As I was coming home from work the other day, I turned on Philly’s 97.5 The Fanatic to listen in on what people were saying about the Vincent Lecavalier signing. Towards the end of the Tony Bruno and Harry Mayes show, Tony Bruno said something that incensed me when replying to a caller who was concerned about the Flyers salary cap situation after signing Vinny. What he said was ignorant, rude, and down right stupid.
Sites like CapGeek, Hockey Analysis, and Behind The Net provide hockey bloggers and writers with a great resource to reference to when writing our material. They provide insanely powerful information, at no cost, so that fans and writers alike can share and debate what is going on in the NHL. But people like Tony Bruno don’t think that we should care about cap figures or advanced statistics.
Why do I give a damn about [the cap]…That’s why teams hire dorky guys with pocket protectors to worry about the cap.
When I heard that I almost drove my car off of 476. What statement is Bruno trying to make by insulting people who provide us with this information? Using this kind of vernacular is what keeps these silly spats between traditional sports fans and stat heads going.
The reason these sites exist is to better inform the NHL fan base so that we can better understand the inner workings in our team’s front office decisions. The term “armchair GM” has been around for a while now, and now with this vast amount of data available to us, we can figuratively live out our GM fantasies. The amount of power these sites lend to our arguments and opinions is incredible. If I want to look up Sean Couturier’s Offensive Zone Start % it would take make about 10 seconds to find. Oh and look, here is the data.If the information is so readily available it seems lazy to ignore it. Sports personalities like Tony Bruno, Harold Reynolds and Ken Harrelson for whatever reason cannot come to accept that advanced statistics have become commonplace in modern sports front offices and seem to be maligned to continually calling anyone that uses them a nerd or a dork.
But that’s not to say that people who use analytics cannot be jerks as well. There seems to be a certain smugness about people who use then that can be annoying and unbearable to sport’s “traditionalists’.
Andrew Sharp, writer for Grantland, posted a really fascinating article in March of this year describing his time at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. During his time there, he outlined that sports analytics started out as a question of, “What can we measure better? How can we understand sports better?”, but it has now devolved into analytics, “Getting sold as somehow more honest than what anyone else might see in sports”. The piece was written from a skeptics point of view and made me ask myself the following question. While all these stats can help us understand our favorite sports better, at what point does all this data numb us to why we began watching sports in the first place? To which I answered, we can balance both worlds, one in which we keep watching sports because we fell in love with it as a kid, and one in which as we’ve grown older we can appreciate the finer, minute aspects of the games we love.
In an era of sports debate where we can look up stats and news in seconds, we need to evolve beyond playground name calling during our discussions. This tactic of belittling someone because they chose to do some research only serves to makes you sound like an ignorant fool.