Thursday, April 23, 2020

Games Without Fans, Horses Without Numbers, Better Judging?

In the WSJ today, it was hypothesized that when sports do come back without fans, officials will be less biased and the calls they make or don't make, will be more true. This point of view is based on the work of economists written about in Scorecasting, along with studies in soccer matches:

"Their performances before empty stands in 2007 delivered the key finding of the Swedish economists’ study: Referee bias, the biggest factor in home-field advantage, all but disappeared in games behind closed doors."

There are numerous other instances where the "home field" effect was seen - balls and strikes calls in late innings, 4th quarter or third period calls, etc. There were even noticeable differences based on how close fans were to the field.

In horse racing we horseplayers are pretty conspiratorial minded. Who can blame us. With hundreds of things that can happen in a race oftentimes happening to kill our tickets, we have plenty of "woe is me". And that certainly doesn't change with the calls judges make.

Putting away our tin-foil hats for a second, though, what about our judging in this Scorecasting, Swedish study vein?

If our stewards were blind (no jokes please), meaning they judge a race without an odds board, without knowing what trainer or jockey was who; without knowledge of a carryover; the size of the purse or Grade of the race, would they show the same inclinations as sports' referees?

I suspect they would. It's just human nature.

Maybe that's why Pat "Category One Rules" Cummings is on to something. Take the decisions out of their hands more often, leaving it to the horses. Our equine athletes race without bias.

Have a nice Thursday everyone.

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