Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Statistically speaking

Statistics, as much as I might hate to admit it, are the lifeblood for a sports writer. From the final statistics in a game, to the final ones in a season and even in a career. The final ones in a game are what help determine how a writer composes a game story, the final ones in a season help a writer determine who wins all-state, all-district, the Heisman Trophy or players of the year, etc. Ditto for spots in the Hall of Fame.

With that in mind, Jim Patterson and I designed a statistic sheet in the early 1970s when he was Sports Information Director at Northeastern State University and I the sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Northeastern. It had a place to keep rushing statistics (carries, yards, touchdowns) and passing stats (attempts, completions, yards) and receiving stats (receptions, yards, TDs). We also had a place for returns (kickoffs, punts and yards), punts (distance) and returns (both kickoffs and punts).

We even went a step further and had places for field goals and point afters, fumble recoveries and interceptions, score by quarters, type of score … everything a writer needs to cover a football game.

It was a two-page sheet (front and back) and we had enough pages for a full season all put into a “book.” We could flip them over to keep all the stats with one flick of the page. I had several books printed and used them for years when I began my newspaper career as a sports editor. And all the stats could be compiled at the end of the season. Other writers saw how I was able to keep stats and asked if they could get copies.

Before long, probably two-thirds of the writers I knew had a book of their own. In other words, they became a popular tool.

Jim and I only did one thing wrong – we didn’t have the books copyrighted! Little did we realize, we probably could have made a mini-fortune.

We also designed play-by-play sheets for both basketball and football. They had places for the down and yards to go (first and 10, second and third, etc.), the number of the ball carrier, distance made and the score (if made).

For basketball, we had places for the player which took the shot, time the shot was made and running score. All in one neat package. The basketball-stat sheets became popular, too, and writers started asking for copies, because it was something they had never seen.

When I retired from newspaper business some nearly 14 years ago, writers I had worked with for 20 plus years had the books that Jim and I had designed. Neither of us had the foresight to realize what we had created.


At December 2, 2008 at 11:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, John. We should have copyrighted it. Probably could have sold them nationwide. Little did we know. - Jim Patterson

At December 2, 2008 at 5:07 PM , Blogger Bill Hinds said...

That was good John,

Too bad you didn't sell them. Mercy!

I don't think I'v ever designed anything I could have sold, but I have designed spreadsheets for doing budgets. (I managed Municipal Electric Utilities) I remember one year I was still working out the budget for the utility while the City Council was meeting to approve it. I would run off a copy for each Alderman and then when certain items were debated and questioned I would make changes and run off copies again. Mercy! I must have made at least 5 budgets that night. :)
It worked!!

At December 2, 2008 at 6:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John

I see that anonymous is back. It is sometimes difficult to get what you want when you want to comment. It took me four tries to get to leave a comment. Too bad you didn't realize what you had, but you were trying to help your reporting, not make money. Who was it that said there are liars, damn liars, and statisticians.


At December 3, 2008 at 6:15 PM , Blogger Pat Burroughs said...

John, I finally got into this thing. Took me two hours. I think we must have a Chinese computer. Or maybe I'm Chinese. Anyway, I'm sorry you didn't get rich, but you did a good thing anyway. My senior year, after I got injured and couldn't play basketball anymore, I was the team statistician. Sure wasn't as much fun as playing, but definitely safer.

At December 4, 2008 at 7:07 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

My father (Carl Lazalier) kept statistics on the football teams in Heavener for many, many years. He devised a sheet with a football field laid out on it and indicated advances, losses, etc with sequential lines drawn on it and placed the numbers of the players (runner, passer, tackler, etc) next to each line. Then, after each game, he would tote the numbers up for each player. He used this form to recreate the game in the article he wrote for the Ledger each week. In his younger days he kept this on a clipboard as he ran the sidelines. Later on, he did it from the pressbox (after we got one at Heavener). Unfortunately, the statistics he kept got lost in his later years. The last time I saw them (about twenty years ago), they filled over ten large boxes.


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