All That and a Bag of Mail: 2021 Begins With Chaos Edition

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Well, you’ve all made it to another Friday. Congrats.

Let me open by saying: The biggest challenge Americans face right now is an inability to apply consistent standards to all people, regardless of race, gender or political persuasion. I argued this summer that protesters who were rioting and looting should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Many were furious when I shared this position. Now I’m arguing the same thing for any protesters who broke laws inside the United States Capitol, and the same people who were furious at me before are demanding the same thing. For better or worse, my political arguments — and my arguments about sports — are logically consistent.

But most people in America can’t manage this.

That might be expected with your average American, but what’s scary is that media companies aren’t able to apply consistent standards either. Go look at the way CNN and MSNBC covered all the riots and protests this summer and compare it to the way they’ve covered the news since Wednesday.

It’s night and day.

Here were my long-form thoughts on Wednesday’s events, which many of you have emailed and tweeted about. If you haven’t already watched this, I’d encourage you to check it out now.

Rather than having things cool down in 2021, we’ve had another insane week that felt like a year, but at least we have six NFL playoff games and the Alabama-Ohio State game coming up on Monday. I can’t wait to kick up my feet and watch all of these games. And I’ll be going to Ravens-Titans in person on Sunday, so we’ll see how that one shakes out. It’ll be the Titans’ first home playoff game in 12 years.

By the way, my kids got a snow day today in Nashville. They’re going remote this week — back to school full time in person on Monday — but they were asking me last night if there was any way they’d get a snow day. I told them that was impossible because they were already going remote this week.

Then, boom, they got a snow day.

Add another one to the “first ever” file.

This weekend, a $5 bet turns into $125 if you simply pick the winner of one of the six NFL playoff games. That’s all you have to do, if you’re a new user. Go get your bets in now.

Okay, here we go with the mailbag:

Sean writes:

“How consistent will the NFL be in the postseason related to COVID? Will they push through no matter what each week? Is there a position they won’t force a team to play without? I can’t fathom the NFL would play a game Mahomes/Rodgers/Brady/Brees etc would miss due to COVID.”

This is the biggest challenge for the NFL in the playoffs.

To the NFL’s immense credit, they managed to get the full season played on their regular schedule. Yes, there were issues with some games — the Broncos played without a quarterback, the Browns played without wide receivers, and we saw games played on every day of the week to stay on schedule — but they managed to get to the regular season finish line without anyone being able to argue the season wasn’t legitimate.

So that’s one obstacle met.

But what happens in the playoffs if top quarterbacks aren’t able to play as scheduled? It’s a monster issue. We’re kind of seeing it already with the Browns, who will be without their head coach on the sideline this weekend. But imagine what happens if, say, in the divisional round, suddenly Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers both aren’t able to play because of COVID, and both the Chiefs and the Packers lose with their back-up quarterbacks in the game?

Put simply, it would be a huge mess if the NFL were forced to play those games as scheduled without top quarterbacks.

So I’m not sure what the NFL would do. Would they move the games back a week and implement the bye week earlier in the playoffs? (Remember, there’s a bye week between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl). Could they use a bye week then and also push the Super Bowl back as well to keep that bye week too? After all, who really cares when the Super Bowl is played? Does it really matter that much if it happens a week later than planned?

The NFL hasn’t tipped their hand yet.

If I had to bet right now, I’d say the NFL is going to insist the games be played as scheduled. Otherwise, the Browns would have a big gripe with their coaching situation. Arguably, the second most important person on the field, after the quarterback, is the head coach.

How does the league decide which players are so important that they can push back their play? So far, they haven’t made that determination. The games have gone on as scheduled once the bye weeks were passed.

(As soon as the NFL made the decision that asymptomatic testing was going to occur all season, this situation became a clear danger. I’ve been talking about this issue for months. Are you really telling me if, for instance, Mahomes and Rodgers both tested positive for COVID but remained asymptomatic, that both guys would be out of the Super Bowl? There’s no way, right?)

Having said that, given the fact that half of the Wild Card games kick off Saturday and the other half kick off on Sunday, it gets easier to reschedule games as the number of teams involved in the playoffs decrease. This weekend, there are 12 teams playing. Next week, there are eight. Then there are four, and they finish with two in the Super Bowl.

So after this weekend, the NFL will have seven games to play and four weeks to do it as scheduled. (Could the playoff bye week be moved if necessary? Maybe.)

It gets much easier to postpone games after this weekend because you at least have all the matchups set. Right now, if the Browns didn’t play at the Steelers, you couldn’t have either of the divisional round games set because the NFL reseeds each weekend.

But, of course, the NFL’s worst nightmare is if a starting quarterback isn’t able to play in the Super Bowl. So would the NFL move the Super Bowl? Or the AFC or NFC Championship Games? And if they did so, how would that impact competitive balance?

Again, the key for the NFL is that each playoff week gets easier in terms of number of games — the fewer the teams, the easier the scheduling — but the number of people paying attention becomes much larger. So any positive tests in the Super Bowl will be of greater magnitude.

A part of me wonders whether the NFL might institute a bubble for both teams for the Super Bowl. Given the fact that you have two weeks before the game is played, you could pretty much eliminate the risk of COVID impacting the game, in theory, if you put a two-week bubble in place for the Super Bowl.

I think that might be a smart idea.

You could send both teams down to the Disney World bubble the NBA used, give them access to the practice fields there, and then just have them drive from Orlando to Tampa for the Super Bowl.

That seems like one way to limit the risk of COVID disrupting the Super Bowl.

But you have to get there first without top stars being knocked out of games for viruses they don’t even know they have. Which is why, if I’m Roger Goodell, I’ve got my fingers crossed in a big way that the star quarterbacks remain COVID-free between now and the end of the season.

Honestly, if you’re a Ravens fan, you can sleep much easier because you know Lamar Jackson already had COVID and can’t get it again during the playoff run. Maybe that’s true for other quarterbacks too because we don’t know for sure how many of these other quarterbacks may have also had COVID in the spring or summer either. It’s possible, for instance, that Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, for example, already had COVID and just didn’t share their diagnoses publicly. Or it’s possible they had it and were asymptomatic, meaning they still think they are at risk of infection even though they aren’t.

We just don’t know.

And that’s why betting on the NFL playoffs this year will be such a crapshoot.

It’s altogether possible that a team will have major COVID issues, and you might not find out about them until after you’ve already made your bets.

Buckle up.

But at least we’ve gotten this far already, which is something the coronabros said was impossible.

Tim writes:

“What on earth will the news media talk about in February? It’s been Trump 24/7/365 for the past 5 years.”

Assuming Trump still has access to his social media accounts, which is a major issue I discussed yesterday, I suspect the news media will continue to cover his Twitter barrages as news because Trump will still be driving ratings.

I suppose it’s possible they could make executive decisions his comments aren’t news now that he isn’t president and simply refuse to cover them, but this is a symbiotic relationship. The news media desperately needs Trump like Trump desperately needs the news media.

If Biden takes office and everything returns to relative governmental placidity as COVID recedes through the spring and summer — I don’t mean that the controversies will cease to exist. I just mean that there will be far fewer of them with much less constant impact — people will tune out the news to a large degree and get on with their lives.

That means the ratings for the news networks will decline substantially, and their overall revenue and profit will decline as well too.

So how do they respond when that happens?

These news networks are already facing a looming crisis to their business — cord cutting is making them available in fewer and fewer homes each month, crushing their subscriber revenues.

I suspect they will face tremendous business temptation to cover Trump just as aggressively as they have before.

It also remains to be seen what Trump will do and how he will behave out of office. Will he run again in 2024? If so, that process will start soon. That’s especially the case because it seems unlikely that an 82-year-old Joe Biden will be running for re-election in 2024. Biden’s window of power, to the extent it exists at all, will be incredibly narrow, probably 18 months at most.

Then the jockeying for the midterms will almost seamlessly meld into the battle for the 2024 nominations in both parties.

And I anticipate both of these nomination battles will be royal rumbles because Trump demonstrated there is an appetite for an outsider candidate. So how many neo-Trumps will there be in the 2024 primaries? I don’t mean neo-Trump in the context of having the same beliefs as Trump. I mean atypical candidates without a history in politics who jump into the election and create a massive circus.

I suspect there will be a bunch of them.

So while I know Joe Biden is banking on a return to normalcy, I’m not sure that’s very likely going forward.

The same social media forces that propelled Trump into office — and have created such a fundamental disruption to our country — aren’t going to suddenly disappear.

If anything, they appear to be growing even more powerful.

Seth writes:

“Is there any reason to continue playing college basketball this year, other than betting interests, considering Boston University has already won the national championship by requiring players to wear masks?”

The amount of cosmetic virtual signaling associated with COVID remains off the charts.

Right now, the apex, I think, is Santa Clara County forcing the San Francisco 49ers to move to Arizona to finish their season. Somehow it wasn’t safe to play football without crowds present in Santa Clara County, but it was safe for hundreds of 49er players and their families to suddenly move to Phoenix.

It’s all complete nonsense.

Which is true for the Boston University decision too.

There is zero evidence that the Boston University basketball players are any safer at all from wearing masks ON THE COURT. In fact, there isn’t a single known case of COVID being transmitted from one team to another during the playing of a sporting event anywhere in the world.

Anywhere in the world!

And it certainly hasn’t happened in America so far, pro or college sports.

What’s even more crazy, however, is that if even if the virus spreads to college kids, COVID poses almost no statistical danger to them. The danger to college athletes’ health, if they test positive for COVID, is virtually zero. The data has been clear on this since March or April. If you’re in school, you’re under more danger from the seasonal flu than you are from COVID.

The same thing, by the way, has ended up being true for coaches of advanced age who have tested positive.

None of them have had any issues at all either.

This is just a patently absurd decision by Boston University that isn’t supported by any data at all.

Almost as absurd as the coronabros in sports media at the New York Times arguing that UConn was the real national champion in college football this year because they were unwilling to play the season at all.

Dan writes:

“In Minnesota the Health Department is making basketball players at all levels wear masks during the game. When the first injury or serious issue comes up from wearing the mask during a game, who will get sued first?”

I’d love to see a study on whether athletes wearing masks during live competition are under more danger than athletes not wearing masks. That’s not considering the impact of COVID. I just mean whether wearing a mask during intense athletic activity creates a greater risk than not wearing a mask.

My thought would be that it is far more likely that a masked athlete could, for instance, overheat or collapse from exertion, but, again, I’d like to see a study on it.

Aside from the fact that the masks, as stated above, are unnecessary because spread during games between teams hasn’t been shown to occur anywhere in the world, it seems like covering the face during high intensity athletic competition might create health issues itself. Requiring athletes to wear masks during competition is making kids more unsafe than doing nothing at all would do.

Which is, unfortunately, a position that has occurred far too frequently when it comes to our responses to COVID in general in this country.

Many of the COVID decisions we’ve made — such as schools remaining closed for millions of kids across the country — are completely unfounded and without any basis in scientific fact whatsoever.

Thanks for reading and supporting OutKick, and I hope you all have a great weekend.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.


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  1. A quick search brings up several articles on MSM sites specifically warning about this. The motive for the articles may not have been safety related but rather fear porn driven, but still. I also saw a couple on “health” sites.

    As Dan asked – “who will get sued” if a problem arises?

  2. The question I have regarding BU requiring masks is whether they are actually allowed to force that against their opponents, as the school is attempting. I assume the NCAA has requirements regarding uniforms, and I don’t know how a home team could force another team to wear something outside of those requirements. If a team refused to wear a mask, citing player safety, and BU doesn’t budge, who would forfeit the game?

  3. Follow-up to your first question/answer, Clay: How much are media coronabros like Peter King, Woken, etc. praying for an NFL playoff game to be delayed/cancelled due to COVID? They need COVID problems to validate their pathetic lives.

  4. We have idiots in position of power now. Literally idiots of the worse kind.
    Aside from N95 masks virus particles go through masks.
    When you exercise you inhale and exhale at a greater rate and with more force. Add the mask and the inhalation has to use more air to get more oxygene and more volume. If you’re closer to somebody during the game you are then more likely to get particles.
    So if the idiots in power were logical they’d require n95 masks which would be pretty dangerous during intense exercise.
    I am glad we have government to give jobs to idiots

  5. After Wednesday’s riot I have thought about it for a long time. So a few snippets.
    Counties around the Washington DC area are the richest in America. We the people send our taxes there constantly. The people or elitists are not going to leave this gravy train and will do all they can to protect it. You nor I are welcome there and will create more laws to isolate us from them. We are the dregs of the earth to them. However , they still want our money.

  6. Will not watch any games this weekend. Will not give the Pro sports’ “Authorities” the satisfaction of selling my eyeballs. I will however, check in on Outkick over the weekend and Monday to get recaps of the game(s).

  7. Clay may be right that there will be a bunch of outsider candidates for 2024 but I think the GOP will try to use the Dems 2020 playbook and rally around a single person like John Kasich if he is willing to run.

  8. Hit me the other day on the Rayshard Brooks shooting, “Why did the cops shot a man who was only intoxicated sleeping in his car and initially compliant?” Hate to say it but it was politicians and MAAD. What would have happened had they let him go and it became public knowledge? Politicians and MAAD would have jumped all over the cops for letting a “drunk driver” go. Zero tolerance for DWI.

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