Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sports roundup: October 28th

Here is my take on a few sports results and sports-related news. From my perspective these are three stories of losing.

First the big one for me, Notre Dame defeated the Sooners last night yet again. I was very impressed by Notre Dame's game plan, execution, and grit. I was also "impressed" by the officials ability to call a questionable holding penalty on an OU touchdown, miss a pass interference call in a play that had an "interception", and then also miss after review that the ball clearly was trapped on the ground in that  interception. These were critical plays that could have changed the outcome. But I definitely recognize that the team that played better last night won the game.

Because they remain relatively untested for the rest of the season, it will be hard to assess to what degree ND is great versus to what degree OU is just above average. OU has played two very highly ranked opponents this year and underwhelmed in each case.

OU is now 1-9 against the Irish. It is interesting how a team can seemingly "have your number". Those of us at MM know that the number to have is sample size, and that is the key here. This small sample size just doesn't tell us much at all about how great and evenly successful both programs have been. The sample size being so small makes it very susceptible to selectivity bias. In this case some of that is opportunistic while most of it is pure chance. Notre Dame never played a Switzer team and they managed to avoid quite a few Wilkinson teams as well. They've only played Stoops twice catching the Sooners in relatively down years. OU and ND were supposed to play in 2000 and 2001, but it is my understanding that ND bowed out of those appearances.

I can relate to Notre Dame fans in ways I can relate to few programs' fans. They are a highly successful organization with the highest expectations year after year. That makes it hard when losses come. OU's season is now a bitter disappointment for me and most OU fans. When your goals are to compete for conference and national titles, the bar is set very high. It looks very hard for OU to still win the Big 12 this year. Winning the remainder of the games including a bowl game by 50 points would only bring to high relief the disappointment of not completing what would then look to have been possible. This is classic loss aversion as described by behavior economics. Losses hurt more than wins, and that diminishing return affect is greater and greater as winning is more and more expected/achieved.

The pageantry last night was second to none. I was very impressed by how it all came together. We put on a beautiful show for the Irish to fondly remember.

Switching gears, let's mention something about the Harden trade by OKC-Houston. This is striking many as a major WTF? Those sentiments may prove off the mark, but from what we know and see now, the head scratching appears reasonable. Harden is great and valuable. So, either Presti mistakenly estimated value (direct revenue from winning and brand strength and indirect from chemistry) or Simmons overstated the economic upside for the Thunder. There is a chance this tension is looking in the wrong place. The Thunder ownership could be loss averse in the financial sense. They aren't willing to make the investment and pay the luxury tax to effectively bet the come on future gains being worth certain extra expense. They could also suffer as an organization from several behavioral economics shortfalls including optimism bias and overconfidence effect.Or maybe it was spite: Harden wasn't showing "loyalty" and knowing his place as a sixth man. It wouldn't be the first time NBA owners asked not what a player deserved but what that player could give to the cartel organization.

One last topic, the double injustice of Tyrann Mathieu of LSU. The Honey Badger worked hard for negative current wages in the 2011 season for LSU. While not being reasonably paid for his labor, he brought happiness to LSU fans and profit to the LSU athletic department. Contemporarily and subsequently to that season he apparently chose as an adult old enough to die for his country to use some chemicals that are deemed highly naughty. Now his expected future wages are a slight fraction of what they were nine months ago. His life has been a tough and at times sad one. NCAA policies and U.S. law have made it tougher and sadder with less hope.