LOVE: After Further Review
The beauty and folly of preseason publications
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
It’s the end of May and I’ve got a serious confession to make.
I want football back. Soon.
Knowing that I’ve been through this before helps. Year after year, the yearning begins as baseball season fades and, sure enough, the sun eventually rises on another gridiron campaign once the summer ends.
Knowing that I’m not alone helps, too. Pigskin junkies across the country are getting the same itch right about now, scratching it by turning on the ol’ DVR and watching the spring game for the eighth time or reliving the glory of last season’s biggest triumph.
There are other ways to feed the fix — peruse message boards for the latest rumors, filter through the most recent recruiting class trying to mine out the freshman few who can make an impact next season, or just simply stare at next year’s schedule until you’re blue in the face.
But then there’s another method which, at least to me, seems to have taken over as our culture’s go-to cure for what ails the football-deprived fan this time of year: Preseason publications.
You’ve all seen them, and a good many of you probably already have them on your coffee table at home or office desk at work. As I type this, I’m staring at a copy of both Lindy’s and Athlon Sports on my desk.
And thank God, Allah, Touchdown Jesus, or whoever the heck you pray to that we have these magazines!
Seriously, what could be better when you’re starving than a 230-page hot plate full of depth charts, schedules, conference and national outlooks, etc.?
At this time of year, there could be nothing better. It fills a niche. It fills an emptiness. Most importantly, it fills our minds and souls with football throughout the dog days of summer.
The good folks publishing these mags know just that, and that’s why these things will only get bigger and bigger - in terms of page count and cultural importance - as we continue into the future.
But, in a rush to consume whatever’s put in front of us as soon as we can get our paws on it, there’s one wee little detail fans ought not forget: No one knows anything at this point.
Don’t get me wrong. These pubs serve as phenomenal references and offer keen insight that certainly has its uses. That’s why there are already two on my desk before June 1.
Where I get skeptical, however, is in viewing the preseason rankings, order of conference finish and other projections of that nature. Some will turn out right, others wrong, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to the rankers and prognosticators because you still bought in.
Never forget: Having opinions sells magazines, blogs, TV time, radio air space and any other medium you can imagine. They don’t have to be correct or even logical. In fact, a lot of times the more controversial, the better.
What’s more, as we apply this principle back to the preseason pubs, is that tossing around a big-name national program toward the top of your poll sends copies flying off the rack at an even higher rate.
At least I would hope that’s Athlon’s justification for slotting Notre Dame in at No. 6 in the nation. Because it certainly ain’t performance-based. For comparison’s sake, the editors at Lindy’s had the Golden Domers at No. 19, something I can at least wrap my brain around.
While we’re on the topic of preseason rankings, let’s comb through how these two season previews - Lindy’s and Athlon Sports - view the SEC in 2011.
Lindy’s issued the following national rankings: Alabama, second; LSU, fourth; Arkansas, tenth; South Carolina, 11th; Georgia, 16th; Florida, 20th; Mississippi State, 21st; and Auburn, 24th. The next highest SEC squad listed is Tennessee at 52nd.
What jumps off the page first to me is the simple fact that eight conference teams are in the preseason top 25, almost a third of the entire list. That’s astonishing (but may be fairly accurate, incredibly). The next thing I can’t help but comment on is Auburn’s placement in the top 25. Uh uh. No way, no how, not unless the ‘Barners reel in Russell Wilson, N.C. State castaway, to give AU a legitimate quarterback. Finally, it’s interesting to note the severe drop-off from Auburn to Tennessee. This is mainly a reflection of how much the Eastern division wanes following its top three teams.
Athlon Sports issued the following national rankings: Alabama, first; LSU, eighth; Georgia, 14th; Arkansas, 16th; Florida, 18th; South Carolina, 21st. Within shouting distance are Mississippi State at 27th, Tennessee at 37th and Auburn at 42nd.
From eight SEC teams in the top 25 with Lindy’s to six with Athlon. Interesting. Perhaps more intriguing is the lack of respect for the conference of Dixie at the top. In Lindy’s rankings, four SEC teams rank in the top 11. In Athlon’s, two fall within that same range. It’s also hard for me to fathom State not being in the top 25 as I feel Dan Mullen’s bunch has earned its street cred as a program following the past two seasons. However, I do feel Athlon got it right with Auburn, even going so far as to sink War Eagle below Derek Dooley’s Vols.
At the end of the day, that’s another major feather in the cap of preseason publications — they generate conversation amongst fans.
So, having given these magazines both my blessing and condemnation, what’s my ultimate stance?
Sometimes when you’re that hungry, you just gotta eat.
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.