Election Night & Sports: Game On

BY CHRIS TAYLOR | Senior Director | Ball State Sports Link

Some pundits predict by tonight at 10 p.m. — or likely into the early morning hours of Nov. 9 — the narrative of the United States of America will change. Clinton or Trump?  Now what?

I must admit, I have been more interested in this election than any of the previous during my lifetime.  Without question, issues such as national security, equality, foreign relations, the deficit and more money in my monthly check and in my 401k are important.

Our assistant director, Brad Dailey, even blames me for the Trump effect with this tweet from 2014.

My catapulting Donald Trump into the GOP nominee for President is not the point of this post.  I’m just a guy who tweets about sports (and country music).

Which is why #Election2016 is like sports.  Yes, SPORTS.  The word most “newsies” are afraid to say.

Nearly everyone in America is rooting for a team tonight – Republican Red or Democrat Blue.  There will be a final score tonight.  One team will score 270 or more electoral votes and win. The other team will lose and look ahead to next year — or 2020.

For a year, we’ve watched talking heads in fancy television studios pontificating, debating, arguing and yelling about who should win and will win. There’s huge graphics on-screen, live shots from rallies, statistics crawl on the ticker.

Wait, the ticker?  Like ESPN?  Yes.

Media coverage of sports and politics converge today more than ever before.  Am I watching a presidential election or a fantasy football draft?

Let us also not forget, Nate Silver.

Silver is the founder and the editor-in-chief of ESPN‘s FiveThirtyEight and a special correspondent for virtually every media organization out there. He’s a SPORTS statistician first, who created the foundation for which all fantasy sports teams and professional (even now college and high school) athletes are measured.

FiveThirtyEight gets its name from the number of electors in the Electoral College. The site provides a comprehensive look at political and sports predictions via a team of data journalists and statisticians, headed by Silver.

Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA). Google it.

Silver applied PECOTA to POTUS and successfully called the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election — using a SPORTS algorithm.

Election 2016 is more like “Moneyball” than democracy.  Where managers abandon the “gut feeling” of selecting players and start relying exclusively on arcane — but important — statistics.

Sadly in sports, performance enhancing drugs are also common.  Trump and Clinton’s use of performance enhancing drugs is the mainstream media. If you root for Team Blue, you likely watch CNN.  If you root for Team Red, you likely watch Fox News. I watch ESPN.

Tufts University professor Sam Sommer wrote the following in a February 2016 article for Time.

Jerry Seinfeld famously joked about sports fans “rooting for laundry,” shifting abruptly from cheering to booing the same player simply because the city name on his shirt had changed. In politics, we root for parentheses instead. Democratic voters are appalled by politicians’ morally problematic behavior, but drastically less so when a candidate’s name is followed by a (D). Same goes for Republicans and their anything-but-scarlet (R).

If campaigns weren’t such relentless, expensive spectacles, they might be less about polls and more about substance.  Free agency in politics? Spending caps in politics?  Wouldn’t THAT change the narrative?

At least election night is — for the one time in this entire spectacle — not scripted.  We’ll find out around 10 p.m., or maybe in the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

But until then, we will be glued to our smartphones and televisions watching the “live statistics” and the “play-by-play” as the results roll in.

Game on.

Author: Chris Taylor

Senior Director of Ball State Sports Link & Digital Sports Production | Lecturer of Telecommunications | 2019 Dean's Faculty Award Winner | 2017 Recipient of SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award | Storyteller | Producer | Emmy Award Winner | Sports Media Junkie | Social Media Strategist | Certified Bob Ross® Instructor | Country Music Enthusiast | Goldendoodle Owner | Follow me on Twitter @BallStateCT

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