Outliers: A Myth?

Friday, 07.12.2013 / 12:22 PM
Daryl "Razor" Reaugh

Outliers: A Myth?

Malcolm Gladwell, you got some ‘splainin to do.

In Gladwell’s best seller ‘Outliers’ he laid out the leg-up that athletes born earlier in the year had over those who had birthdates from July on. Here’s an excerpt from an ESPN Q&A with the author:

The first chapter in "Outliers" is about how some Canadian hockey players born in the first months of the year enjoy advantages that those born later in the year don't have. You also write that birth month correlates closely with success in other sports. Why is this?

“It's a beautiful example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey programs is Jan. 1. Canada also takes hockey really seriously, so coaches start streaming the best hockey players into elite programs, where they practice more and play more games and get better coaching, as early as 8 or 9. But who tends to be the "best" player at age 8 or 8? The oldest, of course -- the kids born nearest the cut-off date, who can be as much as almost a year older than kids born at the other end of the cut-off date. When you are 8 years old, 10 or 11 extra months of maturity means a lot.

A Page 2 study

After checking out Malcolm's Gladwell's new book, "Outliers," and his explanation of why Canadian hockey players born early in the year have a big advantage, we conducted a little study: We tallied up all the NHL players from this season who were born from 1980 to 1990. Sure enough: Many more were born early in the year than late. Note: We did not screen for Canadian-only players.

Month Players

January 51

February 46

March 61

April 49

May 46

June 49

July 36

August 41

September 36

October 34

November 33

December 30

So those kids get special attention. That's why there are more players in the NHL born in January and February and March than any other months. You see the same pattern, to an even more extreme degree, in soccer in Europe and baseball here in the U.S. It's one of those bizarre, little-remarked-upon facts of professional sports. They're biased against kids with the wrong birthday.”

Well here are the 2013 NHL Draft’s Top 10 picks with their birth month:

Nathan Mackinnon September

Alexander Barkov September

Jonathan Drouin March

Seth Jones October

Elias Lindholm December

Sean Monahan October

Darnell Nurse February

Rasmus Ristolainen October

Bo Horvat April

Valeri Nichushkin March

Lots of late birthdays, eh.

The first two picks, Mackinnon and Barkov, were born so late that they almost weren’t eligible for the Draft until 2014, and only nine of the first thirty picks (The First Round) were born in the first three months of the year.

The Stars two 1st-Rounders were Nichushkin, above (Outlier validation), and Jason Dickinson who was born on the 4th of July (How bout that for fireworks).

So…Just a freak year, or has something changed, or has Razor just administered an Outlier smackdown?

I call my move, ‘The Epiphany of Doom.’

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