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All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, and on Sunday we will have our final day of two or more football games until August. Yes, I know, it’s always bittersweet when football comes to a close for another year.

But this year, the big triumph has been in getting to the finish line in both college football and the NFL. So at least we can celebrate the fact that the seasons were completed and that the coronabros didn’t win. And not only, by the way, were the seasons completed, but there wasn’t a single football player or coach who had a death or serious illness from COVID that can be traced to football in the entire country. That’s a remarkable accomplishment.

I’d really encourage all of you out there to go listen to Avik Roy on the latest Wins and Losses podcast. It’s the smartest discussion I think you’ll find anywhere in the media on COVID’s impact on sports, schools, and lockdowns. Avik came on with me in August as well, and I’d encourage you to listen to both of these discussions.

There’s also good news in sports gambling — both Virginia, which went live yesterday, and Michigan, which is going live today — now have legalized online sports gambling. If you’re reading this right now in Virginia and Michigan, you can now bet $5 on the winner of either of the AFC or NFC Championship Games and win back $125. That’s a 25-1 payout. New users in Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey can get the same offer as well. So go get signed up, in particular, in Virginia and Michigan.

Okay, here we go with the mailbag:

John writes:

“Realistic expectations for Tennessee football hire?”

Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten a ton of questions all week about the Tennessee football hire.

Let’s begin here with something that will blow the media’s minds. It’s possible for Jeremy Pruitt to have been a bad hire and for Greg Schiano to have been a bad hire too. In other words, one hire isn’t necessarily connected to the other.

If you told me today that Tennessee was hiring Greg Schiano to replace Jeremy Pruitt, I would still be opposed to it, and I suspect the majority of Tennessee fans would too. I still believe he would have been a bad hire for Tennessee.

And while there has been a ton of discussion about the Pruitt firing, I think it was the right decision, whether he’d violated NCAA rules or not. By year three, you know whether a coach is going to work out. Pruitt wasn’t going to work out. He was a poor hire — the Kentucky and Arkansas performances alone demonstrated that — and I was afraid Tennessee was going to give him a fourth year and leave everyone hanging in the breeze.

With the firing out of the way — potentially with no buyouts in play at all — as I’ve been saying all week, I think Tennessee will hire its most accomplished head coach since Johnny Majors. That is to say, the number of proven and high quality coaches who are interested in this job has blown me away. I’m not reacting to any media reports on this coaching interest. I’m talking about coaches who have directly reached out to me to talk about the Tennessee job and express interest in it.

That’s why I haven’t publicly endorsed any Tennessee coaching candidate. There are several of those coaches who have reached out to me that I’d be ecstatic if Tennessee hired. It’s not my decision whom to hire, but I think Tennessee fans are going to be happy with the end result, solely based on the number of quality candidates out there interested in the job.

Indeed, I think this is the best bunch of potential coaches Tennessee has had interested in the job since Phil Fulmer was fired back in 2008.

I know the doom and gloomers in national media didn’t believe it, but I told you before the Danny White AD hire was announced that Tennessee was going to be in a good spot with this hire. Now after the Danny White hire, which impressed everyone, I feel even better about the options out there.

That’s especially the case because it appears Tennessee is finally committed to deploying the Travis dump truck of cash theory and finally paying big money to accomplished coaching talents, as opposed to hiring lesser known candidates, paying them less, and hoping they work out.

Which is why I’m telling you that I expect Tennessee to hire its most accomplished head coach since Johnny Majors. Remember, since Majors, who had won a national championship at Pittsburgh, Tennessee has hired: Phil Fulmer, the then-Vol offensive coordinator who had never been a head coach before; Lane Kiffin, who had been a head coach of the Oakland Raiders for just over a year and gotten fired there; Derek Dooley, who was coming off a 4-8 season as a head coach at Louisiana Tech; Butch Jones, who honestly, was the most accomplished head coach since Majors hired at Tennessee and Jeremy Pruitt, who had never been a head coach before.

When Tennessee announces their next coach, which I think will happen next week, I think all the doom and gloomers in the media are going to flip their takes and be praising Tennessee for making a great football hire and pairing him with a great AD.

And, by the way, I love the quiet way Tennessee conducted its AD search. No real leaks, no wild rumors, just an orderly process that led to a very solid hire. So far, the same thing has been true of the head coach search as well.

Which is why I think good news is coming for Tennessee fans early next week.

Bruce writes:

“TV Media is still on a 24/7 Trump bashing cycle two days after a new president took office. Was it never about hating Trump and all about the money he generated them? Or is Biden just that boring they’ll lose money/viewers talking about him?”

I think it’s a combination of both. The Trump Show was a ratings juggernaut, and Trump provoked massive and polarizing reactions. So you either had to adopt a pro-Trump position, Fox News, or an anti-Trump position, MSNBC, to thrive in the marketplace. Eventually CNN realized this too and shifted from trying to be objective and just joined the full Trump derogation machine.

What Trump helped to camouflage was the collapsing business models of the cable news networks. During his time in office, each of these news networks lost tens of millions of cable and satellite subscribers. That collapse is going to continue in the years ahead.

Instead of COVID and Trump, by next year, the news networks will just have Biden and no virus that they can terrify people with.

The truth is that without COVID, I think Trump would have easily won reelection in 2020. Even with COVID,  he lost the presidency by around 40,000 votes, which means only 20,000 people would have needed to change their minds on Election Day, and we would have had a Trump reelection. (Trump lost by 10,000 in Arizona, 12,000 in Georgia, 20,000 in Wisconsin. Flip those states and we have a tie in the electoral college and the House of Representatives breaks the tie in Trump’s favor.)

Honestly, the news media desperately needed Trump to win. Their business model may well depend on it. Without Trump, most people will move on to something else for the next couple of years. By 2022 and 2023 when the next presidential election cycle begins to kick up, the news media will desperately need Trump to run again. The other Republican candidates aren’t going to provoke the same kind of visceral reaction on either side.

Who knows what Trump will do when it comes to 2024, but he helped stave off a looming news media collapse. His return to run again might be the only thing that can save these news channels, honestly.

And even that “saving” would only last a few more years.

I think the impact of legacy cable news networks is going to be on a tremendous decline over the next decade or so. We’re heading to an even more substantial splintering in media, and the real winner, I believe, will be sites like OutKick, which though smaller than those networks, will have a massively devoted and passionate fan base.

Matt writes:

“What has led to the overwhelming political one-sidedness of the media? Is it a product of the types of people who choose to pursue those careers, or is it developed through the educational process?”

For most of American history, the media has been incredibly biased. Honestly, the rise of radio and TV, and the Fairness Doctrine they were required to abide created more objective journalism than we’d ever seen in this country before.

Remember, in the first 100 years of American history, it wasn’t uncommon for newspapers to be either owned or controlled by political parties. Newspapers were rabidly partisan. What’s happened now is that newspapers have basically adopted that same posture, but they claim to be unbiased. I mean, let’s be honest, the New York Times is essentially the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party now. That’s what they do. That’s what their subscribers want them to do.

Remember, the New York Times fired the head of their editorial board for publishing a piece written by Senator Tom Cotton that argued for the American military to be called in to quell the riots this summer and, lo and behold, THAT’S WHAT THE DEMOCRATS DEMANDED FOR THE INAUGURATION!

The New York times staff revolted over the paper publishing an editorial that the Democratic Party ended up endorsing. It’s all madness.

I think Twitter, which embraces far left wing politics — defund the police, for example, which almost no one actually supports in the country, was wildly popular on Twitter — has made things far more terrifying for people in sports media, for instance. After I said I was voting for Trump, I heard from dozens of people in sports media, many of whom you read and watch, who thanked me for saying it publicly but explained that they were terrified they’d lose their jobs if they made the same admission.

I think many journalists, who tend to be overwhelmingly highly-educated and white, see themselves as crusading saviors for the little guy, the poor and oppressed minorities in this country. So they are quick to embrace the victimization mindset because it fits their preconceived narrative arc. Journalism, for them, is an opportunity to express their moral superiority over others.

It’s why, for instance, we get tons of media coverage every time a white police officer shoots a black person, but never hear anything about all the black on black shootings, which, by the way, are skyrocketing across this country. There have been thousands of black victims of violent crime since George Floyd and Jacob Blake, many of whom likely wouldn’t have been killed if police hadn’t been delegitimized all summer long, but those stories don’t get attention because they don’t fit the preferred narrative framework.

So I think ultimately journalism self-selects people inclined to believe the worst about America. And then I think the marketplace, especially social media, rewards stories that fuel the idea of America as an awful place.

The narrative arc presupposes a hero and a villain, and America is most often standing in as the villain.

Dylan writes:

“With my Jags getting Urban Meyer/likely Trevor Lawrence, how long will Jacksonville need to challenge your Titans in the AFC South?”

It all comes down to how good Trevor Lawrence will be, honestly.

If he’s great, then Urban Meyer will look like a great coach. If he’s not great, then Urban Meyer will look like a bad coach.

We all know how great of a coach Bill Belichick is, right? Well, Belichick has a losing record for the over 100 NFL games he’s coached without Tom Brady as his quarterback.

This year, Brady has gone 13-5 without Belichick, and Belichick has gone 7-9 without Brady.

For a long time, there was a real debate about who was more responsible for the Patriot dynasty — Belichick or Brady. I think Brady ended that debate this year. It’s Brady.

And the same will be true of the Jags.

If Trevor Lawrence is really good, then the Jags could contend for the AFC South title as soon as this coming year. If he’s not, the franchise will flounder, just like what happened when they whiffed on Blake Bortles.

By the way, the Titans are the only team in the AFC South with a stable quarterback right now. Philip Rivers is retiring for the Colts, Deshaun Watson appears to be demanding a trade from the Texans, and the Jags will be breaking in Trevor Lawrence.

In theory, this should be a huge advantage for the Titans’ chances to win the AFC South again next year.

In theory…

Jeff writes:

“If you had $100, and had to pick one team where Deshaun Watson ends up, who is it?”

I still think Deshaun Watson will be back with the Texans. He’s just too good to trade. I’d put my $100 on him staying with the Texans.

I understand the preferred media narrative has been that the Texans are an awful franchise, but the Texans have made the playoffs six times in the past decade and won four playoff games. That’s far better than the average NFL franchise has done. (The Lions and Bengals haven’t won a playoff game for 29 and 30 years, respectively.) Yes, the Deandre Hopkins trade to Arizona and the trade for Laremy Tunsil with the Dolphins have ended up with bad results, but the Texans can build their way back up over the next couple of years.

Watson will turn 26 in September. He’s far too young to trade away.

I think what will end up happening is that the Texans will consult with Watson on their next coaching hire and let him be involved in that choice.

And then we’ll see how Watson and his preferred coaching hire end up doing.

Having said that, as a Titans fan, I hope the Texans trade away Deshaun Watson. I’d love for him to be outside the division and not have to worry about playing him twice a year for the next decade or so.

Zach writes:

“From what I can tell, not a single pro or college athlete has had major issues with COVID. At what point will the leagues and universities stop canceling games and treating every positive case as a calamity?”

You’re correct about this.

And what’s disappointing is the data told us this was going to be the case, and no one was willing to look at the data. We’ve known for nearly a year now that COVID’s impact was primarily in the old and those who were already sick. The chances of a young, healthy athlete having a serious issue with COVID were minuscule.

In fact, as you’ve seen, most players and coaches who have had COVID never even knew they had it.

That’s because athletes are in great physical condition and are, honestly, the people we’d most want to get the virus if someone has to get the virus. (Even coaches, in general, are in far better condition than the general public because they have to be healthy enough to work a hundred hours a week at a job.) You build up herd immunity the fastest by getting the heathiest people, who will have virtually no serious health issues, infected so they can hasten the decline in the rate of infections for everyone.

There is a ton of talk right now about the vaccine roll out, and we’re on pace to vaccinate over 100 million people by the early spring. But there isn’t much talk any more about the fact that it’s highly likely over 100 million people have already had COVID in this country. Yes, we’ve currently had over 25 million people test positive, but early estimates were we were only catching a small minority of the overall cases, potentially one in ten of our cases. So it seems pretty likely that over 100 million have had the virus and maybe as many as 200 million could have already had the virus.

Why does that matter?

Because it means that the number of people who are susceptible to the virus should be declining substantially by the end of winter. Combining the people who have already had the virus with the people who are on pace to be vaccinated by the late spring and early summer, and I think COVID will be a rapidly decreasing percentage of health issues in this country very soon.

The media will probably laud the Joe Biden administration for this case and death decline — and they’ll cite his actions as president as justification for why things changed — but the truth is the data has pretty much told us that the virus was going to virus no matter what we did. If Trump had won re-election, the results with the virus would have been almost identical.

If you have any doubts about this, just look at the widely divergent responses that different states undertook. The one thing we know for sure is that states like New York and California, if you look at their case infection rates and deaths, failed to stop the spread of the virus but succeeded in destroying their economies, while states like Florida and Texas have had either lower or similar rates of infection and death and pretty much kept their economies open.

We had a clear choice, be rational or panic.

And most of our leaders panicked.

Honestly, the best job in the country in a big state has probably been done by Florida governor Ron DeSantis and the worst job, potentially in the world, has been done by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Yet if you read media reports you’d think the exact opposite.

John writes:

“What’s your opinion of people from the opposing party who are rooting for the President to fail? Not Biden specifically, just in general.”

My position is pretty straightforward here: you should never root for an American president to fail because if the president fails, we all bear the brunt of that failure. That is, I want the unemployment rate as low as possible and the stock market as high as possible, no matter who is in office. And, of course, I don’t want us to be involved in war anywhere.

What I think reasonable people should do is fight ideas or policies they disagree with while rooting for the country’s trajectory to overall be moving in a positive direction. And for the rest of my life, I will always do whatever I can to help the president if asked for help.

If Joe Biden invited me — or OutKick — to the White House, we would go just like we went when we were invited by Donald Trump. And I would have gone if I’d been invited by any of the presidents who have been in office for my entire life.

Rooting for a president to fail, regardless of party, because you didn’t vote for him is, to me, absolute insanity.

Sean writes:

“Why do people conflate ‘believing what the cable news media & politicians tell you’ with ‘believing in science’?

Science isn’t a single set of ‘facts.’ It’s meant to be debated, challenged, & analyzed. But leftists claim you ‘reject science’ if you don’t believe what CNN says.”

When people say “believe in science,” what they are really saying is “believe in the science that supports my world view.”

The science — and data — is abundantly clear that all kids should be attending school in person right now. Yet Democrats aren’t advocating that aggressively. Why? Because of the teachers unions, which overwhelmingly support Democrats.

There are many flaws of our COVID era, both from a public policy and media perspective, but one of the biggest flaws has been the idea that “experts” know definitively what is going to happen in science and you should listen to them.

The entire scientific method is based on disagreement. We test things, find out if they work, and then continue to contradict and challenge them until they develop into an immutable truth. During COVID, we’ve all been told that questioning anything is unacceptable.

But world history has taught us that expert opinion is often horribly wrong. That’s true for science and otherwise.

That’s why I’ve always said look at the data and let it guide you.

And the data on COVID has been fairly clear and transparent since April or May. We’ve known whom COVID kills — the old and the infirm — and whom COVID does not kill or often impact at all — the young and healthy — for nearly a year now. Yet many people still don’t know this.

It’s why I advocated for opening up the economies and ending all lockdowns back in April. I also advocated for the elderly and infirm to continue to limit their interactions with others and to shelter as much as they possibly could.

It’s also why I’ve said that the elderly and infirm should get the COVID vaccine first, because they are the ones actually dying from it.

Really what COVID has exposed is how many people in America are unable to analyze risk in an intelligent or nuanced fashion. If you want a more in-depth and intelligent discussion about COVID policy, I’d encourage you to go listen to my Wins and Losses podcast with Avik Roy, which went up online yesterday.

Go get signed up to gamble on sports in Virginia and Michigan and thanks, as always, for supporting OutKick.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.

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.

16 Comments

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    • Outkick has shown that it wants to make political statements. Don’t know what you are talking about. Not a lot of sports stories right now. Clay has shown the company has a political component. Actually thought it was a great mailbag. Sorry your expectations weren’t met Rick.

      • I like Clay, and I like Portnoy. I don’t need to read about Trump and libs nonstop. Enjoy Clay’s takes on life advice and sports. This entire mailbag was basically media / political shit. Yawn. Tired of politics.

        • and as a staunch conservative and believer in free speech myself, and a person who believes we need to get back to a society that just ‘rubs some dirt in it’ … Outkick subscribers seem to be all extreme right wing cucks. Good Lord. You guys make me look like a moderate.

  1. Michael: because the House vote would be done by state. More states have majority R than D. Overall, there are more Ds, because several states are heavily blue. As I understand it, each state’s group of representatives votes and then that state has 1 vote. Therefore, more votes for Trump than Biden. I tell you what, the guys who devised all this were incredibly smart.

  2. What if the policies the new president intends to implement are bad policies that will do harm to the country? I am not in favor of open borders, higher taxes, more regulations, and do not want the country to join the Paris climate accord.

  3. Since all of the pro sports leagues and commentators are now woke, we need a sports news outlet that is “common sense” aka conservative. Outkick is the only reason I have paid attention to pro sports in the past year. Clay is doing a great service for the major athletic leagues. However I see progressive trolls (posing as conservatives) showing up here to ruin the comment section like they do everywhere else.

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