Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Like an Addict, I'm back...

Damn it. I feel like Brokeback Ledger saying, "I can't quit you."

Football season is right around the corner, and like a junkie, shaking and scratching, here I am again: completely incapable of staying away. Even after the sickening absurdity of last season, I still bend down (way, way down) to drink at the firehose that is the American Sports Media Machine.

It has begun. Camp, that is. Coaches love it, fans love it, players hate it with great hate. As SI writer Stefan Fastis discovered, it is a way of life and a living, but the joy is in competition and camaraderie. The everyday, the grind, the lack of security, constant self-doubt, the discomfort and, by about the third day or so, pretty much constant pain--it's not so fun.

And as a conscious individual, I am of course aware of the incredible waste of resources represented by the sport at all levels, not to mention the dubious effects it has on young people.

Yet, here I am, right on schedule.

So, camp. Here are the smartest men on the team:

I'm not kidding. By position, NFL offensive linemen are the smartest guys on the field. As a matter of routine, since about 1970, NFL teams administer a modified IQ test called "The Wonderlic Test" to all players before signing them. (It's named for its developer EF Wonderlic, you perv.)

Because the NFL incessantly quantifies all quantifiable things (and is constantly on the look-out for a means to quantify qualitative things like "heart" or "character" or "desperation"), the scores have been maintained.

Before you get to feeling too high and mighty, here are some average scores for non-football professions:
Chemist: 31
Programmer: 29
Newswriter: 26
Sales: 24
Bank teller: 22
Clerical Worker: 21
Security Guard: 17
Warehouse: 15
So that's your range. Now, as to the beefy guys in the picture? Here are their scores:

Matt Light (LT): 29
Logan Mankins (LG): 25
Dan Koppen (C): 28
Stephen Neal (RG): 31
Nick Kaczur (RT): 29

That's right, smarty-pants. Stephen Neal has the same average Wonderlic score as a chemist. Keep in mind that they take the test during the scouting combine, after a full day of physical evaluations--running, jumping, shuttling, benching, squatting, etc. and etc. Of course, the smart agent has his client prepare for the test. But just as when folks prepare for the SAT, LSAT, GRE, or MCAT, some do better than others.

Big tip o'the cap to Ben Fry, the data visualization genius who does these kinds of representative graphs and charts both in his sleep and for fun, for putting together a revealing graphic on the topic. You can find it here, together with a discussion. I'm swiping the best one to post and beg his indulgence. Offense in blue, defense in red:

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