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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sometimes polls involve a little monkey business

Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

Each week the Associated Press sucks out my soul.

Through the computer.

Every Monday morning I sit at my desk, roaming through Web sites around the state, gathering scores, information and minutiae, all for you.

Pretty selfless of me, huh?

Actually, all I’m really doing is putting together my ballot for the AP’s state football poll.

I took statistics in college (and passed!) so I know with a large enough sample, even something like a prep football poll can achieve a degree of accuracy.

That’s despite these facts:

•There’s not a person in the state who sees more than five or six games a week, if they’re lucky (and have a really fast car and working radar detector).

•High school teams have a tendency to have more peaks and valleys than our local scablands.

•A failed calculus test may have more to do with the outcome of Eastside High’s showdown with Southside than any X’s or O’s or tackling drills.

Still, if enough monkeys are pounding on enough computers, our state can have the Shakespeare of polls. The problem with our state’s prep poll is we just don’t have enough monkeys.

This simian tries, but last week I was one of only five AP poll voters. That’s not enough to produce a Mercer Mayer book, let alone Shakespeare.

So what goes into a vote?

The foundation is built upon teams I’ve seen. Being a voter in a college poll is a lot easier – if more time-consuming – because you can see so many teams via television. So far this year I’ve seen all or major parts of 16 games, only one (Bellevue vs. Long Beach Poly) on TV.

It’s this personal knowledge that allows me – or any voter – to make comparisons between teams. The more knowledge one has, the easier it is to decide who is better, Pullman or Bellevue.

The main floor is constructed of research, things such as comparing scores and reading articles. If Southridge struggles against a 0-4 Moses Lake team, maybe the Suns aren’t as good as we thought. This is what takes the most time to build each Monday.

In the attic is where I keep the past, as in a school’s football tradition. Schools such as Prosser, Bellevue, Pasco, Royal – they all get some benefit from previous success. However, this isn’t an aspect that comes into play locally, because those teams I see.

The final piece, the roofing material so to speak, is where we live.

There aren’t many voters on the East Side. Just as we rarely get to see teams such as Kennedy, Bellingham or Evergreen, the West Side writers never see Mead, East Valley or anyone else in the GSL. So, the last thing I think about is whether or not the local schools are going to be shut out because of where they are located, and, if they deserve to be ranked, how I can facilitate that.

Mike Warchol, who runs the Web site that also produces a statewide poll, sees this local bias as the biggest weakness of most polls.

“I think the more information that has been available out there has made prep polls more accurate,” said Warchol who contacts 30 to 40 people before putting together his poll. “I do wish that Washington could have representation in its AP poll like they do in Oregon (it had 16 voters last week).

“I also wish more papers took it seriously and voted for the right teams, so that others wouldn’t feel like they have to vote their local team higher just to get them near where they deserve to be.”

No matter what, there is a bright side.

Polls don’t mean anything. They serve purposes during the year – keeping interest in high school sports high and making kids on ranked teams happy – but there is only one “poll” that really matters.

That’s the final game of the season. Then we find out who is No. 1 in every classification.

Even college football can’t say that.

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