FanPost

Where would blog discussions be without fallacies?

Any general psychology textbook will discuss a wide variety of common human biases (confirmation bias) and faulty heuristics (availability). Cowboy and NFL fandom is certainly not immune to such fallacy inducing frailties. There’s no better blog topic to illustrate than Tony Romo, one of the most efficient passers and "useless" quarterbacks of all time. This is not a fanpost to dispel any conclusions about Romo. After all, discussion relies on such conclusions based on logical fallacies, especially after the draft has come and gone. Here is an introduction to some of my favorites and most common illogical fallacies. And good luck with my occasional sarcasm. It’s subtle so not to dissuade people from continuing the illogical thinking that is required of us non Vulcans -- Or, discourage drunken conversation. Good discussion should also never be well written or even have correct spelling. Jump and read the beer talking.

Reification and Bad Analogy: "The Magical QB" & "Bad with the Good"

The Magical QB is perfect. He is capable of winning a game despite how good the other team is and how bad his own team is. He is the often-sought-after QB who "will take us to the promised land". No one has ever seen him, but we are made aware of his existence when people say, "he carried the team" or "he can’t carry the team". This is perhaps the "it" factor we hear so much about. Just maybe "it" refers to a spirit that bounces from QB to QB possessing them only for a short while. This might explain why Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or Drew Brees more often than not, ultimately fail to "carry" their teams "to the promised land". Remember how perfect Aikman and Staubach were? I just wish they would have had "it" possessing them more often. People reify the Magical QB. That is, they act or think as if the perfect QB exists.

Many Cowboy fans are quick to point out that Tony Romo is not a Magical QB. Apparently, his failures aren’t obvious to everyone and they need to be pointed out. However, the typical response to this claim is never to discredit this bad analogy and the notion that a Magical QB even exists, but to agree and affirm that such QBs do indeed exist. "He isn’t Manning, Rodgers, or Brees, ….", they say –as if those guys are magical and never fail. "Romo is a good quarterback. You just have to take the bad with the good"—as if there is a quarterback in existence in which there is only good.

However, when the appropriate question of "how much bad versus how much good" is actually addressed, a plethora of logical fallacies ensue. But first, some actual accounts of bad versus good:

COMPLETIONS vs INCOMPLETIONS

Romo completes passes at 64.5%. In comparison, only Pennington, Brees, Warner, Rodgers, and P. Manning have a higher career completion percentage.

TOUCHDOWNS vs INTERCEPTIONS.

Romo’s ratio of TDs to interceptions is 2.07 to 1. Below shows Romo 5th all time.

TD

Int

Ratio

Aaron Rodgers (28)

132

50

2.640

Tom Brady (34)

300

115

2.609

Steve Young+

232

107

2.168

Philip Rivers (30)

163

78

2.090

Tony Romo (31)

149

72

2.069

Matt Ryan (26)

95

46

2.065

Peyton Manning (35)

399

198

2.015

Donovan McNabb (35)

234

117

2.000

Joe Montana+

273

139

1.964

Jeff Garcia (41)

161

83

1.940

Drew Brees (32)

281

146

1.925

Neil O'Donnell

120

68

1.765

Joe Flacco (26)

80

46

1.739

Rich Gannon

180

104

1.731

Mark Brunell (41)

184

108

1.704

Matt Schaub (30)

98

58

1.690

Matt Cassel (29)

76

45

1.689

Dan Marino+

420

252

1.667

Ben Roethlisberger (29)

165

100

1.650

David Garrard

89

54

1.648

Kurt Warner

208

128

1.625

Chad Pennington

102

64

1.594

Randall Cunningham

207

134

1.545

Michael Vick (31)

111

72

1.542

Brett Favre

508

336

1.512

GAMES THROWN AWAY.

So what if, Romo "appears" to be one of the best all time at throwing more touchdowns than interceptions, he "throws interceptions at the worst times". "Romo’s interceptions cost games". By actual accounts, the percentage of losing games because of interceptions (assuming interceptions are 10 point swings) for Romo is 17.8%. In comparison, (assuming interceptions are 7 point swings) Brees, P. Manning, and Rodgers throw games away 25.3%, 24.7%, and 20.2% of the time respectively. Romo once said, "If you only have 2 or 3 bad games a year, you’re playing at a pretty high level." Perhaps, "Jets" and "Lions" games are just "the nature of the position" after all.

OVERALL GOOD GAMES vs BAD GAMES.

Romo finishes games with a QB rating of over 90 in 67% of his games. In comparison, Brees rates over 90 in 66% of games and P. Manning rates over 90 in 69% of games.

Perhaps Romo does compare to Aikman; just not to Magical Aikman.

Statistics derived and calculated referencing ProFootballReference.com

OK!!! I confess, the main reason I put so many statistics in this post was to see how many of you I could get to say to yourself, "but stats don’t win games".

Innumeracy: "Just look at his playoff record" and "but stats don’t win games"

Winning doesn’t win games either. "If we could just win more this game, we'll win." The question often avoided by the "stats don’t win games" is: what actually does win games. Well for a quarterback, one might say that: completing passes, throwing touchdowns, gaining yards, getting first downs, and throwing interceptions or incompletions might all be significant acts that would lead to a win or a loss. However, this argument holds that if these acts are totaled up and put into ratios and percentages, they no longer are acts that lead to wins and losses. This ‘rule’ against counting up positive and negative events would also discount playoff record as a viable argument. Although we already noted that winning a game does not cause winning a game. This illogical issue is typically addressed by arguing: "what leads to wins is stepping up when it counts". Statistics, some argue, cover things that don’t count; like interceptions and touchdowns in the first quarter. Personally, I look at statistics because I can't remember 35 pass plays, let alone 2500 pass plays over a 6 year span.

Causal Reductionism / Reductive Fallacy: "stepping up when it counts" and "4 or 5 plays"

Basing the results of a game on a few plays or a single player is common and a widely accepted human practice. However, it is very much a reductive fallacy. Example scenario to illustrate: Two players shoot 11 free throws in a basketball game. The player that loses makes 9 of 11. The player that wins makes 4 of 11. These 4 made FTs were critical to the 1 point win. The 2 the losing player missed were critical to the 1 point loss. But who shot better? The outcome and how the team played is what determines "those 4 or 5 decisions" as being so "critical" to the win or loss. If the Cowboys are successful on Field Goal attempts, then suddenly Romo has made those 4 or 5 decisions to win. Causal Reductionism: If it were truly just a free throw or quarterback contest, the "4 or 5 plays" are the only thing contributing to a win or loss. The problem with the "stepping up when it counts" argument is: "miss your first 10 free throws and the only way the 11th can "count" towards a win, is the play of teammates and the other team and vice versa. People argue statistics are a better performance indicator because statistics consider all 11 free throws, not the one that seemed to "count". Which often boils down to the play or plays we remember (availability heuristic). Similarly, seasons and careers often come down to those few plays that we choose to remember to "count". (See above description of GAMES THROWN AWAY. Who do you remember throwing the most games away?)

Side note: Where would Eli be without this widespread fallacy? Where would any Eli versus Romo discussion be? How could we ever have football gods without causal reductionism? Without it, we could no longer have our Magical QB to compare people to.

False Cause and Illusory Correlation: "Awesome in November, horrible in December (when it counts)"

The last time Romo had a passer rating better in November than December was in 2008 (102, November; 67, December). The average rank of the opposing defenses (passer rating rank) was 16th in November and 4th in December (Baltimore 1st, Pittsburg 2nd, Philadelphia 5th, New York 8th). If there actually is a significant correlation between his performance and the month, is the month the cause of his change in performance, or is it more due to the play of his opponents and his teammates?

Appeal to False Authority: "Deion just tells it like it is."

Psychogenetic Fallacy and Ad Hominem: "Romosexual", and "Romo Hater"

Clearly ones feelings of love or hate for Romo has removed any existence of unbiased arguments. The only people who know what they’re talking about are those who are indifferent. I guess that rules out the "sick and tired of Romo…" False Authority guy mentioned above. Is there a fan in the world who is indifferent about Romo?

Appeal to Fear and Popularity of Belief (with a little Psychogenetic fallacy implied):

"Not sure if he was much of a Cowboys fan or not but he issued the same media consensus. ‘If the game is on the line in the 4th quarter is Romo going to win it for you? He’s not the guy I would want in that situation’."

Exaggerated evidence: "Romo always chokes"

Argument by Vehemence (commonly the redundant period, exclamation, or ALL CAPS):

"Romo has been lights out period." "When he’s bad he is horrible, period." "ROMO SUCKS!!!!!!!" "ROMO ROCKS, PERIOD!!!!!!- all three together is very vehement thus very true.

Well, I have pointed out some of the main logical fallacies that keep the endless discussions going until grownup discussions can be had next season. In no way this is an exhaustive list, just my favorites. If you couldn't follow my poor writing, just have a few drinks to get down to my level and re-read.

P.S.

Disproof by Fallacy:

No matter how ridiculous the reason is for believing Romo can’t win a Super Bowl, it doesn’t mean he can.

What are some of your favorite logical fallacies or faulty heuristics?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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