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Tilting at Windmills

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May 12, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE....Matt Yglesias comments on the home court advantage in basketball:

Here in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs we're seeing once again that home court advantage matters a lot — out of eight total games, seven have been won by the home team. Which makes me wonder — is anyone aware of any good research on what the home court advantage consists of? Why should it be so strong?

Oddly enough, I was going to post about this exact thing over the weekend, but decided not to bother because I don't know squat about basketball and I figured this was probably well trod territory. But maybe not.

So what is the deal? It's not just that basketball teams have a home court advantage, it's the fact they seem to have have more of a home court advantage than other team sports like football and baseball. But why? Basketball teams don't rely on calling audible signals, so noise shouldn't be that big a factor, and basketball courts, especially these days, are essentially identical. If anything, then, basketball ought to offer less of a home field advantage than either of those other sports. Does waving that junk around when visiting teams shoot free throws really make that big a difference?

Apparently not. Matt's comment thread produced two persuasive explanations. First, from a metastudy of scholarly research (!) on this very question, there's this:

A number of studies provide strong evidence that home advantage increases with crowd size, until the crowd reaches a certain size or consistency (a more balanced number of home and away supporters), after which a peak in home advantage is observed. Two possible mechanisms were proposed to explain these observations: either (i) the crowd is able to raise the performance of the home competitors relative to the away competitors; or (ii) the crowd is able to influence the officials to subconsciously favour the home team. The literature supports the latter to be the most important and dominant explanation. [Italics mine.]

Second, maybe basketball courts aren't as identical as I think:

Home court advantage is more pronounced in basketball for a variety of reasons, many mentioned here. First, familiarity with the court/arena cannot be underestimated. Every floor is different. Some are incredibly bouncy while others are totally dead. Some have ice below them, others don't. Some arenas are more intimate while others are cavernous (there's a reason the Final Four games are often poorly played in the early going. They're playing in a football stadium which has things like draft they're not accustomed to). The perspective of the basket is also quite different from one venue to the next. What's behind the basket affects shooting like nothing else....Basketball, as a game of streaks, is also more heavily dependent on momentum and the proximity of the crowd helps feed that. Crowd noise and excitement can rattle even the best players and influence referees, who have a more demonstrable impact on a game's outcome than in any other sport.

Further speculation welcome in comments.

Kevin Drum 11:52 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (64)

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I think it's more of a placebo effect where the home team thinks is has an advantage, and therefore does.

Posted by: David W. on May 12, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I second the familiarity with the basketball court idea.

Furthermore, I think basketball is more influenced by factors like crowd noise and subtle differences in the court because it is probably the most intimate of all the major pro sports. The players are closer to each other with little padding, and emotions tend to run higher.

Posted by: AMP on May 12, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

It difference is in the foul calls. The LA Lakers shot many more foul shots when playing in LA but when playing in UTAH, the Jazz shot more foul shots.

Look for games where the road team shot more free throws and you will find the road team wins.

Posted by: superdestroyer on May 12, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK


"Knowing squat" about basketball is what Yglesias knows, too, and he writes about it a lot. Don't let that stop you.

The home court advantage is almost certainly a combination of the things that you listed, but the crowd cheering you and jeering your opponents is likely to have more effect in smaller arenas, and in games that have more continuous action- something that baseball and American football lack.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on May 12, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the looseness in which the rules are enforced in NBA, I've always just assumed it was due to referee bias toward the home team. And maybe over time, as visiting teams expect more and more to have calls go against them, it affects their play.

But that might just be sour grapes on my part. I was somewhat of an NBA fan in the 90's, but lost interest since then.

Posted by: PapaJijo on May 12, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

I think one factor is secret, officially sanctioned referee bias.

Note that:
- The league always wants a full 7-game playoff series because (i) evenly matched series are exciting and (ii) a longer series necessarily leads to more people watching TV.
- All of the people in an arena are direct customers of the game, customers which it is to the NBA's advantage to please. (Loud crowds make for more exciting TV viewing, too.)
- Half of all playoff games are home games, so a home team bias doesn't exactly bias the series outcome (or not too much...)

Ergo, if you want a long series, you might as well get one in a way that pleases the customers and makes people on TV want to go see the game because it's so exciting.

Now, obviously you also don't want to make people believe that officiating is a scam, so it can't be too extreme. But I'd bet money on this scenario. Put this one in the "dirty little secret" pile along with steroids.

Posted by: mk on May 12, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

The fouls thing is big, but I also think it has something to do w/ testosterone levels. I remember seeing a study about testing home and away testosterone and it being much higher for the home team. This would explain why basketball and football exhibit a home-field/court advantage but not baseball, because baseball doesn't require the same aggression.

Kevin I'm not sure that football actually has less of a homefield advantage, but again, I think the more aggression and intensity matter, the more home court will for that reason. Look at the difference in the Celtics defense home and away.

Posted by: Joel W on May 12, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm not so sure about the court familiarity argument. NCAA basketball has a wider range of court quirks and younger, inexperienced players who would have a harder time dealing with them. Wouldn't the home court advantage be nearly insurmountable for visiting kids?

Posted by: PapaJijo on May 12, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if all the sports advertising I've seen on TV and heard on the radio over the past 29 years is at all accurate, the reason the home team has an advantage is because the fans have the passion and the pride to see their team bring a win home for the city.

Posted by: Swan on May 12, 2008 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is something to be said for the difference in home courts. This may be in part due to my having played a few games on the old, incredibly springy floor in Maples Pavilion at Stanford. I could jump about six inches higher than usual (still not that high!) and my muscles felt tired and sore in totally different ways than on any other surface I've ever experienced.

That was an extreme case, so perhaps the effect is less on a less atypical range of floor surfaces.

Another factor is that the players that the league is promoting, who often benefit from some creative officiating, tend to play a larger role the further the postseason gets, and perhaps the less open style of play that you tend to have in the playoffs is more exposed to "judgment" calls by the officials.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on May 12, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The old Boston Garden was supposedly a huge homecourt advantage for the Celtics as the fabled parquet floor was thought to be the most quirky in the league. Legend had it that most of Celts knew exactly which way the ball would bounce on every inch of the floor. All the dead spots and all the bouncy sections as well as any little lumps or imperfections that might cause a ball to go astray. And there were plenty of championships won on that parquet floor.

So the Celts have been playing in the Fleet Center for almost a decade now and how many championships do they have?

Posted by: majun on May 12, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

And while we are on the subject of the old Boston Garden, I'm sure that the lack of air conditioning, which the Celts were used to playing without, was a factor, as was the visiting team's locker room which was supposedly small, overheated, and rat infested.

There are a lot of things that can go into giving a particular team a homecourt advantage.

Posted by: majun on May 12, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Rather than go with the "subconscious" ref influence explanation, how about a conscious explanation? Everyone knows the stars don't get as many fouls called on them, and so on. There is a norm of letting them show off without getting brought out to the woodshed, because the NBA know that the stars make the league money, and the refs know that they've got to let it happen.

Perhaps, similarly, the refs know the fans want to see the legend of the home court advantage, and that there are more paying attendees present who want to see the home team win, so they go a little easier on them. Since the post says "the literature supports" the ref-influence explanation, I'm guessing someone's already found evidence for the refs going against home-teams less than away teams.

Posted by: Swan on May 12, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Also, at a basketball game, the fans sit a lot closer to the action. When they're cheering their guys or slagging the opponents, these guys hear every word. You might see a baseball or football player flipping the bird to the stands, but you don't have them charging into the seats and picking up some jerk by the collar when they've had enough of their bullshit. It's a far more intimate situation than other sports.

Posted by: benno on May 12, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Comment 12:20 was just a crack at sports advertising, for anybody who can't get a joke.

Lighten up!

Posted by: Swan on May 12, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Almost certainly referee bias, in my opinion. Referee involvement in basketball is much higher than in other sports, as there is contact all the time and it is a largely a matter of judgment as to what should be called and what shouldn't...

Posted by: on May 12, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Like you, I don't know much about basketball. I do know a lot about baseball, however. The only 2 circumstances in which home field matters much in baseball are in 1) the 7th (and deciding) game in a postseason series and 2) extra innings. Then the home team does have a decided advantage, probably due to crowd noise in #1 and the fact that the home team bats last in #2. Otherwise, home field carries only a slight advantage, in particular in comparison to other sports. I think this is because the performance of the pitching staff, particularly the starter, is so critical in baseball and isn't influenced all that much by home field (familiarity with the mound and a friendly crowd confer only minor advantages). This makes baseball very different from other sports. This is also why game to game "momentum" is pretty meaningless in baseball, because the starting pitcher changes with every game. On the subject of home field, one also must mention Denver; due to its high altitude, it has the most pronounced home field advantage in sports.

Posted by: beckya57 on May 12, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think these kinds effects are observed also in hockey -- maybe this is something common to most arena sports...

Posted by: aharisi on May 12, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think these kinds effects are observed also in hockey -- maybe this is something common to most arena sports...

Posted by: aharisi on May 12, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Here's Phil Jackson from a few months ago:
I just dont know if its going to be more match-ups or home court advantage. With this conference, when it gets down to playoffs it could be the matchups you have against the teams being more important than whether you have home court advantage. Home court is obviously a very big key against a team like Utah or Dallas. They have three or four losses and maybe 25-27 wins so far, this part of year. Theyre just extremely different teams on their home floor right now. Thats important to have home court advantage against teams like that.

Posted by: reino on May 12, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Simple. It's the altitude.

Posted by: Denver, CO on May 12, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Never underestimate the quality of bed an athlete sleeps on the night before a game. Travel, even jet travel, takes a toll on any athlete.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 12, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Having not yet waded through the thread at Matt's place, I'll ask....has anyone actually demonstrated that the advantage IS bigger in the NBA than in say, the NFL or MLB? Or are we just generalizing from a week's worth of (highly unusual) data?

Posted by: chaboard on May 12, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

In support of my previous comments: would you rather be a basketball fan if your home team "plays better" because it is "energized" by your attendance, or would you rather be a basketball fan if your shitty team can't even pull out some decent maneuvers went it's playing in front of all its expectant fans at home?

Then again-- maybe at least part of the real reason is something much simpler than everything that has been suggested, but is being overlooked because it's just not cynical enough for the researchers: maybe the players really do feel more of an obligation to play well and no embarass themselves when they're physically in front of all their fans, so they pull out just a little bit more effort and talent when they're at home.

Posted by: Swan on May 12, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

One other thing to note is that basketball has many more possessions* per game than football or baseball. This means that tiny, marginal advantages from the crowd, refs, whatever, are magnified.

*Basketball games usually have between 160-200 possessions in a regulation game, counting both teams. Baseball games will have maybe 70-80 at-bats total. And in football, teams usually combine to run about 120 plays.

Posted by: matt w. on May 12, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, one would expect whatever generic HCA there may be to be magnified a bit in the playoffs for the simple reason that HCA is given by rule to the team judged by standings to be the superior team.

(Which doesn't, though, help explain that 4-3 Celtics-Hawks series. And probably is inoperative in both of the current Western Conference series since all four teams finished with virtually identical records)

Posted by: chaboard on May 12, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Orland lost to Detroit (the only road win in the second round) while shooting 11-17 from the free throw line. Detroit shot 14-15.

Compare to SA-NO game four where NO shot 9-12 and SA shot 14-20 or game three of Bos-Clev where Boston shot 19-24 and Clev shot 24-33.

Posted by: superdestroyer on May 12, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'd put money on it being the refs. e.g., in the English Premier League, the home team gets more penalty kicks awarded than the away team.

Posted by: Keith W on May 12, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

There definitely is something to the home court advantage. It is why we can't seem to win in places in Vietnam and Iraq, even though we have a much better team.

Posted by: AJB on May 12, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Basketball teams don't rely on calling audible signals, so noise shouldn't be that big a factor..."

Ah, but why do they need so many time outs? In the old days, Bob Cousy used to hold up some fingers to indicate a play. Now, they need those time outs that make a mockery of their intelligence.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on May 12, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Offhand, I can't imagine that the refs in Basketball have more of an effect on the outcome of the game than in any other sport. Rugby leaps to mind immediately, where different refs cause ridiculous variability in the frequency and manner of penalties called, and where the pace of the game gives enormous disadvantage to heavily penalized teams.

Posted by: Ruck on May 12, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

It's a fascinating subject, no doubt. And there are a lot of theories. But the most salient has to the be the Ref factor. Home teams seem to generally get more calls in their favor than road teams. At this point in the playoffs, the teams are all fairly even (there are no Denver's to beat up on) which means a few calls more in one direction can easily swing the balance of a game.

Other factors could include court differences (although I would argue that's much less of a significant variable in the NBA since every player knows every court extremely well), altitude (works for the Jazz and allegedly the sorry excuse for a team that is housed in Denver), and the emotional state of the players.

Basketball, more than any sport, relies more on adrenaline, emotion, and confidence. In baseball, as a hitter, it's better to be calm and relaxed while awaiting a pitch. Football is a stop-start sport so that bursts of emotion come and go quickly. (Hockey ceased to exist during the last strike.) But basketball has long periods of time where the teams are going back and forth without a break. In those moments, I would argue that small boosts from a vocally supportive crowd can make a marginal difference - in diving for a loose ball, in fighting for a rebound, or in taking that long 3-pointer. But then again, maybe I'm just overstating my own sense of self-importance when I attend a game.

Posted by: Nobcentral on May 12, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, are you people kidding me or are you all under 15 years old?! Is the next post around here going to be one of complete shock that MLB players take steroids and college BB players get paid under the table?

The NBA is now just barely a cut above the WWF. HINT: The refs coddle the home team for business reasons. For god's sake, I saw LeBron take 6 steps (yes, 6; he started near the 3-pt line) the other day at home in an extremely crucial situation and not get called for traveling. He looked like a 5 year old playing BB does -- grabbing the ball and running w/ it.

Jesus, guys, wake up! Better yet, talk to any current or fairly recently former NBA player and he'll explain it to you.

Posted by: pu-leeze on May 12, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Refs have an effect but a more plausible explanation might be that better teams win more games and in the playoffs the teams with the best record always have the home court advantage in the number of games played on their home court. Obviously that doesn't explain regular season stats.

Posted by: Gandalf on May 12, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Refs have an effect but a more plausible explanation might be that better teams win more games and in the playoffs the teams with the best record always have the home court advantage in the number of games played on their home court. Obviously that doesn't explain regular season stats.

Posted by: Gandalf on May 12, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Can't speak to the current situation, but there's no question at all that the old Boston Garden was a huge advantage to the classic Celtics teams. That crazy floor was enormously helpful, and the intensity of the crowd noise when it was really engaged was close to deafening. In a close game, you could literally see the effect on individual players, especially towards the end of the game.

I was at a play-off game against Buffalo once, with the Celtics down by quite a bit, I think behind in the series by 2 or 3 to 1. Somewhere in the middle of the third quarter, the fans just started cheering and screaming louder and louder and kept it up without a break no matter what was going on on the floor and quite literally forced the demoralized players to dig deeper and get it done. And they did, and went on to win the series and the championship that year. It was quite something to experience. The players to a man said after the game that the fans were the MVP in the game.

Posted by: gyrfalcon on May 12, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

As Mr. Tony said on his radio program the other day, a series isn't really a series until the home team loses. The better team is expected to win game 1 and 2, at home. The underdog gets very excited and comes out to win game 3 at home. Game 4 is where things get interesting.

Now, if there were seamheads and SABR for basketball, we'd know the answer to this already, but basketball is a far inferior sport, so we suffer from such myths with no FireJoeMorgan types to debunk them.

Posted by: PH on May 12, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think these kinds effects are observed also in hockey -- maybe this is something common to most arena sports..

Actually, it isn't. Hockey has, over the years, featured the most victories by road teams in the playoffs of any of the major sports.

This supports the refereeing angle. Hockey referees make fewer calls.

Posted by: Dilan Esper on May 12, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, home court advantage plays a smaller role in the NBA now than it did in the league's early days. Go back 5 decades or so and you find a weak league with a fair number of its clubs struggling to survive - and not all of them succeeding at it. Referees were instructed (mostly secretly) to favor home teams. The idea was that people were more likely to attend games if they had a reasonable expectation that their team would win or at least be in a close game. Remember that the NBA had no massive TV contract to sustain itself - teams had to survive largely on their individual gates. It worked and the league stopped instructing the refs to favor home teams. At least that's what David Stern would have us believe....

Physical teams like Utah seem to get more leeway at home than on the road. I can't say why, but watching the games and looking at free throw totals seems to confirm this (at least to me). Playing home games at the high altitude of Salt Lake City is probably helpful to the Jazz as well (though it did little to help Denver).

Posted by: Brian on May 12, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I trust Charles Barkley on this subject as he knows more about basketball than I ever will, and his explanation is that secondary players on teams (those players below the star level of a Kobe, LeBron, Deron Williams, CP3, etc.) typically play far better at home than they do on the road. Not having studied the stats, I can't say whether or not they back him up, but it makes sense to me.

Posted by: kidkostar on May 12, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Put me in the refereeing category. I think basketball referees do more guessing and anticipating than do officials in baseball, football, and hockey. This makes them more susceptible to being influenced by crowd noise.

Posted by: wstander on May 12, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think basketball referees do more guessing and anticipating than do officials in baseball, football, and hockey.

One of the hardest calls for an official to make in sports is the charge/block call. The contact is usually in the upper body, but the player's legs may or may not be moving into place (which is, of course, the difference between a block and a charge). Try to call it in real time. It will usually go the way of the star, or the home team.

Posted by: DJ on May 12, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it is simple statistics. Lets postulate that the home advantage is 2%. By that I mean that given two exactly equal teams, the home team has a 51% chance of scoring the next basket. In a game of soccer, or football, only a few scores are actually made, so the odds of the weaker team winning on luck are only a little less than 50%.

Think of it as having a loaded coin, which you know gives heads more frequently than tails. Would you accept an important bet using this coin with only a single toss? If you demand the best of 1001 tosses, you are almost certain to win. So in basketball there are perhaps a hundred coin tosses, while in these other games there are only a few, and the skewness of the scoring is usually overwhelmed by pure chance.

Posted by: bigTom on May 12, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gore lost on his home court in 2000, but the interference of the referees cost him the match.

Posted by: Brojo on May 12, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

The referees favor the home team and, with basketball, the calls are even mor important than with football and baseball. Too much judgement involved in who fouled, who charged, etc.. Way too subjective.

Posted by: little ole jim on May 12, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

I think the advantage is familiarity with the court/arena. That was my guess before reading the research. Basketball is all about precision. Practicing on the home court has to reinforce all sorts of subliminal cues about exactly where you are on the court (almost to the exact square inch). If the backboards vary from court to court that would be another big visual advantage to the home team. Seems obvious to me. I'm sure the other factors studied (refs, crowds) also play a part but to my mind, a lesser one.

Posted by: nepeta on May 12, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Nets are another example of how different courts vary. Fast, run and gun teams like to let nets sit on rings for as long as they can before replacing them so that they get thin and swishy -- Balls fall through them and hit the court, whereupon the players can grab it and toss it back into play ASAP. Very good for a young, fast team with lots of stamina. Older, half-court based teams who play heavy defense, by contrast, tend to change nets as often as possible so that they catch the ball, swing it around a little, and give the teams time to run back up court.

Phil Jackson, when he coached the bulls, used to always request a net change at ever single away game. If he didn't get it, he'd simply pull out a pocket knife and cut the nets down. (Source: Running with the Bulls, by Luc Longely.)

Posted by: Sean Riley on May 12, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a basketball nut (college mainly). This may sound stupid (or naive, retarted,etc.) but could it be something as simple as sleeping in their own bed in their own house during home stands? Wouldn't they be a little more relaxed? What are the stats for the whole season, not just the playoffs?

Posted by: smartelephant on May 12, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why don't you go blog at Matt's computer and general location for a while, and Matt can come blog at yours (can he take photos of cats?) -- see how it works out....

Posted by: DB on May 12, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Jordan said, "You have to play above the officiating in road games".

Posted by: Gary Sugar on May 12, 2008 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a bit silly to think that variations in the bounciness of the court accounts in part for the home advantage in basketball above that in other sports. in baseball, the fields are a *different shape*! is there a dead spot on the Celtics parquet floor that gives them the advantage of knowing how to play the Green Monster?

I think this is interesting, and something that it would be possible to break down. It would take a lot of videotape-watching, though. You'd want to see if visiting teams had more of a problem with bad bounces while dribbling, both through unforced-turnover stats and anecdotal evidence. You'd want to see if visiting teams are shooting the ball worse, particularly with open shots, and whether it gets worse at the end of games and in close game situations, when the crowd is more of a factor. Maybe even trying to correlate dBs of crowd noise with shooting percentage. Foul calls are tough to quantify, but often free throw disparity is a result of team strategy -- if you start driving the lane, you get more calls than if you stand around shooting jumpers.

Who wants to apply for a grant?

Posted by: SkippyFlipjack on May 12, 2008 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons why the home-court advantage is greater in basketball than it is in other sports is that there's more scoring. That translates into more occasions when the crowd can display its favoritism, and the cumulative effect can be decisive, whether it takes the form of the home team getting pumped up or the visitors getting demoralized. NBA players are pros, of course, and they can shut these things out for a while, but in the end they're only human.

Posted by: DCN on May 12, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Geez people, pro basketball quit being a real sport in the 80's, when they learned how much money they could make off the "Larry/Magic" show. It is now a media event, similar to wrestling.

College basketball followed in the 90's.

I dare you to find a consistently made call in any game. Changes with the teams, the players, the score and the time.

NC "won" a national championship when Illinois' center, the MVP of their conference tourney, only played 9 minutes in the championship game. 9 MINUTES, scored 0 POINTS; foul trouble. Illinois only lost by 5 points. Sean May, NC's "star", did his best impression of a human bulldozer, on his way to 10/11 "shooting".

It's the ref's, stupid.

Posted by: says you on May 13, 2008 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

The football field at Texas Stadium has a pronounced "crown" in the middle of the field such that players standing in the middle of the field are a good foot or so higher than players at the edge of the field. Brett Favre blames the crown at Texas Stadium for his losing record against the Dallas Cowboys. See:


Posted by: Pocket Rocket on May 13, 2008 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Basketball is not a game of streaks. It's been demonstrated again and again that streaks are just a basic statistical phenomona.

Posted by: Muttrox on May 13, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Playoffs is different. You can't extrapolate what happens in the playoffs to a general theory of homecourt advantage.

This year, the playoffs are a mix of older teams (Spurs, Pistons, Celtics) against young guns (Orlando, New Orleans, Cleveland). The margins on factors such as home court advantage, travel, fan proximity... the margins are just so tiny because the players are raw from emotions and exhaustion.

Posted by: petr on May 13, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with benno: Football and baseball stadiums leak noise like no one's business, whereas basketball arenas have the fans close, all around, and usually the seats are on a steeper slope. All of this, with the enclosed space, maximizes the intensity of the scene.

Having attended my share of football and basketball games in college, I have vivid memories of how much the crowd can utterly demolish opponents in basketball, and how little it matters in football.

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