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Monday, November 12, 2012
Nate Silver vs. Nicks: Are stats for girls?

By Steve Etheridge
Special to ESPN.com

Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks poses with a real football, and not just a rotund mass of useless stats.
What are the coolest things in the world? Cigarettes? Truancy? Mean Joe Greene drinking your Coke and then tossing you his sweat-soaked jersey? Babies wearing Timberlands?

A week ago, these would’ve all been correct responses, but since last Tuesday, when political prophet Nate Silver dropped jaws coast to coast by flawlessly predicting the outcomes of every single state in the presidential election, there’s a new sheriff in Coolville: stats.

Yes, stats! Just say the word -- STATS! -- and pyrotechnics will erupt, undergarments will be hurled in your direction and thunderous power chords will rattle the walls. It’s a new era for statheads, one when the general public no longer regards them as asthmatic Melvins hunched scoliotically over abaci, but as Fonz-like oracles of life’s unknowable mysteries.

And Nate Silver, us sports folk are proud to report, got his start speculating about baseball, using his arithmetical wizardry to forecast player performance with eerie accuracy.

ONE OF US! ONE OF US!

But, like with all cool things in life, there’s always gotta be some sneering detractor raining all over everyone’s good time. In this case, it’s Hakeem Nicks, Giants wide receiver and villain to all things statistical.

Nicks has been posting some disappointing numbers this season -- 36 receptions, one TD, 66 yards per game, zero Super Bowls -- and, when asked recently if he was worried about his production, he said: "No, man. Because stats is for girls, man. It’s football, man."

You’d like to take this as a compliment. As in, “Man, you got to hand it to stats for accomplishing so much in such a grossly stratified labor force, for securing huge political victories w/r/t marching onward toward gender equality, for remaining so dignified despite the relentless advances of bro-mo erectus Ed Hardy types and orange-skinned brokers with Ashley Madison accounts.”

But nope. It was a disparaging comment meant to convey that stats were below him. Or at least that’s the logical thing to assume. A Giants spokesperson later put bunny ears on the statement, explaining that what Nicks was implying was that numbers are only for impressing girls, and that what really matters is winning.

I guess this makes sense, considering how beautiful women magnetize toward athletes because of their irresistibly erotic defense-adjusted yards over replacement values.

Maybe I’m blowing this a little out of proportion, but it is no simple feat to simultaneously dismiss one’s lack of production and half of the entire human population. It takes a colossal dose of arrogance, and Nicks would be wise to bite his tongue, as even in football, girls can put up better stats than boys.