Sunday, February 07, 2010

Causation vs Correlation

Stories like this, which try to impress the reader with statistics, are, mathematically-speaking, el toro poopoo:

Of the 43 Super Bowls, the team that won the pregame coin toss has won 20 times and lost 23, a .465 winning percentage, and has lost 10 of the last 13. The Arizona Cardinals won the coin toss last year in Tampa, Fla., and, trying to buck history, became the first team to defer. Didn't matter: They lost, too...

If the Saints do win the coin toss, would it improve their odds of victory if they score first? Yes and no. Teams that score first are 28-15 but have lost five of the last eight.

Other Super Bowl coin-flip facts:

• In 43 games, the coin has come up heads 22 times, tails 21.
• The NFC has won the toss 29 times, the AFC 14.
• As mentioned, the NFC has won 12 straight flips. The odds of that: 1 in 8,192.

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