I’m always interested in new ways of looking at things – new visualizations – particularly when they illustrate something that I know very little about. When we examine a visualization on an unfamiliar topic we get a unique opportunity to really dig into how the visualization works — and, in the process, how our brain works with the visualization.
So, imagine my delight when I saw this visualization of Soccer’s World Cup bracket in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Journal section (I know, hardly the place you’d expect to find in depth sports commentary – but then, that’s the World Cup for you). For those of you not familiar with brackets – they are basically an outline of the possibilities in a given sports championship. Which team needs to beat which team in order to win it all. You might be more familiar with them when sketched for the Super Bowl or the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Fans make their predictions using brackets, sports journalists use them to report on the proceedings, and book makers use them to give odds and track winnings.
To fully appreciate how unique this particular visualization is, you need to have a look at the usual sports bracket. Here is a more typical bracket visualization, for the World Cup.
Turns out that soccer, as played in the World Cup, is different than other sports – it is not single elimination. “One and Done” is the method in the NCAA tournament, but in soccer it’s “Round Robin” play, meaning that, initially, teams gain points for wins as well as ties to earn the honor to advance to the knock-out stage. This circuclar representation makes that twist clear. And I love the added dimensions that it affords… The sense of moving to the middle. The nuances of the length of the rings. The color coding of the groups that makes the progression clearer. The feeling of a labryinth. Nice, eh?
And here’s another one for you – a Twitter visualization of the World Cup. Roll over each circle for match results and then click on one to watch a replay of the Twitter stream on that match. Fascinating!