All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice.

Let’s dive right into the mailbag.

Reminder, you can send me any questions to claytravis@gmail.com.

Here we go.

John writes:

“How will increased legalized gambling force leagues to look at replay rules on judgement plays in NFL games? The Chargers ended up covering last night but it sure seemed like the Chiefs were getting bailed out time after time. It probably evens out in the end but it feels like it’s going to matter more going forward.”

I had this exact same thought last night as I watched one botch job after another during the game.

I think legalized gambling will put more pressure on leagues to ensure their referees are consistently excellent. As is, there are far too many borderline calls that are made and far too many blatant calls that are missed. Officials need to be better at understanding game situations and not altering the flow of a game with a borderline decision.

In particular, I think the NFL needs to change the defensive holding rule to a five yeard penalty instead of an automatic first down. It seems to me that this call can be made at any point in time and it’s way too punitive. It’s infuriating to see your team get a defensive stop on third down and then see a flag for an arbitrary defensive holding penalty. Calls should only be made when you can watch them on replay and immediately tell they should have been made.

The same thing is true, for instance, of the Patrick Mahomes sack that turned into a 15 yard facemask and a first down. I think the facemask rule should be did it impact the tackle and aid the defender in making the play? If not and it was clearly accidental, then it shouldn’t be called. We used to have that call in place for incidental and intentional facemaks, I think that should come back.

But the wildest was the ending — how did the NFL officials miss a clear helmet to helmet hit on Philip Rivers? If anything, this is the rule they should be most committed to enforcing and ensure they never miss. If officials had called that play correctly then the Chargers would have had a first and goal at the five yard line with thirty seconds remaining and a timeout.

Instead they totally missed this call, the Chargers let the play clock run down to 13 seconds before taking a timeout and then the official threw a flag on a borderline pass interference call that I believe was a clear make up call.

All of these calls were taking place with the spread and the over/under determined by the outcome of the final drive. (Not to mention the game itself). The more money that is directly at stake on the game from fans, I think, the more the demand will be for officials to get these calls correct.

So I think the growth of gambling can be a net positive for the league here.

Because as is, lord knows, the NFL officiating still remains a total work in progress and is wrong far too often.

In fact, I’ve even argued that each team should get one challenge a half for a penalty call. If we can review whether the ball was caught or not, which is a judgment call, why can’t we also review if pass interference happened or if defensive holding should be called? After all, the league grades officials and tells them whether they were right or wrong after a game, why can’t they do it in real time?

Brian writes:

“I am sure you saw this week that for the first time in the network’s history ESPN2 will not finish second in the sports viewership rankings behind ESPN. They will finish in FOURTH getting jumped by both NBCSN and FS1. NBCSN had success with the Olympics, EPL and NHL Playoffs while FS1 had the World Cup, Big Ten football and MLB Playoffs but even outside of these big events both channels are showing quality live sporting events whether its college hoops or NHL games. 
This weekend being the football junkie I am; I was looking for the 1AA Playoffs usually an ESPN2 staple. Of the 4 games only 1 was on ESPN all the rest were on ESPN+.
My question to you is ESPN trying to tank ESPN2 so they can grow their online ESPN+?  Lots of programming that would normally be on ESPN2  whether live games or studio shows are now on ESPN+. Do you see a decline in programming options for ESPN2 to get more people to subscribe to ESPN+ as part of their plan?”
I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention in the sports media because it’s a pretty big deal for NBCSN and FS1 to both take over second place in cable sports after ESPN2 has been in second place for 25 years.
If ESPN loses Monday Night Football in a couple of years, which is certainly possible, then much of the network’s first place lead would collapse overnight. In fact, and I’d need a numbers guru to confirm this, but I think if either NBCSN or FS1 got Monday Night Football they would potentially pass ESPN in average nightly viewership. (This is because of the massive audience for MNF, which elevates the ratings for all the other programs all day long.) Now I don’t think either of those companies would bid as much as ESPN does for MNF, but I do think it’s worth considering.
And, to be honest, maybe AT&T would do it to put MNF on TNT.
As for what happened at ESPN2 for it to suddenly fall to fourth place after 25 years in second place, I think ESPN, as its business was threatened, moved many of the successful programs off ESPN2 in an attempt to preserve ESPN’s ratings. In other words, ESPN tried to protect its top business and threw the second one aside.
In particular ESPN felt threatened by the programming on FS1, particularly the Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe show Undisputed. Rather than see Skip start to legitimately challenge First Take on a regular basis, which may well have happened if First Take had stayed on ESPN2, ESPN gave First Take a shot of steroids. But in so doing they also killed ESPN2.

Skip gets ripped a ton on social media, but his show now regularly draws over 200k average viewers. That’s over five times what the viewership was in that timeslot before he arrived. Colin Cowherd now draws 150k as well for his radio simulcast. (These numbers are even more impressive when you consider the shows take up 5.5 total hours. So you really need to look at total viewership over that time as opposed to just looking at average viewers per six minute segment. The amount of sheer tonnage they both provide is incredible. PTI, for instance, is the top rated studio show on sports TV, but it’s only a half hour. So if PTI draws 500k for a half hour, that’s actually the same total viewership than Skip Bayless gets over 2.5 hours if he draws an average of 200k. As a general rule, the longer a show is on, the tougher it is to produce big audiences).

As for ESPN+, I do think ESPN is making a calculated decision to try and put as much programming on ESPN+ as they can to force people to sign up for their streaming service.

I’ve written about this in the mailbag before, but I think people drastically underestimate how hard it is to get people to sign up for subscriptions.

Even a major company like ESPN.

Right now ESPN has 85 million subscribers thanks to the cable and satellite bundle. How many of those people would pay $20 a month for ESPN if it were a standalone channel?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know only two million people pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV and the NFL is the most popular sport in America. (That’s roughly 10% of DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers). My guess is there’s no way ESPN could sign up more than 20 million people at $20 a month. That means over 75% of their potential audience would vanish in a direct to consumer offering.

It’s why I just don’t buy ESPN+ as a viable business model.

Dustin writes:

“I grew up in Alabama, lived in Kentucky for several years, and have lived in Columbus OH now for several years also (God help me).

Anyone making an argument about SEC teams having to play in cold weather is an idiot.  Yes, winter in the B1G territory is brutal, and it’s colder in Ohio than it is in the south (and colder in places like Kentucky and Missouri than it is in Alabama and Texas).  Here’s the thing – really cold weather doesn’t start in the Midwest until mid or late December.  There might be snow for some late season games in Minnesota, but that’s not something most B1G teams are dealing with regularly.  The season ends at Thanksgiving, and there’s usually still a long time before the real cold starts.
Based on my experience, I would say the real difference between midwest and southern weather in the college football season is heat, not cold.  In Ohio, by the time football starts in September, the highest temperatures won’t be above the 80s (and even that’s not usual), whereas in the south, it’s still brutally hot for a lot of the season.  The real disadvantage for home and homes for B1G teams is, I seriously doubt these teams could handle playing in Alabama or elsewhere in the south in September and October.  It’s already fall in the midwest at that time, whereas you might still have 80 and 90 degree days in the south.
I actually feel sorry for Big Ten fans that the SEC has so dominated college football that they are left grasping at ridiculous arguments like, “SEC teams wouldn’t play well in cold weather.”
First, as you mention, it isn’t that cold, generally speaking, in November. Even in cold weather climates.
Second, the SEC plays night games in November which the Big Ten almost never does. The night temperatures in “northern” SEC schools like Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas are often very cold and very similar to what the day temperatures are in Big Ten states in November.
Not to mention southern ACC schools like Miami, Clemson and Florida State travel up to play in Boston College and Pittsburgh on a somewhat regular basis. And do you know what the impact has been?
Virtually zero.
The best team almost always wins regardless of the weather. People like to point to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and say it’s almost impossible to beat the Patriots in Foxborough, but do you really think if, for instance, the Titans had Brady and Belichick their record would be that much worse in Nashville?
Of course not.
The reason why it’s so hard to beat Brady and Belichick is because they are the best coach and player combo in NFL history, not because they play in Massachusetts.
The SEC has the best players and teams with the best players almost always win. Especially over time. The SEC has had more drafted players over the past 12 years than any other conference. And do you know where many of those SEC players end up dominating?
In northern states in the NFL.
Furthermore, teams don’t want to play outdoors for the most part in cold weather climates either. There’s a reason Minnesota and Detroit built domes. (Along with Indianapolis). It’s because they’d rather play in a controlled environment than have to freeze their asses off sitting outside.
Many bowl games are played in Florida, Southern California and other warm weather climates because the weather best approximates room temperature, removing it as a factor at all in the overall outcome. Hell, the Big Ten chooses to play its own title game INDOORS.
If weather is such an important factor, why aren’t they playing outside?
I actually feel bad for Big Ten fans now arguing the reason the SEC teams win is because of weather.
It has just become downright pathetic to see all these arguments otherwise.
The reason the SEC teams win is because, quite simply, they have better players.
Jordan writes:
“Welcome to the 2018 holiday season, where everybody seems outraged by every little thing that’s good and true about the holidays. “Baby it’s Cold Outside” is banned by some radio stations (rap songs are more offensive than a Classic Christmas song, but they get overlooked) & the holiday classic TV show “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is “seriously problematic” over claims that it features sexism and bullying. These are the two examples that immediately come to mind & I’m sure there are countless others. 
Why so much outrage? I mean, can’t we just enjoy these classics and have some fun during the holiday season? The holidays are stressful enough.” 
We have made a serious mistake in this country by treating outrage culture seriously. The truth of the matter is this, if you’re outraged by a holiday song or Charlie Brown or Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on television it says much more about you than it does these songs or TV shows.
What I thought was interesting about banning “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” was that many radio stations decided to let listeners vote on whether the song should be banned.
And do you know what happened?
I think what happens in cases like these is Twitter magnifies a fringe opinion and then companies get panicked because that fringe seems like the majority if you’re not used to getting mentions and suddenly your social media team gets deluged with complaints. Most companies are trying to do everything they can to avoid controversy so they respond to the vocal minority and then the quiet majority finds out about the story and then they’re mad too.
Honestly, and I wrote this in a big section of my book focused on social media, companies should do less. Most of the time if they don’t respond at all the story just goes away and the outrage brigade moves on to a new target.
I see this all the time in my own life. There are constantly people outraged about what I’ve said or done. And they Tweet at me and they’re so angry or they write articles about me and do you know what happens? Nothing at all. The story just vanishes because they’re always losers on the fringe.
I trust my judgment. It’s why, to a large degree, I have the audience that I have today, because I’m pretty reasonable when it comes to analyzing most issues. I don’t know why so many CEOs and top executives are so afraid of social media anger. If you just ignore it, almost all of it goes away.
But more importantly, why would you abandon your judgment in favor of anonymous people online you don’t know who are, almost always, much less successful than you are?
Trust your own instincts.
Ken writes:

“Your story about the Ukrainian billionaire funding the DAZN sports streaming company is so similar to the ESPN origin story I’m surprised you didn’t mention it – basically Getty Oil commercials were every 3rd commercial on ESPN in 1979, and Getty had 85% of the company. (His obit is linked here). It got spun off to ABC when Texaco acquired Getty Oil in the mid-1980s.  But it is exactly what you need – the deepest pockets in the world with some patience and  good business judgment.”

Great point, if I’d remembered this I definitely would have included it in the story.

My point in general was that in order to create a Netflix of sports you’d need a company with incredibly deep pockets that was willing to rack up huge losses for years before it eventually turned into, maybe, a massive success story. (The company could also go bankrupt and you could lose billions of dollars).

But most companies, or rich individuals, aren’t willing to make that long term of an investment, they’re more worried about six months from now than than six years from now.

John writes:

“A former Miss Kentucky has been accused of sending topless photos to one of her students in 8th grade using snapchat. 

1. If convicted of the charges, the teacher faces up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
2. the 8th grader hit the lotto.
How is sending topless photos on snapchat gonna get this woman 20 years? 
The kid has a screenshot that he will use to jerk off for the rest of his life, or at least the next 20 years.
I’m thinking about this also from a financial perspective. Do we really need our tax dollars funding a woman in jail who sent topless photos? Seems to be a huge waste of money. If someone is a danger to other people they should be in prison, but the sexy teacher who sent topless photos doesn’t really scare me.”
Well, you certainly have to point out here that if a male teacher was sending dick pics to an 8th grade girl that most people would feel differently about this. That guy would be considered a creep and he’d probably go to jail because we treat men and women, boys and girls, differently in these cases.
I believe this woman should be fired from her job and probably banned from teaching for the rest of her life, but I fail to see how she needs to serve time in prison.
I’m with you, prison should be, generally speaking, reserved for people who create physical danger to others. Now there are certain other exceptions — Bernie Madoff should go to prison for financially bilking so many people out of billions of dollars — but does it really make sense to take this woman out of society and pay tens of thousands of dollars to lock her up?
Especially when, as you point out, it’s really difficult to see how this kid has been harmed in the long term. I mean, his mom might think he has been harmed, but there isn’t a dad in America who thinks an 8th grade boy getting topless photos sent to him by a hot teacher is scarring him for life.
I’ve got a fifth grade son, if I found out a former Miss Tennessee, a teacher of his, was sending him topless photos in 8th grade I’d think he was destined to be one of the greatest badasses in American history.
And I’d also be jealous.
I’d be sending all my buddies this chick’s Instagram and be like, “Can you believe she was sending naked pics to my son?! Where was she when I was in 8th grade jerking off to an artfully disguised nipple in the SI swimsuit issue?”
And I feel like every dad I know would do the same thing.
If that’s the response of most dads, I’m sorry, it ain’t a crime that requires jail time. And that’s why these cases involving women don’t typically go to juries, because no man is convicting her and sending her to jail for years. She should be banned from teaching and find another job. (And she probably needs counseling too because not even 8th grade girls think gawky, awkward 8th grade boys are that attractive so she probably has some psychological issues.)
John writes:
“This has come up more lately and I wanted to get your thoughts. I don’t vote. I have never voted. I’m 28. I don’t say that as something I’m proud of, but I’ve never taken the time to study the candidates enough to have a real understanding of which I would vote for. Politics is not something that has ever interested me. I attempt to take care of myself and my family, who’s in office has little impact for me on a personal level – or so I think.
My question is: when people ask me about politics and voting I’m honest and tell them I don’t vote. Some couldn’t care less, others are appalled and give me some big lecture on how our forefathers fought for that freedom. I get it, I respect what our past generations have done for this country as much as the next person. They also fought for my right to bear arms – and I don’t own a gun either (not because I don’t believe in owning guns, simply because I’ve never had the need for one). My point is: they fought to give me that right. Whether I choose to utilize that right is on me. Should I be a more educated citizen about local, state, and national politicians? Absolutely. Should people be totally taken aback when I’m honest and tell them I’m not? I just don’t get where people get off telling me that. I have a hard time believing most people in this country vote (regardless of election) based upon a person’s ability to get the job done in office. I’m of the belief (especially today) that people vote based on red or blue. Is it better to go vote blindly for someone just because of their political affiliation or to not vote because I’m too ignorant of their stances and quite frankly, uninterested in educating myself?
I’m genuinely curious. I should also note: I don’t talk politics. I don’t complain about politics, I don’t watch politics, etc. I’m not someone who doesn’t vote then bitches about the result of the election – I could honestly give a damn. I feel like if you don’t vote you give up your right to bitch about the result – which is fine, I’m acknowledging I don’t have a dog in the fight.
What say you?”
I think there is wisdom in the masses, but typically that wisdom doesn’t change that much whether 100 million people vote or whether 150 million vote. I also wonder how dumb political campaigns would be if we had a 100% voter participation rate.
It actually terrifies me.
Most advertising isn’t designed to persuade smart people already, can you imagine how bad it would be if the political ads had to appeal to everyone?
I think they’d just be emoticons.
Personally, I always vote because I genuinely like politics and debating issues and ideas. But I can certainly understand why many people hate it. This past fall just about every commercial I saw during college football or NFL games was political ads.
And I was fed up with them.
But TV advertising works in a big way.

Anyway, I don’t think you need to be lectured, but I do think all smart people should vote. At the very least because I like to believe that might elevate the overall political discourse.

Have great weekends.

 

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