Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fuzzy Math: What’s wrong with this USAToday headline?


The screen shot clip above comes from a story in USA Today, which you can read in full right here. If you don’t read this carefully, you’ll come away with the impression that bowl games just aren’t as big of a draw as they used to be. After all, per-game average bowl attendance might fall to its lowest level since legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant prowled and growled on the sidelines of the Superdome during the 1979 Sugar Bowl, en route to claiming Alabama’s 10th National Championship.

You might think people are losing interest in bowls and just don’t care to make the holiday trips to see their teams in the annual post-season tradition that is such a part of the sport. You might think the 99% are rising up in righteous revolt against the BCS and occupying couch seats instead of stadium seats. You might think that the BCS anarchists are finally making headway and the revolution is at hand!

You’d be wrong, and you’d be falling victim to the BCS anarchists’ evil plot to topple the BCS and impose chaos on college football’s postseason. Ok, I exaggerate (a little) to make a point. The point is that when you’re pursuing an agenda, using a little trickeration with the arithmetic is ok, as long as nobody catches you.

Opening paragraph:

Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl was the 30th of this season's 35 games, each of which also was played last season. The total attendance for those games is more than 2.5% lower this season than it was last season. If this trend holds for the remaining five games, the average bowl attendance for the season would fall to 50,542. That would be the lowest since 1978-79, when the number of games expanded to 15 from 13 and the average was 48,404.

See the sleight of hand? Total bowl attendance is down year-over-year from 2010-11 to 2011-12. But average bowl attendance is at its lowest level in three decades because… Well, because people don’t care about bowls anymore, right?

In the 1978-79 bowl season, there were 15 bowl games with an average attendance of 48,404.

15 x 48,404 = 726,060

In the 2011-12 bowl season, there have been 35 bowl games with an average attendance of 50,452.

35 x 50,452 = 1,765,820

There are only two groups of people who think you’re so bad at math, you’ll buy the line that bowl attendance is the worst it’s been in decades: Democrats in Congress and BCS Anarchists in the media.

Exit question: Which group does Tim Brando belong to?

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David_Howton said...

I do believe ESPN has destroyed the post season for the average fan. Mid week games are impossible for most fans. Requires a week of vacation versus a short time over the New Year Holiday weekend that we once enjoyed with the bowl season. Personally hate it. On a personal note with the track races in recent days, one half of viewing at home enough. Love your article on the spin but I do believe no longer about the college fan, about ESPN setup and viewing and the dollars associated.

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