Archives for super bowl



How Money Is March Madness? A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How Money Is March Madness?”  (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

The gist: the annual NCAA basketball tournament grabs a lot of eyeballs, but turning them into dollars hasn’t always been easy — even when the “talent” is playing for free.

Last year, March Madness reportedly earned its highest TV ratings in 18 years. This year’s Super Bowl, meanwhile, was the third most-watched broadcast in TV history (behind two earlier Super Bowls), despite (or because of?) an electrical blackout. Interestingly — to me, at least — these two premier TV sporting events are sold very differently: the Super Bowl rotates annually among one of three networks while the NCAA is in the midst of a 14-year contract with CBS and Turner Sports. How does that difference affect ad revenue? Read More »



(Almost) The Triumph of Game Theory at the Super Bowl

One of the amazing things about the Super Bowl game this past weekend was that both coaches understood that the Patriots would be better off if the Giants scored a touchdown late in the game and reportedly instructed their teams accordingly.  To my mind, this represents a high point in the prevalence of strategic thinking. 

Was the failure of Ahmad Bradshaw to follow through on his coach’s instruction merely a failure of execution?

But I wonder whether the Giants failed to strategically optimize on the very next play selection.  With about a minute left in the game (and with a timeout remaining for the Patriots), the Giants choose to go for a two-point conversion.  My question is not about whether they should have kicked a point after.  No, I wonder whether they might have done better by handing the ball to a swift runner, who might have even more perversely attempted to forgo scoring two points and instead tried to burn as many seconds off the clock as possible by merely running away from the other team (toward, but not into, the other endzone!).   Read More »



The Least Fun Way to Predict a Super Bowl Winner

From Elizabeth Stanton at Bloomberg:

The New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl by at least three points even though the New York Giants have the appeal of “a cocktail party stock,” according to a quantitative money management firm that’s correctly picked the team covering the point spread for eight consecutive years.

Analytic Investors LLC in Los Angeles has documented a tendency on the part of Super Bowl bettors to overestimate the chances of the team that rewarded them more during the regular season — the team with the higher alpha, in investment parlance. In 2008, that was the favored Patriots, who lost to the Giants 17-14. This year, it’s New York.

“Everyone thinks the Giants are rolling right now, a lot of people in my office even,” said Matthew Robinson, a portfolio analyst for global and Japanese equities at Analytic and the author of this year’s analysis. “They like the Giants, but they have faith in the model as well.”

On the other hand, do I label this “the least fun way” because I have a Giants bias and am blind to my blindness?

At least this is less ridiculous than the Super Bowl Indicator.



Are Super Bowl Ads Too Cheap?

The Super Bowl has by now become such an institution – it’s practically a second New Year’s Day – that just about everyone feels compelled to watch it, even if they don’t care one bit about football. One consequence of this fact is that the broadcast of the game (on NBC this year; it rotates annually among NBC, CBS, and Fox) has turned into an another event entirely: the most massive real-time advertising opportunity in history.

This has had a few linked effects: the price of the ads has risen ever higher; advertisers spend more time and effort making better ads; and the ads have gotten so good that a lot of people time their kitchen or bathroom breaks to the game action in order to not miss the ads. Read More »



The Hidden Side of the Super Bowl: A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast covers the upcoming Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

We figured that of the 100 million-plus people who “watch” the game each year, a lot of them aren’t what you’d call rabid football fans. Does that describe you? If so, this episode is a handy cheat sheet that’ll let you converse knowingly with your football-crazed friends, and maybe even one-up them. Read More »



“Football Freakonomics”: Incentives

Today’s question on “Football Freakonomics” is a tricky one. Which incentive is stronger for an NFL player: landing a big contract or winning the Super Bowl?

It can be devilishly hard to find out what truly motivates people to do what they do. There are a lot of reasons for this. Different people have different preferences; an incentive that works for a while may wear off over time; and it’s dangerous to rely on what people say about their motivation, since most of us are concerned about saying “the right thing.”

It’s better, therefore, to measure actual behavior – in this case, for instance, how players perform before and after signing a big contract. Read More »



What Are the Odds That a Given Cow Will Make It to the Super Bowl?

We blogged last fall about the Book of Odds, an interesting site that generates “odds statements” of all sorts. Now, David Gassko and Ian Stanczyk of the Book of Odds have written a guest post which answers just the kind of question we like to ask around here: What are the odds that a given cow will make it to the Super Bowl? Read More »



Ten Reasons to Like the Pittsburgh Steelers

After the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, a lot of people wrote or called to ask if my family and I were O.K. Some of these people were casual acquaintances at best but, for many of them, I was the only person they knew who lived in New York. Their concern was extremely moving […] Read More »