Sportonomic$, by Gavin Newsham

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The Independent Culture

"Statistics are like bikinis – they show a lot, but not everything." Gavin Newsham sets out his stall on the opening page with this teaser from the baseball manager Lou Piniella, and his sideways look at sport by numbers is certainly revealing, if not displaying quite the originality of Freakonomics, the book that inspired the title.

But there's plenty of fun to be had in comparing the average cost/reward involved in owning and racing horses, greyhounds and pigeons – no prizes for guessing the answer – and detailing the scrap value of famous trophies.

In debating the rarest feat in sport, Newsham makes a case for a 155 break in snooker, but as that requires your opponent to make a foul break, leaving you snookered on all 15 reds, it seems a pretty theoretical eventuality. He settles for the perfect tennis set – 24 points in a row – which has been achieved only three times in professional tournament history, and only once in a Grand Slam, by Yarloslava Shvedova of Khazakhstan against Italy's Sara Errani at Wimbledon last year. Bizarrely, six years previously Shvedova had an earlier chance to achieve the same feat at an event in Memphis, but double-faulted on the 24th point in the opening set. She still won the set, but then went to pieces, losing the next two 6-0 6-0.

A few of Newsham's scenarios, such as what the global impact would be if everyone ate like sumo wrestlers, are frankly rather daft, but perhaps I'm making a meal of it.

Published in hardback by Carlton, £12.99