Friday, November 30, 2007

Sports is not math

The whole premise of sports media is to let you know what's going to happen before it does. This, of course, is impossible. That's one of the reasons I stopped making predictions; we all pretty much get the same amount of information. So, when it comes down to crunch time, just about every fan will try to find something to hang their hat on. Usually, they revert to comparing common opponents.

I can't tell you if Missouri will beat Oklahoma or if the Seahawks will beat the Eagles, though I have some pretty good estimations. As always, these estimations are based on the same information that you get, only we just reach different conclusions. But instead of doing the necessary homework to try to figure out what the outcome of the future will be (which is a time-wasting exercise), Sports Fan USA will take the lazy route; finding common opponents, comparing the outcomes and making a prediction. This is a dumb, not to mention wholly inefficient way to discuss sports.

The math goes like this: if A-C is more than B-C, than A is better. In actual mathematics, this works. In sports, not so much. That would mean since Seattle beat Chicago 30-23 and Philadelphia lost to Chicago 16-19, Seattle is 20 points better than Philadelphia. That would also mean Seattle is 17 points better than New England, who only beat the Eagles by three. Obviously, this is incorrect. So why is comparing common opponents such a popular way to determine who is better?

Laziness, probably. We have half a week to react to a certain sporting event, and the other half to predict the next slate of games, so at about noon on Wednesday, we are ready for the upcoming weekend. Breaking down matchups and watching past games not only requires you to know what you're looking for, but it is tedious work. I don't enjoy watching Knicks games. Doing a simple math problem is easy enough for any casual fan to come up with an outcome, though it has no bearing on reality.

But what confuses me is that people have two and a half days to study a game, but still seem to revert to inane concepts. Going through actual information would actually kill time. Thing is, fans would rather talk for an hour with five minutes of research than research for an hour with five minutes of talking. And I don't blame them.

Then again, don't we all come to relatively the same conclusions (around 50-60% correct predictions) anyways? Ahhh, now I get it.


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