Davide Hanan, QlikView South Africa, outlines why it is simply human nature to want to explore every stat and detail around one of the world’s biggest sporting events
Sports – globally loved and followed. In the words of Julius Caesar ‘panem et circensus’ – literally translated ‘bread and circuses’ – is all that is required to keep a population peaceful. Which is why we can understand the widespread excitement and huge following for every Champions League football final in Europe, the Tour de France in the Alps, and, once every four years, the Olympic Games.
As an inherently competitive species, stemming from our survival instincts in the Dark Age, humans love to pitch themselves against others to discover who can win the test of speed, agility, strength, endurance, accuracy, tenacity and more. It is widely recognised, as per Julius Caesar’s quote, that sport plays an important role in building a cohesive and inclusive society, capable of uniting people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to collaborate in a sport.
And, ultimately, we love to cheer on our own countrymen and favourite athletes to success, or to see how, by improving their performance, the underdog can come out on top.
For true sports fans, whether cycling, football, baseball or tennis, they will know the history of their sport, who the most successful and least successful players or athletes are, which year they were most successful, how many games each participant has won or lost. The fact is, when you enjoy something, you learn about it.
The same goes for the athletes and their management and sports teams – they know the history. They know who has been strongest over the years. They know who made errors, what the competition is likely working on and what equipment is being used. Through data analysis.
By delving into all this information and data to really find out how their athlete can continually hone and improve his or her performance to achieve Gold. And, given the Olympic Games are among the oldest competitive games of our ages, spanning all countries and all possible sport types, just think of the amount of data available for analysis on that!
Sports data mining isn’t a new trend. Sports enthusiasts and professionals will tell you that they have been analysing historical data and looking for new opportunities for years. It’s only with the emergence of new technologies, tools and techniques that it has almost become common place. Consider fantasy leagues or online or console games, where even the average fan can play at being manager or create the most successful team based on a set of facts and statistics.
What you do need is the data in one place in a structured and coherent form – we’ve actually pulled this together in an app dedicated to the Global Games. What is also new is the collaborative and social aspect. Being part of a team and working together towards a common goal highlights how common interests and challenges can break down barriers and create a welcoming environment for all to participate.
Thanks to the availability of data, the rise of fast-speed internet and social networks to share insight across – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Bebo and others – and the ability to access information on the go with mobile devices, sports enthusiasts can share the latest player acquisition, comment on surprising facts and information they have unearthed and even predict who will win Gold, Silver or Bronze at the Global Games.
Nothing gets a sports fan going more than when someone disagrees with their favourite player, team or country, or relays information that they don’t believe. With the availability of data and the tools to unearth a key fact, statistic or comparative piece of information, the amount of collaboration and debate around sports facts has risen tenfold in the past few years.
According to an article on Mashable, the recent Super Bowl in America even claimed Twitter’s most-tweets-per-second list with 12,233 tweets per second at the end of the game.
The last Global Games in 2008 were called the first ‘digital’ games – this year’s games being hosted in London are set to be the most ‘social’ games. It’s the competitive and yet collaborative nature of sports data analysis that really unites people – thanks to the emergence of technological platforms, tools and our natural human curiosity, this has only accelerated, leading us to become a global nation of sports data experts.
Sports can truly bring people together. In the words of business and sports law professor Roger M. Groves, ‘we rely on history to predict events and when it repeats itself it is ho hum and uninspiring.
Yet when history is being made, it is at that moment unprecedented in a way that we remember for life.’ The reason why we follow sports is down to our passion for it, our desire to share these sentiments, and be in the right place at the right time to experience something amazing. Which is then recorded and preserved for eternity, studied by sports analysts to find out how to replicate or even improve on it.