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Falcons, Big Data, and Fantasy Football

By Jana Ferguson in Analytics & Information on January 29th, 2013

My name is Jana Ferguson, and I’m a bit obsessed with football, even more specifically the Atlanta Falcons.  Admitting the problem is the first step, right?

Why am I such a passionate, dedicated fan?  Is it just a pure love for sports?  No.  I’m not a sports enthusiast and I generally try to avoid anything too exuberant like physical sports.  Actually I love football for the same reason I love advertising … it’s all about the data.  It’s about searching for and absorbing all the data that comes with football and ones’ beloved team.  It’s about looking at the change in metrics and the countless stats you can quote leading up to any given Sunday and the new match-ups of the week.  It’s all about BIG data, followed by a lot of heart.

While I’ve always loved following the Falcons and enjoyed going to a few games a year, my passion went into overdrive this year for two reasons.  First, this is the first year my husband and I became season ticket holders.  Second, this is my first year playing fantasy football.  As my husband dragged me kicking and screaming into a neighborhood league, I didn’t realize how the analysis of data and the making of critical decisions based on that data, which is needed to play in Fantasy football, is exactly what I do for a living.  When this was realized … a fantasy junkie was born.

Throughout the season I eagerly awaited the projections for the next week.  Oh, the multitude of analysis from NFL, ESPN and every other sport coverage provider.  Oh, the joy of seeing your players ranked high from week to week.  The thrill from watching your points accumulate between Thursday and Monday of each week.  Did I seal the deal on Sunday night … or did I have to wait to see how things played out on Monday?  What about the waiver wire … who’s a sleeper, who’s a bust?  And the thrill of all thrills … that unexpected 50 points from a player who had an incredible week; or, when your defense scores as many touchdowns as your wide receiver or running back.  Such joy!  Such a thrill!  The same thrill an advertiser gets when they see a new test scheme beat the control.  Or, when you gain new insight from data-mining.  It all comes from the analysis of data.

Of course there are also my beloved Falcons.  While I grew up a Chicago Bears & Cubs fan (geographically swayed), I had to give up the Bears for the Falcons for the sake of my marriage.  For the record, I still remain a beloved Cubs fan as I can’t find the heart in the Braves.  But I have been a loyal fan of the Falcons for the last thirteen years.  We watched our team reach new heights this year.  My husband and I invested more of our time, spirit and love to this team than ever before.  Extra bonus points when you get to see your Fantasy player WR, Roddy White, score big against your opponent’s team … in person!  Pure crack!

While the love for a sport and team comes from the heart, it is definitely fueled by big data.  I’m living proof that you can apply your advertising smarts to your love for football and come up a winner.  So how’d I do in my first year of Fantasy?  Well, I placed third.  Not bad for a first timer that’s not use to actually following football stats.  And, I would have gone to the Super Bowl if the Patriots, more specifically Steven Ridley, had not forgotten how to hold a football in the rain.  But alas, I digress.

For the next 8 months I’ll remain focused only on analyzing my client’s campaigns.  But come August, I promise my time will be compromised when football projections start populating my inbox as welcoming as my daily media reports.  I look forward to the next season when both my beloved Falcons and I make it to our respective Super Bowls!  Until then, here’s some great moments captured in the NFC Championship game.  Photos courtesy of Paulo Gallate, a fellow fan.

It’s a Fumble … Falcon’s Ball!

“Please come back another year” Tony G.