Five Great Exchanges From Nate Silver’s Deadspin Chat Yesterday

As Fox Sports 1 continues to poach ESPN talent, Peter King and Peter Gammons launch their own “Grantland” like websites, ESPN has been on a hot streak hiring their own big name talent. First, news came that Keith Olbermann would be rejoining the network, and then they announced Nate Silver would be joining ESPN/ABC News from The New York Times.

Yesterday, Silver, a stats genius who predicted the last presidential election, joined Deadspin for a chat with readers.

Here are five great exchanges from the aforementioned chat.

1. Raysism asks: How far can you punt a football?

Nate Silver:

Basically the only way that I excelled at sports as a youth was to exploit others’ ineptitude, at the risk of being called a pussy. For instance, I had something like a .633 on-base percentage the last year I played baseball (8th, I think) because I knew that I couldn’t hit, but I also knew that the pitchers couldn’t pitch, so I’d never swing at anything unless I was down 0-2. Likewise, in my neighborhood touch football league, it was considered uncouth to run instead of pass, but I was pretty fast and the running game was pretty hard to stop when everyone was used to dropping back into coverage.

2. Josh Koblin asks: So why did you sell 538? That’s your brand, you built that. When you leave, it’s ESPNs. Why not rent it out? I’m sure they’d be happy to do that licensing deal. Why sell now? Do you feel you’re at your peak in market value?

Nate Silver:

When we were negotiating with ESPN, they said ‘yes’ to an awful lot of things, in terms of our vision for the site. But the one thing they were firm about is that they had to buy the 538 brand name and the URL. The basic reason is that they’re going to be investing lots of additional resources into 538, and no well-run business is going to be willing to do that and then have the brand yanked away from them at the end of the contract.

So it was a question of either keeping 538 as is (essentially a 2-3 person operation) and perhaps keeping the trade name — or doing something bigger and bolder and more entrepreneurial, but also selling the 538 name as part of the package. We decided to go big, and our conversations with ESPN convinced us that they were the right partner to go with.

3. Tim Marchman asks: What size staff do you envision the new 538 having? Are you going to be looking more for specialists or generalists? 

Nate Silver: 

I think the goal is perhaps to have a site where we’re publishing 3-4 articles per weekday, plus perhaps some blogs and other quick-hit type stuff. What I’m not quite sure about is exactly how many people we’ll need to hire to make that happen, and what the mix of freelancers versus full-time staffers will be.

We are looking for people with a diverse set of interests, within reason. We’ll have people who specialize in sports, I’m sure, as opposed to politics or economics or culture. But I’m not sure that we’ll have people who specialize only in (say) baseball or golf, as opposed to sports more broadly.

And yes — we are taking resumes. (There’s no formal process for this yet, but it’s not too hard to find my email.) We’ve already gotten interest from some great quant-friendly journalists. What’s a little bit tougher to find is people who are journalism-friendly quants, if that makes sense — people who might be employed in (say) tech or finance or consulting right now but who can express themselves pretty well and who might be interested in a change of careers.

4. uncirumsizedSKINSfan asks: If you had to pick one what would it be: Having a taco from said cart on 28th & 6th with Obama, or having a Cambodian sandwich with Romney? Whose breath would stink worse after eating their respective meal, and which would offer you a breath mint/piece of gum?

Nate Silver: 

I imagine Mitt Romney having a lot of food hang-ups, and while there are exceptions (e.g. vegetarians or people who really do have celiac disease), in general someone’s annoyingness about food is pretty strongly correlated with their annoyingness overall.

I’d really like to get a slice of pizza with Chris Christie.

5. Bring Back Anthony Mason asks: When will I die?

Nate Silver: 

I’d guess that the median Deadspin commenter is a 34-year-old white male with middle-to-high income but also above-average alcohol consumption. So we’re taking about a remaining live expectancy of 47 years, give or take. My best guess is that you’ll die in 2060, perhaps just a few days before Sasha Obama wins her second term.

For the full chat, click here.



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