All That and a Bag of Mail: Penalty Kicks Edition

It's Friday, you're pretending to work, and the mailbag is here. 

Our beaver pelt trader of the week is Chip, who works at Firestone in Nashville. I showed up with two flat tires at his business and he walked outside to check them out. When I asked him what he thought could have happened, he deadpanned: "Gay Muslim terrorists." 

He wins. 

On to the mailbag. 

Patrick O. writes:


I work on a construction site and we had an interesting bar type discussion. How would an average Joe who is in shape and decent athletic ability do in a shootout against a world cup goalie? It appears to me that the goalies are simply guessing at where the kick will go. Since the goal is so big, the goalies usually look dumb when they dive the wrong direction. How do you think someone would do best out of 5?

Interesting side note, every white guy on site thinks they could make it and every latino thinks there is no chance in hell. I have to defer to the latinos since none of the white guys play/watch soccer, even though I still feel pretty confident."

According to the most recent Freakonomics book -- yes, I read all of these -- "roughly 75 percent of all penalty at the elite level are successful." This means that the most talented soccer players in the world fail one out of every four times they attempt a penalty kick. Interestingly, only 15% of the time do goalies guess right and block the kick, another 10% of the time the penalty kicker misses the entire goal.

But how would a regular guy do against a world cup goalie? If you've never played soccer before your chances are low. You'd kick behind the ball or top it or sky it or kick it wide a pretty large number of times. Plus, you have an elite goalkeeper that doesn't have to guess because the speed of your kick is going to be much slower than the speed of a professional's kick and your body language may well give away where you intend to kick before you even touch the ball. So I'm saying the average guy scores 10% of the time. And that might be high. 

What about former high school level soccer players? I played high school soccer and have stood around attempting penalty kicks for fun quite a bit. I've never done it with a pro goalie in the net, but my best guess is I could make around 25% against a pro goalie. (Note, I would love to try this. If anyone could make this happen it would be a great TV segment too.)

Interestingly, per Freakonomics analysis: Pro keepers jump to the left 57% of the time and to the right 41% of the time. Only 2% of the time do keepers stay right in the center of the goal. So your best bet would be to kick the ball straight down the middle. But most players won't attempt that shot and most goalies won't stand still in the center of the net for the fear of looking bad. There's a lesson here that I embrace every day -- don't be afraid to look stupid.

Phillip writes:


The average price of a wedding in the USA is $25,000. My question, is there a worse way to spend $25,000 in a day other than flushing it down the toilet? I know that weddings are major life events but come on. Most marriages end in divorce. It's incredibly stressful to plan. Most people who attend weddings don't really even want to be there, especially if it's a Saturday in fall. Most of this $25,000 is spent on the guests. Imagine if you saved 3/4 of this sum and invested. In 10 years you would be much more pleased with your decision.

Even if you blew the money on a purchase presumably that good would still have some value so you wouldn't be blowing it all. If you gambled it, smartly, you'd still have a chance of a large return. You could also just buy an even nicer engagement ring, which would still have value. If it's just about 'memories' then that is one day of seriously expensive memories. I studied abroad in France for one summer in law school and spent under $7,000 including tuition. I have three months worth of awesome memories.

Am I crazy?"  

No, you are just a man.

Men will never understand weddings. Most men have spent ten minutes total thinking about their wedding day before they get engaged. Just about every woman has been envisioning her wedding day since she was three years old. While it's considered politically incorrect to acknowledge this fact, the sexes are fundamentally different. Thankfully, men and women are not the same. Weddings just crystallize this fact. Every man's best bet is to just get out of the way when it comes to weddings. Otherwise you're like a lone soldier confronting the tank. Sure, the tank might stop, but more than likely it's just going to run you over.   

James T. writes:

"Yesterday was the World Cup. A lot of friends were privileged to take a half day or extended lunch. I was not as lucky, I work for a bottom line tech company in large business sales. Company's IT did their best to slow our networks down, and claimed to reprimand anyone late from lunch. I tried to take my hour but getting to a bar would have left me only 20 viewing minutes. I have lots of vacation days and sick days, but vacation days must be requested two weeks in advance. My manager knows I'm a sports fan so she would sniff out any sick-day lie.

My question is this: Is a sporting event worth walking away from a job you don't love? I'm a huge fan of the Braves. It wouldn't be unlikely for me to score tickets if they make the world series. But I don't have two weeks to plan a World Series. What's the best way to navigate being a sports fan in the corporate world?

You could post my social security number for all I care. This is an issue that I'd like to address."

First of all, if your IT department really slowed down the network to keep people from streaming the soccer game, where the hell do you work? Most of our jobs aren't really that important. I mean, if you're a pediatric critical care nurse, an ER doc, or working in the CIA reviewing real-time terrorist threats, fine, we don't want you watching soccer when you should be doing your job, but the vast majority of us don't really have that important of jobs.

That's the dirty little secret of American life, most of us are fairly expendable at our present jobs. Most of our jobs don't really matter that much. I mean, what are you doing right now at work, you're reading the Outkick mailbag. Is the world going to come undone because you're supposed to be working and you're not actually working? Of course not. It's okay, like the vast majority of us, your job doesn't really matter that much. (This is why I always end up laughing when, inevitably, I flip out over Southwest wifi not working on a cross-country flight and want to strangle someone. When you really calm down and think, most of what we get pissed off about doesn't matter. when I logically analyze my anger, it's hard to justify this thought process: If I don't get up this Johnny Manziel girlfriend picture then....then....well, most of you will wait to see it until I do put it up. Or you won't. My job doesn't really matter either.) 

Plus, maybe I'm an idiot, but doesn't work-place morale factor in a bit? If you put the game on in the office and let people watch, is the company going to collapse? Aren't you likely to work harder for a company you actually like?

The bigger question you ask here is twofold: one, do you have kids? If you're single without kids, then you're not going to starve to death. You'll be fine. Do whatever you want. I can't stress this enough, if you are single and you don't have kids and you're moderately healthy, your life is pretty much perfect. Do whatever you want. Two, do you have a job or a career with your present employer? If you have a job, then I'd say, screw it, if you don't like your job then there's no harm in leaving for a big sporting event. You can always find another job. If you've got a career, that's a tougher call. If you aren't sure whether you have a job or career, then ask yourself this, would I want my boss's job or my boss's boss's job and so on? If the answer is no, you have a job.  

Barry S. 

"How is it possible for China & India to be so bad at soccer?  These are the most popular sport in the world, and more than 1/3 of the world lives in these 2 countries.... but they've only qualified for one orld Cup between them. And that was in 2002, when Japan/S Korea were automatically qualified, so China (& Saudi Arabia) didn't have to beat them to get into the field. They didn't score any goals in the tournament, and gave up 9 goals. I don't consider myself a soccer historian, but I feel comfortable saying they probably would not have qualified otherwise.

The tournament is set up like college football and rewards the "power conferences" like Europe & S. America. But with that many people, wouldn't you expect China to find 25 good players? It's not like they need to beat Brazil or Germany to qualify for the tournament. If you consider their population advantage along with the potential money that could be made by a corrupt international sports organization by finding a way to get them in, it is really amazing that they are never in the tournament. Add in China's reputation for cheating at the Olympics, and it's hard to believe they haven't found a way to be successful at soccer."

It is pretty fascinating. My guess is that the population numbers aren't really coming into play yet. That is, there aren't enough Chinese and Indian people playing soccer to reflect their tremendous population advantage. In order for a country to be good at soccer -- or any other sport, for that matter -- you need three things: a large number of youthful players -- even in a small country like Portugal every single boy plays, creating a substantial pool of talent --, enough wealth to develop the numbers -- the country has to be able to support the top players and the top players have to be healthy enough to play -- and athletic ability. The latter is actually the easiest to find. Particularly since very few soccer players are out of the running based on height or body type. Whereas, for instance, 99% of us are eliminated from the NBA at birth based on our height. 

My guess is that these two countries fail at the number of youthful players and committing organized wealth to developing soccer talent. You could have levied the same criticism at the United States, by the way, from 1950 to 1986 when we didn't qualify for the World Cup. How did a country that loves sports as much as us, with a huge population and plenty of money to spend on sports, fail to make the World Cup for nearly two generations? That's pretty inexplicable too, right? We just didn't have the number of young players to choose from and we didn't have the money allocated properly to develop our talent. It wasn't a priority.

That's why I think you can compare the United States and soccer to Florida football before Steve Spurrier arrived. The rest of the world has been looking at the US and wondering why we sucked for decades. We dominate every other sport, we're a wealthy and healthy country so our kids have time to play sports, the demographics are in our favor, I think we'll become the Florida of soccer over the next twenty years, a team that consistently performs at a top ten level and is able to contend for a championship every few years. And when it happens everyone will look around and say, "Where the hell have they been for the last forty years?" 

Eric writes:

"My mom found this letter in the mailbox while watering her plants. She immediately went inside and called various neighbors. The first neighbor she calls answers the phone, "I guess you got the letter!" The author of the note is an 18 year old who distributed the letter to every house in the subdivision.

"Dear members of the __________ community,

It saddens me to know that I share air with such sniveling distended bellied gutter rats as yourselves. Of course by this I refer soli to those of you who deem it necessary to comment upon the condition of my property. I knew not that so many of my neighbors were lumberjacks and carried such a vast knowledge on how to cut down a tree. As for those of you who don't know, a great deal of care and time is required to fell a tree. In the community setting, these two factors are requisite for preventing the tragic loss of life, limb, or property. Surly you'd all agree that seeing one of your precious little board babies smeared across the pavement would put you off your lunch. By all this I simply mean to help you understand; the piles of twigs and branches in my front lawn (not to mention the grotesque tree) will not be there forever. Needless to say, your beloved white picket fence community will be back to its pristine condition momentarily.

As for those of you who care enough to remark upon the care taking of the remainder of my property: you can go shove it. Keep your weasely noses to yourselves and out of my business.

Sincerely yours:

PS: screw you.

An 18 year old wrote this? Am I the only person who finds this letter hysterical if it's written by a 74 year old grumpy old man yet simultaneously finds it terrifying if it's written by an 18 year old? I hope this kid doesn't have access to weapons. Because this is the kind of letter that a guy who flips out and commits a mass shooting would write. 

Good luck. 

Texas Lawyer writes:


My friends and I had an extended discussion of which European soccer and military powers match which SEC football schools. Since Germany is Alabama, that made France Auburn. (After all, the nations fought over Alsace-Lorraine, its iron ore deposits and the production factories in the Ruhr Valley- an actual Iron Bowl.) This rivalry heated up when Germany defeated France in a war in 1870 (a big road victory), then captured and deposed Napoleon III.

What if the SEC had a rule that a team winning on the road could capture and depose the opposing coach? Everyone would depose Saban, and no one would have removed Houston Nutt, but would you leave say Muschamp or Pinkel or Mullen in power?

And in our European history analogy, the crazy Hapsburg monarch who stayed one generation too long was Derek Dooley."

Oh, God, this would be amazing. Can you imagine Auburn's reaction if the kick six had led to Nick Saban being deposed? (The number of Alabama and Auburn fans who would support French revolution style executions of losing coaches instead of merely deposing the leaders would probably be terrifying). 

Muschamp would definitely be left in power. So, honestly, would Mark Richt and Bret Bielema. You'd want Saban, Sumlin, Spurrier and Malzahn gone because I don't think those four schools could do any better with their coaches. Gary Pinkel's a tough call. He'd probably stay. Derek Mason and Mark Stoops would be left alone, probably Mullen, Freeze and Butch too because none of these coaches have really proven themselves to be substantial threats.

Les Miles would probably accidentally depose himself. And then we'd find out that this wasn't allowed so he'd stay on as coach forever. Thank God. Because otherwise we might miss out on videos like this.   

Brian writes:

"Ann Coulter's recent diatribe on soccer and so many other misinformed people on social media have me convinced these are the same people who would say "The 2011 Alabama football team sucks" or "Lebron James is not a good basketball player."  It's like they are hoping the beautiful game will fail in the US despite the fact it is huge. If soccer is not for you, great, however, you cannot say it is boring after watching The World Cup. These seem to be the same folks who consider baseball, a sport where 90-94% of a game has no action at all, enthralling. The ratings, the amount of kids playing and the expansion of MLS prove their arguments are no longer valid. Why do they continue to fight it?"

When you really break it down there are two kinds of people in the world: people who embrace change and people who combat it. I'm of the opinion that every day the world gets better. Every single day. We have wealth in this country that no one would have ever believed possible for the vast majority of human history. Even our poorest people today have heat and air conditioning, shelter, food, cable television, tiny computer phones capable of virtually everything -- the poorest people in America in 2014 live better than the richest did in 1914. Hell, the poorest people in America would still be the richest people in most of the rest of the world. Every day things get better.   

Other than writers -- I'm not sure the South will ever top William Faulkner, and will Shakespeare ever be topped -- I can't think of a single thing that isn't better now than it was when I was born in 1979. Can you guys think of anything? Other than books, I can't. This is true for the entire world, we're all moving towards life being better. 

People who are opposed to soccer are fighting it because they don't like change and because they embrace a mystical false idealized world when things were "better." Things have never been better. Soccer becoming popular in America represents change to these people. The craziest thing about this is once it hits the tipping point, we embrace all change. Hell, the Super Bowl is only 48 years old. The NFL wasn't that popular fifty years ago. Things happen fast in this country. It's why I love it so much.

Where else in the world can a bearded racist gay homophobic Muslim end up filthy rich off dick jokes?  


God Bless America. 

Written by
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.