Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 May 2007

Bad Behavior By the Numbers

It's easy to talk about the NFL's behavior problems. It's much more difficult to quantify them. At Football Outsiders, we like to use statistics to analyze every aspect of football. Unfortunately, there has never been an effective metric to measure arrests, suspensions, barroom brawls, or other acts of naughtiness.

Until now. After 45 minutes of intense boredom, I've developed the latest weapon in Football Outsiders' data arsenal. I call it the Violent, Immature, Criminal, or Knuckleheaded Behavior Statistic, or VICK BS. The VICK BS tells you instantly whether, on any given day, the NFL is a collection of respectable young athletes dedicated to making the world a better place, an ocean-liner-sized hand basket careening straight into hell's deepest septic tank, or something in between.

Like all of our statistics, the VICK BS is easy to compute. You only need two bits of data:

1) The number of stories in the "Headlines" box on the NFL section of FOXSports.com that relate to criminal or antisocial behavior, and

2) The number of days since an NFL player was last arrested. This value can easily be found on ProFootballTalk.com

Each of these values, by itself, is a pretty potent indicator of how prevalent bad behavior is in the NFL on any given day. Put them together, and you have a handy uber-stat. Just square the FOXSports.com headlines, divide by the days since an arrest, and you have VICK BS.

On Sunday, Mat 27th, at 6 p.m. Eastern time, five of the nine football headlines on FOXSports.com dealt with criminal or mischievous incidents. Over at ProFootballTalk.com, the counter stood at six days without an arrest. Five squared is 25, and 25 divided by six is 4.17. I did that without a calculator, folks, because I have a degree in mathematics.

So Sunday's VICK BS was 4.17. What does that mean? In the world of statistics, context is everything. That's why I devised a simple color-coded companion system for VICK BS. If you are too busy or math-phobic to deal with the actual numerical value, you can simply refer to VICK BS by its color code:

VICK BS: Zero to 0.99



TYPICAL WATER-COOLER DISCUSSION: "Hey, that new Australian punter sure is giving our veteran punter a run for his money in minicamp. I'll be following that battle right up until the end of August."

VICK BS: 1.00 to 2.99

CONDITION: Orange you glad you weren't partying with the Bengals this weekend?


TYPICAL WATER-COOLER DISCUSSION: "Crushing and snorting Skittles to get high just isn't right. If NFL linebackers think they can get away with it, then junior high kids will be next."

VICK BS: 3.00 to 4.99

CONDITION: Amber, the exotic dancer who works the 3 a.m. shift and tried to make off with 81,000 of your hard-earned dollars. One at a time.

COMMISSIONER GOODELL'S FACIAL EXPRESSION: Roughly the same look your wife gives you when you come home smelling like you were run over by a cement mixer filled with Makers Mark.

TYPICAL WATER-COOLER DISCUSSION: "Did you hear that Terrell Owens faked his own death to avoid paying income taxes? That man has issues."

VICK BS: 5.00 to infinity

CONDITION: Blinding, searing, oops-I-looked-straight-at-the-eclipse white.

COMMISSIONER GOODELL'S FACIAL EXPRESSION: Omega beams are actually shooting from his eyes.

TYPICAL WATER-COOLER DISCUSSION: "Gosh, I had no idea that there was a panda roller derby subculture in the NFL. I am shocked and dismayed."

I think we would all like to live in a world where the VICK BS level was exactly zero. That may be too much to ask. But we can dream.

(Special thanks to Rob Lawrence, who came up with some of the ideas for this piece.)

Note: Originally ran on the FOX Football Outsiders blog.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 27 May 2007