If you’re even the slightest bit interested in sports, you’ll be aware that you’re unable to escape the startling array of statistics that accompany a television broadcast, or a radio commentary, or a newspaper write-up of your chosen game. It’s unavoidable. Football commentators prepare meticulously, seemingly able to regurgitate any number of statistics to fill breaks in play. Sports like baseball and cricket have always relied heavily on numbers as part of the narrative of the game, providing a comparison point across generations. Statistics are a way to put what we’re watching into context, and delving deep can help us to further understand the games we love.
I’ve always had a keen interest in numbers. When I watch Countdown, I never bother with the letters game (does anyone else never get anything more than a five letter word? And I’m not even going to mention the conundrum…), but I’m there with my boots blacked for the numbers game. Luckily for me, if I switch on any sport taking place anywhere in the world, there are likely to be a multitude of on-screen graphics telling you how fast somebody’s going, or how many runs they’ve scored, or how many points they need.
As well as numbers, I also have a weird relationship with looking for the unusual, and taking things too literally. When someone asks a rhetorical question like, “It’s been ages since Coventry had a decent league season, isn’t it?”, rather than simply replying, “Yeah, I guess…” like 99% of the population, I actually like to research and see if their comment has any basis in reality (in Coventry’s case, it really has been ages). I’d rather bring a slightly quirky or unusual piece of information to the table, even if it often leads to an amused, confused or bemused reaction.
Armchair Statman is just a small window into my world. This is, absolutely and unashamedly, a work-in-progress – I don’t think Opta need to worry – but it’s a place for me to develop my writing, experiment with new tools and software for reviewing, interpreting and displaying data, and possibly shine a different light on the sports we all love.
If you’ve taken the time to read even just one of the articles on this site – thank you.
-Tom Dempster, April 2016