All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice.

And please go buy as much Outkick gear, autographed books, and Outkick VIP subscriptions as you can possibly afford.

Since many of you slackers aren’t working for all of next week. Meanwhile I’ll be doing radio or TV on every day but Christmas between now and after New Year’s.

And probably writing too.

So while all you are out there slacking, guess who will be grinding away like a madman?

This guy.

So let’s dive into the Friday mailbag mix here. As always you can email me at claytravis@gmail.com with mailbag questions:

Kevin writes:

“I was hoping you could help settle a debate we had the other night.  So my department had a holiday happy hour after work on National Signing Day.  Some of us college football fans were discussing the recruiting rankings and a debate broke out.
One guy, a Texas A&M grad, was bragging about the Aggies’ #3 finish.  A few other people in the group looked at the rankings and agreed that A&M is ranked there because of the cumulative score of 25 commits (only 4 schools in the Top 20 have more commits) and that they don’t think it’s truly the 3rd best class.  We found that if you sort the classes based on the average player rating then A&M drops to #8.  The Auburn grad in the group then started arguing that Auburn really has the better class (ranked fifth if you sort by commits) but that they are only lower in the 247 rankings (#11 here) because they have less commits.
I’m not sure how I feel on this one as I see the argument on both sides.  You can argue that you are getting better quality players (obviously they have to pan out) if you look at ranking by average player rating or look at blue chip ratio.  However, if you take a greater number of commits then you also have a better chance of more guys emerging as high impact players.
What say you?”
I think total numbers of top players are more important, but the recruiting sites index for extreme numbers on the top side by capping a score and only looking at the top twenty recruits. In doing so they only take the rating for the top twenty players. But on the downside those classes with less than twenty players don’t get the full point total they otherwise would.
I don’t know why they settled on twenty as the number — would the rankings change much if, for instance, they ranked the top 17 or 18 instead of the top twenty? I don’t know. My guess is they picked twenty because most college programs sign at least twenty players a year given there are 85 scholarships total available over four years and teams try and keep the scholarship numbers roughly even.
Having said this, it’s been my experience in watching class rankings over many years that smaller classes often have higher numbers because sometimes schools have taken bigger classes in the past and know they have limited scholarships to give out. So a class of 16 is likely to have a higher star rating than a class of 28 because a school will be more selective when they are only signing sixteen players than they would if they were signing 28.
But recruiting is ultimately about probability. You don’t know which four and five stars — or two and three stars for that matter — will develop into talented players in the years ahead so you want as many potential players in your class as possible.
That’s why I’d rather have a class like Texas A&M’s than a class like, for instance, Auburn’s.
Although you have to add the caveat that these classes are not all finished. Many of the schools can still, and will, add several top players. It won’t be until the final signing day occurs in February that you can really assess the totality of a class, but about 80% of the recruits signed this week so most of the rankings are baked in pretty well.

Eddy writes:

“It looks like the Mattis resignation might be the final straw for Trump 2020.  Someone with a ton of credibility who is universally respected essentially calls out Trump because he’s siding with China and Russia. Is that how you read it? Is Trump done now?”

You could write an entire book on all the times Trump has been claimed to be done. Trump will be done in 2020 if the Democrat running against him posts 270 electoral votes. Until then — and I’m still far from sure it will happen — Trump will continue to be Trump.

Stop trying to proclaim he’s finished.

He has a Republican majority in the Senate which will exist now, probably, for the remainder of his term in office, whether it ends in 2020 or 2024, there is no way they are removing him from office barring extreme and gross misconduct which I don’t think will ever be proven.

I actually think Trump’s behavior this week has been fascinating. He got a major criminal justice bill passed on a bipartison basis that will free thousands and thousands of mostly black drug offenders from prison and he repudiated the idea of American involvement in neverending overseas entanglements essentially endorsing his pledge that we wouldn’t be the world’s policemen.

Look, I have long said that the worst decision any president has made in my lifetime was George W. Bush taking us to war in Iraq. Right now that looks like the worst modern decision in American history.

But we don’t know how that will look in fifty or a hundred years.

The long view of history often changes our perceptions of presidencies.

If you just take away the Trump theatrics and I told you that the president would: 1. have the lowest unemployment rate in fifty years coupled with one of the highest economic growth rates 2. that he would defeat ISIS 3. that he would engage in constructive discussions with North Korea which have done more to open that hermetically sealed kingdom than anything in seventy years 4. that tax cuts would have a huge stimulative effect on American business investment 5. the murder rate would decline 6. the number of overseas military deaths would also decline 7. worker wages would increase at a higher rate than they have for over a decade 8. per capita income would hit an all time high 9. major criminal justice reform would pass which would send a strong signal that our nation’s focus on imprisonment was beginning to pass 10. two eminently qualified Supreme Court justices would be seated along with many of our nation’s federal court seats being filled wouldn’t you think things were going pretty decently.

Again, I think Trump’s theatrics detract a great deal from his accomplishments.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll do my ranking of the best presidents during my lifetime looking at what they actually accomplished while in office: 1. Reagan 2. Clinton 3. Bush, Sr. 4. Obama 5. Trump 6. Carter 7. W. Bush

I’ve recently bumped up George H.W. Bush and I’ll admit that might be influenced by all I’ve read since his passing, but I think Trump is already better than Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush simply because, at least so far, he hasn’t been a disaster. (I give Obama credit because much of his presidency was about dealing with the disastrous economic situation he inherited from George W. Bush who, I believe, was the worst two term president in the nation’s history).

Does Trump have disastrous potential and am I concerned with how he might respond to a clear and present geopolitical crisis of a substantive nature? Definitely. But so far he’s been in office for two years and the country has been fine.

As I said on the day he was elected Trump had boundless potential to be both good or bad.

I still think that’s true.

Brett writes:

“With this year’s Tennessee Volunteers basketball team having so much early season success (beating #1 ranked Gonzaga and almost beating #2 Kansas in overtime), is it safe to say that this season is the best shot the Vols will ever have at a national championship? I know Bruce Pearl had some really good teams back in 2005-2011 but I just feel like this team is different. I truly believe that Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams are a once in a generation duo.”

It’s hard to say this will be the best they ever will be because predicting the future is so difficult.

I think what you want in a coach is for him to have you in the mix to contend for championships on a regular basis and then you hope that one day you’ll break through and everything will go your way.

Right now Tennessee is a top five team and I think that ranking is legit. Whether they can be a national champion will come down to the team staying healthy, luck, and the continued development of point guard Jordan Bone, who I believe could be a truly tremendous player by the time March gets here. Especially if he can pick up his three point shooting.

Jordan writes:

“Can you explain why Kevin Durant gets a free pass on virtually everything?  The most recent example occurred Wednesday night, when he blew a kiss to a fan and called him a bitch, all of which was picked up on the television broadcast.  He has now done this multiple times this year and the NBA has fined him for it, but it has largely been ignored from what I’ve seen.  

I know you aren’t the biggest LeBron fan, but I think we can agree that if he did this it would be talked about on every major sports network for roughly 4 straight months.  No, KD isn’t LeBron, but he’s unequivocally one of the most talented players to ever play, and will likely go down as a top 10 player of all time– yet he gets a free pass on being a vindictive brat.  Maybe just ignore the drunk guy in the crowd?
And for the record, this is in no way me giving a pass to grown men who go to games (especially college games) and scream profanities at players/coaches, or who write them on social media.  Living in Nashville, I think this is the biggest negative attribute of SEC fans, who outside of that are the greatest in sports.  These people need to take a long look in the mirror and get a life, and I’ll vote for you for Senate if your campaign is “I’m Clay Travis and I represent all Americans who don’t go to sporting events and make a complete ass of themselves.”
This is a really fascinating question.
My easy answer is because being a Kevin Durant lover or hater doesn’t move the ratings needle.
But the question you’re asking is why is that?
And I don’t know for sure. My working theory would be that all leagues only have so much oxygen and LeBron soaks up so much of the oxygen there really isn’t much left for any other player. Think about it, it’s not only Durant, right? LeBron dwarfs every other player in the amount of attention he receives.
The next question I’d ask is this, are other pro sports leagues similar? I think they are. How much more attention does Tom Brady get than any other player now? I’d say quite a bit more. Baseball and hockey are more niche than national sports — that is, you care about your local team far more than you do the national stars.
My suspicion would be that there will be a new LeBron when he finally leaves the stage, but I’m not sure who that will be. I think both Brady and LeBron are unique in the degree to which they have soaked up all the national attention.
It’s why I’ve been arguing the NBA doesn’t have a league, it has a player.
I think NBA ratings will decline substantially when LeBron retires just like they did when Michael Jordan retired.
Richard writes:
“Why are SEC fans the only group from the Power 5 that endlessly circle jerk each other? Last I checked, Oklahoma fans have never rooted for Texas in a Championship game nor has Michigan ever rooted for Ohio State to succeed in anything. As a UCLA fan I absolutely hate USC and could care less if they never won another game.
SEC fans are repulsive in how they will sacrifice their own fandom just to root for Bama to beat a Northern or West Coast school for a title. Talk about a complex! You make fun of how Texas is the whiny brat who brags about how much money his dad makes, but your obsession with the SEC is another level of insecurity.”
First, I don’t know that your average SEC fan roots for Alabama right now. I think most SEC fans were probably rooting for Georgia last year when they met Alabama for the national title.
But the reason why SEC fans root for the conference is that for years SEC fans were left out of championship games in favor of other teams from other conferences. That’s even when SEC teams felt like they had the best resumes. Auburn in 2004 is the perfect example.
SEC fans believe that their favorite team is going to compete for a national championship at some point in time and they don’t want to get 2004 Auburn’d. It’s actually a more sophisticated and intelligent fandom, honestly. Plus, SEC fans watch far more college football than any other region of the country and it’s more fun to watch games when you have a rooting interest.
So if you’re going to root, you root for your local conference schools.
Keep in mind that Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, & LSU have all won national championships in the past twenty years. (Georgia has also played for one and Texas A&M will, I think, play for one in the next twenty years too). This means half the conference is legitimately of the belief they can win a national championship. (South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans also believe they can win titles as well. Kentucky and Vanderbilt mostly don’t believe they’ll ever win titles either, but it makes them feel better to be part of something larger than themselves.) If you think your school may one day play for a championship, you want the conference to be as strong as possible.
Sure, Alabama is winning now, but Nick Saban isn’t going to coach forever. The next time there’s a battle over which team should be the fourth in the playoff being able to point to a long record of championship success can make a big difference.
The SEC is also a unique geographic region with substantial regional pride. Most Southerners identify with their region in a way no one else does in the country. Being southern is, for many, an ethnicity.
When you root for the SEC you are also rooting for the South.
So the SEC chant is both self-interested and prideful.
Texas doesn’t share much with Iowa State or Kansas State; South Carolina shares something with Mississippi State and I think Arkansas shares something with Georgia. It’s a pride of region and place. It’s honestly similar to how Texans always root and brag for Texas.
Or how Californians believe their state is the best.
The way Southerners demonstrate their pride is through SEC football.
Flip writes:
“Is podcasting the new wave of the future and can it actually solve the problem of uninformed voters in our society? I feel as if more and more people will start to recognize how biased Fox News, MSNBC and CNN are, and they will move to podcasting to get more nuanced conversation.” 
I think the opposite, actually. I think podcasting will primarily be a niche experience that serves to reinforce whatever existing opinions you already have.
TV and radio, because of their large mass audiences, can still expose you to ideas or people you didn’t know before. I think podcasting is more likely to specialize and deliver niche programming to people seeking affirmation for most of what they already believe.
I understand there is enormous interest in podcasting as a business, but when I look at podcasts that are coming out more than once a week it honestly seems so much easier than what I do that I just laugh.
I do 15 hours of live radio every week.
A top podcast is what, two hours a week on average? And it’s recorded without being live and generally has a guest? (I’m distinguishing these weekly podcasts from, say, a serialized podcast which has much more in common with a book on tape or a TV show. Those, clearly, are different categories).
I think virtually everyone who does a good live national radio show could do a killer podcast, but I think most people who do a podcast couldn’t do what I do.
Not even close.
I think Howard Stern has basically said the same thing. Live radio is hard to do well and it’s really, really hard to do well for years in a row.
It sort of reminds me of my argument that you see many people who go from writing to radio to TV, but you rarely see people go from TV to radio to writing. That’s because writing is the hardest. Radio is the second hardest and TV is, by far, the easiest.
Now I’m not saying any of of them are easy — each of them has their own difficulty and all of them are hard to do really well — but writing is the most challenging by far.
Hope y’all have great Chrstmases or if you don’t celebrate Christmas I hope you have a great holiday season.
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