English Premier League’s Lack of Premier-ness

This piece will make a ton of sense to my British and European readers, likely less so to those of you from the States. The English Premier League has been not so great at finishing well let alone winning in the Champions League.

Super briefly, English football—soccer—has a whole bunch of teams that play at different levels. Kind of like the US minor leagues, but without the affiliation of minor league teams to major league teams. That is, every team for itself. The Premier League is the top rung. (Every year, the worst teams in the Premier League are dropped into the minors and the very best from the minors move up into the Premier League.) This league includes the ones even Americans have heard of: Manchester, Arsenal, Chelsea. And maybe even Liverpool. Liverpool is playing today to make it into the Champions League finals.

(Full disclosure: I always say if I had to pick an English team to follow it would be Liverpool. Why? Because they are owned by Fenway Sports Group, the same group that owns the Boston Red Sox.)

The thing is that as well known as many of these teams are, they have been faring not well in the Champions League, which is like the Premier League but of all European football. That is, the best teams from every top league in all of Europe compete for a European trophy. FiveThirtyEight explored some reasons why, but also included a nice graphic to showcase the relative failures of the Premier League teams.

Making it through the Champions League…
Making it through the Champions League…

The chart makes nice use of grouped bar charts showing the number of teams from each league at each stage of the playoffs. The designers made good use of labelling, especially at the top to indicate to which country each league belongs. My only question would be is whether these make sense from the top down, as they presently are, or if they would work better bottom up, in that the winning team has to climb their way to victory.

To be honest, I am not really sure which approach would work best. I think it might be even odds. Either way, Liverpool plays Roma later today.

Credit for the piece goes to Tim Wigmore.

The Internationalism in Sport

Whilst away, I came upon this piece in the following of my offseason baseball news. The New York Times published it between Christmas and New Years and the piece looks at the origins of sports persons in European football leagues compared to several American sports leagues, including American football, baseball, and basketball.

I was most confused by US women's football, which I had not realised has not been a single continuous organisation
I was most confused by US women’s football, which I had not realised has not been a single continuous organisation

The piece features an opening set of small multiples comparing all the leagues. Maddeningly, I wanted details and mouseovers and annotations at the start. Fortunately, as the reader continues through the article, each small multiple becomes big and the reader can explore the details of the league.

Credit for the piece goes to Gregor Aisch, Kevin Quealy, and Rory Smith.

FIFA’s Revenue and Spending

If you did not hear about it the other day, the head of FIFA resigned. That is kind of a big deal because football (in the rest-of-the-world sense of the word) is kind of a big deal. But the organisation that runs it is generally seen as wholly corrupt. So this BBC piece takes a look at the revenue and spending—at least so far as we know about it.

Sort of a Sankey diagram
Sort of a Sankey diagram

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

American Football Videogames

This week we have been looking at baseball (and Leonard Nimoy’s Star Trek). Today, we are going to turn to a sport I know nothing about: American football video games. Okay, so video games are not really a sport, but they are based on a sport. The reason I bring it up? FiveThirtyEIght has a really nice two-article story on how the Madden game franchise uses ratings to build characters for the game.

Rate yourself
Rate yourself

The above graphic is an interactive part of the story that lets you compare yourself to the real sports people, as estimated by the video game company. The second article in the story then builds upon that by using a reporter as a basis to test/understand the ratings.

And pay attention to the sidebar content. It’s actually worth heeding for once.

Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum.

Football Fans on Twitter

To continue with the sports theme from yesterday, today we have an interactive map from Twitter that looks at NFL team popularity. The methodology is simple, where are the users following the various football teams and map that out by county. The overall blog post features a country-wide map, but then narrows down into a few particular stories. The image below is from the divide in the state of Pennsylvania between Eagles fans and Steelers fans.

Philly vs. Pittsburgh
Philly vs. Pittsburgh

Credit for the piece goes to Simon Rogers and Krist Wongsuphasawat.

American College Football Part Deux

A couple of weeks ago I shared a map from the New York Times that looked at American college football programme loyalty. And I quipped that none of it made sense to me as someone born and raised in the Northeast. The New York Times followed that piece up with another that looks solely at Facebook likes of college football via likes for any team. Not surprisingly the sport does not do too well in the Northeast. But it does appear quite popular in other regions of the country.

Chester County is not big on it…
Chester County is not big on it…

Credit for the piece goes to Neil Irwin and Kevin Quealy.

American College Football Programme Loyalty

American college football. This is not a thing that Northeasters like myself understand. And it is not just because yours truly attended the University of the Arts whose only competitive sporting team was, I believe, fencing. Here in the Midwest, many things are strange and alien. One of them is their affinity for said sports that do not make sense. Thankfully the New York Times has attempted to explain specific programme affinities much like they did with their baseball map. (Which made infinitely more sense.)

Click the big map at the article's beginning to get to the interactive version
Click the big map at the article’s beginning to get to the interactive version

Credit for the piece goes to Tom Giratikanon, Josh Katz, David Leonhardt, Kevin Quealy, and Marc Tracy.

Eli Manning’s Brother and the Record Books

Two weekends ago Eli Manning’s brother accomplished a feat in American football. And it was not in Indianapolis. The New York Times documented the story in an interactive article.

I have no idea who most of these people are…
I have no idea who most of these people are…

In fairness, I generally do not follow American football. I am largely a one sport person and that sport is baseball. But since the active baseball season is over—baseball ends when the Red Sox stop playing—I figured the rest of you might enjoy this.

Credit for the piece goes to Gregor Aisch and Kevin Quealy.

The Best Superbowl Match-up Ever?

Last night the United States enjoyed a little (American, not rest-of-the-world) football match wherein two squadrons competed upon the pitch for the glory of their squadron colours. Thankfully for those of us who wanted a preview of the match on data’s terms, well, the Guardian put together a fantastic piece breaking down some of the numbers.

The Best Superbowl Match-up
The Best Superbowl Match-up

The data is not terribly complicated—I still think baseball makes the most use of advanced metrics, though it helps they play more than 10 times as many games per season. The Guardian looked at yards gained or lost per play by the offence or defence, respectively. Click through the link to explore the other charting forms used, in particular the four quadrant scatter plot and the small multiples that follow. Also, a sophisticated and restrained colour palette allows the user to clearly understand when he or she is viewing the Denver–Seattle matchup or the historic match-ups of the NFL.

Regardless of the quality of the presentation, we shall see Monday morning—I am writing this Sunday afternoon—whether this piece will still hold with its talk of the best match-up ever.

And hey, for all this talk about the best offence, look at which squadron is ranked second. Fly, Eagles, fly.

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian’s US Interactive Team.

Coaching in Football (the American Kind)

This weekend we will have yet more football. My preferred team, the Philadelphia Eagles, is of course now out of contention. But more than likely, the coach’s job is secure for at least another year. As we have already seen, however, that cannot be said for other coaches. So the Washington Post looked at ownership’s role in the success of their respective team by the hiring and firing of coaches.

Coaches in the NFL
Coaches in the NFL

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Darla Cameron, Dan Keating, and Rick Maese.