Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How The Pieces Fit

I have always been an unusual sports fan in that I don't watch or listen to the games much. I would rather read or think about them. My first realization of this came in 1986, reading Bill James' Baseball Abstract for that year. He discussed the 1985 World Series in detail, and I wanted to discuss it with a friend at work who was a big baseball fan. After several days of mealtime discussions, he put up his hand. "You didn't want to discuss it while it was happening. I was working with you then and watched every game. You weren't interested in either Kansas City or St. Louis, and didn't watch or listen to a minute of it, and sorta shrugged when I brought it up."

I notice this increasingly. It's not just that I don't have TV, because I don't listen to much of any game either. The last decade has been the most magnificent in Boston sports history, and I haven't watched much or listened. Some. I like reading about it before and after. Even now in the playoffs, I don't much watch the highlights, I read the box scores. I watched the Patriots some, but I like listening to the sports shows better. I am not really a sports fan anymore, not in the usual sense. I don't like the players or owners, I don't like the games

I like thinking about how the pieces fit together. Does this strategy work? Does bringing in a certain backup help? Are the young players improving? Do teams do better if they do it this way or that way? What are the risks? What was different 20 years ago? 40 years ago?

I like hearing what other people think. It's pretty nonlinear, and even experts get it wrong, though more knowledge usually results in more accuracy. My second son knows 10x more than I do about current affairs in the three major sports, but he is not 10x better at prediction. Measurably better, but not ridiculously better. It's all dynamic measurement, because change in one area creates unpredictable changes in another. Even in baseball, which is just barely a team sport, individual changes have not only ripple effects, but sometimes produce large, unexpected effects.

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