Rick Reilly Really Likes the Words "Tiny," "Large," "Very," and "Nice"

By Noah Davis 

We’ve mentioned the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective before, but they’ve really outdone themselves with their latest post.

Ben Blatt uses a couple complicated formulas to compare the writing styles of luminaries Bill Simmons, Jason Whitlock, and Rick Reilly.

Blatt wonders if he can determine the author of a column based on word usage. The results: His equation goes six-for-six in predicting who wrote a given column. In fact, the formula overwhelmingly points out the correct author.


But that’s not the best part of the study.One of the first things Blatt does is determine the words that are most closely associated with each writer. They aren’t surprising: Simmons (Boston), Whitlock (Favre), Reilly (Anybody).

Then he looks at adjectives and adverbs that signify an individual author. This is where the study gets fun. Whitlock and Simmons both use words that while not exactly brilliant are at least descriptive (“excited,” “spoiled”). Reilly’s top five, on the other hand, read like a Dick and Jane book: “tiny,” “large,” “very,” and “nice.” Way to stretch yourself, Rick.

The single two-syllable word on Reilly’s list: “dumbest.”

We’ll let commentor James have the final word: “My favorite part is to infer from the adjectives/adverbs chart what topic the write focuses on. It seems that Simmons is most concerned with the sport as a whole and Whitlock with the individual players, while Reilly seems to be working on a children’s book.”