All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, and I’m polishing off the mailbag early this morning because we are surprising my three kids with a trip to Orlando for Disney World and Universal Studios.

Our three boys have no idea we’re going, and we’re telling them they can open one early Christmas present as soon as my radio show ends this morning. That present, which will come at the end of a treasure hunt for my six-year-old? This morning’s trip to Orlando. So it’s an early start to Christmas for the Travis family, and I can’t wait to see how excited my boys are, especially our six-year-old.

I can’t believe, honestly, that my wife has gotten the entire car packed, and they still have no idea what’s going on.

So that means I’m missing my first SEC Championship Game in over a decade and that I’ll be keeping tabs on many of the games this weekend from the amusement parks. But given how wild 2020 has been, I’m fine with that.

I hope all of you guys have great Christmases as well, and I hope you’re starting those Christmases with good weekends.

For those of you in Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and, in the next couple of days, Michigan and Virginia, for the holidays, make sure you get signed up now for sports gambling. There’s a special offer for new users: pick the winner of Chiefs-Saints and bet $10. If your side wins, you get $150. So go get signed up today.

Okay, here we go with the Friday mailbag.

Scooby writes:

“Over/under: 20,000 fans at the Super Bowl this year?”

This may be bold, but I’m going over.

The NFL has already suggested they may want to honor frontline workers at the Super Bowl this year. By the Super Bowl, the first weekend in February, we should have vaccinated millions of people. So why couldn’t they have a stadium nearly full of people who have already been vaccinated?

It seems like that’s exactly the kind of message the NFL — and the country — would like to send, of a full stadium and a country that has, in many ways, defeated COVID.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis would certainly be open to that idea. Heck, they could probably fill the stadium just with Florida frontline health care workers alone, all of whom could drive to the stadium, and all of whom could have already been vaccinated.

I’m not sure what the NFL’s obligations are to provide Super Bowl tickets for big sponsors, but I’d think they might be able to set up a special exemption for this Super Bowl and, say, distribute all the tickets to hospitals and nursing homes in Florida to share with vaccinated workers.

So I’m going over 20,000 in attendance at the Super Bowl, and I’d actually hold out some hope that we might be able to have a full stadium.

Tentative writes:

“Who are the top 5 coronabros in sports media?”

Darren Rovell, Dan Wolken, Mike Florio, Peter King and Keith Olbermann, if you want to count him as a sports figure, would be my top five coronabros. I think you’d have to give honorable mentions to Pat Forde, Stu Mandel, Nicole Auerbach and Dennis Dodd, all of whom trumpeted the worst COVID stories for months during the spring and summer.

Now, of course, all of them are pretending they never fought to keep sports from happening, and they’re covering football like they didn’t say it was impossible to play football for months.

But people remember the spring and summer.

Just check their mentions. It’s an absolute war zone in there any time they mention COVID to this day.

A to Z writes:

“Twitter is now censoring COVID19 vaccine tweets. Does Twitter risk becoming like MySpace and become irrelevant/obsolete due to its boldness in censoring and turning off center/right voters before, say, the next Presidential election?”

I think the challenge for Twitter is to avoid becoming what it is on the road to becoming — another media echo chamber for left wing opinions.

Twitter already vastly over-indexes left wing opinions, and ironically enough, if there aren’t battles and debates over ideas featuring liberal, conservative and moderate viewpoints, then the site loses much of its relevance. Because then it turns into a place where left wingers just argue all day, essentially the MSNBC of social media sites, just another echo chamber.

The thing I’m most concerned about with Twitter is its editorial decisions, its decision to amplify opinions and voices it agrees with and hide those it disagrees with. That’s the scariest part of Twitter. It can make people think it’s the real world, as opposed to a carnival funhouse mirror of absurdity.

In many ways, I think Twitter is more reflective of larger media trends than it is unique, however.

In my most recent book, Republicans Buy Sneakers Too, I talked about how social media had returned us to the early days of this country, when the media was aggressively partisan. Newspapers used to be sponsored by political parties. “Objective” journalism is a relatively new construct which was born out of a business imperative — if you weren’t partisan, you could sell your product to the largest possible audience.

So while journalists like to wax eloquent about their profession — does any profession love itself more than journalists love journalists? — the idea of objective journalism was just a business strategy that made companies more money. And the idea of objective journalism is actually the rarity, not the standard, for most of American history.

What you’re seeing now is every media company is being forced to pick sides because the audience for its product is dwindling. And the business dynamics are changing. For instance, when the New York Times was primarily a newspaper funded by advertisements, the paper could be moderately left wing, but not socialistic or communistic in its direction. It wasn’t a bought-and-sold mouthpiece of the Democratic Party’s far left wing before the internet.

Now it’s primarily a subscription-based business, and its subscribers are very left wing. So it has become just another left wing media source owned by the Democrats.

It used to be newspaper executives worried about upsetting advertisers. Now they worry about upsetting subscribers. Those marching orders look different. Advertisers cared about reaching as large of an audience as possible, which served to moderate the overall tone of the newspaper. Subscribers want you to tell them more of what they already believe. Those business imperatives are divergent. One is reliant on a mass audience to survive, the other is reliant on a niche audience to survive.

If you’re trying to reach as large of an audience as possible, you have to write for the masses. If you’re trying to serve a relatively small, niche audience, you have to cater to their interests, even if those interests don’t appeal to a large number of people.

Over the past four years, the New York Times subscribers embraced the idea that Trump was an awful Nazi dictator and that his supporters were too. So that became the trajectory of every story. Worse than that, the New York Times’  history of “objectivity” allowed the paper to claim they were merely bastions of honesty in a sea of dishonesty. In other words, the Times advanced a left wing agenda while pretending they weren’t doing it. Which made their actions all the more cloying to many people.

Which is why, in a subscription-based era, what I think Twitter — and all businesses — have to guard against is telling people only what they want to hear. That’s always been the case, but it’s even more the case now.

To the extent I have any gift at all, it’s this: I say what I believe and don’t really look to see who lines up behind me. I never have and I never will.

But I think that’s going to be increasingly rare in the media business.

And I think what you’ll see is more and more media islands where everyone ends up believing their own version of the truth. And unfortunately, this means that it will become more and more difficult to have actual debates about issues across media islands because there will be totally different versions of the truth at play.

Eventually, as with tribes in the Tower of Babel metaphor, the languages between tribes become so different that no one can communicate at all.

At least that’s the danger.

And right now, it seems very dangerous indeed.

Herm writes:

“Will Derrick Henry break the single season rushing record some day?”

It’s so hard to stay healthy and post big rushing totals in today’s NFL that I almost think he has to do it this year if he’s going to ever do it.

Henry will turn 27 years old on January 4th. Most backs see a precipitous decline in their productivity as they near thirty years old. So if history is a guide, Henry is likely to have one or two more elite years, at most, where he’s capable of dominating at this level.

This year, Henry has 1532 rushing yards. The all-time NFL record of 2105 was set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. In order to get there, Henry would have to average 191.3 yards per game over the next three weeks. That seems incredibly difficult to pull off, but it’s at least theoretically possible.

The reason why I say he needs to do it this year is because it’s incredibly hard to be healthy enough to get to where he is now. Indeed, Henry is nearly 500 yards in front of the person with the third most rushing yards in the league this year. That’s crazy.

He’s within hailing distance of 2000 yards, something that only eight backs have ever done, none since 2012, when Adrian Peterson nearly broke Dickerson’s record. (In fact, how in the world did Peterson not break the record? He came up eight yards short. What happened in that game that getting those eight yards wasn’t possible? I don’t remember, but that feels borderline criminal that he didn’t break the record then.)

The reason no one has gotten to 2000 yards since Peterson isn’t because there haven’t been other great backs since then. It’s because the overall workload of running backs has been declining and the impact of the running game in general has been on the wane in the NFL. Henry is a running back unicorn with the amount of carries he’s capable of and the productivity that those carries are unleashing.

So if Henry doesn’t do it this year, I’m not sure how many other backs are durable enough to get there and I’m not sure whether he gets to this level again either. Put simply, there just aren’t many backs who get enough carries to get anywhere near this number nowadays, and I’m not sure how many times backs — Henry included — will get to this level again.

As if that weren’t enough, you also have to consider the playoff situation. Do the Titans run Henry full bore in 16 regular season games to try and get the record if they’ve already clinched a playoff spot? That seems unlikely. So, for instance, you could see Henry go out and play great the next two weeks and not need to play against the Texans.

You also have to factor that into the mix too.

So I would bet no on Henry ever beating whatever yardage number he hits this year — which will be one of the best in NFL history — and I would also bet no on him ever beating Dickerson’s record number as well.

But I would love to see 2000 happen, and I’d love to see him make a real run at the all-time record too. I just don’t think it’s likely in the modern day NFL.

Jonathan writes:

“Why is Auburn’s coaching search making Tennessee’s last coaching search look like it was run by MENSA?”

I love a good coaching search meltdown.

But Auburn’s search, at least right now, is still in its early days. Tennessee went a month from firing Butch Jones to hiring Jeremy Pruitt.

Granted, the decision to fire Butch was far less controversial — and much more expected — than the decision to fire Malzahn, but we need another couple of weeks of craziness before Auburn approaches the Tennessee situation. And we also need Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, for instance, to basically be leaked as the next coach and then for the revolt to happen before all this is complete.

But what’s the most surprising to me about Auburn’s coaching search so far is this: how do you fire Gus Malzahn three days before Signing Day AND NOT HAVE A DEFINITE PLAN FOR THE NEXT COACH?!

It’s not as if Malzahn was a disaster. He was fine. He probably would have won seven or eight games next season too.

So there wasn’t a desperate need to fire him this offseason.

Which means the only real reason to do it, especially given what you owed him, was if you could have a tremendous replacement lined up and ready to go.

But evidently Auburn didn’t do that.

Remember that Tennessee’s search went off the rails when Florida lost Chip Kelly and had to get a new coach and went after Dan Mullen. Otherwise Mullen was headed to Knoxville to take over at Tennessee. So Florida’s late move to grab Mullen is what created the Tennessee mess with Schiano. If Chip Kelly had just gone to Florida, then Dan Mullen would be at Tennessee right now.

To their credit, Auburn appears to have at least leaked the Kevin Steele hire to the media so the fans can be aware of it before the deal is officially signed. Tennessee fans didn’t know about Schiano. He was barely mentioned at all in the search, after he’d already agreed to terms to be the coach.

Finally, can we stop with the argument that schools are footing the bills on these coaching buyouts? Boosters are doing that, not the schools. Yes, schools are cash-strapped due to COVID this season, but most rich boosters are swimming in cash because the stock market has been on fire.

So these boosters can foot the bill without even blinking.

Hell, some of them may even want to be donating to the schools right now because they are expecting their tax bills to go up quite a bit if Biden gets his tax increases passed.

Reed writes:

“If the fate of the world hinged on making the right football coaching hire, who would you trust more to make that hire? Auburn or Tennessee?”

I think I’d have a nice, old fashioned, grab a football to go throw some passes in the backyard with my sons and watch the world burn.

Because we’d all be done for.

Ryan writes:

“Is there a legitimate chance, if USC wins and Ohio State struggles but wins, that SC makes the CFP? Their resumes are nearly identical but the preseason love for Ohio state seems like only thing keeping them in the top 4.”

Well, USC could have easily lost several of their games this season, so it’s not like they have been dominant.

So I don’t see any chance at all of USC in the playoff mix.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to even figure out how USC would get to the playoff. Alabama and Notre Dame would both have to win, Northwestern would have to beat Ohio State, Tennessee would have to beat Texas A&M, Tulsa would have to beat Cincinnati, Oklahoma would have to beat Iowa State, and I’m still not sure if USC beating Oregon would get them in the playoff.

But they might be in the mix then.

I do, however, acknowledge that Ohio State’s preseason ranking is the reason they are in the playoff mix in a big way now. That’s the problem with preseason polls, and it’s why I never do them at OutKick. Preseason polls are based on expectations, and it’s like sportswriters and coaches won’t ever acknowledge that they were wrong about those expectations. If we expect you to to be good before the season starts, as long as you keep winning, we never alter our rankings very much.

As I’ve been saying for several weeks, to me the biggest story here is that after years of the College Football Playoff committee lecturing Notre Dame about playing only 12 games instead of 13, now Ohio State is going to get in the playoff playing only six games.

So how do you ever argue to Notre Dame again that the lack of a championship game is a big deal?

You can’t.

What’s becoming clear to many fans is the College Football Playoff committee has enough potential avenues of argument that they can justify any decision they want to make.

Joseph writes:

“Does Trevor Lawrence shun the Jets and stay one more year?”

No, I think there’s too much money at stake to go back to school another year. Given the fact that you are locked up for five years under your rookie contract, you need to get to that second contract as fast as you can to really lock in big value.

Plus, football is incredibly dangerous — think about what happened to Alex Smith and imagine if that same injury happened to Trevor Lawrence in college. He might never play in the NFL.

Unless you just absolutely love college football and don’t have major financial concerns — like a Peyton Manning or a Tim Tebow — I think you should take the money when it’s there.

I’d tell those players the same thing I’d tell my own sons: as soon as you can lock in millions of dollars to play football in the pros, you do it.

The game is too risky to take big risks with your compensation.

Okay, I’m off to Orlando with Lara and the boys.

I hope you guys have fantastic weekends. Enjoy the football and the time, hopefully, with your friends and family.

And get your bets in on the Chiefs or the Saints this weekend, a $10 bet turns into $150.

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.

5 Comments

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  1. I believe Peterson literally ran the Vikings into the playoffs and a division title vs the Packers and the reason he ended where he did was the end of the game he ran something like a 20 yarder to the 15 or so and then the Vikings kicked a field goal to win the game.

    At least that’s my memory as a Packer fan. Peterson was unreal that year. That was the year after his ACL tear I believe which makes it even more unbelievable.

  2. I’m a big college football fan and don’t remember Notre Dame ever being punished for only playing 12 games. The one year they went undefeated they made the playoff, every other year they lost 2+ games and everyone that made the playoff only lost 1. Am I forgetting something?

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