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.

The Analytics Part of Don’t Blink

Quite often people will start talking to me about my blog and ask if I have any idea about the analytics that my site garners. The answer is yes. Thanks to my friend Chris Lynn who installed it within the backend of Don’t Blink, I have a program called Jetpack that gives me a day by day account of the number of browsers that access my site. This information is invaluable to me as I like to have a good idea of how many people visit my blog and what topics the majority of my readers prefer over others.

Besides the volume of traffic statistics that I receive, I also get other really interesting pieces of information delivered to me regarding my blog. I am told what key words people type in to search engines to find Don’t Blink, what outside sites are referring people to my blog, what links people are clicking on once they are reading my posts, and a breakdown of what individual posts are getting accessed. I assess this information about two to three times every week to have a better understanding of my readers.

When it comes to my daily volume of readers there are a couple trends. I usually always get a large audience on Sunday nights, especially if I post something (which I always try to do). Also, the more consecutive days I post, the more traffic I will get on the latter days in that string. For example, if I published a new blog post Monday through Thursday my web traffic would increase each day, with an exceptionally high impression number on Thursday night. Readers reward you for consistency. However, there are random days when my traffic will shoot right through the roof even though I had not posted anything in a couple days. For example, last week when I was too busy with work to even think about writing a sentence for Don’t Blink I checked my analytics and saw that 900 people (browsers) had visited my site on Wednesday. After looking at the full report I saw that roughly 700 of those hits came by referral of a Japanese website. I had written a blog post 10 months back about Barry Anderson, the mascot of the Chicago Bulls. For whatever reason, Japan LOVES mascots. Barry visited Japan a couple years back and to this day he still has rock star status in the country. On this site there was some thread about Barry and someone found my blog post link and shared it on there. The floodgates opened.

I love looking at the key words people use to find Don’t Blink. Of course I get lots of searches dealing with “Brent Reser,” “Brent Reser Don’t Blink,” “Brent Reser Bio,” and “Don’t Blink Blog,” but many of the other searches are much more random. Just for today, here are some of the key words people typed in to find my site: “random ugly guy,” “Rascal Flatts time on stage,” “double pan fried noodles at PF Changs,” “cheer camp arrival,” “red robin mascot head, ”Boston Bruins stadium,” “iron horse queso recipe,” “embarrassing loss for Loyola football program,” and “don’t waste money on autographs.” Yep, I am proud to say that I have covered such a myriad of topics while authoring this blog that internet users from all over can type in seemingly random phrases and be directed to my little space on the web. Definitely a little creepy too.

I enjoy seeing which blog posts are performing well. As I mentioned in my 2 year anniversary blog post, my passage titled “Instagram Spam” is my all-time most read post. Even right now it is still the most read post pretty much each day. My newer posts are usually always right underneath “Instagram Spam” and then it is whatever post got shared on some random website rounding out the top five most read posts for that particular day.

Speaking of random websites, I pay close attention to which sites are contributing to my site’s traffic. Of course Google, Facebook, and Twitter are my big top three referrers but I am more interested in the websites that will pop up for a couple days and give me rushes of traffic. Because I wrote a couple posts related to Montana Athletics this week, I have had a lot of people from the popular blogging site eGriz take a gander at what I got going. Many times when I review a restaurant or a product the company will get wind of it and share it from their website or social media sites, thus sending people to Don’t Blink. Sometimes, just like with the Japanese website example, a link to my site will get shared on a random platform and I hit viewership gold.

Part of the fun of authoring a blog for me is definitely scrutinizing these statistics and identifying trends. It is cool to see that my writing has an impact on many people from all over the world. Seeing this evidence on a daily basis motivates me to continue to write and to do my best to put out quality work. Don’t Blink.