April 4, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper looks on from the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Lightning defeat the Hurricanes 5-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically Speaking

I have to wonder if the sports world is running out of ways to make sports sound fresh and exciting, seeing as how sports have been around for a very long time. And with sports channels running 24 hours 7 days, even in-the-moment excitement can get stale very quickly. So I understand if they are trying hard to inject new information into the same old games through the use of statistics.

For example, in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Times, a sports writer wrote the following:

In the past five games, the combined record of Tampa Bay’s opponents heading into Friday’s action was 32-12-6. The combined record of the Lightning’s next four opponents–Buffalo, Florida, New Jersey, and Carolina–was 9-23-9. (Erlendsson, 26 Oct 13)

What does this mean?  And why should I care?  The numbers are going to change when the schedule does. Does it truly make a difference? Does Cooper look at those statistics and say, “Hmm.  Based on these figures, perhaps we should dress 7 defensemen tonight and work on our power play.” I wonder.

Now, I’m not a whiz kid when it comes to math.  Despite disliking statistics class in college, I can still find a nugget of statistical information once in a while that’s truly interesting.

But I have to shake my head at some things that come up as supposedly informative regarding sports, and specifically hockey, since that’s my area of interest.  This comes across as using fluff as filler, especially when the national TV sportscasters are discussing the Bolts.  Those guys seem to regard the Lightning as the red-headed stepchildren of hockey.

(No offense intended to redheads or stepchildren, of course.)

I’ve heard sportscasters say things like, “That penalty shot is the first one while the team was on the road and playing on a Tuesday after 3 p.m.”

Well, maybe not those words exactly, but very close.

It seems to me that I’m hearing these ridiculous bits more and more frequently.  “He’s had 17 shots on goal since last May, with only 3 finding the back of the net while wearing the home sweater and skating in an easterly direction,” or  “That has only been done 157 times previously, but this one is just the 133rd time it’s been done during a full moon.”

And one of my personal favorites:  “This loss has snapped a two-game winning streak!”  A streak?  Really?

Before you all start hissing at me about how important statistics can be, let me say I agree with you up to a point.

But only on a Tuesday after 3 p.m. when the moon is full.


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