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Blindsided: Why the Left Tackle is Overrated and Other Contrarian Football Thoughts Hardcover – August 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Joyner, a columnist for ESPN the Magazine, uses statistics, game footage and his own formulas to settle pro-football arguments ranging from whether it takes an elite running back to win the Super Bowl to whether the storied 1985 Chicago Bears defense is the best ever. Zealous football fans will appreciate the theories and extensively researched, sometimes surprising, conclusions. Joyner peppers his analysis and opinions with football history and a sense of humor. The league-owned NFL Films, Joyner writes, is the propaganda arm of an effective socialist regime. Though he clearly loves the game, Joyner isn't awed by the macho, myth-making empire that is the NFL, taking the league to task over its blackout system and shabby customer treatment. In the end, this is a rich mix of statistical insight and thoughtful, clear-headed criticism. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Joyner, a columnist for ESPN the Magazine, uses statistics, game footage and his own formulas to settle pro-football arguments ranging from whether it takes an elite running back to win the Super Bowl to whether the storied 1985 Chicago Bears defense is the best ever. Zealous football fans will appreciate the theories and extensively researched, sometimes surprising, conclusions. Joyner peppers his analysis and opinions with football history and a sense of humor. The league-owned NFL Films, Joyner writes, is “the propaganda arm of an effective socialist regime.” Though he clearly loves the game, Joyner isn't awed by the macho, myth-making empire that is the NFL, taking the league to task over its blackout system and shabby customer treatment. In the end, this is a rich mix of statistical insight and thoughtful, clear-headed criticism. (Aug.) (Publishers Weekly, June 2008)
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The book also looks at football dynasties, various aspects of the Hall of Fame, and the history and business case of the NFL. The difference though is that KC backs up most of his work with some actual value-based analysis. You may not always like his conclusions but he can actually produce calculable values as a basis for what he has to say. There is plenty of room to debate the measures he has chosen but that is one of the fascinations of the book; it is thought provoking. This is also ostensibly the purpose of the book, which carries the subtitle ...Contrarian Football Thoughts.
Joyner is one of several football writers trying to develop a more comprehensive statistical analysis framework for football, similar to what Bill James did for baseball. Improvement of football analysis is certainly desirable but it rates to be a much more complex matter in football than almost any other sport. The complexity of a play in football is amazing and breaking it down is almost impossible since a play has component plays within it, e.g. route options, blocking adjustments. This book though starts the process of applying analysis against some long held tenets of the game to prove or disprove so-called conventional wisdom. It is a worthwhile start in that direction.
This is a book that is designed to answer rhetorical questions: is the left tackle as important as people say, what was the best defense ever, and so on. There are two kinds of books with this goal: books that attempt to solve these problems with statistical reasoning, and books that attempt to tease the problems out simply by talking about them and applying their perspective. The first I am very interested in, the second I care very little about. The book masquerades as the first, but ends up being far more the second, with the author bringing up stats initially, but always abandoning them for self-indulgent rambles.
For example, there is a chapter inquiring which is the best defense ever. It is clear from the phrasing used that the author has long believed that the best defense is not the 85 Bears, but instead the mid-70s Steelers, and has written the chapter to make that case. He admits at the beginning of the chapter that he loved the Steelers as a child. His initial point is that the Steelers allowed fewer points than the Bears. And that concludes his statistical analysis. No reference to the fact that the 70s had fewer points scored generally than the 80s (thus skewing the numbers), no inquiry as to whether or not Chicago played a schedule with better offenses. He then goes on to compare the teams position by position in a subjective 'who is better' style, and predictably, the Steelers come out far ahead by his reckoning. No mention is made of the 46 defense, the fact that the Bears defense was anchored by a system, not by a player, which would adjust such evaluations somewhat. This chapter is representative of the book as a whole, because it opens with stats, applies far too little rigor with them, and then ends with opinionated pontification, reasoned though it may be.
This book is not worth reading for a stat-head because of its cursory reasoning and sloppy deduction. For a more general football fan who merely wants to read opinions... you could do worse. This book in many ways reads less like a book and more like several blog entries, driveby opinions that never fully delve into the heart of the matter. From a wit like Bill Simmons such reading is a pleasure, but KC Joyner lacks the chops to sustain his readers purely with his force of personality.
This is a mediocre work, lacking in any real originality or value. If you enjoy reading about football, you may well enjoy this book. If you're looking for something more, look elsewhere.