Perception can go a long way in determining reality for an individual, especially in the digital sphere of the internet. That is reason enough for websites which label themselves destinations for encyclopedia, reference and research to place a paramount on fact. Unfortunately, and unjustly this is not the case and promotes a detrimental contribution to the serious societal problem of fake news as half-truths are accepted as reality.
Recently, I dealt with the issue head on when attempting to correct a blatant mistruth on a prominent sports information site. The inaccuracy involved college football data and the historical wins and losses involving the University of Washington football program. While not the highest priority on the totem pole of information mishaps, the subsequent narrative is an illustration of how easily reality can be skewed.
The notable website sports-reference.com which garners over 1 million hits per month, has somehow decided to ignore 27 seasons of UW football data. The site uses the tagline “The complete source for current and historical college football players, schools, scores and leaders.” Whether this mistake is deliberate or simply lazy research is yet to be determined. According to the site, the University of Washington began playing football in 1916 and have garnered 602 wins at the end of the 2016 season. In reality, the Husky’s fielded their first football program in 1889 and have accumulated 716 wins. What makes the error from sports-reference so egregious, is that the glaring hole in the data discounts the majority of a 40 game winning streak which ranks second all-time in NCAA history. The historic mark orchestrated by legendary coach Gil Dobie, put football on the map in both the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast.
Miffed at the glaring omission, I proceeded to utilize the proper channels and send a note in regards to making a correction. Unfortunately, the powers that be at the site proceeded to completely nullify my efforts in offering the true history. Here is the response to my request-
“Thanks for your note. As we state on the site the data is not intended to be 100% complete and we do the best we can, but researching pre 1950’s football is very tedious and quite frankly of little value to our users, so while we’d like to have it, it just isn’t cost effective for our staff.”
I get it, research is costly, but then do not pawn your domain off as a reference for factual information. In order to correct the mistake it would have taken an individual less than a minute to visit gohuskies.com and download a copy of the media guide and another minute to copy and paste the correct information to an email and send it to the appropriate tech person. Today, the missing information remains.
It is completely reasonable that there exist a few small errors here and there, but to completely swing and miss on over a quarter century of football century is unacceptable and careless, especially in the case where a significant and monumental accomplishment in history is erased from the contemporary digital consciousness. I originally learned of this as an on-line friend of mine was spouting off about the historic prominence of the Oregon Ducks (UW and Oregon are bitter rivals). I politely informed him that Washington’s overall body of work, was much more impressive than the team from Eugene. He replied that there was not much of a difference after getting his “supporting” evidence from sports-reference.com. I visited the site and was disconcerted at the volume of missing information and completely disgusted that mirror sites, bots and individuals were spreading the error across the entire netsphere.
At what point does a trusted reference library containing false information actually transform that flawed content into what is perceived as fact? This is the crux of the current on-line news cycle in brandishing half-baked ideas that are received as concrete truths.
The moral of the story is, because humans and news sites and reference sites are fallible, it is wise to research the researchers before deeming an idea a fact. For those interested in accurate information pertaining to college football history in settling bets or bragging wars, I recommend a visit to the Stassen.com database.