Assorted links, some of them sporting

by on March 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A long Bill Simmons paean to the theory of winner’s curse, and are sports fans less prone to depression?

2. Update on Moneyball strategies in baseball.

3. Democracy in America on framing (I view the Dutch example as supporting my point, actually, noting that the platforms of far left socialist parties won’t match up to interests very well in any case).

4. The sport of picking locks.

5. The Great Portuguese hollowing out., and does the U.S. risk a fiscal tipping point?, by Jim Hamilton.

6. The home advantage plays virtually no role in objectively-evaluated individual sports, as opposed to team sports.

7. Your telepresence robot.

1 Andrew' March 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

6. There was that paper that attributed it entirely to ref bias, which constituted, along with the observation that the refs inject themselves as a third team on the field, my objective conclusion that soccer sucks.

2 Nikki March 10, 2013 at 5:49 pm

What is it with Americans and football? In Europe, approximately zero people are interested in American football, and it never comes up in conversations. In the US, approximately zero people are interested in Association football, and everybody makes a point of voicing their dislike whenever possible. Why is it such a sore spot?

3 Alan Gunn March 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I think Americans tend to find soccer boring for the same reason many Europeans are bored by baseball: if you don’t appreciate the subtleties of these games you won’t enjoy watching them. Games like basketball, hockey, and polo are fun to watch even if you don’t know many of the rules and don’t appreciate many of the things the players are doing. Watching a soccer team amass a lopsided 1-0 victory isn’t much fun unless you know the game well. Same for a pitchers’ duel in baseball. (And then there’s cricket, which as I understand it is sort of like baseball except that it goes on for much longer.)

4 RR March 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

True, Cricket is like Baseball and used to last for 5 days. However they came up with the 1 day version and later Twenty20 which lasts about the same time as a baseball game.
Major differences :
In the 5 day version the equivalent of a Basehit amasser like Gwynn is more valued ; in the Twenty20 version the equivalent of a Home Run hitter is more valued.
Unlike the same pitcher, the equivalent—the bowlers share the burden.
The ball is thrown overarm in cricket.
People revel in statistics in both Baseball and Cricket.
in this era when all Sports take root in all countries ( American football has come to India and the Middle East for example) , its a mystery as to why in almost no country BOTH Baseball AND Cricket are followed passionately.

5 Andrew' March 11, 2013 at 9:26 am

“What is it with Americans and football?”

Try reading what I wrote. Seriously. I tried trying to like soccer. It was maddening. So, I paid attention to reasons why I and Americans might not like it. (1) The game is too helter skelter, the outcome based on minor swings of luck (2) the refs are too involved and can cause too much of the variance in (1) and because of this there is too much flopping and (3) refs are biassed and possibly corrupt, again because of (1). This set of observations is now a documented, proven, objective set of facts.

6 Andrew' March 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

I’m not trolling, either. I could pick a less value-laden word than “sucks” but I’m a fundamental value kind of guy. You can appreciate growing up in a society with lots of corruption, for example, but I’d say that part of that society “sucks.”

7 Nikki March 11, 2013 at 10:05 am

“Try reading what I wrote. Seriously.”

Try reading what *I* wrote: the question is not why you don’t like it, the question is why you refuse to just ignore it like countless other things that somebody else finds appealing and Americans generally don’t. Now explained by maguro and Brandon Berg: thanks.

8 jurisdebtor March 11, 2013 at 11:33 am

“(2) the refs are too involved and can cause too much of the variance in (1) and because of this there is too much flopping and (3) refs are biassed and possibly corrupt, again because of (1). This set of observations is now a documented, proven, objective set of facts.”

Then you are probably not a fan of hockey, basketball, or baseball then either, since all have documented problems in their respective leagues with those elements as well.

9 Ryan March 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Not writing to convince Andrew’ that he needs to give soccer another chance. Or that, it seems the rest of the world has the capability to understand and enthusiastically follow soccer even though he does not. Indeed, I don’t like the “They all have single payer health care either.” argument either.

I’m just curious which sports he likes to follow given his exclusion criteria — (1), (2), and (3) — that prevents him from liking to watch soccer.

10 Go Kings, Go! March 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Football contains all the things we like.

1. Football is incredibly legalistic, ordering formations and motion; differentiating contact by body part, location on the field, “helplessness”, etc.; offering a range of sentencing guidelines; governing behavior (only “spontaneous” celebrations permitted, no taunting); even providing appellate intervention under murky replay rules. That allows football fans to argue constantly.
2. Football is terrifically violent, which is entertaining.
3. Football has many breaks in the action, so we can get beer, pee and argue.
4. And since Europeans don’t play American football, it doesn’t feature flopping/embellishment as a prominent tactic, which would drive us nuts.

11 Careless March 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm

The problem with soccer is that legs are too strong, leading to the need to make the field enormous, which led to players not being physically capable of running most of the time.

Hockey fixes that with a puck, walls, and frequent substitutions.

12 maguro March 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm

American soccer proponents tend to explain the sport’s lack of popularity in the US by saying that Americans are too stupid/unsophisticated/insular/xenophobic/racist to appreciate soccer’s superiority to dumb old American sports. Which rubs some people the wrong way.

13 Brandon Berg March 11, 2013 at 12:17 am

There’s also a certain type of American who loudly proclaims his love of soccer as a transparent way of signaling how much better he thinks he is than other Americans.

14 Cyrus March 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm

There’s also the possibility that soccer’s claim to being the world’s sport are exaggerated. It’s at most a secondary sport in India and China, and there goes any claim to universality.

15 DocMerlin March 11, 2013 at 5:25 am

“In Europe, approximately zero people are interested in American football, and it never comes up in conversations.”
My european friends constantly say how terrible american football is.

16 Slocum March 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

In the US, approximately zero people are interested in Association football, and everybody makes a point of voicing their dislike whenever possible.

That’s not really true. ESPN shows some EPL games and U.S. national team matches are generally televised (as well as the World Cup). And many more Americans actually play organized soccer as kids than football (especially given that very, very few girls play football). The ‘soccer mom’ in her SUV is a cliche here. And, of course, there is an American pro soccer league that operates at roughly the same competitive level as, say, European basketball.

But even though more Americans have experience playing soccer than football, they greatly prefer football as a spectator sport because, well, it’s much more spectacular to watch. And it’s not just soccer that suffers by comparison — baseball, hockey, and basketball do too. However, all is not well with American football. There have been high profile suicides of ex-football players suffering from brain degeneration caused by years of blows to the head. The legal liability issues may become very serious.

17 Joe Smith March 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

5 Why do the fiscal hawks who say we are facing imminent fiscal catastrophe always say that the solution is to gradually phase in entitlement reform starting ten years from now? If they really believed fiscal catastrophe is rushing at us they would be shouting HIGHER TAXES AND LOWER DEFENSE SPENDING NOW! NOW! NOW!

18 Brian Donohue March 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Well, Joe, haven’t we started down this road already, with the fiscal cliff tax increases and sequester?

The low-hanging fruit is being plucked. The big fish: tax reform/increases and entitlement reform/decreases will happen in tandem, if they do. Neither party has swallowed hard enough to accept this…yet.

19 msgkings March 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm


20 prior_approval March 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

This is the truly relevant opinion from the Economist article, at least from the perspective of someone looking at today’s America from the outside (so to speak) –

‘For example, it is simply bizarre that America is allowing existing road and port infrastructure in heavily populated areas to fall into disrepair at a time of negative real bond yields. It is absurd to argue that America lacks the capacity to maintain the road network in western Massachusetts to the standards of 1993; the only possible reason why those roads are deteriorating is ideological conflict over the appropriate total level of government spending.’

Watching the slow decline of the U.S. since the Reagan era has been sad as an American – and the reasons are considered plain by those societies that the U.S. itself feels are doing things the wrong way.

It isn’t about specific projects in and of themselves – Germany is currently undergoing more than a bit of soul searching concerning the non-completion of the new Berlin airport, and Stuttgart 21’s immense cost overruns.

21 Cliff March 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm

How can it possibly have anything to do with disagreement over the appropriate total level of government spending? Infrastructure is one of the most basic roles of government. There can’t be more than a handful of congressmen (at most) who believe basic infrastructure spending should be reduced or eliminated. Therefore, there must be some other reason- collapse of the political process, distrust. I blame it on the inherently bilateral nature of the U.S. voting system. Get rid of the two party monopoly and it would change, for better or worse. But that will never happen.

22 DocMerlin March 11, 2013 at 5:26 am

An even more realistic reason is that entitlement spending is gobbling up all other forms of government spending.

23 Paul Zrimsek March 11, 2013 at 7:26 am

Perhaps by the next time we let a financial crisis stampede us into a spending spree, those roads in western Massachusetts will have deteriorated to the point where they’re shovel-ready.

24 TMC March 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm

“Watching the slow decline of the U.S. since the Reagan era”

It’s a bit surprising to see you acknowledge the Reagan era as a pinnacle, but good to see your honesty in this matter

25 derek March 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Didn’t Massachusetts spend an enormous amount of money during this time on one infrastructure project? Maybe wasting resources on an over priced and poorly managed project sucks resources from elsewhere.

26 Thor March 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm

it’s “Prior Approval”: he’s longing for those great Carter years.

27 msgkings March 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Why not? Lefty that P_A is, Reagan was a lot closer to his world view than the current Republican party.

28 Ashok Rao March 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I think the Econbrowser link doesn’t consider the chain of causality that would result in higher yields (lower trade deficit, companies investing, people borrowing, banks not holding excess reserves —> lower deficits and unemployment). As some bloggers have also noted, it might be smart to (for this reason) rollover our debt into longer maturities, or even perpetuities.

More detailed thoughts here:

29 Cliff March 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm

If they could do it, surely they would.

30 Nigel March 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm

The article on Portugal is somewhat alarming; this one on Germany possibly more so –

I don’t see how the euro holds together given the very different national incentives. Italy, for example, might do comparatively well from leaving the euro and defaulting on its external debt. Until the externally imposed austerity pushed it back into recession, it was not running a deficit; take away its debt interest payments, and it might well be in surplus.

31 Gene Callahan March 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

The Simmons piece never mentions the winner’s curse at all.

32 Matt March 11, 2013 at 12:19 am

So what? Winner’s curse is just jargon from auction theory that Simmons is talking about in non-jargon.

The more interesting link is the second one. Is it really counter-intuitive that sports fans would be less depressed and less alienated? If you can vicariously live through the triumphs and failures of a group of strangers who have no impact on your life, just because people in your community (however construed) also do so, how could you ever feel alienated?

33 CMOT March 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm

3> I wish I lived in M.S.’s world, The problem is that America’s OLD infrastructural is crumbling, and the solution is to build gigantic BRAND NEW infrastructure projects! And if you try to point out that past spending increases in the name of infrastructure have gone to rentiers within the winning party’s coalition, and not to actual infrastructure, YOU’RE the problem, because you are creating ” ideological conflict over whether the government is spending too much money”.

See, the real solution is to stop asking questions, um, er I mean, stop framing spending negatively….

34 Slocum March 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm

America’s infrastructure is eternally ‘crumbling’ but strangely enough, it never actually crumbles. And where do those claims of crumbling infrastructure generally come from? Why from the ASCE (the American Society of Civil Engineers) — folks who have a very strong vested interest in increased infrastructure spending. Hardly an unbiased, disinterested party, and yet the claims are always reported as completely objective and factual with not even a hint that there might be just a bit of conflict of interest involved.

35 FE March 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Indeed. Google Ngrams shows that the phrase “crumbing infrastructure” entered the lexicon around 1979, with a huge spike (surely you remember all the crumbling) in the period 1986-1997. So it would seem that American infrastructure peaked at the end of the Carter administration and has been crumbling ever since, despite all the trillions we’ve spent.

36 DocMerlin March 11, 2013 at 4:45 am

“does the U.S. risk a fiscal tipping point?”
We are way past it.

37 jurisdebtor March 11, 2013 at 7:44 am

If you are going to point to the success of sabermetrics, please stop with this kowtowing to Billy Beane. One post-season appearance in the last six years, one postseason series win in the last 13 years, and won’t bore folks with a laundry list of his garbage moves that never gets publicity because god forbid we tarnish the lore (seriously though, he drafted Ariel Prieto over Todd Helton against the advice of his scouts).

38 msgkings March 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Beane is not the alltime genius some make him out to be (the book, the movie) but he’s pretty good. The postseason is a total crapshoot (ask the 1990s Braves). And that one postseason appearance last year was really impressive. No one saw that coming, he deserves some props for that.

39 Merijn Knibbe March 11, 2013 at 11:36 am


Mortagage debt in the Netherlands is, with 108% of GDP, about the highest of the world – quite some people would really benefit from higher nominal wages in my country. And isn’t higher (wage)inflation as opposed to ‘oil prices inflation’ what is supposed to happen, in the ‘core countries’? But a the same time and despite the fact that we’re living in the period with the lowest inflation and the least (private bank) money printing since WW II people are panicking about ‘hyper inflation’ and ‘money printing’ and whatever. Wage increases in the Netherlands (actual wages per hour, not contractual wages) also were, during the last two years, lower than in any other eurozone country except for Greece and real wages declined with about 3% (about 1% of this was due to higher VAT). Wow, that’s no fun in a country were household interest payments (largely a fix cost in the medium run) are equal to about 7% of GDP. On top of this, house prices started falling after 2008 and as credit restrictions are tightened (you have to actually pay down the mortgage, nowadays, and the max. mort. has come down from 130% to 106% of house value while loan to income ratio’s have been tightened) they are at this moment falling faster than in any of the preceding years, at a rate of about 10% a year. Even worse, ‘liquidity’ of houses has deteriorated to, in many cases, about zero as buyers wait, as the amount of houses for sale has doubled and as many sellers do not want to lower prices (this is strictly not a liquidity argument, but these sellers who can’t sell their house can’t buy a new one either which means that other houses don’t sell). The political reaction to this was ‘save and cut’, ‘save and cut’. In such a situation there are reasons why economists from the large banks are opposing austerity policies and with good reason. I mean – did I mention already that retail sales have declined with 15%, since 2008? And that the Netherlands have the largest current account surplus (% of GDP) of the Eurozone? While pension funds have increased their reserves with 5 to 6% a year during the last years, but that they are at the same time cutting pensions as the Dutch central (who has remarkable powers in this regard) makes them act as if these reserves increase at a much lower rate? While it doesn’t make them invest in financing direct investments in the Netherlands but in German Bunds kind of stuff instead? By the way: these reserves are as a % of GDP the highest of the world, as far as I know, which is connected with the 600 billion of new money printed (by the private banks) to fuel the housing market, money which via obligatory pension savings on a net basis ended up in these funds. There is plenty of money in the country, the current account is not a restraint, unemployment is going up which is clearly caused by economic policy and real wages and house prices are declining – and politicians only want more austerity and higher surpluses on the current account (though they go to great lengths to keep house prices overly high). We’re really mixing up the value of assets with income.

40 TallDave March 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm

1. Always have something to look forward to.

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