Facebook Data Science Team Brings Logic To The Emotion Of NFL Games, Season


NFLSentiment2013SeasonWith Super Bowl XLVIII set to conclude the 2013 National Football League season Sunday, the Facebook Data Science Team examined the emotional side of the sport, analyzing the sentiment of posts by fans before, during, and after games, and throughout the season, and highlighting the differences between wins and losses.

The note on the Facebook Data Science page, by Sean Taylor, also examined the league’s conference championship games, as well as the participants in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Taylor wrote in the note:

A great thing about Facebook is that it provides a place to freely share our emotions with our friends through status updates. Collectively, these status updates can tell a story about how the millions of NFL fans on Facebook experience the highs and lows of a football season. To measure fan emotion, we anonymously tagged millions of status updates over the course of the season as pertaining to specific NFL teams, and then counted the number of positive and negative emotion words (from a predefined list) in each post. The ratio of positive to negative emotion words provides an intuitive and useful measure of how people are feeling about their teams.

Win or lose, fans start using fewer positive words soon after the game begins. On average, posts about winning teams have more positive sentiment after the game than before it, while posts about losing teams exhibit a dip in sentiment. We can also see that people talking about winning teams generally use more positive words before and during the game probably because winning teams were expected to perform better and usually end up playing better than their opponents. However, these lines only show what happens on average. Serious fans know that games can cause a lot more volatility in their happiness. If we look at the recent American Football Conference and National Football Conference championship games, we can see all the characteristic fluctuations that we expect from an NFL game.

Perhaps more interesting than within-game emotion is the emotion that NFL team fans experience over the course of the season. We can compute a seven-day rolling average sentiment measure and see a five-month story unfold about the two Super Bowl teams’ seasons.

The Facebook Data Science Team also broke out its NFL sentiment analysis by division:

Football fans: How did the results uncovered by the Facebook Data Science Team compare with your emotional swings during the course of games or the full season?