Thank You, Outkick. – Sincerely, JMart

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

Well, not really, but I’m guilty of hyperbole from time to time. I’m also guilty of using far too many words, so I apologize in advance for turning into Tolstoy (in quantity) this early on a Friday morning.

This piece isn’t one I necessarily saw myself writing one year ago, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s one I began to see six months back. However, I didn’t know the full context of what it might entail. Before you continue, I have to tell you something, and it’s something my former boss may not like very much.

Clay Travis isn’t the boogeyman. He may be two people, at least there’s a “character” behind the man, as the volume does get turned up when the lights are on, but there’s also a pretty decent human being behind that Twitter account you either love or love to hate.

When I graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2013, I had already been hired by a major radio station in Nashville, but I was brought onto a stacked cruise ship. Every show was rolling, nobody was clamoring to get out of their gigs, and thus I at best became the sixth man on the team over the next few years. That’s AT BEST, as there were other talented folks that played bench games with me as the starters did their thing on the court.

Through the decision to sit and wait, I did make one fairly bold choice. I approached Clay and mentioned I had a passion for writing about pop culture, had a history of writing about pro wrestling, and based on his own interests, thought I might be able to add something to his website. Keep in mind, this was the first one-on-one conversation I’d ever had with him, outside of general pleasantries that were as much blow off as they were anything else.

He was busy and I was nobody.

The first words Clay ever said in my direction came one weekday afternoon when I filled in on the 3HL radio program on 104.5 The Zone as producer, and accidentally fired a commercial over his live read. Let’s just say he murdered me on air, and I was barely off my training wheels at that point in operating the board for an important show. I wasn’t angry with him, but was disappointed in myself. It created a bit of intimidation and reticence for a short time thereafter.

Much to my surprise and excitement, he was all for my writing idea. I approached him on a Saturday morning while he was in to record his syndicated show, which at the time aired on NBC Sports Radio. So, I set off to write my first television article that would be read by more than a dozen Tumblr followers (if I’m being generous) that somehow found my musings on Suits, Person of Interest, or The Dark Knight.

I decided to write a series on my top ten dramas of all-time, which was limited by what I’d seen. Number ten was Chuck, and as I have looked back on it since, it was the dumbest thing I have ever written. I love that show, but I was trying to be different rather than accurate and true to form. However, Clay was impressed with it, and immediately offered me a position writing for him. And we were off.

While I continued waiting for a break on radio that was still two years away, I plugged away at Outkick writing about TV and taking whatever table scraps were offered to me in media. I did weekend shows, my weekly pro wrestling show with two of the greatest dudes in the world, filled in on any show that needed me, and also did high school sports play by play in Kentucky and Tennessee. I still didn’t feel I had a home, but Clay paid me to have an opinion, and it meant the world to me.

Because he put that faith in me, I went to the networks and sold myself. Because of his site’s reach and perhaps the right string of words from me, all of a sudden I had the attention of HBO, AMC, FX, Showtime, Hulu, ESPN, ABC, and Fox, who gave me media accounts and screener access. Most recently, Netflix did the same for me, which was greatly appreciated, as were all the others. Then, movie studios took notice as I reached out and I was added to their screening lists as well. Remember, I was NOBODY in this industry, but somehow things worked out.

A few weeks back, the annual ATX Television Festival took place in Austin, Texas. I wasn’t there. But, I covered it in 2016 and 2017 for Outkick, fully credentialed and accepted by my colleagues. It never occurred to me that I was ever in their stratosphere, but I kept my head down and just kept trying to churn out good content. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it these past four years or so. It’s been a joy to provide it, and my only goal, regardless of your agreement or disagreement with my thoughts, was not to waste your time.

Flash forward to the summer of 2016, just a few months after I had prayed for clarity about my future. Nothing had broken in radio or media, I was having issues getting paid for work I’d already done, and I was despondent. I began to feel as if it might just not be in the cards for me, and knew others in the industry that were more talented than me that also couldn’t find work. We can’t all be the point guard for the Lakers, even those with the ability to do it.

I was a dormant Christian, if I’m being kind to myself. My language was atrocious, I was consumed with “me” and how important I was and how famous I wanted to be and how many Twitter followers I could attract with every musing. I was on the wrong path. My prayers were always of the stock variety. In order, it was family, friends, country and leaders, those protecting us at home and abroad, and those in need. It became routine, but lost all its impact. I was baptized in high school in 1995, but since that point I had lived only for Jason, certainly not for Christ, and had done so badly. That would not truly begin to change until the fall of 2017.

Out of the blue, I received a phone call from Clay Travis sometime in July of 2016 that brought me the opportunity I never saw coming. Fox Sports Radio had made him the right offer, and he felt like now was the time to get back to terrestrial radio. I thought that was great for his family and his audience, knowing what he brought to the table. And then, the kicker. “What do you think about the idea of coming along and doing this with me?”

I tried to stay calm, although everything inside me was about to explode. Again, I had been waiting for over three years for any kind of legitimate break, and here it was. Folks, I never even had to interview for this job. I never applied for it. I never even knew it was open until it was mine. Clay made it happen, despite never really working with me in radio, and we began on air in September of that year. This was a blessing. To call this lucky and rare would be a massive understatement. I found the needle in the haystack.

From that first conversation, Clay knew who I was and what I wanted. He told me point blank his mission was to get me my own radio show, possibly on Fox, but he knew full well I was a performer and not a producer. He told me his plan was to include me on air as almost, but not quite a co-host. He would be using my voice as much as my mind, and as he rose and the show rose, my profile would do the same, and it would lead me to the side of the broadcasting glass I most desired to inhabit.

Even though my mom didn’t want me to take the job, because she flat out didn’t trust Clay based on things she’d heard him say over the years on radio, I felt there was no choice. I was advised similarly, and after all, I was already writing for him. Why not? Maybe more people would read my stuff, I thought. At worst, it wouldn’t hurt me.

So, now the part Clay isn’t going to like. He’s a good guy. He’s been more loyal to me behind the scenes than I ever could have expected from him. No one in Los Angeles knew my name, but he campaigned hard to make me his regular fill-in on air. It took a little maneuvering to get me the first shot, but by the grace and blessing of God, Scott Shapiro and others at FSR actually thought I was…good at this. They realized Clay was right. I’m not saying it’s true, but the previous sentence is precisely what Shapiro would tell me later about that initial performance.

That was the opening to give me reps on air in front of a big audience. I worked with my new media friend, Geoff Schwartz, and he and I had a great time working together, even though we were hundreds of miles apart. But, without Clay going to bat for me, I’d have never gotten out of single A ball. See, this doesn’t really sound like the guy so many adore loathing does it?

Over the next year and a half, up until today, we’ve done this show our way. A few hiccups along the way, a multitude of equipment failures, and a few low moments, but the numbers have gone up, the audience has been devoted and relentless, and never has Fox suggested anything regarding the content of the program. It’s been Clay’s vision, with a hint of me sprinkled in. It’s also been nothing without the hard work of Danny Garite, Justin Cooper, Eddie Garcia, and Robert Guerra out in Los Angeles.

But, and you can ask any of them, it’s his show. No one else’s. We’d have it no other way.

This past fall, after some ups and downs personally, a wonderful friend suggested I open up my Bible and take it seriously. And so I did. My life changed. Each day, I pray for the Lord’s will in my life, and do my best to remove my fingers from the handlebars of my own existence and simply rest in the center of his purpose. He hasn’t brought me all that I desire yet, but he gives me my daily bread and he has blessed me in ways I never expected. When Outkick began on Fox Sports Radio, I was nearly 370 pounds. As I exit the Outkick universe (for the most part) today, I’m 195 pounds and in the best shape of my life.

Jesus is my source. He’s done everything for me. I thank him for the good, but I’ve learned also to praise him for the harshest of challenges, because they’ve brought me closer to him. So many great things have come my way through my time at Outkick, and once I stopped attempting to decipher them on my own, and instead asked for the wisdom of my Savior, I’ve been able to pray for humility and I’ve asked God to show me how to view the world as he would, operate within it as he would, and allowing him to work through me for his glory. I still fail so miserably, but his grace restores me.

I’m unable at this point to engage in conversations that don’t return to my faith, because it’s the one thing I know I can rely upon, and it’s the one thing I hope everyone else can discover in their own hearts as well. But, everything happens on God’s clock, not ours, and I thank him for that, because we can be and usually are our own worst enemies.

Back to the story, I continued filling in for Clay, working on the show, and trying to do the best job I could as a writer.

In the winter, I lost all passion for writing about pop culture, or even consuming it. I was spending more time in scripture and commentary, and barely even watched anything for nearly two months. I later realized I had become addicted to it, and as a result, it needed to be stripped completely away from me in order to be prioritized correctly when I could be trusted with it again. I lost a little of the drive for sports as well, although it has returned.

Within the past few months, another opportunity presented itself that wasn’t altogether expected, but the timing and the structure of it felt right. I prayed for weeks to be sure it was right and that it wasn’t just me going after something on my own, and I never felt an ounce of pushback. I brought it to Clay, which some would call insane, but again, this is someone I trust. He had proven his loyalty to me repeatedly. I didn’t know how he would take it, but after the initial shock, there was a smile on his face.

As I stated earlier, his goal was to get me on air with my own show. He hoped I’d be able to do more than one job, but it wasn’t particularly realistic because of the difficulties of our schedule. And so, when I told him that a major station we both know quite well was interested in me to fill a daily talent vacancy, he was entirely supportive. It was a longer process than expected, but it led to the same conclusion.

Beginning in early July, I’ll be behind the microphone on a daily basis in the manner I always wanted, and also will be doing a tremendous amount of writing and other media for this entity. We’ve had to keep it quiet for nearly a month due to agreements and timing and the usual media rigmarole, but it’s been a celebratory time around the figurative Outkick offices. In fact, I still can’t tell you the specifics, because a few proverbial “i”s and “t”s are left to be handled to make it official. Stay tuned for that information in the coming days, should you be so inclined.

It’s been a time of transition, but it’s also been the moment that dreams were realized and new pathways forged.

As I say goodbye, at least in my role as a writer and executive producer of the radio show, I want to make it clear that I wouldn’t have this chance and very few of you would know my name without the purveyor of this website. Regardless of what you may believe about Clay Travis, he’s been exceedingly good to me. Those hoping to talk to me and get me to say negative things or spill secrets, save your energy. It won’t happen. Plus, there’s no real dirt to be found, at least not any more than exists anywhere else.

If you go back to my first Outkick the Culture podcast from June of 2017, you’ll notice the first 20 minutes is me laying out my story and saying very similar things about Clay. It’s absolutely true that he and I have increasingly differed on opinions and even direction, but it’s always been friendly. We’ve had exactly one verbal disagreement of any note in the entire time I’ve known him. We’ve been a team, and we’ve worked together to put on the show the audience wants.

I told him during our first week on air that his future was not to be Dan Patrick. Clay’s future was to be Howard Stern, but with sports as the Trojan horse. For that to happen, somebody needed to be the beta to his alpha, and I volunteered to play that role. That’s not to say I’ve lied about the things you’ve found funny about me over the past two years, but only to say I’ve leaned into it whenever possible and have at times looked for reasons to put that stuff out there as red meat for him to devour.

What I’ve increasingly discovered over the past nine months is all I believed I wanted was empty in the end, until I woke up to the Christian I wanted to be when I was a teenager. My significance wasn’t in my follower count, my intellect, my wit, or my newfound fitness.

My significance was in my insignificance, and it was that one eureka moment that pushed me away from politics, away from finding reasons to disagree, and instead urged me down a new road. I began seeking to locate common ground amidst any group of people imaginable. My primary goal for the new venture is not to waste the audience’s time, but it’s also to stay true to who I am, a child of God, saved by grace, making mistakes and growing, but not manufacturing vitriol and hatred.

To anyone that has spent time reading my work, I thank you so much for the minutes you’ve given me. To anyone that has listened to me on the radio these past few years, I am so grateful for the hours you’ve offered me out of your busy day. I began in 2014 and later in 2016 as a nobody, and I’m grinning widely as I tell you I’m stepping aside from Outkick in 2018 as a nobody.

My abilities and gifts are just that, as apart from Christ, I could do nothing, but through him, anything is possible. Once I saw my writing, my voice, my diet, my relationships, my family, and this world as blessings bestowed upon me by a loving God, all of them meant more. I didn’t ask for all of what I’ve received, but even undeservingly, he gave each to me anyway.

I still fight pride and envy every day, and I still have to keep myself away from social media in order to live a life free from the worldly distractions that threaten who I’m trying to become. Everyone reading this right now is my brother or sister and my equal in every way. I no longer see my worth in how many likes or retweets I get, how many friends I have, or whether someone’s day turns on my words. That’s such a special feeling, but it requires work. I make so many mistakes and am so very flawed and in need of forgiveness. It’s so easy in media to become self-important.

The words of John Newton ring true and are a place of comfort and solace for me as I stumble and fall and pick myself up, then continue taking the next available step. “I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.”

I am nothing. I am nobody. I have done nothing.

But I’ve been given everything.

That knowledge makes all the difference.

My devotional this year has been Jim Branch’s “The Blue Book.” I highly recommend it to all of you, but a few months back, this passage in particular stood out to me, and it’s as relevant right now as ever. I’d like to share it with you.

After all, it is not your story, or mine, or even theirs for that matter. The story is God’s and something about its quality tells us that. Somehow if the story was only about me or you, it wouldn’t carry the same weight, it wouldn’t have the same impact. It would fall lifeless to the ground and die. So many of my stories have suffered that fate through the years, simply because I didn’t yet understand that the story wasn’t about me, but about God. Stories about him have life, they live on and produce fruit long after their telling. And it is a beautiful thing.

To Clay, thank you. Thank you for being more than I anticipated and for always having my back, regardless of how we played it on air. Thank you for the opportunities over the past four years, for helping me pay the bills writing for you and serving as your producer, and for all the trust you placed in me not to steer the Outkick ship off a cliff when I was at its helm from time to time. Thank you for showing me through your actions and words that what I did had value, and thank you for asking me along on this journey. Whether we agree on everything or not, we both know you’re a rockstar in this industry, often ahead of the curve, and your biggest days are ahead of you.

I’m headed to a hosting gig, will still be writing about culture, sports, wrestling, and everything under the sun elsewhere, and I couldn’t be happier. If I’ve learned anything from my time with Outkick, it’s that if I’m smart, original, funny, and authentic (SOFA), people will see it, and they’ll respond. My life is in the hands of Jesus. I remain convinced of his power, grace, mercy, and righteousness. I trust him to guide and counsel me, and to rebuke me whenever necessary. What I want is entirely irrelevant outside of his will.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be somebody. I just HAD to be somebody. I was destined to be special, you see, because I just WAS. Then I became…well…sort of somebody, maybe, kinda, at least to some people. Or that’s what I tried to tell myself anyway.

But I’ve discovered I’m more than special. I’m nobody. His strength is magnified in our weakness. What an amazing, life-changing blessing that is.

I hope you’ll all stay in touch , and you’ll hear from me on Outkick again, of that I have no doubt. Perhaps my days with FSR aren’t done yet either. Time will tell. If it’s his will, I’ll be there.

For now, this is the last episode of the series. I just laid my keys on the now barren counter, flipped off the light switch, and closed the door. All that’s left are the credits. Thank you for the thoughts, the emails, the messages, the debates, the discussions, the laughs, the challenges, and the love. I had a blast.

By the way, Danny G is going to KILL it as producer of the Outkick radio show. I’ve greatly enjoyed working alongside him, and his knowledge of radio and his ideas to make the show better are flat out money. He will be better at this job than I ever was, and I’m so happy for him to get this opportunity he absolutely deserves. He’s going to get it done and then some. Mark my words.

Goodbye to Outkick Nation…at least in this capacity. It’s been my humble privilege and my joy, and I wish you and yours all the best. God bless. Farewell.

Oh, one more thing…

“I’ll see ya’ in another life, brotha!”

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

Sincerely,

Jason

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