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Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won Paperback – January 17, 2012
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“Defense wins championships!” So declared a triumphant Michael Jordan in 1991, invoking a hallowed sports mantra. But Jordan’s assertion melts into cliché when Moskowitz and Wertheim expose it to statistical calculations revealing that, regardless of the sport, offense proves just as decisive as defense. Indeed, in their wide-ranging iconoclasm, the authors repeatedly poke arithmetic holes in what everyone in sports supposedly knows. Typical is their number-crunching assault on the popular explanation of home-field advantage as a consequence of visiting teams’ road fatigue. Home teams win, the authors demonstrate, chiefly because referees tend to see plays their way—especially when the crowd of spectators grows large. Parsing of data illuminates off-field behavior, too, explaining which athletes use steroids and which ones use marijuana. Even the curse hanging over the Chicago Cubs comes into focus then the analysts ignore the billy-goat myth and statistically assess a management style fostered by fans perversely loyal to “lovable losers”! Sports buffs eager to win their next barroom argument will be lining up for this book. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The closest thing to Freakonomics I've seen since the original. A rare combination of terrific storytelling and unconventional thinking. I love this book..."
—Steven D. Levitt, Alvin H. Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, and co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics
"I love this book. If I told you why, the NBA would fine me again."
—Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks
“Scorecasting is both scholarly and entertaining, a rare double. It gets beyond the cliched narratives and tried-but-not-necessarily-true assumptions to reveal significant and fascinating truths about sports.”
"A counterintuitive, innovative, unexpected handbook for sports fans interested in the truths that underpin our favorite games. With their lively minds and prose, Moskowitz and Wertheim will change the way you think about and watch sports. Not just for stats nerds, Scorecasting enlightens and entertains. I wish I had thought of it!"
—Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter, Author of Cinderella Man.
"(Sports + numbers) x great writing = winning formula. A must read for all couch analysts."
—Richard Thaler, Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, best-selling author of Nudge.
“Scorecasting will change the way you watch sports, but don’t start reading it during a game; you’re liable to get lost in it and miss the action. I’m not giving anything away because you’ll want to read exactly how they arrived at their conclusions."
—Allen Barra, NJ Star Ledger
“Like Moneyball and Soccernomics before it, Scorecasting crunches the numbers to challenge notions that have been codified into conventional sports wisdom.”
“Freakonomics meets Moneyball”
—The Wall Street Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't want to give away too much here, but let's provide one simple example. Why home teams do so well in many sports. The authors examine several standard explanations: Home crowd support drives home field success; Travel saps visiting teams and, thus, they tend not to do so well on the road; home fields have some unique characteristics that the home team takes advantage of (e.g., stadiums in cold weather cities in pro football). However, the data do not support the series of suppositions raised by the authors. What seems to make a difference? The officials! They tend to cut home teams slack.
Psychology provides an explanation for some of the phenomena observed. For instance, humans are risk averse. They overvalue negative events, so over respond to them. The threat of a bogey is more motivating than the desire for a birdie. So golfers "go for it" when faced with a bogie and "play it safe" when tempted to gain a birdie. Data suggest that Tiger Woods as well as many other golfers fit this pattern. Risk averse behavior is, the authors contend, the explanation.
And on the book goes. Again, for the sports fan or those interested in the quirks of human psychology, this will be an enjoyable and enlightening work. After all, many of the lessons here can be generalized to other parts of life rather than just sports. . . .
4 of 5 stars (very good)
While the study of economics and trends that are set in the field will usually cause yawns, if one were to take this type of research and apply it to sports, the result is an interesting and entertaining book. That was done by two men at the University of Chicago and the findings were interesting. Many previous reviewers of this book felt it was very similar to “Freakonomics” as the studies were done in a similar manner and I have to agree with them.
The book is divided into sections that discuss studies that have the simple goal of whether to prove or disprove some of the conventional thinking that occurs in many sports. Is it better to punt on fourth down in football or attempt to gain the yardage needed for a first down? Does defense really win championships? Is it better to let the “hot” shooter keep getting the basketball? Do baseball umpires have different strike zones? Does home field advantage really exist. These questions and other interesting topics are studied in this book and the results can be surprising.
There are also psychological studies that examine bias in sports officials, umpires and referees and also in athletes in which they appear to be more afraid of failing than courageous enough to go for a situation. An example of this uses Tiger Woods and putting, saying that he can be human as well because he too leaves putts short. Baseball fans will enjoy the section about why the Chicago Cubs are perennial losers yet always has high attendance figures.
I won’t give away the results as to whether the myths are verified or not, but these are studied in great detail with many games in each applicable sport analyzed and broken down. That was one of the better aspects of this book as it covered each topic in a thorough manner. Zach McLarty does a good job of narration in the book. He doesn’t get monotone but doesn’t overdo the excitement either, since after all, this IS a book with a lot of facts and figures.
Overall, I thought this was a solid book about exploring many of the usual ways of thinking in sports today. The results of these studies may surprise you, and it will entertain you along the way. There are some sections that are heavy with numbers and figures – they can be somewhat challenging to wade through whether reading or listening to the book. However, this is still a book that is well worth the investment for any sports fan.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
For the most part, it was good. At times, the statistical findings of some of the studies was a bit slow when listening to the list being read. But the narration of the findings, as well as the anecdotes on each one was read at a good pace.
Do I recommend?
Yes. I felt this was a unique way to study if some of the conventional thinking in sports was really true or if it was simply a myth. Because all of the major sports were included in the book, a sports fan will enjoy this book no matter his or her favorite game.
Book Format Read/Listened: