Did you know a group of Owls is called a Parliament?
It’s not quite as cool as a group of crows being called a murder, but it certainly is regal and fitting of the group we are building here. It also makes it easier to create an official sounding end of season address.
And thus, welcome to the First Annual State of the Parliament!
The nature of this address is twofold. First, what it will aim to do is to establish areas in which we hope to improve this offseason; you can look at it like a to-do list for the OEF team as we try to improve the product we are putting out. The second is to create some excitement and momentum within and around this brand.
Let’s take a moment and delve a little more into why this is so important.
I am well aware that this site is a minuscule drop in the football content bucket of the internet, and an even smaller drop in the ocean of all of the things competing for your attention. It is not lost on me that although I like to refer to Owl Eats Football as an organization, we are really just me writing articles and formulas along with a shadowy, but ultimately very normal friend (employee) crunching some numbers behind the scenes. We have a readership in the thirties and approximately seven people signed up for accounts.
We are small.
But we are also bigger than we are. You see there is a slingshot effect in growing an organization that implies that you must be of a higher caliber than your current standing in order to grow. In other words, we have to be good enough at what we do so that if 1,000 people found this site tomorrow, they would stay. Otherwise, if they came and went, we would have to face the fact that we are maximizing our engagement where we are.
So let me be clear: I wholeheartedly believe that we have created the foundation of something meaningful. I wholeheartedly believe we are bigger than we are.
You see I consume an ungodly amount of football content. Reading, listening, watching, and interacting with as many podcasts, databases, websites, and videos as you can imagine (just ask my fiance). In all of that, I see the space we will inhabit. I see the opportunity for us to offer real, organic data that is a driving force behind successful betting.
So what I present to you in this State of the Parliament is an ambitious and at some points reckless look forward at what the next year is slated to bring. Presented in order of smallest to largest, these are the hopes and dreams of a guy with a tiny website and a few loyal followers trying to create something real for the world to see and use.
There have been many cautionary tales about not running before you walk, about not biting off more than you can chew, about looking before you leap.
But we are owls. We neither run nor walk, but instead fly. And it is the job of our guardians to push us out and give us two choices - to fly or to fall. Each looks the same in the beginning but it is in the glorious moment of decision in which we catch the wind and swoop upwards and onward for the rest of our lives.
This season was our time in the nest, tucked away in a tree in a corner of the internet. This moment is my push out of this nest, it is our opportunity to show that we have outgrown this tiny little tree and that the rest of our days will be spent soaring through the wilderness.
Whether you believe in my high minded vision or not, allow yourself to dream with me for the next few paragraphs. We are where we are right now, which is light years ahead of where we were last year, but light years away from where we could be next year, or the year after, or in 2025. Or in 2040.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading even just one word I have written this year, and thank you for even considering taking this journey forward with me.
If you are on board, take a moment and say goodbye to our nest, and the beautiful year we have spent here.
Now step to the edge, close your eyes, and jump with me.
Here’s how we are going to start flying over this next year:
THE SMALL STEPS
In what will be OEF’s first off season in existence, we WILL have off-season content.
There will be guaranteed stories regarding free agency, the draft, team projections, and ultimately a preview of every team.
Also included in this will be some deep dives into the theories and narratives that are emerging the deeper we as a football society get into the analytics and data of the 2019-2020 season. An example of this will be up early next week as we take a look at some of the thought process behind my growing belief that prioritizing the running game is detrimental to long term success.
All in all, though, what you can expect is for there to be bi-weekly articles coming out addressing each of these topics. We do have a notification system set up if you sign up with your email address, but if this is too much just check back a couple of times a month to keep your finger on the pulse of the football world.
Championships are won in the team building phases, and so join us in these months as we try to be early actors in the understanding of the 2020 football season.
The Improvement of WORMS
WORMS is the backbone of this site.
I never would have guessed that when I started this would be the ending point of the first season, but there is little reason to doubt it - WORMS is a smashing success.
We debuted the algorithm in Week 10, and since that time we have gone 59% against the spread and 60% on the moneyline. Both of those numbers represent significant figures in the betting industry, as 60% played out over time will create safe and sustainable growth.
The scary thing is that we know we can do better.
When the Night Owl and I meet for the Owl Eats Football Parliament in February (tickets not for sale this year, sorry) we have several areas we stand to look over that will tighten the inputs to the formula potentially unlocking even stronger predictions.
Perhaps the greatest value the Night Owl has offered to WORMS, a formula that I used to painstakingly write out by hand, is the ability to test other formulas, track progress on the computer, and include some machine learning in the process.
The end result of all this is that WORMS’ internal workings, of which only the NO and I are privy to, will be upgraded and retooled in the context of a better understanding regarding what data matters.
If WORMS is the backbone of this site, then we are going to see a chiropractor and will be better adjusted next time around.
The Improvement of Recommendations
One of the unforeseen difficulties we encountered in our growth this year was the challenge in communicating the data we were creating to the masses.
For example, in our WORMS table we often included Vegas lines that would end up moving and thus change the recommendation of WORMS.
Moving forward into next year, we are going to take a close look at how we communicate our recommendations and the totality of the data we are collecting. This began with the introduction of spread and moneyline percentage suggestions, but will grow to include the strength of a week, the funds that should be allocated to certain bets, and the management of a bankroll to best maximize returns.
There are talks of offering a parlay builder and over/under correlations that, while I won’t commit to, I will say represent the direction we are trying to go.
We will improve our communications to you about all the information we have. We will never be a tout site that sells picks, but we do want to be a thought leader in how to view gambling and the subsequent information around it.
The better we get at developing data, the better we have to get at sharing that data.
The bottom line is that we want to improve your bottom line, and this is an important step in doing so.
THE MEDIUM STEPS
The Creation of New Systems
Given the success of WORMS and the positive feedback regarding a data-driven algorithm leading bettors, there are plans to establish several other systems to supplement and complement WORMS.
Here are the main tools we are looking to add.
NEST: Net Estimated Strength of Team
A glaring piece that was missing from our data this year was a ranking system. NEST will be our answer to this need.
Currently, this is being worked both through WORMS and independently of it. Either way, though NEST will ultimately provide us a perspective on whether a team is overvalued or undervalued in a specific moment in time.
This year we were able to see that through WORMS - we were early to the Baltimore train as they proceeded to reel over several blowouts in a row and we were early to the Tennessee train as they got hot. The goal, though, is to not have to rely on noticing individual patterns in the data, but rather to have a running hierarchy of teams that represents a more straightforward understanding of team strength.
While we caught Baltimore and Tennessee because they were clear outliers, what teams did we miss in the middle of the pack whose value was more muted but equally as profitable?
NEST will be there to help us find these pockets of leverage throughout the season.
PREY: Player Rating Expressed by Year
Another area in which our data falls short when expressed only as WORMS was in the dealing of injuries, benchings, and trades. In other words, WORMS missed the human element that can shift a game.
As we are currently seeing with both Super Bowl teams, we should downgrade a team when they lose key pieces and then subsequently upgrade their future prospects when those players return.
In the case of the Niners, we should have different expectations for them when they are healthy than when they are not. The loss of Kwon Alexander for part of the year (as well as Jaquiski Tartt and Dee Ford) meant that their defense was allowing huge scores for the later part of the season. The return of those pieces has coincided with their rebirth and dominance over the past two weeks.
For the Chiefs, their chances were underrated because we didn’t properly factor in the games they missed Mahomes and the impact that had on their data and the perception of them as a team. They might have added two more wins with a fully healthy QB, as evidenced by their domination over the past two weeks.
In each case, noting and quantifying injuries could have allowed us to be on these teams earlier than we ultimately were.
PREY, then, will be a player database designed to allow us to account for the presence or absence of players all over the field for the games within a given season. It will not rely on the players career performance, but rather try to quantify their impact on this specific team in this specific scheme for this specific year.
The visualization of this is not set in stone, but will most likely highlight key pieces and then create a weekly rating for the team. This way, if a team is missing or returning multiple parts, we will be able to upgrade or downgrade the team’s chances for that week with one holistic number.
Used in conjunction with NEST and WORMS, both of which are based on previous performance, we can express whether we should expect future performance to be higher or lower than past.
PREY will allow us to react on the fly and adjust expectations. In short, it will turn us into more dangerous predators.
PELLET - ???
This system currently has no slated function but it is clearly too good of an acronym to pass up.
Credit to superfan Alex on its creation. Suggestions for its function are being accepted as we speak.
The Decreasing but Improving of Written Pieces
This is the hardest piece to acknowledge, but it is important to the direction of the site.
As you have read 2,000 words in this article with 1,000 left to go, you have picked up on the fact that I love to write. Producing this written content brings me joy and is a lot of fun for me.
The reality, however, is that this site (and gambling in general) is moving away from narrative and written form. In fact, there is a case to be made that the more writing that is done on a subject, the more likely it is that the data is corrupted and that bias enters.
For this site to be successful and growth oriented, we need to be more focused on the data we produce and the ease of user consumption rather than crafting stories that are filled with flowery turns of phrase.
With that being said, next season we will be shooting to distill our written work down into a single article a week. This article will cover the best bets of the week and will no longer be beholden to the five pick a week format. Instead, the goal will be to highlight however many games that myself, WORMS, and the rest of our data feel are as close to slam dunks as possible.
Think of it as a one stop shop for the written context of all the data.
But just because we are doing less here does not mean we will be doing worse. Starting next season, we will be bringing on a new team member: The Wise Owl. An accomplished editor/fact-checker, the Wise Owl’s job will be to ensure that the content is both up to the high standard of a professional site as well as to make sure this one article is the best it can be.
So rest assured, if you enjoy the written content it will still be a large part of what we do. It will still be creative, informative, and profitable, but it will no longer be the flagship of content on this site.
Instead, the core of our content production will come from...
The Creation of a Podcast
Going hand in hand with the decreasing of writing will be the introduction of something new, an Owl Eats Football Podcast!
The goal of this is going to be to create more digestible content that will better serve the average person.
Having polled many football watchers looking to improve their gambling, a large portion have said that reading an article filled with statistics and owl-based puns does not fit organically with their lives.
That same group, however, expressed that listening to one or two, half hour to hour long podcasts a week might fit nicely into their schedule.
Since this is also how I consume a lot of my football content as well, the OEF pod will be designed to supplement a data rich site and create an environment where we load users up with information and set them loose on the books to find the best spreads, moneylines, over/unders, and props.
This will include guests, debates, in-depth dives, segments (most likely titled with owl puns), and much of the same content you are used to in the written format.
Rest assured the writing will continue, but this shift to podcast format will also allow me to go deeper on some subjects while also covering more games, bets, and numbers. I can say a lot more in an hour than I can write in a day, and so this is a move that best suits a site trying to offer you as much information as possible.
It’s a win-win-win, especially for the joints in my hands.
THE BIG STEPS
The Unveiling of a Logo and Merchandise + a 2020 kickoff
And with this we announce the hiring of our other newest team member: Owl Eyes!
Owl Eyes is a creative, artistic, and visionary graphic designer who has agreed to do some work creating multiple logos for our business here.
What she is working on is going to be the images that represent us graphically.
As we develop this identity, it is going to give us the opportunity to exist outside the limits of this site. To do this, we’re going to be creating Owl Eats Football hats, shirts, sweaters, koozies, stickers, and more.
The merchandise is a way to show pride in our work while also creating even more reason for people to invest themselves into our brand.
And on this note, I would like to announce the 2020 Owl Eats Football Kick Off Event!
Time and location to be determined, but it will be the beginning of the 2020 season and it will be in San Diego. This will be an event to bring out people who care about football, while giving away some of our new merchandise to some lucky winners.
The hope is to create more of a community around the site and allow people access to some of the cool new things we are doing!
If you aren’t in the area, though, fear not! We will also be holding a virtual giveaway at the same time and offering prizes, swag, and merchandise to people all over the country and the world.
So moving forward we are looking to put an image to our name, a hat to your head, and a party to kick it all off. Stay tuned for details!
The Impossible Dream
And finally, to end this State of the Parliament address, I present to you the impossible dream.
I believe it was Alice in Wonderland that first recommended the impossible dream to me. I later conveyed it to my dad by saying that I was going to keep in mind an impossible thing that can keep me on track to my wildest, best possible future. When I lose sight of what I want, this impossible dream reminds me of where I want to be if everything goes my way.
With that in mind, we will be doing the same here at OEF. And boy do I have a doozy.
The moon shot, impossible dream, wildest fantasy for us is going to be to create a physical space.
Now, without me going into detail (because there are original ideas in these details that I need to protect) here is the thesis behind the play: sports betting is becoming more and more legal across this country, yet remains the same in its function.
In the wildness of this growing landscape companies are fighting over land and spending their money lobbying and complying with new laws. Lost in all of this, though, is the fact that there are no new products being innovated in this space. Books still take bets using the same technology, create lines using the same technology, and offer the same experiences for their users.
In our wildest dream, we will be creating a physical Owl Eats Football space that offers users something besides just the same old betting experience. That offers a new way to bet, enjoy, and win.
Well that much I can’t tell you, but what I can tell you is that this is the another thing from Alice in Wonderland: “The best way to explain it is to do it”.
This isn’t a 2020 goal and might not even be a 2021 goal, but as we take flight from our nest, this is where I hope for us to fly to.
We’ll be back to the 2019-2020 football season and the impending Super Bowl starting next week, but until then I’ll be flapping my wings trying to break through the clouds.
Hope to see you there.