Sunday, October 13, 2013

If we had a rule that required you to know something before posting the answer, the Internet wouldn't exist. (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct)

I haven't really watched any football this year -- the total extent of my football thus far was to tune into the Bills-Browns Thursday Night Football game while I took Mr F for a ride, an experience which ended badly: When I got in the car to start the ride and put the game on the radio, the Bills were up 10-3.  By the time the ride ended about 15 minutes later, the Bills were losing 17-10.

Later that night, after Sweetie fell asleep, I switched over to the NFL Network to see the score of the game and saw it was still on: The Bills were down 30-24, but had the ball and a chance to score and win. As I watched, they turned the ball over and lost 37-24.

Since I hate the Packers and Aaron "I Won't Pay Off On A Bet I Made Claiming Ryan Braun Never Used Steroids" Rodgers, I haven't had any reason to watch, and have spent most Sundays building a walk-in closet and watching American Horror Story on Netflix. (Some would say the Bills' season is a horror story! HA!)(They haven't got a ghost of a chance! HA HA!).

But I still like to read about the games and watch the highlights -- getting my football in a 3-minute compressed dose, like how in the future we were all supposed to not have food anymore and simply eat pills-- and so tonight after mopping up the soda Mr F had dumped on the floor and then helping Mr Bunches build a jet airliner and then 'hanging plane' (a plane which has its prop engines hanging below the wings), I sat down to look at highlights on Deadspin, and saw this note on the Raiders game:

Chiefs 24, Raiders 7: The Raiders experienced a third and 48 today. Here's the play-by-play of that.

1st and 10 at 50 (Shotgun) T.Pryor pass incomplete short right to R.Streater [J.Houston]. PENALTY on OAK-L.Mady, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at 50 - No Play.
1st and 20 at OAK 40 T.Pryor sacked at OAK 28 for -12 yards (T.Hali).
2nd and 32 at OAK 28 (Shotgun) PENALTY on OAK-T.Pryor, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at OAK 28 - No Play.
2nd and 37 at OAK 23 (Shotgun) T.Pryor sacked at OAK 12 for -11 yards (E.Berry).
3rd and 48 at OAK 12 (Shotgun) T.Pryor pass incomplete short middle to M.Reece (A.Bailey).

That made me wonder whether 3rd-and-48 was the longest third-down attempt ever, and so I googled that question to find out, because Google exists, because I live in the future where we can instantaneously access answers to everything.  I love living in the future!

Except that the future is made up of idiots, too, people who post the answers to questions even when they patently do not know the answer to the question -- and also made up of selfish people who post a question then find the answer and don't post the answer themselves.

From the "IGN Boards," I found this question:

I work with some Raiders fans and I guess they had a 3 and 50 today, which seems pretty bad. When I found out they did not make it, I started to wonder what the longest third down conversion was. However, I cannot find a record or stat. Does anybody here happen to know what this record is and where I might find it?

 To which responses were posted.  Those responses were:

Raiders didn't have a 3rd and 50 today.

Thanks! It's nice to know someone has the kind of life that lets them log onto a message board thread created specifically for that question only to make a snarky comment. Your life must be going swell, guy.

The next answer was:

The cowboys had a 3 and 52 in the preseason, of course knowing them they didn't make it.

Which is sort of an answer? I was unable to verify that because every Cowboys game ever makes a reference to both 3rd downs and the number 52, as a receiver has that number.  This is another problem with Google, completely on top of the two other problems I recently pointed out in an essay.

NOTE: I am not going to link to the essay at this point in the article, because I want you to go read it but I don't want you to stop reading this post, and I know that if I just leave the link here, you will not come back to it.  It'll be at the end of the post.

NOTE, TWO: Today I was reading an article by Nate Silver on Grantland -- I'm not going to link to that, either-- which hit me the wrong way for two reasons.  First, Nate Silver, who I gather is respected among people who respect people? I'm not sure who he is other than a guy who everyone gives credit to for saying that Obama would win re-election, anyway, first Nate Silver wrote an article in which he said that a bunch of people are saying stuff about the government shutdown and opining on it as though they are experts, which, Nate Silver said, was wrong to do, because those people don't really have facts or even reliable statistical models on which to make educated guesses, and the facts they think they have aren't really facts.

So far, so good, Nate, but then he went on to himself say six things about the government shutdown, thereby himself doing exactly what he said other people should not do.

I'm totally not kidding.  Here is a quote from Nate Silver:

That's been my impression of the coverage of the shutdown: The folks you see on TV are much too sure of themselves. They've been making too much of thin slices of polling and thinner historical precedents that might not apply this time around. There's been plenty of bullshit, in other words. We really don't know all that much about how the shutdown is going to be resolved, or how the long-term political consequences are going to play out.

But in the very next paragraph without, apparently, any sense of irony, Nate Silver goes on to say:

What follows are a series of points that I consider to be on relatively firm ground.

So: relatively, and I consider are both hedges. What Nate Silver wrote was "What follows are a series of points which in my opinion based on facts, circumstances, and information I just said nobody had, and based on other things which I am not sharing with you, I consider to be possibly right and possibly wrong.

The point being that Nate Silver, I guess, now writes for a sports site (Grantland) and has taken a page from sportswriters' longstanding tradition of saying things could happen or that both things might happen. (I expect the Bills to lose all their games, guys, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't!)

In fairness, Nate Silver's 'relatively firm' hypotheses are mostly information about how other people's information is shaky, but, then, his own information about why their information is shaky, is shaky. (Still with me? Read it again if you have to.) A better article would've been to simply say here's why even I don't know what we don't know about the shutdown and how it will end, but nobody ever got rich and famous saying they don't know things, so Nate Silver has to pretend that he has cold hard facts about how nobody else has cold hard facts.

POINT TWO of Nate Silver's problems being that he, like everybody else on the Internet, thinks that if you simply link to something, that's the same as saying it.  Here is a sample of that:

 There are some other exceptions besides presidential elections — sports, in many respects; and weather prediction, which has become much better in recent years. But for the most part, the experts you see on television are much too sure of themselves.
Those links were by Nate Silver himself -- touch them if you want, and let his factiness rub off on you!-- and they link to an article in the New York Times that explains how the torrent of information helps weathermen, but also why you shouldn't necessarily think they are accurate. (The article, it turns out, was by NATE SILVER!)*gasp*

The second link was to a 2005 article in The New Yorker, and was in fact a review of a book about how experts frequently predict things wrong.

The links are meant to help explain Nate's points, or perhaps to provide citation for his authoritative stance, but they did not add to the article, at all -- because you would have had to go read those articles to get the precise point he was making.  Why not simply say "the experts you see on television are much to sure of themselves, as argued in 'Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton, 2005)"? And then link to the book?

I'm not against linking as a form of citation; linking to the source is a good way to avoid having to put the entire citation there, but Nate Silver didn't just link to the source in that last one; he linked to a review of a source. And in the first link, his link to the source actually undercut his point that weather forecasting is getting better if you actually read the source, which says:

A study of TV meteorologists in Kansas City found that when they said there was a 100 percent chance of rain, it failed to rain at all one-third of the time.

(The actual accuracy Nate Silver relied on was in such things as better predicting where hurricanes will make landfall.)

So that's why I'm not linking to articles anymore, unless it is simply to point out the source of a fact for citation: if I want you to read the article, I'll list it at the end of the post, and if I want you to know what the article says, I'll paraphrase, quote, or otherwise incorporate it, so that you can read my posts and not have to go read some other article to truly understand what I say.

(That, too, was the one thing I hated about Lost: the idea that I had to go looking on the Internet to get clues about what was happening. If I wanted to go on a scavenger hunt, I wouldn't be plopped in front of the TV with a bowl of Cheetos.)

AFTER the second guy posted that answer about a preseason game, which did not by the way have a link to anything to prove it and wasn't in the regular season anyway, the original poster came back and put up:

Don't worry, I'm not trying to insult. I don't even know what actually happened. That is just what he told me. Anyway, I found the answer. Thanks. 

So here's the thing about those results, which were not only infuriating -- don't bother posting what it was, original poster! Just go log on, post that you now know the answer but don't bother saying what it was! -- but also they were results from 2005.

So the number one Google result when I tried to find out what the longest yardage ever was on 3rd down was a thread posted in 2005 that in fact did not have the answer.

Other sites were equally unhelpful.  The Straight Dope message board had nothing. (Here is a link to that site). And this Yahoo! answers site that I found  had these answers:

Other Answers (4)

  • Just ask me answered 6 years ago
    I dont know about longest, but as a packer fan, the most famous one is 3rd and 27, when SF beat GB in a playoff game, I believe in Jan 2000. My friends and I were listening on Radio as we drove back home from the Rose Bowl in Anahiem. (Wis. beat UCLA)
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  • Meth dog answered 6 years ago
    there was a 3rd and 35 once and it happened to the Bills but i don't know if thats the longest and i have no idea about NCAA
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  • T.I. fan answered 6 years ago
    99 yds
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  • mil answered 6 years ago
    104 yards. idk.
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So that is:

One nonanswer that wanted to gripe about Green Bay losing in a playoff game. (I remember that game: it happened while Sweetie and I were on vacation in Puerta Vallarta. I didn't mind missing it.)

One vague reference to a possible answer.

One statement that is unlikely to be correct, and

One that is clearly impossible and to which the answerer owned up that he didn't know.


If someone comes up to me and asks me a question, flat out, I am free to say Hey, sorry, I don't know, but these are not that situation.  These are people who log onto that message board, specifically see that question and specifically choose to answer even though they don't know the answer.

That is the equivalent of sneaking into a college classroom, waiting until someone raises their hand and asks a question, and then shoving aside the professor and shouting something about how the Packers were screwed a long time ago.

GOD, I hate Packer fans.

In the end, I was unable to find the answer, so I had to send a tweet to Bill Barnwell, a Grantland writer.

And he answered!

So life in the future is pretty cool, I guess.

Here is a link to the essay I mentioned about the other two problems with Google.

Here is a link to an article telling when I first began to turn on Packer fans.

Here is a post about a Hot Actress in which I also rant about Yahoo! answers.

And here is a post in which I rated how well cartoons accurately forecast the future.


Andrew Leon said...

I'm not a big follower of Silver or anything, BUT he's a data miner and stuff he says is based on data and statistical models he makes based on the data. My wife does the same kind of stuff for the company that she works for, and she backs Silver (in general), so I'm mostly willing to trust him in what he says. He's usually not offering up opinions (unlike news people); he's offering predictions based on calculations of data.

Pat Dilloway said...

If I were a Bills fan I wouldn't be watching much football either. I mean when your quarterback options are Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel it's going to be a pretty depressing season.

Briane P said...

PT: Apparently Thad Lewis did pretty well yesterday. Which means the Bills will now throw $25,000,000 at him, Jim Kelly will say how he earned that money, and he'll be playing for Tennessee in 2 years.

Andrew: Silver has a good reputation but that article didn't live up to his background. If you're going to say you're basing your calculations on data, not opinions, you shouldn't be offering opinions and not data, especially when the point of the article is that nobody has any good data.

Silver is running into a modified version of the Peter Principle: He's becoming so big that he feels he needs to opine on everything, and outgrowing his skills.

Pat Dilloway said...

Speaking of overpaying QBs, A-Rodg got destroyed by Nick Foles in my fantasy matchup yesterday.

Briane P said...

The best quarterbacks, in real life, are often not the best in fantasy.

But even if he got 5000 points a week, I'd refuse to put The Anointed One on my team. "Fantasy" football is only fun for me if I don't have to root for jerks.