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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Tobias J. Moskowitz has a recent paper on this question, the results are illuminating:
I use sports betting markets as a laboratory to test behavioral theories of cross-sectional asset pricing anomalies. Two unique features of these markets provide a distinguishing test of behavioral theories: 1) the bets are completely idiosyncratic and therefore not confounded by rational theories; 2) the contracts have a known and short termination date where uncertainty is resolved that allows any mispricing to be detected. Analyzing more than a hundred thousand contracts spanning two decades across four major professional sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL), I find momentum and value effects that move betting prices from the open to the close of betting, that are then completely reversed by the game outcome. These findings are consistent with delayed overreaction theories of asset pricing. In addition, a novel implication of overreaction uncovered in sports betting markets is shown to also predict momentum and value returns in financial markets. Finally, momentum and value effects in betting markets appear smaller than in financial markets and are not large enough to overcome trading costs, limiting the ability to arbitrage them away.
SSRN and video versions of the paper are here. The underlying idea here is neat. The marginal utility of consumption is unlikely to be correlated with the outcomes of sporting events, so we can test some propositions of finance theory without having to worry much about those risk factors. Lo and behold, a version of momentum results still holds up. And if you would like an exposition of that approach, do see my earlier dialogue with Cliff Asness. And here is Cliff on Fama on momentum.
Bank of Japan should call them willie wonka bonds “YOU GET NOTHING. yOU LOSE!”
Who is advising Japan? Forcing banks to lend all ¥ will not get 2% inflation. It creates loanees market with even lower rates. Dumb move
Negative interest rates in Japan is blowing my mind
Here is the video, the podcast, and the transcript. Kareem really opened up. Here is the summary:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on segregation, Islam, Harlem vs. LA, Earl Manigault, jazz, fighting Bruce Lee, Kareem’s conservatism, dancing with Thelonious Monk, and why no one today can shoot a skyhook.
Maybe you think of Kareem as a basketball player, but here is my introduction:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of America’s leading public intellectuals. I would describe him as an offshoot of the Harlem Renaissance, and what he and I share in common is a fascination with the character of Mycroft Holmes, the subject of Kareem’s latest book — and that of course, is Sherlock Holmes’s brother.
Here is Kareem:
I did know Amiri [Baraka]. I think the difference is I believe in what happened in Europe during what they call the Enlightenment. That needs to happen to black Americans, absolutely a type of enlightenment where they get a grasp of what is afflicting them and what the cures are.
I think that the American model is the best in the world but in order to get everybody involved in it we have to have it open to everyone. That hasn’t always been the case.
The most under-appreciated Miles Davis album?
For me [Kareem], the most under-appreciated one is Seven Steps to Heaven. And that shows, I think, Miles’ best group. There’s a big argument, what was Miles’ best group, the one that had Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Philly Joe Jones and Red Garland or Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter?…number two is Porgy and Bess.
He cites Chester Himes as the underappreciated figure of the Harlem Renaissance. And Kareem thinks like an economist:
It [my instruction] was going well with Andrew Bynum, but Andrew finally got to sign his contract for $50 million, and then at that point Andrew thought that I didn’t know anything and that he didn’t have to listen to me, and we don’t know where Andrew is right now.
Read or hear also his very interesting remarks on Islam, and where its next Enlightenment is likely to come from, not to mention Kareem on the resource curse and of course his new book (and my Straussian read of it). And Kareem on his favorite movies, starting with The Maltese Falcon. Self-recommending!
Robert Parrish could not much push him away from his preferred spots on the floor, but due to snow we are altering the venue:
Westin Arlington Gateway, F. Scott Fitzgerald Ballroom (2nd floor), 801 North Glebe Road Arlington, VA
Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
At the event, you can participate in the conversation by tweeting your questions and comments using the hashtag #CowenKareem.
You can watch the event online at mercatus.org/live
Max Mendez Beck emails me:
Given the advent of statistics in sports that occurred in the last five years, I am struck by how well soccer works as a metaphor for current epistemological debates regarding the use (and primacy) of quantitative versus qualitative data in social science research. While the three major American sports (football, basketball, and baseball) have been overtaken by a quantitative obsession (count how many tables and numbers you see on an average ESPN show), soccer is emblematic of a sport that is quite difficult to measure quantitatively.
Consider how easy it is to determine who did well in an average NBA game without needing to even watch it. You can just look at points, assists, rebounds, steals, turnovers, etc. In soccer, individual statistics are almost nonexistent. Even as major sports channels have attempted to incorporate quantitative measures into their soccer broadcasts–for example, by showing the number of kilometers a player has covered when he gets subbed out (a pretty uninformative statistic on its own)–these numbers have not caught on with the regular fan.
While in basketball everyone debates about who “the best ever” is by referring to their career averages in points, field goal percentage, PER, etc. In soccer the only statistic that is ever used is goals scores, and goals scored is only one small dimension of a player, even smaller if he is not a striker. It would be silly to judge Andrés Iniesta or Zinedine Zidane on how many goals they scored in a season.
So what is it about soccer that makes it so hard to quantify? Or what makes American sports so easy to measure? One obvious answer is the length of the units that can be easily separated and analyzed. In basketball its a maximum of 24 seconds, in baseball its essentially a pitch (or an at bat), and in football its each snap. For soccer, the only apparent unit to separate out is the 45 minute halftime mark. Changes in possession could be another measure, but even then a team’s single possession could be several minutes long.
However, the real challenge comes in measuring individual accomplishments. Just recently I was watching a Barcelona game and Iniesta clearly was having an amazing game (as was mentioned several times by the announcer), and yet the things that made him have a great game were only describable in words and not numbers. There was a beautiful and sudden “regate” or dribble around a defender before he passed it on to a teammate for a quick counter attack. There was the beautiful pass between defenders that led to an assist for the first goal. There was the sudden change in direction and over the top pass to the other side of the field that put the defenders on their heels. Many of these moves are incredibly situational; they have to do with the rhythm of the game and the need to speed it up or slow it down. Nothing in the boxscore could truly capture these attributes.
So the question is: Is soccer something that can’t be measured in numbers?
Here are various readings on the topic.