A few weeks ago before we were about to record a Fox Soccer Report, Eoin O’Callaghan and I got into a discussion about the burgeoning number of articles we see popping up on the internet using statistics to support what the authors believe to be unbiased conclusions.
Now I enjoy a good set of statistics as much as anyone but generally I think they have be viewed in a wider context than they often are in various postings.
A week or so ago I came across an interview with author David McRaney. McRaney’s new book is called “You Are Not So Smart” and primarily deals with our ability for self-delusion.
Part of self-delusion is confirmation bias. We believe that we arrive at our opinions based on objective analysis. And that is not the case, in fact McRaney says that it is not even close.
He points to the time we spend confirming our biases by reading copacetic newspapers and websites for example.
But it was a concept called the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy” that really caught my attention and got me thinking of how it seems to describe many of the statistical articles.
There are so many football statistics available compared with even five years ago that it is easy latch on to some and to build an argument that shows that the stats chosen are the really important ones.
McRaney describes the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy” as follows. “It comes from the idea of a cowboy shooting at the side of a barn, over and over again. It fills up with bullets. Then, he walks over to the barn and paint’s a bull’s-eye over where the bullet holes clustered.”
Along comes a stranger who can’t be anything but impressed at how great a shooter the cowboy is because he has hit the target so many times.
Another one I came across last week courtesy of NPR.org referred to a study at Murray State University. The study asked the question – “when a kid chooses his or her first sports team, who or what in their life most influences the choice?”
The answer the study came up with is – Dad.
Given the rapid expansion of the game in North America that has implications for the next generation of fans.
If the conclusion of the study is correct then the next generation of fans are going to pick the same teams as their fathers and that is good news for Manchester United and Barcelona especially even if good times can’t continue indefinitely.
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