All That and a Bag of Mail

BEIJING, CHINA – AUGUST 27: Usain Bolt of Jamaica checks himself after accidentally clashing with a member of the media after crossing the finish line to win gold in the Men’s 200 metres final during day six of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) Cameron Spencer Getty Images AsiaPac

It’s Friday, time for the mailbag to ease all of you out of your fake work or class doldrums.

The mailbag is up early today because I’m headed to Texas A&M to speak to the 12th Man Foundation donors. So if you see a bearded gay Muslim in College Station on Friday or Saturday, it’s probably me. Or a very unlucky impostor. 

Our beaver pelt trader of the week is this guy on the Segway who took out Usain Bolt in the immediate aftermath of his 200 meter win. Confession: I couldn’t stop watching this on loop. It’s like every photographers worst nightmare. And exactly what I would end up doing if I were in charge of that camera shot.  

But why isn’t this dude just walking and carrying the camera?

By the way, my favorite Usain Bolt story, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing you had all these highly trained athletes sleeping in hyperbaric chambers, eating fruit smoothies with every vitamin on earth mixed in for three years in a row and all sorts of other training insanity. Do you know what Usain Bolt ate every day? 100 chicken mcnuggets from McDonald’s. This is just a savage competitive move. You know all those other runners were so pissed when Bolt pulled up short at the finish line and celebrated after dusting them. They’ve finely tuned their bodies for years for this moment, analyzing their stool samples for the right amount of B12, and the motherfucker who ate 100 chicken mcnuggets a day in the Olympic village just dusted them.

Talent. Matters.  

Here we go with the mailbag. 

Tony C. writes:

“This has been a question amongst myself and friends for the last few weeks. For this question, we are going to assume that this man is 6’0” even and 200 lbs with above average athletic ability (3 sport high school athlete). The question is does this man get more base hits against a Major League Pitcher (Greinke or Kershaw) or score more points in a game of 1 on 1 against LeBron James. As for the baseball competition, Greinke/Kershaw pitches 20 “at bats” to you for 5 consecutive weeks while the defense is trying to get you out. Simply hitting the ball does not count, you have to reach first base without an error. As for the basketball competition, you play against LeBron James to 20 for 5 consecutive weeks (He is playing playoff defense, not regular season defense). Would this man get more base hits against Greinke/Kershaw or score more points against LeBron. If the answer is zero for both, which has a higher percentage of happening. Gay, racism, Muslim, sexist answers are appreciated. FYI, this is of great importance as the losers will be splitting the bar tab this weekend.”

I think the answer is scoring on LeBron provided it’s a one on one game from half-court — that is, you don’t have to dribble up the length of the court against him which you’d never be able to do — and you alternate possessions guaranteeing you at least 19 or 20 possessions a game depending on who gets the ball first. LeBron would score on you every single possession so if the scorer kept possession you’d never get any actual scoring opportunities. But that would be an awkward way to play this challenge so let’s assume alternating possessions and a half-court game.

So let’s think about how these one on one games typically go, you get the ball at the top of the three point line, you check the ball with him, he passes it back to you and you start. When you get the ball back from him you are immediately in “scoring range.” That is, it’s possible for you to put a shot up as soon as you get the ball checked back. Now he can crowd you and block you and body up on you and once you put it on the floor there’s a decent chance that he steals the ball from you. So I think you’d have to plan on taking crazy shots that he didn’t expect you to take with the idea being that if you put up 100 circus shots against LeBron one of them would go in. Essentially you can never telegraph a shot, you have to shoot mid dribble, underhand lobs, hooks from the three point line, anything to get the ball over him and onto the rim. You also have to be aggressive about calling fouls whenever you get trapped and he breathes on you. Your worst case scenario on a possession is a block or a steal because you can’t score if you can’t shoot. So your game plan is to get the ball up to the rim as many times as possible. It’s just human nature for LeBron to slack off a bit, I think you’d eventually score playing him in five games to twenty. 

In terms of batting, getting a hit against these pitchers with a major league defense behind them is really, really hard even for major leaguers. Pro baseball players batting 100 times against either of these guys might get hits 18-23 times. Potentially even lower if the pitcher has great stuff on that occasion. Just making contact with the ball would be a rarity for an average athlete, especially if he’s mixing in pitches. We’d all bail on every curve ball believing it was going to hit us. So I think this is harder to do.

One option to increase contact is to attempt to bunt every pitch and hope you could lay down a perfect bunt and beat it to first. But if the fielders know you’re bunting it’s almost impossible to get a hit that way. And you’d probably get your fingers hit by the pitch, which would be terrifying to attempt. Hell, I didn’t like to bunt for this reason in little league practice. 

If you did make contact in a non-bunt variety then the vast majority of your swings would be foul balls or they wouldn’t leave the infield. Combine that with the fact that the average guy is not very fast and your chances of legging out an infield hit against a major league defense are negligible. Your average guy is never hitting one that far either. Which means you’d either have to hit a blooper to the perfect spot in the outfield or rope a line drive to the outfield. I think there’s almost no chance of this happening. Also consider that if they wanted to make it really hard the teams could gamble that you have no power at all and crowd you with their outfielders, making it almost impossible for you to drop a hit over the infield.

So I’d go scoring on LeBron because I’m more confident the hypothetical guy in your scenario would have a better chance of getting up shots on LeBron than he would of making contact with pitches against top major leaguers.

Matt writes:

“Hey Clay,

Big fan. Every July/August as football season comes around I get the same feeling that I feel like you might be able to relate to. Every year I start to think that if I read enough magazines and websites and put in my time and research that I could be a successful gambler and maybe become a professional. I am only 24 and I look to you for elder wisdom. My question to you is, does that ever go away?”

No.

Every fan thinks he is better at predicting what will happen than every other fan. And we’re almost always wrong. If you doubt this, check out my picks every week this year. 

Gamble for fun, not to make a living. 

Marshall writes:

“Dear Gayest of all Muslims,

I’m hoping you can help my wife and I make an important decision, or at the very least save our marriage. We are Tennessee Vols season ticket holders — I’m a grad. When we got the schedule this year, we quickly compared it to our obligations for the fall. Lo and behold, her best friend from high school is getting married on Oct. 10 – the very same day the Vols host those Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium. Not only are we invited to the wedding, but my wife is a bridesmaid as well. I know I can’t be upset with her friend for scheduling her wedding in the fall – she graduated from an ACC school, so Saturdays in October aren’t quite as important. Anyway, I’ve tried everything under the sun to convince my wife to let me skip the wedding and go to the game, but so far nothing has worked. When I told her I would be on my phone getting score updates the whole time anyway, she threatened a swift punch to my throat. After going round and round about this for about two months now, we finally settled on the only good way to settle this: let Clay Travis be the judge, jury and executioner.

So what do you say? Wedding bells or Rocky Top?”

This is easy, she goes to the wedding and you go the game.

It’s her friend getting married and she’s in the wedding. Since she’s a bridesmaid you won’t be with her for most of the wedding day anyway. If you were in your friend’s wedding, then she could go to the game and you’d have to go to the wedding by yourself. This is really simple. Marriage doesn’t mean that you have to do everything together.

The other option here, which she can offer and you can choose to accept or not, is she can promise special drunken wedding hotel room sex to you if you turn down the game and agree to attend the wedding with her. Once you’re married, drunken hotel room wedding sex is really the only reason to go to a wedding as far as I’m concerned. Otherwise all weddings are pretty much the same. If I were her, I’d play that card and see if you can turn it down.      

Luke writes:

“I’m a die hard LSU fan who was moved to Nashville early in life. Soon after, I became a Titans fan. Loved McNair, George, and all the legends, and it’s been a rough year being a fan of such a embarrassment of a team over the years. As a fan, I just have to ask, what does Mett have to do to start back for the Titans? I thought he was way better in the first preseason game. I think he is a better NFL style quarterback. I guess my question is, is my optimism for Mett just coming from my love for LSU or is he genuinely a quality QB who could see time for this team this season? Because here’s the thing, I know it’s only been two games, but what if the rest of the preseason Mariota looks like he did in those first few series against Atlanta?”

I’m more excited about the future of the Titans right now than I have been in any year since Vince Young’s rookie season back in 2007. And we all know how well that turned out. That’s because I think Mariota is the real deal at quarterback. I love how in control he seems so far and I love that he’s so accurate with the football. I already feel a billion percent better about Mariota than I ever did about Jake Locker. 

But if he’s not the real deal then I think Mettenberger’s got a great chance to be a solid NFL starter as well. This means the Titans have two great options at quarterback, which has never really happened before in the history of the franchise. At least not since McNair and Neil O’Donnell were both on the team. 

I’m trying not to get giddy about this, but I just made my biggest bet of the offseason on the Titans over/under of 5.5 wins. I don’t think the Titans will be great, but I’ll be really surprised if they don’t win at least six games. Outside of the Colts the AFC South is pretty much garbage. I mean, have you looked at the Texans and the Jag rosters? There are a lot of bad football players in this division.   

Justin writes:

“In light of the rumored departure of Jason Whitlock, combined with Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, and Keith Olbermann leaving, what is happening at ESPN? Are they sending the message that creative, envelope pushers are no longer welcome there? And if so, are they in danger (more danger?) of becoming so sanitized that we as sports consumers will stop going there for anything other than highlights, since they seem to stifle opinions? In five years, where will we be able to go for reliable, honest sports coverage?”

ESPN’s in a bit of financial difficulty and I think they’ve made the decision to focus on their live event programming and not upset any of their partners. The four guys you mentioned are four of the ten most intelligent and opinionated people that ESPN employs so I think it’s hard not to say that ESPN is making a conscious decision to dial back on strong opinions when those opinions also require a significant paycheck. I like all four of these guys, three of them have already left ESPN and one more might.

Let’s think about this from a straight opinion perspective: who are the top ten ESPN opinion-making employees who people genuinely care about? That is, they are primarily in the daily opinion business and aren’t breaking news reporters or associated with calling games, i.e. the Adam Schefter’s and Jon Gruden’s of the world are excluded.

I think the seven most valuable and opinionated voices ESPN presently employs are: Tony Kornheiser, Mike Wilbon, Jemele Hill, Dan LeBatard, Jason Whitlock, Skip Bayless, and Stephen A. Smith. (You can certainly quibble with my list, but if you don’t have at least five of these names on your lists, I’d question your analysis. Scott Van Pelt could also be on here, but I would argue he’s more of a host, especially in his new late night role, than an opinion guy. Paul Finebaum could also be on this list, but since he’s primarily on the SEC Network, I’m excluding him and just focusing on ESPN or ESPN2 talent that isn’t directly connected to any one sport.) If we were making this a top ten then Simmons, Cowherd, and Olbermann, who have all departed this summer, would have clearly been the other three most valuable voices at ESPN.

If Whitlock leaves then ESPN may lose 40% of its top opinion talent in the space of a summer. That’s a clear move away from strong opinions, which I think is a mistake because other than actual sports programming, love them or hate them, people tune in for the opinions of these ESPN talent. They’re needle movers. ESPN’s view seems to be we can find new opinion makers to replace the people we’ve lost. Maybe they’re right, but I think people who can produce interesting and creative opinions on a daily basis are in short supply. There’s a reason, for instance, that PTI, which isn’t a complicated show at all, works so well and no one else, despite the lack of complexity, has been able to clone it. That’s because Kornheiser and Wilbon aren’t easily replaced. Who replaces the popularity of Simmons on ESPN.com? Who is smarter and more perceptive in his TV critiques at ESPN than Olbermann? Name me someone other than Whitlock that ESPN employs right now on the writing front that consistently produces thought-provoking opinion columns for large audiences? And we’ve got Cowherd now at Fox, but how many other guys host national radio shows solo for three hours a day? You can love or hate Cowherd, but take it from someone who has done a ton of solo radio, there aren’t many people who have the talent to pull off compelling solo radio five days a week for three hours a day. So I think ESPN’s wrong that all four of these guys are easily replaced. 

Now one interesting question for y’all — ESPN’s view has long been that the network makes the star and not vice versa. That’s proven true with quite a few people who have left. But in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, is that still the case? With YouTube and Periscope and independent sites aren’t an awful lot more people bubbling up with audiences they’ve created than being made famous from the top down? I’d argue yes. My point’s pretty simple: People will always crave entertaining opinions. Certainly we’re going that way aggressively at FS1. ESPN seems to be betting otherwise. We’ll see whether the market follows us to FS1 or sticks with ESPN.

I like our odds.

Allen H. writes:

“When are you coming back to radio?

The suspense is killing many. A couple of months ago, you said “August”. August has come, and has almost gone.

Throw us a bone.”

Here’s one bone, I’ll be on the FS1 Friday night college football show starting next Friday, September 4th. We’ll have me, Matt Leinart, Stewart Mandel, Bruce Feldman, Petros, Lindsey Thiry, and a few others to be named later on that show. It should be a fun way to get ready for weekly college football.  

As for radio, my hope was to launch the new show on Monday, the 31st of August. That would mean being able to announce my official start date this week. But that timetable has been pushed back a bit. So, candidly, I’m not sure when the new show will start. Just that it’s in the works and should be before long. (I know I’ve been saying that for months, but it’s true.) 

All I can tell you is that I’ll be back bigger and better than ever before — and available everywhere. But I still don’t have an official launch date yet and I’m more frustrated by that than any of you are, I promise.

In the meantime, I will start a daily live Periscope show on Monday. So if you aren’t signed up for Periscope, do it. I’ll try and do the show every day at 12:00 et, but I’ll inevitably miss some of those start times because of travel and whatnot. Regardless, I’ll be talking to you guys daily. And if you miss the show you can go listen whenever you want as the shows stay posted for 24 hours. 

Curtis B. writes:

“Do you have an opinion on putt putt golf etiquette?

Every time I play, we get stuck behind a slow group who are playing the hole one-person-at-a-time. It drives me nuts to get stuck behind these people who are taking 13 shots per person while other groups are waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The back up always grows to like three groups waiting for the same hole.

I’ve been taught that the correct way to play putt putt golf is very similar to traditional golf, with a few adjustments.

1) Everyone should tee-off before a 2nd shot is made. The one exception is if the previous player is now blocking access to the tunnel, clown nose, windmill, or whatever.
2) The closest ball to the hole putts first for every remaining shot.
3) You get about a 6-inch relief from the wall, no penalty
4) Maximum of 7 strokes per hole
5) No more than 5 golfers per hole.”

I love putt putt and agree with all of your rules. Pace of play is an issue in golf — waiting on every hole defeats the purpose of playing at all — but it’s also a real issue when it comes to putt putt. At least in golf most people won’t play with groups larger than four. Sometimes at putt putt you’ve got seven or eight people playing together. With like five kids. It’s a total disaster. Because everyone gets frustrated in big groups like this. You end up wanting to go all Earl Woods on your five year old and grab him by the shoulders and shake him and be like, “How did it take you nine strokes to get through the windmill? Give me fifty up downs.” 

Plus, if you skip ahead in putt putt you also feel like a total asshole because there’s always that tiny walkway to pass people on. Either that or you to have to leap a babbling brook or step through a hedge obstacle. And one of your kids will inevitably drop his ball and it will roll into a rattlesnake hole and you’re down on your hands and knees looking for it while they complain and…I’m getting stressed just typing this.  

The only additional suggestion I’d make is I don’t understand why putt putt courses don’t have adult nights and send around “cart girls” to take drink orders from players. How much fun would this be? If you’re getting drunk playing putt putt who cares how long it takes? We had an adult putt putt tournament on 3HL and awarded a green jacket to the winner, it was pretty fantastic radio. I’m still waiting on my Marconi 

Hope y’all have great weekends. By the time you’re back at work on Monday college football will be just three days away. 

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.