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News from Los Alamos

Those of you who believe that the US has excessive weaponry will be pleased to know that the folks at Los Alamos have been busy studying ... sports! Their finding? Soccer is more exciting than American football.

How on earth did they come to that conclusion? Here's how Paul Maidment describes it at

The researchers, Eli Ben-Naim, Sidney Redner and Federico Vazquez, looked at the unpredictability of results in the five sports, with the working assumption that the more frequently upsets occurred, the more competitive and exciting the sport.

The matches analyzed date back to 1946 in the NBA's case and more than a century for soccer and baseball--a data set of more than 300,000 games. The pecking order that emerged: soccer, baseball, hockey, basketball, football.

The underdog won 45% of the time in soccer, but just 36% of the time in football. The numbers for baseball, hockey and basketball are 44%, 41.5% and 37% respectively.

Now, 45% seems awfully high. As I'm off to Boston, I'll just link their paper here, and rely on Brad and Rod, who have contributed mightily to this topic, to sniff out what's going on. It's only two pages boys, and no, they don't cite any of the economic literature on outcome uncertainty in sport.

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