Answer: Know a lot about something.
This is about baseball, and is a little technical, so I’ll try to be brief for you (unfortunate) non baseball fans.
Manny Machado is a 26 year old super-star baseball player who just signed the biggest free agent contract in MLB history, a guaranteed 300 million dollar deal for ten years with the San Diego Padres. Baseball writers have been trying to get free agents huge contracts this whole off-season rather than just reporting on the negotiations and signings. Why? Because sports journalists are overwhelmingly pro-labor, pro-union, and anti-ownership, aka. business, capitalism, billionaires. (The players are just millionaires, so they’re cool.) The writers and sports pundits have been working overtime to get public opinion on the side of the players, even though the huge salaries make being a fan more expensive, especially for families.
After Machado signed, the pundits on the MLB cable channel put up a graphic justifying the contract by showing that Machado had a comparable WAR—that’s statistically-calculated wins his teams got (theoretically!) by having Machado playing rather than some borderline, mediocre shlub—to all-time greats like Willie Mays by the same age. The chart was a lie, but you had to know something about baseball history and how they calculate a player’s WAR to realize it.
Machado’s WAR, as with all players, is made up of his defensive value and his offensive value. Machado is a terrific third-baseman, and gains a lot of points through his fielding prowess. Several decades ago baseball analytics took a giant leap forward because of computers, televised games and the emerging field of sabermetrics, which is the science of baseball statistical analysis. Now defensive ability can be measured more accurately than ever before, because records are kept of where every batted ball goes, how hard it is hit, and what the situation was when it was hit. None of this was available when Willy Mays was playing. We know he was one of the best-fielding outfielders of all time, but it is safe to say that his defensive WAR is severely undervalued, because the data to calculate it the way modern players have their WAR calculated didn’t, and doesn’t, exist.
Thus it is intentionally misleading to compare Willie Mays to Machado using WAR, and to conclude, as the MLB comparison did, that Machado was a good bet to have a Hall of Fame career like Mays did. It was an apples and oranges comparison that people on that channel know was a false analogy: we know this, because they have some qualified sabermetrics experts on staff. They put the comparison up on the screen anyway.
Now, I know a lot about baseball, more, I can confidently say, than the average casual fan, and I have been this way since I was in high school. I have caught baseball writers in similar deception or misinformation countless times, and as a result I have little respect for the integrity of baseball journalism. I have also had the same experience with many, many other fields that I happen to follow more closely and understand better than the average citizen. I have also had the experience, more than once, of being interviewed on a complex topic only to find that the reporter completely garbled what I said, because he didn’t understand the topic. Journalism was untrustworthy even before its decided to try to manipulate public opinion to the extent it does now, in part because journalists are, as a group, young, not unusually intelligent, and under-educated.
I mark this as one more way baseball has enriched my comprehension of life and ethics.