On 4/30/08, I posted the following blog. Five years later, my feelings remain unchanged. Coaches get fired every year and as salaries soar (due to a minority of coaches who excel at their craft), pressure is ratcheted up even greater. One fact remains. Whatever number of teams a league has in it, somebody is going to finish last. Writers and sportscasters aren’t held to such a standard. See what you think.
At the beginning of each season, there are preseason polls, usually the work of sportswriters, sportscasters and other various and sundry pundits. At the conclusion of the year, many of these prognosticators who put together these polls in the first place are talking about how many of the teams picked to win or finish at the top of their conference/division had disappointing seasons.
Fans, boosters and owners often buy into this concept - and they lose confidence in the coaching staff, increasing pressure (which, believe me, there is plenty already) or patience (and make a change - possibly just at the time the team was poised to have that breakthrough year - see Mike Krzyzewski at Duke after their 11-17 record in the ‘82-’83 season). Coaches have been chastised on numerous occasions for “bad-mouthing” their team’s chances during the preseason, the critics claiming the coaches don’t want the pressure. While this is possibly true, the coach also may know something (being much closer to his team than those doing the ranking) that will prevent them from living up to such a lofty selection. Also, the reason could be that no one wants to have to live “up” to expectations; that they’d rather “surprise” people, have great seasons and, receive (sometimes planned, often not, but always welcome) the praise for an “over-achieving” campaign. Many times these types of seasons lead to raises, contract extensions and, on occasion, a new gig (see Keno Davis from Drake going to Providence for somewhere in the neighborhood of seven figures and long-term security - whatever that is in the coaching profession - after the Bulldogs went from being picked at the bottom of their conference to becoming media darlings and NCAA Tournament Cinderellas). Note: since then, Davis has lost his job at Providence. Replace his name and Drake and Providence with Andy Enfield and Florida Gulf Coast and USC. Obviously, the current system is purely speculative (although fans love them, hence resulting in selling more papers and magazines) and on some occasions, they might be right on target. Of course, the possibility exists that these pollsters have limited knowledge of “what they speak” (or rate) and put untrue, excessive or unfair expectations on the teams. And the coach. Keep in mind that for every Keno Davis, there’s a guy who was picked high and finished low (possibly costing him the loss of his job) - all because a group who may not have done any (or, at most, limited) research into the project or, as is known to happen, may have given it to a gofer to select.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to make everyone’s poll public information and, when a guy makes drastically wrong selections (maybe two or three years in a row), he loses his job (maybe as just a prognosticator - or maybe as a “whatever he actually does for a living”)? It would make watching the final polls so much more interesting. Can you imagine a player or coach asking a pollster at the post game press conference, “Well, you picked us last in our league and we’re on top while the team you predicted to ‘win it all’ is struggling in seventh place. Are you at all worried about your position at the paper/station?” Wonder how that guy’s wife would react if she heard that on the local or national news and how their kids would feel at school the next day when their classmates would approach them and innocently ask, “My dad said he heard your dad is going to get fired.” Just another item to check in the “interesting things to think about but will never happen” category.
These prognosticators should take into account the words of Benjamin Disraeli who said:
“How much easier it is to be critical than be correct.”