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Why winning on the road is so hard

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The Washington Wizards are acting like a bunch of homesick kids this season. The Wizards have lost all 25 games they have played away from their home court.

Plenty of kids understand not feeling great when they are away from home. You probably know kids who don't like to sleep over at a friend's house or go to sleep-away camp because they get homesick. Maybe you're one of those kids. I know I was.

Some kids don't like being away from home because they miss all the familiar sights and sounds of their house. They might pack their favorite stuffed animal when they go away, so the new place will feel more like home.

In every sport, teams seem to get homesick. The home team wins more often than the visiting team. That's called the home-field (or home-court) advantage. Here is how often the home team wins in some major professional sports:

Soccer: 65%

Men's basketball: 62.7%

Women's basketball: 61.7%

Hockey: 59%

Football: 57.6%

Baseball: 54.1%

In their book "Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won," authors Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim say the biggest reason home teams win so many games is that referees and umpires favor the home team. The writers don't think the officials do it on purpose, but they say the referees naturally favor the home team on close calls to go along with the home crowd.

It's like when the teacher asks a question in class. If all of the other kids raise their hands for one answer and you're not sure, don't you tend to agree with everyone else?

Of course, the Wizards probably are losing all of their away games this season because they are not a very good team, with an overall record of 13 wins and 37 losses through Monday.

Most of their important players - John Wall, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee - are young and inconsistent.

The Wizards have a great chance to win an away game Sunday, when they play the Cleveland Cavaliers. The poor Cavaliers, who lost superstar Lebron James to the Miami Heat, are even worse than the Wizards. As of Monday, they had lost a record 25 straight games (home and away) this season.

So maybe the Wizards can finally win an away game. But they should pack their favorite stuffed animals for the trip, just in case.

kidspost@washpost.com

Fred Bowen writes the KidsPost sports opinion column and is the author of sports books for kids, including one the Wizards might want to check out: "Hardcourt Comeback."

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