College Football writer Clay Travis has been taking some heat lately from Alabama fans for two articles that he posted on his Fanhouse site. I, for one don’t neccesarily agree with his opinions, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have some vaild points or that he is an idiot. In both the articles my immediate disagreement was quilcky tempered by reading the comments. Why is it when someone disagrees with you that they are immediatley branded a fool or uninformed? This is probably a general indictment of our society overall, but the example of these two articles makes a great case on the small scale for the overall, larger problem.

In Clay’s typical format I’ll lay out my opinions. Feel free to disagree, that’s your right, just keep nmae calling out of this.

1. The Heisman is a completely subjective award.

There are 85 scholarshipped players on 120 FBS teams. That’s 10,200 football players that could be considered for this award. There is absolutely no way that you will ever get a concensus agreement on the best 102 (1%), 51 (0.5%), 25 (0.25%),  or 5(0.05)% players in that group, much less the absolute best individual 1(0.01%) out of that pool. There is always going to be a differance of opinion about who the winner is. Every year. Without question.

I’ve never been a fan of tha award becasue I believe it to be assanine to attempt the task as described above. Furthermore, I’m of the belief that to award the Heisman helps to undermine the team concept that is neccesary to have one of the best teams in college football. I’ve taken it as a point of pride that Alabama has never had a winner, unitl this seasom, and as a testament to the fact that the program stresses team over the individual.

You could objectively make arguments for all five of the candidates to have won this year’s award. Plus a few others beside.  You can name stats  and facts for all of them. Yes, Anthony Dixon had more yards-per-game than Ingram, and McCluster had more yards-per-carry. Gerhart had more total yards and yes, it’s true that the defenses he faced were not as strong as the ones in the SEC schedule, but really, what’s the point of going on about it. Ingram won. You can make as many arguments for his win than you can against it. I’m not going to dwell into how the voting method would change the outcome; I believe that the fact remains; there will be disappointment in the winner every year because of the nature of the award. I’m happy for Ingram and our University. If you happen to disagree, you’re not a moron.

2. It is possible that the decision to cancel classes was not a wise one.

I’ve lived in Alabama for the majority of my life. I have also lived elsewhere and traveled enough to know what Alabama does and does not have. Since I have chosen to make my career here and raise my family here, I believe that it is a great place. Alabama is a state that is filled with proud, hard working people that are among the friendliest you will find anywhere. Is it without problems? Absolutely not. Is it worse (or better) than anywhere else? That, folks is another question that is even more subjective than the problem of the best College Football player in the nation.

In my opinion, one of Alabama’s biggest, if not the biggest problem, is the state of our educational system. I would dare say that it all stems from a belief that education just isn’t that important. The statistics are there to validate the arguement. We need to improve our educational system from the ground up. We will never reach our potential as a state until we do that. Does that mean I hate Alabama? Obviously not.

Therefore, is it possible that canceling classes in light of a football game could send the wrong message? Absolutely. Was Clay wrong for pointing that out? I don’t think so. Is he an idiot for writing about that opinion? Absolutely not.

Ultimately, I believe that the decision will not have a negative impact on the upcoming semester or the school itself. It certainly does nothing to devalue an Alabama  or other SEC education, in my opinion. Would it have been so bad to let individual teachers make the decision as to whether to cancel class with the administration mandating that there be no reprocussions beyond making up work to those who miss class to attend the game? Let’s face it, if you were a student and you were going to the game, you were going to miss regardless.

Once again, Clay had an opinion that had some merit. Why beat him up over it.

3. Clay Travis writes for a national market media outlet.

Media outlets pay their writers for their content – at least the good ones do. They do that because advertisers will pay them to be seen on their sites. The more traffic on the site, the more the Outlet can charge for their ad space and the more Advertisers are willing to pay for the exposure. It’s capitalism and it works.

Another sad function of our society is that controversy tends to draw attention. “Ingram deserves the Heisman” or “Alabama made a great move by canceling classes” might invite you to read, but opinions that are certain to be counter to yours will bring you running and email ten people to click and see the audacity of Clay Travis. Not to mention, the traffic brought by detractors of the program; which all high profile teams have. If these articles were about Akron, or even Stanford would that many people be incensed? Probably not.

In short, Clay Travis writes for a national site and has to love the traffic brought by articles like this. I suppose it’s possible that the articles were written specifically to generate traffic, but I’ll get into that later.

4. Clay Travis is not a traditional print media journalist.

Clay does not report facts without bias. You know when you read the sports page and get a recap of the game. That’s reporting and that’s not what Clay does. Hurt’s columns in the Tuscaloosa News, Scarbinsky and Melick’s column in the Birmingham News, and Finebaum’s column in the Mobile Press Register. Those are all opinion pieces. While they list some facts, they are more annoucements of opinion. Most of the time they are more informed opinions than the general public has, but not always. Those opinion peices are more in line with what Clay does. He’s paid to write about his opinion. Sweet deal, huh?

Attempting to make fun of Clay Travis or any other writer that hocks an opinion simply because it’s an opinion is ridiculous.

5. Clay Travis is an unabashed Tennessee Volunteer fan.

Clay makes no bones about this. Tennessee is a chief rival of the University of Alabama. I’m sure you know Tennessee fans. Do they gush on about how wonderful Alabama is all the time? Do you not like them becasue they don’t?

I’d be a little worried if he did gush about Alabama.

As fans we realize that we have no rational reasons to pull for our teams other than that they are our teams (at least we’re supposed to). There’s nothing wrong with that.

We’ve estabished that Clay loves Tennessee and therefore wouldn’t be scared to take a shot at Alabama, that he writes his opinion, he writes with the expectaion that his writing will be read, preferably by as many people as possible, and that he has written his opinion on two recent subjects with which he has at least some valid opinion.

6. There is a problem with blog commenting in general.

This is where I get on the soapbox big time: without quoting research I hold it true that the massive amount of information available to us and the almost total anoynimity with which we can respond to someone has created a cloud of angst and vitriol. We can sit down in front of the computer, read a story in a few moments, and then agree or disagree, we can spout off about what we’ve just read and continue on with our day. Instead of talking to oursleves or those near us, we now have a huge audience that can almost instantly know what our opinion or reaction. Is this good or bad? I’m not sure. I think maybe is has elements of both.

On the negative side, quick responses are rarley well thought out; you’re giving your snap judgement. Those are filled with passion and not much reasoning. You certainly can’t take time to read other opinions or facts before you form your own idea and bang it out on the keyboard. If this were the way we worked in everyday life then we wouldn’t funtion very well. There’d probably be many more hurt feelings and violence.

Also on the negative side is that the process repeated over and over reinforces the idea that our opinions have more value than they do.

If there is a positive is that it allows some venting in a non-violent way.

Next time you type out a comment to a post, pretend that an aquaintance has just made the statement you are respodning to in your presence. Would you say in reply what you are about to type?

7. I know Clay Travis.

I don’t really know him, but I have met him in person. Prior to that meeting we had corresponded via email for close to three years. Clay has read some of my writing and we’ve discussed some other things. I have always found him to be sincere, courteous, and extremely intelligent. I’ll admit that I’ve never read one of his books; I’m a voracious reader and I plan to read his books, I just don’t buy very many books and his three have not hit the local public library yet.

I also have disagreed quite often with him. That doesn’t mean that I think he’s a fool, it just means that I have a differing opinion than him on some subjects. That makes him exactly like every single other person that I know.

I do think that he can be a little sensationalistic in order to make the piece more controversial and that he takes a few extra jabs on certain topics when he doesn’t have to (like Alabama football). I also believe that he has the utmost integrity and in argument is not unreasonable.

Did he pick these topics to gig Alabama fans? I don’t believe so, but I’m sure when they came up he didn’t let them pass either.

The ironic thing to me about the current form of media and news is that the user has more choices than he ever has. We can find out all we want with minimal effort and have the freedom to pick and choose what we read. Why then, are people so attracted to articles and stories that they know will irritate them? There are sites out there that are always negative toward Alabama. One in particular makes bashing Alabama one of its top priorities. Why on earth would I add hits to their counter?

Maybe it’s true that we are getting more information and less relationships. I might have tremendous ideas but If I don’t have the skills to convey them in a meaningful way that will give people reason to contemplate them, what’s the point?

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