“Just today,” I said to famous person/legal expert Clay Travis, “you went on Paul’s show and said, ‘If you search for 10 months, you can find something on anybody.’”
“Which is true,” he replied.
“Everyone in America has been searching for ‘something’ on Auburn for 10 months, and nothing substantial has been found,” I continued.
“Oh, it’s been found,” he replied.
“Show it to me, Clay,” I pleaded. “Just tell me what it is you think you know and I’ll concede the championship.”
“Can’t do it,” he replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“Do you believe in God?”
Let’s begin again. Begin the begin. Let’s begin when my buddy @joey__t and I decided to walk from my place over to the J. Clyde for the @edsbs tweetup/cocktail party. When I arrived, I found a great group of guys, including @rickmuscles, @teamspeedkills, @RBRTodd, @twesq and even a lady, @masonmb sitting at the “kid’s table.” The out-of-towners had settled into the table beside us, including @edsbs and @nastinchka. Had a bomb been dropped on Birmingham’s finest bar at night’s end, the internet would have ceased existence. And these were the chill bros (and ladies). We toasted fine beers and made jokes about hypothetical questions to coaches that would never be asked at pressers. I even managed Spencer Hall (@edsbs) to rattle off his own Top Five American Rock Bands (an ongoing bar debate between myself, @joey__t and @GTice4 that evolved into a Twitter “game” of sorts).
His list: 1. Talking Heads 2. Steely Dan 3. REM 4. Metallica and…..?
“What about Foo Fighters, bro?” I asked.
“Yeah. You know what? [expletive] it. The Foo Fighters are number five,” he replied.
The insurgency began and you missed it.
Spencer, Joey and I shared a lot of jokes about Clay’s awareness of being a “troll.” We talked about rock and roll. We talked about movies. It was, truly, a great time.
Somewhere in there, Joey and @rickmuscles rebranded my new job as - “The BROtanical Gardens - Come Chill at The Koi Pond!” (I have doubts it will fly)
And as the hours passed on, a bearded gentleman wearing a polo and flip-flops entered. I barely noticed. I continued the conversation, the laughs. Deadspin came up, and I jokingly asked @nastinchka about Clay’s time as editor there. She pointed to her right and said, “Why don’t you ask him?”
So I turned to @RBRTodd, “Tell me about (famous person/legal expert) Clay Travis as Editor of Deadspin.”
He pointed to his right. As it turned out, the bearded gentleman who had taken a seat at our table was Clay himself. Also new to the table was @ChrisVernonShow. This is where the bombing of the J. Clyde officially ends SEC internet snark.
I realized it was Clay, and introduced myself by simply saying, “Clay, I troll the [expletive] out of you on Twitter. You probably never notice. Tried to write for your site. You ignored me. Loved “Dixieland Delight.”
He continued to elaborate on his time at Deadspin. A power struggle. A difference of opinion. And his eventual departure.
Now, before continuing, I must quantify two VERY important things:
1. I genuinely did love “Dixieland Delight.” I recognized the potential of how bright his star could be when he penned one of the finest, most original books written about football I have ever seen. I approached Jim and Ryan about having Clay on the show (as I did about Chris Vernon after the Coach “O” song), and they declined, ultimately and in short, deciding it was more of a Lance kind of thing. And that relationship worked. I had spoken to Clay on the phone many times before our face-to-face meeting, and he was never anything short of funny and easy to work with. And upon meeting him, I stand by that. Great guy. A terrific sport about my “interrogation.” I do think he abandoned his humor and began taking things far too seriously, in an effort to more effectively troll. Which he doesn’t think he does. Or so he says. But we’ll get there.
2. Had Clay told me anything of substance, I would not be writing this blog. While I am no longer involved, I still grasp the idea of learning information like that in confidence. And whether we disagree about the topic or not, I would not betray that confidence - in large part, because he really is a terrific guy. As I told a friend earlier today, “Bro, I’ve never seen a guy more full of himself that I didn’t hate.” However, I will write this blog because the guy told me nothing. He had nothing to substantiate his troll - further, he wasn’t self-aware. Or, at least, he pretended not to be.
So, after Clay’s long-winded explanation of what happened at Deadspin, and my formal introduction of our one-time phone communication, I, essentially, said:
“Show me the proof.”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because I haven’t seen anything I’d rather believe in,” I answered.
He shrugged. As if that was the answer. The table was in stitches that Clay asked the question, and the laughter provided transition away from the topic. But the shrug said something - if Clay agreed with my reply, he was saying, “I believe Auburn cheated because that’s what I want to believe.”
Theological debates aside, I hope we can distinguish a difference and the hilarity of the question. We moved away. I asked, “Clay, I’ve always thought you were different because you’re a troll - but you know you troll, right? Brooks Melchoir thinks he is a legitimate journalist. Like, you’re totally aware that what you are doing is “trolling?”
“What is trolling?” he asked.
The room, again, erupted in laughter.
“You’re throwing things against the wall just for a reaction,” I replied.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think I’m trolling.”
“Come on,” I said.
“Who is a troll?” he asked.
“Paul is the ultimate troll, and he knows it,” I replied.
Then we get into a debate about the career of Paul Finebaum - his writing, his radio and his relevance to the current discussion. I’ll leave this part out, because that, I believe crosses that line of things said in confidence over beers. Make no mistake, Paul is very self-aware. Regardless of how you feel about the quality of the program, he knows what he is doing.
This alcohol soaked back-and-forth continued for nearly an hour. And no matter how much I disagreed with the guy, no matter how foolish I thought he sounded, I never lost respect for him. My friend, who had moved to another table behind Clay after acknowledging his own inability to keep a straight face, texted me in the middle of the debate:
“You can’t win. That’s the troll.”
And he was right. I think Clay has become so embedded in the troll, he no longer can distinguish his own belief.