Why I Don’t Hate Clay Travis
By Matt Smith
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"I could hate Clay Travis. But if I hated someone who liked the same things I like, and the same things y’all like, what does that say about me?"
I could hate Clay Travis.
After all, he spent an entire fall claiming that my alma mater, Notre Dame, would be the ninth-best team in the SEC despite going 12-0 (I’d say sixth). However, I’ve always respected Clay for not settling, despite going through seven years of school only to find out that he didn’t like his profession. It’s not easy to put aside a lucrative law career in your late twenties to try your hand at writing.
The name Clay Travis first surfaced on my radar sometime around 2008. I was a graduate student perusing the sports aisle at now-defunct Borders for some reading material. I noticed a book called “Dixieland Delight”, a week-by-week account of Clay’s travels to every SEC campus during the 2006 football season.
Because I was a poor college student at that time, rather than buying the book and supporting Clay’s beard-trimming fund, I simply sat in Borders and read “Dixieland Delight” from cover to cover. There were multiple occasions of audible laughter, including at a reference to a young Mississippi State fan seeing an escalator (or “moving stairs”) for the first time at the campus bookstore.
I emailed Clay after the fact to say that I enjoyed the book, even confessing that I never actually paid for it. He replied back that he understood and simply asked that I recommend the book to friends.
Five years later, Clay has built a growing following around the country, particularly in the South. His website, Outkick the Coverage, has seen significant traffic growth since launching in the summer of 2011. He also co-hosts a radio show, “3HL”, with Brent Dougherty and former NFL safety Blaine Bishop weekday afternoons in Nashville.
Clay recently lambasted the sports blogosphere for their groupthink, as well as how anonymity on the internet through social media and message boards (aka “Twitter muscles”) has made hypocrites of so many. His premise is that “@RollTideRoll79” (not a real account – trust me, I had to try like 30 to find one that wasn’t taken) has no problem calling someone an idiot on Twitter, but if that protective internet wall ever was torn down, he would never have the gall to say that to someone’s face.
In that same article, Clay admitted that he was a fan of ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, despite the picture, albeit a fuzzy one, painted by many bloggers that Rovell isn’t well-liked. Like Rovell, Clay has developed a polarizing image amongst fans, perhaps no more so than in the state of Alabama. This type of perception of someone in sports media generally arises from a combination of arrogance, steadfast opinions, and criticism of your favorite team.
Is Clay cocky? Sure. He’ll tell you that. Was his belief that Arkansas would ever consider re-hiring Bobby Petrino completely ridiculous? Absolutely. Do I sometimes want to punch my radio when he calls my fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fans the dumbest fans in the NFL? You bet.
While we at Southern Pigskin don’t write about the exact same things Clay does, it’s all still woven from the same fibers – the love for a sport and everything that comes with it – including its social and cultural aspects – that make fall Saturdays in the South events rather than just games. Our motto at Southern Pigskin, “Down Here”, says it best.
With Outkick the Coverage, Clay has found a niche that capitalizes on the vices of so many of us “down here”. We love college football, pretty girls and, for many of us, gambling and alcohol. Just click on the link to our homepage above. You’ll see a picture of a cheerleader and advertisements for Bud Light and Pigskin Fantasy U, a fantasy college football website, surrounding links to all of our college football articles. It’s safe to say we know our marketplace.
So does Clay, who writes about all four topics. His best work, however, generally comes from combining elements of each, which shoots straight to our core. Most importantly, his vices are the same as the rest of us.
Like anyone who can earn a law degree from Vanderbilt, Clay is smart. On both the radio and Outkick the Coverage, Clay’s effectiveness comes from his ability to push buttons. Despite being a well-rounded and well-versed sports fan, he isn’t an X’s and O’s expert, However, he doesn’t claim to be one, nor does he try to play one on the internet and radio.
Therefore, rather than breaking down the flaws of A.J. McCarron’s technique, Clay chooses to focus instead on such things as the attractiveness of McCarron’s mother and girlfriend (resulting in McCarron blocking him on Twitter). Instead of breaking down how Bret Bielema’s offense will fare in the SEC, it’s how Bielema met his future wife, 15 years his junior, in Las Vegas.
In fact, that’s pretty much how the name of his website came about. Despite our unhealthy obsession with football, so many of us males living in the South are still able to find wives far more attractive than our looks would suggest we are capable of. Hence, we “outkicked our coverage”, a la football punters whose 60-yard boots often backfire because the coverage team is still 20 yards from the punt returner when he catches the kick. It should be noted that Clay is married to a former Tennessee Titans cheerleader.
The Manti Te’o saga? What is better than a college football star’s love affair with a girl that didn’t exist? Clay penned four articles in three days on Te’o. Johnny Manziel? Clay couldn’t have designed a more perfect personality to fit his writing style. His live drinking games that chide the quirky mannerisms of announcers such as Gary Danielson, Verne Lundquist and Brent Musburger have developed nationwide participation.
Clay also understands how readers can be used as free marketers. The most telling line in Clay’s story is that “the people who hate you will make you the most money.” Why would Clay deem the five dumbest fan bases in sports to be Alabama football, Notre Dame football, Arkansas football, Kentucky basketball and the Pittsburgh Steelers? Has he issued intelligence tests to each fan base in the country?
Of course not. It’s because those five fan bases are some of the largest in all of sports. Many of them will see Clay’s article, get mad, and post a link on their fan message board saying how stupid Clay is. With clicks come more readers, and the site continues to grow.
That’s not to say that Clay is simply being a troll to help himself. Statistics prove his argument. Because there are more Alabama and Notre Dame fans than there are Memphis fans, there naturally are more “stupid” Alabama and Notre Dame fans than “stupid” Memphis fans, even if the average IQ of the fan base is identical.
That message board poster will be back as well. If he really hated Clay, he wouldn’t care about his opinions. By creating an “I hate Clay Travis” thread on a message board, he’s giving Clay exposure and credibility – exactly what Clay, or any other writer, wants.
I could hate Clay Travis. But if I hated someone who liked the same things I like, and the same things y’all like, what does that say about me? He’s just another one of us “down here.”
Now, about that beard…