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All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Friday, time for the Outkick mailbag to make you smarter.

As a preliminary, I’ve never seen anything like the sign ups for our Outkick VIP. In fact, we’ve had so many people sign up that my most recent book is close to being out of stock. Which is why this is the last week I can absolutely, positively guarantee that if you sign up for the Outkick VIP you’ll get an autographed copy of my book. So if you want that, you need to sign up today to ensure you get it. Here are all the details for what you get. Go sign up today.

Okay, here we go with the mailbag questions.

The most common question I got was about the Big Ten eliminating non-conference games. So here are my thoughts on that:

I don’t understand the logic here at all.

The only reason to eliminate non-conference games is because there’s a greater chance of players getting the virus in football games against out of conference opponents than against in conference opponents. But shouldn’t a university, which exists to further the spread of education, have some rational basis to make the decision it’s making?

For the life of me, I can’t come up with any rational reason why non-conference games would be more dangerous for players than conference games. Are smaller conference schools not also trying to protect their players just like the bigger conference schools are? (And if they aren’t shouldn’t that be a huge issue? Every college player should have equal health care and access to doctors as every other college player.)

Furthermore, is the spread of the virus actually likely to occur during football games? It seems clear locker room settings are far more likely to spread the virus among teammates than brief encounters on the football field are likely to spread the virus among opponents. So the logic here seems specious at best to me.

Many of the non-conference games being eliminated are also much closer geographically than the conference games as well, so the overall travel restrictions don’t make sense as a rationale either. Under the Big Ten’s announced plan Iowa and Iowa State, two power five teams, can’t play in-state, but Nebraska can travel to Rutgers. Nebraska to Rutgers is 1287 miles of travel distance, you can drive between Iowa and Iowa State on a bus, the two schools are just separated by 125 miles.

What sense does that make?

If this cancellation of non-conference games continues then ACC-SEC in-state games between Florida and Florida State, Louisville and Kentucky, Georgia and Georgia Tech, and Clemson and South Carolina would all be ended. All of these games are easy bus trips in the same state between major conference opponents. Furthermore, there is virtually no geographic distance meaning the virus is likely to be of similar impact in both locations.

Meanwhile in-conference trips that are much farther apart would remain in effect.

Boston College, for instance, can fly all the way from Boston to Florida, but Florida can’t drive over from Gainesville?

As a result you are actually preserving games that require a more substantial distance to travel. (This is assuming travel distance matters. Is it really that much different in terms of coronavirus danger from getting on a plane and flying three hours instead of driving two hours? Or of staying in a hotel in one destination instead of another? There seems to be no logic here whatsoever.)

Plus, all evidence militates in favor of playing the season, period. Football players, like college students themselves, are in greater danger of dying from the flu, being struck by lightning or dying driving to the campus than they are from the coronavirus.

Which is why none of the Big Ten’s decisions here are remotely rational or rooted in data.

This seems like a panicked move driven by non-objective thinkers in an attempt to placate idiots in the media. If other conferences are actually behaving rationally, they won’t follow the Big Ten’s lead at all.

A mother of two in Nashville, who is also a pediatric nurse practitioner, shared this email she wrote to the director of Nashville public schools. (Nashville announced yesterday they were going to have at least a month of remote learning to begin the school year, infuriating many parents in the city.) I thought it was fantastic and wanted to share it with you here in the Friday mailbag as I know many of you are parents who believe kids need to be back in school.

“I am a practicing Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, 11 years experienced.

I am disgusted at the fact we are not getting the opportunity to send our kids back to school in August. Why did you send us a survey asking our opinion? Did those results not show you that the majority of us want our kids back in school regardless of the risk of COVID -19? Per the CDC, as of July 8, 29 children 0-15 years of age in the entire United States have died of COVID-19. But 100 have died of Influenza. Have we ever shut down school for months at a time for influenza? Not in my lifetime and I doubt in yours either. Why then would we for a virus that has killed a third less kids than a mild influenza strain? Please enlighten me.

Have you not read the Academy of Pediatrics, which consists of 67,000 Physicians, stance on this issue? They have made it crystal clear this week that children should return to school. Per their article, “The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.

Have you looked at the statistics on the increase of child abuse during this lockdown? What about the parents who have to make the choice to work or stay at home? Or are forced to leave their kids at home unsupervised because they have no choice but to go to work to feed their families?

And let’s not forget the fact that the majority of private schools in Davidson County are stating that their students will report back for in person learning. Are you purposefully furthering the divide between public and private? My family and I have been invested supporters of our school both with our time and money, do you want all of us that can afford private school to choose it? Because that’s the impression I’m getting with this decision.

Please know that I respect you and your position but I will fight with every ounce of energy I have to get this overturned. I am so ashamed of our Metro Nashville Public School Board.”

I love this email.

Maybe Nashville moms (and dads) need to stage their own march in the city. That seems to be the only permissible group activity that the mayor will allow so maybe that’s the only way to get his attention.

I’m absolutely furious at the coronavirus responses across this country from many politicians, most of whom appear to be completely ignoring the data when they make their decisions.

How can you be the mayor of a city like Nashville and make a decision that’s the exact opposite of what 67,000 trained pediatricians recommend? Over 30% of Nashville kids don’t have computers at home, over 20% don’t have the Internet. Schooling these kids from home remotely is impossible.

And who do you think these kids without access to computers or the Internet are?

THE MOST DISADVANTAGED IN THE CITY!

The entire purpose of public school in the first place is to attempt to provide all kids, regardless of their backgrounds, with an equal education. (We know all public schools are not equal, but at least when you have kids physically present inside schools you can, at minimum, hope to provide all kids instruction for an equal number of hours every day.) Not to mention the importance for many kids of school breakfast and lunch programs, having access to adults who can notice signs of abuse and mistreatment, there is zero evidence to support shutting down schools.

When you shut down schools the poorest kids far further behind, potentially creating education gaps they will never make up for the rest of their lives. Education gaps create income gaps that persist in this country. (The most reliable predictor for income in this country isn’t race, it’s educational achievement.)

Furthermore, school-age kids are far more likely to die of the flu than they are of the coronavirus and we rarely, if ever, shut down schools for the flu for more than a few days a year. Plus, unlike with the flu there is no sign kids are primary vectors for the spread of the virus, meaning they are highly unlikely to spread the virus to teachers.

As if that weren’t enough evidence, kids are most likely to get the virus from their parents WHEN THEY ARE AT HOME. (I feel like I need to go all caps more often these days to make my points abundantly clear).

Meaning getting kids out of the house may well DECREASE the overall infection rate.

Proving how wrong Nashville’s decision is, NEIGHBORING COUNTIES ARE MAKING THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE DECISION.

We live in a neighboring county to Nashville, Williamson County, just south of Davidson County, where Nashville is located. (In the state of Tennessee schools are mostly run on a county-wide basis as opposed to by cities). Our local school system, which borders Davidson County, announced yesterday that it is their intent to open schools for all students when schools return.

But in making that announcement they laid out a chart based on the prevalence of covid in the county as the guideline for exactly what their instruction would look like come next month.

That seems eminently reasonable to me.

Give people guidelines so they can prepare for what the fall might look like. If the virus spreads substantially then only the youngest children, those in kindergarten to second grade, will attend school, but the older ones will not. If the virus doesn’t spread from the current rate then all kids will go.

One county made a rational decision based on existing data — even if I still think their policy is too conservative, which I do — and the other one completely panicked and made an irrational decision.

As a result my kids will be going to public school and the city of Nashville’s kids won’t be.

That means my kids will gain all the advantages of in-person instruction while the kids across the county line will fall farther and farther behind.

I’ve never been happier in my decision of where to live, but I’ve also never been more frustrated as a Tennessean about the illogical decisions being made by my hometown’s leaders.

Look, I went to Nashville public schools grades K-12. I’ve lived in the city of Nashville up until four years ago when we moved here for better schools for most of my life. I don’t like to see any Nashville politicians make disastrous decisions, regardless of which party they represent.

Democrats are supposed to be the party of science yet they are rejecting the advice of 67,000 doctors when it comes to reopening schools.

Republicans have also, frequently, been a mess on responding to this virus.

I think that’s because there are relatively few people actually looking at the data and making rational decisions as opposed to acting based on fear and emotion. The entire mess here is absolutely infuriating.

Matt writes:

“I was watching “Hamilton” on Disney+ this past week and it was surprisingly good. I do not have much of an appreciation for Broadway shows so I don’t watch them very often. However, as I was watching it, I started to wonder, should there be an outrage for many of the white historical characters, like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, being played by black and brown performers? Recently all the public outcry is for actors and cartoons to be voiced by a person that matches the character’s race. Should white people demand that George Washington be played by a white person or should I check my white privilege at the door?”

I’ve got a better hypothetical for you, what if a brilliant writer, building on the success of Hamilton, decided he wanted to do a Broadway version of the Obama administration, but he wanted to do it with a country-western theme? The play entitled, “Obama,” would be similar to “Hamilton” in that it cast its protagonist in a very favorable light, just instead of being based on rap music, it would be based on country-western songs.

And then that brilliant writer, building on the idea of “Hamilton” to make white historical figures black, decided to cast most of the Obama administration as white people? Can you imagine the outrage?

It would be incredible to see.

Yet it would be following the same template as Hamilton.

That’s why I think all of this casting nonsense is absurd. Did you see where Halle Berry recently had to pull out of playing a transgender person because she’s not transgender? I mean, how far does this extend? Isn’t the entire purpose of acting to pretend to be someone you aren’t? Why should you only be able to pretend to be people who look like you?

It seems to defeat the entire purpose of acting in the first place.

These absurd new rules in Hollywood and elsewhere just make no sense.

Jeff writes:

“Hey Clay, you have to be one of the most interesting dynamics in media today. I see all the time about how you’re so republican and pander to your right wing fan base. Which first of all is pure insanity considering you’ve worked on Al Gore’s campaign and voted democrat most of your life. That alone puts you in a small minority of people who are open minded enough to be democrat most of your life but not have your beliefs set in stone and take the ride to crazy town with a lot of them. Also, how many people in media especially have the confidence to openly admit they’ve voted democrat most of their life knowing that a good chunk of their base are Republican.

If you really think about it I would say there’s maybe a handful I would say that’s the opposite of pandering. I would say you use common sense and like you’ve said whether people like you or not you’re honest and I think a lot of normal people from either party respect that. So my question is do you think your views have changed much since the Al Gore days or do you think it’s more so that the left has had to try and go so far left that it’s alienated normal people like yourself? In my opinion the left has always used social issues against the right. But when I was growing up they had gay marriage, legal marijuana etc. and those were some legitimate cases against Republicans. But now that the majority of the population is fine with gay marriage, legal marijuana etc. the left keeps trying to create these extreme social issues because that’s what they’ve always run on and they don’t know any different and these wild ideas seem to alienate a lot of the Bill Clinton-Al Gore Dems. I was just curious if you had any thoughts/theories/perspective on this.”

What I try to do is be as honest as I possibly can. That’s why people who attempt to attack me have no impact on my (rapidly growing) fan base. Because that fan base hears directly from me every day for several hours at a time. So when you accuse me of pandering my audience knows the truth, that isn’t remotely the case.

I tell you exactly what I think and let people make their own judgments about whether they agree or disagree with my comments. And I think true honesty is so rare in the media today that there are many people out there who support me who don’t agree with everything I’ve ever said or done.

They just respect the fact that I’m honest with them.

As for the evolution of my own particular political beliefs, I don’t think I’ve changed much. The platforms Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Barack Obama ran on, which I supported, would now be considered Republican platforms.

There’s no way a Democrat just 12 years later could run on Obama’s 2008 platform at all. Heck, I don’t think 2008 Obama could have run in the 2016 election either.

That’s how rapidly the line has shifted out there.

The things I care about the most are protecting the first amendment and making decisions based on facts as opposed to emotions. And right now the Republican party, which isn’t without significant flaws either, is much better on both those issues than the Democrats are.

Put simply, I don’t fit very well in either party right now, and I suspect there are many of you who feel the same way.

G. writes:

“I teach math in a public high school in Florida. As of yesterday, students and teachers are required to wear masks when we return in a month. Teachers can remove them if it interferes with instruction or if I am able to maintain 6 ft, which I plan to do. But students are to wear them the entire day, except for lunch and P.E. I am in my early 30s. excellent health and fitness.

I want to tell my students that if you take your mask off in my classroom I do not mind at all. But I need my job, both financially and because it gives me so much meaning in my life, and I do not want to risk it in any way. I am not part of the teachers union, who advocated for the masks. I plan on simply ignoring students who take their masks off in class, is there anything else you recommend I do? Everything I have read tells me that young people have an infinitesimally small chance of death from the virus, and in a public school, it is impossible to prevent the spread of something like it, though I will use sanitizer and wipes liberally.”

I think the safest thing to do is just not remonstrate children when they take masks off in your classroom.

Kids naturally test and push the rules and boundaries of any authority figure.

I know I did and I know many of you did as well.

The data doesn’t reflect that children are spreading the virus much, if at all, between each other and also reflects that they don’t tend to spread the virus to adults very much at all either.

So if you’re teaching them from a decent distance, I’d just enforce the classroom rules as you see fit. Some kids may keep their masks on and others may not. I don’t think it should be your job to be policing that for every minute throughout every class you teach.

But I also don’t think you should explicitly reject the directive given to you by your bosses and make it clear to your kids that you’re doing so.

Stephen writes:

“Clay – congrats to you and Jason on the tear that Outkick is on. My question is: in terms of viewership and revenue, will it be possible to isolate and quantify the effect of the NBA and NFL’s decisions to embrace Black Lives Matter this season? Take me as one data point – I am in my early 30s, married, live in the DFW area, and I am starved for live sports. My wife and I normally attend 1-2 Cowboys home games and 8-10 Mavs homes games per year, and I watch around 75% of all Cowboys and Mavs broadcasts for games I don’t attend. I also usually watch the full NFL Sunday slate of games. However, I am sufficiently troubled by the NFL and NBA’s embrace of BLM and its Marxist political and social agenda (not to mention that it’s a fundraising conduit for the Democratic Party), that I will be boycotting the NFL and NBA as long as the leagues bend the knee to BLM. That means I will not buy any Cowboys/Mavs tickets or merchandise, I’ll skip the Mavs broadcasts and play golf instead of watching the NFL on Sundays. My rationale is simple: keep politics and political ideology out of pro sports and I will be a customer; muddle the two and I’m out.

I’m sure the NBA and NFL will lose many other customers for the same reason; however, there are other variables such as Covid-19 fears and venue and format changes that will muddy the waters in terms of isolating their respective effects on revenue and viewership for this season. So back to my question, will it be possible to interpret the data for the upcoming seasons and understand the effects of leagues’ newfound wokeness on bottom lines?”

I think this year will be a TV ratings mess all around and it will be difficult to figure out exact cause and effect because there isn’t a precedent for a situation like this.

Let me explain.

While there will doubtless be many sports fans such as yourself who will choose not to watch games because of politics, there are also many people who would otherwise be watching games in person or in sports bars — or maybe with buddies at their houses — that will be watching them at home. In other words, out of home viewing, I’d think, for sports will be down substantially this summer and fall over past seasons, which should help out when it comes to overall sports ratings.

I also think as the NBA playoffs progress the player activism will become less pronounced. That is, statements will be made in the first game or two and then they will fade as the games pile up. I could be wrong on this, but that’s my expectation.

The NBA ratings, in particular, are also impacted a great deal by LeBron. What if the Lakers lose in the semi-finals to the Clippers, for instance? Ratings would plummet without LeBron, not because of the politics of the players.

So I think direct ratings impact will be difficult to discern because of all the external factors at all. (This is presuming, by the way, the ratings don’t double or fall by 50%, for instance. If the ratings surge or collapse, that’s a different story, but I’m expecting they’ll be within a relatively narrow band of impact).

I’d expect that the general trend will be ratings will be down, however, because at a minimum we just know there will be way more sports all competing for the same eyeballs. The NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS, PGA, NASCAR, UFC, boxing and the NFL — and hopefully college football — will all be playing at the same time in September.

That’s never happened before.

So there will be more competition than we’ve ever seen, which I think will lead to an overall decline in viewership for most, if not all, leagues.

Alejandro writes:

“Hello Clay. Big fan from LA, a city with the same level of response to impending doom as the quartermasters from the Titanic. From where do you draw inspiration to combat lunacy when it comes to today’s fear-mongering across the entertainment and news sectors? It’s been proving itself to be a daily grind having to defend the belief that everything ISN’T going to complete crap and it can be draining. For me a lot of my motivation is faith-based, also from growing up in not as wealthy neighborhoods and seeing the complete freedom granted by this country to let anyone move on to a better life. There’s a lot to love here in the U.S. and I want to keep up the good fight of telling others.”

I put out what I believe and I don’t focus very much on what other people say about what I believe.

In other words, I don’t engage in debates on social media, which is where people are the craziest. It’s just not a constructive use of my time.

I have a three hour daily radio show, a half hour daily Periscope/Facebook, a website, a (soon to return) TV show and a popular social media account. Not to mention an entire media business to manage. I can put out my arguments and then let other people argue about those opinions in the larger universe.

There’s not much for me to gain by engaging in debates with random people online.

So I tend not to do it very much.

I’ll check out mentions and favorite smart or funny comments occasionally, but that’s pretty much it.

Now if someone with a similar or larger audience than me comes after me, I’ll sometimes respond. You’ve seen that with Peter King for instance. But even with King I ignored him coming after me for years off and on before I finally returned fire.

Most of the time I reserve my energy for sharing and defending my own opinions, as opposed to interacting with other people.

Is that draining? I mean, sure. I work a ton of hours and don’t sleep much. But I also feel incredibly fortunate to have a career and own a business that allows me to say exactly what I think every day. That’s an incredible luxury. If I didn’t have a public job — let’s say I had a job at a big law firm instead — and couldn’t engaged in the marketplace of ideas, I’d be very upset by that fact.

There are many people out there in America that don’t have the luxury to say exactly what they think every day and I feel like I’m speaking for many people who are voiceless when I share my opinions.

I also think that’s why thousands of people are signing up for Outkick VIP right now, because many of you can’t speak out, but you feel like the arguments we’re making are tremendously important.

And I agree.

Thanks again for supporting Outkick and I’d encourage you once more to sign up for Outkick VIP if you want to support what we’re doing and get an autographed copy of my book.

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.

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