Jurassic Hockey And Sticky Stuff, With Ray Ratto

It’s a truism that it takes a lot of work to make something like a casual hangout podcast sound and feel casual. It also happens to be true, and while most of that work is done by people other than Drew and me, we do some reading and preparing ourselves that is, if we do it right, hopefully something like invisible. I mention all this because this week’s episode was juggled at the last minute due to circumstances beyond our control, which meant that all of that stuff got done much later in the game that usual, and that Drew was not around for the recording. If I was going to be hosting it by myself, and off a rundown that I put together much more quickly than usual, I knew that I would need a co-host/guest who was patient, capable, forgiving, and knowledgeable. Ultimately, though, I just went ahead and asked Ray.

I kid, of course. Ray is all of those things, although he likes to conceal that fact from the general public so that people maintain a healthy fear of him. He is also someone who has done enough radio in his life that he could carry my goofy ass for a regulation-length podcast episode if it became necessary. And yet, especially given the chaos surrounding the recording—Ray is away from home and recorded most of his segment while sitting on a bunkbed in the spare bedroom of a friend’s home—I think it came out pretty strikingly normal, or at least like a decent facsimile of the sports-related parts of the phone conversations I have with Ray from time to time. I give a lot of credit to Multitude for that, and to Ray.

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But I will save a little bit for myself, because I was brave (or stupid) enough to ask about what was apparently a very compelling Stanley Cup Final despite not really having watched it myself. I knew that Ray had, though, and he did a great job explaining what was (and wasn’t) interesting about it, laying out why all my Canadian friends seem to despise Edmonton Oilers fans, and refusing to mourn what was lost when the NHL abandoned the lurid skankiness that defines my favorite hockey-on-film scene. Having as ardent a Canadaphile on staff means that Ray also helped run down the mystery of who, if anyone, is Canada’s answer to Stephen A. Smith, and how and why Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote managed to make himself the blood enemy of our neighbors to the North.

When that was done, I dragged things back onto my home turf, and the sports event that has captured the imagination of the nation—regular-season baseball, and more specifically the brief (and ongoing!) blip of competence that the New York Mets managed to Mets-ify when closer Edwin Diaz was busted with a horrifying gob of sticky stuff on his hand during Sunday Night Baseball. Much less of this conversation was about the Mets than it was about baseball cheating as lore, inevitability, art form, and an act of defiant, devil-may-care idiocy. A brief attempt to psychoanalyze Diaz came up predictably empty.

There was a bit of writer-chat after the break, as I asked Ray to talk a bit about his approach to writing his best-in-class tributes to players like Henry Aaron and Willie Mays, and then about Reggie Jackson’s bracing recent upending of baseball’s latest cynical use of its own history. And then, because Ray had to run and because the whole episode was essentially one long broken play, we fielded a Funbag question about the honing of useless skills—because it was a Funbag question, it pivoted around pee smells—and sent the episode on its way. We’re off next week, and Drew will be hosting without me the week after that. This, if nothing else, will give us plenty of time to plan out the next one.

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