Stop It, Sports Commentators
Just Stop It!
IT’S LIKE SOME futuristic twist from one of those cool science fiction films. We create technology to help us, and it does help, but then we look up and it has taken control! While I’m being hyperbolic, immediate access to sports data means we constantly hear sports commentators telling us tidbits we never knew because we never needed to know.

“Marv, Jackson is the only NBA player to be averaging over four rebounds, over eight assists, and under five hundred friends on Facebook.” And if someone matches that set of criteria, next week they’ll be saying “Marv, Jackson is the only player to be averaging over four rebounds, over eight assists, under five hundred friends, and under three vowels in his last name!”

They literally make up “records” that are not records. Home runs. In a season. In a lifetime. Those are records. Least bases on ball given up. Most strikeouts. Those are records. Collages of stats pulled together by some numbers geek for the sole purpose of prattling about them on television, as if they’re records, are asinine. We used to hear “this guy has a well-rounded game -high rebounds and assists for a point guard, with decent shooting and scoring, and fine defense.”

I can’t decide which major sport is the worst about it. Maybe baseball. Sometimes it seems that they have a record for every player in Major League Baseball. “Bill, this pitcher has struck out more batters with a slider this season than any pitcher on any team west of Utah.”

“Did you hear what this guy ran in the 40-yard dash?” “How about his vertical leap?” “His body mass index is higher than that of Santa Claus (or lower than that of a runway model).”

I would like to hear more interesting comments televised from those annoying sideline reporters they show in the stand interviewing some celebrity who has no connection to the game, while the game is going on. “Justin Bieber, why does anyone care what you think about anything?!”

Computers and mass quantities of integrated data make these statistical categories endless. They keep good ones and bad ones. “Jeff, he has never made a basket on a last-second shot.”

I love sports statistics. They are tools for gaining insight into various aspects of a player’s game, and of a team’s game. But it helps to know the logistics behind the numbers. A team which relies on hitting instead of pitching will have explosive offense, but still lose games it would win with better pitching. Hitters may put up big numbers in a losing cause. A big man playing for a bad NBA team can have great rebounding numbers if his team misses many more shots than it makes. On a better team, the big man might be an average rebounder, but being on a bad team inflates his standing as a rebounder.

There is no substitute for watching and understanding a sport. Statistics help, but they are being used by commentators to fill air time that would be better filled with smart, sound analysis. Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy remains one of the best basketball commentators on television. And he does it without blathering about bogus individual playing records.

2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore,

All Rights Reserved.

Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.
© 2013