SINCE WHEN HAS SHAME STOPPED THEM? I'm going to disagree with Matt's hypothesis that intellectual writers are focusing of football because all the other sports have become too math-heavy for them. First, like my friend Brian Beutler, I think the upsurge in football commentary is a function of the quadrennial World Cup, rather than some sort of soccer fetish. Where was all this commentary, as Brian wonders, in the halcyon days of three weeks ago? Add in that blogs and websites have given writers a virtually unlimited amount of space on which to opine, and so their quirky soccer obsession doesn't have to compete with Haditha, and I think you've got your answer.
The second reason the math hypothesis doesn't hold up is that the punditocracy has never shown any reluctance to approach data-heavy subjects with nothing more than a sack of adjectives and a dream. As much as baseball can be statistics-heavy, economics and policy are really far more empirically grounded, and yet the nation's op-ed writers have little shame about tackling such subjects research unseen. Remember Richard Cohen's classic boast that he doesn't know algebra, and it's never hurt him yet? Yet here he is writing about Social Security, possibly the most data-heavy subject known to man. And if the proudly ignorant Cohen can so blithely bloviate about the pension system, he'll have no problem bullshitting his way through a game of baseball.