Archives for football



Everything You Need to Know About the Immaculate Reception

Tonight, at 8pm ET, the NFL Network is airing an hour-long documentary about the Immaculate Reception (video preview here), which took place 40 years ago this weekend.

If you are any kind of football fan, you know the Immaculate Reception as one of the unlikeliest and most dramatic moments in sports history. It is also loaded with myth and conspiracy theories, which makes it ripe for a documentary. The play remains such a big deal in Pittsburgh that the city’s airport features, right alongside a statue of a young George Washington, a statue of a young Franco Harris, mid-reception. It is the kind of monument that fathers show their sons when they take their football pilgrimages to Pittsburgh: Read More »



To Punt or Not to Punt? The Debate Continues

A reader named David Stokes writes to say:

Last night’s Raiders – Chargers game gave one team a unique opportunity to implement the no-punt strategy.
 
With the Raiders’ long-snapper hurt, the Raiders coach had a much less risk-averse reason to try always going for it on fourth down. Especially after the first punt was blown and the punter tackled with the ball, who could blame the coach for going for it on fourth every time?
 
Alas, he proceeded to attempt more punts, and three in a row were blocked or otherwise blown.

FWIW, I think someone should make a documentary about long snappers. I am not kidding.



Can Selling Beer Cut Down on Public Drunkenness? A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Can Selling Beer Cut Down on Public Drunkenness?” 

(You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

It features Oliver Luck, the athletic director at West Virginia University, whose Top 10-ranked football team opened the 2012 season by beating Marshall 69-34. Luck himself played quarterback at West Virginia from 1978 to 1981 and, after a four-year NFL career, got into sports administration. These days, he is best known as the father of Indianapolis Colts’ rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

As the A.D. at West Virginia, here’s what Luck saw happening at home football games:

“People drinking far too much at pre-game parties and tailgate parties before games. Sneaking alcohol into games. Leaving at halftime or any point during the game to go back out to the tailgate to drink even more and come back into the game. … They would usually drink hard liquor — ‘get their buzz back on’ and come back into the game for the third quarter.  And the police again would know exactly at what point in the third quarter these ‘throw-up calls’ would start to come over the radio.”

Read More »



How a Football Coach Sends Signals That Have Nothing to Do With Football

On Yahoo! Sports, the football writer Jason Cole profiles Todd Haley, the Pittsburgh native who has returned to his hometown Steelers (yeah, they’re my team too) to take over as offensive coordinator. Cole writes about Haley’s notorious “screaming jags” and wonders if Haley and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can coexist:

Haley believes the outside world doesn’t understand the method to his madness. In previous stops, Haley was walking into rebuilding situations that required more attitude.

“The general public doesn’t know if that’s contrived or not contrived and over the years you have seen a lot of coaches who have shown emotion,” Haley said. “I take a great deal of pride in my passion for the game, but it was also what the situation dictated at the time.”

Okay, nothing so noteworthy about that. But then Haley reveals himself as a master of signaling theory: Read More »



How Much Do Football Wins Pay Off for a College?

An NBER paper by Michael L. Anderson looks into the how a university’s football performance affects its academic performance:

Spending on big-time college athletics is often justified on the grounds that athletic success attracts students and raises donations. Testing this claim has proven difficult because success is not randomly assigned. We exploit data on bookmaker spreads to estimate the probability of winning each game for college football teams. We then condition on these probabilities using a propensity score design to estimate the effects of winning on donations, applications, and enrollment. The resulting estimates represent causal effects under the assumption that, conditional on bookmaker spreads, winning is uncorrelated with potential outcomes. Two complications arise in our design. First, team wins evolve dynamically throughout the season. Second, winning a game early in the season reveals that a team is better than anticipated and thus increases expected season wins by more than one-for-one. We address these complications by combining an instrumental variables-type estimator with the propensity score design. We find that winning reduces acceptance rates and increases donations, applications, academic reputation, in-state enrollment, and incoming SAT scores.

Read More »



Football Freakonomics: How Do Players’ Body Clocks Affect Their Performance?

I have been lucky enough to visit the secret lair at the NFL’s headquarters where each year a crew of industrious people try to come up with an NFL schedule that pleases every team, player, TV network, fan, mayor, police department, religious official, and sports pundit in America.

This is of course impossible.

But they do try their best, and in today’s Times there’s a nice article by Judy Battista about how this year’s schedule was made by the NFL’s Howard Katz and his team.

After you look over the 2012-13 schedule, you might also want to take a look at the latest Football Freakonomics video we’ve done for the NFL Network. It considers the “body clock” factor on teams’ schedules: Read More »



Did John Elway Sign Peyton Manning to the Broncos …

… because it was easily the best route to get rid of Tim Tebow? Read More »



Talent Evaluation is Different in the NFL and NBA

The sudden emergence of Jeremy Lin has led people to wonder about talent evaluation in the NBA. Two recent examples — from Stephen Dubner in this forum and from Jonah Lehrer at Wired Science – both take similar approaches.  Both begin with the story of Lin, and then pivot to a discussion of the National Football League.  In essence, each writer argues that talent evaluation in basketball and football is similar.  

In my next two posts, I wish to address why I think talent evaluation in the NBA and the NFL is quite different. Read More »