Revenge of the Nerds was so 1980s. Now it's a new world order: math geeks and athletes are working together.
I'm not talking just about what happens when data nerds observe, analyze, and predict sports outcomes -- as they do in March Madness with their "bracketology". That's compelling, but your ability to predict an outcome is nothing when compared with the ability to influence the outcome.
That's what my friend Drew Cannon is doing for the Butler Bulldogs, and even Sports Illustrated has noticed the impact.
Today, he's on the bench as an assistant coach, diligently recording every aspect of the game that can be counted and measured. He then compiles the data, analyzes it, and uses it to inform the head coach via a system of "rules": for example, which players work well together in which situations. When the rules are followed, there's a better outcome. From the Sports Illustrated article:
"I love it when Drew [reminds]a guy who coached in two national championship games [of these rules]," Butler assistant Michael Lewis said. "He'll say, 'When we played by the rules, we were plus 5. When we didn't we were minus 3.' I love it, for a 22-year old kid to have the guts to say it."
Guts? Yes, I believe it. But when you've got the data and a solid analysis, it's a lot easier to muster your nerve.