Discover more from Josh off the Press
An emerging prominent sports & culture critic in Ethan Strauss
2) And the Increasing digital footprint on Substack <38th OP>
Since this piece is focused on Ethan Strauss and his wonderful subscription based newsletter, I hope he doesn’t mind me promoting it here and using his image and likeness.
My new literary hero is Ethan Strauss - House of Strauss Newsletter and podcast, on Substack, with a focus on the intersection of culture and sports. And no that’s not just a gimmick, it really is his focus! I’m sure Ethan will love to see many of these words about him on the printed page, but he might not like all of it. However, in remaining true to what I hold near and dear as a writer, I will try to be as candid as possible while revealing what I have learned over the past month from reading over 50 articles the man has published on his Substack, as well as his awesome yet too short of a book (IMO) on the brief, yet spectacular Golden State Warriors Basketball Dynasty “The Victory Machine”.
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Why, do you ask, did I read 50 plus articles of his over the past month? Well, it’s because I didn’t discover his Substack until over a month ago. This is why I love podcasts! They introduce me to new topics and people, I might only have heard of, but don’t really know until I fully explore them. BTW - Ethan has a podcast too.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss started his career out as a basketball writer for the NBA, and parlayed that into being the beat reporter for the Golden State Warriors first for ESPN then for The Athletic. And over the past eight plus months (and counting), he has become the second most popular sports writer on Substack. For those of you not familiar with this platform, Substack is a website open for all writers to sign up to, where you hang your shingle and get people to pay for your newsletter. Much like signing up for the NYTimes, yet instead of the money going to one company, it goes to one person, with a small portion of the money going to the company (for maintenance and I suppose renting the space on their website). More power to you, Ethan! I don’t fault you at all. Although, I am low-key jealous that your website gets over 200K readers, and on a really good day I will get 500 readers to check out one of my stories.
At this point I’m not seeking to monetize this site, even though it is super cool that this is a built-in feature to joining this site/community. Truth be told, I remember how agonizing I found it when I ditched my android for an iPhone in 2017. Yes the iPhone is better in so many ways, especially when it comes to texting. But, when I migrated my contacts from android to iPhone, not everything switched over. That’s the rub with switching. Hence while switching platforms for writing, some of my older stories didn't cross over as neatly as I had hoped. But it is all there in my archive page, and sprinkled all across my website.
FOUR THINGS I LOVE ABOUT ETHAN STRAUSS’S WORK!
1) His prose → the dude has a way with words, and has encouraged* me to expand my vocabulary as I write. Hell! reading him has re-invigorated my need and desire to write. I mean the guy was nice enough to respond to an email I personally sent him, and he told me what I wrote to him would be his “Lodestar” when coming up with new topics. Of course I was flattered by it, and also needed to immediately look up what lodestar actually meant.
2) His thorough research → I love the * hyperlinks * in all his articles. The dude does not disappoint. Take the whole controversy around the national anthem and football players in the NFL kneeling. Strauss was surgical in his analysis on this issue when he made reference to the initial stance on kneeling made by Drew Brees, the former Superstar and Super Bowl winning QB for the New Orleans Saints. He broke down why Drew Brees reversed himself quicker than someone making a lateral play in an actual football game.
“What Brees was likely engaged in was something Duke professor Timur Kuran refers to as “preference falsification” in his groundbreaking book, Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification. It’s a simple phenomenon, described thus: People lie about their true beliefs when they perceive possible punishment for having them” . - ESS.
*In a tip of the cap to Ethan Strauss, I probably have overdone it by providing too many hyperlinks, in this piece right here. But some hyperlinks just need to be opened! Or rather are greatly encouraged to be opened.*
3) His humor → The Jewish coastal humor! If he wasn’t from the coast of California, I bet Ethan would be a nice Jewish boy from Long Island. BTW - I’m inclined to believe his family is originally from LI. I mean that’s not too wild of a guess. Jewish geography actually is quite small, when you break it down. But, maybe he’s not even Jewish. I just like his humor, and it reminds me of a lot of people I grew up around.
4) His NBA Chops! → The dude reveals the business of the NBA in a way that makes it really come alive. While some people on their podcasts, or in their writing nibble around the edges of the business side of basketball, Ethan Strauss goes for the jugular. For example in his piece on Why The NFL is hot and the NBA is not , Ethan talks about what the NBA has been trying to do on the international stage to combat the fact that they are far behind the NFL in ratings domestically.
“But if you, top-down, embrace a brand of yourself as a thing, that thing will follow you. People sometimes write to me, questioning why the NBA gets more criticism for kissing China’s ass when so many American conglomerates have their lips firmly planted. Well, for one thing, the NBA branded itself as all-important conquerors of the East. These other corporations were smart enough to just quietly make widgets in Guangzhou when nobody was looking. They didn’t advertise the fact to their customers. The NBA did, though, out of an insecurity, a need to advertise beating the NFL on an international level because it could not compete domestically.” ESS.
There’s also an excellent article he wrote on how WNBA Stars go to Russia to get paid “WAY” more money than they ever had while playing under the NBA Banner. It strikes at the heart of money-laundering, and the hypocrisy the NBA engages in by supporting the WNBA “via lip-service” and advertising, but not really in actually compensating their players a living wage.
There is also a downside to Ethan Strauss, at least in my view: The dude knows so much stuff, and seems so well-rounded and so well read in history and culture, yet *he only nibbles on the edges of politics*. This bums me out on so many levels, I’m not sure where to start. A writer like him is a dream come true.
Yet, selfishly I want more. Is that fair? Honestly, I don’t think Ethan cares, nor should he really. But, I know he’d be good at diving into politics if he committed to it. Would it piss off a sizable section of his reader/subscription base? I’m inclined to think it could be a risky endeavor on his part. From the comments section that frequently light up on Ethan’s posts, I definitely get a whiff of some real Trumpers on these threads. Fortunately no talk of QAnon or stolen elections though, (at least not from what I have seen).
*Full disclosure, I have a certain passion for politics, and a certain partiality around it that I recognize is not exactly fair to project onto others. I was a political science major in college, and from the time I interned in the summer of 2003 and graduated in 2004 all the way through 2013, all my jobs with the exception of one, was involved in politics. The one exception was my two year stint in Zambia in the US Peace Corps. Also, after having my first kid in 2014, shortly after her second birthday, I was in the process of changing careers, so I did have another stint working in politics during the 2016 election season. Unfortunately my hard work that election season did not exactly pay off.
There are other criticisms out there, that I’m sure Ethan Strauss is plenty aware of. Some might say that Ethan Strauss is too white! I mean, on one front I suppose this criticism in general could be considered valid. But, I’m not sure the criticism was particularly relevant to the story Young happened to pick on Ethan for.
Not that my opinion on Damon Young of the Root matters to him, as I’m not exactly his target audience. And while I might naturally gravitate more towards a writer like Ethan Strauss, I still am genuinely curious to read more of Damon Young’s work. As a professional educator, and as a rather inquisitive person, I do think it’s important to learn from others who can provide me more insight into some of my biases, as well as the privileges I carry as a white man.
Another reason some people don’t like Ethan is rather bitingly stated by Alex Shultz of SFGATE.
“Free speech finger pointing on the internet has existed and exhausted everyone for a number of years and given rise to an entire cottage industry of folks who thrive on being called out in columns like this. They market themselves as truth-tellers with an unshakable set of views and values that don’t conform to a two-party system who are the only media members actually listening to “normal” Americans. It certainly appears that’s how Strauss fancies himself…” https://www.sfgate.com/warriors-column/article/former-Warriors-reporter-Ethan-Strauss-substack-16465755.php.
Interestingly enough, Shultz’s piece is among the first things that populates on a google search when you look up Ethan Strauss. I’d imagine it has gotten tons of traffic. In fact, I could have sworn Ethan Strauss has even referenced Shultz’s piece in one of his very own articles, if not just a vague reference to this very issue.
“What is House of Strauss? Is it about sports media? Is it about the NBA industry? Is it right wing? Is it milquetoast liberal? I still don’t really have an elevator pitch for what this site is, which is a sales weakness, I suppose. One day I’ll figure it out, maybe. Perhaps with your help. I’ve seen H.O.S disparaged in media spaces as about “cancel culture,” or “anti-woke,” which, well, fine. I don’t think those terms are bad, even if they aren’t exactly accurate in describing the site. Part of the issue in modern media is that there’s such an intense conformity that anything outside narrow boundaries gets dismissed with these phrases”. - ESS
It’s probably unfair of me to implore a gifted writer such as Ethan Strauss to dive into the landmine we call politics. And as I mentioned already, I’m pretty sure there are a number of other pieces out in the interweb criticizing Ethan Strauss for his takes, or for his lack of conviction, or for his being too white. Maybe if this piece actually goes viral, Ethan will start to be criticized for being too Jewish. And as his star rises, there certainly will be more critics.
This time 10 years ago, I lived in political group chats on FB. Now, I don’t even want to touch any of these groups with a 10 foot pole. It has just gotten too toxic and is a complete waste of time. But, this is also why I encourage someone like Ethan Strauss, with his substantial platform, to dance more on the third rail of society, (the third rail being politics).
Maybe I’m naïve to assume it would be of much value. It certainly would provide value for me, but maybe not much to him. Since, after all, we all are so programmed to go to our rival camps when it comes to politics. If Ethan Strauss were to venture into electoral politics, he might very well be made into another caricature much like all the talking heads you find on any Main-Stream news source, or even Joe Rogan himself on Joe Rogan’s very own podcast.
Then again, all of that might just be the price of fame. I suppose if anything this probably is more of a balancing act for Ethan Strauss to not let fame get him too big in the head, but also to not be stifled or scared away from venturing into fields of writing that are of real interest to him. Hence, why Ethan Strauss’s move to Substack was a big friggin deal!
Bottom line is, if you love anything about the NBA or other professional sports, or you love subversive writing on culture, then definitely check out Ethan Strauss. I for one love all of these. So that’s like a triple win for me! Ethan Sherwood Strauss is a national treasure, and he’s still quite a young man with many formative years ahead of him.
Peace & Love
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