Data + Curiosity with Nick Wan: neuroscientist, artist, musician, and baseball data scientist

In this episode of Data + Curiosity, I got to sit down and catch up with friend and collaborator Nick Wan, and we talked about everything, from leaving academia for data science to how to get started with being a sports fan. I learned a ton, and am thrilled to be able to share the conversation with you here:

Nick Wan: neuroscientist, artist, musician, and baseball data scientist | Data + Curiosity

You can also read a lightly edited transcript of our conversation below:

JESSE MOSTIPAK: So one of the things I admire about you and the work that you do is that you are someone who-- you are your authentic self, whether it's streaming and streams that end up on YouTube or Twitter. And your authentic self in a field where it feels like we always have to be a more polished version of ourselves. 

NICK WAN: Yeah. True. I am. I was at this like content creator house for like a weekend. And it was like me and a bunch of YouTubers. And they thought-- like they're data and data science content creator people. And they thought like, oh yeah, live streaming is like the fun, random thing that they do. And like that's my number one content. Like it's-- I turn the camera on, I'm alive for like four to six hours a night. 

And they saw me do it and they were petrified. They were like, did you just like yell at your community for like four hours straight? I'm like, yeah, but they yell back at me. Like that's not the-- I don't think that's the response that they were thinking they were going to get like from me or from my community, but they realize like, oh, yeah, he does it this way, this very in real time like degenerate kind of content. 

But like everyone else in the room, they vary between didn't really want to-- like they didn't really get it. They were like, how is this content? And then other people were, yeah, it's like what do you-- how do you make this into a video? Like how do you make this into something other people want to watch? And for me, it's like, they're watching already. They're in the room. Like they come for this. 

And so-- so yeah, like the idea that most of the space is like relatively educational focus or entertainment focus, I never brand myself as anything under the brand of educational at all because I don't think it is. Like I think the way that I would-- if I was good at-- I say this on my stream. If I was good at video games, I would be playing video games, but I'm horrible at video games. 

So the only thing I'm good at is coding. And so that's why I code live because that's my-- like I feel like I'm good at it. And so this is what it would be like. Just imagine a video game and it's all the same. It should be no different, but here I am. 

JESSE: Yeah. And I feel like-- so I've done a little bit of live streaming. I think that-- my personal opinion is that live streaming is rewarding in ways that other types of content creation aren't because you are interacting with people. Assuming people show up and you're at a point where people show up consistently to your streams, you've got people to react to, people to talk to. There is a little bit of a lag, but for the most part, I think it's really enjoyable. But if you make a mistake, you're making it in front of hundreds of people. 

NICK: Yeah. And like you're toast because there is no walking it back. There's no editing session, right? 

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. If you let something slip. I got to a point where I was working at RStudio and I was having a hard time streaming because they had started really working in earnest on Shiny for Python and doing Shiny in the browser with WASM. And I didn't trust myself not to share that. Like to just say it. Like not even intentionally to just be like, oh yeah, our Shiny for Python. And then boom, I've now violated my NDA on air. 

NICK: Yeah. Yeah. And into literal RStudio fanatics. It's not even like, hey, here's a small random community of like Final Fantasy people. No. The most hardcore R, like people who want to watch the RStudio person do more RStudio. 

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. It does get tough. So like what made you choose streaming? Because if you think about data science content, I would say blogs, number one. It's a blog, whether it's medium, whatever, your own blog. And then it's maybe YouTube videos. But you chose Twitch and you are-- I don't think the data science community is as active on Twitch as it used to be. 

NICK: No. I mean, like I talk about this on the stream too, like really slice sort of inspired data science on Twitch. And just like anything, everyone started a blog before. Everyone-- if you're-- I'm an old guy so like I was on message boards. And like I remember starting my own like message board for like a band I was into and like it died within a month. It's the same. It's social media as it changed, especially when it's something that you have to like propel yourself. 

Streaming is similar. I'd say a lot of people end up starting because they think it's like something they want to try and then it really just becomes a try. It's just I did it for a month. I did it for x amount of time. And they don't do it anymore because it's x, y, z. Not enough viewers. Not enough engagement. Like too much effort. All these other things. 

Like a big barrier for a lot of people is like I don't want to go live. I don't want to put more makeup on when I get home or I don't want to look good when I get home and then go live. Like that was kind of a big issue. But for me, I guess specifically it starts way back when. I started streaming my dissertation. So this is back-- it was back in 2016. This is when like Twitch was like-- 

JESSE: Those are like early-- like it was not much earlier than that. 

NICK: Like a year or two before that it was Yeah. And like I was using for not streaming purposes at all. So when it turned into Twitch and it was getting more traction and I was like at the beginning of writing up my dissertation. It's all ready to go. The data is there. The analysis is all approved. The results are in. I just got to write it all up and get the hell out of Utah. The force for me because I like writing but I don't like being forced to write. And a dissertation feels like you're being forced to write, which you-- 

JESSE: You are. You are. 100%. Like you are held hostage until you are done writing. 

NICK: And so I-- so I was like, if I don't want to stay here an extra year or an extra two years or an extra n years, like I need to finish this within the year, right? 

That's writing. That's editing. That's going through all the revisions. That's doing every single thing. So I remember Chris Alden doing like this-- when he was writing his dissertation, this log that he had in Excel or something. And it was like, how many lines or sentences or words did I write in my dissertation today? And it was like him tracking it. And he would talk about it on Partially Derivative. RIP, Partially Derivative. 

He would talk about it. And then it would be on Twitter on his account and stuff. And I always have that in my mind because like I wasn't too far after that point where he had his dissertation defense. I'm now getting to mine. I wanted to keep honest in the public eye as well. So I decided to stream. I was going to stream me writing my dissertation every day. Like I wanted to like every day I'm going to stream. And then like every day it became once a week pretty quickly. 

JESSE: Yeah, because streaming is punishing. Like it is-- you have to be on. 

NICK: Yes. And like the content can't just be you typing saying nothing, right? 

JESSE: Yeah. This is-- I don't think people realize this. Like streaming is entertainment. Whatever you're doing on stream is secondary to entertaining just-- 

NICK: Whoever. 

JESSE: The jabronies in chat. You got to keep them happy or they're not coming back. 

NICK: You do. Absolutely. And this is like back when Twitch-- like when I started streaming on Twitch, they had just created a section called Creative. So back in the day, Twitch used to ban people if you were playing a video game. And so in order to-- then there's more people who are creating non-video game content, like they were going outside and like walking around like-- 

JESSE: And there were like-- there was-- I remember like someone was putting together furniture. Like they were-- or like cooking and people were kind of experimenting with things. Yeah. 

NICK: Yeah. So around 2016, they created a section called Creative, which was like basically no-- like if you weren't playing video games, you go into this like creative section. So I was in there with people who are doing like metal working, people who are-- like the birdwatchers, I don't know. Random stuff. 

And for me, I was like, OK, I could do this. This is easy. But the scariest part about it was like, OK, who's going to want-- as the academic, it's like, well, I'm writing my dissertation. I don't want to get scooped. Within the first week, it's like, OK, I streamed to three people so who's going to scoop me? Three people turns into five. And I think I didn't max out beyond like 10 for like my dissertation era. 

JESSE: But that's incredible. 10 people are tuning in as you write your dissertation. 

NICK: Yeah. And a lot of it was like them asking, what am I writing about? And I'm like, this is my dissertation on this topic. And then I start talking about it. I'm like, did I word that right? And then I go back and I check. It was a good check, but it really was-- it was pretty dense. Like novel. There weren't many returning viewers. That's for sure. But yeah, that was an era of Twitch where like 10 viewers were pretty respectable. 

Like now that equivalent would probably be like 50 ish to 100 ish. But yeah, 10 back then was like, wow, you can hold 10 people. That's crazy. 

JESSE: Yeah, absolutely. So what is your PhD in? 

NICK: I got my PhD in psychology. My dissertation was on the neuroscience of strategy formation. So I am a cognitive neuroscientist by trade. 

JESSE: And you are currently-- 

NICK: I'm currently the Director of Analytics for the Cincinnati Reds. 

JESSE: OK. So do you need a PhD in cognitive neuroscience to do baseball data science? 

NICK: No. And if you do, please let me know first. If you have one of those, call me first. Don't call anyone else. But the-- to get a job in baseball, it's much like getting a job as a data scientist anywhere at this point. So many-- there are so many routes in. So before, there used to be very limited routes into, let's just say data science. 

There were pretty limited routes into data science because you need to do like one of 20 different things. And the people who knew one of 20 different things were people who typically were either very senior in their current tech roles or if you were coming out of school, you probably did some sort of PhD in something computer science or research related. 

So now it's like they have data science programs, they have statistics programs that are being geared towards early career data scientists now. Everyone is like switching over their statistics programs to do labs in R or labs in Python or labs in whatever language. So coding is a part of it now. Like there's even a database requirements. Like you got to take a database course in order to graduate from a statistics program. They just know like statisticians need to learn more of a tech stack than they need to know like here is like Euler's formula for something or this is Bayes' rule. Please, write it upside down, you know? 

JESSE: Have you ever been asked to write Bayes' rule upside down? 

NICK: That was the question at the Reds. That's, you know-- No. I was never asked. I was never asked to do that. I was never asked to do that in my dissertation. Although, I did get a Bayes question in my dissertation. People ask, what is a Bayes factor, which is a fair question. What is it-- it's like the Bayes' people want to replace P-values. And so-- 

JESSE: Well, I talked to Chelsea the other day. 

NICK: Oh, I'm sure she had opinions. I saw she was on. I saw it though. 

JESSE: Multiple sections about P-values. 

NICK: Yeah very, very-- Yes. We all love Chelsea. We love Chelsea. 

JESSE: We do love Chelsea very much. Yeah, I definitely-- when I got on the call, there was a part of me that was like, what happens if I just say, so Chelsea, P-values, and just record for an hour. That is probably the full interview right there. But-- 

NICK: Yeah Python thought it starts with P, Chelsea. 

JESSE: Starts with P. 

NICK: Yeah. What do you-- what are your thoughts? 

JESSE: But she can run with it. I feel, you know, for sure. So is baseball your favorite sport? Have you always wanted to work in baseball? 

NICK: No. 

JESSE: Also if that's going to get you fired, let me know. 

NICK: No, it's fine, it's fine. They probably-- there's many people at this organization where their first sport that they fell in love with is definitely not baseball. And there's definitely a lot of people in just baseball in general where they're probably coming into baseball because the technology in baseball is a lot more advanced than other sports. Yeah, which means their skill sets right in baseball, but probably doesn't exist in say, soccer, right? 

There's just a lot more tangent. Say, you're doing biomechanist-related work. You want to know not just the kinesiology of a body, but an emphasis on torque and force and calories required to maintain torque and force of certain joints. That's something that the biomech program that's at some higher level, you learn about. But in order to apply that, say, in a sport's setting, there's not a lot of tracking tools available in sports that allow you to see that in game or in real time or whatever, except for a sport like baseball where we have markerless biomechanics now. 

You don't need to wear a weird suit with foam balls on it. You just play baseball and the computer vision and the technology is so good now that you can isolate a player's. And the sport itself is so large, right? It's not large, but players play literally independent of it. It's not like football where the offensive linemen are next to each other, right? So you can get a lot of independent results from people. 

And then when you're doing pitching, there's very specific things you can target in a pitching movement or in batting. Those are very specific things you could train a model on in terms of computer vision batting tools. So biomechanics, in general, a lot of people end up coming into baseball right now because the tech is there for them to be their best self. 

JESSE: Yeah. I hadn't even-- I mean, I didn't even know about any of that. I know that-- I mean, even growing up, baseball statistics always felt very accessible, right? I felt like I grew up playing sports, I did not grow up watching a lot of sports. But I feel like baseball stats were around a lot more, like baseball cards alone. I don't think we had football cards or hockey cards, I don't think those are a thing. And so it'd be amazing, first of all, just bring back the cards. 

NICK: Before we like-- ignoring all of the hockey and soccer and football card industries. Most likely-- 

JESSE: Seriously, it was always baseball cards growing up. And now I feel, all right, I guess, you can get a football card. Nobody ever is like, oh, you want to trade football cards? 

NICK: No. I honestly never found football card collector, that is true. They exist. They do exist. I used to for a summer, I helped a friend's-- my friend has a family's dad's family business. It's stamp collecting and stamp auctioning. So he doesn't collect, he's just an auctioneer. So he has all these lots and then he just sells these lots. He goes to-- it's kind of like Storage Wars or people go and they bid on like storage lots. 

He'd go similarly to storage lots that have stamps or some sort of collectible in it. And then he tends to grab those lots and then resell them, right? So I worked at a stamp auction one summer. And yeah, collectible industry, it's really for anything. 

JESSE: That's true. 

NICK: There's some pretty wack stuff in the football, in the sports memorabilia. Not that it's bad, it's just I would have never thought that you would be able to find someone who wanted that, like seats from a stadium that got torn down or something. 

JESSE: Where are you going to put those, right? 

NICK: Think of one room in your house where you're like, that seat from an old stadium would really go well next to whatever the heck, you know? 

JESSE: I have three rooms in my apartment, there's nowhere that that seat is going to fit, like it just isn't going to look good. 

NICK: Do you put it on a wall? What do you do? 

JESSE: I don't know. Do you think people-- I kind of love people who collect things. I always think it's really interesting. Do people collect multiple seats? Would someone get rows and rows of seats from a stadium? 

NICK: You know, this is a great question. I think I honestly have no idea. I remember when I grew up in the Bay Area, so Candlestick Park were getting torn down. They auctioned off pairs of seats. And the first offering were to season ticket holders, like, hey, you could buy your seats that you sat in. And no one bought them except for crazy collectible people. And I'm like-- also the markup on these seats. It's like you're trying to sell something that you were going to literally demolish. And hundreds of dollars-- the seat is-- 

JESSE: It's a seat. 

NICK: --from the '60s, that millions of people have sat in, you know? 

JESSE: So do you have any collections or did you have any collections as a kid? Were you a collector? 

NICK: Oh, yeah. My family was not very big into material things at all. So I actually, as a kid, never collected many things. But in my older-- in my older era now, I do collect shoes. 

JESSE: Shoes? 

NICK: I have a-- 

JESSE: Like sneakers? 

NICK: Yes. 

JESSE: Are you a sneakerhead? 

NICK: Yes. I have quite the sneaker collection at this point. If I was at my house, I would show you a bunch. But yeah. The only ones I have are these ones that I'm wearing right now, you know? These are the "Be Trues". They're so good. 

JESSE: Amazing. 

NICK: But yeah, most-- I collect a lot of sneakers. And then in college, I used to collect vinyl toys. So they're just-- if you go to a hip hop or urban kind of store and you see toys and the case or something, they're usually toys-- they're collectible toys, but you don't actually play with them or anything. 

I feel like weird collector people like myself, apparently, who buy a toy because an artist collaborated with a particular manufacturer or something. So you can probably, if you Google some of these things, for those who are like, oh, yeah, I know what that is. There's things like-- 

JESSE: I will be googling. 

NICK: Yeah. I didn't collect brick bears, but brick bears are pretty popular. Dunny's are pretty popular. I used to collect some Dunny's. But over the years, I've kind of sold or traded away a lot of my vinyl collection, vinyl toy collection. Really, the emphasis for me doing this was actually, you would buy these completely white toys. And then I used to do street art and when you met up with someone else doing street art, you would trade toys. 

So there's sometimes you would get people at a party to sign like your black book. And then it's like they tag your black book. And it's like, cool, I know these people. Another way is if you and another friend, like, hey, I'm making-- I'm doing this toy, if you do a toy, let's trade toys. Then you art-style your particular toy, and then you can trade. And then it's like here's a collection of artists that I know that I've met and we've traded unique art. So that's how I kind of got into it. 

JESSE: OK. OK. So PhD in cognitive neuroscience. Former street artist and musician. Also super into sports. Data science-- what got you interested in data science? 

NICK: I think it's sort of I'm more magnetizing the other way. It's like what made me want to leave academia. Right? So by the time I was streaming my dissertation or whatever, I was already at the point where the type of research I want to do, it's difficult to fund. The clinical impact of the research I was doing wasn't very high. Every time I would try to write a grant with a clinical aspect, it was so shallow. And I think that was coming through in the grant or grants, rather. So I was rejected from all these different grants that I was writing. 

By the way, just in general, grad school in neuroscience, the emphasis on grant writing paper writing, is becoming so much higher than the actual research itself at this point. It's its own-- I don't know. I think that's just so backwards, just from a what science really is syandpoint. Really for students, though, you should be training your students to become the grant writers and whatever. But to force them to grant write, to force them to do all these things-- I'm not saying I was forced, but everyone around me, when they were expected to do that stuff, it was like, well, I have to do that too because I'm essentially competing with them for 10-year track jobs or post-doc fellowships or whatever. 

When I realized well, I don't really want to compete-- I already could do the work. I don't want to prove myself more in the form of written words, saying, here's what I'm going to do if you trust in my skills. It's like, well, I trust my skills. And you know who else is going to trust my skill? Someone who hires me as the employee to do these things that I do, which are like coding, statistics, research methods, writing up results, all of those things. Those are all employable skills. 

And I don't need to write a grant every time I wanted to do a new thing, right? And so I realized maybe academia is not for me because my emphasis is really more research-based. And I would like to get away from the bureaucracy of academia. Or really, in my opinion, the facade of science. I want to do actual science. 

JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So I don't know if we've talked about this. I worked on my PhD in immunology and infectious diseases, but it was diseases of the nervous system. And so I was studying prion diseases. And similarly, it's a prion diseases are a very small field. And I started looking at careers. And it was-- there wasn't-- it wasn't a rosy future. I did not leave with the idea of going into data science. But everything you're saying really tracks for me and that everything that I learned in my PhD program set me up for success as a data scientist. 

NICK: Yeah. And I absolutely relate to that. And a lot of people will relate to that. A lot of the time, people come into the stream and they're lost, right? They're at that point of, I'm a student, I'm training to do this, I don't want to do that. You know? It's like, what options are there for me? Is data science an option? And yeah. If you sort of Venn diagram, like if you have research methods, if you know statistics, if you know how to program, that's going to get you 90% of the way there, right? So-- 

JESSE: Yeah. And depending on how organized you are, you've also got project management skills.

NICK: That's right. 

JESSE: Organizing your work and organizing the work of other people is one of those things that I think has differentiated me, at least in my data science career. And just let me move around a lot more that I would recommend to anyone. So you are into sports. I'm going to-- I'm here asking for advice as a chat person would. But instead of data science, sell me on sports, Nick. So here's the thing. I grew up playing sports. I'm familiar with sports. I have never-- it is so overwhelming to get into sports as a fan. Where do I start? 

NICK: Well, it depends on how you want to engage with the sport. And let's just start from the top. The number one thing you typically want to engage, if you're going to spectator sport, would be just for the fun of it, right? And so do these things sound like a good time to you? Like hanging out with friends, beer, and/or hot dogs. 

JESSE: Absolutely not, no, 

NICK: Like nachos inside of potentially weird vessels. Like a-- 

JESSE: A walking taco. 

NICK: Or maybe a walking taco? Yeah. Gigantic churros. I'm talking a lot about food at this point. Maybe-- 

JESSE: We have friends and food, like keep going, I'm listening. 

NICK: Yeah, yeah. Potentially give away things like you might have a relatively crazy looking bobblehead available. 

JESSE: Is that your mascot? 

NICK: This is Mr. Red or Mr. Redlegs. This is actually vintage Mr. Redlegs, apparently. He was modern Mr. Redlegs. Who-- 

JESSE: What? 

NICK: Yeah, he's a baseball with extremely I'm-looking-at-you eyes. 

JESSE: This feels like Mr. Met, but I've never heard of Mr. Red. 

NICK: Yeah, so-- 

JESSE: Mr. Redlegs, sorry. 

NICK: Mr. Redlegs, yeah. So Mr. Redlegs predates Mr. Met. The Cincinnati Reds were the first baseball team, first professional baseball team. And so opening day actually happens in Cincinnati. So there's a parade that happens on opening day. We have the first game of the year. Along with that, there are two variations of Mr. Red and Mr. Redlegs. Mr. Redlegs with the mustache, he's the mascot that we all grew up to love. Every baseball mascot, you probably see a lot of mascots that look like those. 

Mr. Red who is also a mascot was created during the Cold War era, and was our way to get away from the name the Cincinnati Reds, which had a Russian connotation. So we identified as the Cincinnati Redlegs, which also ends up begetting the Cincinnati's Big Red Machine days and the World Series '70s theme. So a lot of the people think of the greatest Reds era, lot of them consider that '70s team are the best era. So you see a lot of that, like vintage weird looking Reds stuff from that era. But lot of it is Redlegs because we were not-- 

JESSE: Communists. 

NICK: We were not communists, apparently. So also back then, the Redlegs uniforms were blue. They were so like-- They were so like, we're not going to be associated with Reds that they actually started wearing blue uniforms. Yeah. 

JESSE: This is amazing. I love this. 

NICK: Yeah, but there's another part of it. If you're interested in the history of a weird sport, you're interested in just like the fan-- I always think about baseball like going to literally any event, a concert, the circus, a zoo, an aquarium, whatever it is, it's something so unique and different. The only difference is they're very beer-forward. And generally, the food is also pretty eccentric. 

So at the very most lowest denominator, even if you don't understand what's going on on the field, you have some gigantic-- the Arizona Diamondbacks used to sell this thing called the churro dog, which was two donuts with a churro in between, whipped cream, and ice cream. And then you would eat it like a hot dog, which sounds just like a monstrosity of calories and sugar. But in the setting of baseball, it sounds amazing. 

JESSE: I will say, I do enjoy baseball games. I was in Dallas, Texas. I mean, I lived in Dallas, Texas for about eight years. And there was-- I don't know how good the Rangers are, but this was a particularly bad time in their history. And that we got $7 first baseline tickets. 

NICK: Hell yeah. 

JESSE: And it was-- I don't remember the game. I remember eating so much food, and not even being able to eat all the food that I wanted to eat, watching the game, and then the seventh inning stretch, there was singing, there was clapping, there were fireworks. It was like the state fair, but you got to sit down and watch something. Yeah. 

NICK: Yeah. No. But also I think you're correct in that the Rangers, if they're offering you $7 tickets for first baseline-- 

JESSE: You got to go. 

NICK: One, you've got to go. But your intuition is probably correct, that they probably weren't the best team at the time. 

JESSE: I mean, it was still $60 for parking, you know? 

NICK: That's Arlington. That's how Arlington gets you. 

JESSE: Normal stuff. Yeah. It was brutal, but also so much fun. Yeah. So are you saying baseball would be a good sport to get into? And then if it's a good sport to get into, how do you pick your team? 

NICK: Yeah. I mean, I'm never going to force baseball onto anyone. I got into baseball really late. I didn't grow up watching baseball. I wasn't a fan of baseball until I was in college. And the way I found it was the statistics. And like you said, it's just so rich in statistics. It's had such a history there. That was attractive to me and that's kind of how I felt about baseball. 

But for those who are interested in baseball, whether it's statistics or for random food or for the actual sport, the best way to get into baseball, I think, is going to games. Personally, the in-game experience is just so unique. And it's relatively affordable, especially if the team that you're attending, the scene that you're seeing, isn't a Major League Baseball team, right? 

JESSE: Yeah. 

NICK: There's so much Minor League and Independent League baseball. For a long time, when I was growing up in Sonoma County, we had the Sonoma County Crushers. And they were this-- I don't even know if they were affiliated with any particular team. I'm pretty sure they were an independent baseball team. 

And going to a game was $10. And it had all the fanfare just talking about, you could sit wherever you wanted and parking wasn't even bad at all. You just park at the Costco and you walked across the street. You probably don't do that. Don't do that. They'd probably toll you for that, at this point. But yeah. I definitely didn't do that. Not me. 

JESSE: No. You are law abiding. citizen 

NICK: Not me. It is like-- the accessibility to baseball is pretty large. And there aren't too many sports that are like baseball, where you can have both gigantic teams playing next to very tiny teams. And you have the luxury of going to both. And in the middle of nowhere, you're going to have Minor League teams. 

And it's really good for the community to go support that team and to go see that team play. And typically, there are also teams that are feeding the next generation of players into the Major Leagues as well. But a lot of the time, I don't want to say it's the only show in town for some cities, but it's also maybe the biggest show in town. 

A Minor League team is funded by a Major League team, right? So there's just a lot of investment into a lot of these Minor League teams that most people probably don't know about. And so the production you get at those games tends to be pretty good quality. And then on top of that, you also have these other teams that are popping up. I don't know if anyone's heard. I don't know if you've heard of the Savannah Bananas. 

JESSE: No, but I'm in. Tell me more. 

NICK: OK. So that is like-- 

JESSE: First of all, that name is amazing. 

NICK: Savannah Bananas is based out of Georgia, of course. They're just an incredible entertainment. It's like a theater. It's like watching baseball theater, but you can see on their social media accounts, they will have-- it's just like absurd rules. They're just like-- they have a pitcher on stilts. They have mascots having to play. They have just crazy rules you would never think. 

They have just like working TikTok dances into the game. Like just in the middle of the game, random stuff. It's amazing. It's just such a spectacle, but it's baseball as well. It's like, here are the rules of baseball, they're just bending and twisting it in whatever ways that they want. So there's even further out weird baseball that you can get into. 

JESSE: Yeah. I mean, because I think about when I decided to move to Chicago, I was like, you know, it's a football town, I'll get into the Bears. I'll just watch the Bears. It is so hard to watch football because every night is a different subscriber service. It was going to cost me like $800 a month to watch football. And I was like-- 

NICK: Yeah. Well, that's the thing. In a lot of weird ways, the monetization of a sport through watching on TV at this point-- I don't know. The business of sport is a little weird because they want the in-stadium experience to be something you have to go to, right? But we're getting a lot of experience at home now. 

So how do you capitalize on a lot of people, more people watching at home, than you have in your stadium? You're going to monetize the heck out of your TV experience. But that's sort of a little regressive in a way because if you want to grow your sport, you can't limit the amount of people who are watching the sport, right? So there's a weird balance there. It's like only die-hard fans are going to be buying into these crazy sports packages. 

JESSE: Yeah, it's a package. And you know-- and your point about baseball is so-- I hadn't considered that. And it's such a great way to think about getting into a sport because my sport is MMA. And where am I-- 

NICK: You're going to Vegas every other weekend. 

JESSE: I gotta to go to Vegas. Or there's-- I think there's one in Kansas or Oklahoma. There's one that happens, women's only. Yeah. It's not something that I can, in the Chicago burbs, just pop it. Maybe, I can, I don't know. I should look into it, but it's not widespread, right? There's no feeder system. It's still a relatively young sport. Even the history of it, probably wouldn't take that much to figure out, whereas you could spend a lifetime learning the history of baseball. 

NICK: Right. And MMA, in general, you do have two, I guess, bigger leagues, so to speak, between UFC and Bellator. But it is so centralized to Vegas or Miami or I don't know. But there are places where it's like, yeah. The only way to watch that show is to go. And even on top of that, to watch outside of UFC Fight Night, which happens once every two weeks or something, the pay-per-view events, they're just also supremely expensive, if you want to get into it. 

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah because you're paying for your ESPN2 subscription. And then if you want pay-per-view, they're usually $60, you're out $60. But you're getting a full slate of fights. But you're at home in your house paying $60 to watch people fight. 

NICK: Yeah. And it's also the time, right? The undercards or the preliminary fights, they could end in seconds. And so your $60 are going to maybe a total of 10 minutes of fights. 

JESSE: Maybe. You get in a lot of commercials, that's for sure. But sometimes, I found there will be times where I'm like, oh, I just want to get through. And they'll go the full set of rounds for the undercard, you know? And so we won't get to the main fight until 11:30 on a Saturday night. And I'm like, I've been here since 4:00. I'm done. So Nick, where on the internet can we find you? 

NICK: You can find me on Twitch, There's probably links somewhere. 

JESSE: It will be in the description. Everything-- I'll put like a little on screen. We'll make sure people can find you. 

NICK: OK. You can find me on Twitch. You can find me on YouTube, You could find me on the dying blue bird sites, I didn't get called to the 10th floor just showed snippets of my code. 

JESSE: You've got five lines of salient code for every stream you've ever done. 

NICK: Yeah. My chat here's-- They are going to be like, Nick's never coded more than five lines in his entire life. So-- 

JESSE: I literally have a question that says, how many lines of code do you write a day? 

NICK: Five lines. You saw the-- because I'm sponsored by Hewlett-Packard so I had to write a bio. Have you ever seen my bio on-- 

JESSE: Yeah your Z by HP. 

NICK: Yeah, yeah. It was just troll. My entire community wrote it. I was like, oh, maybe-- because I didn't want to write my own bio, right? I always feel weird. It's like, oh, I got to write in third person about me and I'm just brutally honest about myself. Yeah, I don't know anything. Don't give me a bio. But I was like, the community can do it. They'll do right by me. And then there was like, he writes five lines of code a night. 

In closing

Thanks for tuning in to our latest episode of Data + Curiosity! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interview, how you’re enjoying the series, and what you’re curious about! Let me know in the video comments – I can’t wait to hear from you!

Show notes


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