You know how the day goes, you finish the mailbag on Thursday afternoon and then go out in Phoenix. Come home at four in the morning and then get woken up at eight because your phone is blowing up.
When I hopped on Twitter and saw I had 3k messages I thought Nick Saban had been charged with murder.
But instead it was a five year old Tweet that Demarcus Cousins had retweeted. I predicted he’d be arrested within five years. I’ve said and written the same thing about Marshall Henderson and other athletes who lose control on the court. To his credit, Cousins has stayed out of trouble and turned into the best center in the league. And no joke, he slaughtered me. It was a stroke of genius on his part, a flying elbow off the top turnbuckle. Perfectly played, the Twitter equivalent of a quadruple double.
What can I say, I make a lot of predictions, some of them are right, some of them are wrong. If I were always right about my sports predictions, I wouldn’t be doing this for a living, I’d be Biff from “Back to the Future 2.” So I offered to donate $5K to Cousins’s charity of choice, admitted I was wrong, and took my lumps. There were quite a few good jokes at my expense and I laughed along as I feverishly tried to catch up and read my mentions.
But then something interesting happened, as the Twitter mob grew it moved from a “Ha, ha, you were wrong,” Tweet theme to a dark place pretty rapidly. Kill yourself, your kids are going to get raped, your wife is a whore, I’m going to kill you, I mean it was incredible to see how quickly a five year old sports prediction led to people saying infinitely worse things to me than my Tweet ever reflected. You can go search my mentions. These weren’t random outliers, they were pretty reflective of how people responded.
This is one of the most fascinating things to me about Twitter and social media in general — how quickly mobs form and immediately surpass “the wrong” that someone did online. I never take anything on social media that seriously — as all of you who follow me on Twitter or read Outkick know — but it’s remarkable how social media becmes such a raging conflagration. Everyone is so offended fauxraged that they vastly exceed the level of offensiveness in the original posting.
As I’m writing this I’m the number two story on Facebook in all of America. Number one is that Mitt Romney isn’t running for President.
Seriously, that’s real life. What a world.
Anyway, apologies to Demarcus Cousins and congrats on his all-star selection. Let me know where to send the check.
On to the initial opening to the mailbag that was written yesterday afternoon.
I’m writing the mailbag from Phoenix and this is the first time I’ve been in the city since the 2011 BCS title game between Oregon and Auburn. That trip was interesting because it was the last time I was ever on the road for FanHouse. Shortly after we returned from Phoenix news came down that FanHouse was selling its traffic to Sporting News and we’d all be unemployed. It hit me right in the gut because I was poised to sign a long term extension with FanHouse that would have provided financial security to our family. I’d wondered why the contract had never been signed by corporate, now I knew.
So I was 31 years old, I had a three year old, a four month old, a wife planning to quit her job and stay home with our two kids at the end of the year, and my income was suddenly $40k a year via a radio contract that was just running out. You talk about stress. I felt like a Triple A pitcher who just tore his rotator cuff as he was about to be called up to the major leagues. What should I do now? Should I double down on the career I’d been building or go back to the safe and secure decision to practice law? What was the right decision?
I’m sharing this because I feel like a ton of you reading the mailbag either are or have found yourself in similar life circumstances at some point in time. Everything’s not going to go perfect with your plans. Four years ago in Phoenix I wouldn’t have been able to foresee what the next four years of my life would be like. But it turned out that FanHouse closing down was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The last trip I took for FanHouse gave birth, in a roundabout fashion, to Outkick. I love what I do and I thank you guys for coming back every day and continuing to allow me to do it.
Okay, enough syrupy sweetness, our beaver pelt traders of the week are the women of Scottsdale. I honestly have no idea how they find the dresses they wear out at night. They’re incredible.
On to the mailbag.
“What do you make of the whole Marshawn Lynch vs. the media story? Is it simply self-marketing or does this guy genuinely hate the media? I personally don’t care if he talks or not, but he has got to be generating some type of profit to keep this up… How would a gay muslim like yourself go about interviewing Beast Mode? Or would it even be worth the time.”
I suspect it’s a bit of both, he doesn’t like the media and he’s also realized that the best way to get attention is by not talking to the media. Personally, I think he’s playing the media like a fiddle and this story is way overblown — it’s a simple contractual issue. Whether you like the media or not, you sign a contract obligating yourself to appear before the media and answer questions. If you don’t do that then you violate your contract and are subject to a penalty for that violation.
It’s pretty simple. If players don’t want to talk to the media then they can bargain for the right not to do it in the next union agreement. In the meantime, he is violating his contract by not doing it.
Now the money and attention he receives off paying fines may well be in excess of what is taken away from him. That’s a business decision on his part.
But when you’ve got sportswriters so up in arms that they’re advocating a ban on Skittles — you can pry the peanut M&M’s from my cold, dead hands, you bastards — you have to be doing something right.
“Why do you think Facebook commenters hated your Vandy piece so much?”
The reactions were interesting. Twitter was 75% positive, every email I got was positive, but the people posting on Facebook were adamant that I was evil for daring to express empathy for the players and their families.
I don’t know why that difference of opinion occurs. I suspect on some level it’s because Facebook is an echo chamber, if you feel one way about something then your Facebook friends are likely to feel the same way and that emotion can spread virally quicker than it can elsewhere. Once an opinion forms in social media — as we’ve written about before and I just illustrated above ironically enough — then people who feel differently are afraid to step out with a different opinion. This is why Twitter mobs are so powerful and terrifying, because eventually everyone ends up with the exact same opinion.
Let’s talk about that piece, I can simultaneously feel awful for the victim, her parents, the parents of the accused, and the convicted criminals who made a series of awful decisions that night that will forever stain their lives. I don’t even see how that’s remotely controversial.
Maybe I have this perspective because I’ve worked as a criminal defense attorney and defended murderers, both male and female domestic assault victims, drug dealers, you name it. I’ve defended quite a few people who were guilty of crimes. If you’re going to represent criminal defendants you have to realize that you’re going to see people at their absolute worst. You also learn an important fact — good people do bad things and bad people do good things. That doesn’t fit our preferred narrative.
Being charged with a felony doesn’t mean that you’re an awful human being or beyond redemption. In order to be a decent criminal defense attorney I think you either have to be a sociopath or have a deep well spring of empathy for all involved. I always felt empathy for the criminal defendants I represented no matter what they were accused of doing.
(This is also the case, by the way, for writers. Howard Bahr, who wrote a tremendous Civil War novel, “The Black Flower,” about the Battle of Franklin said that the number one trait he believed was necessary for a truly great writer was empathy. You can’t hate any character that you write about no matter what decisions they make that you might find personally abhorrent. I think that translates to great television today too.
This whole case has been a mess from the moment it first went public. The fact that there is now the possibility of a mistrial is just awful for the victim here, who has been tremendously courageous in the face of great pressure. I feel awful for her and respect her bravery.
On a larger scale, let’s some credit should go to the Vanderbilt student body and administration. Compare the way they handled this girl’s allegations about four football players with the way other accusers have been treated by their schools. That’s why I think one lesson from the Jameis Winston case has to be that if athletes are investigated for sexual assault they have to be immediately suspended from team activity until the investigation either clears them — in which case they’re reinstated — or they’re charged with a crime — in which case they’re kicked out of school.
Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt have all followed this policy since the Jameis mess and it has worked out as well as possible given the situation. I think it has to be the default position going forward.
“Now that the wave of realignment has settled in, which move do you see as the most difficult with which to grow accustomed? I say it is Maryland playing Big Ten hoops.”
I’m totally with you here. Every time I see Maryland’s score against a Big Ten school I reflexively think, “Why are they playing an out of conference game right now?”
I’m still getting used to Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC for basketball too.
In football I still think it’s weirdest that Nebraska is in the Big Ten.
Utah and Colorado to the Pac 12, Louisville to the ACC, TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12, Mizzou and A&M to the SEC all seem like pretty good fits to me.
“Me, my wife and son relocated Nashville to two years ago. I think Nashville is one of the greatest cities in the country and we never plan on ever leaving. The city is busting at the seams with growth and opportunity and the economy is booming in Music City. With the recent expansion of the SEC, would it not make better sense to move the headquarters of the SEC from Birmingham to Nashville?
As a point of reference, the NCAA moved their headquarters from Kansas City to Indianapolis as late as 1999. The SEC last moved its headquarters in 1948 from Jackson, Mississippi to its current location in Birmingham.
With the SEC being a lightning rod for corporate partnerships, wouldn’t it make sense to move to a city that has become one of the centerpieces for southern economy?”
I’ve been making this argument for years. The SEC office should be in Nashville or Atlanta instead of Birmingham and I think the SEC Network should be located in Nashville or Atlanta instead of Charlotte.
It just makes too much sense to do it.