Nerds abound, even in the bleachers

With one hand on my copy of Hockey Scouting Report 2004 and the other raised in a clenched fist, I solemnly promise that there won?t be any actual math in this column.

Being a sportswriter is great fun, but whenever I see tables and charts full of numbers, the science education in me starts clamoring for an accounting of how the numbers got there and what set of equations, theories and immutable laws offer access to the fullness of their meaning.

Where other sports guys have turned to karma and a pantheon of sports-obsessed pseudo-deities to explain the Patriots stumbling to 18-1 instead of finishing 19-0, my guts tell me that every turn of events in the sports world?even the most unexpected turns of events?can be explained with rigorous logic.

I still haven?t figured out what the Patriots did to lose besides get incredibly unlucky on The Helmet Catch.

Since I?m not going to just parrot what Bill Simmons and Gregg Easterbrook said, that?s one column I might not ever figure out how to write.

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I like watching people. I think it kind of freaks some people out, but it makes being a sports fan doubly rewarding. Plus, I always have something to do during time outs.

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Some people enjoy sports for the chance to belong to an elite club. Many enjoy the competition. Sunshine and an order of ballpark nachos is probably somebody?s favorite part of being a fan.

I?d speculate that a fairly large number enjoy sports just because they?ve got nothing else to do on the weekend. And there are more than a few who follow a team just for the box scores, to have some numbers to crunch in the morning, along with a bowl of Golden Grahams.

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I know what you?re thinking. You think that being bad at math and obsessed with something other than computers, video games or science fiction means a person can?t possibly be a nerd.

I disagree. If you pass up the chance to nap for the sake of a hobby?any hobby?you?re probably a nerd of some kind.

And the more hours of sleep someone gives up in pursuit of a favorite hobby, the nerdier that person is. I say watching ?SportsCenter? five days a week is just as nerdy as watching ?Stargate: Atlantis? five days a week.

I should also mention that I should never, ever get cable or a TV with split-screen capability.

Meeting girls is hard enough without being the first person in history to watch ESPN with SGA in a PIP window.

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If I wanted to apply some rigor to my people-watching, I?d probably have to come up with a phylum-class-order-family-genus-species-type system to contain all of the manifold combinations present in the nerd kingdom. And I still haven?t even mentioned fine arts, soap operas, comic books or Second Life.

The trouble is, the categories would never be pure.

John Hollinger is one of hundreds of examples of the phylum-blending kind of nerd that plies math expertise and basketball knowledge to invent a formula to measure of every NBA player?s production.

Hollinger?s brainchild is the PER super-stat. He even wrote a book about it, so he?s definitely going to have an order of nerds named after him. Lucky guy.

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