Review by Budd Bailey
For those who are considering entering the sports media business in the near future, there's something you should know. At some point, you will be asked to make predictions. It comes with the territory.
Oh right - at some point, you will be wrong. Horribly wrong, at times.
This is no sin, naturally. If sportswriters and broadcasters could predict the future, they wouldn't waste their time on the outcome of the next NFL game in their city. They'd concentrate on the Powerball lottery, collect the winnings, and head to the Caribbean island they just bought with the proceeds.
Usually, such predictions wind up in the trash and are quickly forgotten. But these days, it's a bit easier to bring them back to life. The Internet is forever ... at least in some cases.
What's more, Fred Segal has made something of a pastime out of resurrecting old quotes. It started as some posts on social media as a way to gently make fun of those trying to look into a crystal ball. The ex-lawyer followed that work, which became popular rather quickly, with a book in 2022 called "Freezing Cold Takes." And yes, many of them deserve to be in the ice box.
After a quick introduction, Segal jumps into some of the comments that were made at the time of some big moments in recent pro football history. (No, he didn't find a comment from a sports writer in 1940 saying that the Bears were no match for the Redskins in the NFL championship game ... although no doubt there is one out there somewhere.) The titles of the chapters tell the story. "The Patriots Will Regret Hiring Bill Belichick." "Trade Dan Marino, Keep Scott Mitchell." "Brian Brohm Has More Upside Than Aaron Rodgers." "Tony Manderick Is in a Class by Himself." "Why would we give up a first-round pick for (Brett Favre)?" It ends with a chapter on the Patriots of the early 2000s, with several reporters wondering why the team would ever turn to Tom Brady at quarterback when it had Drew Bledsoe at the position?
If a football fan saw one of the quotes by itself, he or she instantly would know what something had gone horribly wrong with the forecast. That makes it a very good fit for social media. This is an attempt to put the areas of conversation into some sort of context, as entire seasons get the once over. In addition, some of the authors of those quotes gone wrong are given the chance to explain their thinking at the time. I personally know a couple of the people quoted in this book, and I'd bet they'd have appreciated the chance to explain where and why they went wrong. That makes the publication less mean spirited than it could have been, which is a good idea.
If there's a lesson here, it's that the book's added perspective makes some of the predictions seem more rational than they are in hindsight. For example, Favre had done very little as a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons, and Packers' executive Ron Wolf seemed to be the only person in the NFL who thought the quarterback would turn out well. A trade was made, Favre got his act together, and he became a Hall of Famer. Bill Belichick hadn't done much to show that he'd be in the conversation as the greatest coach of all time ... until Brady walked through the locker room door and claimed the starting job.
That leads to the key question about "Freezing Cold Takes": social media post or book? I think the idea works better with the former, since the short posts contain just enough snark to fit the target audience. The book is reasonably entertaining, and the quotes are still fun to read years later. Still, most of the back stories are familiar to many football fans, so it's difficult to see those other than the format's biggest fans to do anything but read this quickly (and it is a quick read, if you skip the many necessary pages of notes) and move on.
And Segal has opened a door that could lead to other areas. Who wouldn't want to go through "Freezing Cold Takes" about current events, films or music? This could be the start of an industry.
(Follow Budd on X.com via @WDX2BB)