A baseball player on a Colts blog? I know baseball is a topic that doesn't get discussed much here. With the discussion in the main stream media about Jim Thome and his 600th home run, it got me thinking about the big picture of milestones in football. Why is it that the baseball world seems to revolve around these numbers and the football world doesn't?
Baseball people pour over stat books and box scores for days without end. They invented a way of running a team that was totally stat based (Sabre-metrics and MoneyBall). You think of records in sports and it's baseball numbers that come to mind. 715 and 755. 56 and the once hallowed 61. 4,256 and .400. Most sports fans see those and know what they are and what they mean.
Totally different for football. There are plenty of number to stare at in the NFL. Check out mgrex's Winning Stats. This system takes advanced stats and uses them to predict the outcome of games (fairly successfully I might add). There are also sites out there like Pro Football Focus and Advanced NFL Focus but they are still seen as a underground movement in the football world.
I have a couple theories as to why this happened.
The story of baseball can be told through a score book and a box score. You can look at numbers and see how the game went. Sure you can't tell if the 2-2 slider that just missed the outside corner allowed a guy one more swing that broke open the game, but you can get the gist. You can see each one-on-one matchup in black and white.
Football cannot be told that way. The box score shows totals, but not how many blitzes the O-Line had to protect against. It shows TDs completed but not the 3rd down play that sustained the drive. The penalties are totaled, but how many led to first downs or had first downs called back? The much more narrative in football that is missing from a box score. With these story lines lacking, the box score holds limited appeal and is therefore sacrificed by the common fan. With box scores lost, statistic milestones become lost too.
Can you tell me what the Single Season record for Passing or Rushing yards is? I'll admit, I can tell you passing yards is over 5,000 and Rushing is over 2,000. Any guess on career? How about something like single season or career interceptions? I don't even have a good guess for that one. Sure I can look them up (5,084 Dan Marino; 71,838 Brett Favre; 2,105 E. Dickerson; 18,355 Emmitt Smith; 14 Night Train Lane; 81 Paul Krause) but not one will remain in yours or my head after this article.
So what are the milestones in football? What is 600 home runs or 3,000 hits? The short answer is nothing. Football is a team game, not a batter against a pitcher individually. While receivers line up against corners one-on- one, it doesn't tell the story of the 20 other players on the field. While individual numbers are impressive to see, the W column is the only one that matters. This is why football has taken over the american sports conscientiousness.
While an individual player's effort and ability has an effect on the outcome, it takes the whole team to win a game. The individual struggles for the good of the team. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a good feeling when we come together and accomplish something as a group. Baseball feels one-on-one. Football feels 11-on-11. Yes there is individual glory to be had, but the team glory means much more.
So the Ten Million Dollar question...What does this have to do with the Colts? Not much really. We do that in #18 that will break and set more records as the years go. Here's to hoping the records and the wins go together. I'll get back to actual football stories tomorrow.