Football Stats and Commentary to Cut Next Season

NFL refs, analysts, and commentators take a lot of heat from fans. It is, after all, an integral part of watching football to yell at the TV — whether it’s because of a poor or missed call, statement of the obvious, or enforcement (or lack thereof) of a subjective rule. Was it a catch or an incomplete pass? If I had a dollar for how many times this season I heard if a player did or did not “maintain complete control of the ball” debated … I still wouldn’t be able to afford tickets to the Super Bowl.

Maybe we shouldn’t bother yelling at people who can’t hear us, but perhaps the NFL could give a little as well. I’m going to give refs a break here, but I have three areas in mind where I would like to see the talking heads make some improvements. It’s a little late in the season to expect change now, but they could keep these in mind to cut out some of the fluff for the fall.

1) The win-loss record for teams when playing each other. Maybe this is interesting within the same season. Maybe. What I don’t get is looking at match-ups between the two throughout NFL history. What does it matter how many times this team ever beat that team? There are so many changeable factors of the game (rosters, coaches, injuries, etc.) I don’t see why it should be significant if, historically, one team has beaten the other more times.

1a) Also, with all the Manning vs. Brady coverage this week, I can’t leave out mention of player vs. player stats in this category. This is a team sport, right? Again, so many other factors are involved — why focus on the skills of two players who aren’t even on the field the entire game? How influential are the numbers in this article really going to be on Sunday? Consider my mind not blown.

2) Appearance affects performance. If I had only known I would one day have a blog, I would have written down this commentator conversation from a few years ago. The discussion was how Peyton Manning apparently hadn’t been to his barber recently and its effect on his performance on the field. Because clearly, he may throw more incomplete passes or interceptions if he’s overdue for a haircut. I never took a statistics course, but I’m going to guess one has nothing to do with the other. As my husband (who has studied statistics) likes to say, “correlation does not equal causation.” He’s not even into football and comments like this bug him. Commentators, do like everybody else and when you can’t think of anything to say, talk about the weather. It’s much more likely to be relevant to the game.

3) “When X happened the last Y number of times, Z happened.” This can include assumed outcomes for teams that score first, lead at the half, or drink the most Gatorade. (I made that last one up, but you never know.) A recent example was how four seasons in a row, the opponent in the Eagles’ home opener won the Super Bowl. Yeah, sports fans aren’t superstitious enough already (it’s not like there’s an entire ad campaign about that or anything). By the way, the Chargers played the Eagles in their home opener this season— and they lost on Sunday. What was that about correlation, honey?

While cutting irrelevant information could be a step toward more insightful football analysis and commentary (and less yelling), habits are hard to break. Which, of course, is why we have a mute button — then we don’t have to hear them, either.

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