Mary ROBINSON: I’m Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland. And you’re listening to Freakonomics Radio.
Jimmy GAROPPOLO: What’s up guys, I’m Jimmy Garoppolo and you’re listening to Freakonomics Radio.
Richard THALER: I’m Richard Thaler, and you’re listening to Freakonomics Radio.
Roger BENNETT: I’m Roger Bennett. You’re listening to the Acid Jazz Hour on Freakonomics Radio.
And I’m Stephen Dubner. Freakonomics Radio began as a little homemade show in early 2010. The first episode was called “The Dangers of Safety.” We looked at how football helmets — originally designed to prevent skull fractures — had done that job so well that N.F.L. players now use them as weapons. Which, if you’re a football player, can feel like this:
Quintin MIKELL: [From “The Dangers of Safety”] The first thing you get is everything starts to vibrate. Zzzz. Like you laid your head on your cell phone and put it on vibrate and someone called you. And your legs are like Jell-O. You’re trying to stand up. And your mind is trying to tell your body to do it, but your body and everything is disconnected.
The early episodes were an offshoot of the Freakonomics books I was writing with this guy:
Steven LEVITT: [From “Please Steal My Car”] Hi, this is Steve Levitt.
DUBNER: Levitt, what is your favorite thing about doing this podcast?
LEVITT: That you do all the work.
In the beginning, we used the podcast to expand on stuff we’d already written about…
DUBNER: [From “The Dangers of Safety”] What comes to mind, risk-wise, when I say the following things: shark attacks?
LEVITT: The biggest joke of all time.
DUBNER: All right: terrorist attacks.
LEVITT: The biggest waste of time ever.
DUBNER: How about the risk of something almost everybody does every day: driving your car?
LEVITT: Incredibly low. If nothing were to kill you except driving your car, and all you did was drive your car day and night, day and night, day and night, you’d expect to live for 250 years.
Then we started taking questions from listeners.
DUBNER: [From “Does College Still Matter?”] “Is college education no longer a factor or even a disadvantage when it comes to employment?”
LEVITT: I think that never has anyone made a statement more false. So of all the topics that economists have studied, I would say one we are most certain about are the returns to education.
DUBNER: [From “Can You Be Too Smart For Your Own Good?”] What about the problem of domain transfer, people thinking that because they’re very good or very smart in one arena, they kind of develop an attitude of confidence that, you know — people talk about this with doctors sometimes, called the God complex. You think that if you can figure out something out like the human body, you can figure out just about anything. Do you see that?
LEVITT: Oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing right now. You and I are good at one thing. You’re good at writing. I’m good at taking a pile of data and making sense of it. And we sit here and talk like we’re good at answering questions about whether we’re smart. I mean, it’s exactly what we’re doing right now.
Steve Levitt is a very bright guy. So I took his words to heart. I figured the podcast would be more useful — and, importantly, more fun — if, rather than talking about stuff we already knew — or, worse, not knowing what we were talking about — it’d be better to reach higher, to make the show a real thing. Exploratory. Data-driven. Surprising. Things you always thought you knew, but didn’t. Things you never thought you wanted to know about, but do. For instance: does more expensive wine actually taste better?
Brian DiMARCO: [From “Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?”] We did a tasting, brown bag. And we had the exact same wine in both bags. And we told them that one bottle was a $50 bottle and to write their reviews, and we told them the other was a $10 bottle, to write the reviews.
It turned out if you think a wine is expensive, you also think it tastes better. Otherwise, most people are just as happy, if not more so, drinking cheap wine. In another early episode, we wondered why so many low-income people play the lottery, which has dreadful odds, and whether anyone had a better idea:
Melissa KEARNEY: [From “Is America Ready for a ‘No Lose Lottery?”] So, a lot of Americans think the lottery is their only chance at winning big sums of money — why don’t we take that appetite for gambling and attach it to a savings vehicle that offers some positive return? It’s a win-win situation.
One listener who heard that episode set out to create a win-win lottery at the state level. Just last year, he finally succeeded. In Texas.
Michael GAUDINI: [From: “Is America Ready for a ‘No-Lose Lottery?’ (Update)”] Knowing that this had been a podcast that turned into an idea that ended up becoming a constitutional amendment, and that I had a piece of that thing that had happened. It was just super exciting.
One of my favorite early episodes was about something called the cobra effect.
Vikas MEHROTRA: [From “The Cobra Effect”] This is where you have a well-intended scheme, but instead of solving the problem, it makes the problem actually worse.
For example: when a government puts a bounty on pests — like cobras…
MEHROTRA: But the population responded by farming cobras.
Michael VANN: [From “The Cobra Effect”] The French think they’re really making a dent into the rat population. Then a few months later, one of the health officials is checking out one of these villages on the edge of Hanoi and discovered a rat farm. And the Vietnamese were growing rats, cutting off their tails and bringing them into the city to collect the bounty.
Over time, our little homemade podcast turned into a going concern. It came to occupy most of my working hours; sometimes most of my waking hours. Now it’s been eight years. More than 330 episodes. Roughly 10 million downloads a month. And, for me, a bottomless supply of fun and delight and discovery. I’ve gotten to speak with more than a thousand bright and interesting people:
Ben BERNANKE: [From “Ben Bernanke Gives Himself a Grade”] My name is Ben Bernanke, and up until February of 2014, I was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Christine LAGARDE: [From “Not Your Grandmother’s I.M.F.”] My name is Christine Lagarde and I am currently the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
ALLIE: [From “The Upside of Quitting”] The new job that I found was that I was a high-end escort. It paid somewhere between $350 to $500 dollars an hour.
Trevor NOAH: [From “Trevor Noah Has a Lot to Say”] Hi, my name is Trevor Noah and I’m a comedian and the host of The Daily Show.
Nate SILVER: [From “Nate Silver Says: ‘Everyone Is Kind of Weird’”] My name is Nate Silver. I’m the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.
DUBNER: [From “How Much Does Your Name Matter?”] Can you give your full name?
E JEREMIJENKO-CONLEY: E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley.
DUBNER: Okay, so E is your first name.
E JEREMIJENKO-CONLEY: The capitalized E.
DUBNER: Yo, can you give us your full name?
Yo JEREMIJENKO-CONLEY: Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley.
So, yes, lots of interesting people and ideas. But again: eight years; 330 episodes. I began to ask myself: What comes next? The way I saw it, there were three options. Number one: keep doing pretty much what we’ve been doing. This wasn’t all that appealing; I’m in constant fear of being bored. Option number two: do less of it, or maybe stop entirely. No way! I love doing this podcast, and I love you guys, our listeners. Truly. So that left option number three: turn up the volume. What if we tried to make Freakonomics Radio bigger, better — with more new ideas, new formats, new ways to explore the hidden side of everything? We knew we’d need some help to pull this off — so we went out and got it. Please give a warm welcome to our new production partner, Stitcher, one of the finest podcast purveyors in the land. Today on Freakonomics Radio: a preview of what we’ve got in store for you for the next few years.
* * *
To figure out where we’re going with this show, we first took a long look at where we’ve been. Especially the mistakes we’ve made. Like the episode about the carpal tunnel epidemic, which, for reasons I can no longer recall, featured a talking pigeon:
[Pigeon talk from “Whatever Happened to the Carpal Tunnel Epidemic?”]
A lot of our early episodes centered around the sort of question that most people have the good sense to not ask:
Chris BANNON: “How much does the president of the United States really matter?”
That’s Chris Bannon, chief content officer at our new home, Stitcher. This is a reunion for us and Bannon. We worked with him way back when, at our old producing partner, WNYC.
BANNON: That’s from November of 2010.
John ASHCROFT: [From “How Much Does the President Really Matter?”] Well, the president is, by far and away, the most important person from a governance point of view in the country.
Bernadette MEYLER: No. The president of the United States is not the most powerful person.
J.C. BRADBURY: I think the president is really just someone who is sitting in the co-pilot seat in a plane that’s already on auto-pilot.
BANNON: And that’s one of the episodes that I think was really a turning point for the relevance of the show to the broadest possible audience, right? These aren’t just narrow economics questions that we’re debating in some ivory tower. They’re really the questions that everyday people ask themselves, and that get very smart and well-researched answers.
We did find that whenever we talked to politicians per se, or people directly associated with politics, some listeners were bound to get agitated. We interviewed some Democrats — like U.S. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey:
Cory BOOKER: [From “The United States of Cory Booker”] First of all, how nice would it be to say, “there’s no black; there’s no white; we are all just shades of the rainbow, all equal,” and that sounds really nice. But we live in a society in which you experience institutions in this country very differently based upon your race.
And Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo:
Gina RAIMONDO: [From “How to Be a Modern Democrat — and Win”] Since I’ve been governor, we’ve had the money to triple the number of public pre-K classrooms in Rhode Island. We are, for the first time in a long time, fixing our roads and rebuilding our bridges. So yeah, we took the medicine. But now we’re investing like crazy.
After interviews like that, we’d get a bunch of emails calling us libtards. We’ve also interviewed plenty of conservatives, from this country and elsewhere.
Boris JOHNSON: [From “The Man Who Would Be Everything”] I’m Boris Johnson. I’m the Mayor of London, and that means I’m responsible for planning the strategic direction of the greatest city on Earth. We have now in London 72 billionaires, which is more than New York. New York has only 43 billionaires — how about that — and Paris has only 18 billionaires. And Moscow has, I think, 40. So London is to the billionaire as the jungles of Sumatra are to the orangutan.
Charles KOCH: [From “Why Hate the Koch Brothers? (Part 1)”] My name is Charles Koch and I’m chairman and C.E.O. of Koch Industries.
After these interviews, we’d get emails calling us — well, mostly things I probably shouldn’t repeat. In fact, usually pornographic things. Anyway, you try to not let it bother you. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to speak with people outside the circles you usually travel in. Or even better, to expand your circles. That’s always been a mission of this show. To entertain ideas that may have value, even if they seem repugnant at first. Anyway, all that political feedback was an early indicator of the sharp discord that’s been building over the years in the U.S. and elsewhere. Discord that politicians, ironically, are really good at exploiting! Which led us to make episodes like this one, called “Ten Ideas to Make Politics Less Rotten”:
Rob RICHIE: I’d like to get rid of winner-take-all elections to elect Congress, state legislatures and city councils.
Kathleen Hall JAMIESON: The idea that I would like to die, unmourned, buried as quickly as possible, no funeral, is the notion that we have to have a live, cheering, jeering audience at presidential debates.
Karl ROVE: Well, you assume that political tribalism doesn’t exist outside of a two-party system. There’s even more tribalism outside of a two-party system, and it is of a more destructive nature because it is oft-times based upon one simple issue or one personality.
Political tribalism was the inspiration for one of the episodes we’re working on now, which you’ll hear sometime in the next few months. It’s about a whole new way of looking at our political system.
Katherine GEHL: The U.S. political system is a full-fledged industry. Importantly, it’s thriving, even as the customers of that industry, consumers, are actually enormously dissatisfied.
But this show’s bread and butter is economics, not politics. Economics in all its glorious permutations. Big, macro questions, like whether the American Dream is still alive…
Raj CHETTY: [From “Is the American Dream Really Dead?”] You’re twice as likely to realize the American Dream if you’re growing up in Canada rather than the U.S.
Whether China really ate America’s jobs…
David AUTOR: [From “Did China Eat America’s Jobs?”] I think if we had realized how traumatic the pace of change would have been, we would have, at a minimum, had much better policies in place.
And whether the U.S. should perhaps copy the German economic model.
Dalia MARIN: [From “What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them?”] Germany is a stakeholder economy in that sense. It’s not a shareholder economy, it’s a stakeholder economy.
Uwe REINHARDT: In Germany, the unions have representatives on the board of the company.
We learned about the strange ecosystem of organ donations, with the economist Al Roth, who won a Nobel Prize for helping design a system to match potential kidney donors:
Al ROTH: [From “Make Me a Match”] If you’re healthy enough, you can remain healthy with just one. And that means if someone you love is dying of kidney disease, you can give him a kidney and save his life.
DUBNER: If you happen to be a match.
ROTH: If you happen to be a match. That’s where kidney exchange comes in.
And that episode inspired a number of people to become kidney donors — not for anyone they even knew, but for complete strangers who happened to be a match. Like Ned Brooks, a semi-retiree from Connecticut. We put him on our show too — along with the woman who received his kidney.
Ned BROOKS: [From “Ask Not What Your Podcast Can Do for You”] Oh my God! I’ve not spoken to her yet! This would be great.
DUBNER: Danielle, can you hear us? This is Stephen Dubner.
Danielle SHAFFER: Hi, I can hear you guys.
BROOKS: It’s Ned.
SHAFFER: Hi Ned.
SHAFFER: How are you doing?
BROOKS: I’m doing great.
SHAFFER: Good, good. This is exciting.
BROOKS: This is very exciting. It’s great to hear your voice. How are you feeling?
SHAFFER: I’m feeling good! I’m feeling real good. Lately it’s been a struggle since the surgery, but I’m doing good. A lot better than I was.
BROOKS: Are you on lots of meds?
SHAFFER: Yeah, unfortunately I’ll have to be on a ton of meds for probably the rest of my life.
We’ve also talked a lot on this show about behavioral economics. Which you, it seems, cannot get enough of. Ideas like “temptation bundling”:
Katy MILKMAN: [From “When Willpower Isn’t Enough”] What I realized is that if I only allowed myself to watch my favorite TV shows while exercising at the gym, then I’d stop wasting time at home on useless television, and I’d start craving trips to the gym at the end of a long day because I’d want to find out what happens next in my show.
VOICE: My temptation bundle is to listen to Freakonomics podcast while I’m running. I’m doing it right now.
VOICE: What I like to do is skip an afternoon of work and go to the movies after my annual pap smear.
VOICE: I really wish my temptation bundle was acceptable but … It would be drinking at work.
We’ve also looked at the economics of sleep:
Diane LAUDERDALE: [From “The Economics of Sleep, Part 1”] There’s a wide perception that people in the U.S. are sleeping less than they used to. And the evidence for that is very weak.
We looked at the economics of Hollywood’s visual-effects industry:
Daniel LAY: [From “No Hollywood Ending for the Visual-Effects Industry”] I said, “Wow, that’s great, we’re making a lot of money.” And she said, “Actually, we’re not making any money at all.”
And: how the economics of Chuck E. Cheese’s might lead to violence.
Nathan CORROY: [From “Chuck E. Cheese’s: Where a Kid Can Learn Price Theory”] Well, I’m not the type of guy to hit somebody, and certainly not a child. But it did seem plausible that somebody might start talking to the kids and the kids maybe go get their parents, and an altercation would start that way.
LEVITT: I can proudly say I have never become violent at Chuck E. Cheese’s; never been tempted towards violence at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
* * *
You hear a lot of my voice on Freakonomics Radio, but the show is very much a team effort. So I’d like you to hear from some of the people who’ve been making the show over the years.
Stephanie TAM: One of the things Freakonomics does well is taking an issue and looking at it from unusual perspectives.
That’s Stephanie Tam, who’s produced a bunch of really great episodes, including a three-part series called “Bad Medicine.”
Vinay PRASAD: [From “Bad Medicine, Part 1: The Story of 98.6”] Medical practice was based on bits and scraps of evidence, anecdotes, bias, preconceived notions, and probably a lot of psychological traps.
Teresa WOODRUFF: [From “Bad Medicine, Part 2: (Drug) Trials and Tribulations”] Something like eight out of the last ten drugs pulled from market by the F.D.A. were because of this profound sex difference.
Stephanie also produced an episode about why we earthlings still speak so many different languages, and if perhaps there should be a universal one.
TAM: [From “Why Don’t We All Speak the Same Language? (Earth 2.0 Series)”] I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying.
Anisa SILVIANA [Bahasa Indonesia]: Saya tidak paham yang kamu katakan.
Christoph PARSTORFER [German]: Tut mir leid, ich verstehe dich nicht.
TAM: I had never really thought about the economics of language before.
John McWHORTER: The truth is that if we could start again, I don’t think anybody would wish that the situation was the way it came out.
TAM: And then also, obviously, the actual translation costs of having so many different languages in a particularly global world.
David HERMAN: [00:04:42] You’re talking about Freakonomics episodes that are dealing with pretty big, complex, sometimes sort of esoteric ideas, and trying to make them manageable for people.
And that’s David Herman, who was our technical director for four years and still pitches in on various projects.
HERMAN: It might have been the poop episode where I feel like we really cracked it. “The Power of Poop.”
Alex KHORUTS: [From “The Power of Poop”] Poop is just what we see. It’s a little more complex than that inside, but we can detect or measure most of the constituents of this microbial organ in poop. And it’s easy to get. That’s what we study.
Thomas BORODY: A professor of medicine named me on television as being a charlatan for doing fecal transplants and he had no idea of the science behind it.
William KOSTOPOULOS: It wasn’t an overnight occurrence where I got better in, like, 15 seconds. But all I know now is, I’m 47 years old, I ride a custom chopper, I travel the world, I have a great time, and I’m not in a bloody wheelchair, right? That’s all I know.
DUBNER: So, can’t you call it “flora therapy”? That just sounds like some rose petals being sprinkled about?
BORODY: I mean, one patient came back six weeks after, and she with a straight face said, “Doctor when I had my transpoosion…”
Greg ROSALSKY: I like that we approach subjects sort of without the baggage of dogma, and we try to find answers to questions that go to the heart of what it means to be human beings.
That’s Greg Rosalsky. He’s been a producer on our show for a few years now. He is a hardcore economics guy, very knowledgeable and very into it. Greg’s produced a ton of great episodes. Including one that we called …
ROSALSKY: “Should We Really Behave Like Economists Say We Do,” which was sort of a primer on behavioral economics. But what was fun about that episode is I tried to sort of bring behavioral econ to life, or sort of the ideas of behavioral econ to life.
ROSALSKY: [From “Should We Really Behave Like Economists Say We Do?”] How much would I have to pay you for that seat?
VOICE: I’m sorry?
ROSALSKY: How much would it cost for you to move from your seat? How much would somebody have to pay you?
VOICE: To move from my seat?
ROSALSKY: Excuse me, could I ask you a question?
VOICE: How much would they have to pay me—what?
ROSALSKY: $80?! That seems pretty steep.
VOICE: It depends on who the somebody was.
ROSALSKY: What about me?
Greg also produced a pair of the most popular episodes we’ve ever made: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask)” and “The Stupidest Thing You Can Do with Your Money.”
Barry RITHOLTZ: [From “The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money”] It’s a tax on smart people who don’t realize their propensity for doing stupid things.
Annamaria LUSARDI: [From “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask)”] These are people which are very talented, very competent, but they have no knowledge of how to manage this money.
John BOGLE: [From “The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money”] I said, “No, we’re not going to drop it. We have the world’s first index fund.”
RITHOLTZ: We are now in the middle of the Copernican Revolution about the proper way to invest, or at least the rational way to invest.
Another really popular series we made was called “Self-Improvement Month.”
Laszlo BOCK: [From “How to Be More Productive”] So, we were surprised that these things that everybody kind of says matter ended up not mattering.
Angela DUCKWORTH: [From “How to Get More Grit in Your Life”] What specifically are gritty people like? What beliefs do gritty people walk around with in their head?
Anders ERICSSON: [From “How to Become Great at Just About Anything”] With the right kind of training, any individual will be able to acquire abilities.
Susanne BARGMANN: I started using this karaoke program, and I started singing. And then I started listening, and it was really horrible.
Before we embark on an episode, we rarely think about whether it’ll be popular or not. We’re more focused on learning stuff, figuring stuff out, looking for new ideas. And one great thing about the Freakonomics Radio audience is that you guys are too. When we’re curious about something, you tend to be as well. So, over the next few years, we will still ask plenty of classic Freakonomics-style questions, like why is Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia so damn happy?
Meik WIKING: To Danes, “hygge” is what freedom, perhaps, is to the Americans. It’s about togetherness. It’s about pleasure. It’s about warmth.
Helen RUSSELL: And there’s no stigma to leaving at 4 because you’ve got to go pick up your kids from daycare, you’ve got to go make supper, or you just need to get on with your hobbies.
But we’ll also do more of the self-improvement episodes that listeners love. Like how not to choke under pressure:
Sian BEILOCK: First of all, I will just say that I like placebo effects, and I have no problem with that. But I think it’s a real truth, because if your heart wasn’t beating to some extent, you’d be dead, right? And those sweaty palms can be an indication that you’re alert and aroused and ready to go. And arousal doesn’t have to be a bad thing, right? It’s bad when we start thinking it’s bad, and then we just start changing our performance.
DUBNER: I love how your counterfactual is always, “Or, you could be dead.”
BEILOCK: Yeah. It’s a good opposition.
We’ll even learn how to make the perfect pizza at home:
Nathan MYHRVOLD: You know, there’s people who say it’s gotta be San Marzano tomatoes, grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, crushed by hand.
We’ve also got a couple special series in the works. This was inspired by a series we did earlier this year called “The Secret Life of a C.E.O.”
Mark ZUCKERBERG: Ten years ago, you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools.
Indra NOOYI: The day you become C.E.O., you have to think about grooming a successor.
Richard BRANSON: So, I think too many young entrepreneurs want to cling onto everything. And they’re not good delegators.
Carol BARTZ: Well, I was in a limo driving into New York City when I got a call from the chairman of the board, and told me I was fired. He didn’t have the nerve to see me face to face. Now, I like to think he didn’t have the nerve because he knew I would have probably punched him out.
DUBNER: And was he right?
BARTZ: Might be right. I don’t know.
The series we’re working on now? One is about creativity — who’s got it, how to get it, where it comes from, and doesn’t. Stephanie Tam again:
TAM: Creativity is one of those subjects that there are probably a million and one books about. And another million mushy platitudes about. But it’s pretty hard to sort out what is actually empirical versus what is anecdotal.
You’ll hear all about the latest research on creativity. But you’ll also hear directly from a lot of creatives, like the movie producer Brian Grazer…
Brian GRAZER: I mean, nobody knows why a success really works, because there’s no exact formula.
The illustrator and writer Maira Kalman…
KALMAN: A burst of enthusiasm. Complete despair. Kind of talking your way through, “Well, it’s going to be okay, don’t get so crazy.”
The museum director Anne Pasternak…
Anne PASTERNAK: And the next morning I woke up and I think there were over 60 different proposals that she had sent to me.
And we visit Berlin to speak with one of the most prominent and provocative artists in modern history:
Ai WEIWEI: My name is Ai Weiwei, I’m 61 years old. I was born in 1957 in Beijing, China. But in the year I was born, my father was exiled.
The other series we’re working on: sports. Such a big topic, such a fascinating topic. We’ll talk economics, labor relations, winning and losing and cheating; and everything in between. Like: does it really make sense for a basketball coach to bench his star player if he’s in foul trouble?
Toby MOSKOWITZ: If you actually calculate the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense.
How about the idea of a “hot streak”?
MOSKOWITZ: That’s the theory but evidence is that it just doesn’t show up.
And how to tell if your team is unlucky or just bad.
MOSKOWITZ: They were just bad — bad year after year, statistically bad, year after year, wins and losses.
We’ll hear from the people who own sports teams.
Mark CUBAN: I’m Mark Cuban and I’m an entrepreneur.
Jed YORK: My name is Jed York. I’m the C.E.O. of the San Francisco 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers. That’s the team where Colin Kaepernick played when he kicked off the anthem protests.
YORK: Colin probably took a different approach than I would have taken, but he certainly brought attention to the matter.
You’ll hear why coaches work such ridiculously long hours:
Kyle SHANAHAN: As a head coach, I need to watch the game for myself — which is offensive side, defensive side, special teams — and it’s infinite how many different things you can do. And if one guy is off, the play doesn’t work on either side of the ball. And if that play doesn’t work, it could be a hurt quarterback, it could be a touchdown. That could be the reason you’re telling your second-grade daughter that she’s moving next week.
You’ll hear from the people who run the athletes’ unions:
DeMaurice SMITH: In the 10 years I’ve been here, we’ve probably had somewhere between 10 and 15 state-legislature fights with bills supported by team owners to take workers’ comp away from professional athletes, which is terrible.
DUBNER: And their argument then is what?
SMITH: Their argument is that they are cheap.
And of course you’ll hear from the athletes. Including what makes them do what they do:
Domonique FOXWORTH: I was 8 when I decided I wanted to be a professional football player. And I told my father and he told me, “All right, well, you set a goal, you should do something to get you closer to that goal every day.” So I did a bunch of pushups and sit ups that night, until I was throwing up. I was in love with the game, in part because of how violent it was, honestly. Whatever warped sense of masculinity I had at that age, that probably has not fully left me, was like, “Basketball is for the soft kids. Football is for the men. And I want to play football.”
You’ll also hear what athletes do to blow off steam:
[Joe STALEY sings “Hakuna Matata.”]
And we’ll get into the afterlife of the athlete:
FOXWORTH: Now I’m at this point where it’s like, I don’t really know how to have fun. I don’t really have, like, super close friends, and I don’t really know what to do with my life.
Another thing we’ll be doing more of in this new phase of Freakonomics Radio: releasing more bonus episodes that feature full interviews. Most of our episodes, as you may have noticed, include a variety of speakers, and we feature the most relevant portions of their interviews to create the episode. That means we might leave as much as 90 percent of our interviews on the cutting-room floor. But in some cases, it’s worth publishing the full, barely ed interview. We did this with our “Secret Life of a C.E.O.” series — and it turned out that listeners loved those full interviews with Mark Zuckerberg, Indra Nooyi, Satya Nadella, Ray Dalio and Richard Branson. So we’ll be doing more of that too.
The best way to get all this extra material is to sign up for Stitcher Premium. Our regular, weekly Freakonomics Radio podcast will still be available on all the regular podcast platforms. And you’ll still be hearing it on NPR stations across the U.S. as well as on SiriusXM, Spotify and elsewhere. But our new partnership with Stitcher gives us some more options. If you want the entire archive of Freakonomics Radio episodes from the very beginning, just use the Stitcher app; you can also go to our website, where we also publish transcripts and show notes for every episode. And if you sign up for Stitcher Premium, you’ll get our entire archive ad-free as well as lots of bonus episodes like the full interviews I just mentioned. Just go to stitcherpremium.com/freakonomics and use the code “FREAKONOMICS” to get one month free.
There’ll be a lot of those bonus episodes from our Sports series and Creativity series. In fact, we’ve already posted a few from our recent World Cup episode, interviews with the soccer savants Roger Bennett, Simon Kuper and a kid named Solomon Dubner.
SOLOMON: I am a co-host of Footy for Two and I’m the biggest and youngest benefactor of nepotism in the podcasting world.
Simon KUPER: Argentina doesn’t really have a system.
BENNETT: You know what? We should teach more of our footballers to do root canal.
All this extra material we’re producing is in the service of two goals. Number one: to make you, our listeners, happy. Number two? Here again is Chris Bannon from Stitcher:
BANNON: I find that a not-bored Stephen Dubner is a happy Stephen Dubner. So my job is really, Don’t let him get bored.
Ah, Bannon, you know me too well. In the interest of non-boredom, we will also be doing some live shows — keep an eye out for those details on our website, where you can also sign up for our newsletter. We’ll be bringing back our non-fiction game show, called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.
HERMAN: It was an informational, a teaching show for sure —
That’s David Herman again.
HERMAN: — but it was also kind of like a cool talent show for the audience. It was a chance to sort of turn the microphone around and hear things that other people had to bring to the table.
A.E. KIEREN: [From Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, “Fool Me Once”] So, the next time you’re in a museum, and you see a painting where the hand is, you know, placed just so behind a bowl of fruit on the table, it’s probably because whoever commissioned that painting was too cheap to spring for both hands.
Fred WHERRY: [From Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, “Money Money Money”] So, there are about 3,000 different types of bacteria that live on our paper money, and the flu virus, when accompanied by mucus, can last to up to 17 days.
DUBNER: Thanks for adding that.
HERMAN: I think what was so much fun about it was that Freakonomics is such a tightly scripted, edited, revised, re-edited, re-revised show — to just have something that was, like, free-form; like, you go in there and you’d record it.
Free-form. Tightly scripted and edited. Special series. How-to episodes. Extra, full interviews. There’s nothing we won’t try to keep things lively, to keep learning together, to keep your ears engaged, and your brain too. Thank you so much for spending time with us this past eight years — and here’s to the next few.
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Freakonomics Radio is produced by Stitcher and Dubner Productions. This episode was produced by Harry Huggins. Our staff also includes Alison Hockenberry, Greg Rosalsky, Greg Rippin and Andy Meisenheimer. Thanks also to Chris Bannon, Stephanie Tam, David Herman, Dan Dzula, Matt Frassica, Anders Kelto, Merritt Jacob and the dozens of other folks who helped produce the episodes you heard clips from today. The music you hear throughout the episode was composed by Luis Guerra. Remember, you can subscribe to Freakonomics Radio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
- Get the Stitcher app.
- Get Stitcher Premium.
- Check out the Freakonomics Radio archive, from which this episode drew extensively.