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The Secret To Winning Is Not To Play


We start with some MLB news. It was announced on Sunday that the Cleveland baseball franchise will replace its current team name of the Indians for something else after the 2021 season. This news isn’t unexpected; Cleveland had become the most egregious case of a professional team appropriating Native American imagery and stereotypes after the Washington Football Team decided to stop using its old name in July (to the great delight of this podcast, at least). This probably puts some amount of pressure on other teams using native names and iconography — most notably the Chicago Blackhawks. But Cleveland is in the interesting position of being able to draw on its history while forging a new identity. It could be time for the redemption of Cleveland Spiders, the team in baseball with the worst-ever regular-season record — they went an unmatched 20-134 in 1899. There would at least be plenty of fun Halloween merch opportunities if a 21st century Spiders team gets to play games in October.

[Related: Losing Money Betting On College Football This Year? You’re Not Alone.]

Next, we move to college football. It is remarkable that in a season defined by chaos — Oregon just replaced Washington in the Pac-12 championship game — the College Football Playoff picture looks so similar to years past. Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State look as strong as ever, but especially OSU hasn’t really needed to prove it. This year was perhaps the moment to expand the playoffs or let in a team from outside the playoff elite. Cincinnati, Texas A&M and even Coastal Carolina have made cases for themselves based on actually playing games. It is disheartening, and bad for the credibility of the CFP, that the teams who are getting a chance to compete at the highest level are simply the ones assumed to be the strongest. Florida learned a thing or two over the weekend about assuming you can just waltz in and win. The Gators also learned not to throw shoes.

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, in honor of the New England Patriots being mathematically eliminated from the AFC East title race, Neil looks at the longest divisional winning streaks. The Patriots’ 11-season run of dominance is the longest streak in the NFL, and if they had won the division in 2008, they would have the longest winning streak in major American sports. As it stands, that honor belongs to the Atlanta Braves. Although their 14-season winning streak in the NL East, from 1991 to 2005, got a boost from the 1994 players strike, it’s still the only double-digit streak of its kind in baseball.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.