Fox’s Troy Aikman delivers surprise break from TV’s stats stupidity

OK, so it took a while. As Ben Franklin said, “Make haste slowly.”

Just as we were about to give up on Fox’s lead NFL analyst, Troy Aikman, as incurably stiff, dull and speaker-of-the-obvious, he deadpans the best line of the football TV season.

Sunday, after the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams hooked up on a sweet pass and catch against the Panthers, Fox presented its latest full-screen, stupid stat graphic:

The “catch completion probability” of that play was “27.9 percent.” And that was Rodgers’ “11th completion with under 30 percent [probability].”

Naturally, Joe Buck, who’d read aloud his social security number and the recipe for Grandma Gretchen’s Cabbage Soup — “add two tablespoons, diced celery” — if they appeared in a graphic, parroted the words and numbers as if they were significant and accurate.

Like most professionals within football broadcasts, Buck and Fox’s shot-callers are unaware that no two plays, same as no two players and no two moments in time, are exactly alike and never will be.

Still, this one was scientifically and mathematically tagged at 27.9 percent as if it was among dozens just like it. Pure bunk!

Unable to contain himself, Aikman made like Bob Newhart: “Ya know, I thought at the time it was about a 30 percent probability. … I was wrong. It was less.”

Having mocked the stat for what it was — a worthless waste of everyone’s time and intellect — Aikman further debunked it with the reminder that Rodgers and Adams are not run-of-the-statistical-mill performers.

So for few seconds, Aikman led us on a jailbreak from the clutter of stupidity that now afflicts broadcasts of all sports.

Davante Adams
Davante Adams and Aaron RodgersGetty Images

Monday night, with 3:43 left in the first quarter, ESPN, pioneers as the first to emphasize numbers that mean nothing or less, presented the teams’ times of possession to that point: “San Francisco 14:33, Seattle 2:02.”

Thus a game that hadn’t reached the 12-minute point totaled 16:35 in ball possession.

Tuesday, during Penguins-Rangers on NBCSN, analyst Joe Micheletti had just completed a windy salute to injured star Sidney Crosby as irreplaceable, when a graphic appeared showing Pittsburgh with a higher winning percentage in the 171 games Crosby has missed.

And then silence. Again, we’re to believe what we’re told, not what we see.

Giants’ radio voice Bob Papa spent much of Giants-Jets reciting the irrelevant as insight, especially season-long third-down and red zone stats compiled by both teams, offense and defense. He arrived armed and conditioned to speak a misleading or non-applicable stat before every play.

But he’s hardly alone in thinking that stats make games when it’s the opposite.

Finally, reader John McCarthy has entered the NFL’s confusion protocol after watching the NFL’s Red Zone channel. With the Ravens inside the red zone, he was told that the opposing Bengals are third in the NFL in red zone defense.

Now, writes McCarthy, to figure out why the Bengals are 0-9.

Dolan is Knicks’ owner worst enemy

The only sustaining presence throughout the Knicks’ annual plunges below mediocrity is Jim Dolan.

But how long would Dolan have indulged Dolan if Dolan had hired Dolan to run the Knicks?

The Knicks remind us of the gag about the gambler who has lost 20 straight football bets, thus his sympathetic bookie suggests he bet a different sport.

“Like what?”

“Try hockey.”

“Hockey? What do I know about hockey?”

Yet, reader Louis Motola makes sense of that gag:

“Why do I think that if [highly successful current Islanders boss and highly successful ex-Devils’ boss] Lou Lamoriello was in charge of the Knicks they’d be vying for the NBA championship?”


For raw nerve and con artistry, Nike always wins Best In Shameless Show.

One minute it’s selling Comrade Colin Kaepernick as a genuine American hero for exploiting the national anthem to showboat his selective disregard for the United States.

The next minute Nike’s dressing NFL coaches in camouflage garb — cheap sideline TV advertising — ostensibly to honor U.S. military in concert with Veterans Day. “You can actually kneel in them during the anthem!” writes reader Mike Sullivan.

Or as they holler to the laborers in the Nike mills in Red China, “Just do it!”


Did the Garden undergo a between-games crowd transplant?

Two Sundays ago, the Knicks were being clobbered at home by the 1-5 Kings to the loud sounds of mass rejoicing when the Knicks scored, even when down by nearly 30, or when the Kings missed. The views of the crowd at such moments didn’t rhyme with the audio. They showed rows of passive, undemonstrative and likely disgusted patrons.

But MSG Network denied that it infused this telecast or previous home telecasts with artificial audio additives.

This past Sunday, as the Knicks were clobbered at home by the 3-5 Cavs, no such sounds accompanied Knick field goals. And where MSG’s courtside announcers were occasionally drowned out by the sounds of cheering two Sundays ago, this past Sunday they at all times were clearly, cleanly heard.

So in just one home game The Garden crowd completely changed to react with far quieter responses, those that logically corresponded with what customers were witnessing. Fascinating.

Trey, trey again not good for the game

Is Adam Silver aware that NBA teams are selling tickets to basketball games under false pretenses? Basketball? Where?

Monday, Rockets vs. Pelicans totaled 86 3-points shots, while Mavs-Celtics totaled 77. Tuesday, the Pistons lost while taking 41.

Sunday, the Timberwolves lost 100-98 to the Nuggets in OT. Sure, it was low scoring for an OT game – the T-wolves were 6-for-45 on 3s.

Adam Silver
Adam SilverAP

Soon, the only hope to return basketball to NBA games will be to eliminate the 3.


Anyone see my football-to-English decoder ring? Fox’s Ronde Barber, during Giants-Jets, marveled at Sam Darnold’s “ridiculous arm talent.” The next night during Seahawks-Niners, ESPN’s Booger McFarland marveled at the “rush-lane integrity.”


Honeymoon over: The Giants’ radio team, Bob Papa and Carl Banks, Sunday, was all over Saquon Barkley for failing to pass-block.


Mike “The App” Francesa still has that Midas touch. No one buries home favorites more often. His latest “my picks have value” was Alabama laying 6½ at home versus LSU. LSU won by five. More lost tapes.


If Weekday Boomer Esiason eliminated his use of cheap, classless words — “crap” for example — from his WFAN show, he’d be nearly speechless.


Kawhi Leonard’s frequent unavailability to play for the Clippers is being called “load management”? We’d call it part-time, seasonal employment.


Reader Ed English: ‘Wow, how old school! A 21-game winner wins the NL Cy Young! … Of course, the 21 victories came over two seasons.”

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