“Outkick the Coverage” founder and lead writer Clay Travis reaches millions each week as the host of his Fox Sports Radio show, which airs weekdays, 6-9 am, on 300 stations in all 50 states and on satellite radio. He also appears on the FS1 daily cable TV show “Lock It In” and hosts daily Periscope and Facebook Live shows. The website version of Outkick the Coverage, launched in 2011 alongside his bylines for CBSSports.com, FanHouse and Deadspin. With an MFA degree in creative writing, he has authored “Dixieland Delight,” “On Rocky Top” and “Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too.”
From attorney to sports journalist. How’d you get from there to here?
Through writing, honestly. While practicing law back in 2004, I started to write a daily sports column online. It was my escape from the drudgery of law. That led to writing online full-time, which led to doing radio guest spots discussing my columns.
When/how did you get the “radio bug”?
Through those guest segments discussing my columns. Early on, I tried to never turn down a radio interview about any column I wrote… no matter who invited me on, or where the radio station was. I wasn't sophisticated enough to realize how big some of these shows were. As I got more of those appearances completed, I realized I was a decent guest and then beginning in 2008, I started doing my own show. Initially, it was just once a week; it grew into a daily radio program by 2010.
What stations/personalities influenced you in the “early days”?
Growing up, I listened to George Plaster's sports talk radio show in Nashville, my hometown. His show was the first of its kind in our city. I went to school downtown from 7th to 12th grade, so before I had my own license, my dad would pick me up after school and we'd listen to that show during our 30-minute commute in rush hour. In college I listened to Tony Kornheiser's Washington, DC radio show. Those were the two sports shows that I had the most experience listening to growing up and I'd say they both influenced me.
When was your first radio appearance? What do you remember about it?
I called into George Plaster's radio show here in Nashville as a kid, probably 11 or 12 years old, to talk about SEC football. I have no idea if tapes of that call still exist somewhere, but I remember how nervous I was to go on the air and how thrilling it was. The next time I was on radio would be after law school, when I was talking about articles I'd written online.
What’s show prep for you?
It's never ending, so I don't know that I have a particular method of show prep. Given the fact that I do an afternoon Periscope and Facebook Live show at 3pm ET and then a live TV show on FS1, “Lock It In,” at 4:30pm ET, I'm working all day, from when my alarm goes off at 4:20am until I go to bed sometime around 10pm. Sometimes it’s later than that if there's a major game that I know will lead our show the next morning. Right before I go to sleep, I generally jot down what I think the top three or four stories will be for the next day. Then when I wake up, I have to quickly scan all the headlines and make sure something didn't happen while I was sleeping that will be our lead story. I basically repeat that process all day long.
Things move so quickly that it's rare for the same topic to lead on multiple days. Of course, you always have to be prepared to toss everything out that you thought you'd be discussing if news breaks on air, which happens from time to time. I actually enjoy when that happens a great deal because I like discussing breaking news and placing it into context.
Superstitions? Any “must do” rituals before work?
I start so early in the morning that I don't really have any time for superstitions. One thing I always do is drink water throughout the show. When you're talking solo on the air as often as I am, you always worry about losing your voice. So far, knock on wood, that hasn't happened to me, but it's a concern for sure.
What does podcasting allow you to do that you can’t do on your syndicated show?
My version of the podcast right now is a video show that's live on Periscope and Facebook.
The best thing about a podcast is there are no FCC restrictions. It allows me to comment on the stories that have emerged during the day and also continue to develop my voice and touch on topics that might not be as national in scope. The way I think of it is this: I do around five-and-a-half hours of daily, live content, plus whatever I write.
I'm not sure anyone else in sports, or media for that matter, puts out that much live content a day. So I kind of think someone can start their day with me in the morning, catch up on what's happening in the afternoon at work, and then finish off their day with me on TV. The podcast allows the listener to fit me into their schedule when it's most convenient. Now, in practical reality, how many people other than my mom are watching and listening to all five-and-a-half hours of live content every day? I have no idea. But it's not hard to find me or figure out what I think on a given day, and I think that's important in this modern media environment.
How do you manage you time between the show, social media, podcasting, appearances and personal life?
It's a big challenge. When I started the TV show, I dialed back on social media. It was just impossible to manage it all with any kind of efficiency, but I still use it a great deal - I'm just less interactive than I used to be. In the fall of 2018, I had a daily three-hour radio show, a daily half-hour Periscope and Facebook show, an hour a day of live TV, and I released a new book, which I'd been writing in my "free" time. Add up all of that with what I think is my most important responsibility -- I'm a dad with three young boys, ages 11, 8, and 4, -- and you can imagine every day is a zoo around here.
Now some personal questions. What’s your favorite charity?
Every year, I donate to Vanderbilt Law School, my alma mater, and the place where I met my wife and some of my best friends. I also donate to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and I'm a history buff, so I donate to the Civil War sites in Franklin, TN, just outside Nashville, where I live.
Where did you go on your last vacation?
We went to London for a week last October to see the Titans play the Chargers. We took the entire family and had an amazing time. I love London. We even did my morning radio show over there for the entire week. That was great, because I could go out to dinner and have more drinks than usual without having to worry about waking up before dawn. We also head out of town during President's Day week to get some rest after football season, when the sporting calendar slows down. So we'll be down in Mexico, which might be the most recent vacation by the time this is printed. We generally travel with our entire family; I like having the kids with me even though sometimes, given their ages, that can be a challenge. Someone told me once you have children you don't take vacations, you take family trips. I think that's pretty accurate.
What’s an ideal weekend for you?
My favorite thing in life is turning off my phone when I climb into bed on the weekends and not allowing an alarm to wake me up. So an ideal weekend is just spent hanging around our house or down on 30A in Florida, the beaches between Destin and Panama City, where we like to spend a decent amount of time as well. The best time of the year? College football season. I love spending all day Saturday watching -- and gambling -- on games from 11am until midnight or after.
What’s your favorite meal? Favorite junk food?
I think chicken parmesan is the best food ever invented, but I also love a great steak. I'm a Southerner, so I'm a huge fan of cobbler, blackberry is the best, and pecan pie. It drives my wife crazy because she's very healthy, but I'm also a big fan of cheddar and sour cream potato chips, peanut M&M's and Mountain Dew. Seriously, I love all three, especially mixed together.
So what is the answer to the question posed by your latest book: How IS the left ruining sports with politics?
By turning sports into politics by another name. We live in such an intensely political time that I think we all need escapes from the serious things in life. That, to me, is sports. In my opinion, sports is the great unifier in this country, the place where all of us, Democrat, Republican, white, Asian, Hispanic, black, gay, straight, immigrant or native-born, Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist, can all come together in holy sporting communion. There's a famous line about college football in the South: "Football in the South isn't a religion, it's much more important than that." That's so true.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming radio talent?
Read all the time. All great and interesting opinions come from curious and creative minds. You can't create good opinions, I don't think, without overloading your mind with ideas. Those ideas, if you want them to be truly creative, typically won't come from listening to other people's shows.
What else would you like readers to know?
That my goal every day can be summed up into a handy acronym: SOFA. Every day I try to be smart, original, funny and authentic. I think that works in all media today, but I think it particularly works well in radio, where your voice is so intimate that you create deep connections with listeners that are profound and long lasting. There hasn't been a week that's gone by since I started doing daily radio when I've ordered something or been talking in a crowded place and someone hasn't come up to me entirely because they recognize my voice. That's always a powerful moment, no matter how long you've been doing radio.