The world of bad sports takes is vast and mostly unchecked — somehow, that awful Colin Cowherd or Mad Dog Russo or [irksome local sports columnist of your choice] prediction you heard yesterday or last year or even decades ago goes unacknowledged or gets blatantly contradicted, often with no repercussion.
And that’s where Fred Segal comes in. A lawyer by trade, Segal now runs Freezing Cold Takes, a social media site that digs up quotes and predictions from members of the sports world that have aged poorly (with an occasional potshot at overeager fans or a terrible non-sports prediction thrown in for laughs).
The “gotcha” posts on @OldTakesExposed aren’t mean or callous — oftentimes, Segal simply retweets terribly inaccurate sports commentary from the forgotten vaults of social media, often invoking the ire of the original prognosticators. The Internet’s smartest targets often offer up their terrible takes to Freezing Cold Takes in advance, tagging Segal on Twitter with some variation on “this didn’t age well.”
Now with nearly 600,000 followers, Segal has been able to take OTE nearly full-time and even earn a book deal. His debut tome, Freezing Cold Takes: NFL, focuses on (as the subtitle suggests) “Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them.”
This is where you’ll find the stories behind such opinionated wrongness as…Trade Steve Young. Don’t hire Bill Belichick. Brady Quinn is the next Dan Marino.
On the week of the book’s launch, we emailed Segal to get his thoughts on football’s worst takes, the sports commentators who can’t take a correction and why you shouldn’t tweet about the Patriots’ offensive woes quite yet.
InsideHook: What was the original inspiration behind the site?
Fred Segal: I started the Freezing Cold Takes Twitter feed in 2015 as a counter to sports media folks re-posting their accurate predictions along with self-congratulatory messages. I thought there should be someone who reposted tweets and quotes from some of those same media folks from when they were dead wrong. I didn’t expect it to be something that would take off as big as it did.
Who has the best sense of humor about you retweeting their incorrect takes? And who seems to have issues with it?
It’s impossible to boil this down to one person. There are many who have a great sense of humor about it and are willing to accept when I repost their old inaccurate prognostications. There are also a bunch of journalists who have issues with it because they think my feed is useless and unoriginal. Many people in the media dislike it because they find it annoying when they post a tweet and 100 Twitter users reply to it with a tag to my account.
What was the inspiration to do a longer book that concentrated on NFL bad takes?
I wanted to do something about past sports predictions in longer form. With social media, especially Twitter, I’m limited to 280 characters, so there is only room for a quote or a tweet. The book allows me to tell complete stories about some of the all-time most infamous NFL predictions, including research and context into what the person’s thought process might have been when these ill-fated prognostications were made.
You quote Filip Bondy in his mea culpa at the end of the first chapter as basically admitting the media knows next to nothing about the “layered vagaries and trade secrets of professional football.” Why should we trust them, then?
I think that trust is more reserved for reporting than columns, opinions and “hot takes.” With reporting, readers make their own judgments about credibility from a journalist’s prior work. In the aforementioned quote, I don’t believe Bondy was referring to the media’s reporting accuracy, but rather the basis of which most of the sports media forms its opinions. At the time, Bondy thought sports fans and much of the media were on the outside looking in. They weren’t aware of many of the important factors that were driving prominent sportspeople to make certain important decisions. As a result, he believed, the media’s opinions about some of those issues may not have been as informed as some people thought.
Is there a prediction you’ve seen yet for the 2022 NFL season that you think “gotta bookmark that one.”
Not a specific one, but more of a topic that has generated a substantial amount of strong commentary on the New England Patriots offense. There have been numerous reports that it has been struggling during training camp, and I find myself bookmarking tons of aggressive takes about how unproductive it will be in the upcoming season.
Is Colin Cowherd the most confidentially incorrect analyst?
I don’t think so. However, his takes may be most frequently on my feed. It’s very difficult to choose who is the most incorrect given that most media folks’ takes aren’t consistently memorialized or documented, and most ill-fated predictions evade ridicule. Cowherd’s takes, on the other hand, are posted daily and neatly packaged into short quotes and audio clips by FS1’s active social media team. As a result, he has one of the biggest catalogs of researchable cold takes to choose from.
Is there a site that’s the opposite of yours — ridiculous takes that come true?
I’ve come across a few on Twitter. I thought about doing one early on, but it’s much harder to get people interested in them. People are far less interested in looking at highlights of what journalists get right than what they got wrong.
You’ve admitted you’re occasionally wrong. What was your worst take?
Last year, I thought there was no way that Mario Cristobal would ever come back to coach at the University of Miami. I even argued about it with people on Twitter and made some snarky comments to anyone that thought otherwise. Needless to say, I was roasted pretty hard.
What’s the most interesting interaction you’ve had online concerning your retweeting of an old take?
I have never had a personal interaction like direct message or in-person that has been very interesting. The negative feedback usually is public tweets from people making fun of me and the feed or getting upset when I post one of their Cold Takes. It’s not the interactions that fascinate me the most, it’s the opposite, like when a journalist blocks me and any account that tries to tag me or send me one of the journalist’s tweets. That happens sometimes.