Sports Reported Like Science

the Wall Street Journal, of all places, has a profile of college basketball analyst Bill Raftery and how he prepares to call games. This would be nothing more than Links Dump material, save for the fact that bits of it appear to have been written for the benefit of visiting aliens who have never seen televised basketball before:

Over the years, the exercise evolved into the intricate system he uses today. On the far left side of the page, Mr. Raftery writes down each player’s name and number. Next are the player’s habits and tendencies, as few as three or as many as seven. This season’s report on University of Connecticut guard Kemba Walker noted his “Walt Frazier-like moves” and his “Floater-pull-up game” (his ability to stop swiftly and land the softest of shots). Last year’s report on Gonzaga’s Demetri Goodson included: “Gets in Lane and finishes” and “Big Shot vs. W. Ky.” (noting the player’s ability to perform in the clutch).

Down the middle of the page Mr. Raftery draws a series of diagrams of offensive sets, anywhere from 10 to 24 for each team. “Backdoor.” “America’s Play.” “Motion 1.” Look at enough reports, and you’ll find just about everything you see on a basketball court. It’s a maze of numbers, rectangles that open on one end (symbolizing the foul lane), curving arrows and straight lines that depict ball and player movement. A third column lists the team’s tendencies. Among the 22 he noted for last year’s Wisconsin squad were “Love pick-and-pop to open side for [John] Leuer,” meaning the team likes to set low picks and pass the ball outside for makeable shots.

So, for the people last year who were looking for sports reported like science (to which I responded at length), there you go. You just need to look in the right papers.

It’s kind of an odd piece in a lot of ways, and really makes me wonder how that happened. But then, I’ve always been a little puzzled by WSJ stories that don’t contain a paragraph on how the subject of the story will affect stock prices. Every now and then, I get a free copy of the WSJ when I’m staying in a hotel, and I’m always struck by how little there is to it. It’s focused on business to such a degree that I rarely have any interest in anything past the front page.

This also gives all their non-business content kind of an odd feel. Like, well, this, which reads a little like they’ve been told that in order to be considered a major media outlet they need to run the occasional sports culture piece, but don’t believe that any of their readers know anything about the subject. And, really, if you want to know about sports, why are you reading the Wall Street Journal?

Comments

  1. #1 donnet akex
    February 1, 2011

    It’s not cool to understand real things like argon and pineal glands, but it’s perfectly acceptable to be expert in made-up things like offside and Quenya………..!!!