Archives for N.F.L.



Marijuana and the NFL

One of our very first Freakonomics Radio podcasts focused on brain trauma among NFL players. Writing for Vice, David Bienenstock argues that NFL players might benefit hugely from medical marijuana. He points to an editorial in the Washington Post earlier this year, describing research indicating that marijuana could protect player’s brains from the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries:

As it turns out, recent studies are starting to contradict the notion that marijuana kills brain cells. Last year, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel gave low doses of THC, one of marijuana’s primary cannabinoids, to mice either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. They found that THC produced heightened amounts of chemicals in the brain that actually protected cells. Weeks later, the mice performed better on learning and memory tests, compared with a control group. The researchers concluded that THC could prevent long-term damage associated with brain injuries. Though preliminary, this is just one of many promising studies exploring marijuana’s benefits for the brain.

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Just How Bad Are Football Pundits at Picking Winners?

Answer: pretty bad! From a 1999 Journal of Business paper by Chris Avery and Judy Chevalier … 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 »



Questions That Come to Mind After Yesterday’s Football Games

1. Who is more in need of a witness-protection program today: Billy Cundiff or Kyle Williams? (I’d pick Cundiff even though Williams is guiltier.)

2. Looks like defense really doesn’t win championships. Here’s the regular-season defensive ranking (yards per game) of the four teams who played yesterday: Ravens (3rd); 49ers (4th); Giants (27th); Patriots (31st). Giants will play Patriots in the Super Bowl.

3. At least the Harbaugh parents won’t spend Feb. 5 in a Sophie’s Choice situation — but I’m guessing they would have preferred to. Read More »



“Football Freakonomics”: How Advantageous Is Home-Field Advantage? And Why?

The following is a cross-post from NFL.com, where we’ve recently launched a Football Freakonomics Project.

Do home teams really have an advantage?

Absolutely. In their book Scorecasting, Toby Moscowitz and Jon Wertheim helpfully compile the percentage of home games won by teams in all the major sports. Some data sets go back further than others (MLB figures are since 1903; NFL figures are “only” from 1966, and MLS since 2002), but they are all large enough to be conclusive:

League Home Games Won
MLB 53.9%
NHL 55.7%
NFL 57.3%
NBA 60.5%
MLS 69.1%

So it’s hard to argue against the home-field advantage. In fact my Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt once wrote an academic paper about the wisdom of betting (shh!) on home underdogs (more here).

But why does that advantage exist? There are a lot of theories to consider, including: “sleeping in your own bed” and “eating home cooking”, better familiarity with the home field/court, and crowd support. Read More »



Let’s Hear About Your Favorite Football Books

On Tuesday, we shot the latest batch of our “Football Freakonomics” videos for the NFL Network.

This project has been a blast. There are a lot of people involved on the production, research, and digital sides, and they are all high-caliber and fun to work with. Our first two batches of videos were shot in Brooklyn warehouses. But on Tuesday we stepped it up, and got to work in the New York Jets’ indoor practice field out in Florham Park, N.J. (It was an off-day for the team, although there were plenty of players around doing individual workouts.)

I also ran into my old friend Nicky Dawidoff, a wonderful writer whose previous subjects range from ballplayer-spy Moe Berg to country music. He has been embedded with the Jets since summer and is writing a season-long account of the Jets that will, more broadly, be a book about the modern NFL. Read More »



What Do the NFL and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Have in Common?

Answer:

They are both reliant on the talents of the Rooney and Mara dynasties.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are majority-owned by the Rooney family. The late Art Rooney (“the Chief”) ran the club for many years, ultimately giving way to son Dan, who has since given way to son Art Rooney II.

The New York Giants are 50 percent owned by John Mara. The late Tim Mara ran the club for many years, ultimately giving way to his son (and John’s father) Wellington; there have been a variety of other Maras involved in the team. Read More »



A New Way to Think About Sports Injuries?

In a recent essay about NFL injuries for our “Football Freakonomics” series on NFL.com, I concluded:

If I were an NFL owner, GM, or coach, I’d set aside a little pot of money to try to answer some of these questions empirically. There is a lot of advantage to be gained by keeping even a few more players per season off the injured reserve list — to say nothing of the fact that it’s the right thing to do.

This prompted an interesting e-mail from Ryan Comeau:

Dynamic Athletics is a biomechanics company focused on athletes and people recovering from orthopedic injuries. Our technology has been in development for 8 years but we’ve only had our doors open for 7 months now. We process 3D motion-capture files in a way that deliver the full palate of kinematic & kinetic data (without force plates). This immense amount of data collected about an athlete’s ability to move & how exactly they produce their movement, if managed properly, becomes a valuable time capsule for the athlete or those managing a team.

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