All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday mailbag time!

Before you get rolling with the mailbag, a request from me, please go check out my new podcast exclusive, Wins and Losses, which now has three episodes up that I think you guys will love.

FS1 writer and commentator Jason Whitlock, serial sports media entrepreneur Shannon Terry, the man behind Rivals and 247Sports, and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. These are long form conversations and I’m excited to see them grow. 

So go check them out here.

Okay, here we go with the mailbag.

Here we go:

Paul writes:

“What’s your take when a star player gets hurt and can’t play in the finals…

Should an asterisk be next to the team that beats the team with the wounded player…let’s be real, would Toronto really beat the Warriors if KD played all the games… many teams beat a team with their best player on the bench…sometimes second best gets the crown….perhaps it’s just part of the game and it doesn’t really matter….”

The Raptors won the title, but if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are both healthy I think there’s a good chance the Warriors sweep the series.

Hell, if Klay Thompson doesn’t tear his ACL I feel like the Warriors would have had a pretty good chance to still win the title even without Kevin Durant.

I think the truth is most people will remember the Warrior injuries a decade from now more than they’ll remember the Raptor title.

It’s also fair to point out that the Warriors have benefited from injuries on other teams before as well — Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in 2015 and Chris Paul last year — but I think the difference with those injuries was the Warriors were still the better teams.

But I think the far more memorable part of these finals is the unprecedented injuries to Durant and Klay in back-to-back games.

Matt writes:

“Hey Clay,

I know you get on to every person who says women can compete with men in sports. But I still have to ask, after watching this historic beatdown of Thailand by the US women’s soccer team, do you think they could compete against the US Men’s soccer team?
Put into context that the US Men’s Soccer team right now is just not good and are worse off then when they missed the cut of the World Cup last year. Watching them give up three goals in one half to Venezuela was pathetic and hard to watch. Am I crazy to think the current US Women’s team would at least put up a fight against the US Men’s team?”
The U.S. Women are not remotely close to the U.S. Men when it comes to soccer. In fact, the women are closer to a good high school boy’s team, honestly, than they are to a men’s world cup team.
Don’t believe me?
And these are two of the best women’s team in the world.
I believe just about every big school state champion high school soccer team would beat our women’s national team.
That’s not intended as an insult to the women, just to point out that comparing men’s sports — or even top boy’s sports — to women’s sports isn’t a fair comparison.
Our U.S. men’s soccer team would be favored by twenty goals or more if they played the women.
As for the question of whether women should receive equal pay, that’s simply an economic impossibility. The men’s world cup brought in over $4 billion recently, while the women’s world cup brought in less than $100 million. In actuality, the women receive a higher share of the revenue produced by the women’s world cup than the men do for their own world cup.
The simple truth is this: while many on the left wing want to argue America is an awful place, we care about women’s sports way more than the rest of the world does and we compensate our female athletes far better than anyone else does.
I understand the frustration, but arguing the women’s world cup team members should get the same pay as the men is like arguing the WNBA’s best players should get the same compensation as the NBA’s. There’s just no comparison to the amount of money each team produces.
Matt Smith asks:
“What three changes would you make to the American sports calendar? (i.e. NBA moves back a month, NFL Draft moves up to Masters weekend, etc.)”
If they made me czar of the American sporting calendar I’d make the following three changes:
1. NBA season starts on Christmas and ends the first week of August.
2. College basketball starts on January 2nd and ends with May Madness instead of March Madness.
3. The NFL puts in another bye week or two and finishes its season on President’s Day weekend, meaning Super Bowl Sunday becomes a default national holiday since it is followed by a Monday holiday every year.
In non-sports news, I would make Halloween the final Saturday of October every year instead of making it always fall on October 31st.
And I would also end daylight’s savings time — I’d make the time we’re on right now standard — and put all of America on only two time zones, east and west, with the east on central time all year around and the west on mountain time all year around.
That way we could start every major sporting event at 7:00 on the east coast and 6:00 on the west coast, thereby ensuring all kids and people like me who wake up every morning at 4:30 in the morning are not sleep deprived.
“A bunch of you on Twitter and email, how do you see NBA free agency shaking out?”
Given their injuries I’d be surprised if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson left the Warriors. Assuming they stay the big question will be this — will either or both of these guys be able to return by the playoffs next year? If they do then all that will matter is whether the Warriors make the playoffs, not seeding at all, because if these guys can play alongside of Steph and Draymond then the Warriors are probably still the best team out there.
But this presumes that they come back and that the Warriors will let them play.
My bet is the Warriors aren’t going to play another guy again until he’s way past ready to go.
Elsewhere, it looks like Kyrie Irving will go to Brooklyn, but I don’t see that having much impact on things. The same would be true with Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker’s destinations.
So in terms of top talent that leaves Kawhi out there as the most important free agent to watch. If offshore odds markets are any indication then Kawhi is basically down to staying with the Raptors or joining the Clippers. Crazily, it’s possible the Clippers could be the favorite to win the title next year if Kawhi joins them.
The only other drama is where will Anthony Davis be traded. It seems like the Lakers are the favorite right now, but given what the Lakers will have to give up to get him, I don’t think the Lakers will be that good even if they get him. Plus, I don’t think LeBron and Anthony Davis makes much sense at all. In fact, if Klay Thompson were healthy, I’d rather have Klay Thompson on the Lakers playing alongside LeBron than Anthony Davis.
I just don’t see LeBron and Anthony Davis matching up that well with each other. If anything, Davis would seem to clog up the lane more for LeBron and Davis isn’t a great shooter from outside. This combo really doesn’t make much sense to me.
Regardless, after all the talk about NBA free agency, it turns out the Warrior injury situation is going to be a far bigger story this offseason.
A bunch of you have asked a version of this question:
“Why do TV ratings matter to you?”
TV ratings are the scoreboard.
We live in an era when we are surrounded by opinion all the time. What’s up, what’s down, what’s growing, what’s declining, there have never been access to more mass opinion in all of human history.
But how do we root that opinion in reality.
To me, there has to be some factual underpinning.
So I think TV ratings are an important guidepost in what people are watching.
And what are people watching on television?
Sports, in a big way. More than ever, honestly, for most sports.

Look at how much the NFL dominates that graphic!
Yet I feel like much of social media has been preaching the NBA is close to catching the NFL. When, in reality, that’s not remotely true.
In fact, the NFL isn’t just more popular than the NBA, college football is too.
Just this week, one thing really surprised me in sports ratings: the NHL, which almost no one praises on social media and which receives almost no national TV coverage, set a 25 year ratings high for game 7 of Bruins-Blues.
It’s possible that Bruins-Blues was the most watched NHL game in America ever.
That’s ever, ever.
Meanwhile the NBA’s most watched game ever is in 1998.
This year 20 million fewer people in America will watch last night’s game six between the Warriors and the Raptors than watched Jordan’s game six win over the Jazz in 1998.
That’s despite the fact that there are fifty million more people in America today than where in America in 1998.
Yes, viewing patterns have changed in America, but the NFL and college football have been setting ratings records in the past several years and the NHL just set one.
Meanwhile the NBA is down.
If anything, the popularity of the NBA in America has been on a consistent slide over the past twenty years. Yet if you get on social media you’d think the NBA was poised to challenge the NFL.
That’s just not true.
It’s counterintuitive, but the data tells us that the NBA was much closer to challenging the NFL in 1988 and 1998 than it is in 2019.
In fact, far from embarking on a new paradigm of influence, the NBA was far closer to the NFL in the 1980’s and 1990’s than it is today. Wilder still, the NBA TV ratings are pretty much identical this year with what they were in 1980, before the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird era made the league relevant in the American marketplace.
Now you can certainly argue the NBA’s global future is better than the NFL’s, but I’m skeptical that the NBA is going to make substantial money in foreign countries.
That’s primarily because time zone issues are pretty big in most of the parts of the world where you’d potentially make substantial money — Europe and Asia — and I ultimately think as we move more and more into a live era, you’re going to need to mass produce live audiences in prime time. (The EPL, which probably makes more money internationally than any other pro league, benefits in America because their games can be played in the morning on television here. But the NBA Finals, for example, tipped off at 4 AM in Europe.)
That’s why I believe ultimately the success or failure of the NFL and the NBA comes down to their American performance.
So what will dictate that success or failure?
How many people are watching, i.e., the TV ratings.
Everything but the ratings is just anecdotal discussion.
And my contention is this: the NBA is vastly overpraised and overcovered on social media — as well as on television as a result of ESPN and TNT wildly overpaying for the league’s rights — and the league’s perceived strength, which isn’t even very strong historically, is actually rooted in weakness — it’s predicated on people caring about LeBron and the Warriors.
Unlike the NFL where the Super Bowl produces a massive audience no matter who plays, the NBA is player driven.
Well, look out, LeBron’s only got a couple of years left in his career and the Warrior dynasty may now be over.
After Michael Jordan the NBA ratings cratered and it took a decade for them to be respectable again.
I think we may see something similar when LeBron leaves, especially if the Warrior dynasty is coming to a screeching halt as well. Right now the NBA is actually cycling up and the upward spike isn’t actually that high. In fact, it’s lower than it ever was in the Magic-Bird and Jordan days.
So, essentially, in an age of anecdotes and opinions, I care about the factual data when it comes to crafting my opinions and the historical ratings data are as close of a factually representative data set as we have.
Hope you guys have fantastic weekends and happy father’s day to all the dads out there.

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.