The Twitter feed that exposes bad sports media takes

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated:

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.”