Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

48
DOES FATIGUE MAKE COWARDS OF US ALL?

The Case of NBA Back- to- Back Games
and NFL Bye Weeks
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all” is a famous anonymous quote popu larized by the late, great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. The idea, of course, is that if you are tired you cannot perform at peak per for mance level. In this chapter we use the following two types of game situations to show that fatigue does indeed have a significantly deleterious impact on team performance:
NBA teams that play back- to- back games perform significantly worse than expected during the second game of the back- to- back and perform even worse when they play a fourth game in five nights.
The week after an NFL team has a bye or an open date they perform significantly better than expected.

NBA Back-to-Backs or Four Games in Five Nights

Typically an NBA team will play 10–20 games for which they also have played the night before. These games are called “back- to- backs.” Back- toback games are usually played in different cities. For example, the Dallas Mavericks might play Friday in Minnesota and Saturday have a home game. The NBA never schedules a team to play three consecutive nights.

One would think the combination of travel and having played a game the night before would lead to fatigue, which would cause inferior per for mance. Several times a year teams also play four games in five nights. Of course, the fourth game is a back- to- back game, but we would conjecture that the occurrence of two sets of back- to- back games in five nights would

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