A Special Kind of Sports Bullshit

Yesterday morning, ESPN.com posted a video clip entitled “Smith the wrong Cav to take final shot.”  The caption explained: “According to Second Spectrum, JR Smith was not the best Cavalier to try the game-winner, as Jordan Clarkson was more than four times more likely to make the final shot.”

“What shall we call this devotion to breaking down things and energies and practices and perceptions into uniform parts and counting them?” asked historian Alfred Crosby in his history of measurement in early modern Europe.  “This is quantification” he answered, speaking its name, before concluding:  “This is how we reach out for physical reality, push aside its darling curls, and take it by the nape of the neck.”

And this is how we reach out for basketball reality, push aside its complexity and dynamic fluidity, and take it by the nape of the neck: Read more

The Culture of Moving Dots

Here is a video of “The Culture of Moving Dots: Toward a History of Counting and of What Counts in Basketball,” a public presentation I gave last week at a workshop on “Doing Sport History in the Digital Present.” The workshop was sponsored by the North American Society for Sport History and the Georgia Tech Sport, Society, and Technology Program. A few people who couldn’t be there had asked if I could make it available.

The presentation was a distillation of a longer scholarly essay I wrote for the workshop which I expect will be published in the Journal of Sport History.  But as I did the research for that I really became so fascinated with the topic that it has become the seed of what I envision as my next book, a companion volume to my recently published book, Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy, and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball that I’m calling, for the moment anyway, Numbers Don’t Lie! A History of Counting and What Counts in the Cultures of Basketball. It will situate the analytics movement in basketball in broader frameworks of statistical reasoning in sports, measurement and statistics in scientific culture in the west, the use of digital technologies in the age of Big Data, and, as usual, the cultural and political dimensions of hoops.

Because the project is in its initial stages, I’m especially eager to get constructive feedback on it.  So as always, but more than usual, leave me comments or shoot me an e-mail.