All That and a Bag of Mail: Happy Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you a day in advance of Thanksgiving. There are many things I’m thankful for — including dumb Alabama fans — but if I had to break it down to two primary things I’m most thankful for this year, I would say I’m most thankful for my three sons and yoga pants. The rise of yoga pants as a primary object of hot female attire is just incredible. On behalf of men everywhere, thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Our beaver pelt trader of the week is CNN’s Don Lemon. The guy was a walking comedy pyramid during the Ferguson coverage. Did you see him broadcasting live with the gas mask already on top of his head? I really want to do a live broadcast with a gas mask on top of my head sometime. And then did you see him still unable to accurately put his gas mask on in time? I lost it when this was happening. I mean, totally lost it. This is exactly what I would be like if a plane I was flying in ever lost air pressure or I had to open the exit row door. I’ve been told how to do both of these things a thousand times and I’ve never paid attention. I have no idea what to do if people have to get off my plane. We’re all going to die.

God bless you, Don Lemon.  

On to the mailbag.  

A bunch of you on Twitter, Facebook, and email:

“Clay, what do you think about Ferguson, the coverage, all of it?”

Ah, nothing better than starting off the mailbag stepping right into a minefield. But I’ll hit you with it right from the start, I think the media’s coverage of Ferguson was a lot like the media’s coverage of Ebola victims or Nancy Grace’s missing women or the threat of terrorism, it’s a sensationalized story that’s unlikely to impact any of us in our day to day lives, but it terrifies people and we can’t look away. Fear sells and the media is outstanding at manipulating our fears to make money and drive ratings. (The government can also manipulate the hell out of our fears when it needs to. Witness the trillions of dollars we wasted “fighting” terrorism.) The odds of any of us being impacted by Ebola, our wives or girlfriends being kidnapped or killed, getting blown up by terrorism or being the victims of police violence are minuscule.

The odds of any innocent person being shot by a police officer, regardless of race, are much lower than the odds that we’d be struck by lightning. Do you worry about lightning strikes? Probably not. Thirty-three people were killed by lightning in 2013. Imagine if the media decided to cover lightning strikes with the same rigor that they cover Ebola, missing women, terrorism, or police violence. Many of us would not step outside in a storm ever again.

You can’t leave out social media either. Social media is great at mobilizing people who don’t know very much about a story to suddenly care a great deal about a story without accomplishing much of anything but driving more media attention. Social media mobs, as I’ve written before, unfortunately lead to a rapid good or evil dynamic. Someone or something is either entirely good or entirely evil. There’s no middle ground, there’s no context, we all look for heroes or villains on social media and that’s the entirety of just about every social media drama. We immediately assume the best of the “hero” and immediately assume the worst of the “villain.” It’s a Disneyfication of real life. The media follows this paradigm because we innately want there to be good guys and bad guys in every story.  

I’m not criticizing the media for covering these stories — because the ratings demonstrate that people love them — but I think both viewers and media people need to be smarter. This isn’t primarily news, it’s entertainment. We’re not watching to be educated about our world, we’re watching because this is real-life drama, the original reality television. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment — hell, Outkick is in the entertainment business — but when I’m watching “Breaking Bad,” I’m aware that the reason I’m watching is for the entertainment value. I also know it’s not real. You’re reading the mailbag right now to be entertained. You might learn something, but the primary goal of Outkick is to entertain. Many people don’t recognize that with television news, the reason you’re watching isn’t to educate yourself about the world, it’s to entertain yourself. 

Extreme life or death stories — particularly if we fear being the victims ourselves — make compelling drama, but you shouldn’t allow those extremes to dictate your own life path. I feel like every one of these stories should be accompanied by a statistician attempting to lay out the probabilities of this incident actually happening in your own life. Most of the time we fear things that aren’t actual threats to us. For instance, I’m terrified that one of my kids could be kidnapped by a stranger. If you have kids you fear this too. The odds of this actually happening are tiny. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on your children, it just means that it isn’t a very rational fear. There are dozens of things my kids do every day that are much greater risks to them. And there are things I do that put them at greater risk. Why am I checking Twitter or sending a text message while driving my kids? That’s the dumbest thing I could possibly do, it’s probably four billion % more dangerous to my kids than any stranger will ever be. So I think we can learn to rationalize our fears and make smarter decisions about the things we can control than by worrying about external things. The simple truth is that we, not someone else, are all the greatest threats to our own safety. 

The media does such a good job playing on our fears that we miss more important issues we could actually address that would be much more beneficial to our society. I’ve got a two-month old. Two days ago I was feeding him a bottle and thinking about what his life will be like when he’s seventy. That will be in 2084. What will America be like in 2084? I’m an optimist so I believe that things are always getting better. I’m 35 and my parents were born in 1944. They’re seventy now. Think about how much different — and better — life is now than it was in 1944. 

In 2084 what will my son look back on and think was crazy from 2014, the year he was born? I’m convinced it’s car deaths. He’ll find it incredible that someone could die going to pick up milk at the grocery store. Did you know that three times as many people die in car accidents every year as are murdered in this country? Probably not. Do you fear driving? Probably not. Do you text and drive? Probably so. In the early 2000’s almost as many people died every year from car accidents as died in the entire Vietnam War. I mean, that’s insane. We have a Vietnam every year on our roads. And people just accept it.

Anyway, this is probably too serious of a question to start off the mailbag with but these are my thoughts, you have to be careful of social media and media frenzies, let’s move on to some fun.  

Anonymous writes:

“Clay,

Keep me anonymous for obvious reasons. My wife and I moved into a townhouse in a trendy part of Atlanta about a month ago. Next door neighbor on one side is a hairdresser, plays for the other team, and seems to be a great guy. Tonight, I was drinking, as is my weekend habit, and went on to the back porch to pee. Saw some lights on in the neighbors’ upstairs bedroom, and turned to look. Turns out I got to watch a live gay sex show! Never seen this before, and I watched for a bit, out of curiosity. Does that make me gay? I know “your gay”, so your wisdom is appreciated.”

I think it would be hard to look away from anyone having sex if you weren’t expecting to see it. Certainly if your neighbor was a hot lesbian and she was having sex with her equally hot lesbian girlfriend and you saw this in your backyard you’d be telling this story for the rest of your life and everyone would be jealous of you.

Let’s flip the script, would your gay neighbor watch you and your wife have sex for a bit if he was peeing off his back porch and saw you guys through the lighted window? Probably so. Would that make him straight? Of course not. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching two gay men have sex for a bit out of curiosity.

Now, if you start sitting on your back porch with the lights out for hours on end without wearing pants hoping to see a repeat of the gay sex show then you’re probably gay. Your wife is going to be so pissed off that she married a gay guy. Especially since, if you’re actually gay, she definitely suspected you might be gay at some point.     

Wes writes:

“There is a dating couple in my group of friends fantasy football league. Recently, the boyfriend offered his girlfriend a trade. The girlfriend denied the trade, but counter-offered with unlimited, er… favors for an entire week.

This offer has caused a rift amongst us. The boyfriend is begging us to let him accept the offer, but many of my other friends claim that this isn’t within the spirit of our non-existent bylaws.

Thoughts?”

Don’t you have a league commissioner to approve or reject trades? I thought every fantasy league had a commissioner to guard against improper trades. That’s who has to rule here and he has to disallow the trade. If you have no commissioner then this is a clear violation of the league bylaws. (Even if you don’t have bylaws). I’ll explain why.

All members of a league enter into an agreement at the beginning of the season. That agreement is simple, we are going to try to win this league with our team. That’s your only league obligation — to try and win. Implicit in this agreement is an acknowledgment that you won’t try and throw the league. For instance, if one guy decided that his team was a farm team for another team, you wouldn’t allow him to run his team and send players up to the other guy’s team to help the other guy win. That’s a clear violation of the league agreement. Everyone reading this agrees with this paragraph. That’s the essence of fantasy football.  

Now let’s move on.

The only value that exists in fantasy football is the value of the players within the game. You all draft or pick up players and in theory the team with the best collection of players wins. Everyone is on a truly level playing field. Your team’s value is the value that each individual player has at fantasy football. You can differ on what a player’s value is — this is common — but no one is arguing, for instance, that Bishop Sankey is worth more than Peyton Manning. Nothing else matters in the league but player value.

Let’s accept that sex has an economic value. It’s a desired commodity that is in much shorter supply than the demand. No one would dispute this. The girlfriend knows this because she’s using it to get something that she wants. Would you allow someone in your league to pay money, exchange a painting, or even promise to cut the grass for an entire summer in exchange for a top player? Plainly no, right? All of those things violate the spirit of the league. You can’t bring in outside economic value to the league. Because then there’s no point in playing the game, whoever has the most money — or valuable economic product — wins.

A billionaire could pay you to sit your team each week you went up against him and he would win the league, but plainly you wouldn’t allow that to happen because then there’s no point in the league. He violates the esssence of the game. 

It’s the same thing here.

The trade can’t happen.   

Dave writes:

“Any situation in which FSU wins out and doesn’t make it in? Sounds crazy but hear me out: Miss St throttles Ole Miss, Bama kills Auburn and wins the SEC Title Game, Oregon beats up on Oregon State and wins big in PAC 12 title game, Baylor beats up big time on Texas Tech and K-State, While FSU squeaks by UF and GTech on a string of lucky breaks and unconvinced felons

Any chance an undefeated champ could get bumped to 5? Does the committee have the balls?”

I don’t think the committee has the balls to leave out an undefeated Florida State. 

Which is a shame. 

Because do you think the committee would have undefeated Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest or Duke, for example, in the playoff right now if they had the exact same record and results as Florida State? I don’t think they would. 

The only reason FSU is in the playoff right now is because they’re FSU. For all the griping that FSU fans have had about the way their team is being treated, the only reason FSU is a playoff team right now is because they’re FSU.

#secbias meet #fsubias.  

Scotty writes:

“Clay,

Are you aware that sororities have “house boys”? Cook a little, do handyman work etc. As someone who will retire very early is this not a great option? I will be in my 40’s, successful and still look youthful. I’m sure the lack of stimulating conversation would eventually make it unfulfilling but what a few years it could be…”

The only reason to do this job is because the sorority girls might be willing to sleep with you. News flash — the sorority girls are not going to sleep with you. How much time do you think hot sorority girls spend thinking about screwing anyone over the age of forty? You’re ancient to them. Now add in the fact that you aren’t George Clooney or a billionaire with a yacht, you’re the guy who fixes the toilet when they clog it up.  

What percentage of college girls between the ages of 18 and 23 either will or have slept with a man over the age of forty while they’re in college? Two percent? Lower? I’d love to see the actual stats. (I’d be curious what actual sorority girls think too. They’d have a better sense of the odds. My recollection is that if a sorority girl dated a guy who was over 25 he was considered really old. Can you imagine one bringing a forty year old boyfriend on date weekend? God, that would be an incredible reality show.)

Anyway, I think this is an awful way to spend your retirement. 

Rob writes:

“Hey Clay,

A while ago you wrote an article about how almost all coaches who have succeeded in the SEC had a 9 win season by their second year. Butch Jones clearly won’t do that this year, but most Vol fans (myself included) still think he has the program pointed in the right direction. After seeing almost two full seasons under Butch Jones, do you think he’s the right man for the job?”

Every SEC coach — but Mike Dubose — who has won an SEC tilte has won at least nine games by his second season. So my thesis is that you need to win at least nine games by year two to be a big-time winner in the SEC. In recent years James Franklin, Dan Mullen, and Will Muschamp have all won at least nine games by their second seasons. So winning nine doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be a success, but it’s a pretty clear evidence of the culture having changed.  

Butch has recruited really well, but so far the results on the field haven’t proven that he’s definitely going to be the right guy. Butch is 10-13 overall, just 4-11 in the SEC. We’ll see what happens in year three. Tennessee should be in the mix to win the SEC East all season long. He needs to go at least 8-4 next year to feel confident about the on-field results. 

There are five first or second year coaches in the SEC. I think it’s fair to rank them as follows:

1. Gus Malzahn

2. Butch Jones

3. Bret Bielema

4. Mark Stoops

5. Derek Mason

I think it will be hard to bump Malzahn out of first or Mason out of fifth any time soon. (If Derek Mason’s Vandy team loses by double digits to Tennessee Vandy will become the first team in SEC history to lose eight league game by double digits. That’s amazing futility). The three coaches in the middle are more flexible. Jones and Bielema actually play next year. That will be an interesting head-to-head match-up of programs in their third years. Right now I’d give Butch the edge based on recruits and results, but year three should go a long way towards clearing up the status of the hires.  

Anonymous writes:

“I had a dream that Nick Saban killed a guy, and I alone had damning evidence on him. (For the record I actually don’t hate Nick Saban, I’m an MSU fan but I actually think Saban is awesome and possibly the most unintentionally hilarious person ever). Anyway, I was trying to decide in the dream whether or not to turn Saban in. My question is, in real life, what would happen if Nick Saban killed a guy? Would the 85% harbor him somewhere in backwoods Alabama and let him secretly call plays remotely? I’d definitely have to go into witness protection, right? I need your legal advice just in case this happens.”

There would be a substantial contingent of Alabama fans that would scream “due process,” if Saban was charged with murder and would want him to still be coaching. They wouldn’t know what due process means, but they would still scream it. I’m convinced that “due process” might be the most overused phrase by non-lawyers. The number of people who become legal experts on Facebook and Twitter when a player on their favorite team is charged with a crime is extraordinary. 

I don’t think you’d have to go in witness protection, I think you’d just have to move to the east or west coasts. No one there would care and the Alabama fans who would want to kill you for testifying against Saban can’t afford the gas money to travel there and kill you.  

Here’s a question for y’all to debate with your families at Thanksgiving, what happens if a coach gets investigated for rape but isn’t charged with a crime? Does he lose his job as soon as the allegations go public, or does he keep it since no charges are filed? Basically, is the standard different for a coach as opposed to a player or more stringent?

Let’s say that the Jameis Winston facts are the exact same, but it’s Saban with a 37 year old woman instead of Winston with a college girl. Does Saban lose his job even with no charges being brought? What if you make the coach younger and single? Say, Kliff Kingsbury. Does the age and marital status of the coach matter as to whether he keeps his job? Should it? Is it all just about how many wins the coach has? Clearly a losing coach gets fired for cause over this, but would a winning coach keep his job?

Because odds are we get an allegation like this against a coach at some point in the next ten years. What will happen?  

Brett writes:

“As you know, Hard Knocks is an awesome TV show. So me and a few buddies were drinking and thinking, what if there was a Hard Knocks college show? Give me your top 5 programs you would love to have an all access pass to. Could you imagine getting to watch some of the conversations Jameis has with his teammates, or how scared some of Bama’s players are of Nick Saban? This would be television gold.”

Keep in mind that the NFL and the teams can edit the footage. So you’re not going to see the full truth. You get a sanitized version of the truth that ultimately reflects pretty well on the team itself. This means that the entire FSU “Hard Knocks” would probably consist of Jameis Winston visiting kids in the hospital and helping old ladies cross the street. So you’d need characters, people who were entertaining no matter what they were doing. This means the head coach would set the tone for the entire show. So here are my five:

1. LSU with Les Miles

2. Washington State with Mike Leach

3. South Carolina with Steve Spurrier

4. Penn State with James Franklin

5. Arkansas with Bret Bielema (and his wife)

Anonymous writes:

“Clay, I’m a traveling father & husband and don’t have the opportunity to pay as close attention to college football as much as I like. So I lean on your gambling picks to the tune of $50/game. (Thanks for that 3-17 stretch by the way. Could a real gay Muslim have done better? I think you need to test this theory next year). But that’s not my inquiry. I gotta know where you get your lines? My lines are consistently a half point to two points shaded usually in the opposite direction of your/my preferred play. But my book doesn’t charge me anything to cash out. I’m still somewhat new to online sports books and uncertain on legalities. Please explain and should I be shopping around?” 

It’s technically illegal, but there are lots of offshore books online that you can use to shop for lines. Of course, if you are placing a sports bet pretty much anywhere outside the state of Nevada you are breaking the law. You’re also breaking the law by competing in an NCAA tournament pool.

My point is this — our laws on sports betting are stupid and illogical and I don’t think they should be enforced.

So I’d encourage you to shop around. Lines can differ. I tend to place my bets early in the week when the lines first come out. Sometimes the line will later move in my favor, other times it won’t. I tend to think it evens out. I post my picks on Wednesday morning, so if you don’t read them until Thursday or Friday or Saturday they can have moved a decent amount by then as well.

I think an actual gay Muslim would probably beat me this year.  

Joel writes:

“Hi Clay. Lately, when I’ve I read your take-it-to-the-bank gambling picks and can’t-miss-musings on the Vols, I think of Luke Skywalker boldly telling Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” Do you ever worry that, like Palpatine, such hubris will lead to your downfall?”

My downfall? Where am I falling? I write on the Internet for a living. No matter how far I fall, I’m pretty sure I’ll always be able to write on the Internet for a living. 

As for hubris, I have a ton of self-confidence while also not taking myself too seriously. I suspect those two traits in equal balance are fairly rare. So I tend to think my sense of humor protects me from a massive downfall. I also think you have to be really high up to fall very far. I am not very high up.  

Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

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.