Predictions. We all make them (even the President), claim they are “educated” and “informed” by stats, swear they will never be wrong and always stand in disbelief when they don’t work out. Heck, Vegas has made a fortune around predictions (or “odds” as true gamblers call them). And predictions and sports are as tightly linked as public companies and their stock prices (though in both cases the players/employees CANNOT engage in fixing forecasts). Regardless of the fact that sports are inherently supposed to be unpredictable, there is always a lot of time, energy and money (LOTS of $$) spent on trying to predict the outcomes. But what does it all mean? Well, in this week’s Bro v. Bro, our writers goes head-to-head on what predictions really mean, whether they actually impact the game and if they are actually necessary (or valuable) in the first place…
Are predictions an important or necessary part of sports?
(JR): Yes…in today’s sports. The reality is that the world of sports is no longer solely about the product on the field but rather incorporates media, marketing, business principles and so much more outside of the game actually being played. Petty predictions from overzealous players or pompous owners about the success of their respective teams? That’s nonsense but also part of the game. The predictions I feel are necessary come from everyone in an organization or program BESIDES the players. Owners and general managers have to predict the market and how their money will be spent in the future. Scouts predict the ceiling and floors of different players. Outcomes of games and seasons are indirectly predicted by numerous other thought processes…and therefore important to the future of our sports. Those in the sports industry must work to predict how they will sustain the growth of their respective game.
(DR): Necessary? No, definitely not. Important? Probably not either. Inevitable? Very much so as I believe it’s just part of human nature to try to predict future events whether in sports, in finance or in our own lives. It is also an intriguing and exciting way in which we as fans can feel engaged with sports. Now, that does not mean I am at all condoning gambling or betting, but I do think that popular prediction “games” like NCAA brackets or Super Bowl squares can be fun ways to draw wider interest and fervor around sports games even amongst people that aren’t die-hard fans. However, when these relatively small stakes, fun games turn into high-stakes betting and gambling, this can often turn ugly and have created some black eyes for sports (re: Pete Rose).
Once “picks” are made and the predictions are published, what (if any) impact does this have on the actual game?
(DR): Two part answer to this. In the legal realm, predictions and “picks” do have some impact on the actual game if the players and coaches involved allow themselves to buy into these harmless forecasts. If they do let these guesses get into their heads then predictions absolutely alter the mental aspect of the game. Additional pressure can be placed on the “favorite” while disrespect is felt by the “underdog.” This can manifest itself into “favored” teams trying too hard to play like the team they were predicted to be, to try not to lose while “underdogs” might play with more passion as if they have something to prove. Now, if we’re taking into the illegal activities that can unfortunately be associated with sports predictions (i.e. betting) then the “picks” absolutely can alter the outcomes of games. Just look to past events like the Chicago Black Sox scandal in baseball where the World Series was rigged in order to get big payouts to certain people. Or even recent history where there has been a wide rash of “fixed” soccer matches around the world that can be traced back to an illegal betting ring based out of Singapore.
(JR): I think the only impact it has is that predictions are public knowledge, meaning someone knows about your thoughts other than you. That fact may add pressure if you feel the need to reach a certain benchmark. It may relieve pressure if you’re fighting for a position and someone predicts that you’ll make the team. But mostly, the impact of predictions is that it produces expectations. For example, in a fantasy football draft…there is a list of players that are ranked from top to bottom. Those players that are ranked near the top have predictions tied to their stats and therefore, expectations tied to their future. When you draft someone ranked in the top five players, you expect a top five performance. But if, in a vacuum, you were merely selecting players from a general pool then expectations may vary. So your answer? Predictions aren’t true or false until the game is actually played anyway, so I would say that predictions are actually impacted by the game and not vice versa.
If you had to choose one source for predictions that you most believe (or trust), who or what would it be? Vegas odds? ESPN Analysts?
(JR): This is going to come off extremely conceited but…how about myself? The issue I have with relying on media sources or anyone else for predictions is that no matter what the game is or who is playing, you can ALWAYS find an opinion for either side of the argument. One expert thinks Team A will win, another thinks Team B will win and they both always have legitimate data to support their point. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to read the analysis of as many articles that I can come across. Personally I think the Yahoo! guys like Brad Evans, Brandon Funston and Andy Behrens are excellent. But to be honest, I hate predictions. I’m kinda (VERY) superstitious. So if it’s a prediction on the outcome of a game or the outlook of a certain player’s season for fantasy purposes? I’ll take my own word for it and then have no one to blame/pat on the back besides myself whenever the prediction is realized.
(DR): Even if he’s a Boston fan (yuck), I have to admit that I most trust and believe the predictions of Bill Simmons, ESPN writer and founder of Grantland. Whether it’s his forecast for NBA champion or Super Bowl winner or even the most overrated player in the MLB, I think he’s got great insight and intuition all while sprinkling some pretty witty comments. Most of all though, I think he is very honest with his thoughts and predictions. He lays out his argument very logically (and humorously) and provides some great background or support information to make the predictions seem like fairly plausible conclusions. Still wouldn’t make bets based on them, but I feel like I can at least trust and believe where he’s coming from.
NEXT WEEK — with all this talk about predictions, the Bros will be putting their forecasting powers on the line and making predictions about the sports world (e.g. NCAA Basketball Champion) in Part II. Stay tuned!
Your Turn – tell us if you agree with our thoughts or if you’d answer the questions differently…