If you scroll through the sports section here, you’ll find many of the columns currently on AC deal with predictions. Who is going to win in the baseball playoffs, who is going to prevail in this week’s NFL games, who are the teams to beat in the BCS – it goes on and on.
This begs the question – is the only way to be a sports fan in the 21st Century by predicting events before they happen?
When I was a kid Sport magazine used to make a bunch of outrageous predictions each year. These were not simple Team X will beat Team Y, but rather that Player X will do something never previously done in the sport’s history. The great majority of these never came true, but if one or two of them came to pass, they could trumpet the fact that they predicted it would occur.
Today, with our never-ending news/sports cycle and the need for constant information, these predictions become a good way of filling space, whether that space is print, online or even sports talk radio. Why spend a lot of time crafting a well-researched piece when you can instead bang out a piece on who will win the big game?
The prediction pieces have other things going for them besides filling space and being quick to produce. They require little or no expertise, as when you make predictions about the outcome of a game, you have a 50-50 chance of being right. And the real beauty is that even if you are wrong, no one will call you on it. Because everyone is too busy making predictions on the next big game to worry about the wrong ones from last week.
But it goes beyond that, too.
Individuals have a seemingly non-quenchable desire to be right, to be seen as experts. I see it in my four-year-old, I see it in me, I see it everywhere I turn on AC and other places.
It is no longer enough to have a team win. It is no longer enough to believe in it before it happens and then watch it unfold live or on TV. You have to pronounce it to the world beforehand and then trumpet your expertise if/when it comes to pass. Or sweep it under the rug when you’re wrong. Because we can’t have the facts get in the way of our delusions of grandeur now, can we?
Many will say that making predictions is just plain fun. And they are – there is no doubt about that. I have certainly made my share, with some turning out better than others. But shouldn’t there be a difference between private conversations with your buddies or family and public proclamations, especially when it comes to individual games on a weekly basis?
Is it just a desire to be right or do the predictors hope for a springboard to another career?
To me, it just reeks of the gambling scamdicappers that you see advertised in magazines or on bad cable TV shows. These are the ones that trumpet an impossible gambling record and promise that if you pay them $200 they will give you their Super Lock of the Year, which just happens to be among this week’s games.
My buddy Tom once told me that the way to start your career as a sports scamdicapper is to call/e-mail so many people with your Best Bet gambling pick. Except that half of them you tell Team A will win and the other half you tell Team B will win. The following weeks you contact the people who won with your pick and split them in half again. After three or four weeks, you are going to have a group of people who received consecutive winners and are just amazed at your prediction ability. The hope is that they become willing to pay big bucks to get the next week’s winner.
Consider this article a plea for people to include accountability and a sense of perspective when offering predictions on game outcomes. If you make picks against the spread and go less than 55%, you are losing money and your readers need to know that. If you are picking games straight up and go 10-6, that’s not good enough to win any prediction pool that has more than three people in it and your audience should be made aware of that, too.
I feel it only appropriate to end this column with a prediction of my own. I predict that most readers will not like this article. Responsible people will leave a carefully considered comment taking me to task but most will be content to down rate it and move on. After all, those people would not want to spend time offering a well-reasoned critique of something when there’s a no-account prediction article waiting on this week’s games.