Complexities of The Sarah Fuller Story

In this episode, we talk about the week in sports and dig a little deeper into two stories: One national and one very local.

The Sarah Fuller story keeps coming, but there has been a fork in the road. The major media outlets continue to laud the history-making, glass shattering event while Twitter and Youtube contain plenty of amateur commentators happy to mock Vandy’s (alleged) publicity stunt.

The YouTubers and Twitter warriors claim that Sarah gave a halftime speech and that multiple Vanderbilt players opted out of playing Georgia due to Sarah’s role on the team.

As I said in last week’s podcast, I hate the story. To me, the beauty of sports is in the honesty of the competition. And my interest in the study of fandom is rooted in the honesty of the debates. Over the last several years, the world has changed, and discussion has been stifled. Debates like paying the players have become loaded issues that students may refuse to debate in class.

The Sarah Fuller event is such a story. Hence the strange coverage of congratulations and celebrations at ESPN and the New York Times versus anonymous or independent Internet commentators' mockery.

Sarah Fuller holds football helmet reading "Play Like A Girl."
Did The Sarah Fuller Story Cause Vanderbilt Opt-Outs?

One detail of the Fuller story caught my analyst’s eye. The reports that she made a halftime speech. I’ve seen lots of mockery of the speech. Why?

What is the point to a halftime speech? It is to inspire or change an outlook.

It is an attempt at persuasion.

So what is wrong with Sarah Fuller making a halftime speech?

Psychologists suggest that there are two paths to persuasion depending on the audience. Let’s say there are two types of individuals. The first type is highly involved. They are experts on the matter at hand. The second type is less involved. Maybe they do not care very much.

Remember, we are talking about the general topic of persuasion rather than football for the moment.

The first group, the involved experts, will only be persuaded by arguments that make sense. In the football context, a coach or team leader most effectively addresses this group by explaining how the team can overcome a bad first half through an improved strategy.

The second group, the non-experts, are persuaded by something other than detailed

arguments. Maybe the credibility of someone talking. Why do they use Tom Selleck to sell reverse mortgages to financial non-experts?

In which of these categories would a kicker that has never played a snap excel?


I don’t know if the speech happened. But if it did, someone at Vanderbilt should have known better. An SEC game isn’t a Disney movie.

We also take time to talk about the Savage Pads podcast. This conversation stems from something that Doug said to me off-air about how the podcast feels different based on how the Georgia Bulldogs are playing.

The key construct for this discussion (at least as I start the interview) is Hope.

Listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.


Mike Lewis 0:17

Okay, welcome, everyone. This is the fan analytics podcast with Mike Lewis of Emory University and Doug Battle also of Emory University. How are you today?

Doug Battle 1:04

I'm doing well. I thought this week's episode of the Mandalorian was the best yet so that helped to compensate for the fact that Georgia football game was cancelled because Vanderbilt had a number of players opt out over the Sarah fuller story.

Mike Lewis 1:04

Okay, I want to get back to that in a second. I am still efforting to catch up with you on the Mandalorian. I am almost done with season one. So you can kind of tell where I'm at. It is a fascinating show for someone that was a child of the 70s. I'll get I'll give you that much.That the episode I last watched has, I mean, it's great. It's all these kind of throwbacks to the the original series of movies. So I'm looking forward to catching up and sort of really digging into that last episode I actually watched had Bill Burr as a trigger man, which I thought was interesting.Which tells you exactly where I'm at in that series.

Doug Battle 1:22

Yeah, yeah. Well, you've got a lot to look forward to. I really, really like what they're doing. They're also the guy that directed this last episode, because there's a different director for almost every episode. And I'm a I'm a movie guy, but the the director when it was rolling the credits at the end was Robert Rodriguez, who I remember because I was a Spy Kids kid, was the director of the Spy Kids franchise that was and when I was a kid, like I thought he was like Steven Spielberg. Like I thought he was the goat with directing movies, because I thought those were the best movies in the world. So I was like, no surprise that he did a great job.

Mike Lewis 2:07

Okay, so I want to do today's episode a little bit different. I want to dig into want to dig into the Sarah fuller story. And I also want to spend some time talking about the savage pads podcast. But I want to say something that and I don't know what this statement really means at this point. But as I was watching ESPN this morning, they were previewing the big 10 ACC challenge. And I think I think this is 22 years of this, which is an interesting number kind of makes me feel my age. So this is a series that's been going on essentially your whole life, but it's something that still kind of seems new to me. And one of the games they previewed and this this statement you know, this is a personal thing, but I think it's important about just the notion of fandom number five, Illinois is playing number six Duke makes me question a lot you know in the past number five, Illinois playing number six Duke would have been my biggest sports story of the month, but somehow with the last few years of Illinois basketball and and I think there's even something more to it than if if I think about what that means if this Illinois team is ranked number five legitimate final for contender, but it does not feel like it's a team at the same level as the flying Illini or the Dee Brown Deron Williams teams.

Doug Battle 3:41

Yeah, well, first off might want to congratulate you on point for a team that's still in the hunt. I guess I technically am in that in that position with the New York Giants as their Super Bowl hopes are still alive. The lead leading the NFC less let's Yeah, let's worry about division championship.But yeah, college basketball to me has been over the years over the more recent years, it's felt like that it's felt like when I like when I was a kid I pulled for you and see. Tyler Haynes bro, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington. And I even went to UNC Tournament game a few years back. And it just it doesn't feel like the basketballs is good. It doesn't feel and I think it's because there's not a continuity. So from a branding sense, like yeah, you don't have the same players every year, which is tough. Because like I felt a connection to Tyler hands bro and Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, whereas now it's like you got to learn a new group of names every single season just about for some of these elite programs. And then not having that continuity, obviously they don't play as well together. And that's the best teams in basketball. I mean, that's Duke and Kentucky and UNC the teams that they get the best players to be in that position. So, college basketball is a tough one. To me. Another thing about it, that has nothing to do with personnel is the fact that for these elite programs, I always am of the opinion that regular season games don't matter that much due to the nature of the NCAA tournament, because you look at a team like Duke going into a game against Illinois. Like Yeah, it's a it's a top 10 matchup no doubt, and that's exciting. But if, you know, it's, it might end up being the difference in getting a one seat or a two seed. But does it really matter? Like at the end of the day, all that matters for a team that's essentially guaranteed a spot in the tournament. That's just so talented, that they're definitely gonna win enough games to make the tournament. All the matters is those tournament games, they could go undefeated doesn't matter if they go lose round one. Or they could go you know, be a 13 seed, which really isn't possible, and make it to the Final Four. Okay, so I've got to object to something you said in there, you mostly talked about Duke and all that and the ramifications on their quest for a number one scene, maybe you didn't hear me. And number five, Illinois versus number six, I got to Okay, gotcha. I just I have to clarify that I was using Duke as the brand that I felt the audience would come on, you know, you know, and I guess what I'm getting at and all this is can you please help me build my excitement? You know, let me let me get back to this earlier era of living and dying with with with Illinois basketball, please. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, well, first off, they they kind of surprised me like they snuck up on me. I watched some of their first game. And I was like, wow, this this is Mike's team, and they're really good and like, I haven't heard a peep about them in a while. So it's it's one of those things where all you do hear about is teams like Duke and UNC even when on SportsCenter in the show and highlights like they definitely show every game of Duke and UNC highlights. Whereas a team like Illinois, you know, it's not a priority as much.

Mike Lewis 7:09

Well, I'm going to fire up the home theater and put the line I bass you know, been watching it from upstairs, but yeah, five versus six Duke. I'm gonna and unfortunately the game seems to be at Duke but I will fire up the big screen for this one. Okay, the other the other thing that the other event that I sort of love at the moment and it's kind of a guilty pleasure. you texted me and then I saw it also reported pretty widely. Logan, so sorry.

Unknown Speaker 0:01

analytics with Mike Lewis, the podcast where we talk about everything you need to know about sports analytics. here's your host, Mike lewis, marketing professor at Emory University.

Mike Lewis 7:40

Okay, one of the Paul brothers is going to fight Floyd Mayweather. This was February.

Doug Battle 7:50

Yes. 2021.

Mike Lewis 7:52

So we have our first marquee boxing match, our first marquee boxing match of 2021 on the schedule, and it is Floyd Mayweather vs. a YouTube star.

Doug Battle 8:07

Yeah, we talked about this last week like is this gonna be what becomes of boxing as far as is this gonna be what draws ratings and makes money and apparently to an extent Yes, at least for the near future. The interesting thing about it is everybody thinks it's a joke like people are like, Oh, this is this is a joke but most people I know want to watch the thing like they want to see at this point they want to see Logan Paul get knocked out by a real boxer. Well,

Mike Lewis 8:37

let me ask you this just Logan Paul play the villain in all these things.

Doug Battle 8:42

Here's the thing. I don't keep up with youtubers or I think I know I'm young, but I'm not that young. Like I'm not I'm not keeping up with guys that get famous off of you know, making little vlogs and things. Okay,

Mike Lewis 8:57

dealer, but sorry to interrupt you. Do you have a tick tock account?

Doug Battle 9:02

Not at the moment, although I will say

Mike Lewis 9:04


Doug Battle 9:05

I do have a Snapchat. Yes. I okay. Yeah. Yeah, but Logan Paul, I don't know that much amount of I know, there's been controversy. I know there's people that like on people that don't like them, tends to be like the formula for a good celebrity these days. But Mayweather has been the villain. We talked about this last week. Nobody likes Mayweather. So it's like you got Darth Vader versus the Joker in the ring. where it's like, yeah, one's actually powerful. And the other ones like just kind of a nuisance, but at the same time, and I don't want to I don't want to give either one of them. That kind of credit because I don't like I don't like them enough to compare him to Darth Vader. The Joker

Mike Lewis 9:49

guys are awesome. Okay, fair enough. Now, just go back to something you said. You did not have a tick tock account at the moment. Well,

Doug Battle 9:57

yeah, let me clarify there this week. In my girlfriend helped me move some things out of my apartment, where are my house where I've been living, where I've been leasing and it was a huge help because she has a vehicle that will carry more stuff. And so my mother told me, she said, When you're done, you need to do whatever she wants to do, because she's been a trooper. She's been a big help. And so I was like, Oh, awesome. And I mentioned that to her kind of jokingly. Well, next thing, you know, we're making essentially a tic Tock dance.

Mike Lewis 10:36

Okay, okay, so I'm gonna make a request here that when we when we put this

Doug Battle 10:43

when we put the article up for the podcast will include two images. One of it one of which will be a screenshot from the tic toc dance place. Mike, unfortunately, it's on my Instagram story, which disappears after 24 hours and so it is already coming, gone. That's the beauty of stories, the beauty of stories. It's not permanent.

Mike Lewis 11:07

Okay, so, moving ahead to sort of the core of this episode. Paul Mayweather is you know, it's great fun. So, you know, I've no idea given how he has been discussed and the fact that he was on this mike tyson card. I'm gonna guess that Logan Paul has followers in the 10s of millions. So

Doug Battle 11:32

let me correct you here. Logan Paul was not on the mike tyson card. Jake Paul was on the mike tyson card. Logan Paul got knocked out or lost to KSI. You remember this? We touched on this like yeah, months ago. So he's Jake, Paul's undefeated, I believe technically. And Logan Paul is not. He is the lesser younger brother. And he decided it would be a good idea to fight Floyd.

Mike Lewis 12:01

Okay, so let me restate no editing required on this. Paul, is I and I will just say Paul, who's from this moment forward? Probably has. Do you have any sense of the magnitude of his fan base and a million

Doug Battle 12:15

philic? I looked up his Instagram the other day and yeah, that's okay. Maybe? Yeah, I would say that's fair.

Mike Lewis 12:23

So the height machine is it's ready to go on this right you've got Mayweather he's gonna he's gonna generate all sorts of coverage. The the business model just works. You've got Mayweather appealing to the old school fight fans. And he's still probably the biggest name in boxing. He is the you know, he's he knows how to do the hype. He's going to talk trash for months now. Paul has a ready made audience where he can distribute this to a very different demographic. It it's a promotion that has a lot of the right ingredients. Now I think the frustration is that you ask the question of does this destroyed the credibility or the authenticity of boxing is, is this fight going to go nine rounds where Mayweather kind of plays with him for the first aid and then hits him a couple of times after he loses his legs, and the ref stops? It is a Tiki TKO right i mean that probably the likely outcome, something like that. Yeah, the fans are money.

Doug Battle 13:35

I've seen I have seen a few tweets of people saying if Floyd Mayweather gets knocked out by a YouTube sensation, or YouTube star I don't know if sensation is the right word for someone. He's just like, I think girls think He's good looking guys don't like them. That's kind of his thing.

Mike Lewis 13:53

It fully fill up a video of Floyd Mayweather working a heavy bag. He's not going to be not

Doug Battle 13:58

Oh, I know. I know that. And I'm saying like the intrigue to a lot of people. My age is like, oh, what if he got knocked out by this kid? But it's like saying, What if you put me out on the court with with LeBron James and I dumped on them? You know, it's, it's like, Yeah, that'd be awesome. The problem is, yeah, I play basketball, too, or I played in my day. Yeah. You know, but it's, it's just people understand the difference in athletes as far as the elite professionals as opposed to amateurs. I'm not going to dunk on LeBron Logan. Paul's not going to knock out Mayweather. Mayweather is going to do what he wants. So it's like if he wants it to be a eight round fight. Like he can do that. We've talked about it before. He's a defensive boxer. So we might just watched him dodge punches for eight rounds, or however many rounds he wants it to be before he in things it's a you know, it's an exhibition event. So I don't know how seriously he actually takes it. I know though that he will make a show out of it, that he will talk smack that he will stick his nose right next to Logan Paul's when they do their little photo and weigh ins or whatnot. But I also know that if it'll be at his will, it'll be like LeBron James versus me a basketball like if he wants to dunk on me the first point if we're playing a 21, he'll do it. If he wants to make it a game, he'll do that also. So it's kind of in Floyd Mayweather. There's it's kind of up to him in that sense.

Mike Lewis 15:35

Okay, so this word that, like I said, comes to my mind when we think about this fight, and look, subject to the hype to like, I want to see it. I want to see Floyd Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather put Paul down, that this word of authenticity, and this this has been a kind of a key thought in my head for the last week is the Sarah fuller coverage continued last week I went off, or didn't really go off, but sort of talked about how I hate the story. And so the story has evolved in an interesting way. And an interesting kind of 2020 way. In that there is still all sorts of glowing media coverage. I think she was at the Titans game. I've seen New York Times articles, ESPN articles. So there, there is still this narrative that is out there that she has broken a glass ceiling that this is inspirational, etc, etc. In parallel to that looking at things on Twitter or on YouTube, there is a there's a counter narrative going on, which is that this was pure hype. And that it was sort of a bit of a joke. So you've got this kind of, again, the sort of the strangeness of the media environment where kind of the official, the mainstream, the folks with the really big platforms are endlessly praising this, this event. And the other side of it is endlessly trashing the event. Now, the one thing that sort of stuck with me, in all this was the reports that she delivered a halftime speech. Have you seen that?

Doug Battle 17:19

Yes, I am actually like I followed it pretty closely this week, because as a Georgia fan, it felt as though our game was contingent upon enough Vanderbilt players wanting to play. So I needed to kind of know if we were gonna have a game and even for my podcast, it was like, do we make an episode? Or do we assume there won't be a game because of this whole Sarah fuller thing? And what's going on with the players at Vanderbilt?

Mike Lewis 17:42

Okay, so you alluded to it earlier on. So there were reports? I can't find any official reports that players opted out. Yeah, it was due to Sarah Fuller, I've seen a lot that players opted out.

Doug Battle 17:53

Right. The due to Sarah fuller part was Twitter reporting. But it wasn't by fans, it was by reporters on Twitter and even on some of the fan forums, but by the reporters who post those articles, and so it was on the paid sites, it was not in the mainstream media was not a really a public story in that sense. And I don't know. Yeah, it's one of those things. I don't know, I don't know any of the Vanderbilt players. I don't know if that's why I would suspect based on the facts, the nature of the story and the situation of Vanderbilt that there are a number of factors. And that certainly is a contributing factor that that had something to do with it. There's also the fact that variables coach was fired last week. So you got these guys that are recruited to play for this man and the team, you know, the school has no allegiance to him. And so they feel like they have no allegiance to the school. And then you have this whole situation with Sara fooler. where maybe she was brought in like, like Derrick Mason was saying, because students were sent home for Thanksgiving. They had to do someone that had essentially been in the COVID bubble because of the COVID outbreak there. They had to look, you know, there's not a men's soccer team, and I got creative got a girl from the girls soccer team. Again, this is a story. This isn't my opinion on what happened. And so maybe that was what happened and she played and players felt disrespected by I mean, I saw articles along the lines of like, this is what Vanderbilt was missing. Like she gave this halftime speech telling them they needed to be more peppy on the sideline, and players. This is you know, Vanderbilt's football players don't have any leadership and she's the leader that they needed and things like that and I could definitely see guys being like, no, but they're making us look like losers to to hype up this girl. You know, she got sec player, the SEC, special teams Player of the Week and all she did was kick a squib kick, which was obviously kind of a handout of a award. And it's weird that I have to hesitate to say that because it's, it's just obvious. And it is what it is. It's, you know, for if you're saying, Let's be equal here and treat people equally. And then you give one person award, an award just for being out there, and no one else and, and you're kind of demeaning the rest of the team, because of this one player. And the fact that this one player is a different gender than the rest of the team, I think, certainly, I cou