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All That and a Bag of Mail

Rejoice, it’s Friday.

And I hope all of you are planning fun and normal weekends. Yesterday I took my family to see “Ghostbusters” in the movie theater. This was our second trip to the movie theater — last week we went to see “The Empire Strikes Back” and next week I’m excited to check out “Tenet” on the Imax screen with my wife.

Tomorrow college football kicks off — Central Arkansas vs. Austin Peay is going to be the most bet FCS game of all time — and next week the FBS season will kick off. The Big Ten is backpedaling faster than Deion Sanders in his prime right now and who knows what they might end up deciding to do.

Yes, the world has gone insane, but at least we’re going to have a college football season this fall in the SEC, ACC and Big 12. Some day years from now I may write an article about all the behind the scenes work I did to try and make that college football season happen, but in the meantime just know this, I’ve fought my ass off for you guys — and me — to be able to enjoy a season this fall.

And I think we’ve won the battle.

Despite the fact that we were 100 to 1 to pull it off just a couple of weeks ago, the college football season is happening.

So rejoice in that.

With that in mind, let’s roll into the mailbag:

Seth writes:

“Should I take my boys, 10 and 8, to their first Tennessee Vols game this season, or wait until they can get the full Neyland experience? The same could apply to a lot of Power 5 school/tailgate experiences.”

I’m taking my boys to several college football games this fall because I want to send the message to them that using facts and data to make smart decisions — even when others are terrified — should be a staple of their adult life.

I think this is an incredibly important lesson to instill in our kids, especially because so many of them are now being raised in a perpetual bubble wrap society. They’ve been kept from living their lives in many parts of the country since March. I think terrified kids grow up to be terrified adults and that’s not what I want my kids to be.

I want my boys to be lions not sheep.

So I am even more likely to take them to games in person this fall than I would have been in a normal season. I think it’s an incredibly instructive parenting opportunity this fall.

Having said that, I certainly understand the idea of wanting their first experience to be the jaw-dropping and overwhelming experience of a packed college football stadium. But I just think the value of the lesson you instill by taking them when the stadiums are at 25% capacity is more valuable in the long run than the experience of a full stadium. Plus, it’s not like they’ll never have the chance to see a full stadium again. You can do that any normal fall.

So I’m taking my kids this fall. (Final thought, as I’ve written before, this also allows them to actually be able to see from their seats. One of the big disadvantages of having kids in crowded stadiums is they often can’t see over the taller people in front of them.

That shouldn’t be an issue this fall.)

Dave writes:

“If Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, USC, and Stanford all went independent like Notre Dame, how much could they get for a TV contract?”

This is hypothetical that doesn’t exist in reality because all of these schools have multi-year contracts which restrict their movements right now. They aren’t TV free agents.

But I think the pay would end up being somewhat similar to what they make now because the Big Ten and SEC schools all make more than Notre Dame does for football.

Now that’s partly predicated on the conference networks. And the biggest challenge I think colleges have in a post-covid era is the cable and satellite bundle has collapsed and none of these channels will have the same number of subscribers as they had pre-pandemic.

So long range that is a major, major issue for these college sports leagues.

But in the short range I don’t think there’s a ton of value on independence because, remember, your TV contract only includes your home games.

So you’re only talking about seven or eight games a year. That’s just not enough games to make that much money on — or fill that much programming — in the grand scheme of things.

Randall writes:

“Not sure if you saw Ryan Tannehill’s speech yesterday (about America being founded on racism), but it sure feels like the NFL is going to have a ratings problem on their hands. How important is it for them to lock down the new TV packages before the season starts and potentially low ratings occur?”

If I were an NFL owner, I’d want to get my deal done before the season starts, but the NFL may be protected by the desperation among the bidders. Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC/ESPN all lack the ability to produce substantial fall audiences without NFL games.

They really can’t go elsewhere to make up the audiences they’d lose.

So I think TV dollars will increase.

Especially because the NFL TV dollars are based almost exclusively on broadcast network TV as opposed to cable. Now the leagues that mostly based on cable? Like the NBA? I think they are in for a real issue going forward.

On the other part of your question, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said that America was founded on racism, which is an utterly ridiculous statement. Racism has been with us throughout human history. That’s because humans have always valued members of their own tribe — people who look like them — over outsiders since caveman days.

Like all countries, the United States is imperfect. But the incredible success stories of immigrants in our country — as well as the number of people who die every year trying to get here — crushes any argument that America is still a racist society.

Here’s a fact you never see shared. Do you know the highest earning racial group in this country? Asian men. They earn more than white men in this country. If America is a fundamentally racist and unfair society dominated by white men, how is that Asians have shown up here and been more successful than white men? That would be impossible if systemic racism in favor of white people still existed.

Far left wingers have become adept in selling the idea that all of America’s past is shameful and should be rejected. It’s not remotely true, but it’s an ascendant idea right now.

I don’t have any idea what Tannehill actually believes, or knows, about American history, but we’re in an era when white people in positions of prominence embrace BLM slogans in an effort to protect themselves from cancel culture. I’m sure Tannehill saw what happened to Drew Brees and feels like he needs to say white people are awful in order to avoid losing his majority black locker room.

Especially after he just got a $100 million contract predicated on less than a full season’s of good games.

But personally I just don’t expect that athletes are going to be thought leaders in this country.

Think about when you were in school, how often were the best athletes the smartest students? Almost never, right? If you got hit with a pop quiz, hadn’t studied at all, and decided to cheat off someone else’s answers in high school, would any of us pick the best football, basketball or soccer player’s answers?

Almost always the answer is no. In fact, I’d be doubly afraid to do that because then we’d get the same answers wrong and have the exact same wrong answers too, which would have potentially gotten me a bad grade and gotten me caught for cheating in the process too.

My point is this: if you wouldn’t have trusted the intelligence of most athletes in high school, why would you listen to them now as if they are great founts of wisdom? Athletes on team sports, more than almost any profession out there, are susceptible to group think and mob-like behavior. That’s literally what makes them successful and allows coaches to motivate them to achieve excellence. They all buy in to the exact same goal and work towards it with ruthless efficiency. Heck, a great coach can even get them to believe things that aren’t true because it motivates them to have greater success as a team.

It’s not like athletes debate which play to call with each other in the huddle. They take instruction from their bosses and execute it. That works well for football, but it isn’t a recipe for a strong marketplace of ideas.

Great ideas require conflict and debate, not consensus.

Which is why most sports locker rooms embrace cliches and aphorisms over original thought.

Weather writes:

“Do you believe with all these pro sports leagues being so “woke” that it will significantly hurt cable sports networks ratings even more than before?”

Yes, I think it’s going to be a disaster for the leagues.

The more political they go, the more fans they lose.

The theory here is pretty simple — you don’t gain any fans by going woke. That is, no one out there of any substantial number isn’t watching sports now because the athletes are insufficiently political.

In other words, how many people have you ever heard say, “Oh, I was going to watch the game, but then they stood for the anthem! Now I’m out!”

So by going woke you don’t gain any substantial number of viewers.

What about the flip side? Well, there’s a ton of people out there who will choose not to watch sports because they are too political. That’s definitely happening. So you’re losing these sports fans.

It’s simple math.

We already saw it in the NFL a few years ago when ratings dropped 19% over two years and we are seeing it in the NBA now. If you get woke, your ratings go broke.

AtoZ writes:

“With fewer people able to watch sports the last few nights do you think many of those tuned into the RNC who would not otherwise have done so? Is the movement to not play sports backfiring for left-leaning promoters of it and pushing independents to the right?”

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the past couple of weeks have been very beneficial to Donald Trump’s chances of winning re-election. The odds markets have seen a substantial dollars move in his direction, corresponding with a rise in his poll numbers in the swing states.

The coronavirus cases are declining, the stock market is surging, and Joe Biden hasn’t really hit on a strategy to get elected other than not being Donald Trump. I thought last night Trump did a pretty good job of trying to make this election about him vs. Biden.

In other words, Biden owes his lead right now not to what he’s done, but to the fact he’s not Trump.

Right now the entire election is about Trump, pro or con.

What Trump needs to do is get in the weeds and make people understand that they may not like him, but he’s better than Biden. In other words, he has to make it an actual election, a battle between he and Biden.

So far Biden has stayed mostly out of the fray and just let Donald Trump run against himself. The problem with that strategy is Biden’s voters aren’t really pro-Biden, they’re anti-Trump. All of Trump’s voters right now are pro-Trump, not anti-Biden. So there’s a substantial voter enthusiasm gap.

And eventually most elections end up being contests between two people and the one who has the most enthusiastic supporters wins. (Not always, however. Bernie’s voters, for instance, were far more enthusiastic than Biden’s. Ultimately Biden beat Bernie by being not-Bernie. And now he’s trying to beat Trump by being not-Trump. So it’s still possible he pulls that off).

I don’t know how many people watched the RNC last night that would have otherwise watched sports, but I tend to think it was a relatively small number.

I do know, however, that I like Trump’s momentum as we hit Labor Day.

What I’ve been saying for four years is this election will come down to the Big Ten states. And I think ultimately this will be a toss-up election in those states when the debates happen. What Trump has done in the past couple of weeks is make it impossible for Biden to dodge debating him.

Biden didn’t put him away, not even close.

In fact, in some odds markets Biden is now the (small) underdog.

I believe Democrats are terrified of what might happen with Biden on the stage for several hours in three debates with no one there to help him. He could lose the election right then and there. (I think Biden has more to gain and more to lose in the debates than Trump. I think Trump will be Trump. It’s unlikely Trump subverts expectations of himself.)

Now, to be fair, the expectations may be so low for Biden that he’s able to exceed them just by avoid pure awfulness. Interestingly, that’s the situation Sarah Palin found herself in back in 2008. The expectation was she was going to be so bad, that she ended up doing fine because the bar was so low. Maybe Biden can benefit from that like George W. Bush benefited from that in the 2000 debates with Al Gore.

But I tend to think the debates will decide the election in the Big Ten states.

We’ll have 100 million+ people watching them and the perception of who won will swing them one way or the other after each debate.

I think it’s a 50-50 election right now, but I’m more confident of Trump’s performance in the debate than I am Biden’s, which is why I personally like Trump’s chances to pull off another narrow victory.

Anthony writes:

“Check out ESPN’s website right now. My feed on The Athletic looks the same. Why won’t anyone in the media question these player boycotts? Other than Outkick of course.”

Two reasons:
1. Sportswriters tend to be far left wing so they have the same politics as the players. The sportswriters aren’t covering the athletes, they’re cheerleading for them.

2. You don’t lose your job embracing woke politics.

So even the sportswriters who aren’t far left wing pretend they are to keep their jobs.

It’s wild, but Outkick is the only sports site in the entire country that actually believes in the first amendment. I don’t check to see what opinions my writers are putting out there. Or, certainly, tell them which opinions they are allowed to have.

That’s because Outkick represents the first amendment wing of the first amendment party.

And it’s why we are dominating.

Dan writes:

“Why isn’t anyone in the PAC-12 throwing a fit about not playing football?”

It’s pretty wild, isn’t it?

The Big Ten players, fans, parents, and coaches have been battling the Big Ten decision ever since it was made. Meanwhile I haven’t seen a single Pac 12 player, parent, coach or fan even complain in an organized manner.

I think it’s because the cliche is true, people in the Pac 12 just don’t care that much about college football.

At least nowhere near as much as SEC and Big Ten fans do, anyway.

College football is back tomorrow! Can’t wait to watch Austin Peay and Central Arkansas.

Have great weekends and, as always, thanks for reading the Friday mailbag and supporting Outkick.

I’ll see you guys on Outkick the Show in about an hour and then on TV at 430 et.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is an author, radio show host, lawyer, TV analyst, and the founder of OutKick (formerly known as Outkick the Coverage).
Read More about Clay >>

6 Comments

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  1. Any conference that doesn’t play this year is shooting itself in both feet. A year of not being there. A year of no enthusiasm. A year of no visibility. The reality that they are kneeling to politics. A year of their fans rooting for other teams and being interested in other conferences. A year of their players being held out of competition whole the other kids get the joy of competition and playing the games. A year of all of the glory and stories going elsewhere. A year for recruits to watch other programs. A year for current players to consider transferring.

  2. Clay, thanks for everything you do. It’s obvious that you are influencing the world of politics and sports. Several weeks ago you asked for an investigation into why there were so many more deaths per capita in NY and the northeast states. Now, Bill Barr and the US DOJ is investigating nursing homes. I don’t know if you had anything to do with that, but you were the first I heard to ask for it.

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