Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TFG at 1,000

It's hard to believe, but this is the 1000th post on this blog. It's been 1,509 days since I decided I needed a hobby and set virtual pen to virtual paper. In many ways I still feel like an imitation of a real sports statistician, mainly because I only do this part-time. Much has changed in the four-plus years I've been doing this, as the outside world has gotten much more sophisticated in their understanding of and analysis of college football. In particular I have a lot of respect for the crew over at Football Study Hall (helmed by Bill Connelly), Football Outsiders, and the small but awesome team of sports stats geeks at ESPN, lead by Dean Oliver. If you ever attend the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference or have a chance to meet any of these people, go do it.

This blog has been my hobby, my outlet, and my permission to find time for myself to play around with and learn new things: CSS, Javascript, some chart APIs, and OAuth. You can probably tell I'm a much better under-the-hood coder than I am a UI guy, and for that I'd like to apologize for the design here. Send me your therapy bill. But in order to get as much content online as we do, most of the posts here are created using some form of automation. This has resulted in a large codebase that is awe-inspiring, a gift, and a frustration.

I almost walked away from the blog at the beginning of the 2012 season because it had gotten too complex and there was too much happening in my life to really find time for it. I'm glad that I didn't, but it was close.

The other important thing I've learned -- in a visceral way -- is that it's really really hard to be a good writer. There's an amazing amount of time, effort, and editing that goes into creating good content; at least that's what I've been told, because I'm not sure what I write here can really be considered "good". Back in his Salon.com days, King Kaufman said that writing an article is like having to hand in an English essay: come up with a topic or idea, craft your argument or angle, go through a few drafts, and then hand it in. Now do that every (week)day for as long as you have that job. It's maddening, and the drop-off in actual human-created content is the canary in the coal mine for when my real job or life gets in the way. In that respect I'm glad that I have a day job, because there's no way I'd be able to support myself doing this by itself.

Looking back on the past few years, though, there are a few articles of which I'm pretty proud. I've gotten a lot of mileage with my off-the-cuff study of the ACC and hinting that it -- statistically -- is less predictable than the other BCS conferences.

I enjoyed exploring why all undefeated teams are not created equal, and there's a big difference between 2007 Hawaii (who got rocked in the Sugar Bowl by Georgia) and 2010 TCU (who finished the 2010-2011 season at the top of my rankings after beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl).

There is, of course, Tebow Tebow Tebow.

Eddie and I learned that we can't kick field goals.

We got to interview Ken Massey and Mike Leach. Coach Leach had a lot to say. But that didn't surprise us.

We were the first site (that I know of) to actually post near-real-time in-game win probabilities for all FBS games.

On a more serious note, other than our weekly ranking updates, the most-read post on this blog is still a goodbye to someone from the Fark.com community. Nasser wasn't a close friend of ours, but a sports enthusiast and a Good Guy. He's still missed, and every time I check the readership stats, his memorial post sits right there at number three.

So thanks for the first 1,000 posts, and here's to the next 1,000. I know there's a small group of dedicated readers, and I thank you for your comments, emails, and tweets. We'll check in again sometime around mid-November of 2017. Hopefully I'll have a new design up by then.

Follow us on Twitter at @TFGridiron and @TFGLiveOdds.