Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You haven't left the GOAT Herd yet... Have You?


If you have had the pleasure of playing or watching GOAT or Furious George, you'd be hard pressed to dispute that:
  • Both teams are good at 'frisbee'
  • Both teams are very good elite teams at the UPA level
  • Both teams had disappointing UPA runs this fall
Usually when a team I support or am involved with does well, I think I must come across as a cynic devil's advocate. I don't mean to be, I just simply don't like it when people make too much of a win and make incorrect inferences from them. It's the complete opposite when said team doesn't do well. I get to be honestly positive when people are going over the top negative.

The wheels fell off for GOAT at nationals. Furious lost the last spot to finals at regionals versus a team they beat at the same tournament the day before. Hence, we have been subjected to "what's wrong with GOAT/Monkey" questions ever since.

These teams are elite teams. They played elite teams and won and lost. Heading into each game, there were certain probabilities that GOAT/Furious would win or lose. I think people would be shocked at how evenly likely teams at this level can win or lose and how arbitrary the outcomes can be.

A good example: Dave Berri of Wages explains Randomness and how people are fooled. (original concept from Nassim Taleb's book):

"At the start of each football game a coin is tossed to determine who will receive the opening kick-off. Let’s imagine if instead of just one team calling heads or tails the fans in attendance were also asked to make a call. And let’s further imagine that if you make the correct call, you get to stay. But if you are wrong, you have to leave.

Okay, now let’s do a bit more imagining. Let’s say 80,000 fans are in attendance – and since fans know it is a fair coin (equally likely to be heads or tails) — about 40,000 make the wrong call. So these fans exit the building. After they are gone, let’s imagine we play the same game again. This time, about 20,000 fans are incorrect and they depart. And then we play it again, and again, and again… After three tosses we are left with about 10,000 fans. After seven tosses there are about 625 fans. After twelve tosses we should still have about 40 people left in the stands.

Now what have these 40 people learned? These people have just called a coin flip correctly twelve consecutive times. Clearly these people are incredible at this game.

If we play the game one more time, though, we should expect about 20 more to depart. What will these departing fans have learned? Well, clearly they just didn’t match-up with the 20 who got the 13th call correctly. And they better go home and figure out why that particular match-up didn’t work if they ever wish to see another football game.

The Point?

Makes you realize how good Fury and Riot are in the women's division compared to the rest of the field.

People often have problems understanding randomness. And what it says is relevant to how people see the results of a team at UPA finals or tournament finishes in general.

As for our Canadian teams
  • Furious proved they are able to win out of their ultra tough region, but they simply didn't win the game that counted.
  • GOAT shouldn't over-react to their recent slip.. unless there is a clear team in their team/opposition that leads them to conclude their chances to win have decreased.
So don't throw out the Furious or GOAT foam finger yet. You could replay Finals again this weekend and have completely different results on the open side.

This shouldn't stop teams from doing things in the off season to improve their probabilities and odds for next year. Training, studying video, strategy, recruitment, and all the fun stuff!