Sunday, March 04, 2007

In Sports, Life We Cannot Be Impartial

I am fascinated by's SportsNation polls.

I seldom voted in online polls until I realized that you can see a state-by-state breakdown after you vote.

Now I vote in every single poll. And the results are always the same: Voters cannot be objective about their sports teams.

Even if you know nothing about college sports, I bet you can identify the states with schools in the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10.

The correlation is not perfect. Iowa has both a Big Ten and a Big 12 school. The Big Ten school is bigger, and the state tipped that way.

The neutral states of the Mountain Time Zone sided with the ACC, as did Southeasten Conference and Big East Conference states.

Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii stayed "regional" in the west with the Pac-10.

Colorado -- whose Buffaloes are in last place in the Big 12 -- defected and sided with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Pennsylvania -- whose population base is on the east coast and whose Nittany Lions are in last place -- shunned the Big Ten in favor of the ACC.

Best is a subjective thing in sports. We always see the bad calls made against our teams and minimize those that go our way. More often than not, the better team wins. But not always ... and especially not in sports such as football and college basketball where you are one-and-done in the post-season.

If we are to believe the 224,076 voters at the time that I took this screen shot, the ACC is best, followed by the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Big 12.

Looking at a more objective measure, the so-called conference RPI (ratings percentage index), the standings look as such:

Conference W/L PCT RPI
1 Atlantic Coast Conference 132-33 .800 .5861
2 Southeastern Conference 127-38 .770 .5851
3 Pac 10 Conference 90-26 .776 .5733
4 Big Ten Conference 116-38 .753 .5730
5 Big East Conference 159-54 .746 .5615
6 Missouri Valley Conference 79-32 .712 .5597
7 Big XII Conference 119-40 .748 .5593

According to the RPI, picked the wrong teams altogether. My beloved Big XII, apparently, deserved to be at the bottom of the pile. But it looks that population of the respective states undeservedly carried the Big Ten above the Pac-10.

This will fuel the fire of SEC fans who claim that an unfair bias in Bristol, Conn., keeps their conference from getting proper respect on ESPN and ABC sports.

Passionate fans. That's one of the reasons that I love sports. I do not make the mistake of talking politics at work, but I can talk sports every day. We can argue about the best teams without the hatred that is now an inseparable part of politics.

Now I've got to get back to celebrating. My childhood team, Kansas; my master's alma mater, Kansas State; my doctoral alma mater, Indiana; and current employer, Texas Tech, all won yesterday! Sadly my New Mexico State Aggies fell short in an upset of Top 10 Nevada.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your ex-employer won too, by the way. They beat a certain rival you may have heard of... that team up north.

12:00 PM  

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