All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s Friday, good luck getting out to eat anywhere tonight if you didn’t make a reservation a month ago.

And, ladies, if you’re standing at the Outback Steakhouse bar eating a bloomin’ onion at 10 pm tonight because you haven’t been able to get into any other restaurant tonight because your boyfriend didn’t make a reservation it doesn’t necessarily mean your man doesn’t love you it could…okay, I lied, he doesn’t love you.

I’m sorry.

On to the mailbag.

Blake writes:

“Is Valentine’s Day the worst holiday? I believe it is. I need a holiday ranking to spark debate.”

Well, I think your holiday rankings are partly based on your age. For example, Christmas is by far the best for any young kid, whereas I’d argue that, for instance, Halloween, is the best for anyone who is young and single. Thanksgiving is probably really high up there if you’re older because you get your family together for a meal, but there’s no massive present obligation.

Valentine’s is also pretty great for kids because you get to trade Valentine’s. My third grader and my pre-k kids were both pretty excited about that this morning when they left for school. And I still remember how much fun it was to see all the different Valentine’s Day cards.

So I think there’s varying perspectives based on your age that can lead to a variety of ranking levels.

But as a forty year old man who is squarely at the center of the age spectrum and feels like I can see both back down to when I was young and into the future when I’ll be old, I would rank the holiday thusly on behalf of people of all ages:

But before you look at my rankings know that I’m not even counting some holidays like Veteran’s Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and MLK Day, which feel different because they don’t have a particular “fun” or party vibe associated with them. I’m also not counting Easter because only one religion celebrates it. (The same reason I’m not counting Hanukkah). I know Christmas is also a religious holiday, but it’s also a secular holiday for many people at this point as well. I also counted St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo, which are basically just excuses to have a party and to my knowledge aren’t official days off for anyone, but still feel like fun holidays to me.

My holiday top ten rankings for fun, regardless of age:

1. Halloween

2. Christmas

3. July 4th

4. New Year’s Eve

5. Thanksgiving

6. Cinco de Mayo

7. St. Patrick’s Day

8. Memorial Day

9. Labor Day

10. Valentine’s Day

I think this is a pretty accurate list. Ultimately my top nine are all days you can spend together with groups of people. In fact, all these “fun” holidays are designed to be shared with large groups of family and friends.

But Valentine’s is pretty much a couples event only.

And even if you like your significant other, it just feels very forced.

Keith writes:

“Handicap Bloomberg’s chances of taking the Democratic primary; if not Bloomberg, who you got?”

Bernie Sanders has to be the prohibitive favorite because he seems to have ended all competition for the left wing of the Democratic party. That is, unless her campaign rises from the dead Elizabeth Warren appears to be beaten and that leaves Bernie having control of one part of the party.

The best thing that could happen for Bernie is if Elizabeth Warren drops out after Super Tuesday because he’d get almost all of her support, bolstering his nomination chances even more. In fact, if you’re Bernie and your goal is to lock up the nomination as rapidly as possible, I’d already be having conversations with Warren about offering her the number two spot on the ticket if she’d drop out. If you’re Warren that might be a good play too, since even if Bernie wins he’s unlikely to serve two terms and if he lost you’d potentially enter 2024 as the favorite for the nomination. She has virtually no chance at the nomination now so this might be her best option. (The only reason why Bernie wouldn’t do this is he might need a younger black vice presidential candidate to try and drive up minority turnout, but is Kamala Harris or Corey Booker really going to be better for you than Warren? I’d be making those overtures right now if I was Bernie).

Meanwhile you have Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Mike Bloomberg all competing for the “moderate wing” of the Democratic party. Only, here’s the problem, every single one of these moderates has evidence that they can be the nominee. So I don’t see these four going anywhere until well into March.

That means even if Bernie is only getting 25% of the vote, let’s say Warren turns down your VP offer and continues to grab around 10%, that leaves 65% of the vote to be split at least somewhat evenly around these remaining four candidates. That’s probably not going to allow any of the four to grab more than Bernie will in most states.

The best thing for Bernie is for these moderate candidates to all stay in the race as long as possible because it keeps the moderate vote from overtaking him.

Eventually I think Bloomberg is probably the best moderate rival — just in terms of money he has to spend — to take on Bernie, but how long will that head-to-head battle take? It might not even happen until the convention.

Put simply, Donald Trump could not have had a better start to the presidential contest than what has happened so far in Iowa and New Hampshire. Both states, even including the disastrous counting tally in Iowa, produced massive confusion and paved the way to Bernie Sanders becoming the nominee.

It’s why Trump is now a -185 favorite for re-election. (That’s roughly 65%, the highest favorite for election in his political career).

Ultimately I think the election is going to come down to Trump vs. Bernie Sanders. And there’s a 0% chance I’m voting for a 79 year old socialist who just had a heart attack. Zero percent. And you know what? Most of my friends are moderates who didn’t vote for Trump and the number of them saying they’ll vote for Trump is even starting to shock me.

I think Trump would win every close state and potentially flip Minnesota — unless Bernie picks Klobuchar as his running mate — Virginia, and New Hampshire. I just don’t see Bernie flipping any of the states Trump already won.

One thing that will be key in 2020, by the way, is this: the national polling won’t really matter very much. That’s because Trump can lose the popular vote — potentially by even more in 2020 than in 2016 — but most of that margin is going to come in states that aren’t very competitive. In fact, Trump could lose the popular vote by even more in 2020 and still win the electoral vote by an even greater margin.

Who cares how much Bernie wins California by, for instance? Remember, Trump won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a grand total of 77,000 votes. State polls in those states, which were very bad in 2016, are far more important than national polls will be.

Herm writes:

“Could the XFL consistently sign some upper level college freshman and sophomore talent?”

I think it has to be their semi-long term strategy.

The first goal for the XFL is to prove viability over the next two years. (The TV contract is two years with Fox and ESPN). Once you prove viability then you can focus on the next TV deal, which would provide even more money for players, and give you the luxury of thinking more long range.

In the meantime, I think it would be smart for the XFL to offer every freshman All-American in a major conference, for instance, a contract to play football as a sophomore and a junior for $200k over the next two years. (Remember, each player would also have the right to sign a marketing deal for as much money as he wanted.) I think it’s unlikely that many players would take the money, but some would for sure.

Remember that the sophomore and junior year money would actually come as freshmen and sophomores because you’d be able to go direct from, say, finishing your college football freshman season in November to potentially playing in the XFL for $100k in February. (Instead of spring practice your freshman year you’d get paid for pro football). Then you play in the XFL as a sophomore in February and when you finish that sophomore season in late-April you get an entire fall to train and get ready for the NFL Draft. (In theory you could play another season, giving you three years of banking money before the NFL, as a junior, but that would require you to play during the combine and the NFL Draft process, which seems unlikely for most players).

Regardless, I think some players will end up taking that money and choose to develop their talents in the XFL rather than staying in college.

This also, by the way, takes the heat off many college football conferences and teams over not paying players. If there’s a viable pro football option, it’s much harder for college players to argue they are being treated unfairly. If you don’t like the college offer, turn pro.

Jason writes:

“What’s the over/under on Astros batters being thrown at each game and will opposing managers demand Astros batters be searched for buzzers?”

I’d bet a ton of players will get thrown at early in the season. As the season progresses, I think it would fade fairly substantially.

But this cheating scandal is just such a mess for all of baseball; I think it demands a remedy to ensure something like this never happens again.

In fact, I think baseball may honestly need to consider putting an umpire in the dugout for each team. That way you’d never have a scheme like this ever work again.

It might be needed to restore some faith in the game.

Ken writes:

“What are the chances that the DNC will be contested? Is there a candidate that will satisfy most of the base?”

If Bernie isn’t the nominee, I think it will be a contested convention.

And can you imagine what would happen if, say, Bernie has the most delegates, but the DNC didn’t give him the nomination?

It would be 2016 all over again.

Trump can adroitly exploit this tension — and potentially pick his opponent — by using Twitter to argue the DNC is trying to rig the election against Bernie again this year. That way he’s simultaneously attacking the legitimacy of the Democratic election while helping to ensure he faces their weakest potential nominee.

It’s actually a brilliant strategy. Trump claims to be concerned about the Democrats adopting fair and ethical electoral safeguards while simultaneously dividing the party even more.

Now I’m not sure Trump is disciplined enough to keep hammering this message home, but he should be. It’s a huge winning proposition for him.

Chris writes:

“When playing blackjack, is a player obligated to make reasonable decisions (hit, stand, split, double down) so as not to “screw up the deck for the other players” OR can he or she justify bad play because “it’s my money, I can make any play I want?”

I think you’re obligated to make reasonable decisions for the table.

You can’t just toss aside winning probability when the odds are entirely on your side.

For instance, here’s an easy one, if the dealer is showing a five or six — which are big dealer bust cards — you shouldn’t hit to put yourself in a position to bust and end up taking the dealer’s card. (You should get more money on the table if you’re showing a single digit total and can’t bust by taking an additional card).

The point is, everyone at the table should play the correct probability play.

Now if you’re talking about hitting on sixteen, that’s a choice. But on situations where there’s no reasonable play to hit, you shouldn’t be an asshole and take a card.

Having said that, remember, many people play blackjack without knowing the basics of probability. They’re just in the casino for fun and may not be seasoned gamblers. So you shouldn’t assume someone is intentionally being an asshole to the table. They may just not know better. That’s why, for instance, I’m not afraid to ask the dealer for his or her advice.

They deal cards all day long. If you’ve got a decent dealer they’re generally happy to help you with a tough call. Rather than confront the player and expose their ignorance and embarrass them you could always ask the dealer for help in a situation like the one your tablemate is in as if you, yourself, don’t know the probabilities and weren’t sure the play in that situation either.

It’s been my experience at blackjack tables that almost everyone wants everyone else to win too. They aren’t trying to ruin the experience.

So don’t assume the worst about your fellow gamblers.

Okay, thanks for reading the Friday mailbag.

I’m headed down to Mexico with my family for the week. Can’t wait to get to the sunshine.

Hope you guys have great Valentine’s Days. (Even if it is a pretty crappy holiday when it comes to fun).

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