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The Money Will Not Shut Up, With Ray Ratto

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman at a press conference during the LIV event in Adelaide, Australia, in April of 2023.
Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

It is our privilege, as podcasters, to not really have to know what we're talking about before we start talking about it. Exercising this privilege is one of the great pleasures of my working life; I could never have dreamed that I would be able to count my (honestly unbearable) tendency towards holding forth windily on a topic I only faintly know or even care about, until the currents of the conversation bring things back around to one of the two or three things that I sort of know/care about, and then holding forth on those things as "something I do for work." Because pretty much every podcast is more or less like this, I don't even have to feel badly about it. I still do—this is another of my tendencies—but also I am just doing my job.

Sometimes, though, that tendency can come more in handy than others. Just as we were getting ready to record this week's episode on Tuesday, news broke that the PGA Tour and the hugely exhausting Saudi-backed upstart LIV Golf were merging, and that the erstwhile rivals would come together to become... well, no one really knows the answer to that part yet, and we for sure didn't know it on Tuesday morning. But Drew and I and special guest Ray Ratto did not let that slow us down. We are, after all, professionals.

In our defense, if such a defense even needs lodging, none of this has ever been especially hard to parse. As Chris Thompson has written, the PGA Tour was always both eminently corrupt and corruptible as an institution; as I have written, the bet made by LIV's Saudi backers was that a sufficient volume of money and the culture derangement that attends it would eventually do what it always eventually does. The sick feeling of it, give or take how oafish and uncanny and broadly weird LIV was along the way, was a familiar one—waiting to see just how long some obviously compromised, transparently valueless institution could cling to whatever vestigial sense of shame or propriety or purpose supposedly animated it. So we talked about that, and about what is probably a very bright future for this kind of atavistic power play in American professional sports, and about the political valence of the swaggering soft-power strategy that Saudi Arabia is pursuing through its investments in sports. This is both a way around not knowing the specifics of what's coming, here, and probably the conversation we'd have had even if we did know those specifics, because all of us are a lot more interested in The Rising Tide Of Shamelessness than we are in the fine points of what might or might not change vis-a-vis the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Does that sound like fun? Like a fun thing to talk about? If the answer is "no, not really," then you'll be glad to hear that we pivoted from that to talking about stuff with less ambient existential dread inherent in it. We discussed the troubled state of the Golden State Warriors and their wobbling attempt at a two-track rebuilding gambit, and also the ongoing relocation debacle centering around the Oakland A's, their hideous failson owner, and that owner's tragicomic attempt to wring some money out of two different cities that transparently don't appreciate it. It is one of Ray's many gifts that he can "get going" on just about any topic if given the opportunity, and the shameful, shameless, longstanding embarrassment that is Athletics ownership is one of his great areas of expertise.

After going from the dread of great and amoral wealth to the broad comedy of idiot rich guys trying and failing to execute advanced-placement dealcraft, there was only one place left to go—an appreciation of immobile 1990's NFL quarterbacks and then the damn Funbag. A good baseball question led to an even better Ray stories about some memorable workplace encounters with Barry Bonds, and then a consideration of the brutal, slow-working, ham-and-egger MLB pitchers that have occupied entirely too much of our lives. I don't want to give anything away, but if you were worried that we'd get through this episode without hearing the name Atlee Hammaker, I will tell you to rest easy.

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