Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Being at home, you're always more comfortable

When asked recently why the Warriors score more at home than on the road, Stephen Jackson replied:

"It's just like you sleep better in your own bed than going into a hotel. It's just that simple. You can't really explain it. Being at home, you're always more comfortable, more relaxed, more confident."

His answer got me thinking about the home advantage, something studies have confirmed exists in sports. In fact, as in the case of the Warriors, "basketball and hockey (both indoor sports) found it more pronounced; less so in baseball and football (both outdoor sports for the most part)."

Specifically, the home team was victorious in 53% of professional baseball games, 58% of NFL games (excluding ties), 60% of college football games (excluding ties), 64% of professional hockey games (excluding ties), and 67% of professional basketball games.

Further, studies have found that "offensive (e.g., points scored, touchdowns, etc.), not defensive, performances were improved."

One study found that teams may tighten up in big games when playing in front of their home crowd. A researcher "concluded that the home team is more likely to lose than to win a 'crucial' game. In professional baseball and basketball, the home team tends to win initial games but lose in the finale."

The researcher contended that this "choking' phenomenon" was due "to the effect of social expectations on the heightened self-consciousness of players."

But it's more than simply a home crowd. According to one study, the home advantage depends on factors such as the "uniqueness of the home arena" and "the tradition of the team" (the old Boston Garden comes to mind).

A study of SEC basketball games revealed that "the home team won 70% of its contests and that 'aggressive play' (e.g., rebounding, steals, and blocked shots) was facilitated." At the same time, scoring increased while turnovers and fouls decreased at home.

One final factor: Miles traveled. At least one study has found that "the distance traveled by a visiting college basketball team affects the home court advantage; in short, they found a positive correlation between the distance traveled by visiting teams and the likelihood of victory for the home team. "