How do we define a close Super Bowl game?
I was thinking about this on Friday…. It’s got to be more than just the final score point difference.
Sure, an exciting finish like the 1991 Giants vs Bills game is a classic.
As you may recall, the game ended with a failed field goal attempt and the Giants won by a single point. I remember watching this game. It was a nail bitter! But how do we quantify something like this? How do we measure the gasps, the tension and the “glued to your seat” effect? I knew that there had to be a way to further define a ‘close game’. I’m always curious about things like this. What is the exact logic that Netflix and Amazon use to make their suggestions? They are not going to reveal their magic formulas but I thought that maybe I could have some fun with the Super Bowl ‘Close Score’ and see how the Giants/Bills game would measure up. Of course no method will be perfect but let’s take a look.
My ‘Close Score’ Idea
So, my idea was simply to take the point difference every 30 seconds throughout the game and then add it up. I divided by 100 to make the number smaller. The games with the minimum ‘Close Scores’ would be near the top and make it easier for a discussion. Of course this straight forward way doesn’t account for thrilling endings like the Bills / Giants game but if we really wanted to, we could award extra points for close endings and adjust it.
Download my Excel file
Watch my YouTube video
We’ll never agree on everything but some games are obviously closer than other games. Use the data below as a starting point for your closest Super Bowl discussion. Please note that my simple formula doesn’t touch upon how exciting the game was or wasn’t. That would also be very interesting to try to measure.
Let’s look at the list of Super Bowls sorted by my ‘Close Score’
Why is the 49ers/Benglas game at the top of the list? For most of the game the point difference was 0 or 3 points. Only briefing did the point difference hit 7. The game ended with a 4 point difference.
Why is the 1980 Steelers/Rams game rated near the top despite a final score point difference of 12? The game was extremely close for almost the entire game. At the very end of the game the Steelers scored a touchdown and then went up by 12.
Remember, my ‘Close Score’ is intended to simply add more insight into the debate. Personally, I still think that the Giants/Bills game was the closest so maybe I should adjust my formula to account for a game ending scoring attempt with a final point difference of only 1. Well…I suppose that wouldn’t be fair. It would be like marking my own exam and changing a question to fit my answer. I’m curious how fivethirtyeight.com would calculate this.
What do you think?
Leave your comments below and enjoy the Super Bowl !
My name is Kevin Lehrbass. I live in Markham, Ontario, Canada.
About 20 years ago I remember seeing a friend working on an Excel spreadsheet. It looked interesting. I thought to myself “What if I could learn more about Microsoft Excel than I know about Chess & Spanish?”
At the time it seemed like a distant possibility but I started learning and I’ve never looked back 🙂
I’m a Data Analyst at McKinsey & Company.