Narratives that create questions
Review: Curve Ball 3


Nyt_cowher_1Chartjunk is not the only species of junk out there; another is "statjunk".  The sports media is filled to the brim with statjunk.  In the graphic on the left, focus on the bar chart at the lower left corner.

According to the author, "stability brings success".  He's saying the more coaches a team has employed since 1992, the worse has been its record.  The word "bring" implies causation.  But nothing in the data warrants this conclusion.

Which explanation is more plausible?

  • The Steelers had a higher winning percentage since 1992 because it has kept Coach Cowher during this period, or
  • The Steelers has kept Coach Cowher since 1992 because his teams had accumulated a good winning record during this period.

It amazes me that given this choice, the sportswriter inevitably will pick the first explanation and assert its inviolability.  Has anyone given this fallacy a name yet?

Reference: "Stable and Steady Has Won the Race for Steeler", New York Times, Feb 5 2006.


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Mike Anderson

The closest I can come is the logicians' standard fallacy,

(p->q) & q -> p

the aptly named MODUS MORON.

John S.

Isn't this "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"?


Or "cum hoc, ergo propter hoc."

(The author's false cause is more associative than event driven.)

But Modus Moron has a nice ring to it.

Johnny O

In other news: increasing sales of ice cream cause temperatures to rise.

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