Stupid statistics

The existence of extensive computer databases has led sports analysts to continually offer up the most absurd facts as though they are relevant to a current situation. Today's example: "Since 1970, the Cowboys have won more road games (179) than any NFL team. San Francisco (178) and Miami (176) come the closest."

OK, is there a single person involved with the Dallas Cowboys in 1970 who is still involved with them today? (There might be, but if there are, they are scarce on the ground.) So how is how the 1971 or 1974 Cowboys performed on the road relevant to their upcoming game?

Well, because "statistics" are "scientific"!

5 comments:

  1. Well, the Cowboys are a continuing institution. Just because personnel change, that doesn't mean there isn't an institutional culture that might not carry over from coach to coach, quarterback to quarterback, etc.

    For example, perhaps the Cowboys have, since the days of yore, made a practice of traveling to the game venue earlier than other teams to acclimate themselves to the temperature, altitude, etc. Or perhaps the coaches have passed down some particular method of analyzing away fields and teams that works well.

    Or perhaps it's environmental. Maybe 450 feet above sea level is an optimal environment for playing well in locations at lower or higher altitudes (although I'd think Denver would be tops on that count -- the human body gets more efficient at oxygenating blood when it acclimates to higher altitudes, so coming to the lowlands their players should have more stamina, etc.).

    Or maybe you're right and it's just a BS statistic.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's possible there is something behind the stat. But simply on its face, I'd say it is explained by:
      1) The fact the Cowboys have been pretty good over the years, and
      2) Chance.

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    2. "Well, the Cowboys are a continuing institution. Just because personnel change, that doesn't mean there isn't an institutional culture that might not carry over from coach to coach, quarterback to quarterback, etc."

      Abandoning that methodological individualism, I see.

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    3. I don't think that term means what you think it means.

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