Sports

In early April, shortly after his team celebrated a postseason championship, a George Washington men’s basketball player visited a campus Title IX coordinator to log complaints about Coach Mike Lonergan. Lonergan, the player believed, had created an offensive, intolerable environment, evidenced in his mind — and in the minds of many of his teammates — by the spate of transfers during the coach’s five-year tenure.

There is much more to the story, here is just one bit, from a player:

“It was always weird. When he goes on those rants, it’s like, how do you react? How do you respond to something like that? Players kind of just stayed away from him. We knew every time it would be you and him, he would go on some kind of weird rant. We would just kind of stay away from him. He did a great job in terms of winning. Off the court, something weird is always going to come out.”

Can you imagine that response to either Bobby Knight or John Wooden?  But at GW many players have left the school, refusing to play under the coach’s tutelage.  He may yet be dismissed and possibly also sued for creating an abusive environment.  In the old days, at the end the team wins, everyone bonds, and the coach is a hero.  Or was it really ever like that?  Maybe we have just stopped pretending.

That is via Peter Boettke.  Via Mark Thorson, the Japanese just made their last VCR player.

That is a new paper by René Böheim, Christoph Freudenthaler, and Mario Lackner, the abstract is to the point:

We analyze gender differences in risk-taking in high-pressure situations. Using novel data from professional athletes (NBA and WNBA), we find that male teams increase their risk-taking towards the end of matches when a successful risky strategy could secure winning the match. Female teams, in contrast, reduce their risk-taking in these situations. The less time left in a match, the larger is the gap. When the costs of an unsuccessful risky strategy are very large (losing the tournament), we find no increase in risk-taking for male teams.

This is consistent with the broader portfolio evidence on risk-taking.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Justin Winkler has a new thesis from Haverford (pdf):

This paper analyzes the impact that the influx of foreign players has had on the salaries and labor market outcomes of domestic players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The study builds on previous literature in the field of labor economics by examining this research question in a highly specialized labor market with a rigid salary structure. First, an unbalanced panel data set at the player-year level from 1990-2008 is used in combination with a log-linear regression model to estimate the impact that the number of foreign players in the NBA has on the wages of domestic players. Results are insignificant. A handcrafted dataset tracking the careers of Chad Ford’s top 50 American prospects from 2001 through 2015 is used with a series of ordered logistic regressions to examine foreign players’ impact on the career length and outcomes of American players. Additional ordinary least squares regressions are used to estimate the career quality of American prospects by the quality of the leagues in which they played. Results of all regressions investigating the career outcomes of American prospects are also insignificant.

The initial pointer is from Ben Southwood, see his older and broadly similar paper on soccer.

The activities of victims at the time of attack in the Florida cases were distributed as follows: 17.4 percent were related to trying to capture/pick up/exhibit the animal; 16.7 percent involved swimming; 9.9 percent involved fishing; 9.5 percent related to retrieving golf balls; and 5.3 percent involved wading/walking in water.

Here is more information.  Staying away from alligators — and golf — would seem to eliminate most but not all of these attacks.

Muhammad Ali

by on June 4, 2016 at 7:18 am in History, Law, Sports | Permalink

AliMuhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. Given the great love and honor shown to him since carrying the Olympic Torch at the Atlanta games in 1996 and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush in 2005 it is perhaps difficult to remember how reviled he was in the 1960s after he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to be drafted.

David Susskind, the well regarded television producer and talk show host, said this to Ali in a bitter exchange in 1968:

I find nothing amusing or interesting or tolerable about this man. He’s a disgrace to his country, his race, and what he laughingly describes as his profession. He is a convicted felon in the United States. He has been found guilty. He is out on bail. He will inevitably go to prison, as well he should. He is a simplistic fool and a pawn.

We should remember these things, however, because more than Ali’s courage in the ring, it was Ali’s courage in fighting the US government and much of the US public that made him a great American.

This is an email from Oli Cairns, a loyal MR reader:

I’ve recently been thinking about the role sporting success plays in fostering patriotism.

As a Brit, the only time my cynical friends, colleagues or fellow commuters stop complaining about the country/each other is when our compatriots start winning tennis sets, Olympic medals or football matches (not much of that recently). I used to think this was a good thing, but now I worry that these boosts in patriotism and social capital are not being allocated efficiently.

My proposal would be to alter the structure of global sports to increase the success of poorer nations. Say that 50% of future Football World Cups must take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, 25% of qualification spots are allocated to the region and every top-tier European club is mandated to start 2 of their players per game. At the same time, we could replace most Olympic track-cycling, rowing and horse riding events with the 125m, 250m or a 10k lap elimination.

Do you think this would be welfare improving?

From this perspective, maybe Sep Blatter is transformed from villain to hero!

My favorite (readily available) American chocolate bar is the dark Chocolove XoXoX, but recently they changed it.  The packaging went from very dark to to gold, and the flavor is now a little sweeter and less nutty.  The cocoa content is higher, but somehow it doesn’t quite shine through as strongly.  It still might be the best on the American market, but now I wonder, because it is modestly worse than before.

I no longer find the old bars in supermarkets, and an Amazon order of the old bars brought a shipment of the new bars instead.  But when I go to bookstores which sell chocolate, their supply turns over not so quickly, and so some of them still carry versions of the old bar.  For now.

I have five copies of the old bar left in the cupboard, and no guarantee for when I might replace them.

Chocolove Xoxox Premium Chocolate Bar - Dark Chocolate - Strong - 3.2 oz Bars - Case of 12 - Kosher - 70% Cocoa

My intuition is to eat them next in sequence, rather than postpone the exhaustion of their supply.  Eventually I will engage in an optimal forgetting of their very fine taste, and it is best that happens sooner rather than later.  To cite George Constantinides, that would be an optimal smoothing of habit-forming consumption.

An alternative philosophy is to consume them later in life, as late as spoilage costs will allow, so as to spread out aesthetic peaks over time.

Yet another alternative is give them away to latter-day customers who only have known the slightly inferior bar, and thus wreck their lives for sport.

Northern lights, darkness, meatballs and suicide rates are just some of the suggested topics of conversation for a new hotline backed by the Swedish Tourist Association.

Launched this week, call +46 771 SWEDEN from anywhere in the world and you’ll be connected to a random Swede. The service honours the 250th anniversary of the country abolishing censorship and hopes to “connect people in troubled times.”

Here is the full story, which includes a taped conversation with a Swede (but is he random?), via Michelle Dawson.

Long distance charges may apply.

And via Samir Varma, here is one story of someone who called and spoke with a Ugandan.

But in March 1963, a month before his final game for the Celtics, [Bob] Cousy complained to the Associated Press, “I think the jump shot is the worst thing that has happened to basketball in ten years.”  Cousy’s objections?  “Any time you can do something on the ground, it’s better,” he said, sounding very much like a coach who would have enjoyed benching Kenny Sailors or Bud Palmer.  “Once you leave the ground, you’ve committed yourself.”  Jump shot critics discouraged players from flying into the air because they feared the indecision that came when someone left their feet.  They feared the bad passes from players who jumped with no clear plan of what they’d do in the air.  Staying grounded meant fewer mistakes.  It was simply a safer way to play the game, if not as exciting.

That is from Shawn Fury’s new and fun Rise and Fire: The Origins, Science, and Evolution of the Jump Shot — and How it Transformed Basketball Forever.  Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone criticize Stephen Curry for taking (and making) so many three point shots.  This is what I call “@pmarca bait.”

From Alexander Dubbs:

We use a simple machine learning model, logistically-weighted regularized linear least squares regression, in order to predict baseball, basketball, football, and hockey games. We do so using only the thirty-year record of which visiting teams played which home teams, on what date, and what the final score was. No real “statistics” are used. The method works best in basketball, likely because it is high-scoring and has long seasons. It works better in football and hockey than in baseball, but in baseball the predictions are closer to a theoretical optimum. The football predictions, while good, can in principle be made much better, and the hockey predictions can be made somewhat better. These findings tells us that in basketball, most statistics are subsumed by the scores of the games, whereas in baseball, football, and hockey, further study of game and player statistics is necessary to predict games as well as can be done.

That is an almost Hayekian result, and I wonder what the people at 538 will think of it.

For the pointer I thank Agustin Lebron.

Policies can be individually tailored to reflect a company’s confidence in a celebrity. For example, for sponsorship contracts ranging from £1m to £50m, policies can be designed to reimburse the full amount to the sponsoring company in the event of a misdemeanour by the celebrity, or pay out on a sliding scale, depending on the nature of the incident.

Premiums vary, but brokers say they tend to start at 0.25 per cent of the sum insured, or just under 1 per cent, on average, for more bespoke arrangements.

Cover can also be arranged for different types of risk. One of the main types is loss of profit, if customers stop buying certain products in the wake of a celebrity’s disgrace.

And this:

But, as with all insurance, it pays to read the small print and understand the factors that determine the success of a claim. “If someone has a squeaky clean image, the threshold for disgrace is lower than it would be for a hellraiser,” Mr Rackliffe explains.

Here is the David Oakley and Oliver Ralph FT story.

If [Draymond] Green is truly gunning for triple doubles, there should be an increase in his production in the third stat category in games once he has secured a double-double. When Green has locked up a points/rebounds double-double, his assists per minute increases to 0.27 from 0.21. Similarly, when he has a points/assists double-double, his rebounds per minute rises to 0.44 from 0.28 and when he has an assists/rebounds double-double, his points per minute goes up to 0.69 from 0.40.

Here is the WSJ piece, which covers other players as well.  I still think that sports as a medium for teaching both economics and statistics to younger individuals (and others) remains a somewhat underexplored opportunity…

Mike Tyson rose to rapid prominence and became heavyweight champion of the world; his opponents quite literally did not know what hit them.  He lost the title, went to prison for rape for three years, and later won the title back.  But not for long. as Wikipedia puts it: “Their 1997 rematch ended when Tyson was disqualified for biting part of Holyfield’s ear off.”

It can be said that Mike Tyson was his own worst enemy, and that a string of dramatic victories led him to take ever more dangerous risks.

By 2003 Mike Tyson was bankrupt.  Later he ended up doing product endorsements.  He has had second, third, and now fourth “acts.”

Mike Tyson was born in Brooklyn, he has been married three times, and in 2015 he announced that he is supporting Donald Trump for president.  There is even a direct link between the histories of the two men:

Tyson had fought some of his biggest bouts at Trump hotel-casinos, and Trump even bid a record $11 million site fee for Tyson’s 1988 showdown with Michael Spinks, which at the time was the richest fight in boxing history. When Tyson was later convicted of the rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington and sentenced to six years in prison, Trump proposed that Tyson should be allowed to keep fighting, with the proceeds from his bouts going to rape victims (and Trump, naturally). The arrangement would have greatly benefitted Trump’s casinos at a time when he was suffering financial woes, but officials deemed it inappropriate.

There is a 0.26 chance that Donald Trump is the Mike Tyson of politics, and he will voluntarily self-destruct in a way which will astonish us.  What does Tyson say about Trump?:

“We’re the same guy,” he continues. “A thrust for power, a drive for power. Whatever field we’re in, we need power in that field. That’s just who we are.”

Then, Tyson starts to lose me a bit. “Balls of energy. We’re not even who we think we are. We’re fire. We’re made of this crap—water, motion, dirt, diamonds, emeralds. We’re made out of that stuff, can you believe it?”

Trump, on his side, claims he once bet $1 million against Tyson and for Evander Holyfield, receiving a lucrative payout.

But whose ear will Trump bite off, so to speak?  And which products will he end up endorsing?

I view the KKK fracas as raising the probability of Trump as Tyson, since I do not think it had potential upside for him.

Here are related remarks from Megan McArdle.  For a discussion of these points, and of Tyson, I thank Dan Klein.

She wrote the classic book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, still worth reading.  Here is the NYT obituaryThe Washington Post obituary introduced me to another side of her life:

A year after retiring, Dr. Eisenstein achieved a different sort of professional peak, earning her first No. 1 ranking in tennis — as a member of the U.S. Tennis Association’s 65-and-over division.

Betty Eisenstein, as she was known on the court, played her first adult tournament in 1973, the year she turned 50. She lost — to International Tennis Hall of Fame member Dorothy “Dodo” Cheney — but quickly found her footing in a sport that she had played only briefly as a girl.

Dr. Eisenstein landed on the cover of Washington City Paper in 2005, under the headline “The Assassin.” Though 82 and standing only 5-foot-2, she was said to move “like a kid”: “She makes her opponent work so hard and hit so many extra shots that all the body blows eventually catch up to her,” the writer, Huan Hsu, said of her lethal drop shot.

The video, podcast, and transcript are here.  Nate of course was excellent, here are just a few bits:

COWEN: What are the differences between forecasting and futurism, and do you have any predictions for the year 2050? They don’t have to be great. They just have to be better than the market. We’ll take a 52 percent prediction and go home and celebrate.

SILVER: I’m mildly pessimistic in some ways.

COWEN: What’s the biggest source of your pessimism?

SILVER: [laughs] There’s probably some survivorship bias in the United States, and thinking about how our way will persevere forever and ever and ever. We were talking backstage about how you go to Asia and I go to Asia — not as often as you. If you want to feel optimistic about civilization, then go there.

And:

COWEN: You’re a fan of baseball, and I’d like to ask you, of all the different baseball records, which is the one that is most impressive to you, or the most a statistical aberration, and try to stay a bit modern. We both know in 1889, Hoss Radbourn won 59 games.

Start with [Owen] Wilson’s — was it 36 triples in 1912? That, and up through the modern age. What’s the most statistically impressive baseball record, and why?

SILVER: I think the biggest outlier is the number of intentional walks that Barry Bonds drew. I forget what year it was, 2001, where he had like 161 intentional walks, and the next closest player is 50?

And:

COWEN: Singapore. Overrated or underrated?

SILVER: Underrated except by you.

There is of course much, much more, including remarks on the candidates and the elections, as well as My Bloody Valentine and more on sports too, prediction markets as well, the weather, and why so few professional athletes have come out as gay.  Recommended.