the spread the (data) science of sports

Learning about football fandom using social media

Wed 05 February 2014

Data science and football, together at Facebook

One of the most exciting opportunities created by the introduction of data science to football is the ability to analyze massive amounts of non-traditional data to learn more about the sport.

Social media data is often noisy and unstructured, but presents a great snapshot of what fans are thinking and saying in real time. Although a great deal of existing work tries, with varying levels of success, to predict things with Twitter [PDF], Sean Taylor has taken a different tack and is trying to learn about the fans themselves.

Sean is a data scientist at Facebook (and avid Eagles fan) who is also wrapping up his PhD at NYU's Stern School of Business. You may have seen his most famous work, a map of every county in the US with the most popular (on Facebook) NFL team there:


Sean has now produced some new visualizations, using Facebook data to track the sentiment of fans during games and across the season to depict the emotional highs and lows that fans all experience. There are quite a few nice little nuggets of information in here.


Sean has also conducted research into ranking NFL teams and using Bayesian inference to model the value of players in fantasy football drafts. I highly encourage fans of this blog to check all of his work out.

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