The screeching teenyboppers at the Wall Street Journal bring word that Matt Ryan is the most knee-meltingly dreamy quarterback in the NFL. It's true because science says so. And believe it or not, this actually sort of matters.
From the Journal:
According to researchers, his face is almost perfectly symmetrical-a trait that shows a strong correlation to a person's perceived attractiveness. While the average person's face is somewhere around 90% symmetrical, Mr. Ryan scored a 99.8%, which puts him in elite territory. Ursinus College professor Jennifer VanGilder and former student Lisle O'Neill, who conducted the study in conjunction with Southern Utah University economist David Berri, said Mr. Ryan isn't the only NFL signal-caller with a nicely balanced face. In fact, every starter in the league scored above 96%.
The Journal's Reed Albergotti suggests that, at some point in their football lives, "good-looking kids are steered toward the glamour position." (For those scoring at home, Brett Favre checks in at No. 2, at 99.78 percent; Ben Roethlisberger, No. 6, at 99.43 percent; Tom Brady, No. 8; Mark Sanchez, No. 20; Tony Romo, No. 23.) Now, in an alleged meritocracy like the NFL, this might seem inconsequential. It isn't: Attractive quarterbacks actually earn a larger salary. Science says so.
A separate study — also by Berri and VanGilder, along with fellow economist Rob Simmons — of 121 quarterbacks who played from 1995 to 2006 found that "an increase of one standard deviation in facial symmetry led to a nearly 8 percent increase in pay." Berri writes (scroll down):
To put this result in perspective, we found that a "good-looking" quarterback like Kerry Collins or Charlie Frye earned approximately $300,000 more per year than his stats and other pay factors would predict. Meanwhile, quarterbacks like Jeff George and Neil O'Donnell, who, sadly, were not found to have very symmetrical faces, suffered an equivalent penalty.
I have no idea what stats Berri is using and how this study might stand up to rigorous scrutiny. I'd like to believe it's at least partly true. The NFL is so much more interesting if we think of NFL owners less as a collection of tight-fisted geriatrics than as a sort of Chippendales bachelorette party, with everyone whooping and shrieking and stuffing dollar bills into the tight pockets of very handsome men.
Cute Quarterbacks? There's a Stat for That, Too [Wall Street Journal]
Do Pretty-Boy Quarterbacks Make More Money? [Play Magazine]
A Different Way to Look at Quarterbacks (in Play Magazine) [Wages of Wins]