Washington Post: All About Home Field Advantage



Following a Redskins win that broke an eight-game home losing streak, this week's article at the Post looks at home field advantage and its causes.


Home advantage is universal in sports. Whether it’s a team or individual sport, professional or amateur, virtually all athletic competitions have a home advantage. Fans like to believe they are the cause. Communication is essential in football, audibles and snap counts being the most obvious. The players themselves tell us it makes a difference. As plausible as this explanation may seem, the evidence suggests home advantage does not come from the crowd.

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10 Responses to “Washington Post: All About Home Field Advantage”

  1. Jared Doom says:

    No game probabilities today? Am I missing them somewhere?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I haven't seen them, either.

  3. Brian Burke says:

    It's my bust. I turn them in on Wed nights to the Times. Last night I mistakenly left the numbers out of the attachment. The editor who posts them is a late-shift guy. They'll be up on line at some point today.

  4. Andrew Foland says:

    Isn't there a fairly direct test of the crowd-noise theory, namely, the number of false-start/offsides penalties called on home and away teams? Has anyone looked?

    (There's a counter-argument, I suppose, that the away team adjusts its line play to account for the crowd noise and keep penalty rate constant, and that it is that very adjustment that causes the advantage...)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Will they be up before SEA/SF kickoff?

  6. natetg says:

    It looks like you've written on the topic of home field advantage before. I came upon one of your earlier articles when looking for information about the Clippers and Lakers who - while not NFL - are the only two teams that play each other, and share a home arena.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Check out the book Scorecasting. It provides a good case that it is the officiating.

  8. Brian Burke says:

    Scorecasting does make that case, but it's not strong. Don't bite on any single study or just a few studies presented to you, including my own. Many, many studies are done and there may be as many type I errors as there are valid findings. The studies that don't find an effect never make it past the researchers laptop. I don't buy something without a pile of consistent studies with results congruent with sound theory.

    On field football stuff is a little different. There is tons of data and it's a bounded system...always the same rules/field size/number of players/points for scores...etc...

  9. Wizard says:

    Brian, I am not buying it. You state

    'Studies of hockey and soccer players at home showed heightened pre-game levels of testosterone, the hormone most associated with aggression. These findings corroborate a line of research that shows heightened territorial behavior in a wide range of competition.'

    However, is it not possible (I would think probable) that the heightened pre-game levels of testosterone come from the fact that they KNOW they are playing in front of people.

    you made some plausible arguments that it is not about the crowd, but you never really proved to dismiss it. Perhaps it is not possible to prove either way.

    As a mathematician myself, I know that intutition is not to interfere with mathematics, but sometimes intuition is right on the mark. What is the home court advantage in the NBA? something like 67% of home teams win, as I recall?

    Do you really think that if they played in front of nobody, it would be that high? But further, and on the subject of intuition, I think it is human nature to be bolstered by people rooting for you. I am not sure if this phrase fits, but I kind of think it does.. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

  10. Guy says:

    Brian: Bolstering your "familiarity" thesis is the fact that virtually all of the HFA in MLB, at least in recent years, occurs in the first inning. A complicating factor is that the home pitcher gets to transition immediately from his pre-game warmup to pitching in the first inning, while the visiting pitcher has to sit on the bench a while. Still, seems consistent with the patterns in football.

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