Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fallacy of Enduring Franchise Traits

I'm tired of statistics showing the historical performance of teams in certain situations, spanning multiple decades. Take the following tidbit from an online Sports Illustrated article yesterday: "The Celtics ... are 32-0 in seven-game series in which they've taken a 2-0 lead."

That's simply not of interest to me. I might be interested in the historical performance of all teams in this situation (viz. teams that win the first two games of a series have a historical series win record of 217-14, 93%, and if we focus on teams that win the series's first two games on the road, they won 22 of 25 series, 88%), but why would the historical Celtics performance in this situation add any useful information? The Celtics as a Massachusetts corporate entity have some continuous legal life, and by convention, the current group of guys shares some virtual heritage with former teams called Celtics. Yet the 1959 Celtics of Russell and Cousy are no closer in composition to the 2010 Celtics compared to, say, the similitude of the 1979 Sonics to the current Celtics. There is little that has remained constant with the Celtics franchise over time, other than green uniforms and a stadium in downtown Boston. So why should we think that all-time Celtics statistics are informative for the current team's situation?

As Rick Pitino once put it, Larry Bird ain't walking through that door.

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