The Twitter feed that exposes bad sports media takes
Fred Segal says he’s always been fascinated by sports predictions. Growing up in North Miami Beach, Segal would sort through his attorney father Mike’s collection of thousands of sports books and magazines, some dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. “I used to look through them and laugh about the predictions that ended up being dead wrong,” said Segal, a Coral Springs, Fla., attorney who specializes in transactional and regulatory healthcare issues.
The childhood fascination has grown into an adult hobby. Since Thanksgiving Segal has run a Twitter account called Freezing Cold Takes whose bio promises to chronicle “unprophetic & non-prognosticative takes from (mostly sports) media experts & others.” It is often uproariously funny to read such blundering predictions. (Unless, of course, you are on the other side, like this gem from yours truly.)
The 34-year-old Segal said the genesis for the feed came from text messages he and his friends would exchange over hilarious, gone-bad sports prediction on Twitter. He typically chooses the day’s cold takes based on the news and keeps an archive of various random sports predictions.
“For instance, when a team fires its coach, a prime opportunity arises to post cold takes from around the time the coach was hired,” Segal said in an email interview. “Some other good examples: If a player has a particularly memorable game (either good or bad), or when a team wins a championship. Also, politics, especially during an election year like this, make for great cold-take material, but I don’t follow it too much. Most of the political takes are tipped off by followers.”
Segal works on the feed solo but gets about three to five suggestions per day, a number that goes up as his follower count goes up (he’s approaching 2,500 followers). A couple of months ago, he noticed about 100 new accounts had followed the feed. Curious about how word got out, he sent out a tweet asking how people found out about the feed, and was informed that ESPN New York sports-talk host and YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay had talked about the account on his show.
“I think it’s a great feed because I think it punctures the balloons of all of us,” Kay said. “ It also holds people accountable for some of the ridiculous things that are said in print and on air. I think the way the business has gone, many feel they have to make outrageous definitive statements. If they’re right, they look like geniuses; and if they’re wrong, there are no repercussions. Now, this feed isn’t exactly a terrible repercussion, but at least it holds you accountable a bit if you are wrong. I like that. I like that you can be exposed if you stray way off the reservation. And I say this despite the fact a few weeks ago they used something I said that I was dead wrong about. I wasn’t mad. I deserved it. In fact, I laughed. The real sad part of this site is they will absolutely never run out of things to write. Never. In fact, they could probably put a tweet out at least once every 10 minutes.”
Segal said his favorite discovery was a 1993 column from Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote that boldly suggested that the Dolphins trade Dan Marino and keep Scott Mitchell.
“I grew up in Miami and had season tickets to the Dolphins,” Segal said. “This is the most indelible cold take from my childhood. I hate to reminisce at the expense of Cote, who has been an institution in Miami for decades, but to this day, my friends and I incessantly joke about this article. It reads like 35 cold takes jam-packed into one-quarter page. I was so excited when I found it on Google newspapers. To bring it back to life and share it to others was like sharing a piece of my youth.”
How have sports media people responded? “Some writers have called me creepy and eerie. Others really love the concept,” Segal said. “Some become very defensive (e.g. [Sports Illustrated senior writer] Seth Davis) about a tweet. Sometimes they take clichéd shots at my character. [ESPN college football analyst] Tom Luginbill once compared me to a guy who lives in his mom’s basement. Some interactions with personalities have been really fun and positive.”
In his experience, Segal said local sports radio personalities are usually are less sensitive than national writers about getting zinged with a cold take. Perhaps that’s as a result of sports-talk hosts firing off opinions at about the rate Golden State shoots threes. “I think many, if not most, of the media will not like being called out for being wrong,” Kay said. “I think it’s that quality in many of us that causes those we cover to have a disconnect with us. I have found that many of us that criticize and critique for a living hate having the same thing done to us. I am guilty of that as well. A lot of us have real thin skin and a site like this will either thicken the skin or tear it completely. I’m betting on it being torn.”
Segal said the feed does not interfere with his professional life outside of serving as a welcome release. He’s married with two young children. “My profession requires a lot of focus and concentration,” Segal said. “I pretty much tune out the feed during work except for short breaks. In terms of the feed, the No. 1 goal is simply to entertain people for a few minutes a day.”
The Noise Report
(SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable sports media stories)
1. ESPN said through 50 telecasts, the network’s NBA regular season first-half viewership was up seven percent compared to 2014. NBA games are averaging 1,727,000 viewers on ESPN compared to 1,613,000 viewers last year. Through six games, ABC’s NBA games had averaged 5,056,000 viewers.
1a. Sports Business Daily reported that Fox earned a 6.1 overnight rating for the Daytona 500, down 16% from a 7.3 from last year. The race was up was up nine percent from a 5.6 overnight in 2014.
2. For those curious about the many issues facing the media who cover MMA, I moderated a Q&A roundtable with seven reporters who cover the sport including Heidi Fang (MMA video journalist, Las Vegas Review Journal); Josh Gross (MMA contributor to The Guardian and author of Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment); Ariel Helwani (writer and broadcaster, mmafighting.com and Fox Sports); Kevin Iole (MMA and boxing columnist, Yahoo Sports); Sydnie Jones (MMA columnist at Bleacher Report; editor-in-chief of womensmma.com); Dave Meltzer (Editor and founder, Wrestling Observer Newsletter; writer for mmafighting.com) and Luke Thomas (senior editor, mmafighting.com and SiriusXM host).
2a. Rick Jaffe, the senior vice president of news for Fox Sports and a former sports editor at the Los Angeles Times, has left the network. Fox Sports declined comment on the move. Jaffe was the point person for years on much of Fox Sports and FS1’s news coverage, and it’s another sign that FS1 and its new shop stewards are reducing reporting acumen in exchange for opinions. Hoping the best for the reporters and journalistically-inclined producers still under contract at FS1.
3. Episode No. 43 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features Fox Sports writer and former SI staffer Jimmy Traina. In this episode, Traina and I discuss a number of current sports media issues, including Bill Simmons’s digital project (The Ringer), the current direction of FS1 and whether Katie Nolan is a good fit there, Peyton Manning’s future as a broadcaster, the changes on the Howard Stern show and whether that’s good for listeners, the media coverage of Donald Trump and much more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI’s podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at me.
4. SiriusXM NFL Radio will broadcast live from the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis from Wednesday through Saturday. Coverage will begin from Lucas Oil Stadium will begin on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m. ET and extend through the day. Saturday’s broadcasts will begin at 8 a.m. ET.
4a. Here is how NFL Network plans to cover the combine.
5. Lucas Meyer, a Calgary-based reporter for Sportsnet, put together an oral history of the 2014 Olympics women’s hockey gold-medal game between Canada and the U.S.
5a. ESPN’s Outside The Lines will have an hour-long special on Thursday (“FIFA In Crisis”) starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. On Friday, ESPN will cover the FIFA election on ESPN and ESPN2 throughout the day.
5b. An update on the ESPN-Verizon spat.
5c. Sportstvratings.com reported that Spike TV’s broadcast of MMA event Bellator 149 averaged 1.964 million viewers on Friday. That’s the most-watched viewership for a Bellator promotion on Spike.
5d. When I was in graduate school, long before I wrote about sports media for SI, I profiled ESPN anchors Charlie Steiner and Linda Cohn for a magazine now out of print. The ESPN p.r. staffer who shepherded those requests was Rob Tobias. He treated me professionally, as if I were with The New York Times, even though the publication I was writing for would have little impact on his bottom line.
Tobias worked for pretty much every ESPN brand—ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN International, ESPN Films and several others—before retiring last year after 32 years at the company. This week, he joined CMPR & CMPR Events as senior vice president of East Coast operations & business development. Tobias is a practitioner who understands and respects the media’s role in a story. We had disagreements along the way but always under a larger prism of professional respect. There were never any lectures from his end, nor any blind, cult-like parroting of his execs’ mantras. He was a realist when it came to ESPN talent and some ridiculous behavior from that group. He never hid his executives from interview requests. And I am certain he received the benefit of the doubt from reporters when he asked for it on his end. CMPR probably does not realize how good a hire he is, but they soon will. Best of luck to him.