Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sports Stats Boring?

I thought I would take a break from the SCOTUS healthcare feeding frenzy.  There is plenty written about it on the PUSH blog.  Last Monday I was watching the Colbert Report when dapper sports writer Frank Deford was on promoting his book.  One thing he said got my attention: "The worst thing that happened to sports writing is its overwhelmed by statistics and the worst thing that happened is that (movie) Moneyball is all about numbers and numbers when it should be about blood and guts...Brad Pitt was nominated but it was as tedious as soccer is."

As Italy prepares to play Spain in the European Championships tomorrow I have a few comments.  Soccer or Calcio as it's called in Italy or football as it's called in the rest of the world is a sport that until recently been relatively bereft of statistics relative to American sports outside of goals and fouls (including yellow cards, red cards and offsides).  Baseball on the other hand has been loaded with statistics ever since the beginning when Alexander Cartwright modified it in the 19th century (Abner Doubleday had nothing to do with the game). 

Baseball Guy Brad Pitt and Numbers Guy Jonah Hill in Moneyball
I haven't seen Moneyball but would like to.  Deford has a point that just presenting numbers is dry and it's important to show the human side of those numbers.  Joseph Stalin once said "one death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic."  It's important to shine a light on the 'million deaths' and on the tragedy whether it be metaphorical in sports or literal in other spheres of life.  This blog tries to do both by not showing just dry statistics and also by showing the larger picture with statistics.  Sometimes sports statistics provides valuable illustration of phenomena in the natural world as is the case with Barry Sanders running style and global warning.


Italy lost to Spain 4-0 and I saw Moneyball last night. There wasn't a lot of statistics in the film or the game. The game was dull because it was a rout. The movie was mostly about Pitt agonizing over going with Jonah Hill's algorithm rather than the old school scouting methods of baseball. It might have been more interesting for me and for Deford if they had focused more on the game and the numbers rather than Pitt's emotions. 

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Healthcare Poll Insanity

Last Friday I did a post on the PUSH site showing how healthcare polling has remained consistent in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court's Decision on the Affordable Care Act.  Last night I came across a tweet by Michele Bachmann stating:
The tweet was retweeted by 130 of her 137,300 followers and favorited by 12.  These followers have hundreds to thousands who can pass this on to their followers.  This is what is meant by going viral.

I did follow the link above to the report and found that it came from the Doctor Patient Medical Association which faxed or mailed 16,227 forms to doctors nationwide and 4.3% were returned or a total of 699.  I have worked on mail surveys of physicians and getting a large response rate can be a problem unlike phone surveys.  Mail in surveys are cheaper than phone but incentives are often needed to increase response rates.  Even with a small incentive a response rate of 25% is typical.  Small response rates may not be a problem if those who respond are representative of those who did not.  For this poll, with a response rate that low it may be hard to justify that it is representative.  They do provide demographics but do not compare it to national physician demographics. 

It's so tempting to jump to conclusions on research findings when it's supports what one already believes.  It's tempting to rip on congresswoman Bachmann because of her past statements, as Jon Stewart does below.  I'll stick to this statement and her comment above.  Others who haven't made as many outrageous statements can just as easily make the same mistake without reading the results more carefully.  This is also meant to show the power and peril of social media like Facebook and Twitter. . Remember the hysteria caused by Sarah Palin's death panels post on Facebook? How many people still believe her?


Sarah Palin has resurrected her 'death panels' claim on her Facebook page to her 3.4 million followers.  It has been shared by 369 and "liked" by 1,479 since being posted on Monday.  The LA Times debunks it here.

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