Today friend of the blog and non-HHOF member Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe tweeted yet another anti-possession/analytics/stats tweet that quickly took its rightful place in the pantheon of Missing the Forest for the Trees statements made by the old guard of hockey journalists in recent years.
So tired of ''possession'' stats. Far more in whose play is ''possessed.'' Give me emotion over stats (see: Lake Placid, 1980).— Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) February 20, 2015
As I wrote in my article Steve Simmons is Dumber Than You; Or Why "You Can't Measure That!" Misses the Forest for the Trees, Simmons is so intently focused on the minutiae in the game of hockey that he fails to see the big picture thinking behind the analytics movement. At the time, I chalked this up to Steve Simmons being stupid, which he is. He is a stupid person. But stupid people don't just spontaneously have thoughts, they get pushed into having thoughts by outside forces because, again, they're stupid and can't think for themselves. So why are so many media members so intently focused on minutia? I think it's partly caused by the falsehood that is "The American Dream".
"Work hard enough and you can accomplish anything" is the lie that's been shoved down America's (and by proxy, Canada and most other capitalistic nations) throat by the ruling upper class in order to placate the masses with a false sense of hope that they too, with just some elbow grease and sticktoittiveness, can achieve the riches and status of the elite. This of course is patently false. How does this apply to hockey? Simple, hard work will get you to the NHL and hard work separates the goods from the greats within the confines of the league. That's the lie being peddled by the vast majority of sports journalists today.
"Steven Stamkos shot over 500 pucks a day and now look at him! You can do it too!" Of course you'd also need to be born with his physical gifts of being 6'2", his vision, his quick reflex muscles, his impeccable skeletal structure, etc...
And that's the rub because journalists writing about the cold hard truth that 99.999% of us will never reach the top in anything makes for terrible drama. Simmons, Dupont, and their ilk aren't reporters, they're fiction writers in an ever-increasing non-fiction world. They pine for Disney movies to be played out in real life. When things like the Miracle on Ice happen in real life, it's a big fucking deal because holy shit they won against stacked odds! It's special because it's so unlikely, because it's so improbable, because it's so unbelievable, and we love those stories because of that.
LRT: Give me the team whose own players and coaches said they'd lose 99 out of 100 games to the Russians!— Bloge Salming (@blogesalming) February 20, 2015
The thing is, when it comes to stats, we stats guys and gals aren't trying to write stories. We're not trying to write the script for the the next Mighty Ducks movie, or a thinly veiled love letter to Patrick Roy. We just want to explain things. That's it. And because we do a better job of explaining things that happen than do the fiction writing dinosaurs, they get scared and spout off inane nonsense about character, leadership, grit, locker room cohesion, etc. and grossly distort their importance when it comes to explaining what happens on the ice, because that's all they know. Because they haven't bothered to develop a thorough understanding of the game they're paid to cover. Because they live in a world of make-believe and gross misrepresentations.
So why do they constantly miss the forest for the trees? Because to see the forest, you have to be outside of the forest and outside of the forest they have no power. Outside of their behind-closed-doors make-believe world of professional hockey teams, they have no control over the events that transpire and the rapidly approaching loss of that control in this brave new analytics led world scares them.