All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and I’m still bleary eyed from staying up late last night watching J.R. Smith choke away game one for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Just a flat out incomprehensible level of stupidity here from JR. Personally, I can’t stop thinking about all the millions of people watching this game who were leaned forward on their seats watching that George Hill free throw as intently as they possibly could because they knew the stakes of that free throw, that it was a tie game and that free throw could change the outcome of the game. Meanwhile JR Smith’s mind is just a blank slate, he’s thinking the Cavs are already up one point and the significance of this free throw, which tens of millions of other people realize, isn’t that substantial.

Anyway, the moment I publish this mailbag I’m off to spend the day on a boat with my family in the Gulf Coast. So I can’t wait to get my weekend started and I haven’t even had the time to edit because my wife is screaming at me that it’s time to go.

Here we go with your questions:

Tons of you: what do you think JR Smith was actually thinking in last night’s game?

First, he got the score wrong. There’s no debating that. The fact that you could get the score wrong given the circumstances at play, the game was stopped and everyone had time to catch their breath and look at the scoreboard, is unfathomable to me. But that’s the first thing you have to realize here, he thought the Cavs were up one as George Hill prepared to shoot his second free throw.

Second, he was planning on getting back on defense and never expected to get the rebound.

What’s wild here is if two highly unlikely things hadn’t happened, JR getting the score wrong wouldn’t have mattered and we would have never known about his error. Think about it, George Hill is an 80% free throw shooter all year. So there was an 80% chance he’d make the second free throw at which time the Warriors would have taken a timeout and the Cavs would have drawn up a defensive play. So JR’s error in score would have either been rectified during the timeout, hopefully, or it wouldn’t have mattered because the Warriors would have still needed to score on defense. So that’s the first part, there’s an 80% chance his error in the score never matters. Then how many times does an NBA team give up a rebound on a missed free throw? 5 or 10% of the time at most, right? And how many of those times when it might happen would the rebound go to a specific player on the court? Maybe a third of that, at best. Given these parameters the odds JR Smith would find himself in this exact situation, with the ball after a George Hill missed free throw, are less than 1%.

I doubt JR did these percentages in his head, but if he thought the Cavs already had the lead, he would have probably been thinking about defense or expecting the Warriors to get the ball and immediately call timeout to advance to halfcourt. So if he was thinking much at all, which is debatable, that’s probably where his mind was.

When he ended up with the ball, he thought he would be fouled and when it didn’t immediately happen, he thought he was running out the clock and winning the game for the Cavs. Until LeBron yelled at him and he realized what he’d done. The really amazing thing here is that no one else on the Cavs, or their entire coaching staff, called a timeout here either. I think they were shocked by the outcome too.

The only two things that could have happened that would have been funnier are: 1. if JR had thrown the ball high into the air to avoid getting fouled and 2. if one of the Warriors had panicked and fouled JR because they were wrong about the score too and thought the game was almost over. Because I’ll be honest, when someone does something really dumb and unexpected every person on the field or court thinks they might be wrong and often follows that person’s lead. That’s how a guy gets an interception or a fumble and runs the wrong way with a huge cadre of blockers surrounding them. That’s also how the other team ends up trying to tackle that guy to prevent him from running into their own end zone and giving them a safety.

I bet the real reason no one on the Cavs or their coaching staff called timeout is because they froze for an instant and thought they might be the ones with the score wrong.

If I ran Southwest Airlines I would totally sign JR Smith to the wanna get away advertising campaign.

Furthermore, that picture of LeBron gesturing to JR Smith is so perfect it’s like basketball’s version of the Mona Lisa. I just can’t look away.

It’s a total work of art.

“Should Samantha Bee be fired for calling Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt? How would you compare the media reaction to her insult to Roseanne and Keith Olbermann’s comments on Twitter?”

No, I don’t believe she should be fired because I’m not in favor of online lynch mobs finding some form of content they don’t like and demanding people be fired for saying or writing it. I didn’t think it made sense when liberals were mad at Laura Ingraham over her comments about the Parkland student and wanted her fired I don’t think it makes sense for Samantha Bee to be fired for her Ivanka insults either.

But I do think there are several points worth making on this Samantha Bee story: First, this was a written monologue put into the teleprompter, taped in front of a studio audience, reviewed by management, and then allowed to be aired on TBS. Furthermore, the digital clip was published online without being edited, Tweeted from the show accounts, and gleefully promoted by Samantha Bee’s staff on social media.

So this isn’t really very similar to someone saying something on live TV or live radio with no safety net and it isn’t very similar to Roseanne’s Tweet either since Roseanne was presumably Tweeting all by herself.

This is a huge staff at a national cable channel all making the decision to allow this content to be distributed. TBS should have had a long list of safeguards to keep this from happening yet still allowed this to happen. How does an entire staff miss the mark this badly?

By not having anyone on the staff who would have even thought of voting Republican.

It’s classic group think. This is why I believe intellectual diversity is more important than cosmetic diversity. Right now the country is obsessed with having a ton of people who look different, but think the same. I believe what we should be focused on is ensuring we have different perspectives, not different colors.

Because if Samantha Bee’s staff had someone on their staff who voted Republican or was even remotely moderate at all that person might have raised their hand and said, “Wait a minute, would we ever call the oldest Obama daughter a feckless cunt? Would we call Michelle Obama or Laura Bush or the Bush daughters this either?” (I use the daughter and first lady comparison here because Ivanka Trump is a daughter of the president, but she’s also somewhat akin to a first lady too given she has a primarily ceremonial role in the White House).

If the answer is no, and I think the answer is 100% no, then this is an example of a clear double standard at play. Liberals, who control much of the media, vote Democratic, and believe they are “right” when it comes to all political issues aren’t considering the entirety of the country when it comes to their jokes.

I’m not a member of the joke police, never have been and never will be, but I do believe the standard for making jokes about public figures should be the same no matter what their politics are. That used to be what national comedians tried to do, they’d make fun of the Democrats and the Republicans relatively on equal footing. I remember watching these nightly shows, David Letterman in particular, during political campaigns and it was almost down to a science how even the jokes were, particularly during presidential campaigns. We got equal jokes on George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton, Clinton and Dole, Gore and W. Bush, and Kerry and W. Bush. All presidents have always gotten made fun of a great deal, but I think Obama got more lenient comedy treatment, by and large, because so many comedians liked him and were also terrified of being branded racist if they made a borderline joke.

Now Trump is elected and it’s like their entire comedic acts are predicated on ridiculing Trump. That means it’s hard to stand out with humor ridiculing Trump. Which means there’s a rush to be the most extreme when it comes to hating and ridiculing Trump.

Comedy is often about pushing social boundaries so that’s how you end up with writers calling Ivanka a feckless cunt and with Samantha Bee delivering it to a studio audience and with the clip being posted online. The TBS writers and executives crossed a line, but they didn’t even realize they had crossed a line because this line is probably tame compared to what they all say when they’re out for beers. This was a left wing blind spot, which is why they didn’t edit the show and proudly shared it online.

What I think reasonable people should be seeking in an unreasonable era isn’t for comedians or networks to edit themselves aggressively, but just to treat everyone fairly. It’s a simple question, before you make a joke about Trump or his family ask yourself if you’d make the same joke about another politician or his family. Yes, Trump is a disrupter and you may hate his politics, but that doesn’t justify you abandoning all pretense of fairness in the way you cover him.

Trump is truly driving some members of the media insane and in their insanity, ironically, they are coming to look exactly like what they hate. Trump’s excess is rubbing off on them and they, amazingly, are actually making it more likely that he’s going to be reelected than less likely.

You don’t combat Trump by climbing into the pig sty with him, you do it by combating him on ideas and elevating discourse even when he may try to lower it. When things like Samantha Bee happen all it does is make the people who love Trump believe everything he has said and done is justified. This just confirms their belief that the system is rigged against Trump and them.

Chris writes:

“Is it possible that ESPN coverage of anthem issue is actually hurting the cause they are trying to advocate for? All we have to do is look a few years back at how the incessant coverage of Brett Farve, Tim Tebow and LeBron James created public backlash and resentment towards those individuals.
Brett Farve is one of the greatest players of all time. Though he wavered a lot on retirement, Rachel Nichols camped out on his front lawn for 2 straight summers giving daily updates. People got so tired of the reporting that they started to resent him. He was one of the most exciting players to watch and yet people just wanted him to go away due to the crazy amount of coverage ESPN gave him.
Tim Tebow circumcised underprivileged males in foreign country’s on college Spring Break. He was a humble, starting QB at a blue blood CFB program that never got in trouble. He was a poster boy for all things good. ESPN could “never talk enough Tebow” and we know now, it was an actual programming directive. As a result, this fantastic young man was resented, not because of anything he did, but because of the coverage her received. That reached its peak when he got to the NFL and ESPN would spend one segment talking Tebow and then the next discussion why he got so much coverage.
LeBron James had a TV show that resulted in a 2.5 Million dollar donation for The Boys and Girls Club, yet people still cant stand him for “The Decision”. ESPN’s build up was nauseating. Their production, was terrible. They turned a 15 minute story into an hour special event. The reaction was so bad that even the main reporter, Jim Gray, suffered some level of backlash.
If we look at the themes from those three examples and carry them forward to present time and put them in context with the anthem protests. Do you think it is possible that ESPN’s coverage is creating unintended increased backlash on the topics racial injustice?”
This is such a fantastic question.
I think oversaturation of a story can make people start to root against an athlete just because they are tired of hearing about that athlete. For instance, I kind of wanted the Celtics and the Pacers to beat LeBron James in their respective Game 7’s — even though LeBron to the finals is better for my show’s ratings — just so we wouldn’t have to keep talking about LeBron James on my shows. And if I’m thinking it, there have to be a ton of people in my audience thinking the same thing too, right?
(Some of you out there may be thinking, just talk about something else then it’s your show! But you really can’t. When you host a national sports talk show, you have to play the hits. And the NBA Finals are the hits. LeBron is the hit. It’s impossible to just ignore him even if you think it’s a relatively boring and overdiscussed topic yourself.)
I wasn’t rooting against LeBron because I dislike him, I actually enjoy watching him play and the more he wins the better my ratings are, it’s just because I wanted something new to talk about because there is nothing left to say about him or, frankly, the match up against the Warriors. That’s why I was so glad JR Smith screwed up at the end of the game last night. Because at least it’s a new and fun story line to discuss. We’ve had four straight years of LeBron vs. the Warriors. At this point everything that could be said about this series has been said.
And I feel like the same thing is true of LeBron James in general. He’s really good at basketball, either the best or second best basketball player of all time. Yet what’s the debate all the time? Who is the greatest, LeBron or Jordan? Skip Bayless, and other lesser lights, have ridden their entire career on this single question. Every day for nearly a decade Skip Bayless has said LeBron James is overrated.

And the market has rewarded this take. Bayless makes six million a year. If he doesn’t start ripping LeBron a decade ago has anyone ever heard of Bayless?
Worse than that, every station has, in some way, copied ESPN’s programming topics so you can’t put on FS1 or ESPN these days without hearing LeBron vs. Jordan. It’s seriously the most overplayed sports topic of all time and there isn’t a close second. (My Mount Rushmore of overplayed sports topics are: 1. LeBron vs. MJ 2. Should Pete Rose get in the hall of fame? 3. Should college players be paid? 4. Steroids or performance enhancing drugs discussion.)
There is nothing that can be said or written anew when it comes to LeBron vs. Michael Jordan on a daily basis. I genuinely wonder who the people are, and how intelligent they can possibly be. if they enjoy hearing Jordan vs LeBron debated every day for hours a day for months on end.
Clearly, these people exist, but don’t they have to be insanely dumb to enjoy this same debate every day? At this point in time is there anyone intelligent still interested in this debate? I mean, I understand it, I guess somewhat, when the season is actually over and we have another chapter of LeBron’s career book of achievements to compare against Jordan’s, but is there anyone who needs to hear LeBron vs. Jordan debated after every single playoff game LeBron plays for three straight months?
And if those people do exist, do enough of them exist to justify twelve straight hours of programming, six on ESPN and six on FS1, discussing it from six eastern to noon eastern every weekday?
I genuinely wonder whether this is an example of dumb people dictating media coverage so much that smart people start to resent the media coverage to such an extent that they start rooting against the subject of the coverage. I think that’s certainly true of all the guys you mentioned above: the media coverage of Favre, Tebow, and LeBron has made us like all three athletes less than we would have if the media had never aggressively covered them.
I think the same thing is true of Colin Kaepernick and his protest. First, no one’s mind is being changed no matter what’s argued on TV, especially since the discussion is so one-sided, second, I think a ton of casual sports fans are so sick of the coverage of the protest that they’re now actively rooting against Kaepernick just so the story will end.
So, yes, I think ESPN’s coverage — and other networks following ESPN’s lead — of top athletes or top stories tends to make those players and those stories unlikable.
Put it this way, what would you think about LeBron James if Michael Jordan had never existed? Wouldn’t LeBron be way more popular? I think so.
Marty writes:
“Clay, what is it about a 71 year old (trump) that makes everyone lose their collective marbles including educated adults.  Hillary, Al Gore, and Joe Biden can’t go more than 10 minutes in any public or commencement speech without whining and complaining.  Others are crying foul against Trump for calling a murderous gang “animals”, not to mention a freaking porn star (i like porn btw) given a key to a city all in the name of this resistance.  At this rate the 2020 election will be a completion grade for trump. Is this the future?  Again these are educated adults who have refused to take off clown noses for a year and a half now.
Love the show.”
Donald Trump is a disrupter. The people who are disrupted are always furious at the disrupter because he’s playing by a fundamental different set of rules than the people who came before him. Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Joe Biden all spent their entire lives dreaming of being president and then Trump shows up and wins it. They feel like they did it the “right” way and he did it the “wrong” way. This anger, by the way, isn’t limited to Democrats, all the Republicans running against Trump, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio among them, all said as bad or worse things about Trump as the Democrats did.
It also happens outside of politics.
Think about how the newspapers react, for instance, to Facebook, cab companies react to Uber, or local merchants react to Amazon, and before that to Wal Mart.
The vanquished companies aren’t just angry that they’re losing a business battle they react with genuine fury at the existence of the disrupter.
Having said that, I also think there is a great deal of fear that if Trump tears up all these major American institutions it will be difficult to build them back up again. But this is a bit ironic to me, particularly in the media, because journalism in this country, since Watergate, has been predicated almost entirely on tearing down faith in government and government institutions.
That is, just about every journalism award goes to someone who tore down a popular person or institution. Now sometimes that truth is much needed — think about the investigations into the Catholic abuse scandal, for instance — but every story isn’t that. Is every Donald Trump Tweet really a threat to the Republic worthy of around the clock coverage? Does it really matter if Donald Trump is lying about paying a porn star not to talk about their affair?
I think the public has seen the media tear down our institutions for so long that many people, either consciously or subconsciously, think it’s hypocritical for the journalists to now be upset at a politician for doing the same. I think that in general there is just not much trust in large institutions in American life right now and Trump has exploited that distrust to his benefit.
Sam writes:
“Is there any market more overserved by the media in America or the world than the liberal sports fan? Conversely, is there any market more underserved than the conservativeish sports fan?

The Big Lead poll showing 4% of people in the sports media voted for trump shows a clear disconnect between the sports media and the people who consume its content, being that sports fans are more conservative than the general population.
I also have heard you talk about the people at the Kaepernick protests, who almost undoubtedly aren’t NFL fans. These though are the people most sports media companies (ESPN, deadspin, that morning show on FS1, etc.) are attempting to cater to, even though the hyperwoke sports fan is a very minute pool of people.
I cant think of any market even close to being so overserved/underserved with content but maybe I am missing something.”
I have been preaching this exact stance for the past five years to anyone in business who will listen. Ever since the Caitlyn Jenner ESPY when you couldn’t even say you didn’t think Caitlyn Jenner was a hero without getting savaged online.
The hyperwoke sports fan is a tiny minority of the overall sports fan base yet it is served as if it’s a substantial majority. That’s because the average member of the sports media most active on Twitter is hyperwoke.
The crazy thing is, you don’t even need to be conservative, you just need to be moderate and people will think you’re alt right in our modern era.
Look at me, I’m pro choice, anti the death penalty, fine with gay marriage and people act like I’m a right wing zealot because I have the gall to say I hope Donald Trump does a good job as president and I don’t believe he’s the most awful human being to ever live. I also think the corporate tax rate was good policy and think Trump made a good, reasonable choice for Supreme Court.
If he can make a deal with North Korea that makes the world safer, he could have a tremendously successful first term.
When you look at the amount of money that conservative or libertarian thinkers have been willing to spend on middle of the road and right leaning think tanks and publications from a leaning right perspective, I think it’s insane that there isn’t a moderate, conservative or libertarian voice when it comes to sports and pop culture.
There is a huge gap between the politics of the average sports fan now and the far left wing sports coverage that we get.
That’s honestly a big part of what my new book discusses. Purely from a business perspective, it’s nonsensical someone with a ton of money hasn’t come in and made this happen. That’s even more the case with sports gambling being legalized. It isn’t going to be far left wingers who are spending all day gambling on sports, it’s going to be beer drinking people in the South and Midwest.
Chad writes:
“You seem to be giving ESPN credit for their TV deal that they made with UFC but doesn’t this TV deal just demonstrate how incompetent the leadership team has been in the past? Spending $1.5 billion for 5 years of programming doesn’t come off as a strong investment when they could have bought UFC for 4 billion less then 2 years ago. If this was college sports we would be calling it a second tier TV package. The first tier package is still going to PPV and ESPN sees none of the upside from that. Wouldn’t they have just been better off in the long run offering 6-10 billion for the company? This just seems like ESPN is continue to make the same mistakes they have previously.”  
This is why I’ve been arguing that a TV network or streaming company should buy the UFC or WWE for years.
But I agree with you in general here, why rent when you can buy?
In five years ESPN will have given the UFC $1.5 billion, nearly half of what the entire company sold for just two years ago and will have zero to show for it.
What sense does that make? If Disney/ESPN was going to spend $1.5 billion on UFC content they should have bought the entire company two years ago for $4 billion. That’s especially the case if you make the assumption that in five years ESPN will extend their deal with the UFC and end up paying at least $2 billion a year on a new five year deal. If that happens then ESPN will have paid the UFC in ten years almost the entirety of what they would have paid to buy the entire company just a few years ago.
This becomes even crazier when you think about the incredible value ESPN could have unlocked by putting the top UFC events on their streaming service. What if they put all the top UFC events on ESPN+ instead of just the secondary events? How many people would pay $5 a month for this content? Millions. I just see this as a no brainer.
But since they didn’t do that, what else are they going to do now? Pass on the UFC completely? This is a classic example of how one bad decision leads to another bad decision. Which is, honestly, the entirety of the ESPN story over the past several years. ESPN hasn’t driven the ball straight down the middle of the fairway for a long time, they’ve been playing from the rough for years.
Thanks for reading Outkick. I’m off on a boat with the family.
Hope y’all have great weekends.
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