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State of Mind: By the Numbers

As I was lying awake the other night contemplating the connection between epistemology and the once-again dwindling supply of toilet paper at Costco, I decided I might become a sports blogger. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Lare, you really don’t know anything about sports.” That’s true, but in this new world of untrustworthy information, ignorance is a strong point.

Take, for example, what has happened down in the Sunshine State. According to an article from The Washington Post that appeared online (11/11/2020) and in which The Post also cited work from the Orlando Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Miami Herald, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has hired a new person to join his data analysis team. The data analysis “will include but not be limited to COVID-19 research” according to the article. 

To be fair, the governor’s spokesperson, Fred Piccolo, told the Miami Herald that the analyst’s work would pass “through about 10 hands” before reaching the governor’s desk (no mention was made whether hand sanitizer will be involved as the work passes through those hands). “It’s not a COVID-19 hire,” Piccolo told the Herald. Still, the question remains, why this person?

The data analyst in question is Kyle Lamb, a 40-year-old from Ohio whose previous experience is as a sports blogger. Although he is little known in the sports blogosphere, Lamb is an Uber driver who is also a critic of coronavirus experts. He has no training in medicine or data science. In fact, he apparently has little education. According to The Post article, Lamb’s LinkedIn profile only shows that he attended the Ohio Center for Broadcasting for one year. 

The newspapers suggest he probably came to the attention of the DeSantis administration because his public statements about the coronavirus have often contradicted those of public health experts, and that got him noticed on Fox News.   

Like many other states, there has been a recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in Florida as the DeSantis administration tries to reopen the state’s economy. Florida has seen more than 852,000 cases of COVID-19 and 17,400 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to The Post story, the DeSantis administration may have spotted Lamb’s work in a conservative blog that claimed Florida had overcounted COVID-19 deaths. The claim was unsubstantiated but has been cited by DeSantis’s spokespeople. DeSantis is known for downplaying the severity of the pandemic.

In Lamb’s own words, he is not an expert on the coronavirus. According to his blog, “Beyond the Fold”: “I’m not a doctor, epidemiologist, virologist or scientist. I also don’t need to be. Experts don’t have all the answers, . . . .” 

“My job isn’t to study the virus itself or tell you how to protect yourself, your children or your family,” said Lamb. “However, I will tell you what the data says [sic] about risk and I’ll provide all the context I possibly can.” He neglected to point out that he has no training in data analysis.

Although Lamb may be a favorite of Fox News and the DeSantis administration, he does have his critics.  “He is totally unfit for the role and appears to have been hired because he enjoyed posting charts and graphs on Twitter and offering misleading analysis alongside them,” said Ryan Donnelly, who worked with Lamb as a sportswriter back in 2018. 

In reports in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, former colleagues in the Ohio sports world have characterized Lamb in interviews as “a nobody,” “an amateur,” “an internet weirdo,” and a “crackpot.” 

Lamb made what little name recognition he enjoyed in Ohio for defending former Ohio State University assistant football coach Zach Smith and publishing attacks against the coach’s ex-wife after she filed a restraining order against him for physical abuse. Smith was fired by OSU in 2018.

With Lamb’s departure from the Ohio sports world to the dizzying heights of the Florida state house (Florida’s capitol building is 22 stories high), there must be an opening for a new sports blogger in Columbus. It is a job that I can probably do from Vermont, and, as Lamb’s situation makes clear, one does not need to be an expert or even trained in a specific field or fields to be of assistance in making life-and-death decisions. And let’s face it, even though we’d like to believe otherwise, sports blogs do not rise to the level of life and death. 

I am therefore prepared to submit as part of a sports blog portfolio my official forecast for the 2020 NCAA football season: The Ohio State Buckeyes will defeat the Boston Red Sox by a score of four under par 68 to win the Stanley Cup.