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Cold Hard Numbers

There’s a whole infatuation with analytics these days in the sports world. Advanced statistics have a way of influencing the world. Everyone seems to depend on cold, hard numbers to inform and decide these days.


In baseball. In basketball. In football. Multi-million dollar contracts are handed out to players that produce eye-popping numbers. Analysts base their comments and claims on the numbers that are laid out bare in front of them. Numbers seem to tell it all.


There’s a saying that numbers don’t lie. That they always tell the truth. That they should be what makes the world go around. They transcend personal anecdotes and opinions.


I used to work as an analyst, both during my time at Marvel and Disney. And as an analyst, I had to rely on cold hard numbers to make deductions and decisions. I had to rely on them to make forecasts for the next quarter, the next year, and even the next 5 to 10 years. The numbers, after all, should tell it all.


But, sometimes, numbers don’t necessarily show everything. They are a good summary for the big-picture. But, the details can be hidden behind the lines. A lot of things remain unseen.


Sometimes, you truly have to watch and experience to see the complete picture. Or, at least, a more complete picture. Numbers can get you close to where you want. But, you don’t see the nitty, gritty information.


In sports, if you just look at the numbers, you don’t see the strategic plays that lead to the numbers. You don’t see the mistakes and the hero plays that happen behind those numbers. You don’t see the ins and outs of the offense and the defense that lead to those numbers. Upon further investigation, there are a lot of details that cold hard numbers leave out.


Sometimes, you just need to experience it for yourself to see if the numbers are telling the truth. Players can put up big numbers, but choke during the game when it matters most. Sometimes, those numbers are put up during garbage time - when the game is already out of reach and doesn’t matter anymore. Sometimes, the numbers come against sub-par competition (or against better-than-expected competition).


There are a lot of buts and ifs when it comes to numbers. Again, they are a good metric to analyze. But, it’s just one metric. It’s not the end-all be all.


I guess everything is like that. You can’t simply rely on your eyes to search for truth neither. Even eyes can tell a lie. What looks right can be deceiving at times. So, nothing is all-encompassing. Everything can be questioned.


The need to rely on numbers comes from our inability to be everywhere all at the same time. After all, we can’t watch every single NBA or NFL game out there to analyze the players and the action. We can’t be at the homes of every player in the world, analyzing how they train, how they interact, and how they eat. Our time and energy are limited in this world.


So, as an alternative, we rely on cold hard numbers to have a better understanding of how the world is. We try to make assumptions and build belief systems and forecasts out of the numbers that we analyze.


As of now, the number of coronavirus infections in the USA are already above 500,000. 500,000! That’s an absurdly high number. Obviously, I’m not there to analyze every single infection that happened to every single person. I don’t know what happened behind every infection. Or how the virus was transmitted from person-to-person. Nor do I know the environmental context of each infection.


All I can do is make my deduction out of that overall number to see that the USA is still in a dire condition when it comes to the coronavirus. It’s not the right or wrong move. It’s just my deduction based on the numbers.


So, numbers do help in many circumstances. They help us better understand our societal condition, our business condition, our personal condition, or whatever condition it is that we are trying to understand and analyze.


Businesses rely on cold hard numbers to get a good snapshot of where they are in their financial situation. How are their revenues? Their expenses? Their net profit? Numbers can tell a lot about a situation.


But, again, what’s even better is to experience that situation firsthand in order to know which numbers are more telling. Are more important. And which numbers are not as significant as they initially seem.


It’s a holistic approach beyond simple numbers that makes for a better understanding of the situation at hand. The numbers provide a snapshot. But, in life, snapshots should not be the only thing to use and base your most important decisions on.


Cold, hard numbers do make the world go round. Though, I’d say, it is by necessity since we can’t be everywhere at once. They do a good job of providing a summary of the situation at hand. But, to truly understand as much as possible, we need to experience the matter at hand for ourselves.

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