Monday, 21 November 2011

Internet statto nerds get journalism’s old guard in their sights

It’s not easy when those you admire prove to have feet of clay. Barely ten days after lauding him on this very blog as being a ‘must read’ in the Independent, James Lawton crystallised the problem that many old guard journalists populating our national newspapers are facing.

Writing in Saturday’s Indy, Lawton used selective statistics to demonstrate how Kenny Dalglish’s reign as Liverpool manager is actually little better than that of his predecessor Roy Hodgson. In particular Hodgson’s points per game percentage of 1.25 compared to Dalglish’s 1.79.

Unfortunately for James, the internet is an unforgiving place. Nowadays, there is an army statto nerd football supporters out there who are able to tell you the exact pass completion percentage of an individual player in the final third of the pitch during consecutive February’s and illustrate it in the form of a venn diagram. More importantly, in the digital age, comment boxes below articles give this army of nerds an opportunity to voice their opinion.

And so it came to pass. Within a few hours of the piece being posted Lawton was skewered on his own stats by football supporters of multiple allegiances, not just Red. Here are a few of the most choice (and repeatable) comments:

“You make a point of Dalglish's average points haul being 1.79 over 29 games, when your beloved "English Arry" at Spurs is worse at 1.76 and Wenger's is 1.66”

“The difference between 1.25 points per game and 1.8 is relegation and Champions League form”

“How can you use numbers which undermine your point to make a point?”

I suspect Mr Lawton won’t have lost much sleep over the reaction to his article, but he should. It may well have been a crude attempt at generating link bait but credibility is hard won and easily lost. He must realise that the days of being able to slop together a thousand words of ill-thought out comment five minutes before deadline are over. There is an army of statto nerds out there who have done their research even if he hasn’t.

Anyway, Mr Lawton can take what little solace there is from the fact that the Tomkins Times, run by the doyen of statto nerds, Paul Tomkins, has nominated him “Media Muppet of the Month”!


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