It’s no secret that we are muddling through a boring sports month. The anticipation of football season continues to grow, but it’s not here yet. Playoff baseball and the beginning of the NHL and NBA seasons are still more than a month away. The only time of year that’s worse on the sports calendar is the six weeks in between the Super Bowl and Selection Sunday. But now, unlike in the dog days of winter, there’s the growing excitement over aimless lists of rankings. In August, sports fans across America scour through the boatloads of fantasy football cheat sheets. In August, preseason college football polls come out and everyone gives their predictions of the four-team playoff. In August, NFL power rankings are released and overreactions to preseason games are commonplace.
Just look at last August. Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was nothing more than a handcuff after the team drafted Tevin Coleman from Indiana in the second round. Coleman was clearly the Falcons running back everyone thought you wanted in fantasy football. Ohio State was first ever unanimous number one in the Associated Press preseason poll. Additionally, many polls had TCU and Baylor in the top five as both Big 12 teams seemed motivated after being snubbed from the playoff the year before in favor of Ohio State. The Carolina Panthers were coming off of a weird season in which they finished below .500, yet won the NFC South and a playoff game. Nobody in their right mind would have ranked them higher than NFC top dogs like Seattle, Arizona and Green Bay, especially after Carolina lost its top receiver for the year when Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL in camp.
Did anyone see Freeman developing into an elite fantasy running back? Raise your hand if you had Ohio State missing the playoff. Oklahoma was the Big 12 team that was playing on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t TCU or Baylor. The Panthers went 15-1 and beat Seattle and Arizona soundly on their way to the Super Bowl.
The point here isn’t to make fun of how wrong writers and radio hosts were. But rather to understand that rankings are only around right now to fill our sports appetites, especially when it comes to football. The minute Matthew Berry drops his annual love/hate, or Kirk Herbstreit gives his playoff picks, all the social media sites are promoting the hottest takes from the biggest pundits in fantasy football and college football. But nobody cares once the season starts. We get to watch games instead of read cheat sheets. You tell me what’s more enjoyable. Rankings are only here now to get us through August much like Joe Lunardi’s new weekly brackets get us through the winter after the Super Bowl. So if you’re a sports fan and ever get bored, there’s always something that needs to be ranked.