Taking It Down Podcast – Episode 27 – Normal People, The Last Dance, and The Challenge

On this week’s episode of Taking It Down, Blaine and Adam check in on the Morrow Movie Marathon and this week it’s Tolkien that’s on deck (5:29). Then they talk deeply about the middle episodes of Hulu’s Normal People (12:06) as well as ESPN’s seventh and eight episodes of the documentary series The Last Dance (44:54) and MTV’s The Challenge (1:04:18).

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Host: Blaine Duncan

Cohost: Adam Morrow

4 comments on “Taking It Down Podcast – Episode 27 – Normal People, The Last Dance, and The Challenge

  1. 87 Jetta

    Not trying to go too far off-topic here, as this wasn’t really a subject y’all went in-depth about, but it’s one that I keep seeing pop up frequently on social media since the airing of The Last Dance, and that is the criticism of Jordan’s baseball career as some sort of pathetic, laughable publicity stunt. Those people who scoff at Jordan’s performance with the Barons…don’t know jack about baseball. First of all, Double-A baseball is damn hard. I cannot emphasize that enough. Players don’t advance to that level unless they’re really, really good. When you go watch the Barons or the Biscuits, you’re watching high-quality baseball. There are a lot of phenomenal college players and highly-touted prospects who flame out at lower levels of the minors, but the guys who make it to Double-A, more often than not, have a legitimate shot at someday making it to The Show. Granted, Jordan didn’t advance to Double-A the way most players do, but given the circumstances, what he accomplished with the Barons was pretty damn remarkable. This was a guy who hadn’t played competitive baseball since he was in high school, thirteen years before, and he’s stepping right into the upper minors. On its face, his statistical performance was poor relative to other professional ballplayers. But when you consider the context, I think a way to look at the numbers and derive a more telling description of what he accomplished is that he had 21 extra-base hits, including three home runs, and stole thirty bases at the Double-A level after a decade-and-a-half layoff. Pretty impressive.

    If Jordan had chosen baseball instead of basketball out of high school, there is no doubt he would’ve been a big leaguer. How good of a big leaguer is impossible to say, but I think everyone can agree that he made the right choice by sticking with hoops.

    Forgive me for the rant. I am now going to take your recommendation and commence catching up on Normal People.

    Thanks, fellas. Have a good week.


    • Yeah, I didn’t see the baseball detour as a publicity stunt at all, even then. I remember back then thinking he was doing pretty well and that must be hard. The documentary mentions this, but had the MLB not gone on strike, he would’ve made it to the next level, which, like you say, is very impressive.

      As for Normal People: buckle up!


      • 87 Jetta

        Well, you’ve succeeded in getting me hooked on Normal People. Went back and listened to that portion of the podcast again, and as y’all alluded in each of your observations, there’s certain aspects of this storyline that are really relatable. Specifically, the anxiety that Cullen faces when he’s in English class at Trinity and called on to speak in an environment that had to have been seriously intimidating. Been there. I went to a liberal arts college for undergrad that had a very small average class size, and while I was never an overly active class participant, I don’t remember ever being overwhelmed with anxiety about speaking in those situations. Law school at Alabama, on the other hand, was where it hit me…big time. Had gone from classes that ranged from as small as three people to no larger than thirty, to a first-year law section of about 90. And of course, everybody in the room is smart, and thanks to the Socratic method tradition that is the bane of all law students, everybody is going to get called on at some point. Most of the time you didn’t know when, so if you weren’t prepared…well, it happened to me a couple times and it was never fun. But I could definitely relate to what Cullen was going through as he listened to his classmates spout off those eloquent-sounding, seemingly informed perspectives, even if they were complete bullshit, and living in fear of sounding like an idiot when it was his turn to speak (and worse, actually doing so).

        As for the relationship between the two main characters – and this may be a poor way of articulating this – there’s something of a yin and yang dynamic. In high school, Cullen is the BMOC jock who’s self-conscious about his intellect and rather shallowly clings to maintaining his social reputation at the expense of Marianne’s feelings. High school Marianne is the brilliant, introverted kid who’s smarter than everybody else, knows it, and does not GAF. She is both conceited and insecure, which makes for an interesting dichotomy. Fast forward to college, and the relationship dynamic undertakes a dramatic shift. Marianne, finally among those more like herself, becomes a social butterfly now that she’s comfortable and in her element. Cullen is no longer the popular guy running the school, but is now battling his own insecurities and anxieties that didn’t exist back in Sligo. As y’all mentioned, a major question becomes, “Are they right for each other?” Another one I’d throw in is “Are they in the right place?” (that being Trinity College, Dublin).

        I have reached the point where Cullen has lost his job and is heading back to Sligo for the summer. I thought their knee-jerk decision to see other people because of that brief hiatus was a little ridiculous and overly-dramatic, but when watching this I have to remember that these are college kids. They’re obviously two brilliant minds (no morons at one of the most prestigious schools in the world) and engaging in a lot of “adulting”, yet it’s clear that they’re not as emotionally mature as maybe they’d like to think.

        I could go into a lot of other thoughts and observations but I’ll give it a rest for now!


        • You nailed it. It’s been a long time that I’ve seen myself on screen like I did with Connell in that particular English class. The juxtaposition of his life in high school and his life at college was pinpoint accurate; you’re right. I think the show really measures him to lost at sea early in life. It was just in high school, he had some folks to fall back on that were well established.

          Glad you liked listening and the show!


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