There were more sports than usual on this week’s Real Time With Bill Maher. The episode-conclusing New Rules segment included a few jokes at the expense of NFL coaches. It’s understandable, given that we’re currently in playoffs season — see also: the number of Academy Award-related bits on Friday night’s show.
ESPN host (and author of the memoir Straight Shooter) Stephen A. Smith was Maher’s first guest on the show, where he brought up his recent fitness routine. “There’s nothing worse than being skinny with a pot belly,” Smith told Maher.
Maher raised the question a lot of people have when seeing the broadcast dominance of the NFL: namely, what got football to that point? From Smith’s perspective, it was the “masterful job” that the league had done in terms of “turning their sport into an event.” Smith argued that there were a few factors behind that, from the way that tailgates themselves feel like events to the way that the smaller number of games means that every one matters.
“You can lose a game in week two and it could detrimentally affect you come week 15,” Smith said. “You can’t really say that about any other sport.”
Maher returned to a subject he’s brought up before: that professional sports are one of the last places where everyone playing is there solely based on their skill. Alternately: there are no nepo babies in professional sports. Smith then pointed to Thanasis Antetokounmpo — on Milwaukee’s roster but not playing much — as one of the few exceptions.
That said, the future of Bronny James loomed over the discussion. Would the prospect of having LeBron James on a team persuade that team to draft his son even if they didn’t feel that he was ready for the NBA? It’s an open question — even if it’s likely to be impossible to replicate.
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Some other notable moments from the episode:
- In Maher’s opening monologue, talk of the Oscars turned to a discussion of the presidential election and Maher’s frustration at the lack of much primary drama.
- For this episode, the panel was comprised of Seth MacFarlane and Adam Schiff.
- Schiff on the Democrats’ needing to rally the youth vote for 2024: “We need people who can talk to young people — like you, Seth.”
- MacFarlane in response: “You know I’m 50, right?”
- As befits some of this week’s Oscars talk, the panel also featured Barbie discourse — and a broader conversation about whether or not the country is a patriarchy. “At the risk of alienating half of my fanbase, I think the 2016 election proved that it is,” said MacFarlane.
- Maher returned again and again to his gripe with Barbie — that the film’s fictional Mattel board of directors was all male, while the real-life Mattel board is much more diverse. Given that the fictional version of Mattel in Barbie also has — spoilers — a spare office occupied by a ghost, I don’t think the movie’s version of the corporation is intended to in any way reflect the real-life company. And yet, here we are.
- Schiff and Maher tussled over the issue of average pay for women versus men, with Maher arguing that he had done a deep dive into the issue. Later, MacFarlane took a playful jab at Maher, telling Schiff, “Look, he’s done a deep dive into women! Trust him!”
- Late in the panel, there was a heated debate over, of all things, comments on articles on social media.
- The bulk of New Rules made the case that Brazil’s constitution has better dealt with crises of democracy better than the one in the U.S.
- The segment included plenty of criticism of the electoral college, with some digs thrown at the shifting nature of media coverage on Election Night. Maher also made a bleaker argument as well: “We’re just a shittier people than we used to be.”