In previous episodes, we have tried to extract the trace element Fan Confidence from the vast ore of the Cleveland spots fan psyche. It's time to try a finer technique, involving player recognition. The question is this: Are fans more confident with players they know, or players they don't know? Human beings are creatures of habit, and I propose that those predilections do not stop at sports. I propose that teams with more familiar players inspire more confidence in their fans.
The major problem is this: How can one measure the rate of fan confidence controlled for familiarity? I thought of culling the archives of post-game call-in shows, or counting the number of words in a Paul Hoynes recap, but then I discovered a unique data set. Apparently, an obscure study several years ago picked the Cleveland baseball stadium to measure vital signs before and after games. I do not remember the results of the study, but the data was perfect for my purposes. Not only did the researchers record physical vital signs, such as pulse, blood pressure, and blood alcohol level, but they also interviewed the subjects.
I selected several long-tenured Cleveland players and was able to match up references to those players over several years. I was surprised by the results, but if science was predictable, everyone would be doing it.
The first player is Bob Wickman. This man played for the local team from 2000 to 2006, and was the closer for many of those years. It just so happened that one of the games used was during Wickman's first season with the home team. The date was September 25th, and the team was in the midst of a playoff derby. The player in question participated in the second game of the day, and one of the subjects mentioned him after the game:
That Wickman's a [homeless person]
See? He only called him a derogatory phrase because he didn't know him.Well, at least I thought so.
In 2005, the home team was again in the middle of a derby, and it just so happened that the same fan was interviewed after the game as part of the study:
That Wickman's a [bleeping] [homeless person]
Well now! Perhaps the elevated pulse and BAC supplied the added color, but I detected no change in confidence towards this major contributor to the team's chances.
I didn't give up, and found another player to track. But that data was so interesting, I decided to hold it for next week's update.