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‘The B.S. Podcast’: Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman on Joe Lacob, Karma, and Chance

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On his April 5 podcast, Bill Simmons talked to Chuck Klosterman about the recent New York Times Magazine feature on the Golden State Warriors and their majority owner, Joe Lacob. In the piece, Lacob seemingly invites bad karma onto himself by claiming the Warriors are “light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things.” This prompted a discussion about the Warriors, of course, but also about psychic energy and the rules of karma. Read below for an edited and condensed transcript of their exchange.

Listen to the entire podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Chuck Klosterman: I gotta ask you one question quick, though. You posted that on Twitter, and you’ve just said it now. So when you talk about things like karma, is that sort of your media take, or do you actually believe?

Bill Simmons: I actually believe it. No, I genuinely believe it. I really do.

C.K.: OK, so what is your belief system then? Like, are you a spiritual …

B.S.: Oh, this is good. I like when you … I am a little spiritual with stuff like this. I guess I am. Because I’m not religious, but I think it’s bad form … well, first of all …

C.K.: No, it’s definitely bad form, but when you think of karma, what you’re actually saying is that there is — that in some ways, he intangibly has put the team at risk of winning the title.

B.S.: I do. I feel that way. Does that make me a crazy person? I honestly feel that way.

C.K.: Well, I’m not going to say it makes you a crazy person, but I’m wondering what makes you think that. Like, have you had experiences in your life that have validated this? Do you just feel like the universe must work this way? It only seems reasonable that doing something negative will bring negativity? Do you believe in crystals and shit like that? Or how about feng shui and the way your house is designed? Do you believe in that?

B.S.: I don’t believe in that. …

C.K.: Do you pray?

B.S.: I don’t pray.

C.K.: Ever? Even when the Giants were driving against the Pats in that Super Bowl?

B.S.: No. Who am I praying to? God’s gotta have better things going on than that.

C.K.: But yet you believe that there’s some force that’s interested in NBA ownership and how the guy acts to newspaper reporters. You think that that has a consequence. So that’s the thing. When people talk about God, they’ll be mad. … If you believe in a conventional God, I mean, he kind of cares about everything, right? Equally. He has unlimited bandwidth to care. So it’s like you could do this, but — I mean also praying for a team would essentially mean you’re praying against a team, in a weird way.

B.S.: Maybe this is all being shaped by all the experiences I’ve had watching sports and gambling in casinos. And it’s not rational at all. Is that possible?

C.K.: Do you believe in luck?

B.S.: I believe in luck.

C.K.: Do you believe some people are inherently luckier than other people?

B.S.: Oh, absolutely. I 100 percent believe that, and I don’t have any explanation for it. I do think some people are luckier than other people. I absolutely do. …

C.K.: I’m a huge believer that the biggest factor in my life has been chance. I think with most people, the biggest factor in their success or lack of success is chance. However, to me that’s very different than luck. Everybody will have certain chances where things will work or they won’t and their window will open — you jump through or you don’t. I just don’t believe, like, a leprechaun is making the decision. I don’t feel like there’s anything making luck happen.

B.S.: OK, but if you’re Joe Lacob, and things are going great for your team, and you’ve been really lucky with injuries to your top three guys, and things are going great, would you talk about this publicly and brag about it?

C.K.: He’s an arrogant person, but I don’t … I guess I don’t think that him doing this will impact whether or not they succeed. Unless, in a tangible sense, maybe Steve Kerr reads that story and goes, “Who’s this guy? My boss thinks he’s smarter than me?” Or maybe the players might be mildly offended if they read The New York Times. But I don’t think that there’s any cosmic aspect to it, or is that short-sighted? Am I being childish by trying — like, is this naive realism, that I’m saying basically the only information that exists is the information I know.

B.S.: I think this is almost like a religious conversation. You’re more pro-chance. I agree with you that chance is a major factor, but I also believe in obeying the rules of karma. And I don’t know why. I don’t really have a rational explanation for it.

C.K.: But see, that’s a belief in God. Like, a belief in luck is a belief in God. Because it’s a belief in a force — a supernatural force greater than yourself that can influence real activities.

B.S.: I’ve written about this before. Before the Red Sox won the World Series, I went to an Indians–Red Sox game once, and we basically needed to win the game to have a playoff chance — I think it was 2000. Nomar [Garciaparra] hit a ball, and it hit the very top of the wall. It seemed like it was going to be a homer. It hit as high on the wall as it possibly could without going over the wall, and it bounced down and he ended up getting a double. He was on second base with no outs and we were down by a run. All of us thought we were going to lose because the ball didn’t go over the wall. There were 35,000 fans in Fenway who were just convinced we were going to lose. And that was it. And we ended up not scoring and we lost and we didn’t make the playoffs. So what does that mean?

C.K.: Well, do you believe in psychic energy? Can 35,000 people with a bad feeling cause things on the field to happen or not happen?

B.S.: I think I do, because I was there, and I could feel the energy, and I think that’s kind of how I feel about this Joe Lacob thing. I don’t like the psychic energy from those quotes. The same reason, like, if I’m gambling at a blackjack table and I’m doing well, and some shithead sits down and starts doing some weird stuff at the table, I get up no matter how I’m doing. I don’t want to deal with that. So what does that mean?

C.K.: And not because you’re annoyed, but because you think that that player is bringing something …

B.S.: Yes.

C.K.: … to reality …

B.S.: Yes.

C.K.: … that will affect the sequence of cards that will come out of the deck?

B.S.: Well, did you see in that article Joe Lacob said he’s one of the best 10 blackjack players in the world? That was another one. I was like, how do you say that? It’s an insane thing to say. He’s never going to win again. But again, that’s karma. I don’t know.

C.K.: I just … [laughing]. That might be just a reflection of the way the guy talks. So maybe if the reporter had been like, “Oh, me and my wife play Scrabble,” I would be like, “I’ve never lost at Scrabble.” Maybe he just says things like that, so when they ask about his basketball team … yeah.

B.S.: Well, we’re going to find out. We’re going find out if karma exists in sports over these next two and a half months with the Warriors.

C.K.: But this will actually prove it? If the Warriors do not win the title: proof that karma exists. If they win the title: Karma is a sham. Well, this has been a meaningful podcast.

B.S.: This is it. We’re in the finals of karma — the championship finals of karma vs. chance.

This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on May 7, 2016.