There is always one reason (and really only one) to look forward to the end of the season … I can stop doing these stupid picks. I hate doing picks. No, that’s not strong enough.
In honor of “Meet Me in St. Louis,” I’ll borrow from one of Judy Garland’s great lines, “I hate, loathe, despise and abominate” doing picks.
I feel like I’m on an island with this. It seems like every other person on earth loves predicting who they think is going to win games. Which is fine if you are not a journalist. But I think by virtue of being a journalist, publicly picking who I think is going to win is about the last thing I should be doing.
Here’s why: By picking a team, it seems to create the appearance to many people that you “favor” that team. That you have a “preference” about who wins the game. That you have some stake in the outcome. And not only do I not want people to think that, it frankly bugs the hell out of me that they do. Nothing about my job changes no matter who wins. It’s still writing about basketball.
Example: Last year, we did our ESPN.com picks for the championship game, and I picked Tennessee. Was this because I was “for” Tennessee and “against” Stanford? Of course not.
I picked Tennessee because Stanford had only beaten Tennessee once in the previous 12 years – and that once had been the previous December. I didn’t think it too likely that Pat Summitt’s crew would lose to the same team twice last season.
And that’s about all there was to it. Except then I got some e-mails from Stanford fans, “What do you have against Stanford?” And after the game, I got some e-mails from Tennessee fans saying, “Thanks for sticking with us.”
OK …. I had nothing against Stanford, and I did not stick with Tennessee. I wasn’t for or against either side. But because of the picks, it makes it appear (to some) that I was for one and against the other.
It made me very uncomfortable to be in Tennessee’s locker room and hear so much talk about how they’d seen these ESPN.com picks and everybody (but one) had picked against them. How that was such motivation for them. At one point, Candace Parker had the trophy and was saying something like, “I have to go show this to Kara.” Meaning Kara Lawson, who had “picked” Stanford.
I thought to myself, “Seriously, they needed this for motivation? They are playing for a national championship, and they need to be fired up by these picks? These predictions matter …. how?”
Yet somehow, they seem to matter a lot. I don’t get it. Why do people care about picks? I have absolutely not one single thing to do with how any game turns out. I an only an observer, not in any way a participant.
And why is there this incessant need to predict what is going to happen? Why not just sit back and watch and see what happens?
I guess the obvious answer is that journalists started doing picks way back in order to give advice to people who wanted to gamble on the outcome. But if we are supposed to be impartial, then why do something that can be interpreted as appearing we have a favorite?
Like I said, I seem to be on an island with this. I complained about it to one of my friends about it a couple of years ago, and she said, “I have no idea why this bothers you so much. People just like seeing who you guys pick. Nobody thinks you pick because you like one team better than another.”
And I said, “Hah! Oh, really? Read my e-mail sometime if you don’t believe some people think that.”
And she said, “I think you should not read your e-mail.”
Anyway, I’m writing all of this to delay sending in my “picks” to ESPN.com … but eventually, I’ll have to go ahead and do them. Thinking the whole time that this was never the reason I got into journalism, and how it remains a thorn in my side.
I want to tell stories before the games and after the games. I understand the need to compare teams’ strengths and weaknesses, to talk about how they match up. To do analysis that is backed up by having watched the teams and talked to people involved. But why can’t it just end right there?
I know, I know … just shut up and pick.