re professionals. It’s like a free where you have to walk 50 yards with the whole world watching and shoot it with no margin of error, knowing that your team’s future depends on it. You can’t practice for it. You can’t train for this. Even if they do penalties, it’s not like that crucible of pressure. And the second, the second Saka that missed, that beautiful 19-year old—I knew, I knew, I knew what was going to happen, that human darkness, the other England, the other England, the small-minded, racist, misogynist—I’m sorry, Jason, you got me a bit burned up here— inside the misogynist, the fearful England, filled with hate spoke up and unfortunately, they spoke bloody loudly. And up to now they’ve had the last word. And that is the football can take you to the France ’98, wonder, transcendent. Football can take you to the most awful bloody moment, but we’ve got to hope the good wins out.


Jason Concepcion: In other news, the sporting world was rapt, watched with great interest as the Super League, the much, the much ballyhooed, the much talked about, the “in the works for many decades” Super League, rose majestically into the air before crashing into the ground in the space of about 12 hours. Again, this is a plan that has been in the works in various forms for decades, for a long time. Do you think we see it again? Do we think that they, the people and the movers and shakers behind this, the teams behind this, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, probably the strongest proponents of this—do we see them learn from what went wrong, and do we see them try and make this thing happen again?


Rodger Bennett: God, the way you ask the question, you make it sound like January 6th, the coup and everything. I’m like, you’re saying that—and by the way, this feels, the Super League feel so bloody long ago. I’m like, listen to you talking about it—


Jason Concepcion: It does. Oh my God.


Rodger Bennett: So much life has happened. Like when I think of the Super League, oh I remember that, much younger me, a much happier me, you know, I had all my own hair all my own teeth back then. But it was only a couple of months ago. So, what can I tell you about this thing? The thing that was fascinating about this, speaking to a couple of the owners, I mean, first of all, it was an American propelled play. Football at the highest levels, is sheik-driven, oligarch-driven, infinite money. And you know, as wealthy as all American sports entrepreneurs are, your Kroenke of the L.A. Rams, who own Arsenal Football Club, your Glazer’s of Tampa Bay fame, who own Manchester bloody United and of course, Fenway Sports Group, the Boston Red Sox who own Liverpool Football Club—as wealthy as they are, they look at the sheiks and look at the oligarchs, that infinite petro-dollar replenished coffer and they know they can’t compete. And so this was their notion of essentially trying to build in some of the safeguards that you have in American sports, which are hilariously for a deeply capitalist society. America. Our sports are so deeply regulated. What a draft, the salary cap. I mean, a rev-share! Everything here is actually incredibly—I don’t like to say it, but it’s like—what word would you use Jason, to describe?


Jason Concepcion: I mean, I would, I would describe it fairly as socialism for extremely rich.


Rodger Bennett: There you go/ Bernie Sanders is nodding along as we—socialism for extremely rich people. They’re essentially safeguarding. They know it’s a zero-sum game here and they were trying to enforce that same mentality. And the other guys played along for different reasons that I won’t bore your audience with. But the thing that’s fascinating, I think from an American fan base perspective, rather than to get into the exact nitty gritty, is you’re right, they planned this for bloody ages. And to be candid, I want to speak to one of them when it was going down and I was like, is this really a fait accompli? Because I sickened. They were going to bury alive hundreds of clubs at the lower levels that were never going to be able to survive this. Employees who work for generations at clubs, you’ve never—Grimsby, Leatherhead, tiny, tiny, like the Portland Sea Dogs of England. And he’s like, yes, this is going to happen. We’ve got you know, we got PR agencies, our PR agencies have PR agencies. We’ve hired every lobbyist in the world. They thought of everything. It was like, I imagine this huge map where they were pushing like tanks and planes and stuff around the Situation Room of Europe. And the one thing, the one thing they never bloody plan for—they imagined, in Liverpool, there’s two teams, Liverpool, who are like the Yankees, there’s the Mets of Liverpool, Everton. I support bloody Everton. And I know they imagine the Everton fans, when Liverpool joined the Super League, would howl in agony and pain: how, you’re ruining it? And they were going to laugh at that. They were going to say, you just jealous because you’re not in it. What they never thought about for a second was that their own fans, Liverpool fans, Arsenal fans, Manchester United, would be the ones who would rise up like peasant farmers with the agrigarian equipment and storm their own grounds, stop their own teams from taking to the field by preventing the busses from parking. And in terms of globalization and locality, the greatest tension facing these mega brands, because they are global brands, is that they have two audiences. They have the audience like you and me, who love watching. We love getting up at 7:30 in the morning. We complain about it, but we love, hey the Premier League’s on, that’s cool. Buy a shirt. Let’s get a Spurs tattoo. Wicked, wicked. That is the future of football. But there’s still the multigenerational family that travels with Spurs, goes every game, travels all over England—they fail and the American owners underestimated their own stakeholders and how they deeply believe not just in their own team, but in the whole system, their own tradition and the heritage, and that right now is the only hand break to prevent it from happening again. If they were not so shell shocked, blindsided, a massive, massive blind spot, a terrible ownership decision—just stakeholder who doesn’t understand their own product. If they were not so blind-sided, this would happen again in a heartbeat. I imagine it is the future. I hope that it’s way after my lifetime, but I have no doubt that it will happen again for financial reasons. But next time—this is why it reminded me January 6th, because when I listen to Crooked’s other pods, you’re always talking about how they’ll come back smarter, more informed, more strategic—I imagine that will be the case here.


Renee Montgomery: OK, so before this—in full disclosure, I’m not a huge, huge soccer fan, but I played in high school and I know a little bit about it. But before we let you go Rodger—


Rodger Bennett:: You know about as much as me, then.


Renee Montgomery: OK, cool. Listen, I’m in Atlanta United all-day fan, like fan like all day, you know, like that’s me all day.


Rodger Bennett: I love. I love.


Renee Montgomery: But I’m a free agent when it comes to the Premier League. So help me out. Let me know who should I be rooting for in the EPL? You got to let me know. I just, coming from you.


Rodger Bennett: Renee, Renee, can I just tell you, Atlanta United, is one of the joys— made a film about African-American fans of Atlanta United for ESPN, and I loved every single second. Just the film began, we with a couple of incredible human beings, just they all had the same message. It was like, they said, you know, I used to think that sport was where you hit it, punched or drove it in from the five yard line, like soccer, and they then, you know, the old classic derision of soccer. But that club, the culture, the fan culture, the fan first culture around that club, the distinctively singular, grounded-in-Atlanta tradition that is so joyous and so unbelievably beautiful and meaningful. I know the club is having a slightly shaky time teething problem at the moment, but my God, I have though in lockdown. I miss America so much. I miss traveling around. More than any city, Atlanta is the jewel that I cannot wait to get back to you. So you’re doing great with that club and that culture and that, just that beautiful, beautiful, beautiful fan base that I miss something terrible. But you’re asking me a question that I fear for your safety in that—


Renee Montgomery: Maybe the answer is no answer!


Rodger Bennett: No, Renee, I just want to be honest, because you seem like an incredible human being and I care for you. And I was on Tommy Vietor’s podcast. God love him. I’m also super fond of that human being. He just seems to be so bloody earnest and joyous and deeply emotionally intelligent, and there’s his flip question he said to me at the end, he’s like, what club should I support? And he told me he does cheer for here and all that crap. I live for Everton football club. I believe me, I have four kids. I made them all Everton fans. It was really hard because Americans love winners and Everton don’t win a lot. And my wife said, what the hell are you doing making them Everton fans? And I’m like, I believe—and she’s like why would you do that? You made them Chicago Bears fans and Everton fans! And I’m like, it’s great, life is hard, life is challenging, life is filled with darkness. If you’re an Everton fan, you know that and you also know when the moments of joy come around, you celebrate them, you revel in them. You dance as if you’re at your own kid’s wedding. Which is how ultimately sports is important for life. And I would recommend this to you. And I hope, I really do hope Renee that we can share this [unclear]. But I’m telling you this because Tommy goes and takes this advice and on Twitter starts being like, hey, I’m Everton, who do we hate? Who do we love and who do we hate. And I’m watching him and he’s like who do I, you know, he’s like getting into on Twitter. And I’m like, Tommy, I love you, for your own sake.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Be careful.


Rodger Bennett: I don’t know what, I love your Joy. I love how in to it you are. People are sending him jerseys and all that kind of thing.. And he’s like all in. I would not be surprised if next time I go to L.A., I see Tommy and he’s now going to Everton in Gangsta crip written around his belly button. But I’m just saying, just, I would engage with it with slightly more care than Tommy V> is engaging with. I’m worried for Tommy V.


Renee Montgomery: OK. I’ll take that. I’ll take that in one last question. Notting Hill is my favorite movie, like one of my favorite movies.


Rodger Bennett: Why is that, Renee?


Renee Montgomery: Because I love rom coms. I love Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, you can’t go wrong with him, I love his accent and I love the storytelling of regular human, everyday human meets superstar. What happens? That’s why it’s my favorite. I watch it all the time. But do people in England actually like the movie? I have to ask, because I just, I’m curious,


Rodger Bennett: You said, you’re asking me to speak on behalf of a nation.


Renee Montgomery: The whole nation. Yes. It’s on you!


Rodger Bennett: This is what it feels like to be the queen, where you get to just like address the rest of the—but the real reality is the one true queen is Tracy Chapman. So I don’t actually believe in Queen Elizabeth. So like, I do want to move away from speaking on behalf of the entire nation. Yeah, I was here when that movie came out. And so I think Hugh Grant has gone through like the—in England, and this is in my book— we don’t, you know, there’s a thing that says, and this is another thing about America that did draw me to it originally, if you give your average English person the choice between their own success and your failure, they’ll choose your failure every single time. So like, so I think they’ve gone through a cycle with Hugh Grant. I think. I think. I’m not 100% sure. But I think like they liked him to begin with charm’ish, rakish, rogue, and then he got a bit big and then they decided to hate him and he helped them. He did help them hate him.


Jason Concepcion: He did help. Absolutely.


Rodger Bennett: I think he, I think they hated him. But I think he’s kind of, I think he’s gone through that hate. And then if you, to paraphrase my Mother Teresa, she’s talked about in life, you got to love and love until you can, until you reach the point where you can’t love anymore. In England, if you hate somebody and hate them until you can’t hate them anymore, they actually emerge to the other side. And, you know, you’re not so bad. I think he’s come back. So I imagine their love of that movie kind of waxes and wanes. And I will say, I will say Julia Roberts is forever, right?


Jason Concepcion: Forever. Forever.


Rodger Bennett: Am I alone in that?


Renee Montgomery: It’s not it’s not up for debate. That’s why, I had like I thought this was a home run. I didn’t expect that type of answer. I thought that this had to be a home run in England. So I understand now. To me, you are perfect and my wasted heart would love you. I’m just a girl standing in front of a guy asking him to love you. I love all of those rom com. So, yeah, that’s all I like, had to find out.


Rodger Bennett: So all I will tell you, Renee, just love Everton football club. You love Everton Football Club by the end of this half as much as you love Four Weddings and a Funeral, and there’ll be a lot of funerals unfortunately with Everton Football Club—if you love Everton Football Club half as much as you love those rom coms, then this has been probably a life changing podcast for all of us.


Jason Concepcion: He’s an author, broadcaster, producer, and the co-host of Men in Blazers. His new book, Reborn in the USA: An Englishman’s Love Letter to his Chosen Home is available now. Roger Bennett, thank you for joining us.


Rodger Bennett: Oh, Renee and Jason, honestly, it’s been a total joy. To you, to the success of your podcast, to both of for your health, happiness, courage.


Renee Montgomery: Thank you, Roger.




Jason Concepcion: You know what that sound means, it’s time for buzzer beaters when we talk about the stories and the things that we didn’t cover in the show because of time. Renee. What do you have?


Renee Montgomery: All right. So listen, this week starts the opening performance, it’s not opening night, but Broadway is back, baby! And I’m so excited there, the Broadway play that I’m a producer on is called The Passover. People might know it because Spike Lee directed the movie of The Passover. But, you know, Antoinette—and I wanted to just say this because she did a little unique thing. I actually just came from New York and got to go to the theater and see some stuff so I’m really excited for people to see it. But Antoinette had just a really cool statement that she said: and she said, I want to offer an ending that will help heal people and will bring joy and beauty and laughter and a little bit of grace and a little bit of Afro futurism to any audience member, regardless of their race. So this is one of those in-your-face type of Broadway plays that if you know the movie that was directed by Spike Lee, it’s just taken from that and building on it. August 4th is when it starts. Performances start August 4th at the August Wilson Theater in New York on Broadway. Check it out, people. We have to support the arts. So I’m excited that that’s coming back.


Jason Concepcion: That’s awesome. I’m going to talk about, you know, I had a hectic week last week, a lot of work, working late hours. I didn’t have a lot of breaks. When I had those breaks, I wanted to use them efficiently to feel like I was traveling, to feel like I was moving around. Flight simulator, the video game, has finally been released for Xbox. And this game, I don’t even know how they did this. I think they use like real time satellite data. Anyway, like I flew over my mom’s house.


Renee Montgomery: What!?


Jason Concepcion: My mom’s house is in this game. My mom’s house is in the game. Like you can put in an address, find the coordinates, find your apartment building, the place where you worked, your uncle’s house, whatever. And more likely than not, it is there. My mom’s house is in. Like, and it looks like my mom’s house. I flew over my apartment. It’s in the game. I flew, I’ve been flying over my friend’s house.


Renee Montgomery: Jason, I’m sorry. But this feels concerning. I feel like privacy, I don’t know. I feel like—


Jason Concepcion: It’s my mom’s, It’s my mom’s house. And I was very careful, I streamed the game the other day and I was very careful not to fly over anything that is personal to me. I just flew like from, I think I flew from Paris to London. But it is, I just set it on autopilot and I’ll just fly over a landscape and that’s it, and I’ll just work while I look over and just watch the little plane that I’m flying. And it’s very calming.


Renee Montgomery: What?! That’s crazy.


Jason Concepcion: Are there privacy issues that I think are, that arise from this video game? Yes. Yes, I think there definitely are. Could you, for instance, if you were like a bad person, could you scout a neighborhood where you going to do bad stuff? Yes.


Renee Montgomery: See that’s, that’s what’s—Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: I think that you could definitely do that. I think you could do that. That said, if you are a good person, and I know there are a lot of good people out there, it’s a very calming game and very fun to play.


Renee Montgomery: Wow.


Jason Concepcion: If you’re a bad person, just don’t listen to what I just said. Just ignore everything I just said and don’t listen to it, and stop listening to this podcast.


Renee Montgomery: I’m scared. I’m scared!


Jason Concepcion: Well, that’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus my digital series, All Caps, NBA.


Renee Montgomery: All Caps!


Jason Concepcion: It airs every Friday. Check it out. Good bye!


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, Elijah Cohn 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.