Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL

Introduction
"Three yards and a cloud of dust" (1) - that's how Woody Hayes described his "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle", the offense that defined the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 50s and 60s. He went on say that, in regards to the passing game, "only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad". Hayes' colourful description of his offense springs directly from the original vision of American Football: run, run, run. Were he alive today, he would be shocked to see that the game has evolved into a philosophy of pass, pass, pass. This phenomenon has elevated one player position above all others: the quarterback. He has become king; all other players are subject to the whims of the crown. How did this happen? Let's review the game, its history and follow it through.
thumbnail image: Three Yards and A Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL
The Most Popular Sport in the World
American Football - simply known as “football” in the United States - generates the most revenue of any sporting franchise in the United States and indeed the world (2). In 2012, the NFL (National Football League) took in nearly $10 billion dollars (U.S.) compared to the Premier League at $3.3 billion. Still not impressed? Attendance numbers tell the same story: the NFL attracts nearly 4 million spectators more than the nearest competitor which, interestingly, is not what you might guess (hint: it’s not the Premier League and it’s not some other American sports league). If you guessed the Bundesliga association football (i.e. “soccer”) league in Germany, congratulations! That league holds the number two designation (3), which drew 13.8 million visitors during the 2011-12 season compared to 17.2 million for the NFL.
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rise, Fall and Rise of English Triple Crown Racing Speeds

A horse with a crimson “6” displayed on either side of its girth processes to the parade ring. There are people milling about, looking over “Six” as well as the other entrants for the 2013 running of the St. Leger Stakes. Alongside Six stands a very short, wiry man dressed in a matching crimson outfit. He speaks with the trainer in hushed tones, discussing race strategy. Six is alert; energy radiates from the tip of it’s brown and white snout to the end of its finely groomed tail. As the pair leave the ring and canter to the gate, Six snorts a couple of times as the gates are closed behind it. In short order, the other steeds are similarly lined up and a bell rings. And they’re off!
thumbnail image: The Rise, Fall and Rise of English Triple Crown Racing Speeds
Speed
Horses are fast; according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest average speed ever attained by a horse is 70.76 kph (43.97 mph) (1). That record was obtained over two furlongs (about 402 meters or 1/4 of a mile). For distances more comparable to Triple Crown racing, the fastest average speed over ~2.4 km (1.5 miles) is 60.86 kph (37.82 mph)1. It stands to reason that the longer the distance, the slower the average speed will be although the track surface has a large impact on this (see Table 1).

See the rest of this article from the author of Graph of the Week on Statistics Views.

Monday, July 22, 2013

David vs. Goliath in Men's Professional Tennis

David dances lightly from side to side, his small feet stirring up wisps of dust from the clay surface. Twirling his racket in anticipation, he peers intently at his colossal foe hoping to spot some clue where the first serve will go. Across the net is a giant of a man, glaring at David with a stone-faced scowl. The crowd, once rowdy, is now silent; all eyes are riveted on Goliath as he bounces the ball on the rust-colored surface. Known for his amazing strength and exceptional height, they eagerly await his first monster serve.

See the rest of this article from the author of Graph of the Week on Statistics Views.


Friday, November 2, 2012

The New Madrid Fault - Past, Present and Future

New Madrid, Territory of Missouri, March 22, 1816
Dear Sir,
In compliance with your request, I will now give you a history, as full in detail as the limits of the letter will permit, of the late awful visitation of Providence in this place and vicinity. 
On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do - the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed -- formed a scene truly horrible.
[Remaining text of this letter not shown] 
Your humble servant,
Eliza Bryan

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2014 Winter Olympics: Home Court Advantage - Russia

winter olympics home country advantage

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
 -- Winston Churchill, radio address in 1939

A couple of weeks ago, Graph of the Week published an article describing the significant improvement in medals won by the host country as opposed to how that country 'normally' performs when not hosting. We concluded that Great Britain (the host country) would end up with between 53 and 70 medals (roughly 1.5 - 2.0 times more than 'normal'). As it turns out, they won 65.

The Winter Olympics may not be until 2014, but why not make another prediction for the host country?  So, Russia, let's take a look at you and see what we can surmise.

Fact: Russia has never hosted the Winter Olympics - nor had the Soviet Union. That seems a bit odd seeing that the Russians usually do well in these games. There is probably another story lurking around there, but we'll let someone else field that one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics: Home Court Advantage - How Will the Brits Perform?


olympics host country home cooking
The Olympics are a big deal on a global scale. How big? Perhaps Paula Radcliffe (an English long distance runner) said it best:
"I have achieved a lot and I'm grateful for that - I'm just a bit greedy because I want to add the Olympics. It's once every four years - everyone wants it and very few people get it."
Take that sentiment and factor in competing in the Olympics in your home country. Talk about intense!

Friends and Family Plan

What inspires an athlete to perform better in front of a home crowd? How is it possible to jump a little higher, throw a little harder or run a little faster when he/she would otherwise not do so? The graph above shows this effect using the host countries' medal percentage from all modern-era Summer Olympics. There is a sharp increase in the total number of medals won (as a percentage of all medals awarded) by the host country as opposed to when they are not hosting. It should be noted that some of the results are heavily skewed due to boycotts (which further increased the home countries medal percentage significantly) and other factors described later in this article.

The 'home court advantage' has been studied previously and is a well-known phenomenon. In fact, it appears to be present across all sports as noted by Harvard researcher Jeremy P. Jamieson, PhD, in the Journal of Applied Psychology:

"A significant advantage for home teams was observed across all conditions (Mp = .604); and time era, season length, game type, and sport moderated the effect."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Health Care Costs - Part 3, "Why You Are Paying More"

yearly dollars awarded malpractice
Malpractice - A Booming Industry?

Perhaps authors Frank Sloan, Randall Bovbjerg and Penny Githens capture it best from their book Insuring Medical Malpractice:
"If aging Doctor Kildare were to return to medical practice today, having been in suspended animation since the early 1960s, he would find enormous changes in his malpractice insurance coverage. The first surprise is that the physician's malpractice coverage has become so important. No longer can he practice at his hospital without it. And much higher limits are needed to protect his practice and other assets against the financial risks of lawsuits."
This history of health insurance is a story of evolution, revealing ecological niches in the system allowing for the growth of malpractice lawyers and casualty insurers. In other words, doctors now have to protect themselves against financial ruin by purchasing malpractice insurance.

A quick glance at the above graph will quickly show that from 1990-2004 the dollar amounts awarded in malpractice cases rose significantly, with the largest gain coming in a five year period from 2000 - 2004. The publicity surrounding these astonishingly high payouts was intense, resulting in various forms of tort reform implementing caps on malpractice payouts in some states. Since then, the total amount awarded of medical malpractice claims have decreased.


Yet health care costs still continue to rise.



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