Most of you are now suffering from the lack of a game last Saturday. A diary about fan satisfaction is a poor substitute for actual football, but here are a few thoughts and figures to keep you rolling until the State game.
What Did You Expect?
All football fans understand that satisfaction depends heavily on the expectations you bring to the game in the first place. Winning by one can be the best feeling in the world, or it can be a huge disappointment. Over the first four games it’s been pretty clear that most of the dissatisfaction we heard rumbling through the fan base had a lot to do with Michigan’s underwhelming performance against teams most people expected Michigan to pound.
But in order to test that hypothesis, we first need a handy way to measure those expectations. The best way would be to do a panel survey where I kept surveying the same folks every week. Then I could keep track of each fan’s pre-game expectations and compare them to their post-game satisfaction level. In the absence of that set up, I turned to two authoritative sources of Michigan fan expectations: Vegas bookies and Brian Cook.
By providing a betting line on each game, Vegas bookies provide us with an incredibly sensitive, crowd-sourced, and time-tested measure of expectations. When you see a Vegas line that has your team favored by double digits, you turn on the TV with a cold beer and a sense of confidence in the outcome. Even if you’ve never bet on a game in your life, it’s easy money to assume the betting line affects your expectations about the outcome.
The thing about Vegas bookies, though, is that they don’t give a damn about Michigan football. And despite the wisdom of the crowd, Vegas is sometimes just a bit out of touch with the latest developments closer to home. Not only that, but the Vegas line doesn’t measure what’s in the hearts of Michigan football fans. Sometimes you look at that Vegas line that has a rival favored by a handful and you say: “Aw hell no, we got this.”
Who do you trust to know that sort of stuff? Whose blog do you read day and night, hitting refresh every hour during the week to see if a new post has appeared? I don’t know about you, but having read this blog since its inception, my expectations are now solidly shaped by one Mr. Brian Cook (and Co., of course). So our second measure of expectations is the home cooking version of the Vegas line: Brian’s data-driven, hard-nosed, and mathematically somewhat awkward preview forecasts.
The figures below plot game satisfaction on one axis and the outcome of the game relative to expectations on the other (that is, how far off the outcome was from the Vegas line or Brian's predicted spread). As you can see, hard science now (more or less) backs up your gut-level wisdom about the role of expectations.
Figure 1. Against the Spread – Vegas Edition
Figure 2. Against the Spread – Brian Cook Edition
Findings from the Bye Week Survey
Thanks to the 165 folks who took time from their improvement week to fill out the survey. Also thanks to that guy who entered 99999999 for his age. Cute! I didn't have time for the complete slice and dice. I will report results in future weeks as I'm able to get to it.
Retrospections: Little Change in Outlook
I asked folks to assess each of the first four games again, thinking we might find some differences now that more time has elapsed. Interestingly, however, people’s thinking about those first four games and the season so far appears to have remained pretty stable.
Figure 3. Bye Week Feelz vs. Previous Feelz
A win’s a win, as they say, but that doesn’t mean fans don’t parse the team’s performance. Most of each week’s discussion involves identifying the sources of (dis)satisfaction with the ways things are going. To wit, we now have some hard data about exactly how happy people are with the defense and how not-so-happy they are with the offense and quarterback play. To get these numbers I recoded the answers (excellent = 2, good = 1, okay = 0, poor = -1, terrible = -2). Crazy thing? The defense averaged a 1.97 and all I can wonder is who the hell didn't give them an "excellent?"
Figure 4. Ratings of Performance by Unit
Proximity and Perspective
Last tidbit. Does being at the game make victory sweeter and defeat even more bitter? Makes sense if you think about it – seeing the game in person not only means you have a more vivid and immediate emotional experience, but the mere fact that you got off your butt to go see a game (and spent the $$$$) suggests that you are a bigger fan than average. Stands to reason that your satisfaction swings in both directions might be bigger than others.
To test this notion I created three groups of people: folks who live in Michigan and have been to a game (most emotionally invested), those who neither live in Michigan nor have been to a game (least emotionally invested), and those who either live in Michigan or have been to a game (somewhere in the middle).
Figure 5 doesn’t show a ton of difference across the groups, but the way the questions are asked doesn’t really provide a perfect test either. My hunch is that these small differences would loom larger if I included a question about having been at the game in the weekly survey.
Figure 5. Emotional Investment and Satisfaction Levels