All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and we have a ton to get to in the mailbag today.

For the Outkick VIP members, check the message board, we’re having a meet up down in Atlanta for the Georgia-Alabama game.

For the rest of you, stop being pussies and sign up for the Outkick VIP. $99 for the year, you get a shirt, and we’ve got a bunch of events all over the country coming up soon. Including our first ever Vegas Outkick weekend which will be available only to VIP members. (We’ll also be having a VIP meet up in Vegas for the NCAA Tournament, which should be pretty awesome).

Plus, I won 49% of my picks this year, so I only lost you a little bit of money with my gambling picks.

Just a great deal all around.

Here we go with the mailbag.

“A ton of you asked this, what are your thoughts on the big Brady-Belichick ESPN piece that dropped late last night?

I read this story twice and I just don’t see any way that Bill Belichick isn’t a major source with this story.

Now I probably read stories like these differently than the average person because the way I read these stories I’m always interested in who the writers are talking to on background to get all this information. And for ESPN to run a story like this I think the editor(s) involved in this story have to be comfortable with the sourcing here. So the first question I ask on stories like these is basic — who benefits the most from this story being written and whose perspective is the story most often told from? (This is the derivation of one of the tools I taught my kids at Vanderbilt, attack the perspective of a story at the outset — whose perspective are we spending the most time viewing the story from? It’s still amazing how passively most people read stories and how you get lost in the narrative if you do that. You have to read stories aggressively because that often unlocks the entire story for you.)

And the answer here is Bill Belichick.

We go inside Belichick’s mind again and again during this story even if he’s not being directly quoted.

Let me give you an example of that from early in the story:

“In 2013, Belichick had welcomed Guerrero into the New England fold, giving him free rein in the building and, sources with direct knowledge of the situation say, access to meetings in which medical records for Patriots players were discussed (Guerrero denies ever having seen any records). The coach figured that, because Guerrero had Brady’s best interests in mind, he probably had the Patriots’ best interests in mind too, and could be trusted. But Guerrero often would blame Patriots trainers for injuries, while offering few insightful opinions of his own, and Belichick quickly realized inviting him had been a mistake. And so in 2014, he eliminated Guerrero’s access to those meetings while keeping him on as a team consultant.” 

Read this paragraph aggressively, don’t just get lost in the narrative. Think like a writer does. How do we know this info, particularly the italicized parts above? We go directly into Belichick’s mind in that sentence and the later part of a second sentence. Unless you’ve been told that by the coach — or there’s a direct quote you’re relying on not quoting, which is lazy — how can you write that sentence? You can’t. If you’re going to do that and not directly quote him in the story then your source has to be Belichick or this story isn’t publishable.

Here’s another example:

“One morning in late October, Belichick texted San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and asked him to call. Belichick had long admired Kyle’s father, Mike, who not only had been one of the NFL’s smartest tacticians but had also personally defended Belichick to commissioner Roger Goodell during the Spygate scandal. At the combine this past February, Kyle, weeks into the 49ers job after being the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, met with Belichick for hours to learn from his team’s humiliating Super Bowl loss. Belichick believed that Garoppolo would excel under Shanahan, and when he and Shanahan connected on the phone, Belichick offered the quarterback for a second-rounder.” 

First, this text message is info that only two men could have, at least initially, so your source should be, if this is a well reported story, either Shanahan or Belichick. Second, and I’ve italicized it again, how do we know Belichick’s opinion of Shanahan as well as that particular detail about his dad? I suppose Shanahan could be the source for this paragraph, but there’s a bunch of Belichick’s beliefs being explained here and if that explanation is coming from Shanahan is that really fair to Belichick? To allow someone else to speak about his motivations and opinions? I dont’ think so. Also, and this is another writing trick, note that unlike in prior paragraphs there is no sourcing here. My bet would be that’s because the author of the article talked to both men and then synthesized what both men told him into a single paragraph.

Here’s more from inside Belichick’s head later in the story:

“But Belichick also has taken a longer view, as though he sees pieces of his impact leaguewide. He’s preparing assistant coaches for job interviews elsewhere, which he didn’t always do in years past. He has taken pride in Garoppolo’s 5-0 record in San Francisco — and in the fact that Kraft has confessed to people in the building that trading Garoppolo might have been a mistake. He reset a toxic relationship with the Colts with the Brissett trade. He has even become good friends with Goodell. The two men had a long and private meeting during the off week after the regular season, when the commissioner visited Foxborough.

Belichick always had a vision for how, after more than four decades in the NFL, he wanted to walk away, beyond setting up the team at quarterback. He wanted his sons, Brian and Steve, both Patriots assistants, to be established in their football careers. And he wanted the winning to continue without him, to have a legacy of always having the best interests of the franchise in mind.”

All of this has to come from Belichick.

So, to me, this story was significant because Belichick, who generally hates the media, spoke to the writer and allowed his perspective to be used frequently, even if he didn’t allow himself to be quoted.

Why would Belichick do this? Why would he be okay with the story being told, but not with him being quoted in the story? Because then he has plausible deniability. He can say he had nothing to do with this story while simultaneously getting everything he wanted to say out into the public discourse.

The easiest read, to me, at least, is that Belichick wants to let the rest of the NFL teams with openings at coach know that he might not be with the Patriots next year.

And also to establish on the record how much he disagreed with the decision to trade Jimmy Garrapolo.

Anyway, I’d encourage you to read the story for yourself and come to whatever conclusions you’d like, but the above answer gives you an indication of how I read stories and what my thought process is like. I don’t get lost in the narrative, I figure out how it was crafted. Just as a chef doesn’t eat without thinking about how the food was cooked, a writer doesn’t read a story like this without thinking about how the story was created.

If you read more like a writer and less like a reader, the media world will make an awful lot more sense to you.

 

Jacob N. writes:

“Thoughts on the Logan Paul Japanese suicide victim on the YouTube clip that turned into a huge controversy?”

One of the true benefits of Donald Trump’s presidency — aside from the record stock market highs, the lowest unemployment rate in the 21st century, the highest per capita median earnings in American history, and a massive tax cut for individuals and corporations — is that I think it’s started to kill, “I’m offended by (insert event here) on social media.”

I’m not a YouTube video viewer so I’ve never seen any of these viral YouTube sensation videos, but my advice to every corporation that finds itself embroiled in controversy in social media is the same — don’t do a damn thing if it isn’t integral to your business.

And almost nothing online is integral to your business.

In the age of Trump most “controversies” only last for 12 hours or so and just about every story goes away without anyone doing anything because something new and more interesting happens before long. What’s left behind is a dull recognition of something vaguely important happening, but no actual recollection of what that was.

The benefit to this shortened news cycle is that boycotts should become less powerful every single day.

I’ve got a crazy idea for everyone out there in 20189, if you don’t like something then don’t read, watch, or listen to it.

And if you do like something, then read, watch or listen to it.

This idea that has taken root on social media that regular people should spend their free time trying to get people they don’t like to lose their job or their advertisers or somehow face public censure is just absurd.

Do what I do, consume what you like and ignore the rest.

Your life will be better, I promise.

Scott writes:

“As huge college football fan and an SEC homer, I think you’re the perfect person to talk about a subject that I’ve never understood.  Why do college football fans argue conference strength?
This doesn’t happen for any other sport, pro or college, and it makes no sense whatsoever.
I understand arguing the strength of schedule, and for most teams that means having good teams in your conference, but short of that it seems like nothing more than an opportunity for fans of bad teams to jump on the bandwagon.
Does a Packer fan root for the Vikings? Do Blue Devil basketball fans root for the Tar Heels? No and hell no! But somehow it’s totally acceptable, and even encouraged, for Volunteer fans to go all in on Saban getting another championship.
As if Alabama’s success somehow helps Tennessee (or any other SEC team).  I’d argue it’s the exact opposite.  Georgia’s rise is not going to help other SEC East teams at all.  It’s only going to make it harder to recruit and compete.
If you think about it, you should instead hope your conference sucks because I don’t care how bad a Power 5 conference is (looking at you Pac-12); if you run the table, you’re in the playoffs.  Zero chance of that not happening.
If the team that wins it all is from your conference that doesn’t mean your sucky team is somehow better.  It’s not.  Fact is, there’s been one true outlier in the last 40 years of college football, Alabama.  There have obviously been other great teams, and small runs, but nothing as consistent or as dominant as Alabama.  But that doesn’t somehow make Vandy relevant.”
I disagree completely with this — college football’s champion, uniquely among all sports, is governed to a great deal by perception. That’s because we have such a small number of teams that are allowed to play for a championship that the perception of your conference matters. (So does the reality of your conference strength).
All we do is argue about who the best teams are and arguing about a conference’s strength directly benefits all the members of that conference in the event that one day their selection comes down to them or another team from another conference. The conference really might be the tiebreaker. (This argument leaves aside regional pride as well. The SEC isn’t just a conference, it’s a way of life. When SEC fans are chanting SEC, SEC, SEC what they’re really saying is our part of the country is better than your part of the country).
Now conference arguments would change a great deal, I think, if we had an eight team playoff and every team knew its conference champ would get in, but there would still be arguments about the wild card teams because that would still be based entirely on perception, not tangible records compared to other teams in the same sport.
Think about it — in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball every fan can look at the standings and know exactly what his or her favorite team has to do to make the playoffs.
In college football that isn’t true at all. (It’s not true in college basketball either, but the tournament is so big that fans, aside from 8-10 bubble teams a year who believe their team should make the tournament but also know their team isn’t winning the tournament, know if their team is decent they get a chance to play for the championship.)
Imagine what the NFL would look like if every team only played the teams in their division for 66% of their schedule. So the NFC South teams played each other 10 or 11 times and then a hodgepodge of other teams, some of whom might not even be NFL teams, and then at the end of the year the NFL got a committee together and only had four playoff spots for the 32 teams in the NFL. Then how much would it matter whether the AFC or NFC was stronger or if your individual division was strong?
It would matter a ton.
And NFL teams would argue about conference and division all the time.
So college football is unique because of the way we decide who gets to play for the title.
There are fans of a bunch of teams over the years who believe, justifiably, that if their team had just gotten into the playoff they might have won it all. No other fans can make that argument.
When playoff spots are finite resources determined entirely based on opinion, then everything having to do with the opinions of a team or conference are significant.

Dan writes:

“Will Katie Nolan be removed from ESPN after her latest insult of Donald trump calling the president a “fucking stupid person” on yesterday’s late night show. This after her last tweet of 2017

 “My goal for 2018 is to make sure 2017 isn’t remembered as the year that broke my spirit. Happy new year, you crazy kids. Be good to one another.”

I don’t think ESPN will do anything.

Because ESPN agrees with her about Donald Trump.

On a larger scale, I like Katie and know her pretty well, but I don’t understand the desire to call the president a fucking stupid person regardless of who does it. It’s just lazy and objectively untrue. There are many fucking stupid people in America, the president, regardless of party or politics, isn’t one of them.

Whether it’s George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama or Donald Trump, if you’re capable of getting elected president of the United States there is zero doubt you’re in the top 25% “smartest” people in the country. Otherwise you would be incapable of managing the process of running for president. Plus, I don’t like this definition of stupidity anyway because I often think we artificially describe intelligence based entirely on test scores as opposed to functional intelligence.

Some of the smartest people in the country are so smart they can barely communicate with regular people and would have zero chance of ever being elected president despite their intelligence. You probably know some of these people in your own life, the smarter you become, frequently, the more socially maladroit you are.

I admire accessible intelligence and cross disciplinary knowledge more than I do rote intellect. I don’t want to spend my time talking with someone who knows one or two things really well, I want to talk with someone with good generalized knowledge.

When I write on Outkick or talk on the radio, I’m not trying to just talk to the 25% smartest people in the country, I’m trying to talk to everyone. The smartest lawyers oftentimes couldn’t talk to a jury to save their lives. I think I’m pretty good at distilling complex subjects into understandable concepts. And that’s because I’ve always believed that the truest sign of great intelligence isn’t making complex subjects complex, it’s making complex subjects understandable to everyone. That’s why I spend so much time deconstructing things, frequently arguments, to their essence.

Anyway, it’s a dumb comment, but one that will be applauded by most in the sports media.

But imagine if she’d gone on TV and said Barack Obama was a fucking stupid person.

She’d be fired and, probably, publicly branded a racist.

Now the Democratic response to this statement is usually, “Yeah, but Barack Obama wasn’t stupid, Trump is.” Well, again, Trump is not stupid compared to the average person in this country based on any objective measure. Your standard for stupidity isn’t a real one if you’re calling a president fucking stupid, it’s just anyone who disagrees with you.

And I think that’s what is really fucking stupid.

Jess writes:

“If the Georgia-Bama players kneel at the anthem Monday in front of the president, will you still suck your own cock during the game relishing the SEC dominance? Or, would you feel ashamed for the SEC and finally admit UCF is the true national champion?”

If I could suck my own dick, I would have done it long before now.

Luckily for the SEC, the players aren’t on the field for the national anthem. Because if that happened it would be a total mess.

And I don’t blame UCF for claiming a title. Teams have been claiming titles for generations in college football. And all of a sudden it’s lame to do?

I’d claim a title if I were UCF for sure.

Chad writes:

“Clay,

What’s your “go to” name for someone whose name you can’t remember? Chief, Bub, Big Guy or other?”

I always go with, “What’s up man?” and then try and introduce that person to someone I’m with to shift the attention. “Hey, have you met (insert other guy or girl’s name you’re with).” That way you get the name again. Which will allow you to forget it again in three minutes.

Also, I am the worst fucking person on earth when it comes to names. (Unless it’s a hot girl, in which case I don’t even have to meet them and I know their name and never forget it. I still remember girls names from when I was a 7th and 8th grader and they were juniors and seniors and these girls have never met me in their entire lives. Hell, there are a bunch of those girls from college too.) This makes me think that subconsciously I just don’t care about most guy’s names and immediately stop paying attention to their names when they introduce themselves because I know there is a 0% chance I will ever want to sleep with them.

Honestly, given the fact that my wife barely sleeps with me either, she’s probably lucky I even remember her name at this point.

This being bad with names things also extends to my own kids too. I’m constantly calling them by the wrong name when I’m trying to give them instructions.

“Go get your coat on Fox,” I’ll say.

And my seven year old will say, “Dad, I’m not Fox, I’m Lincoln,” and I’ll be like, “Is your coat on? Then it doesn’t matter what your name is. Go do it.”

When I’m in my seventies I think I’m just going to do what my granddad did and call every boy, “Sonny boy,” and every girl, “Sonny girl.”

That way you never screw up.

Of course, this assumes that boys and girls are still a thing when I’m 70.

Dicks and pussies might be offensive by then and people might not have either. Just a Ken and Barbie doll absence of all genitals between the legs.

Hope y’all have great weekends.

 

 

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