As a child I was a complete sports stat junkie. I would wrestle with my dad for the sports page first thing in the morning so I could read the box scores in baseball, football, and basketball and then store them Rain Man style. Throw out a name from the 80’s or 90’s and I could have given you a close reciting of his Topp’s baseball card.
Perhaps I was just your typical kid raised by a sports loving dad. But maybe not. Looking back at it now I have to wonder. Did I love reading sport statistics because I loved sports or did I love the numbers because I was drawn to them and my eventual career in chemistry and later software engineering/consulting?
I go with the latter. I never was much of a sports fan; I didn’t and don’t enjoy to watch them on TV or in person. I only talk about sports when used as a small-talk crutch at a developer conferences or a cocktail party. And yet I STILL love box scores and there is still the daily rush to read them and I follow 4 or 5 sport blogs. But get this, they are ALL focused around the statistical analysis of performance. The best, in my opinion, is The Wages of Wins Journal by Dave Berri. Dave presents numbers for basketball junkies to confirm what they have known for years but many NBA general managers still don’t, that there is more than points per game. That guys like Ricky Davis may have scored over 20 a game in 2002 but you may not want him on your team.
The piece in the Sunday NY Times was a great piece about the growing use of deep statistical measures for assessing basketball skill; a lot of fun.