Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Wooden Finger Five – July 2016

 
Sometimes, in the last hours of the day, I look on Wikipedia at the birth dates of celebrities to compare what they have done compared with what I have done at my age. With Bat For Lashes/ Natasha Khan the comparison is particularly appropriate as she is almost – down to the day – exactly the same age as I am. Khan has released four albums, I have none … Still when I first found this out I felt a twinge of delight, and felt that in the unlikely scenario that we ever met this would mean we’d get along better than I would with most other celebrities, or indeed many non-celebrities – even though I have no real basis for feeling this other than, in interviews that I’ve heard or read with Khan, she seems like she’s quite polite.
 
Bat For Lashes’ latest album ‘The Bride’ is ‘the story of a woman whose fiancĂ© has been killed in a car crash on the way to the church for their wedding’ and she decides to ‘take the honeymoon trip alone’. It’s as much a downer as it sounds. I went back to work out in which track the grisly event itself takes place – it’s in third track and lead single ‘In God’s House’: ‘In God’s house I do wait / For my love on my wedding day … But I’m feeling something’s wrong … What’s this I see? / My baby’s hand on the wheel / Fire / Fire …’
 
With the deed done early the place of ‘In Your Bed’ at the album’s end seems a bit after the fact, as the narrator seems to be looking forward to a life of settling down with her love, not mourning his loss: ‘I don’t want to party no more / Somehow that scene can be such a bore … I just wanna be in your arms instead’. Has this song been positioned to make the Bride’s loss feel even more painful? Or: coming as it does after a song called ‘I Will Love Again’ does it signify that she has found happiness with a new love?
 
‘I don’t want to party no more …’ Fictional character aside could it be that Khan, at age 36, has decided there is something missing in her life? I, on the other hand, while having released no albums have been settled with a family for a while. Perhaps we each have our accomplishments, and even for those who seem to have accomplished a lot they too have their disappointments and sorrows.
 
(Or maybe it’s just the part she’s playing … ?)
 
 
 
Both the new Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Biffy Clyro albums are better than I thought they would be. ‘The Longest Wave’ is essentially what you would expect, and hope for, from RHCP at this point of their career. Perfect for standing in a field with your arm around your 30-or-40-something year-old partner Anthony Kiedis’ ‘the wave is here’ line recalls just about every image his band has ever invoked about convertibles and Californian beaches.
 
It strikes me, that like Radiohead, the clear majority of RHCP’s career has in the end been built upon an album that originally seemed to depart from the sound that made them popular – 2000’s ‘Kid A’ for Radiohead, and 1999’s ‘Californication’ for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And while I am sure Kiedis and Flea can still pull off ‘Give It Away’ when they have to, in terms of longevity they probably made the right move.
 
Scottish gingers Biffy Clyro did not hit the big time until their fourth or fifth album, and I had kind of dismissed them as a band that enjoyed a brief peak before slipping back into being ‘honest toilers’ again. There are some really strong songs on the new album though. ‘Medicine’ is high quality acoustic pub rock, with a tune that seems made for the round before last call. I could imagine drinkers singing ‘I shouldn’t waste my time / Having you around’ to their best mate or significant other in non-ironic endearment. Other songs I considered for this slot are the lupine duo of ‘Howl’ and ‘Wolves of Winter’, and fellow Biffy ballad ‘Re-arrange’.
 
 

 
‘Wildflower’ may be The Avalanches’ first album in sixteen years(!), but for me it actually sounds like a further retreat into their past, to the hip hop of their early days in the late 1990s rather than  following on from the beautiful patchwork suite of ‘Since I Left You’. Not so much ‘Subways’ though. ‘Subways’ is full of children singing and summery noises, recalling a sunny day on a New York playground, like ‘Sesame Street’ for elementary schoolers. It’s exactly the type of track you’d imagine emerging from ‘Since I Left You’.
 
Except that The Avalanches never were kids in America. Their first album kind of recalled American youth but only to the extent that growing up in Australia in the early 1990s meant growing up with Nike swooshes, ‘Home Alone’, MJ/MJ, and Prince. Not that it matters too much, they’re still a great band. I just don’t know – particularly given the stars ‘n’ stripes like album cover – that I’d call them a great Australian band anymore. Again, not that it matters; it’s more just an observation.
 
The Avalanches’ don’t actually use any samples from Sesame Street, although they do come close to replicating the sound of the Cookie Monster on ‘The Noisy Eater’. With a 1½ year old daughter I have watched a looooot of ‘Sesame Street’ recently. These are five Sesame Street-related samples which I would have enjoyed seeing them work somewhere into the album:
 
1.      SuperGrover 2.0
Every now and then I check out the ‘Best Ever Albums’ list of the highest-rated albums so far for the current year. This is what led me to Car Seat Headrest. But after being ambivalent last month over what was my favourite album of 2016 to date I can say with absolute certainty that Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Teens of Denial’ is now way out in front, and may actually be my favourite album of all since this one dropped.
Car Seat Headrest’s sound is clearly reminiscent of the 1990s American lo-fi indie bands such as Pavement, Built To Spill, Guided By Voices, and Neutral Milk Hotel – I’d call them a version of Pavement that sound like they are actually trying. (The horns though are more like NMH.) But they also sound like a satirical take on the ‘90s ‘slacker ethos’ – to the extent that there ever was one. Fourth track ‘(Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t A Problem)’ turns the ‘Dazed And Confused’ cool-as-hell vibe on its head: ‘Last Friday I took acid and mushrooms / I did not transcend / I felt like a walking piece of shit / In a stupid looking jacket’. And later: ‘I laid on my friend’s bedroom floor for an hour / And tried not to piss my pants’. I reckon more people can relate to that than would care to admit.
Opening track ‘Fill In The Blank’ seems to skewer the self-loathing fans of early ‘90s rock right off the bat: ‘You have no right to be depressed / You haven’t tried hard enough to like it / Haven’t seen enough of this world yet’. It initially sounded to me like the ‘wizened advice’ of a band in their thirties, and then I discovered that the band is actually built around a kid Will Toledo who is only 23. And the third track is called ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’, whose line ‘That guy I kind of hate is here / Shouldn’t have had that last …’ suggests Toledo is a bit fed up with Northwestern keg parties.
Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ is not one of the ‘satirical’ tracks, but it’s the best. Teenage recklessness isn’t just stupid; it can be dangerous and have lasting consequences. The narrator of this track stands on the edge of responsibility: ‘Here’s that voice in your head / Giving you shit again / But you know he loves you … Get out of the car / And start to walk’. Melodically, the shift in the chorus from ‘drunk drivers’ to ‘killer whales’ takes it up another level. There is a huge amount going on with this album, and it’s meant to be taken seriously. Dense as a novel, and easy on the auditory cortex: I’ve been singing it as I walk around each day and recommending it to any indie lover within earshot.

AFL Power Rankings: Round 18 2016

Last week’s Power Rankings post got a bit of notice, not so much here in the comments section, but on Twitter helped along by a re-tweet from ‘The Arc’. I’ll get back to that in a few paragraphs.
 
On the subject of ‘The Arc’, there was an article posted there a few weeks back that indicated this is the tightest top eight ever, or at least it was after 14 matches had been played. In the six years I’ve been doing these rankings I don’t recall there being more movement in the rankings amongst the higher-ranked clubs. (I could probably actually test if this is true, but what am I … a numbers person?)
 
The Dogs and Roos have been pretty stable in seventh and eighth, until Port has recently edged ahead. But we’ve had five different clubs holding the number one ranking, and the clubs ranked second to sixth have been shuffling around most weeks. The first-ranked club, Adelaide, would start only seven point favourites, by my system, over the fifth-ranked club Sydney on neutral ground.
 
This suggests the finals could see more close matches and more lower-placed clubs get up than we have seen for some time – if so I may even watch the second week this year.

 
Alright, back to last week’s post. Since I don’t run anything here past anyone before I post it it’s interesting to see how reactions can be different to what I intended or expected. I have two main things to say on this. First, most of the post was not intended to be a direct response to Craig Little’s article specifically, but the article did spark off my decision to write about how I dislike appeals to ‘culture’ as a primary explanation for performance. Second, I didn’t explicitly say something in the post that was an important underlying element to how I wrote it.
 
Basically, in relation to Little’s article itself this was my dissenting argument, set out in a more logical order:
1.      Little argued, by my interpretation, that Hawthorn having the most wins of any AFL club this season despite not ranking at the top of what are considered important statistical categories shows that statistics are over-valued.
2.      But my counterpoint was that Hawthorn have been unusually lucky in close matches this season, and without that unusual amount of luck they would be a fair bit lower on the ladder – closer to where they rank in those statistical categories I expect (at least at the time).
3.      Hence Hawthorn’s performance this season isn’t strong proof that those statistics are over-valued.
To which, I thought, a common counter-argument would be, though it was not made by Little himself and I intended it as coming from an ‘imaginary opponent’:
1.      Hawthorn are not 5-0 in close matches this season because they are lucky, it is because they ‘know how to win the close matches’.
2.      But as recently as last season Hawthorn went 1-4 in close matches.
3.      Hence there isn’t strong evidence that this Hawthorn side is unusually good in close matches.
What I did not explicitly say is that I had confidence in making that argument (calling the counter-argument to it ‘utter codswallop’), because I knew there was supporting evidence that good teams do no better in close games than lesser teams. For example the MatterOfStats site found that, over the history of the VFL/AFL, there is supporting evidence that ‘close games are largely lotteries’. As a follow up to Little’s article ‘The Arc’ also showed that a club’s ability to win close matches in one season tells us nothing about whether they will keep winning close matches in the future.
The main point, most likely unintentionally, was hit upon with this tweet.
 
Think of the results of close matches as like having a daughter or a son. The results are obviously very different if you have two daughters instead of two sons. But the chances of having two daughters or two sons are very similar.
 
And then the rest of the post was why I typically don’t like appeals to ‘culture’ in general.
 
I will add that I generally quite like ‘The Guardian’s’ football and sports writing – heck, I would not have clicked on the article in the first place if I didn’t. I just disagreed a lot with that particular article.
 
Speaking of writing I like, Paul Montgomery wrote an article over at FanFooty which was in part a response to Little’s article and my post that I thought very sensibly delineated the on-field and off-field influences on performance. What happens off the field can certainly impact what happens on it – see Exhibit A, B, and C: Essendon! My issue is when terms like ‘culture’ are used to encompass off-field and on-field influences that are much more varied and complex. Montgomery ends up defining ‘culture’, in an admittedly hackneyed way, as how a club ‘goes about it’, and really I haven’t yet come up with a better definition than that.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

AFL Power Rankings: Round 17 2016

Earlier this week The Guardian’s Craig Little had an article which basically argued that Hawthorn’s current position on top of the AFL ladder was an illustration that ‘culture’ is more important to success than statistical analysis.
 
“At the risk of being crucified by gangs of statistical leviathans … ,” Little wrote, “Hawthorn’s greatest achievement this year may be reducing the reams of data to the mootest of points … There is not a category in which they are ranked ahead of the rest of the competition – notwithstanding of course, what ultimately matters: wins.” Little then went on to ascribe the Hawks success this season to having the competition’s strongest ‘culture’, whatever that is.
 
Little’s article is well-written, but I disagree with most of it. Hawthorn is no doubt the greatest club of the past three seasons. The Hawks are more than a small chance of winning their fourth premiership in a row. They are also 5-0 in matches this season decided by less than 10 points. If they lose even two of those matches they are in seventh place, and does the article even get written?
 
Ah … but isn’t their ability to always win those close matches a testament to their battle-hardiness, their ‘culture’ of success, allowing them to frequently get over the line when the pressure is on? Utter codswallop. If the Hawks are so much better than other clubs at winning when matches are close why did they go 1-4 in matches decided by 10 points or less last season? That team had already won two premierships; what changed so much after a third other than this season they have been luckier? Alas for the purpose of my post they beat Sydney in another close match this week, perpetuating the myth for some that the Hawks ‘just know how to win the close ones’.
 
And if I hear one more time (which unfortunately I will) a club’s ‘culture’ being used as the main explanation for its success or lack of … What even does that mean? No really, when someone appeals to a club’s ‘culture’ they should be immediately asked how that ‘culture’ is specifically manifesting itself in anything that is happening on the ground. (Little at least links the Hawks’ ‘culture’ to their capacity for innovation and their willingness to spend on their football department.)
 
I often hear that my club Richmond has a ‘culture problem’ compared to a club like Hawthorn. I see that, among other things, the Tigers do not hit their targets when kicking the ball around the ground as much as the Hawks do. So what does that point to then: a ‘culture’ of bad kicking? More likely Hawthorn built a game plan and recruited and developed players to help them execute that plan than those ubiquitous ‘culture differences’ are the culprit.
 
Perhaps what some people mean they talk about a ‘cultural problem’ are players not performing to the best of their abilities. But if so then how exactly? Are they turning the ball over more often than you would expect? Are they not as good at winning contested possessions? I don’t see how ‘culture’ is an explanation for much at all really.
 
I guess I must be one of those ‘statistical leviathans’ the article is talking about … But then, given that I run a weekly ‘Power Rankings’ system based purely on a statistical formula, you probably already knew that …
 
[P.S. When discussing this post with my wife she said that a good ‘culture’ could help in recruiting and retaining players. Good point, my wiser-and-better-half (she asked to be referred to as that). I concede that one. Perhaps I’ll accept that reports of a ‘good culture’ had some part in the Hawks recruiting Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston, James Frawley, and Ben McEvoy from other clubs. On the other hand it didn’t keep Buddy Franklin there.]
 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 124

Superstar basketballer Kevin Durant, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder, recently signed as a free agent with one of that team’s biggest rivals the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors won a record 73 out of 82 NBA regular season games last season. Despite the Warriors’ historical greatness Durant’s Thunder almost knocked them out of the playoffs, holding a 3-1 lead in their series before the Warriors won the last three games. But with Durant on the team the Warriors are now heavy favourites to win next year’s title.
 
The NBA has a salary cap which is intended to make the league more competitive. So how did the Warriors, with all their talent, manage to add one of the best players in the NBA? Similarly how did the Miami Heat add superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh back in 2010? Some NBA observers, including sports economist Dave Berri [The Atlantic] argue that the formation of ‘superteams’ is an unintended consequence of the ‘max contract’ that puts a limit on how much NBA players can earn. As a result superstars like Durant cost as much as mid-rung players like Harrison Barnes, who Durant is effectively replacing on the Warriors. Also, with a limit on monetary incentives in choosing teams, players may be basing their choices more on their chances of championship glory instead.
 
The Warriors have been the darlings of the NBA over the past couple of seasons with their dominance and attractive playing style, built on the amazing long-range shooting of Stephen Curry. No longer, some have said: the Warriors are now the Evil Empire [The Undefeated]. James, Bosh, and Dwyane Wade famously faced a hostile reception in their first season as teammates on the Miami Heat. Some reckon that the Warriors can expect the same once Durant suits up.
 
Golden State could offer Durant superstar teammates, and a Bay Area address in which to pursue his off-court interests. The main thing that OKC could offer was Kevin Durant, and perhaps that was the problem [The Ringer]. The Thunder now face some tough decisions, including what to do with their remaining superstar Russell Westbrook.
 
Speaking of Westbrook, you can take the challenge of, on a limited budget, trying to build a superteam to take on the Warriors [The Ringer]. Based on their categories I would take Russ, Kawhi Leonard, Steven Adams, DeAndre Jordan, and Avery Bradley.
 
But all is not lost. Even with Durant it is unlikely that the Warriors will win 73 games again, something that had never been achieved before [Fivethirtyeight]. There are diminishing returns in what Durant can add to the Warriors, and teams tend to revert back to the mean after highly successful seasons. And as the Warriors learned this year favourable odds in the playoffs are not a guarantee. Still other teams are going to need a lot of luck to beat this line-up.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

AFL Power Rankings: Round 16 2016

This AFL season it didn’t take long for the top eight clubs to separate themselves from the rest of the competition, both on these rankings and the actual ladder. For both the rankings and the ladder that separation came at about Round 6.
 
It has taken longer though for the rankings and ladder to closely resemble each other for the clubs within the eight. Clubs such as Adelaide and West Coast have tended to be higher on the rankings than the ladder for much of the season. Conversely clubs such as North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have generally looked better on the ladder than their Power Ranking would suggest.
 
But now the ladder is starting to look like what the rankings indicated they would. The Crows, having got past the toughest part of their fixture for the season, are up to third on the ladder. The Eagles, meanwhile, have moved up to fifth. The Kangaroos, undefeated on top of the ladder after Round 9, have faced tougher opposition in recent weeks and are now down to eighth – exactly where the rankings have rated them for weeks.
 
Of course, things are so close in the top half of the ladder that next week’s results may well muddle the picture again, but I suspect that even in this close-run season we’re going to see a clear top bracket of clubs emerge over the final few weeks.
 
On another topic, following on from my post about away fans I had the unusual experience of feeling like I was in the slight minority when my club Richmond took on the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium this week. And as the result didn’t really matter for the Tigers I felt that our main role was to be a potential spoiler for the ‘home team’. I’m not sure I prefer that role, but it was a lot more relaxing. There is a perverse type of pleasure in watching a fan base collectively hold their breath as what was expected to be an easy win turns into something a whole lot closer than what they bargained for. The recent Hawthorn v Adelaide and Hawthorn v Port Adelaide preliminary finals were great examples of this.
 
 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Away Fans


Growing up watching Australian Rules football in Melbourne I had a different experience of ‘away’ fans than in most other professional sports. Crowds were typically close to 50-50 in support, and sometimes you could even be outnumbered by the supporters of what was nominally the ‘away’ side.
 
This started to change in the late-1980s and 1990s as the Victorian Football League expanded and became the Australian Football League, with the addition of non-Victorian clubs. At that novel stage of away AFL fandom you usually made comments about how hard it was to tell if the away club had kicked a goal or a behind, because of the lack of noise for either result (the comments themselves became less novel). But other than that I don’t remember thinking about non-Victorian fans too much as having a distinct nature from other opposing fans; in my younger days all opposing clubs and fans were ‘scum’ for an afternoon, as was anyone from anywhere who said anything derisive about my team.
 
Away fans really only started to take on a distinct nature for me when I began attending the matches of the rugby league club the Melbourne Storm. At most Storm matches the home fans made up the overwhelming majority of the crowd. The away fans were mostly gathered in a small group in a corner of the stadium, watching their team get pummelled by Cameron Smith and company six tries to one. Penalties against the home team were met with loud boos and insults. Penalties for the home team were met with ironical cheers.
 
In such an atmosphere that small group of away fans started to seem like the trolls who weren’t playing along. They were the people delighting in and even confident of the possible ‘upset’ (I hate the term ‘upset’ – it always seems to have such a smug tone, shorthand for ‘what happened to you guys, hey?’). They cheered, seemed to over-cheer, when the rest of us were booing, they over-celebrated tries while the rest of us grumbled.
 
Except for the fans of the New Zealand Warriors. There were always too many of them about. And they kept beating us in big matches, and strutting around outside the ground afterwards, yelling their team name at the top of the voices. Individually I’m sure they are nice people but by God I can’t stand the Warriors fans (except for when the Storm assert their rightful 40-point dominance).
 
I’ve really only had one experience of being an ‘away’ fan myself. That was when I was living in Sydney and I watched my club Richmond take on the Swans at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Unexpectedly we won. I don’t remember being that obnoxious (others may disagree). I don’t remember feeling that outnumbered either. Perhaps the mindset of the away fan is not what I imagined it to be after all.
 
I am glad in Australia though that we typically don’t have the awful experiences away fans have in some sports in some parts of the world. Nick Hornby was probably not in real mortal danger when he and the travelling Arsenal fans were ‘chased all the way on to our train, bottles and cans cascading around our ears’ following Gunners star Charlie George giving home fans the V-sign, but it sounds unpleasant nonetheless. I wouldn’t think of doing that to the NZ Warriors fans, in part because they’re often much bigger than I am. Us Australians just grumble a bit and then go down to the pub, hopefully one that the away fans don’t know about.
 
The photo above was taken when I was sitting at Etihad Stadium for the ‘special’ match each year when Richmond MCC members can sit all together in a nice area. Hence there were no opposing fans anywhere near us. We played the Crows that day and they belted us. Their fans were mostly congregated in a small area behind the goals. They seemed to over-cheer a lot. They seemed arrogant and annoying. But I guess at least, unlike the fans of other Melbourne clubs, I could mostly ignore them.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

AFL Power Rankings: Round 15 2016

The Swans v Dogs match this weekend was a cracker. It reinforced for me my idea that, with the top eight clubs seemingly set, most of the interest for the rest of the home-and-away season is going to come from matches involving the top eight, particularly as the final order of those clubs is far from settled.
 
Which led me to wonder: what would be the first week finals match-ups that would be most fun to watch? These are my picks:
 
Geelong v Hawthorn: This is clearly the best rivalry of the past decade (Geelong v Collingwood would be my second choice, Sydney v Hawthorn third). Perhaps it may be a bit tiresome for some AFL watchers now, but the addition of Patrick Dangerfield to the Cats and his demolition of the Hawks in his debut for the club, has possibly breathed some new life into this match-up.
 
Indeed Geelong has been in so many finals in my lifetime that just about any match-up leads one to recall a previous memorable match. Geelong v West Coast? Potential partial revenge for the ’92 and ’94 Grand Finals. Geelong v the Bulldogs? Reminds me of the Bill Brownless kick after the siren. Geelong v Sydney? Remember Nick Davis storming home in 2005? Geelong v North Melbourne? There’s the 2014 semi-final and the 1994 prelim. For the current-day players though Hawks v Cats is the match that matters most.
 
Even the clubs that Geelong hasn’t played in finals before offer some tasty match-ups. While for me one high profile ex-player does not by itself necessarily make for essential viewing there would still be some interest from me if Steve Johnson of Greater Western Sydney went up against his old side. And that wouldn’t even compare to if Geelong were matched with Dangerfield’s old club Adelaide.
 
Basically whoever Geelong ends up playing you can’t lose. But I’d still like to sit at the MCG again and feel the hatred as the Cats take on the Hawks.
 
Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: The Crows have inflicted on the Bulldogs three of their most painful losses of the past couple of decades – the 1997 and 1998 preliminary final losses, and last year’s close elimination final loss. In all three matches the Dogs were at home and were favourites. I’m not pulling for this match-up because I want to see further misery inflicted on the ‘Scray fans, but that history would make for an intriguing match-up. Plus it offers a chance for the Sons of the West to finally get their revenge.
 
Sydney v GWS: The AFL, desperate to capture a chunk of the Sydney sports market, would also be hoping for this match-up. The two NSW clubs don’t seem to like each other much, and it would be good for GWS fans if many of them could see their club play its first final in person – which they may well anyway given the Giants look a great chance to finish in the top four.
 
Sydney v West Coast would also be a good match-up given the rivalry built up from the classic ’05 and ’06 clashes. But those players are gone now, and so an inter-Sydney match is for me the better choice.
 
North Melbourne v West Coast: By default. It should still be a good match anyway. And the two teams did meet in the preliminary final last year.
 
Not much movement in the rankings this week. Thankfully though it is the last of the bye weeks and that means there are no more fiddly things with my spreadsheets and hopefully a lot more to talk about from here on in.
 
Related post: The Top 20 AFL Rivalries.
 
 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

AFL Power Rankings: Round 14 2016

Looks like there’s yet another AFL Power Rankings out there … As of a few weeks ago searching for the ESPN website in Australia now (somewhat annoyingly) takes you by default to the Australian/New Zealand version of their site. This week I clicked around the AFL portion of that site, and found the headline ‘AFL Power Rankings – Crows retain top spot’.
 
While a new AFL Power Rankings discovery would generally catch my interest in any case, what particularly caught it here was that the Crows were in top spot … just like in my rankings. Given that Adelaide is currently in sixth spot on the AFL ladder this seems by no means an obvious choice. Indeed if I did not do my rankings each week I doubt that I would be thinking of the Crows as the best team in the comp at the moment, as I probably would not have taken much account of their tough draw up to this point.
 
In fact the ESPN AFL Power Rankings (compiled by Matt Walsh) in general are not that far from mine in terms of how it currently ranks each of the AFL clubs. When I saw this I wondered if it was formula-based like mine. It is, but not really in the same way as mine is. In the ESPN rankings clubs are rated according to six factors – form, draw, fitness, X-factor, attack, and defence – and the ratings are added up to arrive at a club’s final score. There isn’t really much more detail than that, but I would assume that the scores are largely judgment-based.
 
It’s remarkable to me then that it’s resulted in an ordering that is fairly close to those of the more purely data-driven rankings, given that there are some pretty sizable disparities between those and the ladder positions at the moment (e.g. Adelaide, North Melbourne). Maybe there are actually some secret formulas lurking in the background?
 
On the other hand perhaps it isn’t that unusual to be currently thinking of Adelaide as the top-ranked team. According to the Mid-Season Consensus AFL Power Rankings over on Reddit, that is the most common position for the Crows of the ranking systems included in that thread.
 
Anyway, ESPN apparently have an AFL Power Rankings now. Which I guess is a nice type of symmetry for my rankings, given that they were inspired by ESPN columnist John Hollinger’s NBA Power Rankings in the first place.