All That and a Bag of Mail

Rejoice, it’s Friday!
And it’s only 15 days until college football returns!
I’ll be doing a book signing from 10:30 to 12:20 today at Rosemary Beach’s The Hidden Lantern bookstore. So if you are on the Gulf Coast, swing by.
Without further ado, here we go with the mailbag questions this week.
Louis writes:
“I am a part of a group text of guys from college who enjoy talking about sports and will often toss out hypothetical questions for the group to debate. The question this week was, “Who are the top 5 most famous sports media personalities in the world?” This opened up a debate because while all of us are between 27 and 32ish, we have our answers, but have to consider what older and younger generations would consider. Who would we include vs who would our dads include? Then we have to consider different ranges of media personalities. What audience provides the most publicity? Would the top 5 consist of people who have excelled on television as a commentator for many years? Would it be someone who has created their own social media presence and been a writer/brand across different media outlets? Is it people who only do their own national radio shows? There was never a consensus among the group, but I am curious to see what you think. Who would you include as the top 5 most famous sports media personalities of all time?”
I can’t answer it for the world because I’m not global enough in my sporting knowledge. For instance, there is probably someone that every single person who is a fan of cricket knows. And that person would clearly be top five in the world because of the size of the cricket fan base world wide, particularly in India.
The same might be true of a Chinese sportscaster simply because of the population of China.
Add in the fact that the global soccer marketplace is so huge and you wouldn’t have anyone, I don’t believe, from American sports who would be in the top five.
So I think you have to toss the world out from the get-go and just limit the debate to American sports media personalities.
Before I give you my five my thinking here is that you either have to do football or the Olympics — the two most massive sports audiences on TV — or you have to be a super famous former athlete who is now highly involved in calling games of his former sport.
With that background explanation then I believe the five most famous American sports media personalities, in no particular order, of all time would be: Howard Cosell, Charles Barkley, John Madden, Al Michaels, and Bob Costas. (If you exclude athletes or former coaches from the list then I’d bump up Jim Nantz and Joe Buck to the list).
My current top five most famous US media, again in no particular order, would be: Charles Barkley, John Madden, Al Michaels, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo. (I have Romo in above Troy Aikman because Romo’s playing career is more recent and I’ve still got Madden counting because he’s still alive and because the Madden video game is so damn popular).
I gave Barkley the edge over Tony Romo in my top five all time list because Romo’s only been calling games for a couple of years. But football is so much more popular than basketball and Romo’s career ended so recently that I think he will pass Barkley soon.
I don’t think you could pick anyone who other than guys who call games because the audiences for radio or daily sports TV shows are just so much smaller than the audiences for people who call games. I mean, put it this way, 100 million people watch the Super Bowl. How many of those people know who Tony Romo is? Way more than know who Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are, the two guys who have the most watched daily TV show in the country.
Sports talk radio is very popular, but not TV audience popular. Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick are the most famous national radio show hosts in the country and both guys, to a large degree, helped build their audience via television.
And neither of those guys are as big as TV shows would be.
So I feel pretty good about my list.

Neil writes:

“I’m from a small state that almost always votes Republican and have been a casual hunter all my life. I grew up attending gun shows with my Dad and even worked for GOP politicians in several Midwest states. I believe in the 2nd amendment and get frustrated when the left talks about guns because they often sound ignorant and simply don’t understand what hunting, trap shooting, and firearms in general mean to some people.
All that being said, I think I’m like most Americans that are sick and tired of these mass shootings and the inability of congress to pass anything meaningful to stop them from happening.
I really like this clip of President Obama talking about gun control and I think a lot of what he says here makes sense.

I know there’s no easy answer and I’m probably the 984th person to ask, but what do you think can actually be done to stop these mass shootings from happening? If you had total control of the government tomorrow, what legislation would you pass to stop these horrific events from happening?”
First, I think we need to contextualize how rare mass shootings are.
Over the last decade less than 100 people, on average, die every year from mass shootings in the United States. Let’s round it up and say that 100 is the average number over the past decade. That’s an average of .27 people a day dying from mass shootings.
Now these mass shootings are undoubtedly a “bad” thing, but despite our fears of them, they aren’t statistically common at all. The way the media covers these deaths makes them seem far more common than it is, but from a statistical perspective you and I are not in danger of being victims here.
Could it happen?
Sure, lots of bad things could happen to any of us or the people we love, but the chances are very, very remote.
How remote?
This stat will probably blow your mind — over twice as many people are hit and killed by trains every year as are killed by mass shooters.
Again, let me repeat that stat, trains kill over twice as many people as mass shooters in the United States each year.
What’s more, mass shooter deaths, while producing a huge amount of media coverage, represent just a tiny fraction of the gun deaths that occur every year in this country. In fact, 99.7% of all shooting deaths aren’t mass shooting deaths. So when we talk about addressing mass shootings in this country, we’re focusing on a tiny, tiny percentage of gun deaths. (This is similar to my criticism of the black lives matter movement. Police shootings represent a tiny percentage of gun deaths in this country too. And shootings of black people by police represent just 25% of all police shootings. So even if you are deciding to focus on police shootings, why would you eliminate the 75% of white, Asian, and Hispanic people who are shot and killed by police to focus only on the 25% who are black if your goal was to address police shootings? Shouldn’t you be trying to eliminate as many police shootings as possible? And if black lives matter truly matter to you in a huge way, why are you not actively combatting the vast majority of black deaths, which occur at the hands of other black people in this country? I’m not big on addressing tiny problems, which are typically created more for political show than legitimate impact, when there are huge issues that are being overlooked in favor of discussing a relatively small problem. That’s because it’s typically easier to make a bigger impact by taking on a bigger issue than it is by using your time to address a smaller problem).
So what’s the big problem here?
It’s not mass shootings because even if you eliminated all of them 99.7% of all gun deaths would still be occurring.
The problem isn’t mass shootings, it’s gun deaths. If you fix gun deaths, you’re likely to also be fixing mass shootings, which are a small subset of the larger gun death problem in this country.
Guns account for roughly 33,000 deaths a year in the United States. (Nearly two thirds of these gun deaths are suicides and around 12,000 of them are homicides).
I know Neil deGrasse Tyson was ripped for his Tweet contextualizing the threat of mass shootings in this country, but context matters a great deal in these stories. We need to ensure our emotional response to a fear, which seems more real than it is, doesn’t distort our logical response to a problem I think everyone would like to solve.

Tyson later apologized for this Tweet, but any logical person needs to understand that mass shootings are incredibly rare and they represent a tiny portion of shooting deaths that occur in this country every year.

It makes far more sense to focus on suicide prevention, for instance, than it does mass shooting prevention if your goal is to save American lives. That’s because people are far more likely to use guns to harm themselves than they are to harm others.

So how to we help to ensure there are less gun deaths in this country?

Well, first, we have to end the blame game.

In our modern social media era a bad event happens and almost immediately everyone rushes to assign blame. We don’t spend much time blaming the criminal himself, we immediately jump beyond the criminal and assign blame to someone who is from a different “tribe” than us. That is, social media immediately rushes to blame a different race, religion, sex, or political party than the “tribe” we belong to.

The result is typically we spend far more time arguing over blame than we do trying to come up with solutions. (With the two most recent shootings, it appears there was a Trump-supporting shooter in El Paso and an Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders inspired shooter in Dayton. The lesson here, to me anyway, is that social media extremism is leading mentally unstable people to take up violent actions more frequently than before. There seems to be a clear trend line of social media growth and mass shooting growth).

The truth of the matter is we are all responsible for gun deaths in our country and I think we all wish, regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or political party that there were fewer of these gun deaths. The question is how do we make that happen?

So the first thing I would do is end the blame game and the second is I’d initiate a national conversation on refusing to name the mass shooters in these stories. We have rape shield laws — which protect the accuser’s identity and which most media agree to follow — why can’t we have national mass shooter shield laws too? That is, why can’t the media — and also many social media users — all agree not to make these shooters famous and refuse to use their names, pictures or identifying details in stories about their crimes?

Don’t share their manifestos, don’t put their pictures and life stories on the news, don’t examine their lives by interviewing all the people who knew them and make them infamous celebrities. Treat them as what they are — social pariahs who don’t deserve to be studied or learned about by anyone. We shouldn’t make others aspire to be like them in any way.

Studies have shown that the reason mass shooters act is because they want the fame. They are performing for other sick people on the Internet and time after time we give them the attention and fame they are seeking. What if we refused to do that? I think the incidences of mass shooting would decline in a substantial way.

Third, we have to enforce the gun laws we already have. Many shooters, such as the Charleston church shooter, are illegally obtaining their firearms to conduct their mass shootings. We can’t focus on new laws when we aren’t adequately enforcing the laws we already have. So we have to enforce those laws that are already on the books.

And if we aren’t able to enforce the laws we actually have already, why does anyone think we’ll be able to enforce new laws that we are passing?

Fourth, we need common sense gun safety measures which are bipartisan in nature. These need to be laws that we know clearly pass constitutional muster and don’t infringe upon our second amendment rights. I’m not an expert on the constitutionality of every potential gun bill that exists in the country so I’m not going to tell you exactly what I do and do not support, but we need to ensure that the laws we’re passing are able to be implemented and are legal. (And for people out there who immediately scream the second amendment, your right to bear arms isn’t unlimited. The first amendment isn’t absolute and neither is the second amendment.)

Finally, we have to keep in mind that no matter what laws we put in place there are already hundreds of millions of guns in the United States. Even if we put a newly restrictive policy in place for the purchase of guns, there will be a thriving marketplace for guns, being bought or stolen outside the law, for the next hundred years.

Don’t believe me? Pretend we had to remove an entire class of something that many people have that is relatively benign in nature. For instance, what if we decided tomorrow that we needed to remove all push lawnmowers (or riding lawnmowers, the type of lawnmower doesn’t matter) in the United States? Can you imagine how long it would take to do this and how ineffective it would be?

Now, breathe easy gun people, I’m not saying the government should take away your guns, I’m just pointing out that even if the government wanted to do it, removing guns would be nearly impossible. Still doubt me? How well has the government done keeping drugs out of our country? Cocaine is cheaper now on the streets per kilo than it was when we started the war on drugs.

So I think the idea that changing the laws will drastically change the number of deaths in this country is probably a pipe dream. Criminals already ignore the law when it comes to guns, what makes you think that will change with new laws in a country already filled to the brim with guns?
I’m skeptical there would be much of a change unless we could actually implement these laws in such a way to keep criminals (and the mentally ill) from getting their hands on them in the first place.
That’s why the best way to combat mass shootings, in my opinion, is to stop sharing the names of all mass shooters. Don’t make them famous and much of the drive to commit mass shootings disappears.
Travis writes:

“You’ve had several write ups about the changing landscapes of sports on TV due to cord cutting and what not. (Editor’s note, here are my two most recent pieces which I’d encourage you guys to read. One last week and one this week.)

It seems clear, that the huge money paid to televise live sports (NFL, NBA etc. ) has been subsidized by people who don’t care about sports.  If someone wants cable because they want to watch the Science channel, HGTV or Disney, they surely must also take ESPN as well, even if they don’t want it (my parents for example).  The ability for ESPN to pull money from people who don’t even watch ESPN has allowed them to spend billions on live sports programming (NFL).  In return the NFL has gotten filthy rich along with the players.

With cord cutting, people pretty much only pay for what they want to see, so ESPN can no longer pull monthly fees from people who do not want to watch ESPN (as you’ve written about, Dish CEO says if you want to watch sports you pay for a ticket whether it’s at the stadium or on TV).  This can only mean lower fees payed for TV rights in the future which means lower revenue for the sports franchises (and players).

I see three kinds of people when talking about watching sports

  1.  People who don’t watch sports and will never pay to watch sports
  2. People who watch the home team and may pay ( a little ) to watch when the home team plays (or the casual viewer that will watch if a non-home team  game is on network TV)
  3. People who love the sport and will pay to watch any and all teams play (NFL Sunday ticket which you’ve said only has around 2 mil subscribers)

When #1 people’s money no longer goes to paying for sports and #2 people only pay very little, that doesn’t leave much money for Tom Brady’s salary does it?

 I see drastically lower pay for sports players in the future.  Do you concur or is my logic off? (OTA TV can always sell commercial time, but from the way it sounds, cable fees are a large portion of the revenue for the companies like Disney, Fox, etc. and cord cutters who don’t watch sports don’t pay for them).”

The big question, which we don’t know the answer to, is how much has the cable/satellite bundle artificially inflated the value of sports rights?
But what we do know is that every league doesn’t have an equal exposure to the collapse of the cable and satellite bundle.
Let’s consider the different risk exposures, for instance, with the NFL and the NBA.
The NFL’s games all air on “free” television — NBC, CBS, or Fox — with the exception of Monday Night Football, which airs on ESPN, and the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is sold by DirecTV. This means the vast majority of the NFL’s revenue isn’t reliant on cable or satellite bundles.
Right now ESPN pays around $2 billion a year for Monday Night Football and rights to NFL highlights for its programming. Even if ESPN walks away from Monday Night Football do you think the network can exist without NFL highlights?
That seems doubtful.
So even if ESPN didn’t pony up for Monday Night Football, they’d still have to pay the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars for highlights. It’s not like they can just quit the league completely. Could the NFL find another partner for Monday Night Football’s revenue? I think so.
So I think regardless of what happens with the cable and satellite bundle the NFL, which produces audiences unlike anyone else in all of TV right now, is pretty safe. Even if ESPN and AT&T’s NFL Sunday Ticket contracts end and the league isn’t able to replace those deals at the same rate, the NFL can make up that money by selling their other products elsewhere for more money. (CBS, NBC, and Fox will be paying more money for their existing TV packages in the new NFL deal to be hammered out in the near future).
But what about, say, the NBA? Virtually every dollar the NBA makes is subsidized by cable and satellite bundles. TNT and ESPN pay the league over a billion dollars each, with much of that money coming from cable and satellite subscribers who will never consume the league’s content.
Aside from the NBA Finals on ABC and some additional playoff games and regular season contests that air on ABC, the vast, vast majority of telecasts the NBA puts out for viewers are on cable. So the NBA is probably the most subsidized pro sports league when it comes to the cable and satellite bundle.
This means that unlike the NFL, which is pretty cushioned when it comes to the collapse of the cable and satellite bundle because its games already air on “free” TV, the NBA would be potentially crushed by this collapse. (The NBA’s safety net is that right now ESPN and TNT bear the risk of the collapsing cable and satellite bundle because the league locked in a long term rights deal which puts all the near term risk on the networks and none on the league.)
But at some point the NBA will have to re-enter the market and if cable and satellite channels like TNT and ESPN are losing money on their deals, there’s no way they’d be able to pay the same amounts in the future. This means the long range risk of the cable and satellite bundle collapsing is on the NBA.
Plus, remember, much of the local revenues for individual NBA teams come from regional sports networks, which provide a huge portion of the team’s local TV revenue. These channels — and their team deals — are under even more cordcutting pressure than the national cable channels. The NFL has no real exposure in the regional cable and satellite TV sports marketplace, the NBA has a ton here as well.
Now the NBA is probably selling ownership on the idea that global revenues can replace their United States losses down the road, but if I had the money to be buying a franchise right now, I don’t think I’d buy an NBA team.
Regardless, it’s very clear that the NFL has the least exposure to the cable and satellite bundle’s collapse here and the NBA has the most. In theory this would make NFL player contracts, revenue, and franchise values safer and the NBA’s riskier.
The biggest point, however, is that all aspects of the sports media content ecosystem won’t be impacted equally by the collapse of the cable and satellite bundles over the next five to ten years, some leagues, players, and owners have far more exposure to risk than others.
Hope you guys have fantastic weekends and thanks for reading Outkick.
I’m headed off to my booksigning down here at Rosemary Beach.
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