Useful, Yes, but Statistics Don't Tell the Whole Story

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Frisk Asst. Managing Editor Sports

Did you read where the average family in the United States has 2.6 kids?

I guess I should ask one of my neighbors how .6 is enjoying school.

I mean, who has 2.6 kids?

If that doesn't make you suspicious about the use of statistics, then nothing will.

Nevertheless, statistics are supposed to tell us almost anything, and they're constantly appearing in every possible context.

How long will I live?

There's a statistic for that.

How will I die?

There's a statistic.

However, nowhere are statistics more prevalent than in sports.

You can see it in just about every story in today's sports section (and every day).

Coaches and players like to downplay stats, but everybody seems to look at them.

Every time I hear somebody say, "Statistics are for losers," or "The only statistic that matters is win or lose," I wonder why newspapers get calls with corrections when they run the individual and team rankings.

I think all those Fantasy Football/Basketball/Baseball fanatics out there must be running newspapers' sports departments.

I guess I was a deprived child because I didn't have baseball's expanded box scores when I was growing up.

The basic things you have to remember about the statistics you read in the paper are (1) they're not accurate ... almost, but not quite; and (2) they are not as meaningful as they could be.

You're not going to get totally accurate statistics, particularly in football, because there is a human element involved.

It's one thing to know somebody makes a basket for 2 or 3 points. That's there for everyone to see.

No quarrels on points ... but possibly some arguments on rebounds and assists.

However, it's something entirely different when a player rushes for six yards in football - when it really could have been seven or even five.

The most overanalyzed sports team in Chicago, maybe the world, is the Bears.

Analysts for radio, television and newspapers love to compare statistics, week by week, day by day.

The media types like to show how one NFL team stands against the rush and pass as compared to the opponent.

That's all well and good if the Bears and their opponent have played exactly the same teams under exactly the same set of circumstances, weather, injuries and otherwise. …