There’s a lot of analysis surrounding the National Football League, so much so that the information at times might overshadow the game itself. With hours of pre and postgame shows, it is easy to be inundated with information breaking down almost every play from any given Sunday.
And, yet, in a league where it seemed most every stone was already overturned there was a big chunk of information that hadn’t been brought into the studios to be dissected by the talking heads and yuk-it-up former athletes.
Patrick Adler, an Urban Planning doctoral student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, dove into something that hadn’t yet been touched despite all of the coverage the NFL receives. And he found some pretty interesting truths that caught the eye of the NFL’s media arm – the NFL Network.
Somewhere between his class schedule and dissertation, something stood out to Adler; and like anyone who could combine a love of urban planning and the NFL, he decided to perform a study in what remained of his free time.
Adler looked through every roster prior to the 2011 NFL season and broke down the geographic variables of where every player hailed from in the United States. The results showed a highly disproportionate amount of players coming from the New Orleans and Louisiana area.
“I’m always doing little projects on the side and I guess the theme is establishing geographic patterns in the cultural economy,” Adler said. “You think about talent, which is a big topic in economical development. Where a firm is located dictates where a place would have jobs and money and development. More and more, it’s where people go, in explaining the success of some places. How do cities, for instance, get talented people to live in their cities?”
Based primarily on population, large metropolitan areas would seem to have the most players, and that’s true. The vast net of Los Angeles leads the NFL in players per metropolitan area.
Yet, the triangle region of New Orleans, Monroe and Lafayette produced 67 players – and the greater region had 91 players – and when broken down on a per capita basis, that small area accounted for about four NFL players per 100,000 people, which was one of the highest in the nation.
With this week’s Super Bowl being played in New Orleans, Adler’s study was featured on the NFL Network as host Brian Unger tried to determine why so many players from an obscure part of the country played in the league, including four from Boutte, La. with a population of 3,000. (Click this link to see the video segment.)
Adler, a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Toronto, completed his study nearly a year ago, but the NFL Network recently found it and then found him. Adler’s original study first appeared in The Atlantic Cities journal.
“It’s nice because you put something out there on the Internet and at first, it seems really fleeting,” he said. “It’s out for a week, and people say ‘Cool,’ and that’s it. You forget that things are on the Internet forever. It’s kind of nice.”
Rather than just turning to city-by-city listings of every NFL player, Adler used a sample size of 2,723 total players – about 85 per team – and then broke down the area of the country the cities were in. For instance, rather than just saying an NFL player hailed from Long Beach, Calif., that would fall into the Los Angeles metro region.
“The NFL data is in a player’s hometown,” Adler said. “You could only automate so much. It’s a lot of just going through 30,000 data points.”
Despite his love of football and his ability to get noticed based on his studies breaking down the league Adler plans on becoming a professor of urban planning or geography when he’s completed his Ph.D.
While you probably couldn’t throw a stone into a crowd without hitting someone who was a fan of the National Football League, Adler found you probably couldn’t throw a stone in the Louisiana region without hitting an NFL player.
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