Causation, Correlation and Sport Science

Looks like the show Sport Science (on ESPN) might take the place of Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman as the target of my bad-science attacks. Note: it looks like ESPN has the short episode I will be attacking online, so check it out.

Let me start off with the big problem (which The Onion already talked about). Why do you want to make a show about science that has really terrible science (if you can even call it science)? I really don't get that. If you want to just talk about cool sports stuff, do that. Please don't call it science. Ok. Now on to the particular attack.

In the last episode, Sport Science wanted to predict the results of the upcoming Super Bowl game between the Colts and the Saints. To do this, they looked at some stuff from the past 10 years.


As you can see, they looked at 4 things for the two quarterbacks playing in the game: height, weight, age difference, and state they were born in. From this, they concluded that Peyton Manning "has the edge". I am paraphrasing what they actually said, but this is basically what it was. So? What is the deal. The deal is that Sport Science fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never confuse correlation with causation."

Really, this is a classic blunder. It means that just because in the past, two things have happened together (like if the Saints won every time I wore my lucky underwear) that doesn't mean that my lucky underwear made them win (but it doesn't mean that it DIDN't make them win either). I think xkcd said it best:

PS - Go Saints

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I thought I was the only one to notice this crap...

The "funny math" they use for forces is equally annoying.

How has such a show won an emmy? (It may be a sports emmy, but still)
And nice Princess Bride reference; I'm surprised I remembered that quote.