Hockey Fan Bias: We’re all guilty

I consider myself a highly rational person; probably too rational in fact. I’m sure there are plenty of people that dislike me because of it. I’m sure sometimes my girlfriend doesn’t want me to rationalize everything, but rather just sympathize with her.

It’s a flaw of mine. Subsequently, I do everything in my power to remove any bias I may have when drawing conclusions about the sport I love. It’s a difficult thing to do however.

Image courtesy of sportspickle.com

Image courtesy of sportspickle.com

Human beings will almost always have some inherent level of bias. Never is that more apparent than in the sports world. Due to the speed of hockey and the miracle of the 24-hour news cycle particularly in new media, it may even be more prevalent there than other sports.

Think about some of the frequent conversation points that arise throughout a season:

  • A controversial hit occurs, Fan base A views it and proclaims “That’s definitely suspension worthy. He clearly left his feet and led with the elbow.” Fan base B, while viewing the exact same video “That’s perfectly clean. His feet are clearly on the ice at the point of impact, and that’s upper arm, not elbow.” Somebody has to be wrong here.
  • Every fan base that isn’t the Penguins; “The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are totally the NHL and Gary Bettman’s poster boys. They can get away with anything they want without repercussions. I can’t even imagine what would happen if my team did that.”
  • Flyers fans proclaim “I’m sick and tired of the league and the refs having it out for the Flyers. Fifty percent of the calls that are made against us are only because they have it out for us!”.
  • Then, of course, you always have polarizing players that illicit drastically differing opinions. One portion of a fan base thinks a guy is such garbage that he shouldn’t even be in the league, while the other portion of the fan base is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, thinking they’re one of the better players at their position. (Matt Carle or Jeff Carter are recent examples).

Each of these examples (and numerous others) are guilty of one form of logical fallacy or another. Some of the most frequent and obvious ones, in my opinion, are: confirmation bias, using correlation to imply causation, recency bias, and the always wonderful conspiracy theory (which I don’t even think is a logical fallacy, but I digress).

If people were able to take a step back, they might realize that every fan base is making the same exact complaints. Nobody is special!

When Carle commits a particularly bad turnover everybody jumps all over him. However, people may often overlook the subtlety of the good plays he makes, or applying the same criteria to another defenseman making a similar turnover. This would be a perfect example of confirmation bias.

Ilya Bryzgalov is a great example of recency bias. Despite having career playoff numbers greater than his regular season numbers, heading into this season people dubbed him as not being a “playoff performer” because he and the Coyotes were thoroughly dominated by Detroit.

In four of the five games of the Devils series the team that scored first lost. This is a fantastic example of correlation versus causation. Is scoring first the cause of a loss, or are they simply correlated?

So rather than continuing to blather on about a topic I have no expertise in, after all I’m not a psychologist or a philosopher, I just thought I’d share a few comic strips that I find both amusing and informative.

Click to open in a new window.

Correlation

 

 

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

 

Conspiracy Theories

And then, because I’m sure plenty of you are thinking this of me, and I can’t really disagree…

So have you been guilty of any of these? I know I have.