This spring I produced an analysis I haven’t published before.
I’ve done it before, but I haven’t published it. And the word published is the important one here.
In the many years that I have projected the playoffs, prior to the season I have attempted to project the entire nine-week schedule to get an idea of what the postseason picture might look like.
There’s value to this if you are trying to figure out where playoff classification breaks might land and where congestion among the top teams might end up being.
This is standard operating procedure for me.
But nobody sees that but me. Then, somewhere along the line in the “offseason” I was asked to project order of finish in each of the many conferences that Friday Night Drive covers. In the end, there were about 30 of them.
Then I did what I always do. I over-analyzed the situation, and declared order of finish was unsatisfactory because the schedules are imbalanced in a six-week season. You had to do projected records.
This seemed like a good idea at the time. Then when I actually started doing it, I realized that marking teams with winless records was probably going to make people a little upset. It didn’t matter that in some cases I had data to back up that assertion. It didn’t matter that in some cases I was right. I was, without malicious intent, offering up a bunch of bulletin board material.
I have extremely thick skin and the prospect of eating some crow doesn’t bother me. I’ve ate a lot of it and have some good recipes.
It didn’t take long for it to start. I’ve seen so many altered memes of Michael Jordan’s comment from The Last Dance, “And I took that personally” with a school’s logo floating around Mr. Jordan’s head that it almost lost its humor by the end of the season.
And then there was United Township in East Moline.
My projection for the Panthers was the ugly winless one we spoke of before. My justification was that the program hadn’t won a conference game in seven years and hadn’t won more than two games overall since 2003. They were only playing conference games and the numbers led me in one rational direction.
In Week 3, my twitter feed was littered with posts about United Township’s win over Moline. And I got more than a few notifications from some fans and players, many with screen grabs of the now ill-fated conference predictions.
Most of it was in good fun. In kind, I went and sought out some game tape, watched it, enjoyed it and the Panthers had acquired a new fan. They quickly had become one of the first scores I looked for on Friday nights.
And United Township kept winning, closing the season on a four-game winning streak, which included a shocking win over conference powerhouse Sterling on Friday night.
The memes have kept coming and when I look back at this spring season there’s no doubt that one of the first things I’m going to remember is that we did not have a postseason. But quickly thereafter I’m going to remember the United Township squad and other teams like Streamwood, Hampshire, Momence, LaSalle-Peru, Chicago Christian and Nokomis that had breakthroughs that could be building blocks for things to come in the future.
And that future season is just around the corner. And I’m sure I’ll be back making more predictions and observations that don’t pan out the way I think they will. And I’m sure there’s more United Township-type teams out there, just itching to put me in my place.
I can’t wait to find out who they will be.