All That and a Bag of Mail

Jun 8, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Tim Corbin talks with his team after losing to the Louisville Cardinals 5-3 in the first game of the Nashville super regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Hawkins Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Friday mailbag. 

What a week it has been and what a big day it is for us gays.  

Eleven years ago I got my first hate mail for something I wrote online. I don’t remember who sent it or why he was mad or even whether the email was from hotmail or AOL, but I do remember it included the phrase, “your gay.”

It was a phrase I had never seen before in my life.

I remember sitting there puzzling over it for a moment. Was this guy trying to tell me that he was my gay? Was this some sort of new salutation that I was heretofore unaware of? Then I realized, wait, he missed fourth grade grammar.

It was just a dude calling me gay.

I have since been called gay tens of thousands of times. To the point where a few years ago I just embraced my gayness and announced that I was a gay Muslim on social media. My theory was pretty simple, the dumbest people out there wouldn’t know whether it was true or not, but if a guy admits he’s gay, is there any point in calling him gay anymore? It’s the Eminem approach to Internet writing. I’m a gay Muslim homophobe who is also conservative and liberal and sexist and racist.

What else is there to say about me?

You guys got it. And loved it. To the point where just about any email I get from Outkick readers includes a reference to my gayness. It’s a big joke, we make fun of dumb people, it’s what we do here on this site. 

With the Supreme Court’s decision today I woke up thinking about that email eleven years ago, checked my email and Twitter and saw a deluge of comments about everything under the sun and I thought it was time to give you guys a compliment — the Outkick readers.

As Outkick approaches its fourth anniversary — a full on college career, except for those of you who took five, six or more years to graduate — I believe that we have the smartest, most educated, funniest and — probably best looking — regular readership of any sports site on the Internet. 

In fact, having met the Deadspin commenters, what a collective group of puny dudes in their forties, I have zero doubt about this.

Along the way we’ve actually created our own Outkick army. We don’t always agree on everything — how boring would we be if we did? — but Outkick’s guiding ethos — unlike an awful lot of sites on the Internet — is — we don’t all have to agree on everything. Or, sometimes, anything at all. That’s okay.

When I started the site four years ago I said I wanted to make sure we were smart, original and funny. That was our three part goal. As we enter into our post-college years, I’ve got a new goal: Outkick represents the free speech wing of the free speech movement.

I don’t care what you believe, I believe you should have the right to say it loudly.

In our modern era, that’s becoming increasingly rare.

I’m comfortable with the fact that I don’t know the answers to lots of difficult questions. I’m also fine with complexity and nuance. Absolutism on either the right or the left is scary to me — which is why I’m a radical moderate — who believes in only two things absolutely: the first amendment and boobs.  

I’m going to write more on this as our official anniversary arrives in three weeks, but what I really want to do is thank you guys — our regular Outkick readers — you guys are our beaver pelt traders of the week. (Along with Vandy baseball coach Tim Corbin, seriously, what a guy).

And a bit of news for you, I’ve reupped with Fox Sports and I’ll be back on the air in August. You’ll be able to hear me no matter where you live. I’ll give y’all more details soon.  

On to the mailbag:

Ben writes:

“Clay,

I have a soon to be 12 yr old son. Yesterday his mom checked the history on his iPad and discovered that he had figured out how to look at porn and he must have decided he liked it, because my god at some of the stuff I found. So after thoroughly investigating the videos he’d seen, and by that I meant watching 30 solid minutes of lesbians going at it and several orgies, I caught myself in quite a dilemma. Is he too young to be interested in porn? How do I punish him for doing something that we all would have done if we had the access kids had today, what should that punishment be, and do I show him how to clear the history on his iPad so his mom doesn’t catch him again?

I mean just think of all the gay Muslim porn you would have watched if you had that kinda access!”

This is such a great question that every parent has to face with modern technology.

I’ve thought about what I would do in this situation as my boys get older and my answer would be this:

You sit him down and say, “You realize that only starting quarterbacks get to go to lesbian orgies, right? That’s not something that normal guys get to do. So you either get better at football or you give up on this dream.”

More seriously, you could try to set up parental controls, but he’ll be a horny teenage boy soon and horny teenage boys are like McGyver when it comes to tracking down porn. The parental controls wouldn’t work because he’d end up outsmarting you. So you definitely teach him how to clear his search history so the next time his mom checks his search history it’s just Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle episodes. 

Then you tell him that at some point he’ll start to have sex and when he has sex for the first time there is a 100% chance that the girl he’s sleeping with will get pregnant. Because the men in your family have super sperm. 

That should buy you a few more years. 

Bob McClellan Jr. writes:  

“Love your column, long time reader, first time emailer. I’ve just completed your latest article “On the Confederate Flag” and I’ll say that I agree with most of your points. Social media, in this day and age, has really reduced us into 140 character explainers of our world. Time and again we see posts from people that are either “for X” or “against Z” and no thought given to the complexities of the situation. Or, if a thought is given, it’s more likely expressed in a post that leaves a majority of us going “TL;DR” (and I’ll admit I’m guilty of that). That said, I would like to share some thoughts I’ve had in the recent days since the shooting in Charleston.

To start, I’m a black male, a husband, and a parent, living in the South. I moved here, just before I was a teenager, from parts North and have really enjoyed it since then. Growing up, I had a Dukes of Hazzard race track that I loved, and for the longest time, I didn’t realize what the symbol on top of the General Lee meant. The only context I had of it was that it was a paint job on a car. Fast forward to today and that symbol, the Confederate Flag, is embroiled in controversy. Truthfully, my gut reaction is to have it removed from state buildings and other public places, but at the same time, I know that doing so goes against one of the core ideals of this country’s foundation. So, I’m left having conflicting thoughts in my head.

You speak of context of the flag in situations, presented at a KKK rally vs. Sons of Confederate Veterans’ meeting and yes those are two separate and distinct instances. My concern lies outside of those situations. As a thought experiment: I’m a black man, walking down an unknown street in the middle of the night in a neighborhood “not of my own.” I see coming toward me a white man, in jeans, ball cap, and a Confederate Flag shirt. I know nothing else about this man, except of what I see him wearing. Already, I’m (pre)judging him and assessing my situation based upon his clothing. Is this right? No. Is this fair? Nope. If the younger version of me, the one who was happy to race his Dukes of Hazzard race cars all day long, were the one to encounter this person, he, more than likely, wouldn’t think anything of it. However, the current me, who’s learned about the history of this country, who’s seen pictures of people who’ve entered a church and murdered nine people because of their race, burn the American Flag and proudly display the Confederate Flag, who’s experienced racism first hand, has a completely different context to (pre)judge this other person. Could this person, that I’m walking towards, be a loving individual of all peoples who also loves his heritage? Absolutely. Could he be a raving, homicidal racist? Again, absolutely. How do I know I should be concerned for my safety? The only thing I have to go on are the clues that I have. And in 2015, if I’m going to err on the side of caution, the Confederate Flag is just about as big as clue as any, whether it’s correct or not.

Which leads me to this: as a parent, how do I prepare my child for this situation? Trust everyone until they hurt you? They could end up dead. Trust no one until they’ve earned that trust? They could spend a lifetime alone. Read every situation as its own instance and judge for yourself? OK, sure. But sometimes the only clues you have are the ones presented right in front of you and some symbols are more telling that others.”

It’s a great email with really good points and questions. (By the way, I got TONS of emails from people with opinions on every possible angle of the Confederate flag issue. The number of black Outkick readers who emailed to say they also loved “Dukes of Hazzard” was gratifying. It’s always been my belief that Bo and Luke Duke’s are among are our nation’s greatest uniters.)

The thing I’m most interested here is the degree to which fear motivates our actions. Right now, regardless of your race, sex or age, is the safest time to ever live in America. It’s highly unlikely that anyone not engaged in illegal activities will ever be a random victim of violence. So if you were a black guy walking past a white guy wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt on a street late at night, you’d have nothing to fear 99.99% of the time. (And if he was out late at night the guy in the Confederate flag t-shirt would definitely be drunk, by the way.) 

What I tell my kids is that most people in the world will not harm them. So they shouldn’t be afraid of strangers. But that if anyone ever talks to them that they don’t know and asks them to go anywhere with them, they should scream as loud as they can.

Honestly, as a parent of a seven, four and nine month old, my biggest fear isn’t violence, it’s the random dangers they might face on a regular basis — things like crossing the street and swimming. Statistically, swimming’s by far the biggest danger kids face at their ages. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in the midst of a nightmare about one of my kids running out into the street after a toy at the same time that some teenager is driving down the road trying to take a selfie of him or herself behind the wheel.

That’s what keeps me up at night. 

Joe M. writes:

“Loved your Confederate flag column this week, couldn’t agree more with it. After seeing Book of Mormon this week (which was fantastic) it got me thinking, how great of an episode of South Park are Trey Stone and Matt Parker going to make out this whole story? The script has basically written itself, crazy guy goes on racist killing spree but all people are focusing on is a flag, not the actual killings or victims.”

When Apple banned historical games based on the Civil War because the confederate flag was included in them, this story officially moved into Onion territory. It’s so far beyond satire that I don’t even know what to expect next. I mean, eBay still sells tons of Nazi gear, but you can’t buy a Confederate flag bikini? (I actually think the fact that there are Confederate flag bikinis is really funny too. How many of these sell a year to people who graduated from high school? Can you imagine Robert E. Lee’s reaction if he came back to life in 2015 and saw a girl wearing a Confederate flag bikini?)

Anyway, I don’t play computer simulation games about the Civil War — because my penis works — but it seems like it would be hard to play one without the South represented. How are you going to fight battles with no opponent? And if you really, really hated the South couldn’t you just whip their ass while playing as the North? That’s the entire point of the game, right? 

This banning is so absurd, I can’t even figure out how to reconcile it within th context of the game. How do they make this game without the Confederate flag? Do they censor it? So your troops are just running with an empty flag pole? Do they replace it with a random state flag? How dumb is it that a game that’s actually based on history has to be censored? There are World War II computer games where, wait for it, the Nazis are featured. Because, you know, it would be hard to play a World War II computer game without Nazis.  

Also, is there anyone on Earth who plays these games and has complained about the Confederate flag being featured in a historical game about the Civil War? This is a great example of how the social media mob leads to total absurdity. Companies take actions that aren’t even being demanded by anyone, just in case someone might be offended.

Everywhere but social media, the person jumping up and down screaming, “I’m offended,” is considered a total loser.

 

For instance, imagine that someone picketed Apple because they made a Civil War game with the Confederate flag in it. We would all think that person was a loser who needed to find a better way to spend their time, right?

Yet put that same person with the same opinion on social media and they’re the voice of reason.

It’s totally baffling to me.  

Will writes,

“First off, congrats on being able to marry now. Secondly, why do people give a crap that Pete Rose bet on himself to win baseball games? I think “Pete Rose does not belong in the Hall of Fame” is possibly the most incorrect statement in sports. A way to make more money off performing well at work? Sounds no different than stock options. The world would be a better place if everybody bet their savings on their job performance. Being the sports gambling aficionado that you are I figured you might have some opinions on the hit king not being in the hall.”

I never thought about gambling on yourself being the functional equivalent of having stock options at a company, but it kind of is, right? If you perform your job really well then the company is rewarded based on your great performance and you make more money off your stock options vesting. But if you don’t do a good job your options may stay underwater, never vest, and you cost yourself and the company money.

As a general rule, incentives make people work harder. That’s basically the foundation of capitalism.  

I understand why leagues don’t want athletes betting on their games. They’re worried that players may start off innocently gambling on themselves and the next thing you know they’re in debt for millions of dollars to shady gambling associates and conspire to rig games. But can’t that happen with any investment? I mean, if you invest millions in real estate at the wrong time, you might lose everything and be desperate to make more money. You don’t have to lose tons of money in gambling, athletes lose it in all sorts of ways. Divorce, child support, too many cars and houses. After all, it’s not like most athletes are held up as money management stars renowned for their financial acumen. The risk that an athlete could lose money and need to fix games is always present whether he gambles or not.

And here’s the deal, legalized gambling would make a pro athlete fixing a game more likely to be caught. Pro athletes make so much money that they would have to be fixing games for millions of dollars to make it worth their while. That kind of money is impossible to wager without attracting attention. 

Furthermore, I don’t understand why it should be a lifetime suspension if a player gambles. If you catch somebody gambling on their sport, suspend them. If you can prove that they’ve fixed games, that’s a crime and they’d go to jail. Doesn’t it seem crazy that Alex Rodriguez, for instance, would be worse off if he’d bet on himself to break the all-time home run record than for using steroids? Using steroids directly impacts the on-field play and is prohibited by rule. Betting on himself to set a new home run record just puts more of ARod’s money at stake based on his performance. ARod would be suspended from baseball for life if he’d bet on himself to set a new home run record, but he faces a year long suspension for using steroids for years.

That’s crazy.  

Look at it this way, remember when Rory McIlroy’s dad bet on him to win the British Open while Rory was still a teenager? And then cashed that winning ticket and everyone thought it was awesome? Would golf not allow Rory himself to have placed this bet? But his dad can?

I just don’t see how betting on yourself to win is an issue at all. 

Scott P. writes:

“It’s Friday, so a coworker and I were pretending to work when we were really just chatting about the hilarity of your twitter fight with the Arkansas country music singer, Justin Cole Moore.

That led me to a thought…

While we don’t think this is currently happening based on the relative no-nameness of the people challenging you about it, have you ever thought about staging it? I mean, getting a higher tier advocate of the fan base on board with what you’re doing and staging a fight?

Let’s say you’re going after Arkansas, but instead of this dude, how about somebody like Ralphie May? You get him in the loop, and he “takes the bait.” He takes up for the fanbase, throws you under the bus. In the meantime, he becomes a hero to the fan base and increases his followers and their love for him. And you get more clicks and haters online.

Just a thought, and wondering if it has ever come up.”

The Justin Moore thing was totally real. I didn’t even know who he was before he went off on me for calling Arkansas fans dumb. He eventually said I didn’t know how to bait a hook and called me a “sissy bou” which I think was supposed to be “sissy boy.”

Leading to this KO response Tweet:

The lesson, as always, if you come at the King on Twitter, you best not miss. And most people who come at me, miss. 

Badly. 

But would I be open to a fake feud?

Of course.

Hell, I’m putting on a Tennessee Titans cheerleading outfit for a photoshoot. Do you think I have any shame when it comes to publicity or entertaining people? 

Keaton writes:

“Clay,

Congratulations on the big SCOTUS decision today. I find it interesting that whenever a gay-rights discussion comes up in America, many people jump on the marriage equality bandwagon on social media (usually after months/years of silence on the subject) with the typical #LoveWins and #EqualityForAll hashtags. But it only applies to same sex marriage – not say, equality for polygamists. Is this just a case of short-sightedness, doing the fashionable thing, or just an inability to relate (since I imagine gays far outnumber polygamists in our country). Seeing as your both gay and Muslim, I wanted to get you’re keen insight on the subject. And, what percentage of Americans would actually want to add another spouse after marrying one?”

I think gay marriage should be legal, but I also think polygamy should be legal too.

My only caveat here is this: I don’t believe my tax dollars should have to subsidize a plural marriage. That is, if some rich guy or girl decides he wants to marry multiple guys or girls and all of those guys or girls consent, more power to him/her. If he or she can subsidize additional spouses and the resulting kids, if any, then why shouldn’t he or she be able to do this?

The issue with plural marriage, at least so far, seems to be that most polygamists “marry” young girls before they can consent and exploit our tax code to their advantage because they tend to be poor. If neither of these situations exist and you have consenting adults — like the HBO show “Big Love” — why shouldn’t it be legal?

I think consenting adults should be able to do pretty much anything they want in this country. Drugs, sex, gamble, I’d legalize and tax it all.  

And just like gay marriage, I also don’t know why this should bother anyone.

Having said that, at best I struggle to keep one wife unhappy. I can’t imagine the pressure of making multiple wives unhappy. 

Al T. writes:

“Ruler of the Gay Muslims,

Should your wife be expecting you to divorce her after what came down in Supreme Court today?

I’m writing to you because, like yourself, I am a big fan of American History. Most of my reading has been done in regards to the American Revolutionary War. With the Civil Era coming under such scrutiny in recent days due to the Confederate Flag, my interests have peaked again to reading more about the time period. What are your favorite books about the Civil War Era?”

I think the five best books ever written about the Civil War are as follows:

1-3: Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative

I think this is one of the best works of American history ever written. 

Foote said the two most remarkable men, in his opinion, to come out of the Civil War were Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Bedford Forrest. 

4. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

It won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and is a good introduction to the era if you want an easy read that’s really well done.

5. David Herbert Donald’s one volume biography of Abraham Lincoln

It’s just an incredible work.  

Owen D. writes:

“It took a long time, but I finally finished Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy. 

As a Tennessee fan, I think the soldier who shot Stonewall Jackson must have been named Private Dooley. Pretty much taking down an entire army by shooting your own general is a total Dooley move.”

And with that, have great weekends. 

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