I started subscribing to the Sporting News a few months ago. The subscription rate was cheap, so I figured I would give it a shot.

I have been pretty disappointed. It doesn’t seem to stack up very well against other sports publications and web sites. In particular, its analysis of statistics can be rather poor at times.

The March 30th edition is a case in point. There is an article related to the shortness of a running back’s career. An inset box titled “built for the short run” shows the average years of service for the starters at various positions in week 1 of the NFL season.

I assume that we were to take these numbers and draw a conclusion about the average length of an NFL career for those positions – but I would be really hesitant to do that, since that would be a poor use of the data. It completely ignores bench players and the stage of a player’s career – maybe this year’s draft class just had a great crop of running backs.

Take this example: let’s say that every NFL team had a 10 year veteran at running back in week 1. Then, in week 2, they yanked the veterans and plugged in rookies.

If we run the Sporting News stat, the average years of service would be 10 years for the starters in week 1 and would then slide dramatically to an average of 1 year of service for the starters in week 2. Yet, the cast of players didn’t change, nor did the expected career length.

The model is simply a poor fit – it does not measure what the Sporting News is trying to make it measure. It would be like taking the three members of my family, calculating the average age, and declaring this to be the average life span.

(Note: this article was originally truncated. I apologize for the confusion)