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For a fan, how much info is too much?

Going Long with Geisler

By Andrew Geisler, For The Miami Student

In the last 20 some-odd years, being a sports fan has become much harder. That might not be what Charles Barkley meant when he called analytics "crap" on TNT last week, but it is all I could think about when reflecting on his comments.

It is no longer enough to engage in a sports argument with some half-baked opinions. You're probably going to get excoriated by a friend if you don't have some serious stats to back up your views.

The genesis of this is a good thing. When professional sports teams make their decisions now, especially in baseball and basketball, they have almost all of the information they could possibly need to make these choices. They know every stat, and they employ some heavy-hitting minds to get them this information.

The benefits here should be obvious. When teams are making smarter decisions on their personnel strategies, the product will be all around better, especially when all teams are doing it.

When it comes to fans and the games they love, there's always going to be some degree of information asymmetry. And for most of us, it has nothing to do with smarts and everything to do with time. How much time does a person really have to commit to following major sports while also working a fulltime job?

Probably enough to watch a few games a week, maybe listen to drive time sports talk radio, and read the sports page (or peruse the litany of excellent sports sites we've got now).

Yet when we talk about everything now as consumers, we want to sound like industry insiders.

This happens in politics when our media coverage focuses on strategic dealings meant for meetings between political professionals. It is also now increasingly true in sports.

I understand that the last generation of sportswriters, who, as Grantland's Bryan Curtis writes in an excellent piece on the Barkley comments says the real story is the power struggle of nerds versus the athletes who don't respect their information, basically had to fight a war to make this type of information mainstream. But it does seem like we're reaching a point where the question of how much information is too much information for a fan has to be raised.

Analytics, which is simply a way to have as much information as possible, are not crap, as Barkley said they are. But I understand the frustration.

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Barkley is basically wrong. More information has to be better, but at the same time, it would be behoove the media to improve on talking about this stuff.

Quit trying to sound like general managers, unless you were one, and bring this stuff down to size for the rest of us. Baseball has fallen into a bit of a rut with big time sports media, largely because it seems few want to do the work needed to synthesize the nerdy stuff and tell people something.

Sports shouldn't become overly elite. This means the barrier for entry shouldn't be 10 hours a week poring over advanced stats. But there has to be a happy medium, which few are effectively finding today.