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All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Friday, but most of you are quarantined meaning there isn’t really that much of a difference between a weekday and the weekend.

Sorry for that buzzkill.

But you still have the Friday mailbag to rely on.

Here we go:

Matt writes:

“If you had to pick any current college or professional football coach to be the president of the U.S. right now during this present crisis, who would be the top contenders?”

I think Nick Saban is the best choice and I don’t think there’s a close second.

Look, more than anything else I want superior intelligence and high end decision making under stressful situations. There are an awful lot of football coaches who would be high school gym teachers if they weren’t head football coaches. I don’t want that in my president.

Next I want the ability to convey information without being intimidated by what the media might say in response to your statements. I want somebody who genuinely doesn’t care what people think because I believe that’s what America needs in a leader right now. I honestly think a politician who doesn’t care about his polling will do better right now than a politician who is obsessed with his polling. There’s so much noise all the time that it’s impossible to make everyone happy.

I really don’t think any football coach in America combines these traits better than Saban.

Now Bill Belichick, I think, is clearly very intelligent as well, but he’s not a great communicator with the media. Which is why ultimately I think the choice is Nick Saban.

Jan writes:

“What are the potential legal/constitutional ramifications of city mayors like in Nashville and Knoxville urging citizens to report their friends and neighbors for violating “safer at home restrictions?”

First, what happens if you violate the restrictions? Are you going to be arrested for having another kid over for a play date with your kid? For having a small family birthday party with people standing too close to the cake? For standing too close to a neighbor outside while you both have a beer and chat? For jogging or biking too close to a friend? If so then your remedy for someone violating distancing restrictions is actually more people coming in close proximity with one another. That is, the police who respond to “investigate” this violation — if they actually responded — would be violating the distancing restrictions in order to speak with the violator. Then if they arrested someone you’d have to be booked and processed, putting you in contact with a huge number of people working with the police forces, making a sham of the entire purpose of the distancing restrictions.

I mean, this is absolutely insane and makes no logical sense.

It’s absolutely wild to me the number of people who want the government to take away all personal liberties. I mean, the most liberal people you know are absolutely begging for Donald Trump, the man they accused of wanting to be a dictator for three years, to become a dictator.

Strange times, indeed.

So I think the practical impact of these complaints is likely to be negligible. But setting up websites like these? I still think it’s incredibly problematic from a legal perspective and sets an awful precedent.

Second, and I can’t believe there aren’t a ton of lawsuits over this, what are “essential services?” Why are some businesses and industries exempt from social distancing and others aren’t? The line seems very hazy here. Some small businesses are open and doing fine, while others are forced to go bankrupt and shut down. And the line between what’s essential and what’s not, the line between a successful and unsuccessful business, is very hazy. For instance, construction workers are all still working. Now I’m in favor of as many people as possible working, but think about this, we’re allowing someone to build a shopping center, that’s an essential business, but once the shopping center is complete no one can open a business inside the shopping center. So how is building the shopping center essential work?

The coronavirus legal questions are like a series of the the greatest law school exam question hypotheticals ever.

The bigger issue here, however, which no one seems willing to talk about, is we are in danger of creating a voluntary great depression to avoid a disease that over 99% of people are going to recover from without any issues at all. Is that smart public policy?

Especially when we still don’t even have the most basic information about this disease — how common is it, how many people have already had it, how many people are asyptomatic? We don’t know the answer to these three huge questions which means it’s impossible to build any kind of model at all that accurately forecasts the viruses impact in the weeks and months ahead.

Furthermore, we are just completely rolling the dice that in a few months time when this virus is completely defeated that the economy is going to come back fine. Is this actually true, that we can surge to over 20% unemployment and then come right back down to normalized levels of employment by the winter? I mean, this has never been attempted in the history of the world. Maybe it will work, but if it doesn’t we have likely set back the country for a decade to save an uncertain number of lives.

Finally, the entire purpose of flattening the curve isn’t actually to minimize the number of infected people, it’s just spreading out the infections over a longer period of time to make it easier for health care workers to handle the sick. That may be intelligent public policy, but I feel like many people are missing the point that we are still talking about the same number of infected people, just over a longer period of time.

I’m just amazed that we have made all these massive social policy decisions with virtually no debate at all. It reminds me, honestly, of 9/11 when we stumbled into spending trillions of dollars on wars that never ended because every politician was afraid of being accused of being unpatriotic.

Look, whatever your politics I think it’s ridiculous to argue anyone is in favor of death. Everyone wants everyone to keep living, no one actually roots for death.

But nearly three million people die every year in this country. Roughly 7500 people die every single day in this country.

So far the coronavirus has killed six thousand people in America. Leaving aside the uncertainty for what is even classified as a coronavirus death — a huge percentage of people dying of the coronavirus have co-morbidities that would have killed them as well — it’s possible that at the end of the calendar year the total number of deaths in this country look no different than in other years.

Yes, I know, that one model showed millions of deaths if we do nothing at all, but was it an accurate model? Probably not since the model creator almost immediately revised his death estimates in England from 500k down to 20k or less. We have no idea whether his model has any validity at all.

Why do we not know this?

Because we still don’t know the basic facts about this virus. Even the model the White House gave us earlier this week is likely to be flawed because it uses New York City as a partial proxy for the rest of the country. But New York City isn’t really like the rest of the country at all. New York is much denser and much more highly populated than the rest of the country. Plainly, New York is a mess. But nowhere else in the country really looks like New York right now. Will other cities ever get as bad as New York? So far the data isn’t showing it.

So the input data we use for all these models, even the ones we are relying upon to make massive public policy decisions, are likely to be flawed as well. I just think it’s impossible to make good public policy, regardless of your political persuasions, when you don’t have accurate data upon which to rely. The result is you’re blindly attempting to solve problems without knowing how to solve those problems. Or even what the costs are if you do nothing at all.

When all is said and done it’s still possible that simply continuing on as normal while telling seniors and those with suppressed immune systems not to circulate was the best possible public policy.

Ultimately we just don’t know, we’re flying blind.

Richard writes:

“Why doesn’t the media hold China more accountable?”

Here’s where I’ll admit to being wrong, I used the data China provided as evidence of the fact that the coronavirus could be shut down with limited public costs in life. (Granted South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore also managed to shut down this virus with limited costs in Asia, but the China data was a big part, I think, of why people planned the way they did.) But I think the idea that you could shut down this virus, even after it spread widely, without any substantial public costs was a falsehood established by China.

Now you can say I shouldn’t have believed China’s numbers — that’s a fair criticism — but the world, including the WHO, seemed to believe China’s numbers.

But how much different would the world response to this virus have been if China had been honest and told us that tens of thousands of people had died in their country and they’d had hundreds of thousands of infections? I think things would have been tremendously different.

It’s not just the United States that has struggled as a result, it’s all of Europe.

Even now the media continues to share the China virus numbers as if they are honest. That’s despite all the evidence to the contrary suggesting these numbers are just made up. Even worse, they’re actually spreading Chinese propaganda about how well China has responded to this virus.

I don’t just think the media needs to hold China accountable for this, I think the world needs to hold China accountable.

What’s the best way to do that?

I don’t know for sure, but it needs to be a massive response given the costs in lives and economic output.

Alex writes:

“The GA governor admitted he didn’t know asymptomatic individuals could spread the virus. That’s an all time terrible take. Should there be some sort of mandatory intelligence test in order to be in a political leadership role? I’m only half kidding…”

When I saw these comments my jaw actually dropped.

I don’t know how it’s possible to have this little knowledge about the coronavirus and be in charge of running a state’s response to the virus. If I were a Democrat running against this guy my entire political campaign would be just running this clip over and over again.

I’m serious, I don’t think I’d run anything else.

Here’s what the Georgia governor said: “What we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad stay home, those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. But we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”

I mean this is mind-bogglingly stupid.

Hell, I’ve been writing and talking about the challenges of asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus for months now on Outkick. This has been widely known, that many people who looked and felt fine might have the virus and be spreading it all over the place. Hell, it’s probably the single biggest challenge involved in modeling this virus.

It’s crazy that any governor would make this comment, especially one in the same state and city AS THE CDC. He has access to the best doctors and scientists in the entire world in his same city and he’s not using them as a resource? It’s unbelievable.

As for your sort of joke about requiring intelligence tests, I doubt Brian Kemp is actually an idiot. I suspect that he’s just not very intellectually curious. Which is an incredible indictment of a politician. I’m insanely intellectually curious about a variety of topics, especially ones that are dominating all facets of public discourse in our country right now.

So just being smart isn’t enough, you have to be smart and able to use your intelligence.

It’s a tried and true fact that the strongest guys, for instance, aren’t the best football players. They have to be able to use their strength in a productive way.

What you need is a functional intelligence, an intelligence you can use to communicate with your constituents. There are plenty of people who are super smart and are awful communicators and there are plenty of people who aren’t that smart and are great communicators. Ideally your elected officials would be both smart and a good communicator. And be intellectually curious as well.

There are all sorts of legal issues at play about a test for electoral office, which would make it impossible to implement, but I’d honestly be fine if you had to pass a test to run for public office.

You can’t practice law unless you pass the bar exam. Really, at its most basic level, the bar exam is an intelligence test of sorts. If you study hard for the bar exam and you’re reasonably intelligent, you can probably pass the bar exam. But what percentage of Americans would struggle to pass it even with substantial study? Half? I think that’s probably fair.

So we won’t let half the population be lawyers, but we’ll let anyone be a governor?

That seems like an inconsistent standard.

I’d like to think it’s almost impossible to get elected to a high office in this country without being smarter than at least half the population, but am I wrong in that?

God, I hope not.

But based on some of the things I see politicians saying, I’m definitely concerned.

Nathan writes:

“You’ve talked about the denominator problem, but now there are reports that anyone who dies and has tested + is reported as a corona death, whether that was the cause or not. So now we have a numerator problem as well. What numbers even matter at this point?”

Sadly, our data is a mess on this, which is what I’ve been writing about for weeks, months even.

The fact that we still don’t have adequate data on this virus is, I think, the biggest single failure of our response to the coronavirus so far.

Here’s the other interesting fact that isn’t getting much attention in our public policy, how about the fact that deaths are likely to plummet during March and April for all sort of other issues, even as the coronavirus deaths, however you classify them, continue to rise?

Think about it, the same social distancing measures that lower coronavirus infections will also lower flu, cold, pneumonia, strep throat, and tons of other communicable disease infections, right? Combine that with the fact that people are driving substantially less and motor vehicle deaths are likely to plummet as well, right? Every month around 3,000 people die from car accidents. Is it crazy to think those will, for instance, drop in half? I don’t think so.

Which means it’s possible that even with a substantial rise in coronavirus deaths that the net death rate in the country will decline for the months of March and April. Remember over 50,000 people die every week in this country. Let’s say 100,000 people end up dying of the coronavirus over multiple months into the summer. That’s just two weeks of deaths in the country. Well, how many people are going to end up dying of other communicable illnesses? Probably way less, right? So how much of this will cancel out?

That’s why I think if you compare 2019 total deaths with 2020 total deaths it’s unlikely we will see much of a difference in the end of year totals, even with the coronavirus this year.

So how does that all factor in when it comes to decision making?

Right now what I think we’re doing is treating the coronavirus alone without considering any of the other considerations connected to the virus. And that seems like remarkably unsophisticated public policy regardless of your political leanings.

Sundown writes:

“Why would NBA risk a single city tourney format when all it takes is one undetected Covid19 case to shut the whole thing down?”

Because a single coronavirus case shouldn’t shut down the NBA, or any other league if they come back and start playing again.

Look, we are still flying blind when it comes to far too much of the data on this virus, but we do know this: the coronavirus is not very deadly at all to young, healthy people without underlying health issues. (Notwithstanding the random outlier articles someone shared with you on social media about a healthy person who died, this isn’t happening hardly at all around the world.) The vast, vast majority of people who are dying of the coronavirus are elderly with multiple underlying health conditions.

In fact, the flu has killed — and will kill — far more young people than the coronavirus this year.

Well, how would the NBA respond if a player got the flu? They’d probably pull that player out of the locker room, give him the best medical treatment in the world, and let them get healthy. (Or they could let that person play with the flu and not even worry about it, which is what the trend had been for decades in athletics. Think about it, prior to this year if you heard a quarterback sat out a playoff game because he had the flu, he would get ripped to high heavens for not sucking it up and playing, right? Hell, Michael Jordan made himself legendary with his flu game. Have you ever heard anyone criticize Jordan for putting other players at risk by playing with the flu?)

NBA athletes are the youngest and most healthy people in our nation.

If one of them gets sick, we’d just need to pull them out of the locker room and give them treatment until they get healthy. There are now five minute coronavirus tests which would allow everyone else to be monitored for the illness.

I do think you’d have to make sure that officials and coaches, who tend to be older, are all in good health without underlying immunodeficiency issues, but provided you do that, I don’t know why the risk would be any higher than it is for the regular season.

In fact, based on all the parameters I laid out earlier this week on Outkick, it would be lower.

You can read my analysis of the NBA’s potential decision to finish its season in Las Vegas — along with all the health considerations that would be in play with that decision — here.

Brandon writes:

“What is a realistic contract for Derrick Henry? The Todd Gurley contract didn’t work out, but there were a lot of factors at play there, mainly injury history. I don’t think 4 years, $60M, $45M guaranteed is a bad contract for the Titans (assuming Henry would take it). Thoughts?”

First, Derrick Henry has signed his franchise tag tender, which means the Titans aren’t going to have a Le’Veon Bell or Melvin Gordon like holdout situation this fall.

That’s big.

Second, Derrick Henry has only made $5.4 million in his first four years in the NFL. That means the Titans have paid him an average of just $1.35 million over those four years. I bet that stuns a lot of you. Unless you’re a first round pick, you really don’t make that much money in your first four years in the league.

Now Henry’s guaranteed to make $10.2 million for this year, which means he’s nearly doubling his entire NFL career salary in year five. But, significantly, he’s unlikely to ever make much money in a third NFL contract so this is his chance to cash in.

Third, Henry is presently 26 years old. Most NFL running backs decline precipitously once they reach 30 years old. So I don’t think you can sign him for anything more than three years of guaranteed money.

Fourth, right now Ezekiel Elliott is making $15 million a year, which is the highest salary for any running back. But Zeke is a more complete back, honestly, than Henry is, and Zeke drastically underperformed his contract last year. In fact, the highest paid NFL running backs of all time: Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and now Zeke have all not been worth the big money they’ve been paid.

That’s why I’d be inclined to offer Henry no more than $11 million a year for each of the next three seasons. And I’d want to give him around $22 million total in guaranteed money.

That’s especially the case if, like the Titans, I’m trying to free up money to make a run at Jadeveon Clowney.

Would that get it done? We’ll have to see.

JDS writes:

“Will movie theaters exist in a decade . It seems like this model of releasing on demand for a higher price works just as well then going to a movie.”

It’s a fantastic question.

There are going to be many technological and social changes brought about by the coronavirus shutdown. Could this be one of them? Potentially.

The movie companies will get a decent opportunity to see what kind of revenue they produce from going direct to consumer. What’s more, they get to test it out without the movie theaters able to complain. Remember, most movie theaters aren’t making money now off the movies themselves, they make money off the concessions.

My family watched “Onward” from Pixar at home because the movie theaters were shut down. We would have definitely gone to the movies to see it otherwise. So what sort of revenue will Disney see from Onward streaming to homes vs. if it had been in movie theaters? It’s a great question.

We paid $20 and all five of us watched it.

The movie was much cheaper than it would have been if all five of us had gone to the theater and I think I enjoyed it just as much. But will more people, like us, be likely to watch at home than would have gone to the theater?

And what’s the price point that makes sense?

Netflix, for instance, puts all its movies direct to the streaming service. Disney+ doesn’t. But how many more people would sign up for Disney+ if every Star Wars and Pixar movie was included the moment it released on that service? And would that lead to more revenue long term than releasing these movies in the theater? These are great questions.

I tend to think that movie theaters are going to have to become high end to survive in the years ahead. Right now I pretty much only go to the movies if I can have dine in service. I like to watch a movie and eat lunch or dinner while I do so. I’m willing to pay more for that service.

I suspect there will be a market for high end movie service in the future, but otherwise unless there’s a big movie coming out that I want to see on IMAX, I’d just as soon watch them at home.

And I suspect most people are like me, especially considering the increasing size and quality of flat screen televisions, which effectively create movie theater viewing experiences in the home as well.

Thanks for reading — and watching and listening to — Outkick and I hope you guys have fantastic weekends.

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.