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Analysis in sports. By the way, you couldn’t see it, but I’m doing air quotes. There are different contexts where people use the word “analysis” or “analytics” in sports. After a game or a match, they will frequently stay tuned for updates and analysis after the game. In something like baseball, people will like to look at statistics. God, sports fans love to look at statistics! This person has this kind of ratio and this number. You can tell that I don’t pay attention, which is kind of funny because I’m a data and analytics guy, and I hate this stuff. Okay, so you can see where this is going to go. It drives me freaking nuts.

Sports and statistics

First of all, I can’t handle a guy sitting around and talking statistics when it comes to sports. It drives me nuts. For somebody who utilizes so much of the left brain, you would think that I would love this kind of stuff. But the reality is, people are sitting around in a circle doing something. It’s just so pointless. Also, it doesn’t go anywhere. In addition, it’s people just arguing for stupidity’s sake.

Back to analytics for a second. Webster’s definition, one component of it, sort of the first one that they say. So, it’s a careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do. Also, it’s about how they are related to each other: a scientific analysis of the data, for example, make/do/perform a chemical analysis of the soil as an example.

It’s not that complicated

First, despite attempts to compare it to chess, anything that involves American football is not that complex. Sorry, guys! I hate to burst your bubble. Maybe, somebody who’s quite simple intellectually or even the average Joe might consider football complicated. I use football here in American football because, in the rest of the world, football is real football, not American football, or what Americans call soccer. But never did a Nobel laureate say, “God, particle physics is complex but nothing like American football.”

A two-minute synopsis of what the journalist thinks is going on or what happened in a match or a game is not analysis. This kind of stuff drives me nuts. We’re trying to elevate something simplistic to something at a high level. I’m not sure I understand why. I mean, I guess I do. We’re trying to sort of revere something because people get caught up in it. They get excited about it.

Also, statistics are not analysis. Sorry to burst that bubble, guys, sports fans! 

Differs from analysis

When you see RBI runs batted in, other kinds of data and things like that, those are just reports. It’s data. Maybe, there are some fundamental calculations in there that produce statistics, but even those “statistics” are painfully simple. There’s probably nothing there rising above a simple average at the most complex level, and everything else is probably just simple sums. This is hardly complicated stuff. This is the kind of thing that a third-grader can do. This is not analysis. Sorry, guys!

The only possible exception to this would be the people in the backroom doing Moneyball kind of stuff, the Moneyball guys. This is where the world of predictive and possibly prescriptive analytics comes into play. They are doing analysis. Maybe they’re sports fans, I don’t know, but I guess they’re not even sports fans. They’re just data wonks. They include a reasonably large number of data inputs and doing objective analysis to figure out what some organization or some person should do.

Bring the value

There’s the real-world financial impact of doing that. But only in something as simple as baseball, where you have one person throwing to, one person hitting, not some crazy number of variables, can you even consider something like this. Yes, we’re looking at height, is the person left-handed, and did they throw this kind of pitch. So yes, you can break it down and do all that kind of stuff, and there’s the actual value. 

Those guys are doing accurate analysis, and it works, and it has value, and I respect that. So I’m not knocking that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s not people talking about analysis of a game or a match or statistics. Not at all. They’re not sports fans watching ESPN trying to get “analysis.”

Having said all of that, as anti-intellectual as this podcast or article may seem. For example, I enjoy watching American football as brain-dead as it is, as anti-intellectual and knuckle-dragging as it may be perceived. I’m not trying to knock the sport. It’s probably the only sport that I watch. I participated in a vast number of sports. I’ve participated in a large number of sports competitively in my life, but I don’t watch them. So I watch American football, which is pretty funny about all of this.

In summary

Let’s face it! It isn’t rocket science, so let’s stop pretending there’s analysis. It just demeans those of us that are engaged in real work.