“Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won” by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, narration by Zach McClarty
Baseball, football (American), basketball, hockey, soccer, business
January 25, 2011
4 of 5 stars (very good)
While the study of economics and trends that are set in the field will usually cause yawns, if one were to take this type of research and apply it to sports, the result is an interesting and entertaining book. That was done by two men at the University of Chicago and the findings were interesting. Many previous reviewers of this book felt it was very similar to “Freakonomics” as the studies were done in a similar manner and I have to agree with them.
The book is divided into sections that discuss studies that have the simple goal of whether to prove or disprove some of the conventional thinking that occurs in many sports. Is it better to punt on fourth down in football or attempt to gain the yardage needed for a first down? Does defense really win championships? Is it better to let the “hot” shooter keep getting the basketball? Do baseball umpires have different strike zones? Does home field advantage really exist. These questions and other interesting topics are studied in this book and the results can be surprising.
There are also psychological studies that examine bias in sports officials, umpires and referees and also in athletes in which they appear to be more afraid of failing than courageous enough to go for a situation. An example of this uses Tiger Woods and putting, saying that he can be human as well because he too leaves putts short. Baseball fans will enjoy the section about why the Chicago Cubs are perennial losers yet always has high attendance figures.
I won’t give away the results as to whether the myths are verified or not, but these are studied in great detail with many games in each applicable sport analyzed and broken down. That was one of the better aspects of this book as it covered each topic in a thorough manner. Zach McLarty does a good job of narration in the book. He doesn’t get monotone but doesn’t overdo the excitement either, since after all, this IS a book with a lot of facts and figures.
Overall, I thought this was a solid book about exploring many of the usual ways of thinking in sports today. The results of these studies may surprise you, and it will entertain you along the way. There are some sections that are heavy with numbers and figures – they can be somewhat challenging to wade through whether reading or listening to the book. However, this is still a book that is well worth the investment for any sports fan.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
For the most part, it was good. At times, the statistical findings of some of the studies was a bit slow when listening to the list being read. But the narration of the findings, as well as the anecdotes on each one was read at a good pace.
Do I recommend?
Yes. I felt this was a unique way to study if some of the conventional thinking in sports was really true or if it was simply a myth. Because all of the major sports were included in the book, a sports fan will enjoy this book no matter his or her favorite game.
Book Format Read/Listened: