10 December 2020

Sports graphics, or: A moment of American football

Alex Flores recommended this video on every NFL score ever. It’s good that he recommended it, because as a huge anti-fan of American football, I never would have stumbled across it myself.

If you don’t want to watch the video, you can get a sense of what it’s about in written form here

What this does a good job of pointing out is the utter numerical weirdness of American football. Whereas most games have single points, American football doesn’t. Which means scores are strangely distributed. And this makes for some interesting statistical exercises. 

Odds of scoring exactly 8 points in an NFL game

And this got me thinking about how sports graphics could be a useful source of inspiration for posters. Different games have develop different representations of play. For example, here’s a live score (or “score worm” from an Australian rules football game:

Score display from AFL game

Tennis serve placements show a fairly simple spatial representation.


Tennis serve placements from Milos Raocic in Australian Open 2019.

Cricket has “wagon wheels.”

Eoin Morgan wagon wheel.

It wouldn’t surprise me if sports stats graphics are often better than scientific graphics, because there is money in sports. People wouldn’t bat an eye over hiring someone just to do graphics. And the types of stats for a given sport get sort of standardized (RBIs in baseball, kicking accuracy in AFL, run rate in cricket).

Now I want to interview someone who does these sorts of thing professionally.

External links

Chart Part: Scorigami, or the story of every NFL final score that has ever happened

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