From White Sox opening day, April 1, 2011, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Turned out decently except for Bacon, where I REALLY whiffed.
Working on an art project I’ve been wanting to do since my SI For Kids days.
By Mobutu Sese Seko
Even if one wants to feel a genial non-interfering positivity or salutary indifference toward Tim Tebow and his “testimony,” the frequency and intensity with which it’s invoked by NFL Network and ESPN makes it intolerable. By week 14, Skip Bayless will be berating some poor Archbishop about their “beatification bias.”
This really isn’t Tebow’s fault. He’s said the right things, and provided a few crude but undeniably dramatic end-of-game moments. But he keeps getting cajoled into testifying, and his faith is the kind that leads him to relate the same story about his performance over and over with a kind of guileless sincerity. It might make you a little sick to your stomach because the media keeps re-administering the dose, but it itself isn’t toxic.
It is a little dumb, however. Last night, Rich Eisen dismissed Tebow’s replacement-level 9/20 completions for 104 yards, saying, “We’ve reached the point where we should stop mentioning [Tebow’s] stat line.” This wasn’t for any great repetition of the facts; instead, the NFL Network seemed positively allergic to discussing Tebow within the parameters of his actual job.
Why Americans want smaller government: they have no idea what the government is doing for them.
It seems like jaw-jutting, a.k.a. “Kobe face,” has been meme-ing in the sports blogosphere as of late.
Why do we keep seeing it? We know that people are more receptive to masculine-looking leaders during wartime than during peacetime. With this in consideration, Kobe face makes sense for players displaying their onions at home with the friendly crowd eager to be led into opposite-day-battle.
That doesn’t explain why anyone would jaw jut on the road, though. My guess? You need to be a real troll to do that.
The gentlemen at midwestsportsfans.com are doing fine work expanding on Bill Simmons’ points per miss (PPM) metric. They use a calculation similar to John Hollinger’s true shooting percentage (TSP). While TSP is a percentage indicating shooting efficiency, PPM uses a similar calculation to determine efficiency in terms of points.
Both measures essentially answer the same question: “Can a given basketball player shoot the fuckin’ rock?” This aim is shared by other shooting measures like points and FG%, but PPM and TSP give more reliable answers.
If only we had the same openness to advanced stats with body composition metrics. When people weigh themselves, they are attempting to find the answer to an unmistakably American question: “Am I a fuckin’ fat sack?” While advanced statistics are becoming known to the popular consciousness in the sports context, weight, the granddaddy of entrenched unreliable metrics, is still used to answer this question.
Statistics like body fat percentage and total body fat weight more reliably answer the question of whether one is, in fact, a fuckin’ fat sack. To apply advanced statistical measures to body composition would provide respite to weight-conscious Americans from the stress of tying a degree of self-efficacy exclusively to an unreliable number. Stop hogging the reliable stats, nerds, I’m starving.
One nice part about my having a super-amateur forum for my opinions is that there is minimal accountability when they shade towards mansplainey and ignorant. While I hope this happens less than every-damn-post, I am coming to realize that I am, in fact, a bit of a blowhard. A not-unrelated point is that my ravings only tangentially concern the White Sox, baseball, or even sports. However, this blog was always intended to be less about those things than what those things make me think about. So, with this blog’s mission sufficiently stated, I will move on to the regularly scheduled ignorant flimflam that baseball has made me think about. And this time that ignorant flimflam concerns Gordon Beckham’s childhood.
To explain my thoughts about Gordo, I need to acquaint you, Theoretical Reader, with a book I’ve been reading called The Hidden Cost of Being African American by Thomas Shapiro. The gist of it is that, compared to their African American counterparts, young white middle-class families tend to receive more “head start assets” from their relatives, such as enrollment in good primary schools, low-interest loans for higher education, and functional assets like houses and cars. This leaves white middle-class families on average with higher skills and more assets to invest in their childrens’ education and skills. Additionally, more of the income that they earn can become income-producing wealth (e.g. investments in stocks and mutual funds), which will eventually become head start assets for their own children. Long story short, this is the result of black-versus-white income and wealth gaps that are the product of past and present job, education, and housing discrimination. Identically skilled black middle-class families tend to earn much less for the same work than their white peers (yes – even controlling for education/skill/industry/family-structure/etc.), resulting in their having lower net worth, receiving less head start assets, and bequeathing less head start assets to their children. White privilege, Whitlock. Take it on faith (or don’t and peep this pdf) .
Gordo certainly grew up white, and judging by his taste for NBC programming, I assume socio-economically somewhere in the middle-class. He was raised in a suburb of Atlanta, the son of a former University of South Carolina quarterback. By virtue of his family’s head start assets, Gordo attended the Westminster Schools, a prettay prettay good private school with a giant endowment. By all accounts, Beckham worked hard to cultivate his talents. No small part in his success in doing so was the aid of many high-quality trainers and coaches.
Gordo deserves his successes. Through hard work he has maximized his talents. That Gordo has become a kinda serviceable professional athlete, with slightly above-replacement performance and a presently dorky batting stance, is a testament to his work ethic. We often hear about how these players are able to squeeze all the athletic talent out of their bodies. And they often do. We see guys like him all the time. Gordo is J.J. Reddick. Gordo is Rob Pelinka. Gordo is Jim Harbaugh. Not every white athlete is Gordo, but given Mr. Shapiro’s work, I imagine a disproportionate share are than compared to their black peers.
One common pretense is that we live in a meritocracy where hard workers become successful. Under this line of thinking, success creates the proper incentives to work hard. After all, hard workers contribute to society, and so some would argue that there is moral value in work ethic. Our beliefs about the sports world reflect these ideas.
A related pervasive idea among sports fans is that players’ moral worth can be ascertained by whether they have maximized their athletic talents. You know the drill: Matt Howard is hard working and gritty. Josh Selby is a knucklehead with no work ethic. Much of talent maximization, though, is due to a head start. This head start is rarely factored into the moral comparisons that we sports fans make when we sloppily shoot the breeze. It needs to be.
And while we’re on the topic, how about a head start for Juan Pierre?
A few weeks ago, Luke Scott, outfielder for the Orioles, shared with ESPN his at-least-then birthirism and presumably still-thriving practice of throwing plaintain chips at Latin American teammates, who he has (affectionately?) dubbed “savages.” Certainly such ignorant sewage could not emerge from the mouth of a higher education recipient, right? Not so: Luke Scott is a 32 year-old Oklahoma State University graduate, and unfortunately he is also a mushy-brained racist doofus.
Upon first glance, Scott’s liberal-arts-repelling drainage-ditch intellect supports Jason Whitlock’s view that “amateur athletics is a for-profit scam… . Coaches and administrators are making millions. The athletes are being compensated in a currency (a shot at a compromised education in their spare time) many of them don’t respect and haven’t been properly prepared to use. [Ridin’ on minorities! Personal responsibility! Hamsterdam!]” Now, admittedly, athletic scholarships are revenue drivers. They fund student union buildings and, I dunno, ivory towers or something. However, if I may indulge in the conceit that student-athletes engage in some educational activities (which they certainly do in Yago Colas’s classroom at the University of Michigan), then they also provide at least some higher education to kids that would not otherwise have had that opportunity: According to Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org, in the 2007-8 academic year, out of $1.1 billion in total athletic scholarship funding, 22.8% of these scholarship went to African Americans and 39.1% to kids from families making less than $50k per year. The availability of athletic scholarships creates opportunities for kids to go to college.
Smart guys with salt and pepper beards insist that poor areas can only achieve sustainable growth if the area’s labor force is skilled. This is because skilled labor can act entrepreneurially, creating jobs for others. Therefore, to develop it’s economy, a poor area must educate, or “upskill,” its labor force. Athletic scholarships may not result in a degree, and the end result may be Luke Scott. For every Luke Scott, though, there has to be at least one Jalen Rose (seriously, click that link — a DUI undoes all that?).
Athletic scholarships are agents of progressivity, helping to upskill poor areas. That athletic directors may have ulterior motives does not change this. In a country where wealth, and thus privilege (thanks guys), continues to consolidate, it is supremely important that we maintain this progressive institution. I mean, even Luke Scott was able to learn Spanish.
This past decade has not been kind to sacrifice bunts. The statistical revolution has exposed sacrifices as being inefficient in the large majority of situations. Despite this, they still pop up (hey now, Alexei Ramirez) here and there. In a post-Money Ball world, there has been increased pressure from fans and commentators to scrap this demonstrably inefficient strategy. That teams still call for sacrifices is likely the product of organizational insulation and the inertia of generally accepted, though not empirically tested, ideas that have become the “state of the art.”
This phenomenon is not unique to baseball, or sports (where the cone drill is believed to be predictive of future football performance) by any means. The “stickiness” of bad ideas appears in most facets of life, from industry, to politics, and even birth control methods (see “I had sex standing up, so won’t gravity stop the sperm from swimming?”). These ideas stick because they fit nicely inside people’s preconceived worldviews.
Nowhere is this phenomenon more pronounced than in healthcare. While the human body is the same everywhere, standards of care vary by locality. Even with well-known chronic conditions like diabetes, treatment choices vary widely. Though the logical conclusion of this is frightening, allow me to bravely venture forth: Some doctors necessarily are treating patients with methods that, in the best case scenario, are equally effective as fucking doorknobs. Or tables.
In medicine, doctors justify their medical choices by pointing to their non-empirical “scientific” theories of the body. In baseball, managers justify their use of sacrifice bunting with the way scoring one run can relax a team, which in turn leads to more runs. Cool theory, and it makes intuitive sense, especially in a world where performance is a product of confidence, not being a homo, and self-righteous personal accountability. This is the particular branch of productivity theory that, along with smokeless tobacco, tends to emerge from the mouths of baseball managers.
Popular demand has caused Congress, with the health care reform act, to encourage providers to use only effective and efficient treatment methods, justified by evidence through clinical trials or aggregated data. This was necessary because healthcare providers are not rewarded for efficiency, as they would be in a perfect market. On the other hand, over a 162 game season, baseball teams tend to be rewarded for, ya know, scoring more runs than other teams. That we still see sacrifice bunts is a testament to the power of sticky ideas. Which industry insider will have the courage to be the faggy four-eyed socialist to act according to the empirical evidence?