Last night's Seahawks-Eagles match allows the perfect lead into an idiosyncrasy of American Football, that of the stat obsession.
I say it's American Football, but it's Baseball, Ice Hockey, and Basketball, too. Basically, all the American sports. But it's American Football I'm interested in.
Last night, the Seahawks gave the Eagles what we, in England, call a "right-royal spanking", beating them 42-0. The commentators pointed out (several times) that this is the biggest defeat since a 38-0 loss (again, to the Seahawks) in the '98 season opener, and their worst home game since the Packers spanked them 49-0 in 1962. It was their only shutout (scoring no points) since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held them to 17-0 in 2003 which, incidentally, was the Eagles' first game in their new season.
I'm not making this up, check the NFL match report.
The commentators mentioned that only three times in the history of the team have they been down by 35 or more points at halftime.
I guarantee, someone out there could tell you the stats from the Seahawks' side, too. Last time (if ever) they won by 42 points. Last time they shut out a team. Last time they shut out a team "on the road" (that's American for "an away game"). Last time they shut out a team and, if ever, scored 42 points or more. In the snow. On a Monday night. On the road.
Stats are huge in American Football. Watch a game - any game - and the commentators will offer tidbits of information. "That's the longest punt in NFL history, Bill", "That's the furthest any quarterback has thrown the ball for a completion and failed to get a touchdown, John", "That's John Smith's fifteenth consecutive game with at least one fumble, Troy", or, in extremis, "That's only the second time in NFL history that the same player has fumbled and recovered more than twice in two consecutive Monday night road games in the snow at Dallas the day after it rained for more than seven hours straight in December when I was wearing a blue tie, Mike."
Okay, that last one might not exist. But you get the idea.
Now, don't get me wrong, I guarantee that one could go to any Manchester United game and find someone who can quote stats till the end of time. Number of wins, number of losses, number of goals for or against in a given season. But ask "What's the biggest margin of goals Man Utd has ever won by in the snow?" and most will give you a blank look. Why does a person need to know this?
Most career touchdown passes? (Dan Marino - 420)
Most touchdown passes in a single season? (Peyton Manning - 49)
Most career touchdowns? (Jerry Rice - 207)
Longest pass completion? (Frank Filchock to Andy Farkas - 99 yards)
Most rushing yards gained in a career? (Emmett Smith - 18,355)
How about football?
First, it's hard to find them. Second, having found them, it quickly becomes apparent that one can easily get hold of stats for each team, but league-wide are harder to find. For example, want to know which Wolverhampton Wanderers player scored most goals in his career? Steve Bull, with 306. In a season? Same guy, 52. Most goals scored by an Arsenal FC player at home in a single game? Jack Lambert with 5.
But, what about across the whole Premier League? Even the FA's site doesn't list them.
The BBC lists this season's top scorer (Frank Lampard for Chelsea with 11, tied with Man Utd's Ruud Van Nistelrooy) but what about last season? What about all-time?
Don't get me wrong, I'd bet one could find them, if one was patient enough.
But when I googled for the NFL scores above, they were first result. Googling for football results doesn't give anything meaningful on the first few pages.
And the most obscure stats are trotted out by NFL commentators every single game!
The how, I get. But why?