Rest in peace, Casual Sports Fan. Your day has come and gone, and you may hit the showers.
It used to be so simple. Your favorite sports could be easily followed with some basic information, and you could keep track of nearly everything available by spending some time with the newspaper. Nowadays, the degree of detail and the un-flippin’-believable quantity of information on athletes and teams will spin your head like a lineman grabbing your facemask. It’s present in every sport to some extent, but certain ones are bigger offenders than others. Anyone without a degree in accounting is lost. Maybe it’s time for a Sports Math major in college.
Baseball was pure. You could track a pitcher’s ERA and win/loss record, and you’d follow batting averages from there. Oh, but that’s not good enough anymore. Now you’ve got slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and a stitch-by-stitch analysis of a pitcher’s stuff. If following nine guys is hard, it’s even harder to track 22 (plus kickers!) Football has more metrics than an IRS audit of Goldman-Sachs.
We’ve rolled from regular old quarterback ratings to total quarterback ratings. We’ve got yards after catch, targets, knockdowns, and cleat length to contend with. It’s nearly impossible to be a regular fan anymore. It doesn’t help that networks have to fill four or five hours of pregame content every Sunday morning. We can only watch so much swelling of Herm Edwards’ forehead veins before somebody has to say something insightful.
Part of the problem is losing teams, too. When your favorite club sucked, you used to live for next season. Now you’re hawking over the draft, checking out Canadian prospects, and digging for some nugget of good in the upcoming free agents. And you have to. How else would you see Jeff Tuel coming? Who would have imagined Aroldis Chapman would be chucking it at 106 mph? We don’t just want to know how our team is doing now. We want to know the future, too. It’s not just stats on humans either. Horse racing is a beast as well, no pun intended.
Remember the cigar-chomping handicapper with the racing form? Today, he’s royally out-gambled, not by the guy with the best eye for horses, but by the guy with the best thoroughbred handicapping software. But how else can you do it without a computer? How can you take into account the horse’s zodiac sign, the factorization of his stall number, and whether his trainer parts his hair on the left or right?
The really entertaining part with the ponies is the X-factor: You’re dealing with a huge animal with absolutely no idea how important it is to run fast, and you’re trying to attach significance to the circumference of his morning manure. Ultimately, though, you love it. You love having conversation points to debate with the guys. You fantasize about dropping a stat bomb on a radio call-in show, and speaking of fantasies, don’t forget your league.
It’s your monster. You created it. Play ball!
Photo source: here.