by Chris Foss
In just over a week, another NFL season will be upon us, but we are already inundated with the prognosticators, the wags, the people who tell us they are smarter than us and who “know” who is going to win this year. On July 6, before training camps even began, Forbes came out with its picks for division winners. USA Today at least had the decency to wait until training camps got underway, but as early as July 27, they informed us that the Pittsburgh Steelers will defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl LI. Also popular in a league with a great deal of parity is the effort by some experts to try and outsmart other experts by picking unheralded teams; an August 12 Bleacher Report article proclaimed the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, and Minnesota Vikings its “dark horse” picks to win the Super Bowl .
The first thing fans need to remember, though, heading into the season is not to listen to the experts. In September 2015, Sports Illustrated picked the Ravens to win Super Bowl 50 . Fresh off a near-upset of the New England Patriots in the 2014 playoffs, this seemed like a decent pick. Last year, however, the Ravens didn’t even make it to the playoffs, outpaced by the Bengals and Steelers in their own division. SI is historically notorious for making picks that don’t hold up, going back to the cover jinx. Their bad picks go farther than the magazine covers, though; “expert” Peter King, for example, predicted in 2007 that “Jon Kitna would be better than Brett Favre and J.P. Losman would be better than Eli Manning.” Kitna and Losman dropped off the face of the earth, and Favre and Manning met in the NFC Championship Game .
by Keith Aksel
Now that the Rio Olympics are over, sports fans enter their annual American rite of fall, otherwise known as football season. For college football fanatics, this time of year is chock-full of routine season previews, talking up the people and teams to watch during the 2016 season. At The Tattered Pennant, we take a slightly different tack. With our 2016 college football Un-Preview, we discuss the ways to see beyond the media’s fluff and mostly-incorrect predictions, to the read the sport better and more completely. We’ll present a handful of ideas that the usual season previews would never engage, all of which might help you watch the sport this year better than you did last year. In other words, we get you ready to watch college football this year like a thinking fan.
1. Pay close attention to Ole Miss
I don’t mean to suggest Ole Miss will contend for the national title- they won’t- but the Rebels are a super-helpful gauge for determining who will contend. Mississippi is fantastic at beating teams that go on to great things later in the year. Weeks after beating a contender, the Rebels will stumble against lesser competition, while the contender will be back in the mix. Ole Miss often ends up as the lone blemish on another more superior team’s schedule. The Rebels beat would-be national champ Florida in 2008, eventual playoff team 2014 Alabama, and eventual champ Alabama last year. Will the Rebels continue their trend of making a good team angry enough to rally all the way to the playoffs? Don’t put it by a Hugh Freeze who peaks too early each and every year.
by Chris Foss
The Rio Olympics have been battered by negative headlines almost from their conception. Widespread public perception holds that Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil in general, has been a disastrous Olympics site. You name a controversy, it’s dogged these games since long before they started: the possible impropriety in how the games were awarded to Rio, Brazil’s political instability, the spread of Zika, robberies like the one that targeted U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, poverty, and pollution, not to mention the old Olympic bugaboo of widespread performance enhancing drug use. In an op-ed addressing a comparatively trivial—but endlessly dissected—kerfuffle over gymnast Gabby Douglas not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem, Guardian columnist Dave Schilling said what was surely on the minds of many, that the real crime was not Douglas’s possible lack of patriotism, but rather that the Olympics had degenerated into a “multi-billion dollar festival of graft, political malfeasance, and civil unrest.”
Yet millions (if not billions) of people worldwide have watched these games, and nearly all of the world’s countries are represented by their best athletes, LeBron and Steph notwithstanding. Corporate sponsorship levels continue to be strong, particularly from Coke, McDonald’s, car manufacturers, and Christoph Waltz (although he’s shilling a South Korean product, Samsung). Bob Costas is still out there, as he has been since the Seoul Olympics of 1988, serving as the games’ most enduring ambassador to United States audiences. Michael Phelps and the women’s gymnastics team are captivating American viewers once again, and with Katie Ledecky, a new superstar was born in the pool.
by Keith Aksel
The Tattered Pennant has officially been online for one whole year. In that time, we’ve attempted to present articles that other sports outlets wouldn’t write. For example, we discussed the big picture implications of the prediction industry in sports journalism, the effects of in-game fighting, and the reasons we watch sports in the first place. All of our efforts have been in the pursuit of making sports fans more critical and smarter about the events they watch.
Some of us fans are not satisfied with casually following athletics. We are passionate about our teams, and find that watching and thinking about sports are significant parts of our lives. This passion makes us want to dive in further, and “know” sports better than the average observer. With that, our one-year anniversary seems like the right time to restate who we are, and what we want to achieve with this site.
In honor of our first anniversary, we want to take this moment to reintroduce ourselves to the internet. We are reposting our first-ever article for your review, and will publish an elaboration on our goals and purposes next Tuesday. For now, enjoy this blast from the past.
Why We Watch
by The Tattered Pennant Staff
Problems in the sports world are more visible now than ever before. Athletes’ off the field indiscretions, issues surrounding athlete safety, and the economic mal-effects of sports criticized by social critics all suggest that sports are bad medicine. And honestly, there is enough fodder in tracking problems in sports to support an entire news channel.
And yet, we watch sports in increasingly record numbers. In the same year the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice was suspended for domestic violence, a record number of fans watched the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. In the same year that attention toward alleged abuse of college athletes and their right to be paid for play reached an all-time high, the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament grabbed its highest viewer tally in two decades.