Gregory Howard of MIT is on the job market this year, and I was intrigued by one of his papers in process (not yet available):
Make Baseball Fun Again (with Vivek Bhattacharya)
Abstract: Using Pitch F/X data covering over 6 million pitches, we document that pitchers are averse to throwing fastballs. Controlling for the state space of a baseball game, including balls, strikes, outs, inning, run differential, and pitcher/batter fixed effects, we find the pitching team is more likely to win the game when throwing a fastball. This is inconsistent with a mixed-strategy equilibrium where the pitcher’s utility is winning the game. We document that fastballs are riskier, leading to more outs, but also to more extra-base hits. We outline a possible incentive problem between the team and the pitcher, who has preferences over remaining in the game, similar to career concerns (Holmstrom 1998), leading the pitcher to be risk-averse. As suggestive evidence, we show that these effects are more prevalent later in the game, and that rookie pitchers, who have less leverage over pitch choice, do not exhibit this tendency.
If you are wondering, Greg’s job market paper (also at the above link) is on how local labor migration creates an “accelerator” for labor demand by boosting the demand for housing — a locally-produced good — in that area.
Journalists will try to tell you that Carlsen vs. Karjakin will be close. Other journalists will try to tell you that someone other than Golden State or Cleveland will win the next NBA title. Other journalists will try to tell you…
“U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia’s electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin’s command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary”…link here.
Just keep Mexico, South Korea, and Estonia in mind, and I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.
The first self-driving cars to be operated by ordinary British drivers will be left deliberately unmarked so that other drivers will not be tempted to “take them on”, a senior car industry executive has revealed.
One of the biggest fears of an ambitious project to lease the first autonomous vehicles to everyday motorists is that other road users might slam on their brakes or drive erratically in order to force the driverless cars into submission, he said.
This is why the first 100 self-driving 4×4 vehicles to be leased to motorists as part of a pilot scheme on busy main roads into London will look no different than other Volvos of the same model, said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars. The scheme will start in 2018.
Americans wouldn’t talk this way:
One driver interviewed for the survey said: “I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.”
Another said: “They are going to stop. So you’re going to mug them right off. They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip around.”
Well, I am here to tell you: that’s OK. We’ve all had it drummed into us from infancy that humans bullying cars = bad.
But we can’t let our bourgeois notions of propriety in auto-human interactions stop us from letting out our inner Johnny from Karate Kid.
We must, rather, get on with the vital and necessary work of bullying, haranguing and insulting these contraptions every chance we get. Because I cannot stress this enough: these cars must not be allowed to develop self-esteem.
From another corner of the world, I can tell you that Kiwis do not drive as politely as they talk.
Setting the world record for using your mouth to catch a grape dropped from the greatest height: It was a dream years in the making, and all it took was a hot air balloon, walnut-sized fruits shipped specially from Georgia and a crew of Ph.D.-level engineers who gathered at a tiny Vermont airport before the sun rose on Monday morning.
The man with the plan was Brent Fraser, 35, who said he “just had a natural knack” for catching things in his mouth ever since his high school days in Barre, Vt., where buddies would chuck food toward him in the school parking lot.
The piece has some good sentences, such as:
Indeed, once things did get going, most of the few dozen attempts ended with a goggle-clad Fraser getting smacked in the face and chest by the large grapes — selected because they were easiest to see — that were traveling about 56 mph.
“How much did they hurt?” one of the engineers, Tristan Ramey, asked at one point.
“So bad,” Fraser told her. “I felt like I was being punched in the face.”
He ended up catching one from 101 feet. And finally:
Fraser, most of his face stained in purple grape juice, had to get to work to interview a prospective employee by 9 a.m.
Here is the full article, with video, via the excellent Mark Thorson.
…the NFL is seeing its ratings tumble in the same way that the Olympics, awards shows and other live events have, falling more than 10 percent for the first five weeks of the season compared with the first five weeks of last season. A continued slide, executives say, could pose an even bigger danger: If football can’t survive the new age of TV, what can?
Football’s traditional TV audience “is never going to be what it was again,” said Brian Hughes, a senior vice president at Magna Global, which tracks audience and advertising trends.
The explosion of modern entertainment options, offered on more devices and at any time, has splintered American audiences and sped TV’s decline, Hughes said. “Sports seemed to be immune from it — it was live, the last bastion of broadcast television. But [the world] has caught up to it now.”
That is from Drew Harwell, and much of the decline seems to be coming from cord-cutting, audience fragmentation, and also the presence of a somewhat controversial election season, which has drawn some viewers (not me) to cable news.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, the Pulaski Academy Bruins play the game of football differently than you’ve ever seen before.
They don’t punt.
They onside kick every time.
And they always go for two.
Kevin Kelley, the architect of the system, studied years and years worth of data and implemented the system with absolute success. He’s won five state titles and has one of the best offenses in the entire country.
There is, sadly, a noisy video at the link, though it is easy to turn off. Whether you agree with this strategy or not, one of my core views is that we do not have enough experimentation of this kind. And I’m not just talking about football.
For the pointer I thank Peter Bach-y-Rita.
The very beginning is a little slow, but I thought Ezra was one of the very best guests. The topics include the nature and future of media, including virtual reality, the nature of leadership (including Ezra’s own), how running a project shapes your political views, a wee bit on health care, what he thinks are the Obama and Clinton models of the world, Robert Putnam’s research on the costs of diversity, the proper role of shame in society, animal welfare, and of course Ezra’s underrated and overrated, with takes on Bob Dylan, The Matrix, William F. Buckley, Joe Biden, and more. There is no video but here is the podcast and transcript. Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: …Now Putman, let me ask you about Putnam, and how Putnam relates to Donald Trump. As you know, Robert Putnam at Harvard, he has some work showing that when ethnic diversity goes up that there’s less trust, less cooperation, less social capital.
If you think of yourself in the role of an editor, so you have an American society, diversity has gone up, and a lot of people have reacted to this I would say rather badly — and I think you would agree with me they’ve reacted rather badly — but there’s still a way in which the issue could be framed that while diversity is actually a problem, we can’t handle diversity.
Putnam almost says as such, and do you think there’s currently a language in the media where you have readers who are themselves diverse, where it’s possible not to just be blaming the bigots, but to actually present the positive view, “Look, people are imperfect. A society can only handle so much diversity, and we need to learn this.” What’s your take on that?
KLEIN: I strongly agree. We do not have a language for demographic anxiety that is not a language that is about racism. And we need one. I really believe this, and I believe it’s been a problem, particularly this year. It is clear, the evidence is clear. Donald Trump is not about “economic anxiety.”
COWEN: A bit, but not mainly, I agree.
KLEIN: That said, I think that the way it’s presented is a choice between economic anxiety and racism. And one I don’t think that’s quite right, and two I don’t think that’s a productive way of having that conversation.
COWEN: Why don’t we have that language? Where did it go, or did we ever have it?
COWEN: You see this with Medicaid. A lot of people don’t sign up. They don’t have addresses. You can’t even get them, whatever.
KLEIN: They don’t like doctors. They’re afraid of doctors.
COWEN: This is me.
KLEIN: You’re afraid of doctors?
COWEN: “Afraid” isn’t the word.
KLEIN: Averse. [laughs]
COWEN: Maybe dislike. Averse. [laughs] They should be afraid of me, perhaps.
Definitely recommended. The same dialogue, with a different introduction, is included in The Ezra Klein Show podcast.
Need I say more? I will nonetheless:
In Frisco, which neighbors Allen and McKinney, the district will pay $30 million over several years to use the Dallas Cowboys’ new 12,000-seat practice field for high school football and soccer games, as well as graduation ceremonies.
Here is a nice bit of fiscal illusion:
In McKinney [one of the stadium-building districts], school taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation. The tax rate had been higher in the recent past, but it fell 5 cents this year, partly because the district had dropped some old debt. Because of the 5-cent decrease, district officials repeatedly note, property owners will see their taxes go down, even as the new stadium goes up.
Jim Buchanan would be proud. And it’s a good thing we have the public sector to protect us from negative-sum status-seeking games!
The original pointer is from Adam Minter.
Bowling alone and for peanuts too:
In 1964, “bowling legend” Don Carter was the first athlete in any sport to receive a $1 million endorsement deal ($7.6 million today). In return, bowling manufacturing company Ebonite got the rights to release the bowler’s signature model ball. At the time, the offer was 200x what professional golfer Arnold Palmer got for his endorsement with Wilson, and 100x what football star Joe Namath got from his deal with Schick razor. Additionally, Carter was already making $100,000 ($750,000) per year through tournaments, exhibitions, television appearances, and other endorsements, including Miller, Viceroys, and Wonder Bread.
…Of the 300 bowlers who competed in PBA events during the 2012-2013 season, a select few did surprisingly well. The average yearly salary of the top ten competitors was just below $155,000, with Sean Rash topping the list at $248,317. Even so, in the 1960s, top bowlers made twice as much as top football stars — today, as the highest grossing professional bowler in the world, Sean Rash makes significantly less than a rookie NFL player’s minimum base salary of $375,000.
In 1982, the bowler ranked 20th on the PBA’s money list made $51,690; today, the bowler ranked 20th earns $26,645.
The article, by Zachary Crockett, suggests numerous hypotheses for the economic decline of bowling, but ultimately the answer is not clear to me. I would suggest the null of “non-bowling is better and now it is better yet.” A more subtle point is that perhaps bowling had Baumol’s “cost disease,” but under some assumptions about elasticities a cost disease sector can shrink rather than ballooning as a share of gdp.
For the pointer I thank Mike Donohoo.
In the four years that Ayanna Chisholm has worked collecting tolls out of tiny glass booths at the Holland Tunnel and elsewhere in New Jersey, there have been several constants. There are familiar commuters, malfunctioning toll arms, occasional scofflaws — and an incessant barrage of come-ons, sexual comments, lecherous stares and crude gestures from male motorists.
Some of Ms. Chisholm’s colleagues say they have been subjected to drivers exposing themselves. The fusillade is especially menacing because it is inescapable, the workers confined to small hutches on the highway.
Like other women in her profession, Ms. Chisholm, who works for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has learned to wear little makeup, crack her booth’s window open as little as possible, and drop change into waiting hands to avoid drivers who try to stroke her palm.
That is from the NYT, and of course the same was true decades ago. No one from New Jersey should be surprised at how most internet comments have turned out.
Hong Kong’s streets are safer, with fewer murders by the fierce crime organizations known as triads that figured in so many kung fu films. And its real estate is among the world’s most expensive, making it difficult for training studios to afford soaring rents.
Gone are the days when “kung fu was a big part of people’s cultural and leisure life,” said Mak King Sang Ricardo, the author of a history of martial arts in Hong Kong. “After work, people would go to martial arts schools, where they’d cook dinner together and practice kung fu until 11 at night.”
With a shift in martial arts preferences, the rise of video games — more teenagers play Pokémon Go in parks here than practice a roundhouse kick — and a perception among young people that kung fu just isn’t cool, longtime martial artists worry that kung fu’s future is bleak.
High studio rents are of course a big problem:
…According to Mr. Leung’s organization, the International WingTsun Association, former apprentices have opened 4,000 branches in more than 65 countries, but only five in Hong Kong…
“Kung fu is more for retired uncles and grandpas.”
That is from Charlotte Yang at the NYT, interesting throughout and yet I hear the author is only a summer intern.
Singapore leads the way, offering three-quarters of a million U.S. dollars to gold-medal winners, followed by Indonesia ($383,000), Azerbaijan ($255,000), Kazakhstan ($230,000) and Italy ($185,000).
I would say Italy should not be on that list, as they have some fiscal troubles, plus plenty of other sources of national pride. And there is this:
…other countries offer alternative bait — like military exemptions (South Korea), a lifetime supply of beer (Germany) and unlimited sausages (Belarus).
Charlotte: He’s writing a graphic novel that has superheroes in it. We have the same favorite superhero. I like Batman because his only power is being super rich. That’s more realistic than the others. And he agreed with me.
Don: She was a little less adventurous than I was when it came to food.
Charlotte: He said he was from Vienna and I was like, Austria? I had to dial that back a second to not sound completely stupid. That’s the type of thing that only a diplomat brat would accidentally say. I don’t have a car, and I don’t go to Virginia very much for anything, really. So it seems very far.
That is from Washington Post Date Lab, an object lesson in both behavioral economics and the limitations of the Coase theorem.
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.