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. I hope you all lose.

Okay, let’s dive into the mailbag:

“The most common question I got this week was, and I’m distilling it here, what’s the long range impact to LeBron and the NBA over this China mess?”

I talked about the LeBron issue on Fox News with Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

To me, and I probably need to write an entire article on this, this represents the end of the NBA’s woke era. You simply can’t be politically outspoken on transgender bathroom laws in American states and cities while you’re bending the knee to China, which has infinitely worse human rights abuses than anything that exists here.

The NBA left itself open to this exact situation by becoming a political organization in America and I think it’s a failure of Adam Silver’s leadership that he didn’t realize this might happen.

Again, I don’t have a problem with a capitalistic organization working to maximize its revenue. That’s why I’ve always said I’d sell Outkick products to communists around the world. But there’s a big difference between taking money from communists and taking money from communists and endorsing their world view. To me, the NBA has done the latter.

I also think this may herald the death knell for woke sports media in general as well. Have you noticed how silent the usual woke media suspects have been about this story? They’ve completely ignored the NBA and LeBron’s hypocrisy here.

It’s wild.

They aren’t even attempting to defend LeBron or the NBA, they’re just shutting up.

In the wake of the China mess, I don’t see how, for instance, an NBA team can win the title and the media can make their decision not to visit the White House a big deal after what happened with China. In fact, I think the immediate question that has to be asked of any coach or player who makes this decision is, “So can I assume you’d refuse to play basketball in China as well?”

As for LeBron, his attempt to become Muhammad Ali died here.

He’s effectively taken a step further than Michael Jordan ever took by saying, “Communists buy sneakers too.”

Furthermore, I’m also fascinated by reports that LeBron and other players wanted Daryl Morey suspended for sharing his political belief here. Are they all really so dense that they don’t realize the NBA has allowed them to scream their political opinions to the high heavens with no consequences and now they are demanding a penalty because a general manager endorsed democracy?

I really think they’re that dense.

The biggest issue I had with woke sports in general was the presumption that athletes were politically sophisticated. Most, put quite simply, aren’t that educated when it comes to complex political issues. They engaged in politics because it plays well on left wing social media sites like Twitter, but their actual opinions have been shown to be astonishingly naive and lacking in basic comprehension.

In that, sadly, they reflect the average American, but it’s still jarring that many in the woke sports media wanted to use them as paragons of political activism.

I would bet a lot of money that LeBron couldn’t pass a high school civics test on basic American government. (To be fair, I’m not sure Donald Trump could pass this test either).

Finally, I’d love to know what Daryl Morey was thinking when he sent his Tweet. Purely from a business perspective, even though I agree with his perspective, I think he made a crazy decision. What in the world was he thinking here? Was he drunk? Did he simply not realize the consequences of his action?

I’d love to hear what he was thinking.

Mind you, I’m not defending China’s response here, but China’s response was certainly in the realm of possibility once he decided to send this Tweet while on a goodwill tour in Asia.

For a guy who works in analytics the risk/reward here was incredibly slanted on the risk side. What’s the absolute best case scenario here? Most people don’t notice the Tweet and a few people think more favorably of Morey who do notice it. That’s it. It’s not like Morey is such a big name that his Tweet is going to somehow alter the support level for protesters in Hong Kong.

So what were his motivations here?

I do, however, find the fact that Adrian Wojnarowski lost his show in China simply for liking the Tweet to be a massively undercovered aspect of this story.

And that’s why I think, as I said above on Tucker Carlson, the biggest story here is China’s attempt to require American companies to abide by Chinese values. That’s a seismic story here that I think many are missing. China has moved from requiring American companies to comply with Chinese laws and customs inside their country to, for instance, show a move to attempting to require American companies to comply with Chinese laws and customs outside the borders of the country, even, as was the case here, in America.

That’s a monumentally big shift that deserves serious analysis and contemplation.

James writes:

“There were at least two questionable decisions in Georgia’s loss to South Carolina made by Kirby Smart. The first was not attempting to kick the long field goal in regulation with 8 seconds left on the clock. Smart elected to run another play which resulted in a five yard penalty taking them out of field goal range. The second call was a timeout called by Georgia in the second overtime period when South Carolina was on offense and in disarray, it appeared the Gamecocks were about to receive a delay of game penalty, but Georgia called a timeout.

If you add these questionable, in game decisions to the fake punt against Alabama last year, do you think we are seeing a trend?”
I understand Georgia fans want to panic after the loss to South Carolina, but this was why I thought the overtime loss to Alabama in the national title game two years ago was so crushing. Alabama and Clemson have convinced us that playing for national championships in college football is common.
The reality is, it isn’t.
Getting to a national title game is really, really hard and most coaches only get one, or maybe two, chances to win a title in their entire careers.
In the immediate aftermath of their lost to Alabama, Georgia fans presumed they’d be back in the title game again soon. I’m not sure that’s the case at all. In fact, even believing that’s true isn’t supported by most of college football’s history.
Right now Kirby Smart, wildly, has a worse starting record than Mark Richt in his first 3.5 years. Richt went 37-9 during this timeframe and Smart is 37-11. This is not meant as an indictment of Kirby Smart — his record is fantastic — just as a sign of how good both men were out of the gate at Georgia.
Richt won two conference titles in his first five years and never won another one, so far Kirby Smart has one conference title in his first three years, just like Richt did, and it remains to be seen how many more he might win.
I think Georgia fans overshot what reasonable expectations were for Kirby Smart at Georgia and that’s why they’ve reacted to such panic over this South Carolina loss. They expected for Kirby to be another Nick Saban and, frankly, it’s unlikely there will be another Nick Saban in our lives as college football fans.
What Saban has done — and what Dabo Swinney has done at Clemson of late — is a statistical aberration.
Most teams don’t contend for titles every year and most teams aren’t going to make the playoffs every year either.
Kirby is a good coach, but the gap between a good and great coach is seismic.
Having said all that, I think the South Carolina loss was a statistical outlier — as I wrote in the Starting 11 on Sunday — and I expect Georgia to win out the rest of the season and play for the SEC title in Atlanta.
But if that doesn’t happen and let’s say Florida loses to Georgia in the Cocktail Party and finishes the year 10-2.
Do you know who else went 10-2 in year four at Georgia?
Mark Richt.
Richt’s problem wasn’t wins and losses, it was winning at the right time. He never got the break that allowed him to play for a national title at Georgia. Kirby got to the national title game already, but lost in incredibly difficult fashion to Alabama.
Will Kirby get back again in the near future? We’ll see.
Joe writes:
“How does John Elway still have his job? He is like 1-5 on finding quarterbacks and it’s not like Peyton Manning was some shot in the dark recruit…HOF QB cant evaluate talent whatsoever.”
I think this just reflects how hard it is in general to find good NFL quarterbacks.
Clearly John Elway knows what’s required to win in the NFL, but even he can’t project who the best quarterbacks will be at the NFL level. (As you mentioned, the risk with Peyton Manning was medical related, not talent related). I doubt this is because Elway is missing some huge clue, it’s because predicting who will succeed as an NFL quarterback is virtually impossible to do.
It seems clear Joe Flacco is pretty much done at quarterback and we don’t know whether Drew Lock has the potential to be the Broncos starter, but no matter who you are, picking winning quarterbacks in the top five of the NFL draft isn’t a sure fire way to win championships either.
Consider this, here are quarterbacks drafted in the top five since 2006:
Vince Young
JaMarcus Russell
Matt Ryan
Mark Sanchez
Matthew Stafford
Sam Bradford
Cam Newton
RGIII
Andrew Luck
Blake Bortles
Marcus Mariota
Jameis Winston
Carson Wentz
Jared Goff
Mitch Trubisky
Sam Darnold
Baker Mayfield
Kyler Murray
I bolded the six guys I consider to be draft hits. (Jared Goff is probably still TBD honestly, but given the fact that the Rams gave him $110 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed money in NFL history, it’s impossible to consider him a bust.)
But can you divine any real story here of who will be successful and who won’t?
There’s no real pattern to follow, which is why success appears to be almost completely random.
Note that none of these guys have won a Super Bowl and only six out of 18 top five picks can be considered successes at this point, for a 33% hit rate, even with top five picks. Granted it’s still early on many of these guys, but it’s worth noting that of all the quarterbacks on this list only Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles, Marcus Mariota and Jared Goff have ever won a playoff game and only Ryan and Cam have played in a Super Bowl, losing both.
Even teams that appear to have good young quarterbacks — the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and the Texans with Deshaun Watson — might well have passed on those quarterbacks if they’d had the chance to draft Mitch Trubisky instead. In other words, I bet the Chiefs and Texans rated Trubisky higher than Watson and Mahomes. The fact they didn’t draft him is perhaps just a sign they were lucky they didn’t have a top pick.
The point here is pretty straightforward: nobody knows who will be a good NFL quarterback.
Nobody.
No matter how skilled that person may be at playing the quarterback position or at drafting in general.
It’s wild when you consider how important this position is, but it’s really like throwing darts blindfolded.
Even the most successful NFL talent evaluators miss all the time.
Riverboat Ron writes:
“You always talk about how below market the CBS/SEC TV deal is. If/when they renegotiate it upwards, how big will the money impact be for the SEC and how many new juice bars will Butch Jones build at Bama?”
The SEC game of the week right now costs CBS just $55 million a year.
It’s probably the greatest deal for CBS in the history of their sports television department. But it only has four years left after this year.
So what’s it worth on the open market?
You figure that CBS, Fox, and ESPN will all be bidders on the package and there might also be a bid made by NBC and, maybe, a streaming service like DAZN.
I can’t imagine it selling for less than $250 million a year and that might be low if all three bidders are aggressive here. Remember, it’s not just the top pick every week for the SEC, it also includes the SEC title game, which has become a default playoff game, and is probably worth $80 million on TV by itself.
My bet would be this package goes for $300 million a year or more.
At $300 million a year just for the CBS package, you’re talking about every SEC school netting $20 million+ just for this CBS television package by itself.
Regardless of what happens, the decision of CBS not to extend the SEC deal by twenty years when Texas A&M and Mizzou were added, as ESPN did, will likely go down as a disastrous decision on their part.
Leif writes:
“Have we reached peak streaming and will the USA have any shared TV culture that isn’t sports? It seems every media company has a service with their own original content. We as a nation no longer have that watercolor moment about what was watched last night.”
Well, sports and news will always be a shared culture.
So people won’t stop talking about both of these things.
But I think it’s important to note that the fifty year period from the end of World War II to the early 1990’s, as TV homogenized American culture, was a pretty big anomaly on the larger history of American life.
For most of American history our shared popular culture was our history as a country, the Bible and Shakespeare plays.
What would someone in Omaha, Nebraska have had in common with someone in New York City or Los Angeles in 1905?
Not very much from a lifestyle perspective and certainly not very much from a daily media consumption perspective.
I wrote about this quite a bit in my most recent book, but really we’re returning to a niche era of media, which is actually the way most of our culture has been throughout American history.
The idea that everyone would watch four or five television stations across the nation and that every show would appeal to everyone equally is the outlier, not our present day culture.
Having said that, as we become more niche in our individual interests I do think there’s a human connection that desires to experience stories live with others and then talk about them together. I don’t think that’s fading away.
But you’re correct, our TV viewing will become increasingly niche. That’s why I argued that “Game of Thrones” might be the last truly episodic TV viewing experience, where everyone watches it live each week and then reacts to it, in American history. With the way Netflix releases entire seasons at once now it’s not as if we all experience, for instance, “Stranger Things 3” together.
We all watch most drama shows in our own particular viewing windows in our own particular way and I think that will continue to become the case going forward.
Chim writes:
“Should the NFL review the rule book and eliminate rules that have no bearing on a game? Illegal motion, illegal formation, etc?”
Yes, I’d remove rules like these which aren’t particularly useful.
For instance, should it really be a penalty if a wideout isn’t lined up exactly on the line of scrimmage? If you’re a wide receiver isn’t everyone pretty convinced you’re going out in the pass routes?
I think these kinds of penalties should just be wiped clean.
Zaly:
“If your most athletic son had the chance to play any of the top 4 professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) from age 21-29, as a fan and father, which would you prefer he play based on earning potential, safety, and excitement?”
I don’t even think this is a tough call: baseball.
You can play baseball for a decade and be completely healthy when you finish. The salaries are also the highest of any pro sports league when you factor in the duration of the career.
Thanks for reading the mailbag.
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