Conventional wisdom might suggest that the more NFL fans talk about their favorite teams on Twitter, the more successful those teams are. (Masochism, after all, is a mostly quiet endeavor.) But the opposite turns out to be the case, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who analyzed up to 42 million daily tweets over the 2010-12 NFL seasons.
"Our basic hypothesis was that fans, who pay close attention to the NFL, can reveal more than traditional statistics, such as passing or rushing yards," said Chris Dyer, assistant professor in CMU's Language Technologies Institute, via the school's web site. "And Twitter gives us a convenient, 140-character-at-a-time perspective on what these fans are thinking.
"One thing we found is that, controlling for a few factors, if fans are tweeting a lot more about their team leading up to the game, they're probably going to lose," he continued. "You might think people talk when they're confident, but something else might be going on, like nervousness."
The findings don't allow Dyer and his colleagues to predict absolute winners or scores, but they could predict which teams would beat the point spread a little more than half the time.