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The hilarious analytics behind Netflix's Love is Blind

Anything can be sports in the time of COVID-19

A symbolic screenshot from the first episode of Netflix’s Love is Blind

I’m not sure there’s been a piece of pop culture more perfectly suited to these socially distant times than Netflix’s Love is Blind, a reality dating show that forces its guests to stay far more than six feet away at all times.

Love is Blind takes a group of men and women looking for a spouse, separates them by gender, and subjects them to a series of wholly blind dates. Separated by a wall, each partner tries to learn everything they can about the human in the pod across from them; all the while, the other men or women in this experiment talk to these very same “dates.” The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the partners must decide who they like and immediately ask that person to marry them, adding brutal intensity to every innocuous question about their favorite food.

What masquerades as a messy slice of life instead offers a powerful depiction of toxicity, loneliness, and a humanizing need to believe romance requires something more meaningful than physical attraction.

It’s still absolutely batshit insane, though.

As a reality TV novice, I’m fascinated by the narrative structure and weaponized editing of this type of content. 30 Rock taught me everything I know about the entire genre.

Love is Blind follows these tenets exactly. It establishes the stakes immediately, and the oxygen given to each relationship lets the audience invest, critique, and predict in real time.

As we face indefinite postponement of all sports, I’m turning our data focus on this cheeseball soap opera. How do these poor contestants—and their statistics—compare to sports figures? Let’s take a look.

Breaking down the box score

Through a mixture of quarantined madness and diligent note taking, I tracked every direct-to-camera and pod interaction for the cast during the pod experiment, timing every interview and date that occurred while excluding any public gatherings or dramatic montages. This covers the first two and a half episodes, with my best efforts to avoid spoilers.

First, let’s track total investment per cast member. You’ll notice an armada of barely-seen people at the bottom of the list, mostly appearing in the background or introducing themselves without a second appearance. I only learned some of those names thanks to this list of Instagram handles; special shoutout to my man Westley, who only got on camera to confess about being rejected for his height and never appeared again.

The producers made a calculated decision to invest healthily in thirteen cast members, with Jessica and Barnett outpacing the rest by a mile.

These two soaked up so much airtime because of their chaotic indecisiveness. Both cast members demonstrated an (understandable) reticence to commit forever to an unseen partner, and the producers ratcheted up the tension by framing nearly all conversations around this major decision.

Athlete comparisons to the two leads

Jessica’s player comparison? Jameis Winston, the now-unemployed gunslingin’ quarterback who spins a roulette wheel with every throw and hopes it doesn’t land on “game-losing interception”.

With a camera share in the pods quite similar to Winston’s affection for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, Jessica honed in on her two main targets with reckless abandon. Her interviews, much like Winston’s passes, could either be a resounding success (33 touchdowns for Winston) or a catastrophe (30 interceptions).

Winston led the league in interception rate, with nearly 5% of his passes going to the other team. Jessica led Love is Blind in fight rate, with nearly all of her appearances post-engagement ending in drama and feuds. Her later-season performance left much to be deserved, tossing the reality TV versions of pick-sixes with several inebriated fights and inappropriate conversations.

Barnett instead was far more egalitarian in his dating strategy, preferring to develop relationships with a variety of women instead of just one. He even had the time to problematically imply one of his dates was a stripper based solely off her name.

With such diverse production and opportunity, Barnett’s statistical profile fits nicely to Drew Brees, the legendary New Orleans Saints quarterback. Here, Jessica becomes the Michael Thomas (32% target share in 2019, per Pro Football Reference) and Diamond essentially mirroring the gadget trickery of Taysom Hill (who got 4% of Brees’ passes last year).

I’m not sure if Drew ever makes his third-string wideouts cry when they don’t catch the touchdowns, though.

Ruthless efficiency

With so much exposure given to Jessica and Barnett, the rest of the cast needed to fall in love quickly and efficiently with the time given.

Take Kenny, the patient and kind salesman who saw minimal camera time while in the pods. He told his partner he loved her in the shortest time on screen, and tied Diamond for the shortest time until engagement.

Kenny and Diamond shot their shots with the highest efficiency, taking the least time to get to their goal.

They’re the Steph Curry and Kyle Korver of long-distance scoring.

Since everyone on Love is Blind had one goal—despite Barnett’s best efforts, you can’t get engaged twice—we need to normalize the NBA equivalents to a common goal. How many attempts would it take the most prolific three-point scorers to reach 3,000 total made threes?

Steph Curry and Kyle Korver appear as the green dots in that example, needing the fewest shots to get to this three thousand threshold among the top twelve all-time three point scorers.

Per Basketball Reference, the two least efficient players with at least 1K three point attempts in NBA history are Charles Barkley (at 26.6%) and DeMar DeRozan (at 28.3%); they’ll be our Barnetts and Jessica here.

To help visualize the gap between proposal efficiency, I tracked the multiple needed for our goal metrics; how far is the gap between the shots needed for the NBA players, and camera time needed for the Love is Blind contestants.

Barnett needed over 5X the screen time of Diamond to get to his proposal, while Charles Barkley would only need 1.6X the three point shot attempts to catch Curry at 3K made threes.

The gulf between the best and worst shooters of all time is far smaller than the chasm between our Love is Blind contestants.

Should I start watching this ridiculous show?

Did you enjoy the nervous, gut-roiling sensation you felt watching The Office’s “Dinner Party” episode? Imagine that feeling expanded over ten hour-long episodes.

I’m not sure there’s something more devastating than the finale, where the couples who make it to the end must share their pre-written vows in a public ceremony with friends and family BEFORE deciding if they want to get married or not. Combine the horror of the True Detective season one finale with the overwhelming dread of watching your beloved sports team blow a fourth-quarter lead, and you’re close to the feeling you’ll get watching these poor souls drop tactical nukes on their partners.

Stay safe, home, and healthy, and hope you and yours are doing well.