All That and a Bag of Mail: Would You Take a Torn ACL For A Favorite Team?

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Today’s mailbag is brought to you by former SEC head coach Gene Stallings, who you can spend the weekend with down in Orange Beach at the most exclusive gulf resort community in the South, Turquoise Place. Have you ever thought to yourself, can I mix the SEC and the beach? The answer is yes and next weekend they’re showing you how: spend the weekend with legendary Alabama football coach Gene Stallings. You’ll be able to have an exclusive meet and greet with Stallings, watch the Alabama-Florida game with him as he commentates live on the action, and you’ll be able to get credit for taking the wife and kids to the beach one last time before it gets cold.    

All at an exclusive rate just for SEC football fans.

I know you guys want to do this. Plus, I’ll be there with my wife and kids as well thanks to Spectrum Resorts signing on to become the official vacation destination of OKTC. (You’ve probably seen their ads on the site, but let me tell you, it’s the best Gulf Coast resort there is. There’s not even a close second. It’s also really cool for SEC fans because, as you can see from the photo, Spectrum Resorts is the official beach destination of the SEC coaches.) 

Call 877-867-4534 and mention the special SEC football weekend package. They’ll hook you up. Plus, you’ll make your wife and family happy.  (Or if you’re really lucky you can even bring down a crew of guys, stay at the resort, and drink beers on the beach while Gene Stallings, a national championship winning Alabama coach, discusses the Florida-Alabama game action for you. Does life get much better?) 

So next weekend OKTC will be live from the beach for games. I honestly can’t wait. 

On to the mailbag: 

Greg M. writes:

“Clay, after the Justin Hunter injury some friends and I got into a debate about whether the average SEC fan would be willing to take a torn ACL if it meant that a top player on your favorite team wouldn’t tear an ACL. We decided that lots of people would, but then we started thinking — how many people would actually do it? We figured you would know.”

Pure brilliance on this question.

When I was a kid and I was sick my mom used to always say, “I wish I could be sick instead of you.”

I never understood this until I had kids of my own. Now every time one of them is sick I find myself saying the same thing to them that my mom used to tell me.

The same logic applies here, would you rather be athletically crippled instead of a player on your favorite team? In other words, how much do you love your team?

I tweeted this question out to gauge responses and initially said that 2% of SEC fans would be willing to tear their ACL because I thought of how difficult the recovery time would be. But every single one of you said that a much higher percentage would take this injury. You also asked dead serious questions like, “Would my insurance cover the expense?” and  “Can I just live with the torn ACL without surgery, I don’t use mine much anyway.” Many of you even volunteered that you’d be doubly injured, that is take two torn ACLs if it kept one player eligible.

Without a doubt two fan bases responded most fervently: Alabama fans and, amazingly, Kentucky basketball fans. (Amazingly because the Kentucky fans actually responded to say they wouldn’t take a torn ACL for football, but would gladly take one for basketball. One Kentucky fan even volunteered a testicle for a Final Four run. That’s dedication.)

So percentage-wise, I don’t have any doubt, it has to be 30% of fans.

In fact, I’ve even got an SEC fan flow chart based on your responses: 

15% would tear an ACL to replace the torn ACL of a top player on a mediocre to bad football team.  

30% would tear an ACL for a bowl-caliber team. 

60% would tear an ACL for a national championship caliber team. 

Those are really crazy numbers, but I think they’re pretty accurate of the diehard fan mentality. It’s rare I’m surprised, but y’all surprised me.  

Matt writes:

Not a news tip or anything. Just want to see Clay’s thoughts on Jim Bob Cooter being at a higher position in the Colts organization than Jim Tressel.

Former University of Tennessee back-up Jim Bob Cooter is the “assistant to the offensive coordinator.”

Jim Tressel is the “replay review consultant.”

Wow, Cooter really does outrank Tressel. I’m just stunned. What odds could you have gotten in January of 2011 that Jim Bob Cooter was going to outrank Jim Tressel in the coaching hierarchy by the fall of 2011. Especially if you eliminated voluntary retirement from the equation. 

One million to 1?

Well played, Cooter, well played.

Mark W. writes:

Good morning, Clay. As a regular reader of OKTC, I thought you might get a kick out of this story. Sports Publishing will be releasing a revised edition of Marty Mulé’s Game of My Life: LSU Tigers next month. The update consists of two new chapters, one which focuses on Jacob Hester and another which focuses on Jordan Jefferson. When it came time to select a cover image several weeks back, I figured that with Jefferson still starting at QB for the Tigers, and the Tigers poised for a run at another national championship, he was the ideal choice.  The book jacket went to press on 8/5. Three weeks later….well, you know what happened. By that point it was too late to make a change, as the jackets had already printed. The finished books arrived today. The online retailers are still displaying the original cover we designed last year, which includes a photo from the 2008 BCS title game on the cover, so I’ve attached picture of me holding the finished product. 

Oh, no.

Jordan Jefferson is not selling many copies. Not unless Jefferson’s “memorable stories of Tigers football,” involves the time he was charged with kicking a Marine in the head.

Emily C. writes:


Did you see the New York Times ranking of fan base sizes? Thoughts?

Yes, I read this. It’s interesting, but tremendously flawed.

How do I know this? Because the New York Times study found that Auburn had more fans than any team in the SEC. Every SEC fan knows this isn’t true. What’s more, it isn’t even close to true.

Here was the NYT ranking:

Anyone who has ever been to the state of Alabama — including Auburn fans — knows that Auburn has substantially fewer fans than Alabama. At best Auburn has 30% of the fans as Alabama. That is, Auburn fans are a substantial minority of football fans in the state and no one in the state questions this. What’s more, Alabama has many more fans nationally than Auburn as well. So any study that purports to show that Auburn has more fans than Alabama is fundamentally flawed.

How did it end up flawed? The New York Times based its fandom analysis on a flawed source, something called the CommonCensus Sports Map project. Quoth the Times: “After having collected more than 30,000 responses over the past several years, this has allowed the CommonCensus folks to divide the country up between the different college teams into what looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.”

Wait, so you’re basing your fandom calculations on just 30,000 people? We have more people visiting this site every day. That’s less than the number of people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook. That’s about the same number of people who attend a Vanderbilt football game. 

You’re really going to use this as a source to define fandom across the country? That’s a tiny, tiny sample size with no demographic adjustments.  

So the NYT tried to clean up this illegtimate sample size by adjusting the results. How did they adjust the results? By looking at team revenues:

“Because this survey is not quite scientific — although the CommonCensus curators have made some effort to screen out ’spam’ responses — I’ve adjusted the results based on a comparison to the college football revenues received by each team, according to disclosure data filed with the federal government. Teams that had a significantly higher- or lower-than-expected number of fans in the CommonCensus results in comparison to their revenues had their results adjusted accordingly.”

I love the phrase I bolded. “Not quite scientific.” Another way, whcih would be more more accurate, to describe this study would be “not scientific.”

So, why not just use the revenue numbers to assess fandom? Because that wouldn’t be a new article.

Nope, we had to combine the revenue numbers — which actually reflect actual fans since spending money is one of the most reliable ways to look at fandom — and use a random online survey instead. A survey, by the way, that OKTC could get more responses on by simply Tweeting out a map and asking people to click on it.

So the whole analysis, as much attention as it got, is completely off. If you just used the revenue numbers produced by each team, you’d get this data on the SEC. Which just so happens to correspond with my own opinion based on book sales, seven years of online writing, and now the number of readers that OKTC does.

Acutal SEC fan base sizes:

1. Florida

2. Alabama

3. Tennessee

4. Georgia

5. LSU

6. Auburn

(Note: I’m not saying that the Florida fans are the most passionate fans in the SEC, they clearly aren’t, but there are more Gator fans than any other fan based primarily on the size of the state.)

That’s a pretty substantial difference from the NYT survey. So let me put it clearly, there is no way that Auburn has the largest fan base in the SEC. Or even a top-five fan base in the SEC. It just doesn’t.

In fact, I’ve found a pretty substantial flaw in the NYT data that someone should have noted: the smaller school in each of the major Southern rivalries is voting more. Suggesting, you guessed it, that the smaller rival is trying to make its numbers look bigger.

How else to explain how Georgia Tech has more fans than Georgia in this study — really, the study says this — or that Auburn has more fans than Alabama, or that Clemson has nearly twice the fans than South Carolina does or that Texas A&M has almost as many fans as Texas. 

This is a pretty systemic flaw that any college football fan should have noted.  

Nor does Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech!, have more fans than LSU, Tennessee, or Georgia. I’m not sure Georgia Tech has more fans than any school in the SEC other than Vanderbilt. Yet, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech!, ranked in the top eleven largest fan bases in the country in this study.  

Clemson was number ten.

Again, no way.

But I did think other aspects of the study were interesting, primarily taking note of the parts of the country that East and West coasters avoid. When I wrote Dixieland Delight, a big New York publisher said that SEC fans didn’t read books.

She was wrong.

Big time.

Here were the biggest markets for college football fandom according to the NYT:

Now that we’re two months in at OKTC — by the way, month number two set another record, we had over 700,000 unique visitors from August 20th to September 20th at OKTC — I can say that this list, minus Philadelphia, was a much more accurate approximation of where the viewers/readers are. 

Here are OKTC’s top 15 readership markets through two months:

1. Nashville

2. Birmingham

3. Houston

4. Atlanta

5. New York

6. Austin

7. Knoxville

8. Dallas

9. Chicago

10. Charlotte

11. Washington, D.C.

12. Memphis

13. Baton Rouge

14. San Antonio

15. Los Angeles 

So we overlap pretty well with seven of the ten largest markets. Again, I don’t buy Philly as one of the top college football markets, but I’ll also acknowledge that Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville are probably higher rated because of all my connections here in Tennessee. (Although those are still huge college football markets).

Basically, I’d encourage you to read the NYT article, but to understand that the size of the fan base analysis is fundamentally flawed. Even Auburn fans would acknowledge that, I think.

Thanks for all your support at OKTC, and I hope to see some of y’all at the beach in Alabama. That’s where I’ll be when next week’s mailbag goes live.

Call 877-867-4534 to join me there.

The mailbag is now brought to you by Counsel on Call, which is one of the best legal companies in the country.

I’ll tell you why. Because when I was writing Dixieland Delight I needed a way to make a living as a lawyer while still taking the risk of going on the road to write a book that hadn’t been sold to any publisher. That’s a terrifying decision to make because most lawyers don’t have any schedule flexibility and most of us don’t have the financial wherewithal to quit the law cold turkey.

So how could I write the book and still have money to live on? Counsel on Call was the answer.  

I had to write this book. So I took the risk and Counsel on Call provided me the safety net. I knew if the book idea bombed, or my CBS column tanked, I could always practice law with them while continuing to pursue my harebrained writing career. And while I was writing the book I was still practicing law.

Basically what I’m saying is, if you’re a lawyer and you have a dream of doing something other than practicing law — which is every single one of the lawyers reading this column right now — consider sending your resume to Counsel on Call and at least pursuing that dream.

You can find them on Facebook here.  

It’s the law + your life.


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.

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 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.


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