Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DTFM: Sports edition

Journalism doesn't have a lot of respect for motherhood, does it? After all, it's the craft that gave humankind the phrase "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." Well, time for a corollary:

If your mother says "somebody already checked the arithmetic," stuff a towel in her mouth and get out your calculator.

Even in sports? The one department in which a "statistics junkie" is considered an asset, rather than a nuisance who gets in the way of the soaring prose in your survey stories? Alas:

The most games the Tigers can win is 83. The White Sox have 83 wins and the Twins 82. Because the Twins and White Sox have three games left with each other, one will be assured of winning at least 83 games.

True (as long as you don't count the subordinate clause; the Sox are assured of 83 wins because they have 83 wins, not because of how many games any dyad has left), but off by a game. The leading team needs 84 wins, not 83, for the Tigers to go under*, and if the Sox and Twins finish more than one of their three games, one of them will get to 84.

The math doesn't have to be complicated. It just has to be done. And if your mother tells you to steal third with two out, kick her in the shins.

* As the online version now notes. It used to be a point of pride to actually get things right in print, though.

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