It’s Tuesday, college football is back and we’ve got the NFL kicking off in two days.
Hopefully you are back to work, school, and playing sports and not curled up in the fetal position under the covers like all the coronabro losers.
As always you can send your mailbag questions to email@example.com, anonymity guaranteed.
Okay, here we go:
“Hey Clay – over the Labor Day weekend I noticed a house in my development had an upside down American flag hanging from their garage flag pole. This a neighborhood of 500k+ houses and stay at home moms, I can only imagine the plight they feel. Obviously the family doing that is looking to gain a reaction and I’m trying my best not to give it to them. My first thought was to say something to the HOA, we all know how good they are at breaking balls. But given the way things go today and how attention starved these people are, I don’t need the twitteratti showing up in my neighborhood and “protesting.” Would you ignore it/them and potentially embolden them to go a step further?”
Imagine being successful enough to live in a $500k house and hating America. It’s absolute insanity.
As a general rule HOA’s are awful, but I feel like this is the perfect issue for them to get involved in. I suspect flying an American flag upside down is an HOA violation. So rather than get involved in a personal dispute over this issue, I’d raise it with the HOA and let them handle it.
I’d also point out that it’s possible somebody’s idiot teenager did this and the parent’s haven’t noticed. In other words, there’s a decent chance this isn’t an aggressive political statement designed to upset the neighbors and it’s just a lazy teenager who screwed up a simple task.
It’s often the case that incompetence is involved as much as ill intent.
So let the HOA handle it.
You’re paying your dues to them, might as well let them do something you support.
(By the way, for the inevitable first amendment people out there, when you buy a home in a subdivision you agree to be bound by the HOA on your property. Most HOA’s would prohibit the display of flags that the majority of homeowner’s would consider to be offensive. I suspect an upside down American flag would fit the bill here, as would, for instance, a Nazi flag. I suspect this election season we’ll see a ton of HOA battles fought over Trump flags as well. Good luck with that).
“My youngest son – entering his junior year in high school – is a basketball junkie. He is In the gym 6 days a week working on his game or playing pickup, spends time in weight room and watching film. He loves the game. He has no basketball privilege, he is 6 feet tall and not very quick – but a really good shooter. He is a smart enough kid and sees the end to his game at coming in high school, or maybe some very small college if he gets lucky.
Which is why his career goal is to coach in college at the highest level. I am starting to worry about that career path however, given the tremendous social justice movement in sports (which is wrong because at its core it looks at groups rather than individuals).
Do you think a white male is going to have a legitimate shot at success in coaching basketball in the future?”
How wild is an email like this?
We’ve got a parent emailing to ask whether his son has a real shot to succeed on a professional level because his race might be a hindrance.
And — Matthew McConaughey voice — he’s white.
In general, I hate identity politics. The idea that you should in any way be rewarded or penalized based on your race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, you name it, I think it’s fundamentally wrong. The most talented and hard working should get the best opportunities regardless of their individual identities.
For my entire life that was true in sports because sports is the ultimate meritocracy. The only thing that mattered was whether you made it more likely that your team would win or not. The more valuable you were when it came to wins, the more you got paid, the higher your job status. Sports got it right, the best man (or woman) won and received the plaudits for those wins.
But now sports has bought into the identity politics era. And we get constant articles about whether cosmetic diversity should be considered when it comes to who gets top jobs. That doesn’t make sense to me because sports is the ultimate bottom line business. Every player and coach is judged on one thing — does he make it more likely that his team wins?
If the answer is no, the player or coach gets released or fired.
If the answer is yes, he gets promoted (or paid more money through a contract extension).
The question you are asking is essentially this — “My son is a white kid who wants to coach college basketball. In 25 years or so when he’d be old enough to start being considered for these top jobs, will his race hinder him since, presumably, basketball will continue to be a majority black sport like it is now and there may be a preference for black coaches?”
I think the answer is no provided he works his ass off.
Now let me explain why. First, your son, arguably, has a small advantage when it comes to coaching. He’s not good enough to play at an extremely high level. So he can start working on being a great coach now. That is, he can start preparing for the job he wants as an adult while he’s still a kid. And once he finishes his schooling he can go straight to a low-level coaching job.
That early start is invaluable because coaching is very much a hierarchy. You work your way up from starting at the bottom of the coaching rung. Yes, some top players can jump ahead of the line and get rewarded with jobs they may not have put in the years grinding to get, but most coaching jobs still go to the guys who first prove themselves starting at the bottom and working their way up.
Most teams believe the best evidence of (future) success is past success.
So you have to work your way up to the head job. That’s a grind that most, regardless of race, aren’t willing to embrace. (It’s also why using players as an example of what the racial make up of coaching staffs should be is a failed strategy. Most players don’t want to coach because they see how hard coaches have to work. Most players, at the end of their careers, don’t want to sign up for twenty hour workdays at vastly reduced salaries). So the single most determinative factor to coaching success, I believe, is hard work.
I would tell my sons the same thing I would tell yours, work your ass off and don’t worry about things you can’t control, like what you look like. If your son is a great coach, he’ll eventually get a head job. And then if he wins he’ll keep his job too.
Let’s also talk broader scale here because I do believe this is a big topic of discussion in America right now — are opportunities equal? The answer is of course they aren’t. Everyone starts at different places. If you inherit a billion dollars and I don’t, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to finish with more money than you.
Which is why equality of outcome can’t be the goal, the goal in America has to be equality of opportunity. Equality of outcome is an impossible standard absent communism, what America should provide is equality of opportunity.
So the question is: are we doing this?
I believe we are.
If your parents aren’t rich, you have to work harder. That’s inescapably true. My kids are going to have advantages that I didn’t have. I had advantages my dad and granddads didn’t have. The goal of parenting, to a large extent, should be to provide advantages to your children that you yourself didn’t have. Without, mind you, creating entitled brats. This is why one of the most common conversations parents who are successful in life have with other parents in a similar position — how do you instill drive in your kids?
People born without wealth, like me, who attain some measure of wealth, worry that our kids won’t have the same drive that we did. How do we instill that competitive spirit that drove us when our kids lack for nothing? It’s a very real challenge. There’s a reason most successful family businesses fail when the heirs take over.
But back to the larger context here: I believe there’s a strong argument that the diversity and inclusion world is actually creating a stronger meritocracy among groups that aren’t considered diverse, like white and Asian men, for example.
Let me explain why using my own schooling experience as an example.
Whereas in the past it was undoubtedly true that white men were wildly overindexed in high level, elite schooling, to a large extent that’s no longer the case. And it hasn’t been true for at least a generation of American educational life now.
I was raised in integrated public schools from kindergarten through my senior year. I am a product of a “diverse and inclusive” higher educational system. My schools roughly mirrored the overall racial diversity of the city of Nashville, where I grew up. White, black, Asian, my school was incredibly diverse. And I don’t believe anyone got any advantages in school based on their race.
I graduated from Martin Luther King Magnet High School in Nashville and received a scholarship to college. Then I went on to law school.
Top law schools are incredibly difficult to be admitted to.
So let me take you inside Vanderbilt Law School, which I loved. White men in the class of 2004 were a minority of the overall student body in my class. (That is, unlike in the generations before me when the school would have been heavily slanted towards white men, my graduating class was fairly diverse and had a majority of women graduates.)
I remember this coming up all the time in job interviews because the firms interviewing us would all say they needed more women lawyers. But I found that interesting because men were actually the minority of my law school class.
White men may have represented 35% of the overall class, meaning 65% of my class was made up of non-white men. If you compared my class in 2004 with law school classes from fifty or so years ago that means white men had “lost” a large percentage of the law school seats.
But 35% of those seats still remained. And the competition to be among those 35% of white men has become so intense that the white men included in my class, I believe, had to work much harder to get those spots than the white men might have had to work to get their law school spots fifty or seventy-five years ago.
That means the average white male law student is more skilled and talented than the average white male law student would have been fifty years ago. That’s why I think you can argue the people losing out in the diversity and inclusion race aren’t the most talented people, they’re the lesser talented, the people who were the weakest in the class fifty years ago don’t get admitted now. In other words, the competition for top law school spots has become so intense that you’re still getting the best of the best, only that best of the best is even better than they would have been fifty years ago. Put simply, I believe that extreme competition delivers better candidates.
And the same thing is true if you look at lawsuits surrounding, for instance, Asian admissions to Ivy League schools. Asian kids are being discriminated against because they dominate all the data sets when it comes to admissions to elite schools.
Lawsuit data reflects that rather than being rewarded for being a minority, Asian kids are actually being discriminated against for being Asian. The result is the Asian kids that are admitted to top schools are the winners in an insanely competitive and brutal meritocracy. The competition to get admitted as an Asian student at a top school is arguably more difficult than it is to dominate once you get to the school. The top Asian admittes are, arguably, the best qualified applicants in the entire class.
And I think the most talented and skilled students who enter these top schools are the ones who end up being the best performers once they graduate too. Which is very much of a sports cliche: the tougher the competition, the more skilled the winners.
Which is why what I would say to everyone, regardless of their race, is ultimately it’s your work ethic and talent that determines most success in America, not your identity. That’s true for your son and my sons and everyone’s son’s and and daughter’s in this country.
The challenge here, of course, is how many students are out there who have the talent and the drive to be successful, but lack the opportunity because they’ve started the race too far behind. In other words, who are the raw diamonds who haven’t had the chance to excel. And how do you find those people? And where’s the best place for them to go to unlock that potential to the fullest extent possible? Ultimately I believe these people will be successful, honestly, no matter where they go to school, but there’s no doubt that where you graduate from gives you a leg up with your initial job. But if you aren’t able to perform at a high level, you’ll be replaced by someone who can. Ultimately where you went to school fades the longer you work. So having the best opportunity in college isn’t as important as having an opportunity in the first place.
And I think what frustrates liberals is every profession doesn’t perfectly reflect American diversity. They see that as evidence as structural racism whereas I see it as evidence that in a market-based economy the best and most successful talent succeeds and is rewarded for that success.
Which is why I come back to sports and point this out, if you designed a football or basketball team that perfectly reflected American racial diversity percentages, you’d have to fire a ton of black guys and hire a ton of Asian, Hispanic and white guys.
The team would look more like America.
But it would get its ass kicked in every game.
Now imagine if your team had to feature both sexes. That is, what if every NFL team was made up of half men and half women. Would you ever score a point in a football game all season? Probably not. But your diversity and inclusion program would be top notch!
Which is why I think America needs to look more like sports instead of making sports look more like America.
Focus much less on the cosmetic diversity and much more on the overall talent and work ethic.
And if you think you’re being discriminated against because of your identity, guess what, prove the market wrong and found your own company!
That’s the ultimate trump card in American life today. If you feel like you’re being undervalued by the marketplace, you can value yourself and start your own business.
That’s what I did.
And it’s been the best decision I ever made.
“I’ve been part of a fantasy football league for the past 20 years with the same 9 guys. Fantasy Draft Day is the most fun day of the year – we all get together, away from the wives, drink, eat, and re-live the glory days. Needless to say, we’re all huge NFL fans.
I recently sent an email, like I do each year, alerting the guys to the date and time of the upcoming fantasy draft. Much to my surprise, 7 of the guys are dropping out of the league and all of them cited the SAME reason – they’re tired of the NFL’s embrace of politics. They also added that they won’t be watching any NFL games this season.
This leads to my questions: 1) how much do you think the NFL’s embrace of left-wing politics is going to affect ratings and ultimately the league’s profits and player salaries, and 2) WHY is the NFL doing this – is it because the NFL is based in a bubble in NYC and actually thinks fans want it to adopt “woke” politics, or does the NFL know its fans don’t like the politics, but the allure of virtue-signaling is too great for Goodell and Troy Vincent to resist?”
I’ve been getting a bunch of these emails as we enter fantasy football drafting season.
“Last night was our league’s fantasy-football auction draft. It’s always the highlight of my year. Literally. I start thinking about it in April or May, and I count the days in July and August. We had a good time last night, but it wasn’t the same.
To a man, all 10 of our league participants said they plan to not watch a single game all year. We all plan to monitor stats, and make decisions about our teams that way.
The NFL’s ratings are going to be horrific this year. A few questions: Does that even matter? Is the league already locked in to TV contracts to where they can just shrug off poor ratings? Also, how long will it take for the sports media to bombard readers with stories stating that the NFL’s poor ratings are proof of America’s systemic racism?”
This is fundamental miscalculation on behalf of all American sports businesses.
The vast, vast majority of American sports fans watch sports for entertainment, as an escape from the serious things in their lives.
Most people in the media — and players and executives — lose sight of this fact because for many of us sports has become our job.
I think I’ve been able to keep track of this better than most because I had a real job and sports was my escape while I was practicing law. That is, I came to sports to escape the serious things I did in my professional life. I think most fans are the same way.
What I believe will happen is pretty straightforward — if you make sports feel like real life then people will find other escapes.
Sports is a luxury, the desert of life. The time we spend consuming sports is, for most of us, a reward. You ate your salad and broccoli — went to work and made your salary so you can pay your mortgage and take care of your family — so now you get your pie — to kick up your feet, have a beer and watch a game.
This is why just about every dad — and lots of moms — reading this right now have experienced the intersection of real life with the game. What do I mean by this? How often do you sit down to watch a game and then your spouse, who likely isn’t a big sports fan like you, suddenly walks into the room and asks you to do something for them? Or how often does one of your kids show up and ask for something right at an important moment of the game?
And what’s your response when that happens, when real life intrudes on your enjoyment of the game? Often you exasperatedly yell:
“JEEZ, CAN I JUST WATCH THE GAME?”
All over America I believe the vast majority of sports fans are saying, “JEEZ, CAN I JUST WATCH THE GAME?” when they are being lectured about serious things in life during sports. Now many of those fans will deal with the frustration and keep watching the game because their enjoyment overrides their frustration. But not all of them.
Millions of sports fans will find something else to do.
And that’s very bad for the sports business.
But worse than that, it’s very bad for our national connective tissue. We need areas of American life that are not constantly political.
Sports used to be one of those places.
It no longer is.
Will there be many other fans like your fantasy football league? I think so. Will it impact ratings in a big way? We’ll see. (Out of home viewing is bumping up ratings this fall and didn’t exist last year so it may serve as a sort of protection against declines. But I’m fascinated to see the results.)
“My wife and I used to have a somewhat active sex life but that really changed when the kid came along. It’s been three years now though and she’s turning into Tim Tebow circa 2009.
That being said, in the odd chance to she does give it up, it’s all very routine, same position, same order. Getting very boring. I’ve indicated that I’m willing to do things to her but she keeps refusing. She won’t consider trying anything new.
Any thoughts on how to inject some excitement into our bedroom and get her to have a more open mind?”
This is the most common question we’ve gotten over the past several years of the anonymous mailbag.
Men, overwhelmingly, have higher sex drives than women do in marriages. (This doesn’t men that some women don’t have higher sex drives, it just means that, on average, men have higher sex drives). Which is why my advice to all wives is this: the best thing you can do to strengthen your marriage is sleep with them more.
Don’t overthink it.
Have sex with them more.
It’s the best thing you can do to make your husband more attentive and helpful.
My best advice here is schedule time to spend together.
Women, in general, see sex as part of on overall day as opposed to the destination. Men, on the other hand, are likely to focused on the destination without the pathway to get there.
You guys have a three year old.
How often do you go out to dinner or a movie? (I know that can be a challenge amid the coronavirus insanity). But getting a babysitter and exiting your normal lives can be a spur to add some excitement to your sex lives.
Pick a day of the week to go on a date together.
Get a babysitter.
See if that leads to more sex.
I suspect your wife is overstressed and doesn’t feel sexy. Give her a chance to be less stressed and I’ll bet she feels sexier with you.
“Do you think the Unabomber is sitting in his jail cell right now and laughing? I do not at all agree with his methodologies, he’s obviously crazy, but his premise that technology will be the undoing of human society is playing out right now, is it not?
The potential for deep fakes, disinformation that exists at a simple google search that is spread at an extremely rapid pace, journalists who offer opinions in every article instead of reporting the news.. etc. brings me to my second question: What would need to happen for the government to call social media a public health issue? Is that even possible? Trust is eroding by the day in news, government officials…at what point does this get completely out of control?
As always, appreciate your ability to reason through these wild times.”
What we are experiencing right now is a return to a hyper-partisan media. Which is actually the traditional history of United States media.
That is, the idea of an “unbiased” “objective” form of reporting is a relative scarcity throughout most of our history. And, significantly, the idea of being unbiased and objective was a response to a wildly partisan and nakedly unfair political climate.
While journalistic standard bearers like to argue being unbiased and objective is the standard of journalism, it isn’t. It was just a business idea that allowed a paper to be sold to everyone, regardless of their political leanings.
Naked partisanship became bad for business so there was a pivot to objectivity.
That “nonpartisan” era existed for most of the twentieth century. It heralded the rise of newspapers, radio and TV. All of these media, as i wrote about in my most recent book, were designed for the masses. But in the 21st century what we saw was the return to 18th and 19th century partisanship.
Social media isn’t really creating a new American era, it’s just replicating one from hundreds of years ago.
The challenge is, can our existing institutions survive, and thrive, in the years ahead?
I hope so.
But in the meantime, I can understand why many people are pessimistic and believe the answer is no.
Send your anonymous mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, anonymity is guaranteed.
And thanks for reading.