Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Basketball

While watching the game, it occured to me that most everyone complains about overpaid juvenile athletes, whereas no one complains about the announcers except for the occasional intelligent fan. This is in spite of the fact that announcers obviously are much less skilled and do much less work than the athletes(*). Announcers do three things:
1. Recite statistics
2. Make inane non-mathematical statements about the players
(2a. Make homoerotic comments about Sean May's "big soft hands")
3. Reminisce about when they played basketball
They do a pretty good job of two(three) of those things. But would it really kill us to require our sportscasters to have some notion that the law of small numbers doesn't exist? I'm not asking that they be doing 2-way-anovas before every statement they make, and I'm fine if the vast majority of the things they say have little to no statistical significance, but can we please not try to make predictions based on the free throw percentage of a kid who has taken 12 free-throws during the entire season?
Absolute statistical genius: "Wes Miller is 10 for 15 from the line this year, so he's not very good, but that's probably because he's been to the line so rarely."
Within a single comment, the announcer asserts that these 15 shots are enough to verify a stable level of free throw shooting ability, which is also so ephemeral that another 20 trips to the line or so could've erased it. Rarely have "p" and "not-p" been so rapidly asserted by the same person.

(*) Yes, the athletes eventually become sportscasters, but they're good at their first job and horrible at the second.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

yeah, my dad and i were teasing the sportscaster for that particularly dumb remark last night. but now that i think about it slightly less cursorily, this is precisely, for me, the purpose of a sportscaster. i feel so damn intelligent because i can watch athletic excellence and make fun of someone commenting on that athletic excellence at the same time.