Friday, March 07, 2014

Why the Sports Media Complex Downplays the Wonderlic

The NFL combine came and went with no big screw ups on the part of players. The major talk was the openly gay prospect that the media drooled over for his courage. Gil Brandt, long time player personnel vice president for the Cowboys, said Michael Sam had the biggest media crowds ever at the Combine. Media priorities. There was an annual test that went little noticed. Wonderlic scores were leaked. Just a few young men had their scores slip out. The media trotted out their yearly refrain that scores mean nothing! Absolutely nothing! Just a flimsy, little test they give athletes that has no bearing on their play. That is the media's line. Why? What do the scores mean and why does the media downplay them? It all comes down to who-whom and the taboo subject of intelligence testing.

The Wonderlic is a cognitive ability test. It tests general intelligence. The NFL uses this because how else can they gauge the intelligence of players coming in from over 100 different colleges with corrupt classes that pass the boys along? SATs or ACTs could be used as all NCAA players have to take those to play. The SAT/ACT scores for players would be 4-5 years old, and with Derrick Rose style cheating, may not even be the players' effort. A Wonderlic is administered by a neutral proctor for the NFL. Players can test prep for it. The NFL looks at health records back to grade school, so of course they want an objective test to compare all prospects against one another (and historical players). The NFL runs complicated offenses and defenses now. Len Dawson once drew up a passing play in the mud at a Super Bowl. That does not happen today. Some positions require a bit more smarts than others. It is not just quarterback. Safety in a 3-4 scheme is like the quarterback of the defense. Wide receivers run option routes. Intelligence helps. If the Wonderlic, and by proxy general cognitive abilities, did not matter, the NFL would scrap it.

The media disparages those who read into the scores. Some sports websites offer sample Wonderlic questions, challenging readers to step into athletes' shoes. I have seen complete Wonderlics and seen media samples. They cherry pick tougher questions for their 5-15 question sampler. An average guy can still score 8 out of 15. Keep in mind, the test is a 50 question test, and some of these idiots score a 15 out of 50. They frame it for you to rationalize the players' poor results. They constantly say the test has no bearing on player performance by citing Dan Marino's low 13 and some benchwarmer's 40+ scores. Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a 48, and was a middling athlete from an Ivy. Despite this, he parlayed learning and running an offense into a starting quarterback job. Being wicked smart helped. It is not a surprise that the quarterbacks who scored well on the Wonderlic at age 22 are now the quarterbacks who manage the clock and run brilliant 2 minute drill offenses (scroll down). They also are mostly if not entirely white. The media does not want you to notice any racial patterns to test results. Pay no attention to the sea of low scores by black players at the same positions as white players. Odd coincidence on a test that means nothing. Move along.

The dismissal of the Wonderlic is interesting considering the media's love affair with the 40 yard dash. The media does not see the hypocrisy of denigratimg one test that is sued by player scouts while glorifying another used by scouts that also has limited application. They drool over fast 40s. The 40 does have use, just like the Wonderlic, but is not indicative of anything besides speed out of a sprinter's blocks. Prospects run 40 yards, after months of training, a few times without equipment on for the timed sprint. We can find useless 40 times just like the Wonderlic. Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and Terrell Suggs all ran slow 40s. Rice and Smith are two of the greatest to ever play at their positions. To paraphrase GM Ozzie Newsome on Suggs, "I'm drafting him to run 4 yards, not 40". The 40 gets great play, vaulting guys up draft boards. The media does not shout that it is ludicrous as workout wonders happen every year. Just like the Wonderlic, a player's 40 may mean more to his specific positions profile than other positions.

A fan could do this with every test and drill they do at the Combine. They do all of these routines for a reason. It gives a team a profile of prospective players that they will possibly turn into multimillion dollar investments. The Wonderlic has a point, has a purpose and yes, it does indicate general intelligence. If you are worried a quarterback will be a slow learner or never make "the leap", you might pay attention to the score. Worried a defensive back was a product of his college program's scheme and cannot read opponents, look at the Wonderlic. The media does not want you to notice Vince Young's score of 6 Morris Claiborne's 4. When a score is low, they will give the player ample cover, "I didn't study", "I blew it off", "It ain't no thang", etc. They'll never do that with the 40. Just look at who does good and bad in each test. Will the liberal media be there to protect oppressed minority groups? That is a question you can answer in the affirmative every single time.

Cross posted at SWPL Sports Review


peterike said...

I am by no means a big sports fan, but one thing I've always been curious about is the racial split between O line and D line.

The O line has, by football standards, an enormous percentage of big white guys, while the D line has probably zero white guys. Is that because an O lineman's job is much more complicated?

O line has to memorize multiple complicated blocking schemes for many plays. And while sure there are defensive sets, once the ball is snapped the defense is basically just following the direction of the offensive play. It's much more about reaction time and speed than following any kind of plan.

In any case, I always find the racial metaphor funny: a bunch of big white guys trying to keep out an invading horde of Negroes, who are often trying to play knockout game on another white guy. Well well.

"Wonderlic" is a great name for a test.

Steve Johnson said...

Months later but I'll still put this here.

"The O line has, by football standards, an enormous percentage of big white guys, while the D line has probably zero white guys. Is that because an O lineman's job is much more complicated?"

Whites are also superior in raw strength. Blacks have better explosiveness.

D-line is explosive. O-line is strength dependent (left tackle requires the most explosiveness and is the blackest O-line position).