A Revolution In Sports Data
Year after year, Paul Tudor Jones, founder of hedge fund the Tudor Investment Corporation (TIC) — specializing in systematic investment approaches — somehow was never able to come up with a systematic approach when it came to choosing the fantasy football team that would provide him with the wins he needed. His success in business never seemed to translate to his passion of managing a fantasy sports team. Now, Jones decided, it would be the time to finally do something about his losing fantasy football teams, and maybe even make a business out of it. His son, Jack Jones, is a co-founder of the company with his father, and even delayed his studies at NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he was pursuing his Master’s in Data Science because of the potential benefits of playing an integral part in a company like this. That is ultimately how SumerSports was born.
The name that they came up with, SumerSports, stems from the word Sumer — the ancient Mesopotamian culture known to have the first people to use numbers to analyze different systems. Jones himself was inspired by this mentality because just like when it comes to business, he tries to use numbers over “dumb luck.” Similarly, when it comes to choosing a fantasy team or even for NFL owners and managers choosing players, they should utilize numbers more often as well. Managers have been operating teams without focusing on skills for too long, and Jones thought there would be some method that would reshape the structure and perhaps pave the way for more competitive approaches to team building.
The question remains: how practical is this company for the established leaders in professional sports, such as the NFL? Just because it may work for a fantasy football team, doesn’t mean that will translate into success for NFL managers. Still, it happens to be that even before this new company officially took off, they had already been working with two NFL teams. The main objective of Sumer Sports is to focus on the individualized player-tracking data together with the risks and benefits of paying them a certain salary, and seeing how it fits into the team’s needs and salary cap. The way Jones looks at his portfolio in the stock market is how he believes NFL owners and managers need to look at their teams. Just like how there’s a certain limitation on capital, so too, these NFL teams need to deal with a salary cap, which happened to have been $208.2 million in 2022.
Although it can be interesting to make a connection between analyzing stocks and analyzing football players, the correlation may not be as strong and simple as it seems. For instance, when it comes to NFL football, not only does one look at the player’s individual stats and injury history, but there’s also always a reason why the player performed at a certain level, but it’s usually not because of the player himself. For instance, take a wide receiver: First, there’s the quarterback who throws him the ball, but before the quarterback throws the ball, the quarterback is being protected by offensive linemen who may have been conditioned well by trainers who were chosen by the coaching staff, etc… The list is so layered that it is very difficult for most to put the time and energy into tracking it all. Additionally, there are many offensive and defensive players on the field at the same time. The focus of SumerSports is to combat these issues by using special granular data that will magnify the field and behind-the-scenes activity into the smallest bits and pieces that they can possibly come up with. It will require each second of play action to see the different moves that are being run, and not only on a surface level who is providing for the successes and failures of the team, but also who is contributing to these plays even when it may not be so easy to tell.
SumerSports decided to partner up with a whole group of talented individuals, consisting of investment analysts, software engineers, sports analysts and data scientists to contribute their knowledge of data, sports, technology and analytics. They are optimistic that this project can possibly revolutionize the way we think about sports analytics in general, as well as increase job prospects for the industry in the future.
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