Meet the Man Who Preserved Decades of NBA History

His hobby nonetheless might have stalled decades ago if he hadn’t connected with his best single box-score source, a kindred spirit who collected NBA stats for a living: Harvey Pollack. The Philadelphia 76ers’ director of statistical information has been working in pro basketball since before the NBA, debuting with the league’s forerunner, the Basketball Association of America, in 1946. The two men aren’t clear on when they began collaborating. Pfander said in a telephone interview he thinks it was 1956; Pollack, who is 92, recalled that they started working together when he expanded his annual NBA stats book in the 1970s. They met at most a few times, but they communicated at least a dozen times each year by phone and mail.Pollack, who has worked for the Sixers since the team’s first season in 1963-64, was also collecting box scores for every game, though his collection didn’t go back as far as Pfander’s. Pollack would send Pfander his book of box scores, and Pfander would send back results of his data analysis — tidbits such as when the league’s millionth point was scored. That archival work helped when the NBA marked later milestone league totals. “He’s the one who started with it,” Pollack said. “That was his idea. I’ve kept it alive ever since.”Pollack put many of these small discoveries in his annual books, always crediting Pfander, whose stats were meticulously calculated and, before he started using a computer, meticulously handwritten, with a fountain pen. “He has the best handwriting you have ever seen,” said his daughter Colleen Greff.Pfander said he used to check the box scores Pollack sent, to make sure the numbers added up. Then he would generate 33 or 34 different stats for Pollack in return. Pollack said his latest book includes at least 40 stats furnished by Pfander.Filling holes in the recordPart of the fun of sports is measuring today’s players and teams against their predecessors, and you can’t do that without a complete record of what past players did. Every sport’s fan base includes completists, people who feel unsettled by the lack of certainty in the records.Ten years ago, Justin Kubatko founded the website Basketball-Reference.com as a resource for fans who want to know every detail about basketball history. Seven years ago, he left his job teaching statistics at Ohio State University to work full time on basketball stats.Before he connected with Pfander, Kubatko had game-by-game data on his site going back only to the mid-1980s.“I’m a completist,” Kubatko said in a telephone interview. “It did kind of bug me. We had 40 years of information that was just not there. I was also a realist. I knew there was really no easy way to acquire that data.”Kubatko doesn’t recall when he first heard of Pfander’s box-score collection — perhaps from the discussion boards at the basketball analytics site APBR.org, where Pfander has been a frequent topic of discussion. “I got his contact information, we talked for a few weeks, we worked out a deal, and we bought what he had,” Kubatko said. “He is an extremely generous and extremely nice man.”By this time, Pfander had digitized his box scores, scanning and sorting them — meticulously, of course. The disk Kubatko received, in 2008, had folders for each year and subfolders for months and for days. Even so, the box scores were saved as images, not spreadsheets or databases, so it wasn’t easy to add them to a stats database.Kubatko sat on the trove for at least a year. “Then we said, ‘You know what, this is kind of silly,’” he recalled. “People are probably interested in what we have as it is.” He wrote a script to link the team abbreviations Pfander used with those on the site and to pair each scan with that game’s unique Basketball Reference ID. Then he fixed the mismatches that arose from errors in the box scores or in the site’s schedule data.In January 2012, Kubatko announced that Basketball Reference now had every box score for every NBA game. His blog post credited Pfander, “who did the lion’s share of the work for this project.” At Grantland a few days later, Robert Mays wrote about the pair and Pfander’s unlikely collection.Fans wouldn’t be able to work with the old stats, though, until Kubatko could get the games into the database. He found Sean Wrona, a champion competitive typist, who “keyed in all this stuff for us off the scans, and we paid him to do that,” Kubatko said. “He did the first several seasons we put out there. All I’ll say is I found a more efficient way to handle the other seasons.”Wrona said in an email1Presumably typed quickly: He’s been clocked above 250 words per minute. that each box score took him about 10 minutes, or just five when it was abbreviated and missing some statistical categories. “Accuracy is far more important than speed for archival work (unlike for competitive typing, where raw speed is far more important), so I don’t come close to my peak typing speed while archiving, but it still helps,” Wrona said. He continues to do data-entry work for Sports Reference, Basketball Reference’s parent company.Wrona’s typing was the fastest part of the project. To merit inclusion in the database, a box score had to make sense: Players’ numbers had to add up to team totals, for instance. Newspaper box scores are the first draft of basketball statistical history. Kubatko estimated that each season had about 100 errors. He could resolve most using online news databases. Kubatko also sought help from his readers, posting on the blog his “most wanted” list for box scores where the sum of players’ scores didn’t equal the team total.The NBA steps inKubatko’s effort to build a publicly accessible archive of the game’s history made slow but sure progress.2In October 2012, Kubatko announced partial box scores were available for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. In December, Basketball Reference’s database stretched to 1981-82. The next month, he’d added one more year. By March of last year, the database went back to 1976-77, the first year after the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association. Last March, he announced a big breakthrough: The database now went back to 1964-65.Since then, the work has stalled: Basketball Reference has added just one more year. One reason is that Kubatko left Sports Reference in August, citing “creative differences.”3He retains a stake in the company, and is, as of earlier this month, an NBA consultant, through his company, Statitudes LLC.Sports Reference’s founder and president, Sean Forman, says the work to fill in the remaining 18 years of box-score data continues, but it isn’t a priority. That’s because the NBA itself announced in February 2013 that it had posted the box score for every game, all the way back to 1946-47, to NBA.com. “We want to be first on things,” Forman said. “Now that the NBA already has that data up, it’s a little bit less of an impetus.”So where did the NBA get that data? It always had “thorough statistical records,” league spokesman John Acunto said, but hadn’t figured out how to best publish most of them online until partnering with SAP, the tech company that powers the NBA’s revamped stats site. Before the site relaunch last year, the NBA offered game-by-game stats online going back only to 2007, Acunto said.Pfander’s box-score archive was one source the league used to fill gaps. “We have acquired from Pfander and others additional references and sources to cross-reference and validate our information,” Acunto said.Pete Palmer, a veteran sports statistician, said he and Pfander collaborated on using the box-score collection to correct errors in the league’s records. Palmer said that Pfander also sold his box scores to the statisticians at the Elias Sports Bureau.4“As I remember it, some of the box scores were hard to read and Dick had to prepare typed files for Elias,” Palmer said by email.Steve Hirdt, a statistician at often-secretive Elias, declined to comment on whether the company worked with Pfander. “It’s just not something we discuss,” he said by phone.The legend retiresPfander is far from the only amateur completist to aid sports historians. Pollack, of the Sixers, credited regular contributions from other basketball enthusiasts in his book over the years. David W. Smith has led a team of volunteers in the ongoing, ambitious effort to fill the record of every Major League Baseball play. Wrona built an online auto-racing database for a dozen series. Forman cited the contribution of Ed Washuta, who entered minor league baseball stats over a century old. “Pfander is an exemplar in that he has produced such a tremendous set of data for the public,” Forman said.The work of filling and correcting the NBA statistical record goes on. Many of the older box scores contained only field goals made, free throws made and points scored for each player. And some box scores are missing players, such as these on NBA.com. Fans often write to the league to suggest corrections, which it makes when appropriate, Acunto said. Sports Reference similarly invites corrections from readers.Pfander, a user of the site, continued to help Sports Reference’s efforts after shipping his data. “Some of those older scans are really poor,” Kubatko said. “It was very hard to read some of them. He was trying to find replacements for those, and occasionally he would send us stuff that would give us a better scan.” Pfander also did some digitizing work himself, typing old box scores into Microsoft Word documents — Word tables were his instrument of choice for organizing his digital data. “He was committed, definitely,” Kubatko said.5Pfander also sent along his ABA box scores, and inputting those is another project waiting to be completed.The work could go on forever. “You’re never going to get a perfect set of box scores,” Kubatko said. “It’s just not going to happen.”Today, though, Pfander is no longer actively working on NBA statistics. In November 2012 — just as Basketball Reference’s effort to input his data was gaining momentum — Pfander had surgery for a brain aneurysm. Afterward, he was confused, “and he actually made the joke, something about, you should never have brain surgery during NBA season, because it just messes up all the statistics,” his daughter Colleen recalled.Later that month, on his 78th birthday, Pfander suffered a stroke. The stroke has affected his short-term memory, Pfander and his children say. They tell him that the speech he gave at his wife’s memorial service was the best they’ve ever heard, and he laments that there’s no recording for him to listen to and remind him of what he said.The stroke also has interrupted Pfander’s statistical work. He continues to watch the NBA from his current home at a care facility but, he said, “I’ve had some physical setbacks, and I just don’t do it anymore.” He added, “I started a couple of different times, and I guess I’d say I don’t have the interest in making all those copies of box scores and then filling in the blanks so that I can add ’em up and see strings of double-figure scoring and things like that.”His daughter Julaine has cleaned up his computer’s desktop so that it has just two folders, one of them labeled “basketball stats.” She’s also backed up his data onto an external hard drive. It’s all ready for him to dive back in. “He doesn’t seem to want to do that,” she said. “Part of me thinks he worries that if he doesn’t do it exactly right, he might mess something up. He knows he has all this great data out there, and the last thing he would want to do is not do it the way he used to do it.”“It’s so sad now,” Colleen said. “It was such a passion for him, oh my goodness, he could not bear to fall behind. Now the desire to do statistics is just not there.”If he never revisits basketball stats, Pfander’s legacy is secure, and that’s some comfort. “I think he was probably happy that all of this work he had done — because he had really done it for really personal reasons — he was happy that it would be able to reach a larger audience, and that other people would be able to benefit from the work he had done,” Kubatko said.Of his hobby’s role in completing the Basketball Reference database, Pfander said, “It makes me feel that it was useful.” Dick Pfander has spent most of his life collecting and analyzing box scores from every NBA game since the league’s founding. He did most of his work in solitude, by hand, before the age of personal computers. And he did it simply for his own pleasure, surrounded by supportive family members who cared neither about basketball nor statistics, let alone their intersection.Today, his analog hobby is paying digital dividends for stats-obsessed basketball fans. His work has helped fill gaps in the league’s statistical record for both its official website and the leading independent reference site. The project continues — but without Pfander.An all-consuming “job”Pfander started clipping box scores from newspapers as a teenager in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the late 1940s. He did it during high school, after his marriage to Colette Waterman, through jobs as a teacher and with the Defense Department, through the birth of his three children, and through Colette’s death, in 2009.On vacations, Dick and Colette would travel to places where “he thought there might be a newspaper of use to him” in the local library’s archive, his daughter Julaine Eddy said in a telephone interview. “She’d drop him off and go do things around town while he sat in front of the microfiche machine.”Pfander’s children say they and their mother didn’t share his passion for NBA stats, but they didn’t resent it. It was just one way he expressed his love for basketball and for statistics. He also refereed basketball games and compiled the stats for local youth baseball tournaments and swim meets. He didn’t mind that none of his children played basketball or got into stats.Most of all, he sat in front of the television, “going back and forth between watching the basketball and working on the stats,” said his son, Greg. “It never bothered me that he did it — it was his thing. It just seems like that’s my dad, that’s what he always did.”Julaine’s memory of her father working on his stats is vivid. “Dad had this huge desk at home, and it was him sitting at that desk. The TV was visible from that desk, and he sat there and worked,” she said. “And as a kid, you think, ‘That must be a job he’s doing.’”Why did he do it? Pfander, 79, isn’t expansive on the topic. “It was a hobby for me,” he said in an interview last week. “It was a fun thing for me to do.” He considered himself a statistician long before NBA teams started hiring statisticians. “I had always been interested in statistics,” Pfander said, and “I kind of liked doing statistical-type things.”He added, “I don’t think anybody would do all that unless they enjoyed it.” Dick Pfander Courtesy of Colleen Greff read more

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Great Googie checking out the view of and from Seattles Space Needle

first_img Google Maps for Android Gander at the Googie goodness of Seattle’s Space Needle Related on CNET 0 Share your voice The view from the Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest structures on Earth 148 floors in the sky: The view from the Burj Khalifa A tour of the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur Cold War destroyer: Inside the USS Turner Joy Sleeper to Seattle: 39 hours on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Culture That design, though. Like many once-modern designs, Googie became dated before it became retro, so precious few of these buildings still exist. Los Angeles still has a bunch, an important part of the city’s relatively short architectural history. The New York’s World’s Fair from two years later had most of its buildings removed, and some still exist. Of those still in Queens several are rotting away. The Tomorrowlands at the American Disney parks still have some Googie-inspired buildings, but the newer parks generally don’t. Here in Seattle, the Needle is in a sort of Googie oasis. The towering glass-and-steel skyscrapers are farther south, at a respectable distance, allowing the Space Needle to still have incredible views and not seem tiny compared to modern engineering. I buy my ticket and head up. Clouds on the horizon mean we’ll miss the moment of sunset, but the view is fantastic regardless. There’s not much to explore on the observation deck, it’s not that big. The original idea was for a floating restaurant, and in terms of size that’s basically what this feels like, a big restaurant. Outside there are high glass walls, with tilted glass benches that let you lean back if your vertigo allows. 40 Photos “Googie.” It’s not a misprint, it’s an architectural style.You might not know the name, but you’ll probably recognize it. A subset of Mid-century modern architecture, you’ve seen it in such movies as The Incredibles and TV shows like The Jetsons. Googie is rocket-inspired geometric designs featuring atoms, UFOs, boomerangs and anything with an intrinsic sense of motion. Perhaps the most recognizable example is the unofficial symbol of the city of Seattle: The Space Needle.Built for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, the 605-foot (184-meter) tower was built to withstand earthquakes greater than 9.0 and category-5 hurricane winds. It has been visited by over 63 million people, including me. Here’s a look inside, and the excellent views from the observation deck. Review • The rebuilt Google Maps for Android is better than ever Seattle stunner For some reason, I decided to walk. I’d just arrived via ferry after photographing the USS Turner Joy on the other side of Puget Sound. It didn’t seem that far on Google Maps, but of course, Google Maps doesn’t (yet) tell you that there are hills. When I finally arrived at the tower its size dominated the views. Briefly the tallest building west of the Mississippi, it is far shorter than more modern towers, like the Tokyo Skytree. Post a comment If you head down the wood- and glass-lined “Oculus” staircase, you get to the lower level. Here, in addition to the restaurant, is a heavily reinforced glass floor that will also rotate. I leave as the tower closes for the night. The next day I head back, taking the monorail that was also built for the World’s Fair. It, too, is an anachronism of another age. The cars are original, but are in good shape. The daytime view is perhaps not quite as epic as the night, but still impressive. Three Tiny Planets from the observation deck of the Space Needle. From my Instagram. Geoffrey Morrison/CNET I check my map, and extrapolate from a few Instagram photos, where on the nearby hill I’d have to head to get a good view of the Needle and the city behind. Kerry Park seems easiest, and closest to a bus line. No way I’m walking up there. The view doesn’t disappoint. I return a few hours later, after dinner with a high school friend I haven’t seen in 20 years. This trip was a pretty good idea. The Space Needle lit at night is simply gorgeous. Spacebound space-needle-28-of-40 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET As one of the most visited attractions on the West Coast, you don’t need me to tell you it’s a great spot. You can buy your tickets ahead of time, which is a bit of a gamble. Seattle is notorious for its cloud cover and regular drizzle, but on the other hand in the summer I can imagine the best times sell out. I’ll leave that decision up to you. If you can, arrive about an hour before sunset, then stay to see the lights of the city at night. The Space Needle’s height may no longer be impressive, but the whole point of a tower like this is for a good view, and you can still get that, not to mention the great view looking at it on the ground. To see how it looks up close, and the excellent views from the observation deck, check out the gallery above.As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.  You can follow his exploits on Instagram, Twitter, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel.  Tagslast_img read more

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Physicists set new record with 10qubit entanglement

first_img More information: Chao Song et al. “10-Qubit Entanglement and Parallel Logic Operations with a Superconducting Circuit.” Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.180511Also at arXiv:1703.10302 [quant-ph] False-color circuit image showing 10 superconducting qubits (star shapes) interconnected by a central bus resonator B (gray). Credit: Song et al. ©2017 American Physical Society This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2017 Phys.org (Phys.org)—Physicists have experimentally demonstrated quantum entanglement with 10 qubits on a superconducting circuit, surpassing the previous record of nine entangled superconducting qubits. The 10-qubit state is the largest multiqubit entangled state created in any solid-state system and represents a step toward realizing large-scale quantum computing. Citation: Physicists set new record with 10-qubit entanglement (2017, November 29) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-11-physicists-qubit-entanglement.htmlcenter_img Journal information: Physical Review Letters Quantum computing on the move Lead researcher Jian-Wei Pan and co-workers at the University of Science and Technology of China, Zhejiang University, Fuzhou University, and the Institute of Physics, China, have published a paper on their results in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.In general, one of the biggest challenges to scaling up multiqubit entanglement is addressing the catastrophic effects of decoherence. One strategy is to use superconducting circuits, which operate at very cold temperatures and consequently have longer qubit coherence times. In the new set-up, the researchers used qubits made of tiny pieces of aluminum, which they connected to each other and arranged in a circle around a central bus resonator. The bus is a key component of the system, as it controls the interactions between qubits, and these interactions generate the entanglement. As the researchers demonstrated, the bus can create entanglement between any two qubits, can produce multiple entangled pairs, or can entangle up to all 10 qubits. Unlike some previous demonstrations, the entanglement does not require a series of quantum logic gates, nor does it involve modifying the physical wiring of the circuit, but instead all 10 qubits can be entangled with a single collective qubit-bus interaction.To measure how well the qubits are entangled, the researchers used quantum tomography to determine the probability of measuring every possible state of the system. Although there are thousands of such states, the resulting probability distribution yielded the correct state about 67% of the time. This fidelity is well above the threshold for genuine multipartite entanglement (generally considered to be about 50%).In the future, the physicists’ goal is to develop a quantum simulator that could simulate the behavior of small molecules and other quantum systems, which would allow for a more efficient analysis of these systems compared to what is possible with classical computers. Explore furtherlast_img read more

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