The amount of statistical information available during a sporting event is staggering. Depending on your perspective as a viewer, you can find out everything from the most basic numbers to the most minute details. During television broadcasts, there are statistics being presented via on-screen graphics almost constantly. Broadcasters and radio announcers keep a steady stream of information coming in verbally as well. On the internet, statistics update instantly, and users can grab any piece of information that they are not already being inundated with. While this information is seemingly available at the drop of a hat, there is an immense amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make this happen.
Many of the statistical changes which occur are largely unimportant in terms of the game being played, but still have value to the audience. Obviously, big-name stars and remarkable accomplishments merit mentioning, but curious statistics are also interesting to viewers. Additionally, the emergent culture of fantasy sports has made many viewers as interested in statistics as they are in the game itself. As we discussed in the "How Stats Happen" article, each moment of each game produces a new flood of statistics. Announcers and color commentators must wade through the deluge of information and decide what information is pertinent to the viewer
I was fortunate enough to attend a sporting event recently where every conceivable statistic was made available to me. News 12 sports reporter Jamie Stuart allowed several of his journalism students to sit courtside for a recent Hofstra men's basketball game against Fordham. I was able to act in the capacity of a sports reporter for a major news organization. When we sat down, we were presented with a comprehensive booklet of information which broke the matchup down in painstaking detail.
The first pieces of information we found were the basic “nuts and bolts”. The team rosters were listed; with player numbers, positions, heights and weights, pretty standard stuff. Then, the team records were noted, along with the leaders from both teams in several statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists…etc). All of this information would be available in the average sports program which is provided to fans at most sports events. The interesting statistics came in the subsequent pages.
In preparing to write a sports article, or to broadcast a live event, specific statistics are what make the game relevant to fans. What we were given in our packet were very detailed statistics which pertained to situations within a game which may have arisen. For instance, there were percentages listed for Hofstra’s win/loss record when scoring first. Many other manifestations of this statistic were also included; such as, record when leading at the half, record when playing at home, and record versus Fordham historically.
Having such specific statistics available to us during the game allowed the story we were writing to be more detailed, and allowed the reader to have a more full understanding of the events and their context. I spoke to the men who were doing the radio broadcast, and they called the informational packet “a cheat sheet” and described it as “a blessing”. After the game, we were invited into the press room for Hofstra Coach Tom Peccora’s press conference, and given a chance to ask him questions related to the game. When I brought up a statistic regarding his shooting guard, he remarked "that's interesting, I wasn't aware of that".
Another element in the inclusion of statistics which has recently begun to merit consideration is the emergent fantasy sports culture. With so many people playing fantasy sports, the statistics of individual players have begun to take on a great deal of importance for many sports fans. In order to cater to their audience, and presumably to keep viewers from heading elsewhere, networks have begun to include individual stats as a part of their broadcast. During games, some stations put up graphics which detail "fantasy leaders", which show what players in the game who have put up statistics that will translate to points in fantasy leagues.
In the video below, we can see an example of statistics in sports being taken to a whole new level. With certain cable providers, viewers can go from watching a live broadcast to viewing the statistics of their fantasy players. Clearly, we have entered an age of technological convergence, and statistics on demand may soon be available as a standard part of the sports viewing experience.
We will disucss developments like this in our next article, "The future of Sports Statistics".