The Norman Chad column that the Washington Post didn’t run, and why Clay Travis can’t outkick the truth that you “never sling mud against people who roll in it”
By Tom Hoffarth
We have what shouldn’t be considered an abnormal admiration for Norman Chad.
His arrow-piercing accuracy in writing about sports and the media over the years for the Washington Post (he started there in the mid-’70s) continued on a short-lived run at The National, some other time at Sports Illustrated. He wrote a book.
It wasn’t until his side gig on ESPN poker telecasts regulated his “Couch Slouch” writing to whomever he could collect in a loose network of newspapers able to afford his far-below-wholesale compensation price, just to give him ink on a Monday and let him exercise his freedom of speech. We tried to get our local employers to run it at the nomal fee he was asking. Somehow, we couldn’t break the plane of that goalline.
(This is all in addition to the fact we became neighbors in the late ’90s for awhile in the Melrose area of L.A., between Fairfax and La Brea, a short walk to Pink’s Hot Dog Stand or the Formosa Cafe. The highlight was also having Michael Buffer living in our eight-unit building on Fuller Avenue. He was quiet. His wife was nice. We came to her rescue once during a power outage and he was out of town. We rarely saw him taking his tux to the cleaners as one might expect).
In cranking out sports-based columns during the sports-starved COVID-19 Era of our existence, Chad had already found some well-found foils when he did a March 10 column about trolls who came after him for having the audacity to write: “Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy is a disease for which there is no cure.”
Barstool responded in how you’d expect Barstool to respond. Apparently they haven’t read the Wikipedia page created about him which pretty plainly explains how he operates based on his history.
Then came a column two months later, on May 10 about why we might be better off with fewer sports to digest during this serious times. The Washington Post and others ran it in print on May 11.
Some more heck broke loose.
“That column caused an uproad,” Chad emailed us in reply to us letting him know that one Internet aggregator said he was being “eviscerated” on social media for what he wrote. “It was a B- piece on my part, and I guess I’m glad those folks have never run my other stuff.”
Some figured it out. Too many didn’t. Smart folks came to his aid.
The only thing better than a Chad mis-trending piece was how he’d respond to it.
May 18 came, and we saw nothing. Same on May 25.
We reached out to Chad again on email. He explained that the Washington Post decided to kill his latest piece. Why?
“I can’t really answer that,” he wrote back. “The Post, like all my outlets, has the option to run or not run my column each week. The Post apparently felt the column was not up to its standards.
“Anyway, largely because of the newspaper industry cratering, the column only runs in seven outlets – down from a high of 18 several years back: The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, Spokane Spokesman Review, Beaumont (Tex.) Enterprise, Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette Mail and houston.sportsmap.com (a Houston-centric sports site). All outlets other than The Post ran it.”
With Chad’s permission, here is that May 18 column that was not widely circulated, but perhaps it will gain some traction (and we will send him a check for $1.25 for giving us permission to re-run this:
I made a typographical error in my column last week: I meant to say that we need more sports, not less. In my defense, I’d been washing and folding my American flag and wasn’t focused on my Samsung Galaxy Book S keyboard.
Ugh. So I woke up midday to find 37 texts telling me I was trending No. 1 on Twitter. How could this be? I briefly thought I must’ve slept-walk and robbed a string of minimarts up and down the West Coast.
I was just a victim of Fox Sports’ buffoonish enfant terrible, Clay Travis.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with Travis, the white-hot attention seeker, a failed-lawyer failed-thinker babbler of contrarian nonsense who now rides down the middle of the street on a unicycle shouting, “Look, Ma, no hands!”
Travis tweeted out The Washington Post headline on my column, “The pandemic has reminded us: we don’t need more sports – we need less,” to his 670,000 Twitter followers, while addressing how stupid I am and how much sportswriters like me disdain sports.
This triggered his ready-to-rumble base, igniting the usual Twitter online mob. Thankfully, I slept through most of it, dreaming of athenaeums and student-nonathletes.
In the column – as I have done countless times in the last 20 years – I satirically questioned the oversized role of sports in our culture. Ooh…revolutionary stuff!
Travis’s premise is that I am rooting against the return of sports and hate them. Hmm. How much could I possibly hate sports if I have NBA League Pass? Heck, if you’re watching a New York Knicks-Sacramento Kings game at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night, you might hate yourself more than you hate sports.
Anyway, after awakening, I decided to engage my attacker on Twitter; this seldom ends well.
Following an opening tweet in which I mentioned that Travis was “the smartest man in the room” because I had heard him say that on his radio show, this was our exchange:
Travis: Norman, thanks for listening. But listen better. I didn’t say I was the smartest guy in the room. I said compared to people like you, I’m a genius. Which I am.
Me: My bad, Clay, I misheard this on your March 25 show: “I’m a pretty smart dude…pretty much every test I’ve ever measured, I’m in the 99.9 percentile….If I had wanted to be, I would’ve been a doctor.” Uh, 99.9% sounds pretty high.
Travis: Thanks for the additional podcast listen, bud, but just step away from the keyboard. You’re making yourself look even (more) ridiculous.
Travis was pulling a page straight out of the POTUS 45 playbook: Say something preposterous, get asked about it, say you didn’t say it, then after somebody reads back the exact thing you said that you claim you never said, deride or ignore them and change the subject.
One of Travis’s favorite longtime targets is ESPN, supposedly a liberal hotbed with an on-air political agenda.
Gosh, I hate when people make me defend ESPN.
Sure, Clay, it’s an ACLU incubator over there – Chris Berman canvassed for Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and I know for a fact that Linda Cohn has a Friedrich Engels bobble head on her desk.
During the pandemic, Travis has railed on Fox Sports Radio about the coronavirus hoax with his “data-centric rational thinking.” He constantly misleads his audience, and after being proven incorrect, simply gives a new set of unimpeachable, flawed data. He loves moving the goalposts, and he’s darn good at it – as an SEC diehard, he knows how to cheat.
Travis operates similarly to the forward-thinking neo-Neanderthals at Barstool Sports, a.k.a. Barstool Sample. My column riled them, too; you don’t mess with the stoolies’ sandbox. Over time, I have been variously attacked there by monstrously talented PFT Commenter, monstrously untalented Barstool Nate and the monster himself, Barstool Sample president and lead predator Dave Portnoy.
You can’t fight these guys – never sling mud against people who roll in it. Their M.O.: When you go high, we’ll go low; when you go low, we’ll go lower. Battling these feral bedlamites, and their mindless minions, is like bringing a butter knife to a shotgun fight.
Besides, I don’t have time for this, even in our sports-less here and now. I’m midway binge-reading the Bible – I’m up to the part about the guy with the tablets. Good stuff.