Data analysis is a fact of life in pro and college sports. Teams have statistics gurus on the payroll, fans track every player movement, and corporate owners collect data on the optimal stadium experience. More than ever before, we know which variables matter in determining who wins and who loses. So what if it turns out that the games we love are far less elaborate than everyone makes them out to be? Could the scientific deconstruction of sports end up killing the religion of the game? Big Data researchers discovered that scoring rhythms remained remarkably stable throughout hockey, football, and basketball games. At the beginning of a game or period, the scoring rate is relatively slow before rising to a plateau after that initial warm-up phase. At the end of a period, scoring spikes as the opportunity for future points, goals, or touchdowns wanes. This pattern might seem like a no-brainer, but these stable tempos suggest that each scoring play is an independent process?that ?there is very little correlation between one point and the next.? In other words, research found no evidence at all that hot hands or ?momentum? exist in any of these sports. What you might think is a hot streak is just a random sequence of events. Don’t fret, though. That could be good news for the fans. It means these games are inherently balanced, that all teams have more or less the same advantages. What victories hinge on are the rare chance events?the tragic mistakes or lucky breaks, the stuff that gets stadiums and arenas cheering.

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jorgelo@thehangar.cr