Worthless Sports Statistics

As a kid I loved sports statistics. On my third grade YMCA basketball team I would literally get home after a game and chart how many points each person scored and add them up on a piece of computer paper throughout the season. Now granted our team only scored around twenty points per game so I didn’t have to have an out of this world memory to remember everyone’s point totals but what I am trying to say is that I loved stats from an early age.

When it became obvious that my high school basketball career would not continue, I became the varsity team’s statistician during my senior year, a nice little activity between football and track season. To this day I check box scores each morning, I rationalize mostly all of my major life decisions in a sports statistics frame of mind, and I can still recite all of the key statistics from the 1995 Seattle Mariners baseball season. I am definitely a stats nerd!

With that said, I have started to become a little agitated with the ultra-specific and sometimes bizarre level that the sports media is taking the reporting of statistics to. As someone who values stats, no one appreciates timely and relevant numbers during a sports broadcast like me. Tell me overall averages of a team against a certain pitcher, tell me a quarterback’s record playing in outdoor stadiums, and tell me a player’s free throw percentage during the last five minutes of a game. Given in the past tense, they also help put in perspective what had just occurred. These are all specific and relevant statistics that provide me with information and that help explain what might happen.

But like I said, the reporting of statistics is now at a new level and I don’t particularly find them helpful or interesting. I don’t need to know that a pitcher was able to throw 8 innings of no hit ball on three days rest for only the second time since 1957 in the ALCS. Or I don’t need to know that an NBA player picked up exactly five fouls in three straight games for the first time since 1980. Or I don’t need to know that an NFL team has gone 66-21-1 after leading by three or more points going into the fourth quarter in games played after 2 p.m. over the past ten seasons.

Not only are the above statistics overly specific but they also say nothing of real consequence. Who cares that a player picked up the same amount of fouls in three straight games? Does it really tell me much that a football team wins a majority of its games when leading going into the fourth quarter with other unrelated factors? The answers to the two questions are no one and no.

I do realize that a small portion of the population actually does enjoy these types of statistics. However, I don’t think sports networks should cater to these small numbers by jamming their broadcasts with them. Save them for the back pages of magazines, the small print of newspapers, and the depths of the almanacs. Don’t have them lead off an episode of Sportscenter or don’t use them on a lower-third during a crucial point in an MLB Playoff broadcast.

I know technology keeps increasing and I know that statistical staffs are growing. Obviously these two factors make the overly specific worthless statistic more abundant but there is a point where producers and the talent have to question what they are feeding the audience. Aren’t they trying to do their best to inform? A statistic that throws together unrelated factors and random periods of time does not improve the experience for the fan. Most of the time it makes us digest the information for a couple of confusing seconds and then utter how stupid and irrelevant that stat actually was. I don’t know if networks are trying to fill time or if they are trying to come across as sophisticated (or perhaps both) but we as an audience are neither entertained nor impressed.

As someone who once wanted to grow up to be a sports statistician, I am a little turned off these days at the information that is being gathered and then reported. I hope the leaders in sports broadcasting re-evaluate what and how they present from a statistical level. By the way, this is the 165th blog post I have done after 10 p.m. that has contained only four or more sentences in the ending paragraph. Don’t Blink.

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