The Analytics Nerds Are Coming For Curling Now. Enough Is Enough


WaPo – Tucked away in a small room down a hallway from the main festivities of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last weekend, a group of luminaries in the sports data revolution gathered for a makeshift curling tournament.

There was Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets; Nate Silver, creator of the website FiveThirtyEight; and John Hollinger, formerly with ESPN and now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies’ front office. Also in the bracket of the double-elimination, 12-person field was Jessica Gelman, an executive with the Kraft Analytics Group who co-founded the conference, and Mike Zarren, the Boston Celtics’ assistant general manager and salary cap expert…

…Geurts and Palmer consult for several national teams about implementing statistical analysis into their curling strategies. One of their clients was the gold medal-winning United States men’s team at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics…Geurts grew up near London, Ontario. He curled but was also a huge baseball fan, listening to Toronto Blue Jays games on the radio and keeping score with a system he devised himself.

He was already working to digitize curling data through his company, CurlingZone, and make it more widely available when “Moneyball,” the seminal Michael Lewis book about analytics and the Oakland Athletics, was published in 2004. Geurts believed that his sport could make advances in analysis, too.

I’m a firm believer that analytics have ruined sports. That’s not because I don’t think that they serve a purpose in sports and give us a solid understanding of trends within those sports. But because they turned everybody into a bunch of goddamn nerds.

I mean think about what the MLB used to look like before analytics came into popularity. Dudes were ripping heaters in the dugout and packing some of the fattest cheeks the world has ever seen right in the middle of the game. But since analytics came into play, guys aren’t smoking in the dugout anymore and you can’t be dipping some chewing tobacco while you’re out in the field. The same thing goes for the NHL. I mean back in the 70s, dudes were smoking cigs and crushing plates of pasta in the locker room between periods. There would be at least 5 fights per night. And then once the game was over, both teams would head out to the bar where everybody would drink approximately 85 beers each. But nowadays? Guys are on the stationary bikes eating a couple of protein bars a few hours before the game. And then post game, all these kids are just going straight home to drink some kale smoothies while playing a few hours of Fortnite. All because they want to get their Corsi numbers up.

It sickens me. Professional athletes are all a bunch of nerds these days and it’s because of the skyrocketing popularity of the analytics movement. It’s a direct correlation between athletes becoming lame as shit, and analytics playing a bigger role in sports.

So when it comes to Curling? One of the last few remaining sports on the planet where guys can still get blackout drunk whilst winning gold medals? That’s where we need to draw the line. That’s where the analytics movement can take a hike. I don’t want my curlers to drink kale smoothies. I want them gassing beers. I don’t want my curlers to start eating protein bars before the game. I want them to be crushing slices of pizza in the middle of a match. But once the analytics movement gets a hold of curling, you know it’s all over from there. We can’t let that happen.