Roundup 1/21/12

Using portfolio theory to analyze fantasy football strategies. I tinkered with portfolio theory a while back, but ultimately understood it's not appropriate for real football analysis. It is however, well-suited for fantasy analysis.

A commenter linked to this a couple weeks ago. Correlation != causation.

2011 Giants = 2010 Packers? I buy that.

A different kind of look at Flacco.

Is the new rookie wage scale the reason for the record number of underclassmen declaring for the draft?

This is a good analysis of when teams ahead should try to score rather than run out the clock. I agree and made the same observation at the time on the WP graph comments. Fans and analysts typically call for teams to 'run out the clock' far too early. The sport has changed over the years to where offenses only need 1 minute to drive the length of the field for a TD. The 2-minute drill is an antiquated term. Two minutes is an eternity. (See the NO-SF game: 4 TDs in the 4 final minutes.) Helmet-knock: FO.

PFR's Super Bowl Squares app is available.

The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is coming up. These things are not my cup of tea, but they usually ask me to help promote it. I might as well do it while people are still interested in football.

Also, the SABR conference is happening in Arizona in March.

Do sports build character? If you've ever wondered what intellectual kooks in the ivory tower think about sports (and by sports they mean gridiron football) then this widely-applauded yet bizarre, self-indulgent essay will clue you in. According to its author, football creates and reinforces hierarchical class, homophobia, scapegoating, an absence of compassion, and out-group dehumanization. This world view is built on an assumption that people show up as malleable masses, ready to be conditioned like lab pigeons however their environment and leaders shape them. Football doesn't create violence or any of those other things. Football doesn't make the case that violence is good. It simply admits, violence is. It puts rules on it and channels it into something that can benefit the thousands who play it and the millions who enjoy watching it.

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13 Responses to “Roundup 1/21/12”

  1. Anonymous says:

    "This world view is built on an assumption that people show up as malleable masses"
    You don't know very much about sociology or religion do you?

    Granted, I love football, but its not a necessarily good thing. I didn't read the article so it may well be kooky and out of place, but you really have a lot to learn about the majority of people and general human nature if you don't think that they are malleable.

  2. Brian Burke says:

    Humans are malleable to some degree, within relatively narrow limits. What the author and his ilk choose to ignore is that we as a species have certain traits, like those the author bemoans, built in. His perspective is a blend of Freudian nonsense and Marxist fantasy, which sadly still pervades the old-guard of the social sciences, and which apparently includes you. Football is not a Skinner Box and we are not all lab rats.

    I'm not sure how much you might be following modern research into anthropology and psychology, but it turns out nature has the firm upper hand over nurture. The blank slate philosophy sounded nice in the 18th century, but it turns out to be horribly wrong. It has been one of the most tragically erroneous ideas in human history.

    But hey, stick to your playbook. Don't address the issue or debate the merits. Skip reading the actual article. Go right for the ad hominem insult.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the first article's volatility analysis is that he is assuming that first-half-of-season ppg volatility is entirely predicitve of second-half volatility. If only it was that easy...

  4. Tom says:

    The problem with what Barnwell has to say is that he completely ignores what actually happened in the game last week. The Giants may have won big, but it would be far more apt to say that the Packers lost big. It wasn't due to the pressure New York applied, or the lead the had to overcome, it was merely a case of poor performance. The Pack are nothing without their passing offence firing, and last week it misfired a lot, it misfired without any real pressure being put on it. Call it a choke, call it gaussian noise, call it whatever you like, but the Giants didn't really 'win' without the help of Green Bay.

  5. Ben Stuplisberger says:

    I think the Chronicle article is more balanced than you make it out to be Brian. Since I work in academics, I read this article last week. Although the elements you mention are included, the writer also spends most of the first half of the article pointing to the benefits that sports competition instilled in him, namely, the ability to extend one's self beyond what one thinks they can do.

    I agree with you that the writer veers into unsteady ground, somewhat blaming ills of our culture on sports indoctrination. He clearly makes the point in the LT example that sports are the cause, rather than a reflection of, his boorish and aggressive behavior.

    For true ivory tower idiocy, check some of the comments on the article. However, one commenter, steverankin, aptly criticizes the article writer.

    From my point of view, Edmundson's view seemed balanced, mainly because I am accustomed to my colleagues being stuck in a high school mentality of nerds vs. jocks and seeing no value in sports. Needless to say, most of them never participated in sports and are basically talking out of their asses.

    I played sports, including football, through junior high, and have nothing but fond memories. My friends who continued in athletics through high school and college though are a mixed bag. The most dominant and successful ones tend to have fond memories, the more mediocre relate being devalued or treated like meat. I am including women in this as well.

    Thanks for posting a link to the article.

  6. j holz says:

    I don't care for that first article at all. It relies on the premise that we can measure risk to a degree we can't (just like in finance!) and I don't even agree with the conclusion once we get there.

    My goal in finance is to earn a solid return and not go broke. My goal in a fantasy league is to win or go home. These are practically diametric opposites.

    Going into the 2011 season, both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning had some health questions. Obviously, Rodgers had an amazing season while Manning scored zero points. Let's say I offer you the choice of:

    A) flipping a coin, Heads you get Rodgers and Tails you get Manning, or
    B) a second-tier QB like Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers.

    B offers about the same expectation as A with a much lower variance, but it's not the strategy I'd choose if I want to win my league.

    The graphs add nothing to the analysis and I'm not sure why they were included.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I didn't address the issue or debate the merits, but that was because that wasn't what I had a problem is. I was more taking issue with that exact statement of your counter argument, with no argument whatsoever on the larger issue, as I hadn't read the article yet. Going for the ad hominem? Incorrect call, as I was not using my point to discredit yours, merely attacking what I think is an incorrect statement.
    Yes, nature accounts for a lot of what makes us who we are, but looking at sociological factors is not "tragically erroneous." We are, in fact, heavily influenced by our environment and other sociological factors in many ways. Gender and religious identities for example, two huge components of everyone's identity, are largely shaped and defined by childhood development. Girls and boys, again for example, test pretty close to evenly across the board at young ages, but as they get older and they are "trained" in a sense to believe that they "should" be better in certain areas and focus on them, huge gaps form. Same thing with racial identities. Groups of black people performing the same activity (golf putting) perform much better when told they are being tested athletically as opposed to mentally. These are of course general and lame examples, but the point is that I wanted to challenge your notion that people aren't malleable. Religion, and many other examples of mass delusion I could point to, would not exist otherwise. We live in a world of reflection, where everyone lives for judgment of others. Where success is measure democratically rather than personal.

  8. Anonymous says:


    Also, sorry for wall of text mode.
    And you're free to disagree, of course, it won't bother me. I'll still be here.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anon above how's it like living in the 1960's? Skinner would be proud to see people still pushing his crazy outdated theories.

    Here's a nice article to read if you want to join the 21st century:

  10. Jim Glass says:

    The Giants may have won big, but it would be far more apt to say that the Packers lost big. It wasn't due to the pressure New York applied, or the lead the had to overcome, it was merely a case of poor performance.

    Yes, and triple plus true for the 49ers over Saints. Giving up 165 yards and 14 points in three minutes on the field to blow *two* last minute leads. It coulda been 500 yards if the 9ers hadn't kept hitting the end zone. But people don't so often notice low quality D play anymore, which is exactly as the NFL wants -- as mentioning D-failure is clearly expressly verbotten in NFL-approved commentary these days.

    E.g, in this week's Inside the NFL, the Giants' 1st-half Hail Mary was described by Collingsworth as "a brave play call that worked, the defense wasn't looking for it because why should they be in that situation? A great call by Gilbride!" Why should they be????

    As to the Saints giving up those 165 yards in 3 minutes, the crew said, "the 49ers won because they had the courage to give Alex Smith the ball ... who suspected earlier this year that Smith could raise his level of play to such heights? ... in those last minutes, great players took the lead in a heroic series of plays". Nary a word about DBs who were doubling a receiver spearing each other to let the WR run the distance untouched, or any such non-heroism. The defenders were "besieged" and "overwhelmed", heroes themselves!

    On the same show, Tomlinson was a guest and talked a lot about the Jets locker room woes, without saying anything explicit. He did say about Holmes starting a fight in the huddle in the last game: "Santonio is a great player, obviously. But we can all improve ourselves, and Santonio maybe can improve his leadership skills".

    Afterward Brown and Collingsworth heaped praise on him for his "impressive candor" and "candid" statements.

    Collingsworth put it this way: "LT was remarkably candid. I predict he has a great future with us as a commentator. Because if you listen to him about the Jets' problems you know what he is saying, yet he never says anything negative, never criticizes or points a finger. He's very constructive, gives the truth constructively. He'll be a great analyst".

    That's being "remarkably candid" as an NFL analyst.

    It's the ultimate consummation of what the great soccer player Danny Blanchflower experienced when hired by CBS to call games for the NASL back in the Pele era. After he criticized a goalie for badly missing a shot he got called in by the CBS executives...

    "We think you could have said it was a good shot," they insisted.

    "It would not be the truth," I said.

    "We don't want you to tell lies," they argued. "We think there are two truths: a positive truth and a negative truth. We want you to be positive -— to say it was a good play rather than bad."

    I had never met men before who worshiped two truths. Why had such inventive souls stopped at only two, I wondered? Why not four truths? Or 10?..."

    As far as the league and the networks are concerned, the dream has come true. "What is truth", anyway?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Erm, to the anon who said I was living in the 1960s, that article doesn't address anything that I am talking about. I'm talking about large scale sociological things that affect pretty much everyone or everyone in a large group and shape our identities.
    Things that change across different cultures and regions. It's not nature that creates racial, gender, and religious roles, its nurture.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I like Jim Glass's comments, he has formulated well something that's been in the back of my mind all this season. During Tebow's wild run I was struck by how seldom - in fact it may have been never - that I heard the "c" word, choke, applied to the half dozen teams that blew victories (sometimes in crucial games) against the Broncos. It's also not been much discussed that seven times teams blew 17 point (or more) halftime leads to lose this season, which was more than twice as often as that's happened in any previous NFL season. You heard a lot of excited talk about "amazing comebacks" or the like, but not a word about the magnitude of these collapses and what that might reflect about the players and coaches involved. Not to imply that it's ever easy to win in the NFL, but I seem to remember that protecting a lead used to be considered a crucial part of a team's strength. Whereas now commenters seem to describe the end of an NFL game as if the opposing offenses are each taking spins of a roulette wheel and the luckier team winning - or as if it's a basketball game in which one team has a four point lead but their opponent gets six free throws at the very end of the game to try for the win... in other words, defense is out of the equation.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I really liked the article about the underclassmen declaring for the draft and wonder if this accelerates the shift in value from the first to second and third rounds.

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