Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Data Collection and Analysis and Fantasy Football?

Football season = math season?
In a prior post I mentioned that my love for math and numbers began with a sports saturated childhood. I watched football, and easily learned the 3 and 7 tables of multiplication, since a field goal is 3 points and a touchdown followed by the usual extra point was worth 7. I even learned a bit of order of operations this way. If a team scored 2 field goals and 3 touchdowns, clearly the score was 2 x 3 + 3 x 7! In baseball, batting averages are expressed as decimals to the nearest hundreths place. Following my boyhood heros like Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell meant that the ability to divide a 3 digit number by another and computing a batting average was a must.

The world of sports has changed over 4 decades. I may be dating myself, but I recall the first, $100,000 a year baseball contract. In today's sports world, the nature of how people follow sports is much different, as is the arithmatic and algebra behind it. Consider fantasy football. In general, fantasy football is a game where you "own" several players at each scoring position, and a team's defense. Through a complex scoring system, you earn points each time they gain yards, score touchdowns, or kick field goals, as well as other more obscure events. It is a mathematicians paradise where every metric is open to interpretation, and every actual event is sometimes agonizing! Thus, the casual football fan becomes a practical mathematician.

After week 1 of the football season, people are looking at their teams and plotting strategy for the weeks and months to come. How many times should I expect a certain running back to get the ball? Will this wide reciever do better or worse this weekend since the defense they are facing is tougher? Notice that weekly, this is about hypothesizing, and then testing a series of hypotheses. If you are more correct than your opponent, in general you win! Ultimately, this is as much a mathematics test as it is a game requiring significant sports knowledge.

As weeks move along, I hope to post a bit more about fantasy football. I will tell you that I am in two leagues and I won in one league, and lost in the other. Oddly enough, I beat my wife who has little, formal mathematics in her background, and list to a friend and coworker who has an MIT doctorate!. Tell me - what games do you play where math that is normally uninteresting becomes intriguiging? If you play a fantasy sport like football or basketball, how do you use math skills that you do not normally use, and do you ever stop and recognize the use of the scientific method in your game play? In any case, let's talk - and of course, let's use math and science to win! After all, they are more than classes in school - they are a key to understanding the world around us!

For a quick, interesting example of how someone has used math to enhance their fantasy football life, go to "The Minitab Blog"!

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