Just Finished: Scorecasting

I just finished an enjoyable read of Scorecasting.  It’s kind of like Freakonomics applied to sports.  It’s fully qualified name is:

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

I found out about it through a plug on the Freakonomics blog and since I loved both Freakonomics books and read the blog daily I thought getting a new copy of this was worth it.  I put it on my Amazon wishlist and the birthday fairy put it underneath my pillow.

While nothing can match that first time you read Freakonomics in shear nerdy pleasure Scorecasting has made the best attempt so far.  It’s at least as good as SuperFreakonomics if not slightly better.  The authors are sports iconoclasts and statistics are their tools.  They go through all major sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer challenging conventional wisdom.  They follow the Freakonomics format where each chapter starts with asking about a conventional wisdom like “is there a home team advantage and why” and then explore why it may or not be true.

In general they do a very good job of explaining their statistics to justify their conclusions.  This is the biggest difference between the book and how sports commentary or news use statistics without justification.  There are a couple chapters I found weaker, maybe 2 out of about 20.  In these I thought they took the form of long essay with more assertions than explanations, but those were the shortest chapters and were greatly out weighed by the strength of the other chapters.  Some highlight chapters for me were “Are the Chicago Cubs cursed?”, “Whistle Swallowing” and “Rounding First”.  IN the plug on the Freakonomics blog they were really hyping up the home field advantage analysis, but I thought it dragged on a little too long in the book.  Still I got the book so it did its job.

Highly recommended.  An easy fun read and good conversation material.

Next up up on the reading list is fiction, since I alternate, and I’m going to read Spindrift.  It’s the last in a series I started a while back.  Stay tuned.

Just finished: Don Quixote

I’ve been working on Don Quixote for over a month (five weeks to be exact).  It is a little longer than I’ve been spending on books since I started taking the train to and from work every day.  Having that daily hour and change of pure reading time means I plow through books in a hurry.  I alternate fiction with non fiction and the non-fiction business type books are done in less than a week.  Don Quixote was different.

My copy is like this except all beat up, missing a corner, and doesn't have a highway truck stop arrow floating above it

I read an ancient and well-loved “abridged” translation by Walter Starkie.  Even abridged its over 400 pages of single spaced type all the way to the very margins.  It was slow to chew through but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m very glad I wasn’t assigned this in high school or in college because I would have hated it.  I didn’t have patience to wade through a slow book for the delayed gratification of the Knight of the Rueful Figure trying to spank Sancho Panza.

Also I would highly recommend reading the Starkie translation and abridgment. Even though I haven’t and won’t read other translations to compare I found Starkie’s footnotes to give a lot of context to the jokes that don’t make sense 400 years out of context.  Reportedly the full Don Quixote of La Mancha has lots of side stories where the milk maid comes in and gives tells her life story and wanders out and other diversions that aren’t even that interesting.  I’m glad to not have read them because there is not going to be a Smarterer test on ancillary Quixote characters.

Next up on the reading list is Scorecasting which I was interested in from the plugs on the Freakonomics blog.  Stay tuned.