Statistical analysis can be far more fun than beat coverage

metrics

FiveThirtyEight.com offers many terrific examples on ways to develop and write a story based upon statistical research.

If you’re interested in diving into the statistical side of sports coverage, look no further than FiveThirtyEight, which offers compelling analysis that’s clearly articulated.

You can find top-notch analysis at FanGraphsBeyond the Boxscore, and FootballOutsiders.com. You can also regularly find fantastic coverage related to advanced metrics on a Wall Street Journal website that, unfortunately, is fairly expensive for those who seek only sports news. There’s also stories based on advanced metrics in Yahoo!, ESPN, and SB Nation, among others. But all pale compared to FiveThirtyEight.

Today, for example, Scott Kacsmar concludes that NFL coaches and quarterbacks should divorce after five years, if they have not already won a Super Bowl.

Analysis is always better when connected to timely news. In this case, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is expected to resign at the end of the season after 15 years in which he went 0-7 in the playoffs. “No head coach in NFL history has more playoff losses without a win than Lewis,” Kacsmar writes.

Kacsmar, who investigates every Super Bowl season, learned that no NFL team “has ever started the same quarterback under the same head coach for more than five years and seen that duo win its first championship.” Pretty remarkable information culled from basic research. The best ideas, though, always seem simple in retrospect. They also, inevitably, take considerable research, a sharp mind, and employ many multimedia elements such as this other piece on the Chicago Bulls’ bizarre, odds-averse winning streak.

Bring it home: You could take an historic look at various sports championships in your own school conference or track a school team over a lengthy span to yield your own insights. Statistical analysis is one of many ways to cover sports, and to make yourself more marketable. In addition, you might find such research more fun than covering games and writing features. Give it a try.

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About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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