A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘National Football League

Information Gain: The secret to a must-watch event

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Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Ce...

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TrueHoop makes an argument today in an article about the importance of parity in praise of uncertainty in sporting results that I think almost completely misses the mark:

Research suggests that more uncertain outcomes lead to more certain income, or … more pie.

There’s a reason that the TV deals for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament both dwarf the NBA’s. In just about every game of the NFL season, and in just about every game of the NCAA tournament, you simply must watch to know what’ll happen. It all matters. You wake up the morning of the game with almost no ability to pick any winners. That’s the kind of thrill-ride that leads to enraptured fans and huge TV income.

Don’t confuse luck with parity 

Really, in every game you don’t know what happens in football and college basketball, but it’s a given in the NBA? Pshaw. I’ve tackled the issue of certainty/uncertainty here before on several occasions. Here’s the table from when I compared March Madness to the various pro playoff systems:

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March Madness as a Playoff System

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Candy

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I’ve previously analyzed the playoff systems of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US, looking at fairness, which I’ve defined as follows:

Ideal fairness means that we get rid of the unevenness of the regular season schedule without adding too much randomness.  If you’ve got a variety of divisions or conferences that hardly play against each other, the idea that you can have a single champion without a playoff tournament of some sort is absurd – but of course playoffs in some sense always mean throwing out a larger sample size for a smaller one, which never entirely good.

We’re in March Madness season so it’s worth considering college basketball’s playoff system, arguably the most successful in terms of financial gains relative to regular season. This happens to be a particularly good season to consider this because all of the favorites are gone. Every team left has at least 8 losses, which either indicates a stunning amount of parity, or a ridiculous amount of luck.

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Clay Matthews and the deep end of the talent pool

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Linebacker/defensive end Clay Matthews III, wa...

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Clay Matthews is a star

Clay Matthews is on top of the world. This last regular season in the NFL he emerged as a defensive juggernaut and came within two votes of winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Come playoff time, he then led the Green Bay Packer defense to a Super Bowl ring. If the NFL had a defensive award for the entire season, Matthews would probably get the nod as the best defensive player in the league this season.

Clay Matthews has only played 2 years in the NFL. He’s about as much of an immediate star in the league as you’ll see. Consider for example, that we haven’t had an NFL DPOY with 2 or less years of experience since Lawrence Taylor almost 30 years ago. While Matthews certainly has great instincts as a football player, he doesn’t get where he is right now without freakish physical talent. A quarterback can get away without being able to move that well, a linebacker cannot. And so clearly, while spotting which players will emerge as DPOY is a bit tougher, Matthews clearly has the physical tools that should make him pretty easy for scouts to identify. And of course, the man did get drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft, so nothing to out of the ordinary there.

Clay Matthews was never a “future star”

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Why I Love Sports: Green Bay Packers

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Green Bay Packers helmet

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Watching the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears Sunday was about as good as it gets for me as a sports fan. Great game, but really great franchises, and of course the right winner. As we get ready for the Super Bowl, I want to take a moment to write a love letter to what is to me the most compelling sports franchise in American history.

I want to make clear from the start: The Packers are not MY team. I’m from California, and though I do have some family in Wisconsin, the San Diego Chargers are my team…I just wish I could say all this about them.

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American Playoff Systems: Closure or Chaos?

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Created by Jason R Remy (Jayron32)

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Last week we saw the two #1 seeds in NFL lose in their first (and thus only) playoff game of the season.  Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post talking about just how good one of them, the New England Patriots, was compared with history.  Am I shocked they lost?  Not really given what I know about the NFL playoffs – it’s not uncommon for favorites to lose in the playoffs.

This event though has made a few people start thinking about the system we have and its pros and cons.  Joe Posnanski over at SI writes a great thought provoking article on the matter, its implications to the BCS, and on what playoffs mean in general.  In one line he asks:  “Is a playoff really MORE FAIR? What does fair even mean?”

Fairness in Competition = Removing Bias while Minimizing Randomness

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Expanding the Baseball Playoffs is a BAD Idea

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As the 2010 Major League Baseball playoff have come to the close, commissioner Bud Selig has recently made statements indicating he wishes to strongly consider adding more teams to the league’s playoff system.

His statement of the issue:   “Is eight out of 30 enough? Is that fair? And that’s the basic question here, at least for me.”.  The ‘eight’ here meaning the 8 teams in the current playoff system.

He was then asked for his opinion of having 10 teams in the playoffs instead of 8: “It’s more fair than eight.”

This just leaves me shaking my head.  Talking about fairness sounds lovely, but without context, even the most die hard of baseball fans wouldn’t be sure what he meant, and with context, it appears he’s talking about striking some balance where part of the goal is putting as many teams into the playoffs as possible.

Folks this is just ridiculous.  You want to know what’s unfair?  Working your tail off for 162 games, and then having that discounted.  Sigh – let me take a step back here for a second.  I’m not anti-playoffs.  I’m not against having quite a few teams in a playoff if it’s suitable for the sport and league in question.  It’s fine for football, it’s fine for basketball, but it’s not okay for baseball, and I’m going to show you why. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

November 2, 2010 at 1:54 am