Moneyball is a movie starring Brad Pitt about a major league baseball team manager who uses data and objectivity to “buy wins” by “buying runs,” rather than relying on the subjective practice of scouting. The scouts in the movie value attractiveness and personality, which Pitt’s character realizes is a flaw. The only way to deliver his under-funded underdog team to the World Series was to recruit players who would perform consistently but unmiraculously. He picked tortoises rather than hares, and used cold hard data to do so, and in the process proved that people were thinking of baseball all wrong. 

I’m here to tell you: We’ve been thinking about The Bachelorette all wrong. The show is zero-sum, meaning that the winners don’t just have to do well—other people have to lose. It’s not just a game, it’s a sport, with huge stakes: stay on, and you get more followers, more brand deals, more likely to be picked to be the next Bachelor.

Ask any football fan and they’ll be able to tell you their team’s season record or their favorite quarterback’s passing yards. The coaches and players themselves are painstakingly aware of their statistics, and make adjustments to how they play accordingly. The Bachelorette is a hideously under-analyzed field which has led to a viewing public—Bachelor Nation—that roots for contestants that are doomed to fail, and fails to see those who are going to take it all. And it seems like none of the contestants have watched the game footage!

So consider this a three-part playbook that will show you how to watch the Bachelorette with the same focus, knowledge, and accuracy as any major sport. I’ll take you through some basic terms, the player’s guide to winning, and how to predict a winner based on the very first episode. 

Part One: The Bachelorette Basics 

First, an overview of the plot: a good-looking Bachelorette stands in front of a mansion, greeting 25 to 30 good-looking men. Over the course of the season, the men go on various types of dates and travel around the world, slowly being eliminated by the Bachelorette until there are two left. During the last episode, she rejects one of them and accepts a proposal from the other.

Much of the show is presented as being up to the Bachelorette, but the producers have a hand in everything, from who gets to go on dates to who is eliminated. The theme of producers having control comes up time and time again, and is likely the most important thing to keep in mind when watching. 

Now if you’re watching The Bachelorette for the first time, you’ll need to understand some lingo before you get too far into the show. The people on The Bachelorette are heavily involved in Bachelor Nation, and sometimes it seems like they have their own little language. These are the terms to know when watching or discussing the show:

  • Lead: The Bachelorette.
  • Rose: Getting a rose means staying on the show for another episode. 
  • Rose ceremony: Usually the end of an episode. The lead gives out roses to those she wants to stay, and anyone without a rose leaves the show.
  • First impression rose: a rose given to whoever makes the best immediate connection the first night of the show. 
  • One-on-one date: The most coveted time on the show, this is just the contestant and the Bachelorette. However, this is a sink or swim date, as coming out without a rose means leaving the show.
  • Group dates: Usually half a dozen to a dozen guys doing some sort of activity. Not going on one, especially towards the end of the season, can mean more one-on-one time with the lead. One person will get a “group date rose.”
  • Two-on-one date: Two contestants, always in conflict with each other, go on a date with the Bachelorette. Usually one leaves with a rose, one leaves the show. Sometimes, neither remain.
  • Cocktail party: Everyone gets drunk and “steals” the Bachelorette for brief conversations. 
  • Fantasy suite: The last three contestants each get a night in a hotel with the Bachelorette, without cameras. Hint hint.
  • Hometowns: The lead travels to the homes of the final four contestants, meeting each of their families.
  • White knight: A type of contestant. The white knight tries to protect the Bachelorette from people who are “here for the wrong reasons.” 
  • “Here for the wrong reasons”: One of the worst accusations that can be made about a contestant. The implication is that, unlike the accuser, this person is on the show for fame or money rather than finding love. 
  • Villain: Another type of contestant, there are usually a few of these who are kept on to make the show more interesting.

Part Two: A Contestant’s Guide to Winning

Let’s say you find yourself magically on The Bachelorette; you’re a straight, attractive man who wants to find love and/or become famous. Or, more realistically, you’re watching The Bachelorette and want to get yourself in the head of the contestants. 

The first thing you do is read this piece by the Ringer. It outlines ten rules that any game-oriented contestant needs to follow, from always running toward the lead when you see them, to having a “malleable sense of self.” Most of the rules, however, center around avoiding conflict. 

One rule is possibly the most important for anyone on the show looking to win. Never say anything negative about another contestant—and god forbid, the Bachelorette—and never pit yourself against someone else. That’s a recipe for conflict and two-on-one dates, which never ends well for either party. 

This is also, however, the hardest advice to follow because of the all-powerful, all-consuming producers. The only thing they care about is conflict; it’s what drives the show. They want to tell a story, and the only way to do that is to pit people against each other by using a few producer tricks: getting you very drunk every day and night, constantly interviewing you to say bad stuff about other people, and telling people any information they can find that might cause confrontation. If you’re a contestant trying to win, your real enemy is the producers.

A few other tips: never tell the lead someone is “here for the wrong reasons,” don’t talk about talking (ie complaining that someone “stole” the Bachelorette), and level up your affection at an appropriate rate: “I have feelings for you” to “I can see myself falling in love with you” to “I’m falling in love with you” to “I’m in love with you.” Again, the piece by the Ringer is the ultimate resource (also watch “The Seven Deadly Sins of Bachelor Conduct”). 

Part Three: How to Pick a Winner

This is what really matters: being right, showing off to your friends, tweeting “knew this was coming since day one!” The world of The Bachelorette is complicated, intricate, and the mysteries that surround it will never ever ever be broken … okay not really. Predicting who’s going to win is actually pretty easy.

So, I have a confession. I’m obsessed with The Bachelorette. For the past few months I’ve talked about it incessantly, spent sleepless nights trying to delve into its processes and patterns. I’ve compiled what I think is the most exhaustive set of information on The Bachelorette anyone has ever made—and if not, the person who’s more thorough than I’ve been is my hero. 

My end goal has been to create two things: an algorithm that can predict the winner of the show before the season starts (using only information that can be found in the brief release about the contestants before the season airs) and a point system that can be used throughout the season to adjust the percent chance that someone will win. And I’ve failed.

I didn’t end up making either of these before my deadline, and so I don’t get to inform you of my revolutionary system for predicting winners; I am not to The Bachelorette what Brad Pitt was to baseball.

Instead, I’ll tell you about a more intuitive system used by fans for years to predict the winner after the first episode. (It was created by Bachelor Fantake, an amazing YouTube channel for any citizens of Bachelor Nation.) Mostly, it relies on the fact that The Bachelorette generally follows the same structure every season, and there are reliable patterns you can pick up on.

This strategy has you eliminating contestants one by one until you get to a final four. Getting from 25 to four seems like a daunting task, but Bachelor Fantake advises the use of categories to make groups of players that can be eliminated easily. Villains are usually talkative, loud, and get into conflict on night one—usually over time with the lead. Look for ALPHA MALES who seem to be trying to dominate over other contestants like a goddamn gorilla. 

Next, pick out the maybes/friends. This is harder than the villains, because these people are, you know, nice. Everyone with a gimmick entrance falls in this category (I’m looking at you, the two people who showed up wearing stethoscopes this season). Often, these contestants aren’t very flirty, instead chatting with the lead like it’s a job interview. But the main difference between maybes/friends and the people that really matter is screen time. Both during the first episode and in the promo at the end of it, everyone in this category is going to be mostly glossed over. Remember, if you have a “blah” emotion about someone, the producers likely don’t want you to care about them. 

Another category, white knights, often don’t show themselves on night one. But if someone gets annoyed when a villain is being annoying—maybe they say so in an interview—that’s a white knight. They care about protecting the lead more than making a connection. They might make it to the final six. 

As for the winners, the spouse material, they’re surprisingly easy to spot. Anyone getting a lot of cute, romantic screentime is going to be important in the season. Winners are always cool, calm, and collected, and usually get along well with the other contestants. Remember that the first episode airs after production is done; the editors know who is going to win. So they make sure you’ll remember and like the final contestants. 

Once you’ve decided on your final four, this system largely comes down to intuition. You can also consider the first rose, which has recently been very predictive of the eventual winner. Also, possibly think about what music is playing when a contestant talks with the Bachelorette; romantic music is put there for a purpose. But mainly, you should go with your gut. Who seems to have a better connection on the first night? Who seems more likable? At this point, that’s really all you can do.

I understand that The Bachelorette is a vapid show. I’m not blind to the bungling of big issues like race and mental health, and I understand that gender and sexuality are represented in some of their most toxic forms. It’s an empty show with no meaning, and it is deeply unimportant. But as Pope John Paul II said, “of all the unimportant things, football is the most important.” 

We put meaning in sports, we find community and entertainment in them that isn’t completely logical—you get out of sports what you put into them. I think it’s high time we start focusing our attention on The Bachelorette; you’ll be surprised at how much you can get out of it.