|Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman
The Most Powerful Man in Sport
The most powerful man in sport toils alone in a dark room on a leafy street in Bloomington, Indiana. He’s not a player, owner or a league commissioner. He’s Jeff Sagarin, an M.I.T. grad, math geek, whose rating systems determine where your teams end up in the big dance or which bowl they play in or what seeding they might get in lacrosse, hockey, volleyball or golf. Clients, like USA Today, college and pro leagues and sometimes a few teams, pay Jeff for his calculations. He does these permutations extremely fast. To give you an idea, his rankings of golfers for Golf Week magazine takes him four minutes a week.
most powerful man in sport does all his work
before breakfast, unshaven, in a ratty T-shirt
and holey underwear. This was not the dress
codes taught at the MIT algorithms class where
most of the students expected to be working at
insurance companies. The most powerful man in
sports reads a few emails (usually vitriolic
tirades berating him for ranking certain teams
too low) then buttons up his work day before
heading off to 7:00 am breakfast.
The Most Powerful Man in Sport by Stan Silliman humor sports comedy cartoons articles
Here’s what you don’t know. You probably think the most powerful man in sports owns some type of Kray or Univac supercomputer to do all his intricate calculations. No. He does it on a TRS-80 or something just as primitive. He does his programming in Fortran. In Fortran, folks. That’s like Wolfgang Puck cooking with an Easy-Bake-Oven.
most powerful man in sports can tell you that
Charleston Southern is ranked 327th in the
country, played the 203rd toughest schedule and
has a Sagarin rating of 57.86. The most powerful
man in sports doesn’t play favorites. He puts in
the facts and let’s the computer do all the
ratings. His secret formulas have taken emotion
out of the equation. The most powerful man in
sports spends his day playing golf or basketball
while fans all across the country are cussing
Jeff has been ranking teams since he was 11 years old. Only then he wasn’t being paid and nobody but him and a few friends read his rankings. Now readers of his information number in the millions. Hardly anyone who follows a favorite team hasn’t mispronounced Jeff’s name. Which shows you can be powerful and yet not be loved. And while millions of people know your name, hardly any of them know your face. Jeff has shown you can be powerful and reclusive. And when you think of it what more could a former math student want? What more could a math grad want? How about to be in control, to influence all kinds of lives and yet to be more or less invisible? Jeff Sagarin can walk down the street, pass dozens of people who cussed him over breakfast and then smile without them having any idea. That’s a math grad’s nirvana.
Even more of a
math grad’s nirvana: knowing you’re
controlling the fate of all these teams
while wearing a ratty t-shirt and holey
underpants. If there were such as thing as
orgasms for math geeks, this is probably as
close as it gets.
|Silliman On Sports
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