Rex Grossman for MVP

If you love football and gambling in the stock market, then do I have the place for you. Keith Jacks Gamble analyzed how the gambling odds were affected by each play in the Super Bowl as he explains:

My analysis uses a market-based measure of the probability impact of each play, which builds in how a play affected the market’s expectation of future plays. For example, Protrade’s analysis estimates that Hester’s TD return (their 2nd highest impact play) gave the Bears a 70% chance of winning (20% increase), whereas my analysis estimates that the Bears had a 42.75% chance of winning (10.25% increase, just out of my top 5) following the TD.

If you watched the game, it will come as no surprise that the biggest swings in the odds of winning came on negative offensive plays (e.g. interception) rather than positive ones (e.g. touchdowns).

The odds that of the Colts winning only increased by 10.5% when Peyton threw a touchdown, and only 5.75% when Rex Grossman found the end zone. Apparently not losing the game was more important: Rex throwing an interception decreased the odds of a Chicago win by 22.75% versus Peyton’s 5.75%.

There is a difference in the quality of interceptions thrown by each of the quarterbacks. Peyton might throw a few picks, but in general they weren’t as dangerous or they weren’t at key times in the game. In contrast, when Rex threw an interception, it might culimanate in a touchdown dance by the defense. Indeed it was that exact play by Hester that sealed the fate of the Bears. This is something that Bears fans suspected all season: Rex might throw throw some valuable touchdowns, but his interceptions hurt the team more.

Statastico supports the Minnesota Vikings and Stephen Colbert, so I’m hopeful that these godless killing machines will be hobbled by keeping Rex as their starting quarterback next season.

Colts odds of winning the Super Bowl

Major League Sports Teams: Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

If you were the owner of a major league sports team, how would you decide what to name it? There are many considerations: city history, fan base, and an image that intimidates opponents (but nothing so fierce as to reduce marketability).

Some of the best team names had a fortunate confluence of culture and mascot: Baltimore’s foreboding Raven pulled from Edgar Allen Poe, or Scandinavian heritage brought to life in the pillaging (just not in Super Bowls) Minnesota Vikings.

When team owners decidet to move to a new city, their mascost often lose relevance. Thus, we are left with perplexing names like the Utah Jazz or L.A. Lakers. But some cities such as Cleveland are more far-sighted. Cleveland held on to rights to the Browns football name, even as Art Modell was moving the team to Baltimore.

Then there are annual battles over political correctness. The Atlanta Braves have their tomahawk chop and DC has its Redskins, a favorite target of the Washington Post:

This is not a new issue, nor is it the first time we have urged the change of a name that, as a check with the dictionary shows, is a racial slur. In the early 1990s, a group of Native Americans sued over the name, citing federal law prohibiting the registration of any trademark that disparages any race, religion or group. There’s been new activity in this challenge, and once again the Redskins are on the defensive, advancing the argument that since the team and its fans don’t intend to be racist, the nickname is not offensive.

…(But) it really is not up to the offender to characterize the nature of the offense.

It was in the paralyzing grip of political correctness that Washington renamed its basketball team the Wizards after the Washington Bullets became a self-fulfilling prophesy in the mid 1990s.

Many teams have steered well clear of controversy by naming their teams after something in the neighborhood. The Colorado Rockies and Phoenix Suns team owners seem only to have walked out onto their front porches to come up ideas. The Washington Nationals isn’t particularly ambitious, either. Statastico always favored something along the lines of the Washington Bureaucrats, or the Beltways Bandits. But that’s why I probably don’t own any major league sports teams.

Finally, there are the team names that stick out as historic oddities: teams named after folks dodging street cars, packers of meat, or brewers of beer. Those are the most appropriate team names. If not for the people honored by those teams, how else would we spend a lazy Sunday?

Major League Sports Team Names: Animal, People or Thing?

Agassi and the Death of American Tennis

Packed on the number 7 subway line to the U.S. Open, tourists ignored the New York custom of not chatting with strangers on the train. Everyone was abuzz about Agassi. Was he scheduled to play during the day or night? He had another cortisone shot? Can he win another match? But the most common phrases overheard were the clichés familiar to anyone who has watched the breathless U.S. Open television coverage of Agassi: “He has given so much back to the game” or “It’s really what he’s done off the court.”

Even if you’ve never followed tennis, it’s hard to ignore Agassi’s career. It has spanned 21 years and he has won every Grand Slam tennis tournament, a feat that eluded Sampras, Borg, Connors, McEnroe, even the great Federer (thus far). Beyond that, however, you probably know Agassi by his nearly $200 million in endorsements. About ten years ago he thankfully traded in his “image is everything” faded denim shorts and a classic 80s hair-metal coif for a shaved head, two children with Steffi Graf, and his work with the Andre Agassi Foundation in Las Vegas.

Commentators have fallen over themselves lauding what Agassi has given back to the game. But during the interminable rain delays last week, John McEnroe as commentator would inevitably turn about the sorry state of American tennis: Who is the next star? Where is the next batch of American rivals? The next Pete vs. Andre, John vs. Jimmy?

So what has Andre given back to the game? He produced TV ratings at last year’s U.S. Open final versus Roger Federer that were 92% higher than in 2004. His victory against Pavel last week broke records for first round TV viewing. And he provided late-night thrills versus Baghdatis in a match for the ages. But has he inspired any new interest in tennis?

The retirement of Agassi’s cult of personality reveals that tennis is a fading sport in the United States. An informal survey of urban tennis courts in southeast Washington, DC finds them empty on beautiful, sunny days. A few of the preppier neighborhoods often have tennis players waiting, but most of the competition for urban play space revolves around soccer fields or basketball courts. The TV viewership reflects this. NASCAR attracts nearly twice as many viewers as a Grand Slam final without Agassi. Even with Agassi, the NFL draft attracted almost as many viewers as the 2005 U.S. Open final between Federer and Agassi.

So as we bid Agassi farewell, we may also be bidding farewell to the last generation of U.S. tennis superstars. Prove me wrong, James Blake and Andy Roddick.
Average Number of U.S. TV Viewers for Major Sports Events in 2006

Major League All Star Salaries

Today is Major League Baseball’s 77th All-Star Game. Statastico was curious about how well these all stars are compensated relative to NFL Pro Bowl players, MLS All Stars, and NBA All Stars.

The NFL has the highest per game average for its best athletes, but the NBA, with much smaller teams, has the highest annual average salaries. Baseball pays its stars the most, while even the richest Major League Soccer star come in well below the poorest NBA star.

Range of Major League All-Star Salaries

Average Salaries of Major League All Stars per Regular Season Game