A Sports Nation Divided http://www.sportsnationdivided.com America's fandom, geographically analyzed Wed, 25 Jan 2012 18:24:15 +0000 en hourly 1 Map of the Week: GIS and College Basketball http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/25/map-of-the-week-gis-and-college-basketball/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/25/map-of-the-week-gis-and-college-basketball/#comments Wed, 25 Jan 2012 17:43:54 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=755 more]]>

There are two different ways people love maps: for their beauty as a piece of art, and for their capacity to convey information (see if you prefer this rail map or this one). If you love maps as informational tools then you better have heard of GIS, and if you’ve heard of GIS than you better have heard of ESRI; the best damn mapping company in the entire world.

The map above shows ESRI’s only (as far as I can tell) foray into the field of Sports Cartography, but it’s a good one. ESRI uses its proprietary Market Potential Data to estimate the viewership of college basketball in US zip codes, finding that zip codes nearby major universities (obvious) and military bases (less obvious) had the highest viewership. You can read more about it in ESRI’s blog, and if you have a couple thousand dollars to blow consider getting your hands on ArcGIS 10 and mapping, I dunno, dunks per square mile or something.

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NFL Championship Weekend: the Twitterverse Responds http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/23/nfl-championship-weekend-the-twitterverse-respond/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/23/nfl-championship-weekend-the-twitterverse-respond/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2012 17:52:32 +0000 JoshR http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=739 more]]> Sunday was a great day for football fans. Two conference championships gave us two down-to-the-wire finishes – one in overtime, one decided in the last minute. The intensity had fans in four different cities (and many more, if you count everyone who hates the Giants) crying out in anguish and celebrating in ecstasy as New York and New England advanced to the Super Bowl.

But what if there were a way for us to get inside the minds of these fans, to get their instantaneous reaction to Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal or Kyle Williams’ muffed punt(s)? What if we could separate their reactions by region, so that we could know how Patriots fans felt about Tom Brady’s QB sneak, or how 49ers fans reacted to Vernon Davis’ little shuffle thing after his second score? And what if we could get it all in 140 characters or fewer?

Well it just so happens that we’re in luck! Twitter, when not fail-whaling, serves as a great way to get the pulse of America’s sentiment regarding anything from the weather to how best to add the word “poop” to a famous work of literature. What follows is, with commentary, the football-related trending topics from Boston, Baltimore, New York, and San Francisco in the half hour or so after their respective games wrapped up.


Boston football trending topics:

Billy Cundiff

For Boston fans, Cundiff is kind of like Aaron Boone, only the exact opposite.


The only city where #Superbowl was trending. Might tell you something about Boston fans’ confidence.


Fairly straightforward.

Sterling Moore

Not Don Draper’s place of employment, but the Patriots cornerback who broke up a Lee Evans touchdown reception with under a minute to go.

Lee Evans

See above.

Ray Finkle

Patriots were able to gleefully reminisce about the similarities between Cundiff and the fictional Dolphins kicker whose miss wide right at the end of Super Bowl XVII drove him to kidnap Dan Marino and Snowflake, the Miami Dolphin. Ravens fans didn’t appreciate the comparison. This Cardiff/Finkle mashup appeared on YouTube within an hour of the game.


Benjarvus Green-Ellis, the man with the best name in football, ran for 68 yards and a second-quarter touchdown.

Bernard Pollard

Pollard took out the man with the second-best name in football – Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. He’d better watch his back.


Overall thoughts: Patriots fans focused on the flashpoints of the game, and weren’t afraid to go after Ravens fans a little bit after securing their ticket to Indy.


Baltimore football trending topics:

Billy Cundiff

If we want to continue the Red Sox playoff analogies, Cundiff : Baltimore :: Bill Buckner : Boston.




Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was a bright spot for the Ravens, throwing for 306 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. On the final drive of the game, he brought the team where they needed to be for a game-tying field goal.

Tom Brady

Quarterback envy, largely.

Matt Stover

The former Ravens placekicker. Baltimore fans think he would have made it.

Ray Lewis

He didn’t do anything special this game, but there were more than a fair share of jokes about Cundiff dying at Lewis’ hands after the game.

Super Bowl

No hashtag, no brag.


Overall thoughts: Significantly more subdued than Boston, Baltimore’s tweeters found themselves thinking a lot about what could have been.


New York football trending topics:

Kyle Williams

The Giants’ MVP.


To be clear, the New York Football Giants.

NFC Champions

Does it say something that Giants fans were busy celebrating their NFC Championship while Patriots fans were looking toward the Super Bowl? Perhaps.

Devin Thomas

Thomas picked up Kyle Williams’ fumble and set up the game-winning field goal. Right place, right time.

Special Teams

Where the game was won tonight.


The other L.T.

Justin Smith

The 49ers’ DE got at Eli Manning all night.


Overall thoughts: Calm and confident, apparently New York fans’ neuroses don’t show on Twitter.


San Francisco football trending topics:

Kyle Williams

The bane of San Franciscans’ night. Several death threats were sent to his Twitter account tonight.


I think we get it at this point.

Billy Cundiff

Not entirely sure what Cundiff is doing trending over here, but I guess it was a pretty big miss.

Vernon Davis

Davis, the 49ers star tight end, had two touchdowns and 112 yards receiving.

Victor Cruz

Cruz, the Giants WR, had a big night with ten receptions for 142 yards.

Lee Evans

Again, not sure what Lee Evans is doing in San Francisco, but his broken up reception sealed led to Cundiff’s missed field goal.

Ed Hochuli

The long-winded (and jacked) ref spent 57 seconds explaining the NFL’s new playoff overtime rules. Also, this.


Overall thoughts: San Francisco fans seemed a bit distracted by the AFC Championship. They didn’t have it in them tonight.


Worldwide football trending topics:


Featuring jams like this and this. #toosoon

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What It Means to be an Urban Sport http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/22/what-it-means-to-be-an-urban-sport/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/22/what-it-means-to-be-an-urban-sport/#comments Sun, 22 Jan 2012 17:42:03 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=721 more]]>

For those following the whole Turner debacle, to kiss and make up I asked the residents of Turner to help me finish this map, which broke down the country by NBA fandom and left western Montana blank. The responses have trickled in, and by and large it seems that people in this part of Montana, well, just don’t care about the NBA. This led me to ask, are rural areas in general less likely to follow professional basketball?

In April 2011, the Seton Hall Sports Poll Center conducted a 726-person random dial poll on a variety of sports topics. 495 respondents said they followed sports, and were asked, “Which would you say you are following most closely, the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs or regular season major league baseball?” These results were adjusted slightly prior to release, but in the raw data that the Sports Poll Center provided 31% voted NBA, 14% voted NHL, 43% voted MLB, and 12% didn’t know/didn’t respond.

Awesomely for us, the Sports Poll Center also recorded the geolocation by county of their respondents. To look at the urban/rural divide of respondents, we can use US Census data on the the population density (shown for 2000 in the map above) of the counties of the respondents. Here are the results:


NBA followers lived in counties that were 46% more densely-populated than the counties of respondents who chose other sports (p = 0.08). Now if you know anything about the NBA or demographics, there’s a pretty big elephant in the room. African-Americans make up 14% of the US, but they make up 78% of the NBA and 87% of them live in metropolitan areas (vs. 79% for the country as a whole). Are we just seeing a racial effect, with more black NBA fans clustered in more densely-populated counties?

To control for race, let’s see what happens when we only look at the answers from the 384 respondents who identified themselves as white:


The percent voting for the NBA drops from 31% to 24% and across the board population density drops, but white NBA followers still live in counties that are on average 38% more densely populated than the counties of respondents voting for the other options (p = 0.10).

This may be because basketball is fundamentally an urban sport. A basketball court is 1/12 the size of football field, 1/17 the size of a soccer field, and 1/19 the size of the average MLB field, much better adapted for major cities where available space is at a premium. Before urban courts were dominated by African-Americans, basketball was once – believe it or not – described as “a sport at which Jews excel,” thanks to the Jews natural shortness, speed, balance, sharp eyes, and clever minds. These explanations were obviously crap; in the 1930′s Jews clustered in cities, so they came to play basketball. Tellingly, the two active Jewish NBA players are both still in New York City.

In the last decade, American cities have slowly become less African-American and more Hispanic and Asian. In 2010 Jeremy Lin became the first Asian-American NBA player since 1947. That year the NBA had five US-born Latino players, and the number of college players is growing. If it was possible to put money on a such a thing, I would bet that in the next decade the NBA will see its first US-born MVP of Hispanic descent.

Twenty dollars. Who wants it?


For more Sports Nation Divided coverage on race and basketball, click here. Special thanks to the Seton Hall Sports Poll Center and Samba Binagi for this feature.

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Saints Fans to 49ers: We Are Definitely Still Bitter http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/20/saints-fans-to-jim-harbaugh-suck-a-dick/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/20/saints-fans-to-jim-harbaugh-suck-a-dick/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2012 22:15:20 +0000 DanB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=697 more]]>

We’ve all been there. Your team got knocked out of the playoffs, and now you have to pick who to root for the rest of the way. Most importantly, you have to decide how you feel about the team that booted your squad from the playoffs. There are really only two options here:

  1.  Hold a childish grudge. “Fuck those assholes. I want them to lose as quickly and embarrassingly as possible. They need to get utterly annihilated in their next game.” 
  2. Root for the team that beat you so you can hang on to the pathetic delusion that your team is still decent. “Yeah, whatever, the Eagles lost to the Packers in the first round of the playoffs last year. But the Packers ended up winning the whole thing, right? So that means we were actually the second best team in the league. Probably the best, actually, if it weren’t for Akers missing two field goals in a five-point game. Fucking Akers.

So which is the more popular approach to managing the bitter taste of defeat? According to ESPN’s latest poll, the only people who think the Giants are actually going to beat the 49ers on Sunday are Giants fans (shocker) and — wait for it — Saints fans. Aha! Spiteful grudge.

Looks like America’s decision is pretty clear: if your team loses, hold a childish grudge. Like the bitter, immature loser you are.

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SportsNation Goes Back in Time to Discuss Tennis http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/18/sportsnation-goes-back-in-time-to-discuss-tennis/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/18/sportsnation-goes-back-in-time-to-discuss-tennis/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2012 01:40:12 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=667 more]]>


The Rt Hon. Robert Crawley: Dearest Mary, of whom do you have a better opinion: Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal?

Lady Mary Josephine Crawley: Father, I do not see how you can ponder upon such trivial things when this Great War threatens the very essence of our beloved Abbey!

The Rt Hon. Robert Crawley: Honestly Mary, ’tis a simple question and I expect an answer.

Lady Mary Josephine Crawley: Then I will choose Federer, as he is the fairer-skinned of the pair.

The Rt Hon. Robert Crawley: Quite.

Lady Mary Josephine Crawley: Quite.


Just kidding, obviously ESPN’s phrasing of this question is a little pretentious but otherwise acceptable. Wait, what? It isn’t? ESPN just completely made it up?



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Guess Who Likes the Ridiculous BCS Formula? http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/18/guess-who-likes-the-ridiculous-bcs-formula/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/18/guess-who-likes-the-ridiculous-bcs-formula/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2012 01:05:57 +0000 JoshR http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=657 more]]>

When it comes to the Bowl Championship Series, SportsNation seems to be of one mind. They don’t like it. This is a sentiment echoed widely across the country. There have been books about it, there have been on-air rants about it, and there’s even an academic literature on it.

It seems that a four-team playoff is the most likely replacement for the current system. But while such a playoff seems like the likely solution, the country is divided as to how the teams ought to be chosen. The two options on the table are a college basketball-style panel of judges, or a BCS-style formula that spits out the top ranked teams. The poll above shows that thirty-eight states across the country – a vast majority – support a human committee picking the top teams. But the eleven states that don’t (West Virginia is split 50-50), fit a very noticeable pattern.

All but three of the states are home to teams that are currently in the Southeastern Conference, the most dominant conference in college football. The BCS Champion has been from the SEC for the past six years, and this year two SEC teams faced off in the BCS Championship, with Alabama emerging victorious (and few actually watching). Clearly, the SEC and its fans see things as working well as they are.

Across the country, SportsNation chose a human committee over a BCS formula, 52%-48%. But the states with SEC teams went for a BCS formula, 61%-39%. These states know a good thing when they see one, and they have no interest in changing the status quo.

But what about the three states that favored the BCS formula yet don’t have teams in the SEC? The first two, Texas and Oklahoma, border the boundaries of the SEC, and presumably have a fair bit of spillover. In fact, with Texas A&M joining the SEC in July 2012, Texas will join the southeastern monolith.

The third, Delaware, is a bit of a mystery. There are two possibilities. The first is that Delaware’s sample size of 95 was so small that even just a few passionate voters threw the vote the BCS’s way. The second is that Delaware is one of the nine states without a team in the FBS, and far and away the most southern of those nine. As such, they may have latched on to the winningest conference in recent memory, supporting the retention of the BCS formula alongside its more southern brethren. My guess is that it’s somewhere in between the two. Regardless, the eleven states that support retaining a BCS-style selection process find themselves in the minority, but they have their reasons.

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ESPN Poll Apparently More Important Than the GOP Primary http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/16/espn-poll-apparently-more-important-than-the-gop-primary/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/16/espn-poll-apparently-more-important-than-the-gop-primary/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 21:52:52 +0000 DanB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=642 more]]>

At the time I’m writing this, 208,616 people have voted in today’s featured SportsNation poll asking fans to to predict which team will win the Super Bowl. The voting population in Iowa’s Republican presidential caucus totaled 122,255. Yes, I realize that only Iowans are allowed to vote in the Iowa caucus , whereas anyone can vote in an internet poll, so I’m not trying to claim that Iowans were more likely to vote in an ESPN poll than the presidential caucus. (If you’re interested, Iowans were 61 times more likely to vote in the caucus than today’s poll. Nice, Iowa!) No, what I’m really interested in are these two fun takeaways:

  1. The Republican presidential candidate – and very possibly our nation’s next president – is largely decided by a voting population 40% smaller than the population who voted in a random, inconsequential ESPN poll over the last 17 hours.
  2. More Iowans have already taken the time to vote that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl (802) than supported Jon Huntsman in the caucus (745). That has to burn a little.
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Map of the Week Update: Turner Responds http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/16/map-of-the-week-update-turner-responds/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/16/map-of-the-week-update-turner-responds/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 18:23:57 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=588 more]]> A week or so back,  I took a rather cheap shot at Turner, Montana: the town in the contiguous US furthest from a professional baseball team. As an extremely dorky baseball fan, the 647-mile trip to the nearest team would be tough for me, but obviously it doesn’t make Turner the “Saddest Town in America.” Well if you happened to read the comments section, you’ll know that the people of Turner heard about the article, and they were understandably not happy. Like not at all.

I followed up with these commenters to offer an apology, and a few of them got back to me. Ladies and gentlemen, the fine people of Turner (and Hogeland), in their own words:


Cindy C. of Turner chimed in with a deeply touching story about the strength of Turner’s community:

Our “town” is small, but the surrounding community is not.  We are very close to the surrounding 100 mile radius of communities, and I personally have experienced what happens when a person is in need. My husband is a recent bone marrow transplant recipient, where we spent 4 months living in the heart of Seattle, and yes, too close to the well known SafeCo Field. Our community hosted a benefit for our family, with well over 100 people attending, all contributing thousands of dollars to our cause.  Not only did people donate, but since December of 2009, our community has been there to help and support us as we fight the battle of cancer.  There is nothing like it.


Cindy was also kind enough to chip in on the sports scene in her town, which I asked about specifically:

Sports is a big factor in todays world, but our numbers do not allow us to offer football, volleyball, tennis or some of the other fun sports. Instead, we have basketball and track… we may not have huge stadiums to host the “big” games, but we feel our kids are subjected to much more.  Our baseball teams consist of all ages, 2-80.  Our baseball field is native prairie grass, yet groomed and fenced to allow family fun nights.


Mark R., of nearby Hogeland, seemed to take the whole thing in stride and gave an excellent explanation of how the Big Flat Community Grain Bin got its name:

[Turner and Hogeland] are part of what is known locally as “The Big Flat”.  This area was so named by the homesteaders, about 90 years ago, because it’s, well, big and flat.  Whomever came up with the name would probably be addressed as “Captain Obvious” today.  Almost everyone who lives in this area is either a farmer or rancher.  A grain bin is a structure where farmers store their grain.  Grain in the bin is the same as money in the bank.  So, a community grain bin is an apt description for a fund to be used for economic development.


On the other side of things, Heather D. of the Chinook Area Chamber of Commerce was not going to let me off the hook so easily:

I am sorry, I am not going to accept your apology.  I am in the field of media as well and I am absolutely disturbed by people like you who do not take constructive journalism seriously.  It is EXACTLY what is wrong with this entire country.


While I am flattered to be officially included in the field of media, I am truly sorry that my article was insensitive enough to illicit responses like Heather’s above, and I’d like to take this final opportunity to offer my sincerest apologies to our readers from the Big Flat region.

On a related note, I’d like to see if I can try to salvage just a tiny piece of constructive research out of this whole ugly mess. The map below – which I assume from the title came from reddit.com/r/nba – charts the (general) territories of NBA fandom in the US. Unfortunately, the lazy cartographers left out a big chunk of Montana:



Citizens of Turner, Hogeland, and the entire Big Flat region: if you’re reading this and you don’t hate me too much already, please help me further the field of sports cartography by actually finishing this map. If you know anyone around you who follows the NBA, who do they root for? The Trailblazers? The Timberwolves? The Nuggets? Someone else?

Let me know either in the comments or by email at sportsnationdivided@gmail.com, and once again my apologies for any and all disrespect. Maybe we can make some headway on turning this guy’s idea into a reality.


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Which States Are Best At Picking Bowls? The States That Don’t Care http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/11/which-states-are-best-at-picking-bowls/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/11/which-states-are-best-at-picking-bowls/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 01:34:28 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=528 more]]>


On Monday, Alabama decimated LSU 21-0 to win the BCS Championship, the last of 35 bowls in a season which has featured many boring pointless games, some exciting pointless games, some boring important games, and even a few just all-around awesome games.  Like always it was, even according to ad executives, the best time of year.

Because they can, ESPN put up a poll like the one above letting fans pick the winner of each of these games. This led us to an obvious question: are some states better at picking bowl games than others? One theory proposed by my friend Dan Ollen – which we called the Neutrality Theory - theorized that states further away from major teams would be the most apathetic to the bowl games, which would make them the most impartial, which would make them the best at making picks. Finally, with all the bowls down, we’re prepared to put this hypothesis to the test.*

Note: For those of you that have been following along with this research over the last few posts, you’ll notice that some parts of the methodology have changed in this final installment. Instead of boring new readers by explaining this step by step, please check the notes at the bottom of the article.

The map above shows the final tally for how many bowls each state got right. West Virginia ran away with the thing, correctly picking 29 out of the 35 bowls (83%) thanks in part to the Mountaineer’s 70-33 drubbing of favorite Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Kentucky and Rhode Island came in distant second with 26 bowls picked (74%), while four states (Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, and Mississippi) tied for third with 25 bowls picked (71%).

On the other end of things, Oklahoma had a dramatic come-to-behind, dropping the final five bowls in a row to finish in last with 18 bowls picked (51%). Nevada, which led for most of the bowl season, escaped into second place with 19 bowls picked (54%), while Oregon came in third with 20 bowl (57%). The Vegas line ended up only picking 24 bowls correctly (69%) – a figure matched or beaten by 18 states. Complete results are available here.

How well did these results match our theory? We predicted that states that were more apathetic to college football would make the best picks, so we had to devise a measure of “state apathy.” Luckily ESPN was kind of enough to put this poll out near the beginning of bowl season, “How many non-BCS bowls do you plan on watching this year?



For reasons that I think are self-explanatory, we’re going to use the percentage of each state that voted “None” as our measure of apathy to college football in general.** Maine and Rhode Island are obviously quite apathetic  (which makes sense since they’re 2 of 9 states without FBS teams), but here are the results for all the states:



Maine crushed everyone at 50% voting “None” and the rest of the northeast followed, but Wisconsin and Minnesota also made strong showings with more than 25% of respondents voting that they wouldn’t watch any games. On the flip side, Nebraska was the least apathetic with only 5% voting “None,” followed by Idaho, Arkansas, and South Carolina at 7%. Plotting the percent of a state that voted “None” in this poll against the number of bowls the state picked correctly, here’s what we get:



As this chart shows, as states became more apathetic to college football, the number of bowls games they correctly picked generally rose. Was this a significant effect? Not quite, the p-value for the solid pink trendline was 0.056, which is just outside the 0.05 cutoff that is generally accepted as the margin for statistical significance. To explain simply: we can only be 94.4% confident that the fact that apathetic states picked more bowls was not caused by chance, and we aim to be at least 95% confident.

Look back at that chart though. In the upper left corner of the graph, it’s visually obvious that West Virginia is a pretty gigantic outlier, picking the most bowls correctly while only having 9% of the state voting “None.” If this state is removed from our analysis (which is not an unacceptable tool in analysis), then the p-value drops substaintially to 0.010. In other words, West Virginia excluded we are 99% confident that the effect we’re seeing is real: states that are more apathetic to college football are more likely to pick bowl games correctly.

Now of course it isn’t exactly fair of us to just axe West Virginia from the data, if it’s an outlier then we have to attempt to explain why. You’ll notice that seven states on the chart above are marked in pink. All seven significantly outperformed the model (picked more bowls than we would have guessed based on apathy), getting an average of 25.3 bowls correct vs. the overall average of 23.0. They are also – and I’m serious about this upcoming point so bear with me – the seven states on the extended Mason/Dixon line:



At the end of the day, college football is deeply regional, and most fans root not only for their team but also for their team’s conference. States on the Mason/Dixon line are, by historical fact, split between two regions. Perhaps this split allegiance makes these states more impartial to picking their bowl games?

Sure enough, in tens bowl game that featured North vs. South match ups, West Virginia picked the Northern team to win five times, and the Southern team to win five times. The South went 6-4 in those games, and West Virginia went 9-1 in those picks (missing only the Compass Bowl).

On the other side of things, the chart also marked in green six states that underperformed based on their apathy. These states averaged only 20.7 bowls picked correclty (vs. the overall average of 23.0), and they’re also the six westernmost states. The West Coast might be the most geographically isolated region in the U.S., and it’s college football isolationism has only be heightened by the recent expansion of the Pac-12. In twelve games featuring Western vs. non-Western match ups, Oregon (to pick on somebody) chose the Western team 8 times of out 12. The West went 3-9 in those games, and Oregon went 5-7 in those picks, eventually coming in third to last overall.


So there you have it! If you’re trying to pick bowl games, it helps to not particularly care about them. And if you are going to care, it helps to not be too tied to a particular region or conference. Does this Neutrality Rule (and Regional Neutrality Sub-rule) hold up in other sports as well? Stick with A Sports Nation Divided as we try to find out.


* Our original methodology had another theory as well: the Dominance Theory, which stated that teams with more historically dominant programs would be more likely to pick the overdog and this more likely to pick more bowls correctly. To measure dominance I used the highest score associated with each state from ESPN’s college football “program prestige” rankings. So why were these results thrown out? It turns out that football dominance is simply the inverse of neutrality, states with better programs were less likely to be neutral. The end results showed that more dominant states picked fewer bowls correctly but this was not a new result, as it simply stemmed from the neutrality theory that we already had.

** The orginal methodology created a complicated “Bowl Interest” index which gave the four different responses to “How many non-BCS bowls will you watch?” (None, A few, A lot, As many as possible) different weights to create a final “interest number,” which was then converted to a 0-100 scale. Why was this thrown out? Because the index was near-perfectly correlated with the percentage of the population voting “None,” so there was no point in using the complicated method when a simpler one would do.

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White Men Can Jump: Race and Indiana Basketball http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/07/white-men-can-jump-race-and-indiana-basketball/ http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/2012/01/07/white-men-can-jump-race-and-indiana-basketball/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2012 01:35:58 +0000 ReubenFB http://www.sportsnationdivided.com/?p=448 more]]>

2011-2012 has been a renaissance for Indiana basketball, after going 28 and 66 over the previous three seasons the Hoosiers are 14-1, knocking off ranked Kentucky, Ohio St., and Michigan along the way. Indiana’s success is driven in part by its 5th-in-the-nation .505 FG percentage; this year the Hooiser’s are just a better-shooting team than these three more-prominent schools.

They’re are also a whiter team: 11 of 17 players on Indiana’s roster are caucasian (65%), as opposed to 7 of 16 for Michigan (44%),  5 of 13 for Kentucky (38%), and 1 of 14 for OSU (7%). This is not at all surprising; Indiana’s struggles in recent years mean it has more state-born players than these other schools (nine, in total), and Indiana happens to be the 15th whitest state in the country. Unfortunately these roster differences feed into a common stereotype that Indiana is the American capital of white people basketball, a stereotype also driven by:

  1. Butler’s recent success in the NCAA Tournament
  2. Larry Bird
  3. The movie Hoosiers

But how pervasive is this stereotype really? Are white people more likely to take the resurgent Hoosiers seriously? The contested ESPN poll above, “Is Indiana back to being a perennial power in college basketball?” lets us put this theory to the test. Plotting the percentage of 47 states voting “Yes” on Indiana against the percentage of state population that identifies as “Non-Latino White,” here’s what we get:

To understand this graph we have to get a little statty. The trendline  slopes upwards, showing that as states’ “Non-Latino White” percentage goes up, “Voting Yes on Indiana” percentage goes up as well. You’ll also notice that the line matches the data fairly well: the effect we’re seeing is statistically strong (p << 0.05). Finally, you’ll notice that the slope of the line is not very steep; to simplify things a bit that means that the effect we’re seeing – while real – is small (R-sq = 3.6%). All data is available here.

So there you have it, whiter states are statistically more likely to believe that this year’s Hoosiers are legit, but only by a little bit. Make sure to tell your friends!

A couple outliers worth looking: Vermont and Maine were more likely to vote for Indiana than the trendline predicted. It’s also worth mentioning that they are not just white, they are super duper white (I should know, I grew up in one of them), so maybe once you reach a 94% threshold of whiteness your trust in Indiana basketball starts to increase exponentially. The New York City area was also hotter on Indiana than expected, not sure what’s up with that one. Oklahoma and Kansas both were more down on Indiana than expected  from their whiteness, my only guess is that they might be the other two college programs (private school Duke excluded) in the running for whitest-seeming college basketball program. Maybe they’re jealous or something?


Research Features:

Electoral College: Exciting result this week, as the popular vote is locked at 50/50. Do we need a recount? Absolutely not, even with six states undecided (54 votes) “No” has run away with this one 357 electoral votes to 127. Most similar to – and I’m very excited about finding this one – the 1916 election between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evan Hughes.

Outliers:  Alaska – which was not included in the analysis – voted 54% in favor of this year’s Hoosiers, tying them for second behind only “Don’t Give a Fuck” Vermont.

Fun with Small Sample Sizes: In most ESPN polls Wyoming tends to draw more voters than Vermont despite being smaller, but on college basketball they were equally excited/apathetic (Vermont is 14% bigger than Wyoming and brought in 11% more votes). Maybe Vermont’s boost came from this guy’s crazy jump shot?


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