All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice!

You can win $10k of my money this weekend by playing Outkick’s free college football pick’em. So dive in — and I hope you all lose.

Let’s dive into the mailbag.

Not surprisingly there are a bunch of thoughts on the implosion of Deadspin and we’ll begin there.

Greg writes:

“Here’s the thing I can’t get over about the Deadspin saga over the last few days: these people are absolute EGOMANIACS who are convinced they’re f*cking Edward R. Murrow.
80+ % of political and cultural writers, and therefore opinion pieces on the internet, are liberal and woke. Imagine the ego it must take to think “I know that the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, HuffPo, The Atlantic, and all the rest share my same opinion that Ted Cruz Totally Sucks Man, but the world NEEDS also hear MY version of the exact same take…ON THIS SPORTS HUMOR BLOG.”
The blue checkmark back-patting on Twitter was both hilarious and pathetic. “Keep doing your important journalism!” they shout to each other….pray tell: what Important Journalism had Deadspin done, ever, except break the Manti T’eo story? All they’ve done for the last five years is tell your own readers that they’re racist, sexist, homophobic bigots for thinking differently than you.
So where do these writers go now? They aren’t talented enough, or in-demand enough, to write books. They aren’t Journalists. They’re egomaniacs who demand to have their poorly-thought-through opinions published on the internet, full-time, for a living wage in a major city. Who’s going to hire them? 
These egotistical morons ruined a once-beloved website to feed their own egos. I don’t feel sorry for a single one of them.”

Nathan writes:

“I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Deadspin (outside of the sweet clap-back from their comments when you left). It seems pretty simple from my view, they weren’t making money and ownership (the private equity group that several of them railed against) attempted to make changes to fix that, among them advertisements and asking them to reduce the politics. They didn’t like this, as they wanted to be a purveyor of truth* (note- truth to them was for the most part their opinion, not always unbiased facts).

The thing is, they can still all do that. They can write whatever they want, they just won’t get paid for it by the group in charge of deadspin. That’s how jobs work.

I’m quite frankly torn on this. Some of their stuff was amazing (i.e.- the breaking of the Manti Teo story). Some of it annoyed me to the point of deciding I wasn’t checking their site again that particular day (a novel concept, we don’t have to read anything we don’t want to read…I never thought they should be cancelled).

They honestly believe that they are 100% in the right on 100% of the issues and no one, not even a CEO could be smarter.

So what are your thoughts on what has happened?”

These are two representative emails that I received about the Deadspin implosion and I thought I’d share them witha all of you here.

I have quite a few thoughts on Deadspin in particular, but before I share them, I’ve been in a similar position as these writers before.

Back in 2011 I was working at FanHouse and convinced I’d be there forever. I absolutely loved it. I was a national columnist close to signing a multi-year extension for them. In fact, there was a multi-year extension on my bosses boss desk. (At least that’s what I’d been told).

I went in for a panel discussion on the future of media in Nashville the week after Auburn beat Oregon in the national title game and turned off my phone while I was on the panel.

When I turned my phone back on after the panel ended, news had broken that FanHouse was shutting down and 100+ writers and editors, including me, were out of jobs.

I was stunned, terrified, and furious.

I’d been doing great work, busting my ass and traveling all over the country while I did my daily radio show too, and just when it seemed like I might finally be able to make a decent salary as an online sportswriter, the rug got pulled out from under me. (At the time I was making $45k a year writing for FanHouse and I was ecstatic at the fact that I might be able to make six figures going forward).

By the time I was fired at FanHouse I’d already worked at three places online: CBSSports.com, Deadspin, and FanHouse.

And I felt like I was as smart — or smarter — than most of the people running these sites from a business perspective.

So I made an important decision — I decided I didn’t want anyone else to control my future and that summer I launched Outkick.

Before I launched Outkick I spent months hitting up advertisers to sponsor the new site. I wasn’t just writing, I was going in for meetings and pulling a full on Don Draper to try and sell advertisers on being with me at launch.

We had five advertisers at launch and within a few months it became clear I’d created a viable financial model for myself.

But there were zero guarantees at all when I launched this site, just like there are zero guarantees any time anyone starts a business.

The reason I did this was simple — I didn’t want anyone else to control my future. I wanted to be able to write and say exactly what I wanted to write and say every day without worrying about someone being able to tell me what to do.

And I didn’t want to bust my ass and then get fired because someone decided what I was doing didn’t make business sense any longer.

So when I see this Deadspin implosion happening, I actually have sympathies with the writers here. I know exactly how they feel. I may not agree with what they want to write, but I completely understand the desire to have total creative freedom.

But the only way you have total creative freedom — that lasts — today is by owning your content and controlling all of it.

So if you truly believe you know the business of online writing better than your bosses, stop whining about how much you disagree with your bosses and start your own site and prove they’re wrong and you’re right.

If there’s a huge market for the intersection of sports and left wing politics, get rich on it.

I don’t have any sympathy for any writer who says, “Why won’t my bosses just let me write whatever I want and pay me to do it!”

That’s not what bosses do, they pay you to execute their vision. That’s what the money is for, you follow their instruction and they pay you for doing so. You’re an employee, not an owner.

The number of writers who fail to understand this basic truth stuns me.

The only way to have complete creative freedom is to be your own boss. Otherwise you’re always subject to the whims and vagaries of your bosses. The reason why I’ve never sold any portion of Outkick and still own 100% of it is because, frankly, I’m a control freak. I value my creative freedom very highly. I don’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to control in any way what I write or say or do because I think I’m pretty good at what I write or say or do.

Now I have bosses for radio and TV — and I like them a ton and enjoy working for them — but bosses change and no one knows what the future holds there.

One day, especially in entertainment, everyone can love you and the next day you can be washed up and people can be done with you.

So long as I have Outkick I know that even if my radio and TV jobs disappeared, I’d still have a place where I can make a good living and not have to worry about feeding my family.

Ultimately the great thing about capitalism is this — if you believe your bosses have left open a business opportunity with their decision making then you can grab that opportunity if you have the balls to do it.

Start your own company, work your ass off, and hopefully make a better living than you would have as an employee.

I’m here as perfect evidence in the online sportswriting space that such a decision is possible.

Finally, I was an editor at Deadspin at the age of 28. That was 12 years ago now. I was only there for around six months because I didn’t get along with AJ Daulerio, the editor whose posting of the Hulk Hogan sex tape ultimately bankrupted Gawker. (AJ didn’t let me write what I wanted to write and aggressively edited me. Several years ago he reached out and apologized and said he’d gotten caught up in a turf battle and been threatened by my hiring. That was why he’d behaved the way he did. I don’t bear him any ill will at all because I was at Deadspin long enough to learn quite a bit about the online writing business and still think going there was an important lesson for me).

When I left Deadspin after six months, I had no back up plan for online writing and I had a kid less than a year old.

So when the FanHouse implosion happened, I’d already been through the experience of not having a job once.

At my Deadspin exit interview one of the top executives at Gawker told me, “At Gawker, we make stars. But our sites aren’t cut out for everyone. Lots of people try us out and then leave and are never heard from again. That will probably be the case with you.”

Really, that’s what she told me.

That executive expected for me to disappear. Her dismissive position was I didn’t make myself relevant, Deadspin made me relevant.

I disagreed, clearly, but getting kicked in your teeth on the way out the door can leave you with some pretty good motivation. I was already fired up with a great desire for success, but being doubted can be great fuel.

So do I take great pleasure in being by far the most successful person who has ever worked at Deadspin?

You bet your ass I do.

And as that site collapses, guess who is absolutely thriving? This guy.

The big lesson here is pretty straightforward — don’t let other people value you if you have the chance to value yourself. But if you are letting other people value you, make sure they aren’t valuing you cheaply.

Sam writes:
“In recent news, there have been several stories about prominent people having fake or burner twitter accounts. Most recently Mitt Romney and Bucs GM Jason Licht have been on the news for either actually or allegedly having a fake or burner account in addition to their actual twitter accounts. We can even go back to when Kevin Durant was accused of running an additional twitter account to defend and praise himself on twitter. Do you think it is safe to assume that most prominent people have an additional twitter account?
Also, do you think the nature of social media has created the need for fake or burner twitter accounts because of the “cancel” movement and twitter’s innate ability to scrutinize everything, anyone says? I personally assume prominent people do have additional accounts so they can interact on twitter without the excess scrutiny that comes with their name or position. So is it really newsworthy when a prominent person is found to have a fake or burner account?”
I find it hard to believe that famous many people have burner accounts.
For instance, I think I’m too much of a narcissist to create a burner account.
I want credit for all my opinions and I want as many people as possible to see them. So why would I Tweet something from an account no one follows with no audience? It’s just not worth my time.
That’s even more the case when I’m already telling you guys exactly what I think from my account.
There aren’t opinions I have that I’m not able to share publicly that I’d want to share from an anonymous account.
So I think what happens is many public figures aren’t able to say what they actually believe and they get so frustrated by this they decide to create fake accounts to say what they really think. Even if the audiences for those opinions are small.
I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but my guess is that merely being able to say what they actually believe might be cathartic to them.
The real lesson here, however, is if you’re famous just don’t get on social media and read your mentions.
I’ve said this about Donald Trump too. I think it’s crazy that he reads what random people send him on Twitter. You’re the president, be above that!
Because I think what happens if you spend too much time reading your mentions is many people get caught up in the heaps of negativity online. So instead of pleasing the people who like you, you end up focused on trying to displease the people who already don’t like you.
Which is why I think social media has been so destructive to our national discourse.
When you’re the president today no matter what choice you make right now half the people are going to hate you for it.
So why not stay above the sea of contempt and focus on doing what you think is best?
As for me, I don’t read the comments after my articles and I don’t read the vast, vast majority of the mentions that are sent to me.
It’s just a not very efficient use of my time.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to ignore the noise. It’s very seductive to be able to see what people are saying about you all day long.
I remember fifteen years ago or so the first time I logged on to the VolQuest message board and saw a thread discussing me.
That was wild. There I was checking to see what the latest news on Tennessee football recruiting was and there was a long thread of people talking about me.
I remember clicking on it and reading it and what a weird feeling it was to see all these anonymous people either loving or hating your opinion. Or either loving or hating you.
But what you have to realize is it’s all just noise and it’s easy to get sucked into the noise.
And if you become too aware of the noise you lose track of what created the noise in the first place — you being good enough at your job for people to care about what you’re doing.
That’s why one lesson I’ve learned is this: work more, worry less about what people say.

Casey writes:

“Is it appropriate to steal your favorite candy from your child’s Halloween bucket? As many as you want, that is. And never tell them.”

Every parent steals some Halloween candy.

But I’m pretty open about it with my kids.

I call it the daddy tax.

Whenever they are eating something good and I want a taste of it, I come take a bite of it and tell them that’s the daddy tax.

It’s to the point where my kids will sometimes cover up their treats when I come into the room and say, “No daddy tax! No daddy tax!”

Implementing the daddy tax is a great way to explain taxes to young kids too. I tell them the daddy tax is just like the government, what you have isn’t all yours, the government comes and takes some of it too.

Bonus: they already believe in lean government and they aren’t even 12 yet.

Dave writes:

“One of the things you’ve been discussing over the past couple of years is how watching the game at home experience has gotten better and better, with HD, multiple games, etc. Here’s another problem with the live game: no information!
I was at Game 6 of the World Series, and for 10-15 minutes, while the runner interference call was being protested and reviewed, the fans had ZERO idea what was going on. NO explanation from the PA announcer, NOTHING on the jumbotron. Finally, after about 10 minutes, “Play Under Review” came on the screen, but no further explanation — we literally had no idea what about the play was under review.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the experience of being at the World Series. It is still thrilling to go see live sports, and especially something as big as a potential series-ending game. But this is something I’ve noticed at football games as well — they don’t want to show replays that could potentially go against the home team, so the fans are left out in the cold.
Your thoughts?”
The biggest challenge teams will have in the upcoming generation, I believe, is getting people to go to the games.
Most of our football stadiums, for instance, are simply too big.

I think instead of a 100,000 seat stadium every new football stadium being built today should be around 35,000 seats, but all of those seats should have incredible viewing angles and amenities.

You need to offer me something I can’t get elsewhere to get me to come to the game.

I’m a season ticket holder for the Titans, but there are many games where I don’t want to corral my kids, get them in the car, drive downtown, park, walk to the stadium, and sit there to watch a game in person when I could be at home watching on television and flipping back and forth to RedZone to make sure I don’t miss anything.

The simple truth is this: watching sports on television, especially football, is often a better experience on television than it is in person.

That’s a real challenge for all live sports going forward.

Darth writes:

“Should the Jags stick with Minshew or go with Foles once he’s healthy?”

The game this weekend against the Texans is important, I think.

If the Jags win and go to 5-4, how do you replace a guy who has you near the top of the division? I understand that you’re paying Nick Foles $22 million a year, but right now Gardner Minshew has the fifth highest passer rating in football.

Do you really think Foles is going to do better than that?

Regardless of how you finish out 2019, I think you enter 2020 with a clear quarterback battle in place.

The biggest challenge, honestly, is you’ve got $45 million in dead cap space given to Foles over the next two years.

So I think you’re hard pressed to pay a guy $22 million a year to be a back-up.

It’s a luxury to have two good quarterbacks, but it’s also a challenge when the salaries are this out of whack.

Dolly writes:

“What is stopping people from saying they identify as female to get lower car insurance and life insurance rates?”

Has this ever been litigated?

It’s actually a fascinating question.

I need to see a case like this play out.

Shane writes:

“Why are officials not required to stand in front of the media and answer questions after a game? Players answer to their performance, why not officials? Shouldn’t they have to explain blown calls the way players explain mistakes?”

Officials should 100% have to address the media.

But the more important issue here is: how do we get better officials? Right now we’re pretty confident, for instance, that in pro and college sports the best athletes are playing in the games.

How do we know this?

We have a massive foundation in youth sports. The base of our sports pyramid is youth sports. Everyone starts out playing youth sports and as kids age the number of them playing diminishes until we reach the absolute best, the apex point of the pyramid.

We’re confident these remaining players are the best because we’ve tested them against the masses and they’ve triumphed.

But are we confident we have the best possible officials calling these games featuring these best players?

I doubt it, simply because there aren’t that many people who ever officiate a game.

What if you started paying officials, for instance, a million dollars each a year? Wouldn’t the overall quality of officiating, and the number of people interested in officiating, be likely to increase if the salaries did?

I think there are a ton of people out there right now who wouldn’t become officials because it doesn’t pay enough for them to quit their existing jobs.

But what if it did?

I think the overall quality of officiating would increase substantially.

We need to expand the pool of available officials in order to increase the overall quality of officiating.

The challenge here, clearly, is officials have to work their way up. So you’d need for pro leagues to help pay higher salaries to, for instance, high school football officials, then higher salaries to college officials, and on up the line until the best officials matriculate at the top leagues.

That would take a decade or more to happen.

But I think it would make a ton of sense.

Keith writes:

“When is the appropriate time to start Christmas decorations?”

The day after Thanksgiving.

Having said that, I was at Costco a couple of weeks ago and I saw the Christmas decorations already up. And I was like, “Why in the world are the Christmas decorations already up?!”

Then do you know what I did?

I bought a huge reindeer to put in our front yard.

On October 12th!

So I’m a big part of the problem.

I say I don’t want to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving and then buy a Christmas decoration in early October, while it’s still 95 degrees outside in Nashville.

The reason Christmas starts so early is pretty simple — there’s a market for Christmas to start super early.

Thanks for reading the mailbag.

Hope all of you guys had great Halloweens and have good weekends.

Go play our college football pick’em and try and win $10k of my money this week.

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