clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

An Annotation of Nik Stauskas's Outrageously Overwritten Wikipedia Page

New, comments

The Process contains great uncertainty, but its greatest mystery is this: Why is Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia page so long? And what does it mean?

5,568 words.
5,568 words.
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

I. Introduction
Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia page is 5,568 words long, and contains 226 references. I arrived at this number by clicking on the first line of the body of the article and highlighting everything up to, but not including, "See Also." So you could make an argument that it's really longer than that, once you count the various boxes and so forth that didn't show up.

I.A. Proposition
This is frankly a ridiculous level of detail for a 22-year-old's Wikipedia page, particularly one who played two notable seasons in college and is now in his second year of pro basketball, playing limited minutes for bad teams. It's a truly unbelievable amount of information.

I.B. The Length and Detail of Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia Page, in Context

I.B.1. Basketball Players

Name

Word Count

References

Christian Wood

232

11

Ricky Sanchez

514

2

Joel Embiid

591

21

Julius Randle

891

24

DeMarcus Cousins

1,642

32

Kevin Durant

3,011

115

James Harden

3,165

76

Paul George

3,205

75

Nik Stauskas

5,568

226

Allen Iverson

5,626

91

Jerry West

6,292

68

Michael Jordan

9,190

212

I.B.2. Historical Figures

Name

Word Count

References

Yuri Gagarin

3,897

67

Millard Fillmore

4,800

57

John Stuart Mill

5,564

56

Nik Stauskas

5,568

226

Scipio Africanus

6,878

24

John the Baptist

8,632

128

Taylor Swift

11,512

575

Thomas Jefferson

12,246

314

Cristiano Ronaldo

19,024

654

I.B.3. Works of Literature

Title

Author

Word Count

"Ode to a Baby"

Ogden Nash

11

"Funeral Blues"

W.H. Auden

138

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

Walt Whitman

1,951

"The Waste Land"

T.S. Eliot

3,171

Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia Page

Various

5,568

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

29,084

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov

79,360

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

122,650

Doctor Zhivago

Boris Pasternak

218,240

II. Content of Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia Page and Analysis
Any document of this scope and importance must be studied thoroughly, and Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia page is no exception. What meaning is there in the length of this document, or its contents? Can we derive within its pages the origin of these feverish words?

II.A. The Photo

Nik Stauskas pregame with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015.JPG

(source: Wikimedia Commons)

As Wikipedia relies on public domain imagery for its illustrations, it should come as no surprise that this photo is not of game action, but of The Stauskas in a t-shirt, though nontheless on a basketball court of some kind. His eyes are focused on some elevated but unseen object in the middle distance--perhaps a basketball hoop, perhaps Jahlil Okafor. Not the expression on his face--it's not his game face, which is usually pink and flushed with exertion. He's calm, but not totally at rest, and looks more than a little like Bradley Cooper in this photo.

II.A.1. The Info Box
Listed here are Stauskas's date and place of birth, as well as his professional CV. All of that's normal for an athlete on Wikipedia. His career highlights, however, list the usual accomplishments (Second-team All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, Bronze medal at FIBA Americas 2015, and so on), as well as two regional awards from high school. Just as a matter of professional course, when you're a player of Stauskas's caliber--a lottery pick, an NCAA runner-up, a FIBA Americas medalist--you can slash the All-New England Prep selection from your list of greatest accomplishments. Kevin Durant's Wikipedia page, which is a little more than half the length of Stauskas's, mentions one thing in his info box about his high school career: It happened.

II.B. The Introduction

II.B.1. Acronyms
The first three paragraphs of Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia page--the introduction--include seven acronyms and initialisms. Four of them are spelled out on first reference, including NBA, NCAA, New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) and, hilariously, MVP. FIBA, CBS and USBWA are not spelled out on first reference.

II.B.2. Sauce Castillo
"Towards the end of his rookie season, Stauskas was tagged with the nickname Sauce Castillo in a social media happening."
So reads one of two sentences--out of more than 5,000 words, in case you'd forgotten--about the provenance of Stauskas's nickname, which seems completely out of whack with what's important about this mostly unremarkable NBA rotation player.

II.B.2.a "...in a social media happening."
The wording of this sentence is worth analyzing. First of all, no human being on Earth has ever said "in a social media happening." How did this miscarriage of prose enter the public record? It reads like a thesaurus mishap, though Thesaurus.com offers up "incident" and "episode," both of which seem to fit the situation better.

II.B.2.b. National Origins
The issue of how the social media happening landed Stauskas with this moniker is not addressed again in the introduction. After one sentence, it moves on to note that Stauskas is a Lithuanian name, which comes as a surprise to me, as I'd always assumed it was Greek.

II.B.3. Introduction to Amateur Career
The introduction is three paragraphs long because of the attention paid to the details of Stauskas's high school and college career. Included in this introduction are all three high schools Stauskas attended, as well as the kind of injury (hip) that kept him out of the lineup at South Kent School in Connecticut, when he started at Michigan for the first time (the seventh game of his freshman year), as well as four different Freshman of the Week awards.

II.C. Early Life and High School

II.C.1. The Toronto Raptors
The Stauskas origin story starts like this: "ESPN The Magazine journalist Adam Doster notes that one might consider the NBA's September 30, 1993 announcement that it was awarding its 28th franchise (the Toronto Raptors) to Canadian businessmen as the beginning of the story of Stauskas, who was born seven days later."
Now, that's not how I would start a profile of Nik Stauskas, even for a magazine, tempting though it must be to tie in the birth of a basketball player from the GTA to the birth of Toronto's first NBA team. I don't know what that adds to a Wikipedia entry.
Beyond his stomach-light-from-E.T. attachment to the Raptors, Stauskas's distaste for ice hockey is discussed in detail, as is the history of his parents' backyard, now home to a basketball court, conveniently enough.

II.C.2. High School Game Log
In case you were ever curious what Stauskas's stats were his freshman year of high school (15 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg), now you know. You'll also be able to find the final scores of two different high school games he played against Nerlens Noel, as well as the initialisms AAU and NEPSAC (again) spelled out entirely. The section ends with the phrase,"Stauskas's stock and rankings continued to rise."
This really sheds light on how the Wikipedia entry swelled to such proportions. So many of the culprits you'd have expected are here: Excessive detail, thesaurus overreliance, and a lack of trust that the readership would know basic sports-related initialisms and acronyms. But all of these quirks flow like original sin from the fact that this erstwhile encyclopedia entry is written in the narrative style of a bildungsroman.

II.D. College

II.D.1. Freshman Year
Stauskas's freshman year at Michigan was a historically good year for both him and his team, so you'd expect some level of detail in the story. What this Wikipedia entry gives us is--for his freshman year alone--seven photographs and two external video links, in addition to an exploration of both sides of a debate over whether Stauskas led the nation in three-point percentage on New Year's Eve 2012. (Various outlets require anywhere from 1.5 attempts per game to 2.5, which would've altered Stauskas's position in the standings.)
I wrote papers in grad school that weren't as detailed as this, or as meticulously sourced, or as reliant on quantitative data.

II.D.2. Sophomore Year
This section starts: "In the offseason, Stauskas added 16 pounds (7.3 kg) to his frame and 6 inches (15.2 cm) to his vertical jump." Which is to say, Best Shape Of His Life (BSOHL in the parlance of this Wikipedia page), in both customary and metric units of distance. 
Stauskas followed up his successful freshman year by playing 36 games as a sophomore, of which about two-thirds are discussed in some detail in this section. In addition to a detailed CV, the section on Stauskas's sophomore year also includes a lengthy discussion of a flag.


(source: Wikimedia Commons)

A Michigan student apparently had a a Canadian flag made in maize and blue in honor of Stauskas. The date of the flag's origin--Dec. 4, 2012--is mentioned, as well as the creator's name. The flag gets a whole subsection, but "Sauce Castillo" gets two unrelated throwaway sentences. The joke is funny enough, and it's a good-looking flag, but I worry about encouraging male undergraduates at a school like Michigan, which is one of relatively few that sits at the intersection of academic and athletic prestige, and therefore gives rise to a certain quality of fan that's best thrown in an oubliette. (See: Duke basketball and North Carolina basketball.)

II.E. NBA Career

II.E.1. Sacramento Kings
I mention the unhinged snotty white boy fan archetype because when I mentioned the scope of this page on Twitter a few nights ago, there were two leading theories as to who was responsible: insane Michigan fans or insane Canadians. The detail in this entry returns to normal at precisely such a time as to determine which one of Michiganders or Canadians is responsible, or rather, which one seems like it's responsible.  
Stauskas was taken one pick after Julius Randle in the 2014 NBA draft. Both were celebrated college players, and both have played for truly awful NBA teams since. But as you can see in Chart II.B.1, Stauskas's Wikipedia page is roughly eight times as long as Randle's. 
However, the section dealing strictly with Stauskas's NBA career is 579 words long, while Randle's is 303, which is closer to 2-to-1, a ratio that makes sense considering that 1) Stauskas has been traded during his career and 2) Randle sat out the 2014-15 season, so Stauskas has played 97 NBA games to Randle's 25. 
That's how this: "During his rookie pre-season, he got a lot of publicity for the statement 'I understand that I’m a rookie and I’m white, so people are going to attack me' because of stereotypes about race and his unproven and presumably weak defensive skills. Stauskas was surprised by the attention the statement received," can be a smaller part of his biography than whether or not he was leading the NCAA in three-point percentage on a random day his freshman year. Or how this: "On March 24, he fell into the nickname "Sauce Castillo" via social media after a closed captioning error," gets one sentence. And I'm sorry that I keep coming back to harp on the "Sauce Castillo" thing, but it's the most interesting thing about Stauskas, and the second most-interesting thing about him (his Justin Bieber fandom) is not mentioned at all.
This section on Stauskas's year with the Sacramento Kings--in which his actual on-court NBA action is mentioned hardly at all--is half again as long as the Wikipedia entry on Stauskas's Kings career.

II.E.2. Philadelphia 76ers
I don't want to talk about it.

II.F. Personal Life
This section is not about Stauskas's personal life. It's about his Michigan career: He saw a sports psychologist after the national title game in 2013, and he took a video of himself making 70 of 76 three-pointers in his parents' backyard while he was in college and it went viral. He has interesting facets to his personal life, but they are not discussed here.
And that's it. More than 5,000 words, and we're caught up the the present, minus a few paragraphs about Justin Bieber and his line of hot sauce.

III. The Author
As it turns out, this page was written neither by unhinged Canadians nor unhinged Michigan fans. As you know, Wikipedia keeps a record of when its various pages are edited, and the Nik Stauskas page has been edited 881 times, as of 3:20 a.m. CST on Dec. 15, 2015. Of those 881 edits, 481 were the work of a single user, TonyTheTiger, who created the page in 2012.
So it's not a bunch of Michigan fans so much as it's one guy. 
TonyTheTiger isn't a crazy Michigan fan, however. Or rather, he isn't *only* that, since he calls himself "the volunteer voice of Michigan Wolverines men's basketball on Wikipedia." 
I won't divulge too much about TonyTheTiger in the real world for three reasons 1) He seems like a decent enough dude and not deserving of being disturbed 2) You could find him on your own if you wanted to badly enough and 3) He says he's a powerlifter and martial artist and having just made fun of how he writes, I don't want to get my ass kicked.
Moreover, his 10-year run as a Wikipedia editor is fascinating enough on its own. To call TonyTheTiger a power user hardly does him justice--he's created thousands of pages and hundreds of templates on topics ranging from sports to politics to movies to art. His bio lists dozens of accomplishments in the construction and upkeep of these Wikipedia pages, a reminder that this unfathomably large collection of human knowledge still requires people to fill its pages.

IV. Conclusions
Wikipedia is the largest single repository of human knowledge available for public consumption over the internet. The English-language version alone comprises more than 5 million articles. It's difficult to understand how much information that is, even though it's an incomplete and decentralized, cobbled-together encyclopedia written by volunteers. 
But we take it for granted nowadays that information--all of humanity's combined knowledge, even--should be at our fingertips, on demand. Consider that when Sir Isaac Newton was codifying calculus, he lived in a time in which he could wait out an epidemic in his home, with a stack of books--of literal paper books--and learn everything humanity knew about mathematics in a matter of months. Not only could one man learn everything there is to know about a subject, he could do it quickly.
Consider now how small a part of "all human knowledge" Nik Stauskas's basketball career is. And yet there are 5,568 words about it, plus videos and charts and photos, up on the internet, and they barely scratch the surface. Multiply that quantity of information, so risibly vast for such a trivial topic, by millions. Then consider the rate of advancement of human knowledge now compared to the days of Sir Isaac Newton--there are more people than ever, and thanks to the communication revolution of the past 50 years, we can generate knowledge more quickly, record it more accurately and vividly, access it more readily, and communicate it more broadly than ever before. Consider that all of those factors are advancing quickly, and when they interact with each other they reinforce each other's impact on a geometric scale. 
Consider that we take this for granted.
Nik Stauskas's Wikipedia page is 5,568 words long and contains 226 references, constructed largely by one person, who's not a scholar but a normal guy who was willing and able to participate in the preservation and dissemination of information in his spare time. Cast in relief against the totality of what's out there, it's hard not to stand in awe of what there is to know.
It's a truly unbelievable amount of information.