Slow Down, Pundits!

Whether it’s election polls or sports, the media is way too focused on yesterday and tomorrow, but not the last year or the next few months. Meaning, they way over-exagerate every small event and ignore the bigger trend.

Example 1: Dan Graziano on espn today, raising the alarm about the NY Giants because they lost yesterday in a close game to Pittsburgh. Last year at this time, they lost 4 in a row, before winning the Super Bowl. There’s time, especially since they had just won 4 in a row. Is anyone really worried about Atlanta?

Example 2: The LA Lakers and Boston Celtics started a combined 0-5. Even Kobe said it was time to worry. The Celtics made the eastern conference finals the last two years after slow starts where everyone gave up on them. They have a rookie power forward who is likely to get (much) better in the second half of the season. Avery Bradley isn’t playing. They haven’t played Darko more than 5 minutes yet. The Lakers have the most dominant big man in the game, a point guard who knows how to throw an alley-oop, and a shooting guard who may be on the decline but is still able to score 40 on any given night. And an elite power forward. Both teams are going to be alright.

Example 3: BCS weekly polls. Everyone gets so excited every week because Oregon is here, K State is there. But the poll is going to keep moving based on schedule. To no surprise, Oregon moved up after beating USC while Notre Dame went down after beating Pitt. How did we know this would happen? By looking at the schedule ahead instead of screaming each week at completely irrelevant results. If Oregon runs the table, they should be the #2–they will play one more top 10 team (the winner of OSU and Stanford should be top 10 when they play the Ducks) and another in the top 20 (the loser of OSU and Stanford), and maybe even another in the PAC 12 playoff (maybe even a top 12 USC if they beat UCLA and ND). Notre Dame has a 3 loss USC team left. K State has Texas. I’m guessing ND loses to USC. Oregon has a scary schedule, but I think OSU is overrated and Stanford is too slow for the Ducks. I’m guessing Alabama loses but still plays in the title game against Oregon. Or it’s Georgia-Kansas State. Not sure.

Example 4: All the back and forth about election polls. Nate Silver may be being unfairly attacked, but he also feeds the clamoring by publishing every day a new update with a percentage likelihood of Obama’s winning. His percentages, for all the ways in which they seem systematic–and in certain ways they are–are also a house of cards because the adding of polls is still relying on polls that are totally intertwined. Just like a strong BCS ranking–lose one game here, have a team on your schedule lose a game there, and all of a sudden, 80% is 55%. These polls are holding, assuming no backlash against a black candidate (the so-called Bradley effect, which is something that has occurred in previous elections with black candidates and polls over-estimating their support levels). Democracy would be a lot better off if we banned polls for the final month of the campaign. Tomorrow would be totally exciting if nobody knew what was possible. Tomorrow will be totally exciting because everything is possible. As Silver said last week, it’s Obama up 3 points with 3 minutes left, but Romney has a good field goal kicker. (I’m excited by the possibility of Obama winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote–a real possibility–and seeing the reaction of the Tea Party to their beloved founders and one of the more arcane features of the Constitution.)

Oh, and example 5: Who is the best rookie QB. As if 3 games, 6 games, or even a season is going to tell us. As we know from Cam Newton, and now from RG3 and Luck, these guys are going up and down. They all have games that show off their assets, and they all throw up stink bombs. Given they are rookies and they play for not so great teams, that’s not surprising. But it doesn’t stop the weekly conclusions of who is the best. It was just 9 days ago that the RG3 bandwagon was in full swing.


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