NFL Hiring Practices, “Access Journalism” & Take Survivor | Crooked Media
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April 12, 2022
NFL Hiring Practices, “Access Journalism” & Take Survivor

In This Episode

Jason talks to Robert Mays (The Athletic) about coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joining Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL. Shalise Manza Young (Yahoo! Sports) discusses access journalism in the wake of Dwayne Haskins’ sudden death. And Take Survivor is back, where we settle what the best championship award is, with: Wosny Lambre (The Ringer), C.J. Toledano (Follow Through Media), Dave Schilling (LA Times) and our very own Elijah Cone (Crooked Media).


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Shalise Manza Young: Journalism at the end of the day is holding powerful people to account. And if you’ve entered into some agreement, that means that you can’t ever do that, then you’re not a journalist, you’re a public relations person.


Jason Concepcion: Hello, it’s Jason Concepcion, and we have another fantastic show for you on the Takeline program this week where I’ll be talking to Robert Mays of The Athletic about developments in the Brian Flores case and just where we are with that right now is that Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL, and Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports will talk to us about access journalism in sports. And what are the pros, what are the cons. And then a triumphant return for Take Survivor a star studded Take Survivor with Wosny Lambre of The Ringer, C.J. Toledano of just succeeding at sports media in general and Follow Through Media. Dave Schilling of the L.A. Times and our very own Elijah Cone will be taking part in a rollicking game of Take Survivor. All that and more. So no time to wait. Let’s go ahead and get in my conversation with The Athletic’s Robert Mays.


Jason Concepcion: The Brian Flores suit is evolving, NFL coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, who’ve been coaches for many years in the league, have joined Mr Flores’ suit in Manhattan federal court alleging racist hiring practices by the NFL. But while filling, coaching and general manager vacancies, Wilks and Horton have been coaching for many years, and Wilks is the current secondary coach with the Carolina Panthers. So now we want to welcome in Robert Mayes, my old compatriot Robert Mayes from the Grantland days. Currently at The Athletic, where he’s the host of The Athletic Football Show and an NFL writer, of course, for The Athletic. To help us put all of this into context, Robert, it’s so great to see you.


Robert Mays: It’s so good to see you. I appreciate you having me on here.


Jason Concepcion: First, how are you? How are you doing, Robert?


Robert Mays: You know what? I’m doing great. It’s like 58 degrees today in Chicago. Saw a friend for brunch, took my dog for a walk. Like this is the time of year when we’re really locking in, so I feel fantastic. How you been?


Jason Concepcion: I’ve been good. I’ve been good. It’s crazy to think we were just like having the Grantland days. I felt like you were in L.A. and I was in New York and I got to L.A. and then you left L.A. So it was like we were ships passing in the night. But it’s great to be reunited with you once again through the through the magic of digital technology.


Robert Mays: I love when we were in the L.A. office at The Ringer. I’d walk past to the commissary to get food and you were always on the patio there, working on your own and just locked in. So sitting in a beautiful space. Not in that cramped, tiny office in a studio that I still don’t really understand why we worked there. And you were just really enjoying the outside and working hard. And I was always like, this guy. He’s he’s got it. He is totally in tune with where he needs to be.


Jason Concepcion: Well, I appreciate that, Robert. OK, let’s talk about this case. Tell us about these developments with Wilks and Horton. What are their allegations and any thoughts about how this could affect the ongoing litigation?


Robert Mays: So the Wilks part of this is not at all surprising. And I think when you’re looking at the landscape of the league and how Black coaches are treated differently, Steve Wilks is a pretty good test case, and I think he’s been brought up several times as we’ve had more theoretical discussions about this problem. And Steve Wilks was the head coach in Arizona for a single season. And then he was fired and then Kliff Kingsbury was brought in to replace him. And when you’re looking at this problem overall, I feel like Kliff Kingsbury has been kind of a lightning rod in that there are no Black Kliff Kingsbury’s in the NFL. Somebody who essentially failed as a college head coach, you know, losing record as a college head coach. He was hired away from an offensive coordinator job at USC to come be the Cardinals head coach. That doesn’t happen for Black coaches in the NFL. And I feel like that’s been brought up a lot. And it’s not surprising that Wilks brought forth his case that he was a bridge coach. He was essentially hired to be fired. And you can look at this year and an example of that in Houston with David Culley and how he was brought in for a single season. I think did as good of a job as he possibly could as the Texans head coach and was fired. And I think at the core of this problem is there are no Black Kliff Kingsbury’s and there are a lot more Black Steve Wilks and David Culleys, coaches fired after a single season, than we have with white coaches. On the Ray Horton side of this, the Ray Horton example is very similar to what Brian Flores brought forth. When talking about the Giants and that he has what he believes is evidence that before his interview even happened, the team that he was interviewing with had decided on who their head coach was and his interview was a sham in order to serve and facilitate the Rooney Rule. And I think if you talk to Black coaches around the league and I’ve done this and written about this in the past, they believe this happens all the time where you’ll be brought in for a head coaching interview just to check a box for a team just so they can satisfy the rule. It’s never a serious interview. It’s never something that a team is actually considering you to be a candidate, and coaches feel that all the time. And I think this is something that’s been talked about behind closed doors a ton, and this lawsuit is just brought it into the light even further.


Jason Concepcion: Regarding Horton, ESPN’s Kevin van Valkenburg had a report in ESPN this week that seems to me, and I’m not a I’m not a law expert, but it seems to me like essentially a smoking gun. It quotes former Titans head coach Mike Malarkey from a podcast that had taken place a year ago over a year ago. And the quote from that podcast is


CLIP: I’ve always prided myself in doing the right thing in this business, and I can’t say this through about everybody in this business. It’s a very cutthroat business, and a lot of guys will tell you that. But I allowed myself at one point when I was in Tennessee to get caught up in something I regret and I still regret it. But the ownership there, any Armstrong in her family came in and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016 before they went through the Rooney Rule. And so I sat there knowing I was the head coach and 16 as they went through this fake hiring process, knowing knowing a lot of coaches that they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that. Everything you need to do, and I have no chance to get that job.


Jason Concepcion: That seems pretty cut and dried. Malarkey was then asked to follow up and he essentially said, You know, everything I said in that pod is what I said and I stand behind it, but no further comments.


Robert Mays: It seems pretty damning. I don’t know about the actual legalities of it. And if you look at, again I’m not a lawyer, and I think that’s important to bring up here. But my understanding and Kevin Seifert from ESPN has put it in these terms as he’s done some explainers on the process, is that this lawsuit, they’re trying to prove one of two things as far as the legal action is that there’s been disparate treatment of Black coaches or there’s been disparate impact from a policy that currently exists in the hiring process of Black coaches. And I think I don’t know how this fits into proving that, but I do think that this is as damning as it gets when you’re looking for examples of how this has gone wrong and how the Rooney Rule is circumvented consistently throughout the NFL.


Jason Concepcion: The people who are being accused, the GMs, the teams that are being accused in the Flores case have been adamant that they’re not going to settle, they’re not going to back down against this. Any comments from the Cardinals and the Titans here, after Wilks and Horton’s allegations and them joining this litigation?


Robert Mays: Pretty boilerplate PR responses from what I’ve seen is that we stand by our process and we had a thorough search that was a wide net and we’re comfortable with how we went about this and what the results eventually were from both of those teams. I think the Texans had a similar response this week when Brian Flores added him to his list of teams that were involved in the lawsuit.


Jason Concepcion: What’s next for this? Like, I feel as if the NFL, it seems like, would like to get this, you know, out of the way as quickly as possible. At the same time, as we stated, you know, it seems like GM’s, execs, that are named in the suit, they really want to fight it. So where do we think we go from here and how do you think Flores will be able to, from what you know about him, balance his duties as a, you know, as a linebackers coach with the Steelers, with this kind of ongoing litigation that is so serious?


Robert Mays: As far as the actual legal proceedings, my understanding is that it’s a question of whether it gets to discovery because a lot of these lawsuits that have happened before legal action against the league, whether it’s Colin Kaepernick, others have not gotten to that stage. And if it does, what that could bring, I feel like, is something that’s certainly worth paying attention to. You know, on the Flores side of this and with the Steelers, I think that is another answer about where this goes from here. And I think that, you know, the league has tried to put even more levers into place to help this in the last year. And they just instituted a rule that requires every team to have a Black offensive assistant in order to kind of fill the pipeline with more candidates, stuff like that. But we’ve seen and even the Rooney Rule itself, and they recently updated it where you have to include two minority candidates to satisfy the Rooney Rule and that it really hasn’t made a difference. This is going to be about whether people in power around the league want to intentionally hire Black people want to go out of their way, but make a conscious decision to give more opportunities and to elevate Black assistants around the NFL. And I think if you look at the Steelers, it’s not an accident that Mike Tomlin is, as it went after the season was over. About two weeks afterwards was the Black coach in the NFL, and he gave Brian Flores a job.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Robert Mays: Brian Flores is on that, staff. And if you look at something that happened with the Bucs recently and how Todd Bowles is now going to be the fourth Black head coach in the NFL in Tampa Bay, that’s not an accident, either. If you look at what Bruce Arians wanted there all along was to bring two of his Black coordinators with him to that job, knowing he was eventually going to walk away and give them one of those positions. You can put as many rules in place as you want, and there are pipeline questions. There are issues with the offensive, not in terms of talent, coaching talent, but in terms of.


Jason Concepcion: There’s a lot of  talent, yeah


Robert Mays: where talent is elevated and what positions they’re elevated to. They’re four Black quarterback coaches in the NFL. There are four Black offensive coordinators in the NFL. Two of them call plays. That make up in a world where offensive football is a priority is going to prevent Black coaches from getting head coaching jobs. And we’ve gotten to a place now where you have to have people who are willing to say, I want to put my Black assistants in positions to succeed. I want to help elevate Black coaches around the league. And if that doesn’t happen, then you can create as many rules as you want and you can incentivize teams as much as you want. None of it’s going to matter.


Jason Concepcion: You know, the thing that’s interesting to me about this is you’re you’re a one of the smartest writers about this sport that is out there. You know, you understand all the advanced stats that I don’t understand that you write about them in a way that is really clear and engaging. I feel like I get smarter when I read your stuff. And when I think about this problem, it’s like to your point, there are pipeline issues. There’s a lot of talent there, lot of talented potential Black coaches, defensive coordinators, offensive coordinators, etc. But there there aren’t getting the opportunity. It feels like a GM or a team they could like almost hire a top to bottom almost all Black coaching squad, some of the most thoughtful and smart talent that hasn’t got an opportunity yet because to your point, these coaches aren’t getting into positions aren’t getting into the pipeline.


Robert Mays: We could have a five hour conversation about this and how we’ve arrived at this point. I think there are a lot of different factors in play and the intentionality of people in positions of power to hire Black. Black people is one of them. The amount of Black GM’s in the NFL and people in that room that are part of the head coach hiring process is part of it. There are now seven Black GM in the NFL. Six of them have been hired since 2020. Five of them in the past two years. That is progress. That is going to be helpful. You look at, but there are so many other things in question here. And I think if you look back at one of the most fascinating things to me is if you look at the head coach makeup in 2010, if you go back 12 years, there were significantly more. I want to say it was eight. I’m not sure the exact number, but about twice as many Black head coaches in the NFL then than there are now. And you can directly trace the amount of Black coaches in the NFL at that point to Tony Dungy, because Tony Dungy at that point had won a Super Bowl in 2006 and people were chasing Tony Dungy. Owners know what they want by what they see on TV. You know, these are people who they don’t have every single bit of the football detail when it comes to making these decisions. So they make these decisions based on what I want the next that guy. And Tony Dungy won a Super Bowl in 2006, and if you look at all of the Black coaches in the NFL from 2006 to 2010, right in that general range, almost every single one of them Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris, all of them directly worked for Tony Dungy or were on the staffs connected to those people. Now, owners around the league said, I want the next Tony Dungy, and they looked for that, and it led to a quarter of the coaches in the NFL being Black now. Owners around the league want they want the next Sean McVay. That’s what they want, that’s all they know. So there are no Black Sean McVay’s. There are no fast tracked young Black offensive play callers that are those hotshot Veuve drinking coaches in the NFL. And I think that’s another reason that it’s led to this. It’s coming from five different directions, 10 different directions, 15 different directions at the exact same time, and that’s why it’s so difficult to solve. The problem is because it’s so fragmented and there’s so many different streams, so many different holes that you’d have to plug to fix this. And it’s why no single rule is ever going to make it work. You can have and mandate the hiring practice of having one Black offensive assistant. Now that’s a requirement is the first hiring requirement in the history of the Rooney Rule. They’re trying to take big swings here, but ultimately you can only do so much with the rules to make this work.


Jason Concepcion: He is Robert Mays, host of The Athletic Football Show and an NFL writer for The Athletic. Rob, so great to see you.


Robert Mays: Great to see you too, man. I really appreciate having me on to do this.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, thanks a lot.


Jason Concepcion: [AD].


Jason Concepcion: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins was tragically killed over the weekend when he was hit by a truck as he was walking on a South Florida highway that led to a announcement by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who was the first to report the news, and the story quickly took a turn from there as various figures in the sports media Ecosphere reacted to what many felt was the callous way that Schefter characterized Mr. Haskins career and life. Professional athletes and reporters across the country reacted quite strongly, including me, who tweeted a thing that was maybe not the nicest, but also Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, Grizzlies star Ja Morant, Joe Haden and others. Lots to talk about here with the way that access journalism interacts with our idea of what real journalism is and Takeline is delighted to bring in Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports. Who’s also a professor at Emerson College teaching reporting and sports reporting to help us unpack all the issues involved with this, Shalise thank you for joining us.


Shalise Manza Young: Oh, thanks, Jason.


Jason Concepcion: OK, so take us through those circumstances and then the blowback around around Schefter’s tweet. And then let’s talk about because like, access journalism is just a fascinating beast that we all take part in that had while ignoring some of the more I think red flag type questions involved in the endeavor.


Shalise Manza Young: So it’s funny because I typically for my own mental wellbeing, I am not on Twitter, on the weekends or whatever.


Jason Concepcion: Smart.


Shalise Manza Young: days I have off. Yes. So I got a text message from one of my girlfriends on yesterday morning, Saturday morning that said, Oh my gosh, did you see this? And it was that first tweet from Adam Schefter that’s gotten so much attention. And I didn’t fully register to me at first the part where he sort of dismissed Dwayne Haskins.


Jason Concepcion: Let me quickly read it just so people know what we’re talking about. And this was later deleted by Schefter, we should say in fairness to him, but here is the tweet that was since deleted. Quote Dwayne Haskins a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida. Per his agent Cedric Saunders, Haskins would have turned 25 years old on May 3rd. So that is the tweet in question that places his struggles in the NFL ahead of the tragic news that he had lost his life.


Shalise Manza Young: Correct. Correct. I think that’s what, you know, initially I was just focused on. Oh my goodness, this young man died and then I re-read the tweet and it’s just like, you know, Hey, kids, your life has no real meaning if.


Jason Concepcion: You don’t make the NFL. Yeah,.


Shalise Manza Young: Right? And he did make the NFL. He made the NFL. He was a first round draft pick. You know, a lot of people said at the time he was drafted by Washington. A lot of people said at the time that it was a reach for them to have taken him in the spot that they did. Because of course, when you’re a high first round draft pick, like like he was like Dwayne Haskins was, there’s a lot of expectation that goes along with that. But to just in that moment, reduce him, as you said, mentioned the fact that he struggled. He made it to the mountaintop. He still made the NFL. But the fact that he struggled comes before the fact that this young man, not even twenty five years old, is dead just in the blink of an eye. It comes after the fact that he struggled, and I would like to point out, while the dragging of Schefter is completely warranted, there is a man named Gil Brandt, who I believe,.


Jason Concepcion: Well, that is.


Shalise Manza Young: Yeah, that’s a whole different. I almost don’t want to say the words, but we can’t leave Gil Brandt out of this discussion.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s go there just for a moment, because I think that that is the thing. Gil’s he’s a former Cowboys exec become sports radio personality, and this took place on NFL radio, on Sirius XM, where he’s a commentator, and his comments were simply beyond the pale in a way that is like much easier and much more simple to vilify because they’re just like, so awful. So, yes, go ahead.


Shalise Manza Young: Well, you know, I I want to paraphrase and I think Brandt said something along the lines of Haskins lived to die.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Shalise Manza Young: And in this two minute audio clip, he mentions that Haskins was told by Ohio State coaches do not leave school early. Don’t enter the draft before you’ve played some more for Ohio State. I guess Gil Brandt, maybe through the NFL, invited him to the draft, but Haskins said, No, I want to have my own draft party and charge $50 a head for people to come to his draft party. Those are the things that Gil Brandt cited as living to die. If you had said to me, you know, multiple DUIs, you know, there were allegations of drug. Something like that, OK, living to die, I guess. But how dare you? Like, there was nothing there and it was just terrible. And of course, there are people who are, well, he’s 90 years old and it doesn’t matter. And depending on how far we want to pull this out, Gil Brandt is he’s in the Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He remains a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector. And he is emblematic of the larger, you know, race problem in the NFL that yes, this is what you come down to, that this young man. He just kept talking about how dumb he was and if he had stayed in school longer, he would have been walking on the side of the road. And it just it was cringy, doesn’t even capture it. It was just it was horrifying.


Jason Concepcion: It was truly horrifying to the point where I actually couldn’t believe that the clip aired. Like where it. No producer at any point in time was like, OK, we just got to cut hard to commercial or something and just get this off the air and stop this from happening, right? Because it was great. It was truly unhinged stuff, you know, like purely unhinged. OK, let’s let’s think about Schefter for a second, because Schefter, I think he just signed a new five year, $45 million deal, which is a tremendously rich amount of money. And ESPN, certainly over the over the last couple of years, three years has really made a hard investment in this kind of access journalism with your acquisition of Adrian Wojnarowski on the NBA side, who does essentially what Schefter does. But for the NBA, Schefter has had various run ins in which he has, I would say, pretty fairly gone against many of the basic tenets of journalism. I think that he is just one of these tone deaf people. When we talk about this particular incident, like emotionally, I just think he doesn’t understand how his words go out, which I think makes him a very useful person for execs to leak information to, right? But yeah, what are the issues here at play vis-a-vis Schefter?


Shalise Manza Young: There are a lot. It’s funny. You mentioned how I teach at Emerson and I do teach a sports journalism class at Emerson. And last fall, when I taught the class, I think he may have come up four or five times because he’s been on a heck of a bad run. Very bad. Yes. In terms of there was an incident in the fall where we found out that he reached out to Bruce Allen, who was then the president of the Washington football team, and said, Hey Mister Ed, give this a look over. I let me know if I should change anything which is, you know, for those of us who believe ourselves to be real journalists and want to do the craft as as well as we can. That was a massive red flag. There was an incident where Dalvin Cook, the Minnesota Vikings running back, was accused. There was a situation and domestic situation between he and a woman, and Schefter, as he does, was just completely spilling it all from the agent side. Dalvin Cook agent side went if he or some assistant that he has had spent five minutes going into the Hennepin County, Minnesota, court records. You could have found out that there was far more to it than this random woman just trying to break into his house. There was accusations of violence by the woman on Dalvin Cook a couple of weeks ago, when Deshaun Watson is not charged in Texas, right? A grand jury did not file criminal charges against him. Deshaun Watson has been accused by twenty two women in civil lawsuits and a twenty third woman who’s not part of those lawsuits of sexual misconduct and sexual assault while he was supposed to be getting sports massages and Schefter. He basically I’ve said this before. He’s a stenographer. He’s a he’s a $9 million a year stenographer. Agents tell him what to say, and that’s what he says.


Jason Concepcion: Here is the Deshaun Watson tweet this quote. This is why Deshaun Watson from the beginning welcomed a police investigation. He felt he knew that the truth would come out, and today a grand jury did not charge him of any criminal complaints, essentially saying Deshaun Watson has been vindicated in not so many words


Shalise Manza Young: And he said after the fact. Because, of course, there was yet again blowback, Schefter said after the fact. well I was just giving it to you from the agent’s perspective, then you should have said according to his agent,


Jason Concepcion: Per per my sources. Yeah, yeah.


Shalise Manza Young: Right? Because it came across as though this was Adam Schefter capeing up for Deshaun Watson in this situation. And that’s not what you are supposed to be to be doing. You know, you mentioned, whoa, I don’t follow the NBA as closely as I know. You love it. Woj at least seems like he’s remembered that the players are human beings, and I think that’s where a lot of this Schefter stuff, especially yesterday comes into play on Saturday, is that whether it’s because it’s been a long time since he’s been in a locker room and been face to face with some of these players, and he’s just working two and three cell phones at a time to be an information merchant. He just seems to have completely forgotten, and he’s not the only one. You know,


Jason Concepcion: Of course. Yeah, right?


Shalise Manza Young: I was incredibly frustrated during the Colin Kaepernick situation when it first happened to see the number of white NFL reporters who have made their careers on the backs of chronicling a league that’s somewhere between 65 and 75 percent Black and going on Twitter or wherever they could to scream about this country allows him to make millions of dollars a year. So Schefter’s not at all the only one, but he has over nine million Twitter followers, as you, as we’ve said, makes $9 million a year. And he seems to have completely whether he’s tone deaf, as you said, whether he is just plain, not bright, as my friend Robert Klemko of The Washington Post said.


Jason Concepcion: I tweeted on Friday that, I’m paraphrasing my own tweet, but you know, just to let just, you know, in an interest of fairness, I tweeted that you know something to the effect of, I think Adam Schefter is just like a dumb guy. I think that’s the main issue. All of which is to say, some of my followers pushed back saying, you know, if it was a white player, if it was Tim Tebow who had passed away, I’m pretty sure that Schefter would not have begun his tweet with a litany of his career failures. And I think that that’s fair, and I’m not at all saying that white privilege and racial bias is not interacting in some way with Adam Schefter potentially being a dummy. But I think the primary I think the primary driver is that like he’s not the most curious man that has ever earned a tremendously gigantic paycheck reporting on sports.


Shalise Manza Young: And this is the problem to, you know, as we talked about with access journalism when you are as beholden to as many people as he is for information, you can never be critical of anybody at any point ever.


Jason Concepcion: Mm-Hmm.


Shalise Manza Young: And that’s the problem. You know, when I covered the New England Patriots for almost a decade for two different newspapers here in New England, and when you cover the Patriots, there is something that I called the program. And you can have this agreement with Belichick and his right hand man that they will feed you little bits of information and in exchange, you can’t ever really be critical of them. I would never have agreed to do something like that because for the decade that I covered them, they were very good. So there wasn’t really a lot to criticize them for. But that’s what this is. Journalism at the end of the day is holding powerful people to account. And if you’ve entered into some agreement, that means that you can’t ever do that, then you’re not a journalist. You’re you’re a public relations person. You’re working ostensibly for that person, you’re working on their behalf. And I think that’s what we get into with Adam Schefter. And to some extent, Woj and a lot of the the thing that’s scary is you see so many young people that they see that nine million. They see him everywhere,.


Jason Concepcion: That’s a tremendous amount of money.


Shalise Manza Young: And that’s what they want to do. And that’s that’s not journalism. You know you you’re supposed to be holding powerful people to account, whether it’s in sports politics, wherever the case may be.


Jason Concepcion: Let me take the devil’s advocate role here. I guess an NFL fan, a Schefter fan, a sports fan might say, OK, but this is not like we’re not reporting on Vladimir Putin here. You know, it’s the NFL like it’s fun on the weekends. If I get some inside information about how such and such free agent landed at such and such team, and that takes me behind the curtain, you know, big deal. Like who’s who’s it hurting? And if and if a reporter is trading some access for, you know, pumping the brakes a little bit on going hard on certain people, like, is that really a big deal? It’s just it’s just fun. It’s just sports. What’s the big deal?


Shalise Manza Young: To some extent, that is true. But then we get into situations like the Dalvin Cook situation,.


Jason Concepcion: Right.


Shalise Manza Young: Like the Deshaun Watson situation,.


Jason Concepcion: Right.


Shalise Manza Young: Where there is real victims, there are real victims in these situations and you’re completely minimizing, you know, we have a big enough problem in this country with people not believing women, right? And you are contributing to this idea that 22 women with remarkably similar stories.


Jason Concepcion: Yes.


Shalise Manza Young: In the case of Deshaun Watson. This isn’t one woman. This isn’t two women. It’s 22 women and the twenty third who told her story to Sports Illustrated, but it’s not part of the lawsuit. They all have very, very similar stories. And it took 22, 23 women coming forward, and most people believe that something happened. It did not rise to the level of criminality or there was not evidence enough evidence presented for him to face charges. But as I’ve written and as I’ve said, ask any woman in your life and she has endured some type of sexual harassment or sexual assault that did not rise to the level of criminality, but it has stayed with her forever.


Jason Concepcion: Mm hmm.


Shalise Manza Young: So I am almost certain that he harmed women. Will he be criminally charged with that harm? No. But Adam Schefter in tweeting the way he has in the Dalvin Cook situation, these are real things. You know, it’s not as simple as Tom Brady’s retiring or Bruce Arians is stepping away from coaching and going into the front office or whatever the news du jour is. And I would argue further on those points is. For my money, if I were a fan, he’s not adding context. You just see a tweet that says so-and-so has been traded from team A to team B. OK. Why were they traded? Tell me why. If I’m a fan of the team he’s leaving, if I’m a fan of the team he’s coming to. Why did they want to trade him? Is his contract coming up and they don’t have the salary cap to to pay for what they’re going to have to pay him? Did they draft the guy in the second round that had such a great training camp? He’s going to take the guy’s snack. So he asked, Can I go somewhere else?


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Shalise Manza Young: If you’re just telling me one line, you know, those are, of a certain age. Those kinds of transactions used to be in the back section of the sports pages in the newspaper when we were kids. You know, if you’re not adding context, I don’t understand. You know, I want context, you know, as a beat reporter, that’s what I was giving people was the Patriots did this. And let me tell you why, to the best of my knowledge, it happened.


Jason Concepcion: You mentioned your Twitter weekend breaks, which I think is a great thing to do if you have the ability to do it. You know, for me, I built my career through social media, so I understand fully that staying engaged is a necessity for a lot of people in the in the media space. Recently, the New York Times changed their social media rules, saying that, you know, essentially the reporters don’t have to don’t have to be online, don’t have to engage that way. You don’t have to share their stories that way anymore. I’m wondering with your professor hat on, what do you talk to your students about with regards to social media and how that can be used as a tool to amplify their work or to augment their work? Or how do you see it as a tool that works within journalism?


Shalise Manza Young: I think it can be great. You know, I think I started in Twitter in 2008.


Jason Concepcion: Mm-Hmm.


Shalise Manza Young: And you know, it was just a way for for me to build an audience, basically. Back then, I was at the Providence Journal. I eventually was hired by the Boston Globe, so I’m from a smaller paper to a bigger paper. And it was just a way for me to amplify my work. And if enough people are on Twitter than other reporters in other cities, if the Patriots were playing, you know, I don’t know the Texans, the coming Sunday, then Texans reporters might say, Oh, you know, Shalise wrote this story. Whatever the case may be. And so it brings more people potentially to my work. It’s just become such a slippery slope, and it’s become such a toxic place, largely. And it is. It’s really hard because it’s where I get some of my inspiration, you know, now.


Jason Concepcion: For sure.


Shalise Manza Young: I’m a columnist. Right now I’m a columnist. I focus on race and gender and sports primarily, and that’s where I find a lot of my ideas. But you have to be careful what you say. And initially, I felt like I could show personality on Twitter in a way that I wouldn’t in the newspaper, because that’s journalism. And yeah, you know, I’m supposed to be nuts and bolts and that kind of thing. But now I’m an opinion writer anyway, so it doesn’t matter as much. But I think younger journalists, the game has just changed so much because of the immediacy of Twitter, because of, you know, everyone wants to build a brand. Everyone sees Schefter and Woj, and they’re like, Well, I want to get there, and it’s like they took a long time to get to those places. And not everybody needs to have an opinion. Sometimes you have to put the work in. Yeah. You know, a lot of kids want to be Bill Simmons, and it’s like, Well, he even changed the game a little bit too, because he made it acceptable to write from a fan perspective and be completely biased. And don’t don’t be ashamed to be biased. So it’s really navigating such a funny, weird waters, you know?


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Shalise Manza Young: I feel lucky in a way that I’ve had a front row seat to all of it, you know, when I started it, the newspaper. It was just the newspaper. And then there was this weird thing called blogs. And then it became over publishing the paper online first. And some people are going to get the print section, but a lot more people get it online and Twitter comes in play and it’s the immediacy of it. And I think people have just forgotten that the stories, the thing, the relationships are the thing and in a lot of ways to bring it full circle with our conversation. It is. We’re all access journalists in a way because we need people to give us access to their lives, to their thoughts, to data, whatever it is to write our stories. It’s just a journalist has to. At the end of the day, regardless of the relationship you have with somebody, say, Look, if you screw up.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah


Shalise Manza Young: I have to write that you screwed up because you screwed up.


Jason Concepcion: Right.


Shalise Manza Young: You know, I can’t cover for you. And I think that’s what a lot of people have forgotten. You know, and in the case of, like Schefter, he’s so beholden to so many people to keep that nine million dollar a year job that you can’t be critical of any agent, any front office person, any player. And know what you leave in your wake is women who are potentially, you know, sexually assaulted by a quarterback.


Jason Concepcion: Shalise Manza Young is a Yahoo Sports columnist who’s covered the Patriots for decades. She teaches sports and reporting at Emerson College, where she’s been a member of the faculty since 2016. Shalise, thank you so much for joining Takeline.


Shalise Manza Young: Thanks, Jason.


Jason Concepcion: [AD].


Jason Concepcion: Oh. You know what that sound is, it’s time for Take Survivor, the game where only the strongest take wins. Joining us on the Take Survivor Island today, he is a culture and NBA writer for What a great website. He’s also a co-host of the Count The Things podcast. He is Wosny Lambre. Wos, how are you?


Wosny Lambre: I’m good, man. It feels amazing to be on this show as I was the cheap replacement for Jason Concepcion on The Ringer. Vaguely NBA.


Jason Concepcion: No, no no hold on.


Wosny Lambre: I was. I’m a staff writer, but I’ve never written a damn thing for the website.


Jason Concepcion: You are not. You are not the cheap replacement. Its you and four other people, it took four to replace me. Up next is the writer director, founder of Follow Through L.A., a writer for television for various other screens. He is the super funny C.J. Toledano, one of the great Filipinos in media. C.J. How are you?


C.J. Toledano: I’m great. Well, so I don’t know how I didn’t get in contention to replace Jason?


Dave Schilling: Did you apply?


Jason Concepcion: Too expensive.


C.J. Toledano: I did not apply. I thought it was just a straight up transaction. They had four people to replace Jason. I’m right there. But hey, listen.


Jason Concepcion: He is a contributing writer for The L.A. Times, folks. The L.A. Times. It’s big time, baby and The New Yorker. For anybody that’s drinking a cup of tea with their pinkie out, you’re probably reading a Dave Shilling column right now. He is the wonderfully dressed David Schilling. David, how are you?


Dave Schilling: David is what my mother calls me.


Jason Concepcion: I’m sorry.


Dave Schilling: It’s OK, I’m Dave.


Jason Concepcion: When I see it,.


Dave Schilling: If you Google David Schilling, You get like an Air Force captain or something, you have to Google Dave Schilling to get me.


Jason Concepcion: Excuse me, Dave. He is. Dave,.


Dave Schilling: Thank you.


Jason Concepcion: Schilling. And he is finally the director of video development at Crooked Media, a former producer on this very podcast. A many time contestant of the Takeline Island Take Line Survivor Island. He is Elijah Cone. Elijah how are you?


Elijah Cone: Jason, I’m great. It’s great to be back. And I got to say, looking at this segment on fresh eyes, no one ever asks how you are, how are you doing, Jason?


Jason Concepcion: I’m doing. I’m hanging on by a thread. Let’s move on. Here’s how this game works. We’ve got three rounds, three prompts. First round, I will ask the question. Their contestants will give their takes. And then everybody here, including our super producer Zuri, will then vote on who had the worst take and that person will be ejected from the island. We repeat that for round two. But of course, I rejectees remain part of the voting pool, and they will also vote on who’s take be sucking. And then we get to the third round, at which point is a head to head matchup to see who takes the the survivor crown. We’ll be voting for the winner. Is everybody ready?


Wosny Lambre: Yes, sir.


C.J. Toledano: I’m ready.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s start with our first prompt. What is the best signifier of victory? Is it the Masters green jacket? Is it a trophy? Is it a ring? Is that is it that big like serving plate they give you at Wimbledon? What is the best way to signify victory? Let’s start with you, Elijah Cone. Elijah, what’s the best way to commemorate a championship? A victory? What have you?


Elijah Cone: I mean, in the spirit of the day, I’m going to have to go to the green jacket at the Masters. It is, as far as I know, the only wearable trophy. It’s definitely the most iconic. You can walk into a room full of other professionals wearing that thing casually, and it’s like a huge flex that doesn’t seem like a huge flex. You don’t have to hoist it anywhere. It’s nice that the last winner puts it on you. It’s a classic. The Green Jacket at the Masters.


Jason Concepcion: Elijah Cone says the Green Jacket wearable, and when when you say wearable, I think you mean wearable like in an everyday context, like you can’t just walk out with like the intercontinental belt like on. You go to right.


Wosny Lambre: You can’t do a Rasheed Wallace,.


Jason Concepcion: Right? That’s what you’re saying. OK, let’s go up next. Dave. Dave Schilling, Dave, what is the best way to commemorate victory?


Dave Schilling: You cued me up perfectly. This is a wearable. This is something that signifies excellence. Let’s go. The world heavyweight championship belt. First of all, this is from my fantasy football league and the nameplate, says Mr Ask A Wrestler, which was my team name. There is gold, rubies, diamonds. You wear it like a jacket, but it’s just like a trophy. And it is gorgeous. It’s expensive, it is gaudy. I can wear that to a board meeting. I could wear that to the beach. Just my speedo and a championship belt. No one’s going to stop me from doing that because guess what? They know I’m the champ.


Jason Concepcion: I love it, Dave. Let’s go to C.J.. What’s the best way to signify victory, a championship?


C.J. Toledano: Well, so I’m definitely not going to go masters because I had to have my white lady, Indianapolis wife explain to me how golf works, so I’m not even. I’m a thirty five year old who’s worked in sports for a decade. I was like, How? Is this a new course? What’s going on? So definitely not going with the green jacket. I could buy that at J.Crew. So not that significant. So I will say, and I’m a bootleg connoisseur, not official, you know, so I’m thinking about other merch, other things that people are wearing to celebrate. I’m going to go with the Jeff Hamilton jacket because we’re seeing that, you know, started in the 90s with Jordan, the Bulls. And then we got Kobe back to back just the iconic holding that trophy in the in the shower and locker room. To me, that’s you’ve done it. You’re at the top of Everest and you’ve won your Championship. So I’ma go, Jeff Hamilton, a guy who didn’t know what the NBA was when he entered fashion design.


Jason Concepcion: And finally was Wos. What’s the best way to commemorate a championship?


Wosny Lambre: Man, I can’t believe I got the last pick and I got to pick this. To me, it is definitely the ring, one, because it’s gaudy and it’s gold. And I’m Black, like, this is actually my culture, so I can do this every day. There’s certain people you can’t rock a ring like that all over the place, but I’m not talking about Run DMC, Dookie gold chains, all of that. I’m taking it back to Mansa Musa. Dave, I’m taking it back centuries. We’ve been doing this gaudy jewelry stuff. So for me again, as you guys can tell, I’m Black. I got to go with the big old gaudy championship ring because I’m rocking it every day and I’m reminding you that I am number one. I’m the champion and I came to stunt on your ass.


Dave Schilling: You know what else is gaudy? A championship belt. You see the Rock? He’s Black. He wears one all the time.


Jason Concepcion: I love the energy. Let’s go to the voting, folks. Are you ready? We are going to the voting rounds. So everybody here DM me directly your votes for who you, you believe, had the worst take in the opening round of this. Yet another thrilling episode of Survivor. Who’ll it be? Will it be? Elijah Cone who says, man, I just want the guy who I vanquished to put my clothes on for me. I want to. I wanted to put the jacket on my shoulders. Will it be Dave who says the championship belt? Yeah, you can go. You can go anywhere with it. You can drive with it. You can go and get in the shower. You go to a meeting with a with a two foot wide, gold encrusted diamond and ruby encrusted championship belt will be C.J. who said, man, you know Jeff Hamilton. He defined the look of somebody who wanted to wear a jacket that had all 30 NBA team logos on it and who. And it’s iconic. And you know, you were a champion when you wear that leather and and cotton jacket that has so many colors in it that you actually have a seizure. Or will it be Wos, who says. Let’s take it back to the to the beginnings of human culture.


Wosny Lambre: Yeah, yeah.


Jason Concepcion: It’s about jewels. It’s about jewelry, it’s about diamonds, it’s about gold. It’s about all that beautiful shit that you wear on your body to signify that you are elite, that you are special. Votes are coming in now. And let’s see, we have one vote for Elijah. We have one vote for C.J.. We have another vote for Elijah. Oh, another vote for C.J.. It’s two two two Elijah, two C.J. And then the final vote for one’s folks. We have a runoff. Here’s how this works. Everybody can vote again, but you can only vote for either C.J. or Elijah to be voted off the island. Send me your votes now. Send me your votes. Now it’s either C.J. or Elijah. And here we go. This is very exciting, folks. And at a score of score of three but it’s OK because he’s done for a vote of four to one. Elijah, you have been eliminated from the island. Kicked off the island at round one. What do you have to say?


Elijah Cone: Well, much like the masters, me getting eliminated early in Take Survivor is a tradition unlike any other. Back here,


Wosny Lambre: Elijah, I will. I will say this, though I voted for C.J. first. But his pick was so horrible I said, I want him to keep on going. So I voted for Elijah when it was a tie.


C.J. Toledano: Entertainment its for the


Elijah Cone: I appreciate the gamesmanship.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s go to round two. Here we go round two. We are taping this on a Sunday. It is final day of the NBA regular season. We’re moving into the play in portion of the playoffs. The play in this will be the second year of the play in the the new mini tournament that the NBA put in in order to curb tanking late in the season. Create some excitement. There’s also talk of a mid-season tournament. Adam Silver has been talking about that for many years recently. Talk about that is kind of like kicked up to another level. And of course, you know, there has been conversations about how there’s just too many games in the NBA regular season and that’s been going on for 10, 20 years a long time. All of which is to say, how do you fix it? What is the how do we fix the NBA season, the structure of it? Do we go to less games? Do we go to a Premier League type? Every game counts and you get three points for a victory type structure? And what do we do? How do we fix the NBA season? Let’s start with you Wos. Wos how do we fix the NBA season?


Wosny Lambre: I think especially as it pertains to tanking, I think the best thing would be to get rid of the draft period. And not make it a straight up free for all in the sense that rookies get to go wherever they want to. But I think every team should get a certain allotted amount of money that they can give to a rookie. If you say I want to use all of my money on Chet Holmgren or I want to break it down into three because I got three guys that I think are sleepers or whatever, and you interview them and you caught them and they caught you back and people choose who the hell they want, and you show how much you want the person by how much you’re willing. How much of your resources are you willing to to give to them, et cetera, et cetera. All this draft crap. When we got to pretend that it’s great that Orlando sucks for the 70th year in a row and they get to run some next young guys career because they’ve been incompetent for the last decade, plus, I don’t understand how this makes any sense. It’s un-American. It’s ridiculous. Get rid of the draft right now.


Jason Concepcion: Vivek Ranadivé somewhere in Sacramento grabbing his stomach as he suddenly struck by strange pains in his liver. C.J. How do we fix the NBA season?


C.J. Toledano: I think in the play in, now we’re about to miss LeBron. We’re about to miss some superstars in the playoffs, but the people who people tune in to watch. So I’m thinking, let’s put the remaining NBA superstars on one of these playing teams. Let’s get LeBron on the Spurs. Let’s get Dame on the Pelicans. Let’s get Julius Randle on the Hawks. Let’s really.


Jason Concepcion: Thank you for that. I really appreciate that. I really appreciate. Thank you C.J. I really, really appreciate that. That kind of like bald faced flower that you laid at my feet here. But continue. Sorry.


C.J. Toledano: No. I mean, that’s really all I got. Let’s, you know, let’s put Jalen Green also on the Knicks just going to double down on giving everything to Jason here. But I miss these superstars. It’s a superstar in the league. Let’s continue to protect them.


Jason Concepcion: I agree.


C.J. Toledano: Let’s continue to give them the exposure. That’s my recommendation.


Jason Concepcion: I love it. If we can have more superstars in our life, certainly in the postseason. I think that that’s great. Let’s move on now to Dave Schilling. Dave, how do we fix the NBA season? How do we make it better?


Dave Schilling: I agree completely with C.J.. You want to have the superstars in in the playoffs. You want to have everybody get a chance to show what they can do, but don’t do this allocation thing where now you’re putting like LeBron on, you know, the Spurs or something. That’s that’s absurd. It’s ridiculous. Let’s scrap the playoffs completely as they are now and go to an NCAA style single elimination tournament. All 30 teams play. You got a one thirty.


Jason Concepcion: Wow.


Dave Schilling: Upset possibility. Imagine some team gets hot, some garbage franchise like the Pelicans just turns it on or like the Lakers, right? Let’s say LeBron and A.D. Could get healthy just for a couple of weeks. We’re good. We’re we’re the champion. Even though we barely won 30 games, wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t everybody love that?


Jason Concepcion: That is actually a really tantilizing idea, but let’s find out. Let’s find out what everybody here thinks, including the recently eliminated Elijah and our producer Zuri. Let’s go to the voting. Who will be the second person eliminated from Take Survivor today? Will it be Wos who says no draft? How about how about like any other job interview? Where if you’re interviewing job talented prospective job candidates, you offer them a higher salary, better benefits, a nice car like a bag of money, you know, buried in the park somewhere, it’s good enough for boring sex. Just like how, why or why not that? Will it be C.J. who says, Listen, we need to get the superstars in. Let’s put all the superstars on a play team and let’s just like, have fun with it. Let’s just like, do it for the ratings. You know, Adam Silver is legitimately like, racked up thinking about potentially having LeBron in the postseason right now, and he doesn’t have to deal with ABC in his broadcast partner is crying about like the lack of star power, and he would love that. Or will it be Dave Schilling who says like C.J. is correctly diagnosed the problem, but he’s misdiagnosed the cure? Here is what it is. May Madness. One shining moment for the NBA and we just go all 30 teams single elim in May into June. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? It’d be a gambler’s dream. Votes are coming in now and oh my God, it has happened again, folks. By a score of two to two, Dave and Wos are tied. So here we go again, everybody.


Wosny Lambre: Everybody gets to vote again, right?


Jason Concepcion: Everybody. Everybody is voting once again, including yes and voting again, either for Wos or Dave. Is voting for either Wos or Dave.


Dave Schilling: Wos, I voted for you. I’m sorry. Just wanted to let you know, straight up,


Wosny Lambre: wow, what a gut punch. Couldn’t see that one guy was coing


Dave Schilling: I’m always going to stab in the front. You know what I mean? That’s that’s how I do it.


Jason Concepcion: But I really do love how tight it’s been. This is the kind of stuff that has almost destroyed American democracy, but we’re dealing with it well by a margin of three to one. Dave, you have been eliminated from Takeline Survivor.


Dave Schilling: Oh, why? Explain yourselves. What’s the problem?


Jason Concepcion: I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, Dave. I’m as surprised as you. But it did happen. And that brings us to our final round.


Dave Schilling: One vote was for you.


Wosny Lambre: First a divorce now this Dave,.


Jason Concepcion: The exciting culmination of Take Survivor and the final prompt is this. Who should win the NBA MVP this season? It is by any, by any measure, essentially a three player race. You have Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP, who you know in the eyes of some is is merely the nerds pick. You have Joel Embiid, who almost single handedly lifted the Philadelphia 76ers through the season until their recent acquisition of the increasingly washed James Harden. Or that and then it’s, of course, a Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Star of the Milwaukee Bucks, who has previously won the award as well. Those are probably the three the three leading candidates for the MVP award, but could it be somebody else who should win NBA MVP C.J.? Let’s start with you who should win NBA MVP?


C.J. Toledano: OK, let’s break this down on how this award really works. Its storylines, right? You know, we can go numbers all day. And you know what? Embiid leads those number one center and most of those categories defensive points, obviously scoring title. Also dysfunctional Philly team only added James Harden to try to fix it, which for a week we were like. I think they did it, but Embiid still coming out on top. And let’s let’s let’s take a look at the storyline aspect. Joel Embiid has overcome his junk food addiction. He is. He really did his Rick and Morty addiction to play basketball at all levels necessary, needed to get far in the playoffs, which I think they have a real chance here. If James Harden and Embiid in that bench sort of clicked, I’m going to go with Embiid. They’ve never hovered below. Fourth, I don’t think once or for whatever stacked east Embiid all the way. Screw the numbers. I hate math. Don’t care about Jokic


Jason Concepcion: hate numbers as well. I love the take. Let’s go to Wos. Wos who should win NBA MVP?


Wosny Lambre: Since C.J. hates numbers so much, I’m going to go with this angle. Can a white man get a leg up in today’s society? Goddamnit, please. Nikola Jokic is the MVP. We need to get this racial essentialism out of our MVP race. We need to get it out of our politics, Jason. We. Listen. Nikola Jokic, who’s going to be the only two time Serbian MVP is the Ketanji Brown of Serbian basketball hoops ya’ll. Let’s get the numbers out of it. Let’s stop making it about color. Let’s let’s let’s give the white man a chance in the Black man’s sport in the City game. Jason, this me, this a man from the countryside.


Jason Concepcion: That’s right.


Wosny Lambre: Of Serbia. He’s not even from Belgrade, he’s not even from the city. Part this man. He’s an outsider. And let him get the MVP is better for society. It’s better for basketball as a whole. Give the white man a chance for once.


Jason Concepcion: For once.


Wosny Lambre: Even if he’s Eastern European. Give him a shot.


Dave Schilling: Can we clip that and put that out with no context?


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, no context whatsoever. OK. All right. let’s get to the voting to remind everybody we’re voting for the winner here. OK, so Zuri L.A. voting for the winner, who will the winner be? Will it be? Wos who says of Nikola Jokic. Still, he rises. Can we let a? Can we let a white European man finally succeed in this world? Will it happen? Will we allow that to happen? Or will it be C.J. who says listen its Joel Embiid in the In the Battle The Eternal Battle of Storylines vs. stats. Joel Embiid is the guy with the full complement of both sides. He has the storylines and the stats, and he’s carrying James Harden’s bloated body across the finish line. The votes are coming in now. And folks, oooh it is an exciting it’s an exciting battle here. OK. One vote for Wos. One vote for C.J. Another vote for Wos. Another vote for C.J. were tied again. And then the final vote in the deciding vote is for our winner of Take Survivor today. Sunday, April 10th, was Wos. Wos, you are the champion. Wos what do you have to say?


CLIP: This is my fight song *music playing* take back my life song


Wosny Lambre: Thank you. Thank you. I want to thank everybody back in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, as well as Queens Village, New York. I couldn’t have done it without all you people back over there. And I also want to thank Jason Concepcion for paving the way for loudmouthed New Yorkers.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s go.


Wosny Lambre: In this media thing. I love you, bro, for that. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.


Jason Concepcion: East 19th and Cortell, you stand up. Let’s go.


Wosny Lambre: Let’s go.


Jason Concepcion: That has been Take Survivor. See you next time.


Jason Concepcion: That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Take Line Show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus my digital series All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks by. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin, our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard engineering, editing and sound design by the Great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter four in our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kellman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.