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The ESPN College Football “Fan Happiness Index” Shows How Nerds (And Numbers) Are Ruining Sports

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espn fan happiness index

Metrics and analytics are running rampant in the sports world, and I don’t like it. I’m old fashioned. I prefer rhetoric to actual concrete numbers. “Man, that Dominican kid just skullfucked that ball!,” not, “The exit velocity of that home run was 117 mph and the spin rate was equally impressive at 1,000 lunar rotations per minute.”

I hate that. And if you like sports and drinking, you hate it too. But Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill made those types of measurements commonplace in the baseball world. I’m slowly starting to accept it, because they’re great actors, but I still don’t like it. It’s also not a hugeee deal because baseball is boring. Unless you’re sitting in the beer garden with your squad, you don’t give a fuck about a five-to-three divisional tussle between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. Nobody does. But again — like I mentioned a few hundred words prior — metrics are spreading. The merging of sports, numbers, and technology is extending, as is its reach/taint. That taint, in as “worst-case scenario” as I can imagine, has come to college football.

College football, for the 16-28 year old adult (male), is where we go to escape. We shun technology, and we thwart progress. We enjoy our weekends with friends and we revel in the simplicities that make college football what it is: competition, public urination, and aggressive disapproval of 20-year-old student athletes. That’s basically it. Numbers — and their analysis — don’t belong.

ESPN tried. They tried, and they got it wrong.

Per this recently published analysis chock full of numerical methodology, ESPN attempted to identify the happiest fan bases in college football: “Fan Happiness Index.” I wanted to puke.

Below is the pertinent methodology ESPN used to rank the happiness of each FBS program along with what I think the methodology should have been. As an avid tailgater and supporter — double digit tailgate throw up guy — of the LSU football program, I am qualified to do this. Important note: I will not even get into their ranking order from said index; LSU was ranked 20th. Clearly that aspect of the list is an even bigger joke than the rest of it.

Program Power → Tailgate Intensity

This is the big, all-encompassing fan happiness index. Sure, as fans we want our teams to be good and we want them to win, but those types of sentiments constitute our pride more than our happiness. You can still be happy as shit if your team is losing. If the tailgate environment and your respective milieu are bumping, you’re not unhappy because the Tigers are 4-3 and about to get throttled by the Crimson Tide; you’re unhappy because the new cashier at your go-to liquor spot won’t stop carding you even though you’re 22. I’ve had plenty of amazing, “happy” experiences even when the Tigers lost because the tailgate intensity, along with my BAC, were at high levels.

Rivalry Dominance → Law Enforcement Leniency

Cops are cool in the SEC. Unless you’re an absolute dildo — trying operate heavy machinery under the influence and such — the cops leave you be. If you put your drank in a solo cup, hide your drugs, respect local ordinances, and use Uber, cops are all about the happiness. When you tailgate and attend a game in a city or on a campus where law enforcement are of the “aviator at night” variety, you’re in trouble; happiness, regardless of whatever horseshit metric ESPN is trying to peddle, is going to be hard to grasp.

Coaching Stability → Torso-To-Thigh-Visibility

Coed lady beef, and its prevalence, is what makes us most happy. Young adults and attractive moms who are still trying to get it are special, too. Torso-to-thigh-visibility keeps the party going. It is the tinder to the fire. If tan, tight skin is in play, the fire keeps burning and the party keeps going. That, essentially, is happiness.

Recruiting Trend → Grill Master

Food makes people happy. That’s true everywhere unless you’re a vegan, a terrorist, or both. On gameday, good food from a grill prepared in a buffet serve-yourself style is happiness. When LSU landed Leonard Fournette three years back and the hype was through the proverbial roof, we were intrigued. When we got to our tailgate and superset the first sausage plate with a Bud, we were happy.

Revenue Growth → Games (Drinking)

Competitive drinking games, coupled with rowdy friends and good music, create attention. Neighboring friends and tailgaters approach. Congregations form and games continue. That’s fun. That’s happy. Revenue isn’t a concern. Double up on the same cup, get balls back plus one, jokingly tell your friend’s dad his daughter is a slut. Happiness.

Twitter Buzz → College Town

College football games in big cities aren’t that great of a time. There is no college “feel,” and you are probably drinking your beer before the game in a parking lot on a literal tailgate. That blows. Go where the school spirit is palpable and the campus is open. Fuck Twitter and fuck social media (on Saturdays). Take that video of your boy yakking, of course, but post it Sunday. Happiness, for the college football fan, comes from the experience. The experience is best in a college town.

What’s important to take away from this is that this index never should have been made. Pertinent college football aspects that denote happiness, like a good beer bong or a misdemeanor arrest, cannot be quantified via algorithm. “Revenue Growth” does not play. Growth, when she’s tugging on it behind the campus clock tower, definitely plays, but revenue isn’t something we’re worried about. The happiness of the fan, on gameday, is not numerical. It is visceral… or viral, depending on what sorority she’s in.

[via ESPN]

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I like beer, athletic competition, telling my friends "she is crazy" but really blowing her up, and writing.

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