1107: Sports Cheat Sheet

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Sports Cheat Sheet
I would subscribe to a Twitter feed that supplied you with one reasonable sports opinion per day, like "The Red Sox can't make the playoffs (championship games), but in last night's game their win seriously damaged the chances of the Yankees (longstanding rival team)."
Title text: I would subscribe to a Twitter feed that supplied you with one reasonable sports opinion per day, like "The Red Sox can't make the playoffs (championship games), but in last night's game their win seriously damaged the chances of the Yankees (longstanding rival team)."


Randall presents a "cheat sheet" which is a handy reference guide for something that is generally expected to be memorized or known by someone familiar with the knowledge domain. Cheat sheets are commonly used in mathematical applications to list important formulas or for measurement conversions; but they may also be used in other applications.

This cheat sheet allows Randall to figure out what sport other people are arguing over on the basis of the time of year and where the argument is occurring. The chart is based on the annual seasons (periods when the top professional and college leagues play) of each sport.

In the United States, the chart is divided among baseball, basketball and American football. Hockey is not shown, suggesting that he may not consider hockey a sport to compare with the three listed, he does not encounter arguments about hockey (of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, the NHL is significantly behind the others in terms of attention as its appeal is traditionally limited by geography to Canada and the northern United States), or that he perhaps does not need a chart to determine when the argument is about hockey (they may be obvious for countless reasons, including the physicality of typical hockey confrontations). Also, golf is not shown as well implying Randall may not think it's an important sport. The chart suggests that football is the most popular of the three sports, or at least more popular to argue about (of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, the NFL generally has the most attention).

The NFL football regular season generally runs from September to December with playoffs in January and early February. Overlapping this period of time, NCAA college football is also occurring, from September to December, with their bowl games in December and January. Almost all of this period, sports arguments are likely to be about football. The NBA basketball regular season runs from late October to mid-April with playoffs in April and into June. NCAA college basketball starts in November but peaks in March with the NCAA Basketball Tournament (March Madness). According to the chart, the arguments about basketball don't begin until the football season is over. They continue through the end of April, but start again at the end of May during the playoff finals. The MLB baseball regular season runs from April through September with playoffs in late September and October. When the baseball season begins, arguments shift from the ongoing basketball season to the new baseball season. As mentioned, the NBA Finals create some basketball arguments again for a few weeks. Similarly, the start of the NFL season in September makes it more likely arguments then will be about football. Baseball takes over briefly during the playoffs in October.

One of the punchlines is that outside the US, all sports arguments are about association football (soccer) all year round. The two types of football are noted on the chart by an icon showing the ball used in each sport. Of course, in reality, most countries have seasonal sports besides football, which may range from cricket to ice skating. However, non-American sporting events are unlikely to be brought up in the United States, and when they do it is very often association football as its active seasons are potentially long and overlapping (being played in both hemispheres and across most latitudes).

The title text continues on the theme of this chart being for someone who doesn't know anything about sports. Randall imagines a Twitter feed where you receive a salient sports opinion each day, presumably so that you could repeat the opinion to your friends and appear knowledgeable about sports. As the feed is for those uninformed about sports, there are clarifications of important terms in brackets.

The suggested Twitter message mentioned in the title text is accurate for the date of the comic. On September 11, 2012 the baseball team Boston Red Sox played the New York Yankees and won, 4 runs to 3. The Red Sox were already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (meaning they needed to win more games than remained in the season to qualify). The Yankees were at the top of the standings, but were in a close race for the playoffs with the Baltimore Orioles (both teams had a win-loss record of 79 wins to 62 losses, with 21 games each remaining to play). To be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, the Yankees had to win more of their remaining games than the Orioles. Losing to the Red Sox made this task harder. (For those wondering, both the Yankees and the Orioles made to the playoffs, but neither made it to the championship round, the World Series.)

Traditionally, the Red Sox and the Yankees have a long-standing rivalry, especially among fans. Many Red Sox fans consider a loss by the Yankees nearly as good as a win by the Red Sox (and the Red Sox beating the Yankees the best of both worlds). If the Red Sox can't win the World Series, then at least they can help prevent the Yankees from winning it.

For those with less interest in either depicted form of 'football', there are several other local or global varieties that could be discussed, as there are also other world-spanning sports that may provide a significantly seasonal or year-round interest for their adherents. From Randall's own perspective, however, they are perhaps unlikely to feature prominently enough in observed conversations to need mentioning in this simplified cheatsheet, or form the basis of useful 'opinion hints' along the lines of the baseball one. Other people, especially outside the US, could probably make use of significantly different versions (possibly still dominated by soccer, at least in the non-local scope).

This strip is one of several in which Randall attempts to trivialize sports (see for instance 904: Sports, 1480: Super Bowl, 1507: Metaball and 1859: Sports Knowledge).


[A three-column table. Months are arrayed down the first column, the second and third columns show sports, with the divisions in partial months rather than lined up with the ends of months. American football and association football (i.e. soccer) are differentiated by small icons in brackets depicting the respective balls used.]
Which sport are they arguing about?
-My cheat sheet-
[The second column, reproduced using approximate dates.]
Football [ovoid ball drawn in brackets]: January 1 - February 10
Basketball: February 10 - April 20
Baseball: April 20 - May 25
Basketball: May 25 - June 15
Baseball: June 15 - August 20
Football [ovoid]: August 20 - October 5
Baseball: October 5 - October 20
Football [ovoid]: October 20 - December 31
[The third column, reproduced using approximate dates.]
Football [truncated icosahedron, 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons]: January 1 - December 31


The idea of a website that supplies sports talking points to non-fans was previously used in a 2008 episode of the sitcom The IT Crowd, which might be where Randall got the idea. There, the site (Bluffball) focused on UK football, and offered the lines "Did you see that ludicrous display last night?", "What was Wenger thinking sending Walcott on that early?" and "The trouble with Arsenal is they always try and walk it in."

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Thanks to whoever added the hockey mention ("no love" in the comic, for sure). Maybe the comic needs another column for Canada, where hockey can be argued about year-round. (Yes, it's an exaggeration for comic effect.) As for the rest of the world, or at least ex-Commonwealth and neighboring countries (e.g. Australia, India, New Zealand), what about rugby and cricket? --BigMal27 (no account) / 15:29, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

It would probably be either "Hockey" or "Hockey and ..." -- No_Account (no account)

What point in the season do hockey sticks get bandages? I used to think at about the half way point they started using them as repairs but now I am wondering if they start off the season with bandages as padding until the players get seasoned. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:25, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Forgot to mention that these sports don't have to be professional in nature. I know of plenty US collegiate arguments in both football (e.g. Michigan vs. Notre Dame or Michigan State or Ohio State) and basketball (everyone vs. everyone during the NCAA tournament a.k.a. "March Madness" (TM)). --BigMal27 / 17:33, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
I'm with you on cricket, though I was always under the impression that rugby was pretty much isolated to dahwn undah. Nonetheless, I took a slightly different read of the comic, possibly biased by this quip a friend shared: during the SuperBowl, if a team scores, the US reacts. During the cricket world cup, if a team scores, the commonwealth reacts. But if, during the football (aka soccer) world cup, a team scores, the world reacts. -- IronyChef (talk) 13:39, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
Irony, you're thinking of Australian Football. Rugby is a different game and much more widespread. It's arguably the national sport of New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Wales. It's a major sport in South Africa, Britain, Ireland, France, Italy and Australia. Argentina are rapidly improving and now compete every year in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship with Australia, NZ and South Africa. -- Concrete Gannet (talk) 14:05, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
For us Aussies it this comic would be would be "Cricket + Football + Football + Football + Football" all year round with "Tennis" added in 1-2 weeks, four times a year (the Majors tournaments, aka the Grand Slam tournaments). The four Football codes played professional in Australia are: Australian Rules (major sporting body is the AFL), Rugby League (NRL), Rugby Union (ARU) and Association Football/Soccer (FFA). Unfortunately, Cricket, Football, Football, Football and Football tend to dominate the Australian sporting media so there isn't much opportunity for people to argue about other sports. [Apologies if I've stuffed up any formatting/broken any rules, this is my first time posting] -- Grantwhy115.64.240.30 15:32, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
...Mate, you left out the Sydney to Hobart, once a year... 20:34, 29 December 2020 (UTC)

Cricket is a south Wales sport. It is only as popular in north Wales as it is in England. Cricket was once a gentleman's game as it was more akin to watching people shooting at target ...in a game related to chess.

But now that cheating is widespread in Asia and even the British are getting caught at it, nobody watches it these days. People still interested in cricket go to their local clubs and have a pint with friends while reality goes on in the back-ground.

I get the impression that nobody is interested in American Rugby because they all wear padding and the rules are either too complex to follow or too stupid to believe. Probably both. Basketball looks interesting but hard work. Why not just play a longer game outside, with your feet? (Nobody is going to watch men play rounders, [REMOVED A HOMOPHOBIC SLUR].) I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:25, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Is there a way of removing comments? This one gives me hives. 12:38, 5 December 2022 (UTC)
Always, just delete it out. Although I'd find unjustified editorialising of others' discssion comments more upsetting to me than the thing you appear to mean. (As now seen, including whatever led to being put down as "[... HOMOPHOBIC SLUR]"; not sure how strong that slur was, or if it actually was bad enough to make it worth censoring, but... hey.). 20:29, 5 December 2022 (UTC)

The problem with the suggestion in the mouse over text is that everyone would have the same opinion on the same day! A better idea would be to have an App which selects from two or more oposing opinions and feed you a random one each day. (Personally being 'European' I'd prefer it to be more like the US! Sooo fed up with football discussions.) Steve B

Then you run into the problem of two people who rely in that app falling into a sports discussion with each other rather than something else. If I were to find someone expressing the same canned opinion that I have from the twitter feed, at least I can say "who cares about sports, let's talk about something important: vi or emacs?". The twitter feed is best for someone who wants to fake sports knowledge to fit in. Blaisepascal (talk) 16:12, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
The idea behind the twitter feed is to give people who really isn't interested in sport (aka. nerds) the opportunity to interact with so called normal people. It is just a variation on the http://bluffball.co.uk/ site refered to by an The IT Crowd episode. Two users of the twitter feed would have more important subjects to discuss (like for example vi vs. emacs) Pmakholm (talk) 18:12, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest that after two or three days having the same (tweeted) opinion, two people in that situation would begin to suspect they are soulmates, and fall in love - I mean recognize the strange similarities and figure out a way to indicate their source subtly and then agree they don't have to be posers -- Brettpeirce (talk) 14:15, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

What is with the sports bent that Randall is on? Two sports comics in three weeks? Has this happened before? lcarsos (talk) 15:36, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

He was on a Wikipedia kick about a year ago . . . 4 comics in about 5 weeks or so.--Joehammer79 (talk) 22:07, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Would that opinion even fit into a Twitter post? 20:55, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

You are right. The sample tweet in the title text is 164 characters long. lcarsos (talk) 21:18, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
It would fit if the parenthetical explanations were removed though. 12:03, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
Kind of need those if you don't understand the sport to begin with. They provide necessary context. For example, disambiguation between teams: I could mention "Minnesota" and without context it could mean either the Twins (MLB), Vikings (NFL), Timberwolves (NBA), Wild (NHL), Lynx (WNBA), other various professional teams ("lesser" sports, womens teams, minor leagues), or any of the University of Minnesota (NCAA Div. I) teams: football, basketball (mens & womens), hockey (mens & womens), baseball & softball, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming & diving, golf... --BigMal27 / 12:18, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

Here's a comment I was thinking about integrating into the explanation, but decided it was probably too picky.

Arguably, Randall cut this off too early; over years, the Major Leagues have added additional rounds of playoffs, so that the championship round, the World Series, sometimes now spills over into November, rather than ending in mid October as the graph would suggest. (It varies because the Major League Baseball postseason consists of one single elimination round, one best of five round, and two best of seven rounds.) It may be a meta-joke: the guy who needs the cheat sheet to keep track of sports seasons lacked the info to compile the cheat sheet.

I do have a slight tendency to overthink things. Anyone who thinks it adds to the explanation is welcome to insert it. DCB4W (talk) 19:25, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

It's entirely missing a third category named "South Korea", whose entire column should be Starcraft 2.Chaoslux (talk) 20:53, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

Here's an actual Twitter feed inspired by this comic: https://twitter.com/XKCDSports

This Twitter feed is now defunct. :( --Ricketybridge (talk) 16:53, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

The opinion here between "US" and "Non-US" is a caricature of US-centric view. First it dismisses all other countries, as the world would be cut between the US and another country "Non-US". The consequence is to ignore Canada. Then it confuses single sport to argue about and common topic of understanding, maybe as a frustration of not sharing this topic. -- Eric957 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm not sure if it was your intent, but it is funny that you say the consequence of this sort of US centric view is to just "ignore Canada"... -Pennpenn 01:26, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
I suspect that was intentional. After all, Canada is just America Jr.
I think the joke probably only works from an American perspective, where it may seem like the rest of the world only plays football. 17:27, 6 November 2016 (UTC) Davy

I deleted a very nice wiki markup version of the comic, useless fror the blind, and copied the official transcript from the source code of the comic <div id="transcript" style="display: none">. This [1] was apparently useful, but in fact was detrimental to the function of a transcript 20:39, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

With all the “Autometalogolex” tshirts and heck going around, I’ll be damned if someone hasn’t created the twitter feed mentioned in the title text. I mean. Has anyone looked into this? Szeth Pancakes (talk) 06:33, 25 February 2022 (UTC)

Is no-one going to talk about how both the explanation and many of these comments talk about 'hockey' when they mean 'ice hockey'? 'Hockey' is a field sport popular in South Asia. 12:42, 5 December 2022 (UTC)

In the UK, "Hockey" also tends to mean "Field Hockey" (or possibly another kind of hard-but-unfrozen-surface game with teams, a small ball and a bent stick). I've got a national-league (or whatever it is) Ice Hockey team/base not far from me, so maybe the next time I see fans arriving dressed in those funny oversized replica shirts I could ask them if the call their favourite sport, in long or short, in case they've caught the 'Merkin terminology.
Ditto, the confusion in which Bikers(/Motorcyclists) ride (Motor)bikes while Cyclists ride Bikes(/Bicycles), and it all depends who is talking to who about what... 20:29, 5 December 2022 (UTC)