Written by Jesse Weisz
This article is part of a series intended to provide insights into disc golf fandom. These insights will come through analyzing a rich data set produced by the first-ever Ultiworld/StatMando fandom survey. Here are the other articles in this series:
The Survey Itself And Who Took It
Which Pros Do We Root For and Against
How Fans See Disc Golf Part 1
How Fans See Disc Golf Part 2
How Gender Affects Who We Root For
How Height, Introversion/Extroversion, and Age Correlate With Who Fans Root For
Paul McBeth vs. Ricky Wysocki
Nikko Locastro Fans
Back in October when we were in the midst of sorting through the fandom survey data, Andrew Presnell tweeted out some stats related to MPO feature card appearances at Majors, Elite, and Silver events in 2022:
During the first round of a tournament, 1-3 cards are selected for live and/or post-produced “feature card” coverage. Rather than earning a spot on coverage from their play in the tournament (e.g., Rounds 2 and 3), feature cards are selected based on differing criteria. Often, we’ll see feature cards based on choices from Tournament Directors, the DGPT, sponsors, and live/post-production media providers. Typically, tournament directors pick last year’s winner, the DGPT and media companies choose the most popular players, and then the sponsor picks who they’d like to showcase.
Players want to appear on coverage; the more eyes they have on their play, the more they increase their value to sponsors. We were interested in seeing how feature card selection would correlate with the popularity of players as shown through our survey. Steve Timko at StatMando created this graph below built off of Presnell’s work:
- The trend line on this graph shows that there is a positive correlation between popularity and feature card appearances, albeit relatively weak (R2 = 0.27).
- If you are a player that is below the trend line you could have an argument that you might deserve to appear on more feature cards based on popularity.
Another contributing factor to who is chosen to appear on feature cards is player skill. On the graph below, I’ve plotted PDGA player rating against the percent of total feature cards in 2022 that players were on:
- A stronger relationship was observed for PDGA player rating against the percent of total feature cards in 2022 that players were on (R2 = 0.47).
- Players below the trend line have an argument that they should receive more feature coverage than they currently receive based on their skill.
- Freeman particularly stands out as having appeared on no feature cards, even though he was arguably a top-10 player in 2022. If you look at the previous graph, his exclusion from feature cards makes a bit more sense given his relative unpopularity with fans.
The next graph tried to answer whether popularity correlates with playing prowess.
- There is a small positive correlation, but as you can see the slope of the trend line is relatively flat (R2 = 0.05)
We asked a series of questions on the survey to try to determine what attributes and factors were most important for respondents when choosing who they root for and against. Below is a chart that shows the average score for each attribute, with 1 being the least important and 10 being the most important.
Personality and playing style were the two most important qualities. That was interesting to me and so I was curious which players received the biggest boost from respondents who think one of the above attributes is a very important factor (A score of 8-10) compared to a moderately important (a score of 4-7) factor. I used moderate instead of least (1-3) important for this comparison because some of these attributes have tiny sample sizes of people that gave them scores of 1-3. Here are the players who received the biggest boosts to their average fandom scores, meaning respondents who value these attributes most are more likely to cheer for these players than the average respondent.
“They are a winner and/or you are in awe of what they are capable of”
- McBeth (1.35 points)
- Pierce (0.96),
- McMahon (0.62)
This was not surprising given the 17 Majors McBeth has won. McBeth received a 1.35-point boost to his average fandom score from respondents who felt this is a very important factor in who they cheer for. Pierce is also not surprising given the fact she has also won 17 Majors. And we all know, and are in awe of, what Eagle is capable of.
“You enjoy their playing style”
- Pierce (0.80)
- McBeth (0.65)
- Mertch (0.61)
“They have aesthetically pleasing throwing form”
- McBeth (0.84)
- Gibson (0.55)
- Koling/McMahon Tied (0.43)
“You like their personality”
- Conrad (0.81)
- Panis (0.78)
- Hokum (0.75)
It is important to remember that we are looking at a boost, so universally beloved players like Tattar and Lizotte have little room for getting boosts because they received so few low fandom scores. Lizotte received a 0.62 boost for this attribute.
“You think your values align with theirs. For example, their stated religious or political beliefs”
- Ryan (0.59)
- Gilbert (0.54)
- Salonen (0.49)
Ryan receiving the biggest boost might seem confusing, as I was expecting the opposite result, with her getting overwhelmingly negative fandom scores from right-wing respondents. However, we had about 4x as many left-wing respondents as right-wing respondents. Even though right-wing respondents felt value alignment was more important to them than left-wing respondents (0.67 more important on a 1-10 scale), there were enough left-wing respondents who felt value alignment was very important (203 respondents) to easily counteract those that lean right (71 respondents).
“You like their looks or personal style”
- Smith (0.39)
- Aderhold (0.34)
- Tattar (0.32)
“They made a good first impression”
- Smith (0.52)
- Wysocki (0.44)
- Buhr (0.43)
Smith’s enormous social media following brought many new fans and players to disc golf, so it isn’t surprising that he received the biggest boost of any player for first impression.
“They have a presence/vibe/aura about them”
- Scoggins (0.45)
- Dickerson (0.432)
- C. Allen (0.426)
Our respondents can surely sense that Scoggins has “got that Dawg in her.” IYKYK
“They have a connection to where you are from or live now”
- Wysocki (0.27)
- Gurthie (0.26)
- Hokom (0.25)
Wysocki has connections to Ohio, South Carolina, and now Arizona, so he may benefit by pulling from multiple pools of respondents.
“What they were like when you met them in person”
- Gannon (0.59)
- Hokom (0.57)
- J. Allen (0.55)
As someone who has studied the GOAT debate and created a formula for figuring out who the greatest players of all time were, I was interested to see what our respondents had to say in the McBeth vs. Climo debate. We asked respondents, “Who is the GOAT of MPO?”:
- 55.3% said McBeth
- 10.6% said Climo
- 29.0% said “You can’t compare players across eras”
- 5.1% had another answer.
As expected, our respondent’s answers had a strong correlation with their age:
The younger you are, the more likely you are to think McBeth is the GOAT. The older you are, the more likely you are to have followed Climo’s career and watched him dominate disc golf in the 90’s and 00’s. Still, even with our oldest respondent segment, a plurality thinks McBeth is the GOAT.
We also wanted to see whether respondents that cheer against McBeth were as likely to think he was the GOAT as respondents who cheer for McBeth:
Clearly our respondent’s rooting interests influence how they view McBeth’s place in history, with McBeth’s biggest fans nearly three times as likely to think McBeth is the GOAT compared to the respondents who are rooting against him the hardest.
My thanks to Karl Lamothe for his assistance in editing this piece. If you would like to join the team that will be analyzing and writing articles about the 2023 version of this survey, or have feedback or suggestions, please email email@example.com. Keep an eye out for more articles to come in this series.