All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, time for the mailbag. 

Now y’all know I hate to brag, but today’s Outkick the Coverage show was simply phenomenal. We solved all of America’s racial issues. Kind of a big deal. You should be subscribed or listening every morning. Here’s the link to do so. 

Okay, on to the mailbag. 

Garth writes:

“Since Lavar Ball said the reason UCLA lost was because they started three white dudes, how would this play out if an owner made similar comments? If an NBA owner said “we didn’t win because we had 3 black guys out there.” would he be publicly shamed and forced to sell his franchise?”

If an NBA owner only had three black dudes on the court he should be publicly shamed and forced to sell his franchise for not trying to win more games. More seriously, I think the NBA’s the wrong argument because it’s clear that black people are better at basketball than white people. It’s also clear that black people are better at playing cornerback, running back and wide receiver than white people. This is not up for debate. Unless you believe that white people are just not trying hard enough to be good at basketball or football. (And no it’s not racist to say or write this. Every comment about race is not racist. Pretending you don’t notice that black people dominate basketball or cornerback, running back and wide receiver in football is like pretending you don’t realize when it’s raining outside.)

So that would be kind of a nonsensical statement for an NBA owner to make. 

But if, for instance, a white NFL owner said he didn’t believe a team could win a Super Bowl with a black quarterback I think he’d be forced to sell his team after the resulting outrage. Now let’s flip the racial script, if a black NFL owner — let’s pretend there was one — said he didn’t believe a team could win a Super Bowl with white wide receivers would we he be forced to sell his team? Of course not. 

So far there are 1.5 black quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls, Doug Williams and Russell Wilson. And Cam Newton, Steve McNair, and Donovan McNabb have been to Super Bowls and lost. Also, I think it’s pretty clear that the New England Patriots have proven that an all white receiving corps could win the Super Bowl.

So both of these statements wouldn’t be supported by factual evidence. Yet one statement would cause a national uproar that probably would lead to an NFL owner being forced to sell his team and the other one would barely be a blip on the sports radar and the owner would suffer no long term consequences.

Why is that? Because the media doesn’t treat racial comments equally today. From a media perspective only white people can be racist against black people. If I could change one thing about the way the media covers race in America today it would be this — the idea that only white people can be racist.

Black privilege exists and it’s this — you can never get publicly branded a racist no matter what you say or do.  

My issue with Lavar Ball’s comments isn’t that I find them personally offensive — it’s nearly impossible to offend me when someone shares an opinion, even if I disagree with it completely — it’s that Ball suggests that something is impossible because of someone’s race. Which is, you know, racist. Because you’re judging someone’s ability to do something based entirely on how they look. 

If Ball had said, “Ain’t too many basketball teams starting three white dudes that win titles,” it wouldn’t be racist. That’s true. Just like saying, “Ain’t too many teams with black quarterbacks that win Super Bowls.” Both of these things are factually true, but when you take the next step and say that someone can’t do something because of their race that’s taking it a step too far.* 

*Except, let’s not get crazy here, the fastest man in the world will never be white. 

Final thought, can you imagine what the reaction would have been like if right after the Carolina Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl if linebacker Luke Kuechly’s dad, the parent of the best player on the team, had come out and said the reason the Carolina Panthers lost was because they had a black quarterback and that he didn’t believe a black quarterback could win a Super Bowl for the Panthers?

That would have gotten an entire month’s worth of media coverage, right? That’s because of the totally absurd racist double standard that only white people can be racist in this country. 

Brad writes:

“You’ve been all over the cable bundle/sports rights/etc bubble and it seems to me that the X factor in all of your analyses is the ability for kids to stream for free from their parents and friends. If cord cutting continues, can cable companies prevent this from happening? I think a huge impact of the cord cutting isn’t real due to many shared accounts. I’d love to see the data on this. Sure, some people would go without cable even if they had to pay, but I think plenty would pay full price or go to a skinny bundle if they couldn’t use a “free” account.

Is it feasible for cable companies to limit the sharing of login info? Would they even want to do this and risk hurting their bottom line further?”

I did a poll on whether or not my followers had used a friend or relative’s cable or satellite password to watch sports online and the results were pretty fascinating — 62% of people who responded, nearly 8k voters, had used a friend or relative’s password. 

The younger you are, the more likely this is. 

I asked the same question at the University of Tennessee when I spoke there at the beginning of March. There were nearly 500 18-22 year old kids there to see my speak and almost none of them had a cable or satellite subscription. When I asked how many of them used their parent’s passwords the entire room raised its hand.

So I think a huge percentage of the decline in cable and satellite subscriptions is coming from guys and girls who use their parents passwords to watch sports for “free.” 

Here’s the challenge though, if everyone is moving online to watch sports, what other option does ESPN have? Are they not going to provide this service that their customers are demanding? It reminds me of the dilemma newspapers faced with the rise of the Internet. Everyone was demanding the newspaper online, but then the ad dollars weren’t there to support the newspaper online. So what do you do? Do you lose your business online to someone else or do you bite the bullet and realize the days of fat profit margins are over and slowly watch your business disappear online? (This is somewhat different, however, since ESPN has exclusive rights to its games. ESPN could just say you have to watch on TV. The challenge there is I believe ESPN is trying to transition to an era when the cable bundle doesn’t exist and remain relevant.)

Aside from the 13 million cable subscribers they’ve lost and the billions of dollars in fixed costs in place, here’s the biggest issue for ESPN, what do you physically buy if you buy ESPN right now? The most valuable thing they have is sports rights. But all they have is the right to show those games for a set period of time. Then those rights go away. ESPN is a middleman. And what is happening to middlemen in our modern business era? They get replaced because they are inefficient.   

If you were running Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, or Netflix and you decided to get into sports what value does ESPN itself actually bring you outside of their sports rights? Virtually zero, right? So why would you buy them? ESPN has almost no intellectual property of any real value. With the exception of its 30 for 30 documentaries ESPN produces original programming that is almost 100% disposable and has almost no archived value. Moreover, all of ESPN’s talent can be hired away when their contracts expire.

ESPN’s entire business model is basically rooted in distribution. For decades they could distribute your content better than you could if you were in the sports business. But that’s not true any longer since distribution costs are nearly moving to zero.

The simple truth is this: ESPN has no real assets, it’s essentially a middleman in an era when there’s no need for middlemen.   

Compare buying ESPN to, say, if you bought HBO. HBO has real, tangible assets. HBO’s got “Game of Thrones,” “Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” and all its other popular content that they own forever. People who haven’t even been born yet are going to watch “Game of Thrones” and love it. But what sports network actually has any value outside of its sports rights? There’s almost no show that the cable brands of ESPN, Fox, NBC, or CBS have ever produced that has any lasting value whatsoever.  

That’s a major problem.

And, interestingly, it’s one that Disney has totally addressed in other realms by buying Pixar, Marvel, and Lucas Arts/Star Wars. In a media era as competitive as this one all that matters is the great content that you own.

And ESPN owns nothing but a big studio in Connecticut.  

Brett writes:

“How absurd is it that MSESPN/the powers that be at Augusta National don’t allow for Thursday and Friday morning rounds at the Masters to be broadcast? Surely there has to be some amount of money involved that both groups are missing out on.”

It’s not ESPN or CBS’s fault, it’s the insane people at the Masters.

There is no way on earth that the Masters shouldn’t be on all day, from the moment the first golfer tees off on Thursday morning until the last golfer finishes on Sunday.  

And, no, the online streaming options don’t fit the bill. They have a couple of random featured pairings that no one cares about and a live feed from Amen Corner. 

That’s not enough.

I think it’s incredibly stupid and antiquated.  

Aaron writes:

“Every tax season I come across two charitable donations that really bother me, both made by my wife. One is to our local NPR station and the other is to Wikipedia. It’s not the money that bothers me, we make plenty of it to go around, but it’s the way that these entities do business. I feel like they essentially operate off of a bait and switch to exist. I can’t get my wife to agree with me on this, so I was wondering if you could let me know if I’m being crazy on this one.

Here’s my argument. My wife initially started listening to NPR because she didn’t want to pay for SiriusXM and doesn’t like all the commercials of non-public radio. When you listen to something on a 25 minute commute every day, you’re eventually going to become emotionally attached to it. Then comes the annual pledge drive where they let you know that they actually need some money to offer a service with no subscription fees and no ads. If you’ve ever been so bored as to listen to one of these, you’ll notice that one of their biggest tactics is to make their listeners feel guilty for listening every day without helping to pay the bills. At this point my wife has no problem writing a check for $200 to help the cause. Here’s the problem. She only started listening to NPR in the first place based on an implied contract that she’ll listen to whatever programming you have as long as its free and has no ads. Had she instead been asked to pay a subscription of close to $17 a month for a single radio station with shows only slightly more entertaining than white noise and no sports, there’s no way she’d have gone down that road. At this point, people usually ask how this is different than someone like SiriusXM offering a free trial. The answer is that you don’t start a free trial under the assumption that you can continue to receive that service indefinitely for free.

Wikipedia is even worse. They’ve made it impossible for anyone to compete with their business by using this bait and switch strategy. Think back to around 2005. Did anyone really use Wikipedia over Brittanica because it had better content or because anyone could edit it? Hell no, it was because that junk was free online. Then every April I have to see that I’ve given them $25 because they put a sob story at the top of their page about how they’re just a non-profit trying to keep the lights on to give us this great website. They even state something like that if everyone reading this gave just $3, they’d have their budget for the year. Now imagine if Brittanica had the readership of Wikipedia with a budget of $3/person/year. The world would have a much better online encyclopedia than one written by a bunch of crusty grad students on their MacBook Pros.

This is also the same strategy adopted by essentially every tech startup (Facebook, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu, and now possibly Twitter). Facebook beat out Myspace because it was simpler, had no ads, and was exclusive (I still remember how pissed I was when they started letting UGA students join). Flash forward to Facebook now, and my feed is littered with annoying games, ads suggesting a new type of cereal, and even a roofer from Nebraska can have an account. The original Myspace was way better than this, but I can’t go back to it now because the world chose Facebook under false pretenses. The formula is very simple:
1. Get someone willing to live off of plain spaghetti and the High Life for a few years to build a technology already offered by several competitors, but offer it for free. Usually this founder is a college student.
2. Once you have a substantial following, go out for venture capital money with the promise that this is a billion dollar idea. If you’re a non-profit, go out for a grant rather than VC.
3. Operate in the red off this VC for several years until you’ve put the competition out of business. More importantly, make sure that your following has invested so much time in your technology that they’ll avoid switching to a superior product just to avoid the hassle of learning something new.
4. Go public.
5. Oh shit, why is our stock plummeting?
6. Since you’ve put the competition away, start doing everything they were doing in the first place to make money. Your customers will hate you, but they have nowhere else to go.

To finish with an analogy, imagine if Jack Daniels targeted everyone with alcoholic predispositions and gave them a free bottle of whiskey every week for a year or two (funded with VC from Mark Cuban). Then once every other liquor company was out of business, they started charging $50 a handle for it (or you had to listen to a draft kings commercial every time you took a sip). The civilized world would be outraged at this! But for some reason NPR and Wikipedia get a free pass. I realize that in a free market society, they have every right to do this, but they should also be called out as the dicks they are for operating this way.”

This is such a fantastic email. 

I particularly love the NPR angle. Their business model is to be free, but make you feel guilty for the fact that they are free. So instead of doing all the work making advertisers happy, they just go to listeners and get them to donate by putting a guilt trip on them.

What an amazing business strategy. Could I pull this off with Outkick? Instead of worrying about selling ads and busting my ass on that angle all the time, could I just spend a week every year asking for donations from you guys?

I’d feel guilty as hell doing it, but in seven years Outkick has never cost you guys a dime unless you’ve bought Outkick Gear. Which, by the way, go buy Outkick shirts, cheapskates. 

The only thing I would add to your numbered list above is that before the companies go public they come up with a business plan for how to monetize their audience. It doesn’t have to be working flawlessly yet — and it may never work, thanks, Twitter — but the potential is there for massive streams of revenue to roll in when they make the pitch that they’re going public. And, honestly, if you look at Google and Facebook they’ve proven that if you get big enough you can often come up with a business model that makes sense.  

Uber still isn’t making money yet and it’s worth $70 billion now and has basically killed the cab business. Putting that into context, Uber is worth $20 billion more than GM or Ford. Think about how crazy that is, Uber, which isn’t even traded publicly yet and has yet to make a dollar, is worth $20 billion more than the companies that actually make most of the cars in America and have existed for 100 years or more. (This isn’t just Uber, by the way, Tesla has a higher market cap than GM or Ford too.)

Every venture capital goal is the same — don’t worry about making money yet, just get huge and then we’ll figure out how to make money.

Google and Facebook both got huge before they made a dollar. Amazon, and this is an amazing stat, now makes .50 cents for every dollar spent online and they only started making decent money in the past couple of years. So Amazon put all these other companies out of business by selling goods online that they didn’t make money on and now they have the ability to start to raise prices because everyone loves Amazon and they have much less competition out there.

God bless America. 

Will writes:

“A couple of weeks ago there was a story you featured on your morning show, and which made the social media rounds, that made me wonder if you might be able to make the foray into the parental advice space. I’m a relatively new parent to a 2 year old boy so I’m hoping that you, as a father of 3, can provide some advice to those of us out here trying to raise our kids A) not to get hit by trains and B) to DBAP.

The story that caught my attention was about the 17 year old in Texas who slept with his hot teacher… As an outsider, this is awesome and I’d high five this kid in a heartbeat. In a perfect world he’d never need to buy a beer again. However, I have absolutely no idea what I’d say to my son in this scenario – seriously, it baffles me. What does this conversation look like? First of all, the news would hit my wife like a train and she’d likely have an aneurysm. So if it’s not a known thing, do we keep it between us? Second, if she does know (and survives that aneurysm), do I follow her lead? I kinda feel like my role in this case would just be to make sure he wore protection, but I honestly don’t have the slightest idea how to handle a situation like this. Any advice you can deliver would be appreciated.”

First, you have to make sure your kid is okay. Most teenage boys would be totally fine — even better than that once the rest of the school found out about this relationship and he became a school legend for banging the hot teacher — but if this is the first girl he’s ever liked or slept with he might be pretty emotionally messed up by the entire situation. Particularly if the authorities are involved and they’re checking his phone and asking him to testify about his relationship. Put it this way, what if the police and other adult authority figures suddenly investigated the first girl you liked in high school, you’d be a total mess, right?   

Once it goes public the entire thing is pretty embarrassing and overwhelming and that’s why you should be upset with the teacher. I think it’s fair to say that most teachers, women in particular, who sleep with students probably have significant issues in their life. A hot high school teacher should have tons of men her own age trying to sleep with her. What’s causing her to want to sleep with a 16 year old boy? Because let’s be honest, most 16 year old boys are gangly dorks. (I think male high school teachers who sleep with girl students are less likely to have the same dating options outside of school and are just chasing the best options they can find, even if they’re illegal. In other words, I think male teachers who sleep with underage students are probably dorks who aren’t doing well with women with their own age.)

Anyway, that’s my analysis of the situation as a whole. 

So if your teenage son slept with his hot high school teacher, I’d probably sit him down and say, “Look, I don’t blame you for sleeping with your hot high school teacher, but you just need to know that she’s probably got pretty substantial issues in her life. And she’s too old for you. That’s why I think you should focus on girls your own age for the rest of high school and college. You’re going to have plenty of pretty girls to chase on college campuses and after you graduate college you can chase girls older than you too. But for now mom and I definitely think you shouldn’t be with people like your teacher.”

Then I’d probably give him a fist pound when his mom wasn’t looking. 

LT writes:

“So I had to move this week. Some (most) of my buddies no showed me. Do I have lazy/crappy friends, or am I the jerk for not hiring movers, or both? And is there an age limit to be asking that kind of favor, because I do realize that at 39 I’m too old to be offering pizza and beer as labor payments.”

Once you’re married or most of your buddies are married you have to pay for movers.

That’s because people are just too busy to give up a day to help you move.

The last thing I want to do in my free time is go lug someone’s couch up three flights of stairs.

Now if it’s one object or something and you live nearby, that’s totally acceptable, but spending several hours moving someone when he’s 39 years old? No way.

Spend money on movers, you cheap ass.

Send your mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.