A few weeks ago, I took a shot at predicting the value of Terrelle Pryor in the NFL supplemental draft. I put my guess as to what round he would end up with, threw out a lot of half-baked ideas to support it, and plopped my view on the Internet. It was an easy column to write, and it took me about 45 minutes. I wrote it to contest Don Banks' column on Terrelle Pryor, which I'm sure took much longer than mine to write and cited scouts and professionals. Turns out I was right. So what? Does anyone really care?
I would hazard a guess that about 10% of the sports columns written are prediction columns. Fantasy sports "gurus" try to convince us that so-and-so is underrated, overrated, or unrated. Experts project into the future by telling us the exact game score and record of each team, sounding confident as they use statistics and gut feelings. Visionairies tell us about the future of this game or that. It all sounds so good and it's fun to argue about such things. It's also a total waste of time.
The beauty of sports is that it happens live and unscripted (mostly, Tim Donaghy moments excepted). In a DVR and spoiler-full age, sports is one of the few unscripted enjoyments we have. There are no leaks ahead of time, no columnists who truly have the inside scoop. And yet, we waste so much time trying to see into the future that we ruin sports of its present. The fun is in the moment. I find myself more and more turning to Twitter during games to read the fan's reaction as the game happens. The roar of the crowd can't be easily transcribed into a recap column, much less properly anticipated by a confident scribe as he types busily away at his local Starbucks or cubicle. We spend so much time analyzing and prescribing that we can't just let the balls fall where they may.
I have been reading some older sportswriting books, and I'm struck by how often sports columnists admit that most of their fellow writers had lost any sense of joy in the game itself. The game is just something they endure so they can rush back and write their columns about what happened. Have we really come to this, that predicting the game is more fun than the game itself? When was the last time you went back at the end of the year to check how well your favorite columnist predicted games during the preseason? It's an exercise in irrelevance and meaningless chestpounding, without a single useful trait and...
HEY DID I MENTION THAT I WAS RIGHT AND ESTEEMED WRITER DON BANKS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WAS WRONG?! WHERE'S YOUR SCOUTS WITH THEIR ANONYMOUS WHISPERS NOW, DONNIE BOY? WHO CARES THAT THE RAIDERS WERE THE TEAM TO SPEND THE THIRD ROUND DRAFT PICK. WHO CARES THAT I MADE MY POST BEFORE THE FIVE GAME SUSPENSION WAS ANNOUNCED. SUCK IT, BANKSY! KISS MY SWEATERVEST, BABY!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
Um, on second thought, I predict that prediction columns aren't going anywhere.