Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Highly Linkable

We begin with some short videos:

The NFL Draft was last week. Brian Burke re-examined Massey and Thaler's landmark paper "The Loser's Curse: Decision-Making & Market Efficiency in the NFL Draft" applying the new CBA. The findings are interesting in that there continues to be little to no surplus value at the top draft picks with a lot to be had in the second and third rounds. This is not what the typical football fan (or GM) wants to think. Just to illustrate, look at what the Buffalo Bills did.

The supply of land (like all resources) is not fixed in the long run (and the long run does not mean a long time from now)--so explains Don Boudreaux.

Warren Zola asks, "What IS the NCAA's mission?"

Arnold Kling has a new meme: Teaching Emergent Economics. Don't miss the first one on trade as a technology.

Sumner argues that investing is not like guessing the winner of a beauty pageant as suggested famously by Keynes.

I love this technique, The Mellow Heuristic, Bryan Caplan argues using for adjudicating intellectual disputes when directly relevant information is scarce. I discovered it for myself and have used it since late childhood. 

Never shy of asking the tough questions, Robin Hanson asks us to rank the sacred.

Would you/should you/could you pay for a dinner reservation--so asks Tim-I-am Harford.

Finally, some counter-conventional wisdom (AKA, stuff people are getting wrong):

  • Alex Tabarrok exposes what business journalists and some economists don't understand about efficiency wages--their idea that paying workers more works magic.
  • Terry Burnham empirically challenges the idea born of Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and echoed by Gladwell's David and Goliath that simply making problems harder to read improves test taker results.
  • Ken Popehat White breaks down what an emblematic McClatchy column on free speech gets wrong.
  • Alex Tabarrok appears again to show how Jon Stewart is wrong on many levels about education in Baltimore.
  • Scott Sumner says basically NOBODY understands the concept of "currency manipulation".

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Highly Linkable

Is that a Lite-Brite? No, it's NYC.

Have you heard the country song? It seems there is only one.

Five exam hacks to help you ace the final.

I tend to be an optimist about the future including and because of technology. I welcome the coming singularity. But I have to admit this concerned me and kinda shook me a little. More here.

How do you find something when a Google search isn't enough? Lifehacker suggests some options.

Looks like I need to change my views on flossing--and revise some other oral hygiene practices while I'm at it. (HT: Tyler Cowen)

The "coach who never punts", Kevin Kelley was interviewed recently on the AFA podcast. I predict in 10 years much of his heterodoxy will be orthodoxy.

Kevin Erdmann has a very good grip on housing policy. He Zoro's Shiller in a single paragraph and then proceeds to tear down all of the housing lobby's sand castles.

While we're calling out iconic economists, John Lee of Open Borders challenges Krugman greatly and Cowen to a lesser extent.

John Cochrane continues the craze taking on Keynesianism.

You might read this first before getting right to Pete Boettke answering Noah Smith's question on if economics swings left.

The zero-interest-rate environment succinctly explained with myths debunked by Scott Sumner.

Don Boudreaux offers some new year's advice on bad habits he wishes the government would break.

(UPDATE: housing policy link restored.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014's Resolution Fulfillment

It is time again to check on how I did in fulfilling my annual resolution. One word: success. Let me explain exactly how I mean.

Ever since the first skybox suites were installed in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, I've held steadfastly that they were not for me. My time as a student (7 years) solidified this belief as I wanted to feel and breathe the atmosphere. And even as a graduate, I continued for a season to sit among the students before migrating back to the upper-west side stands 14 years ago (the area in which I sat before college going back to the age of about 7).

While the upper-west seats were a bit sterile after my days in the student section, they were still in the elements of both weather and populace. Upgrades in recent years to include new, more glamorous suites did not sway my belief. It wasn't about a rejection of luxury per se; it was somewhat about staying true to the experience (I might as well be at home for being in a suite) and a lot about NOT being like or around those in the suites. On this latter point, there are three facets.

The first problem is these people tend to be snobs. This is perhaps the biggest single issue I have with the suites. The second problem is my perception that those in the suites don't actually watch the game much. It is easy to become distracted by the booze and the food and the conversation. The people in the suites might as well be at some pool party.

The first two problems relate to the third problem. Being in them is like playing some kind of game, but the rules don't make any sense to me. They're being made up by all the wrong people. I mean no one makes them up. They seem to make themselves up. You cannot have alcohol in the stadium at OU. In fact there are strict rules about alcohol throughout the publicly-owned, state university. But you can have it in the suites. So the guy sitting in the blazing heat or blistering cold can't have a beer, but the guy asking the attendant to adjust the thermostat can sip a bourbon.

Getting back to the resolution--what has changed? As surprising as it was for me, at some point this football season I reversed my position on where I would prefer to sit. This change of heart was gradual at first and then sudden in completion. To be sure I was not seduced by the lure of even better improvements to come. In fact there are perhaps as many amenities for the regular seats as their are for suite people in the latest plans. And it is not just that I can see the advantages of suites; I would actually prefer to be in one under certain conditions. Namely, those conditions include I don't have to endure the problems I still have with suite people.

But just as I don't want to associate with my stereotypical view of who frequents a suite, I have grown quite tired of being around the typical fan. So basically I want to watch a game in person with people of my choosing. What has soured me on those in the stands? One word: ignorance. I am tired of the following (to be sure, I have been guilty of each of these myself at one time or another):

  • People who think the other team and their fans are evil, dumb, undeserving, rude, or any other negative quality rather than basically equivalent to themselves as a whole and on average. 
  • People who indignantly and vocally question every thing short of perfect success.
  • People who don't know the rules of the game--to a ridiculous fault. You do not have to be an expert, but appreciate what you don't know.
  • People who always think they are getting screwed by the refs.
  • People who think good coaching consists of yelling, getting mad, "giving them a good butt chewing" at halftime, etc.
  • People who think that good player play includes never fumbling (the ol' try harder approach to solving a random phenomenon), never being out-manned or out-talented, and perfection in all its many other forms. 
  • People who support concussions for players. Oh, they never say it that way. The way they express it is to become visibly irate when one of their players is flagged for an illegal hit. Apparently, dangerously injurious behavior is "part of football"--at least it is when one's own player is applying the hit.
  • People who cheer this. It is theft in the least, and it is potentially criminal negligence that could lead to severe injury or death. For the unfortunate person on the ground the impact would be about the equivalent of having a football thrown at his head at 70 miles per hour from a few feet away.
I could go on and on, but it would get even more petty and unfair. Perhaps it is not them; it is me. But regardless it seems that after 176 home games attended in a row, I have changed my mind on where I would prefer to sit. Now to just come up with spare $100,000 a year or so to pay for my preference ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Highly Linkable - the sports edition

Three different takes on exploitation related to sports.

The new school is exploiting the weaknesses of the old school in football. Love the quote: "We always get the chalk last."

David Berri shows how conventional wisdom exploits many basketball fans' better judgment when it comes to measuring player greatness.

DaBerri also shows us what true exploitation looks like. To those who would condone the coordinated limitation (cartelization) of workers' incomes, you're despicable!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Highly Linkable

I want to go to then.

Don Boudreaux on Piketty. Steve Landsburg on Piketty. Garrett Jones on Piketty.

Sugar bad, but fat good. I think this lady got the message.

The tide may be turning in the fight against those who want to spend OPM on the bright and shiny things. And the World Cup brings us fresh fuel to our well argued fire.

Sticking with sports, the game makers have settled with current and former college athletes. And Scott Sumner offers some critical thoughts about how anti-trust should be applied to sports leagues and organizations.

As a student of logic, I found these fallacies that don't but should exist to be quite interesting.

Detroit rapidly deteriorating as seen from Google Street View. Maybe if the just had some strong zoning laws, they could have avoided all this mess . . . No. When broad economic forces are working against you, you cannot reverse the decline by legislation or good intentions. D.C. offers a case in point.

Arnold Kling will not be invited to give a high school graduation speech any time soon, but he should be.

How to think and how to learn--including acing exams with hardly any studying. Sounds like good advice. Too much time is spent on worthless rote memorization. After all, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

These ants are nuts!

I'm going on vacation shortly. L.A. La-La land. In my mind, I'm already there. To that end, here are some great travel tools. Especially don't miss Rome2rio.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Football vs Basketball vs Soccer

Indulge me for a moment while I think a bit about the differences between these sports.

While there are plenty of fans of all three of these sports, I'm interested in thinking about why some people are strong fans of one or two but not all three. I believe quite a few people fit into this interest group. What about baseball and hockey? We'll get to that in a moment. Personally, I find football fascinating, basketball highly interesting, and soccer mildly entertaining. Wondering why got me to thinking . . .

I believe varying appreciation for these three sports ultimately comes down to a different appreciation for the marginal score--that is, the incremental or additional score. Soccer scoring is too infrequent to produce a sufficiently large enough fan interest from the marginal score alone. If you're watching soccer, it must be for more than just the occasional scoring. Basketball is on the opposite end of the spectrum where scoring is too frequent to produce a sufficiently large enough fan interest. If you're watching basketball, you must be watching it for more than just the frequent scoring. Football is in the middle where the marginal score all by itself becomes a sufficiently large driver of interest.

For these reasons we have support for soccer being called "The Beautiful Game". In basketball on the other hand fans are not looking for the marginal score; instead they're looking for the sensational score. So in a given game whether there are few points scored or many, points won't be the driver of how interesting it is the typical fan. The driver will be how many sensational plays there are from dunks to three-pointers to amazing assists. In football virtually every scoring play is an amazing sensational play. Soccer shares this quality except soccer has way too few points scored.

So, one's appreciation for each sport will relate to how one values marginal scoring--the more one values a marginal score, looks forward to the actual next score to take place, the more one will enjoy football since it offers the most value from scoring itself. As one fades from that peak, it depends on what else they look for to enjoy spectating. If one values more the flow and the back and forth of the game, one is more attracted to soccer. If one values more the impact and style of actually scoring, one leans toward basketball. Looked at this way I see golf and baseball very much like football. I see hockey (obviously, 'soccer on ice') very much like soccer as are gymnastics and wrestling. I see boxing and tennis very much like basketball (think punches equaling baskets made). More parallels could be drawn. Looking at my interest personally shows the limits of this theory. I definitely like basketball more than baseball or golf even though the latter two's close cousin, football, is king for me; so there is surely more going on to determine who is a fan of what. And I am not forgetting that some people are strong fans of all three football, basketball, and soccer.

Remember that my major implication is what type of fan is attracted to each of the three sports. It's why basketball fans may find soccer boring and soccer fans may find basketball redundant. Soccer games are usually not as close as the score would seem to indicate, and basketball fans find this particularly confusing. A lead in basketball is usually not as secure as it would seem, and for this soccer fans are confused. A football game can have nothing sensational leaving basketball fans wanting. On the other hand a football game can be filled with plays that make it seem that one team is throwing the contest. These games with too easy of scoring leave soccer fans wanting.

PS. I don't know and I don't care where Quidditch falls in this analysis.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Highly Linkable

Let me axe you a question. Have you seen this yet? Welcome to the world of tomorrow!

Remember, its self-proclaimed goal is to be the most transparent administration in history. Perhaps he meant transparently self serving.

Bryan Caplan on Michael Huemer making the moral case for civil disobedience of unjust laws including lying about intending to and acting to thwart their existence.

Perhaps civil disobedience is all the Bag Man is up to as he compensates college football players. Somebody needs to do more for them it seems as even the NCAA is making some desparate changes.

The pace of change is moving rapidly now as I believe the tide of popular opinion is reaching a tipping point. Our side has the true moral high ground. Most people have chosen to ignore the arguments up until now, but that is quickly changing. I can hear so many beginning to say, "Well, I have always thought college athletes deserved more [clumsily define 'more']. It is just that until now [clumsily offer a justification for past injustices] . . ."

Fortunately, there is plenty of money in college athletics (Alabama's football program has higher revenues than any NHL team and 26 of 30 NBA teams) just as there is plenty of profit in non-profit universities.

And just for good measure in closing this sports-heavy link post, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is in a battle with Kentucky's John Calipari to be the worst NCAA spokesman.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Highly Linkable

We're back from an unintended hiatus. Let's begin with some jokes one might overhear in the Lambda^3 house. (HT: Mungowitz)

The world is spinning fast for the NCAA. Northwestern players, et al. can unionize because they have been ruled as employees. If this stands, this potentially changes everything. No apple cart is safe from tipping. Of course, the NCAA isn't hesitating one moment to provide comic relief as events unfold. But Jeffrey Kessler may get the last laugh.

Before we leave the sports realm, the Box Score Geeks want you to remember that the NBA is not McDonald's.

Scott Sumner reflects on what he has learned from Fama and Lucas.

The state will even license con men (and women). Apparently, there is indeed no end to state licensure. I'm sorry, what did you say about the current unemployment rate? . . .

Speaking of employment problems, perhaps your potential employer is agreeing with your current employer not to hire you away. I've witnessed this type gentlemen's agreement in a couple of different situations. Megan McArdle assumes the case against it while, I believe, making more strongly the case why it is not as simple as it would seem. There are complexities here that legislation with its good intentions and unintended consequences may undesirably unravel.

Mike Munger has completed his Mungerfesto with the fifth installment. I give the overall piece a B+. Simply refining the presentation would elevate it to A-. Giving a more thorough treatment to how this is largely a second-best but necessary approach to our world's political economy problems given that the first-best approach is unrealistic (I believe this is his argument of direction versus destination) would make it A+.

I look forward to reading the new book from Max Tegmark recommended by Steven Landsburg. It is always fun to read material completely over one's head. If nothing else, it offers a humility we all should seek.

Speaking of humility . . . wow.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Highly Linkable

The Internet is controlled by 14 people who hold 7 secret physical keys. This sorta takes the mysterious fun out of it.

Tyrannical central planning looks dimmer every time you look at it.

Sumner points out the obvious culprit behind the high and growing rates of youth unemployment.

Dovetailing unfortunately with the prior link whereby union workers tend to gain from minimum wage laws at the expense of low-wage (largely youth) workers, is how NYC's mayor and teachers' unions are fighting proven successful methods of teaching disadvantaged youths.

Jonathan Mahler is fantasizing about the lawsuit that will kill the NCAA. Mark Cuban is promoting an idea that I believe would improve NCAA basketball, NBA basketball, and most importantly the wellbeing of the men who play basketball. Not to mention that it would likely be have negative side effects for the NCAA itself.

Two more on sports: Baseball umpires show bias (all the more reason machines should replace/complement their work); Grantland has a good overview on the work left to be done in bringing analytics to sports.

Landsburg has some good thoughts on the Arizona Senate's attempt to allow a certain type of discrimination.

Turnabout is fair play for the CFPB.

Here are two strong reasons to not believe the conventional wisdom that middle-class incomes have been stagnant for the past few decades. The first shows how amazingly more affordable housing is today, and that is before we take into account how much better it is today in quality. The second debunks the myth that wage growth and productivity growth have separated from one another.

Lastly, an interview with "the bogeyman".

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Highly linkable - on high-minded steriods

I want to go to there. And while we're at it, here too.

So let's talk about misled people doing selfish things. But perhaps it is not as bad as it seems.

Here is a different example of the same kind of high-minded nonsense as above. I particularly like the quote: "It’s time for the altruists to get over themselves. We cannot afford the price of their convictions."

The high-minded Fed controls interest rates, right? Wrong.

Just how bad are the effects of rent control--one of many forms of high-minded real estate planning? Maybe to the tune of about $1 billion dollars on a $3 billion neighborhood. Dr. Evil would be proud.

Lenin was a prohibitionist!?! Shocking . . . well, no; that makes sense. He was high-minded enough to want to help every aspect of Russian life.

Speaking of turn of the 20th century garbage, apparently my Spidey Sense was correct when it picked up on something rotten in Downton. The George Will piece quoted in the previous link deserves its own link. Still a good show; let's just not romanticize how hard life was for most everyone in prior generations.

Enough negative stuff, for the moment. Let's think about a cool new business idea. While we're at it, let's think about how fabulously wealthy cool new business ideas continue to make us.

Okay, moment's over. You know, college football isn't a business; hey, stop laughing! Like all NCAA sports, it is about pure amateurism.

Sticking with sports, I think I am being consistent when I believe both (1) that Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart was potentially justified in pushing a Texas Tech fan (if the fan had been injured and I was on a jury, I would be giving heavy consideration to a self-defense argument in favor of Smart) and (2) people in public (state-owned) spaces or attending official-state-functions have wide latitude to say nearly whatever they want in the act of cheering. The First Amendment doesn't have a carve-out exemption for your or my high-minded respectfulness or proper etiquette. You don't like cussing, hatefulness, and otherwise ugly slurs coming from the crowd? Quit funding sports arenas and sports teams with taxpayer money.

When it comes to sports and high-mindedness, you don't get any higher than the Olympics. And you'd have to be high not to see through the veil of virtue and right into the corruption, state run-amok wastefulness, and panglossian denial of oppression that is the Olympic gathering. I very much like the stories of so many of the athletes. I like the history of competition. I detest the desire to pretend there hasn't been and doesn't continue to be intense nationalism (an illogical and evil conception) at the heart of The Games. Don't get me wrong. I root for Team USA, but I also root for others. These sports aren't my sports, and some aren't even sports. These are interesting curiosities that viewing for just a few moments will satisfy my interest for four years at least. But if you're really into it, great! Just don't tell me we are obligated to root for our country. And don't tell me it is "us" versus "them". And PUH-LEASE don't tell me how great The Olympics are for world peace, the economy, or NBC ratings.

Saving the best for last, Megan McArdle busts the high-minded bubble of paint-by-numbers educational excellence cum success. "Let your kids fail!" is perhaps the best advice one can give a parent.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Crime and Punishment, Law and Order, Optimal Rulebreaking

From Advanced NFL Stats:
Last week a WSJ article about the Seahawks' defensive backs claimed that they "obstruct and foul opposing receivers on practically every play."  I took a deeper look in to the numbers and found that as long as referees are reluctant to throw flags on the defense in pass coverage (as claimed in the article), holding the receiver is a very efficient defensive strategy despite the risk of being penalized.
That is from a guest post by Gary Montry, a professional applied mathematician. The article is very interesting, but gets a little deep into the statistics beyond the points I want to discuss here. Nevertheless, it is a rewarding read that I encourage including being as Brian Burke puts it, "a great refresher on conditional probabilities and Bayes' theorem".

The article made me think a little about how economic efficiency many times runs counter to our intuition and ideals when it comes to wrongdoing. Novices often get confused by the fact that the economically optimal level of pollution, crime, et al. is not at all zero. It is not that a certain level of pollution is a pure good or that some amount of crime is desirable in an absolute sense--these are still and always "bads" rather than "goods". It is just that at some point the benefit of eliminating the next (aka, marginal unit of) crime or amount of pollution is not worth the cost. At that point we tolerate the "bad". Fortunately, economic progress implies that the cost curve for fighting problems is ever declining.

Tying this back to the article, the question is how could the rules or enforcement be restructured so that this manipulation, which is arguably against the spirit as well as the letter of the law of the game, is corrected or reduced. Howard Wasserman's new paper on Football and the Infield Fly Rule, which is on my to-read list, may offer some help here. The paper is an exploration of how some football situations may imply and incite behavior that is counter to the spirit of the game and sportsmanship. I don't expect him to address this specific issue, but I do expect the analysis to offer some help in situations such as this.

The article also got me thinking about how my neighborhood's HOA is considering instituting fines for uncorrected violations of the neighborhood's covenants. At issue mainly is roof-mounted satellite dishes that are visible from the street--because we all know that things like this "obviously" lower property values by "a lot" (economic research forthcoming I'm sure). Here are some of my concerns assuming we even have the authority as an HOA to do this and assuming (a BIG assumption) the covenants are optimal as written:

  • Will the punishment (fine) fit the crime? How would we know? If the fine is set so that the behavior is undoubtedly discontinued, we've probably set it too high. If the fine is always paid with no change in behavior, it is not necessarily but could be too low. In fact the optimal fine probably has some of the violations corrected and some continued. But the same people who roll their eyes when economists say we want some level of pollution to continue probably roll their eyes in uproar to think that the neighbor gets to just pay a pittance to continue their property-value-destroying activity. Mrs. Kravitz would be shocked!
  • Do we set the fine equal for all violations (that is the proposal on the table)? Is parking a trailer or a boat for "long periods" in a driveway equal to satellite dishes being visible and equal to trash cans out of compliance and equal to dead trees not removed or not replaced by the right kind/size of tree etc.? It seems the answer to the second question is most likely "no", which implies the problems of getting the fines right is growing in magnitude.
  • Do we really want the reputation as the neighborhood who runs around assessing fines on one another? Is that property value maximizing? The list and litany of compliance violations came out a bit during the recent HOA meeting. The implication seemed to fall on deaf ears.
  • Have we given up on neighborly persuasion? Can't we all just get along? 
Rule making and rule enforcing are endeavors fraught with unintended consequences. Just desires and outcomes are almost always highly debatable and are always evolving. Simplier is usually better. Persuasion is generally preferred to force. Tread lightly. 

PS. I knew I was in trouble when the HOA asked if the trees I had planted were "free-range" or "farmed". 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Highly linkable

We live in a world that changes faster than it used to by orders of magnitude. One near-term example of this is pointed out by Mark Perry where he references a recent article about how much more turnover (demonstrated in terms of shorter average longevity) there is in the S&P 500.

I've been catching up on Bryan Caplan--now you can too:

  • He does a better job than I did a while back explaining the economic concept of the value of a statistical life. 
  • War, huh, good God, y'all . . . absolutely nothing.
  • And now I want him to address the counter to this, which would be: I'm too busy feeding my family to fight tyranny. I suspect that is something many hide behind including those of us in the first world myself included. Think of it in terms of this: I'm too busy enjoying my status as wealthiest humans in history to allow an open borders policy that would enable many, many others to enjoy this as well.

Scott Sumner lays out a great survey on how income inequality is a normal phenomenon that confuses the issue and should be largely ignored.

One mark of an organization about to meet its demise is it opposes changes that are good compromises between what it unrealistically wants (to continue the good times it had in the past) and what it ultimately might get (utter destruction). Perhaps that is at play right now with the NCAA.

One thing Don Boudreaux will not find in the Sears Wish List of 1982 is a time machine that would lock anyone into staying in that state of the world--thank God. That would have been a very bad mistake.

Perhaps Oklahoma will ironically lead the nation out of the government sanctioning of marriage problem.

17 equations that changed humanity. One thing that stood out to me was how misapplications of these or of other equations that then led to some of these took humanity down side roads. Newton's physical equations needed refinement for relativity and quantum mechanics. The normal distribution probably doesn't apply to many areas of asset price behavior and economic change that it is today used for including from later in the list the Black Scholes pricing model. Wish I knew more math . . .

I will be rooting for the local chaps in the upcoming sportsball contest. (HT: Tyler Cowen)

School's out forever! I was just thinking about this (original story link here). I'd like to see it charted over time. I think it would show an increasing propensity to cancel school due to inclimate weather. But this is not a "we're getting soft" effect. Rather I believe it is a wealth effect. As we grow wealthier, we have both the means and the desire to avoid getting out in risky weather. Notice that this would be a cancelling effect against the opposing wealth effect that more wealth means more ability to cope with bad weather. The dominating effect in my hypothesis is akin to putting kids in bike helmets. Biking isn't inherently riskier for kids today; in fact, it is most likely less risky. But it is relatively more costly--that is, the benefit from a helmet to reduce expected cost from an accident on a bike is significantly higher than in the past and sufficiently high enough to justify the helmet expense (cost of buying and cost of wearing).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Highly linkable

Don't look now, but there are chemicals, CHEMICALS!, in our bananas, eggs, and other "natural" foods. Chemistry teacher James Kennedy alerts us to this unreported problem. Panic now!

Snowden technically committed many crimes. Therefore, he should be punished? I agree with this disagreement.

Don Boudreaux is not going quietly into that "energy efficient" fluorescent night. I too hope to rage against the dying of the freely-chosen light.

Perhaps Notre Dame can use some of these proceeds to purchase some indulgence forgiveness. $90,000,000 over 10 years, huh? Let's assume a very conservative 25% labor share of that revenue. That's $2.25MM per year for those scoring at home. Spread across 85 scholarship football players comes to about $26,000 per player per year. Of course I'm ignoring in this analysis the opposing argument, "But that would mean less money for us! (everyone involved who is not a football player)"

Here is something that will not be a fulfillment of my 2014 New Year's resolution (i.e., I won't have to change my mind about this, which I've been advocating for over a decade).

I heard this NPR bit and had the exact same reaction as Mungo.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

WWCF: Balls/Strikes Called by Machine or Professionalized College Sports?

Which will come first?

Pitch tracking technology in baseball displaces umpires as caller of balls and strikes


Separation of college sports into professional and truly amateur

Don't tell the traditionalists we are even discussing this. I believe we are headed to a brave new world where consistency in baseball's fundamental point of interaction is equalled by honest treatment of college athletes. Many sacred cows are nervous. And some time-honored institutions will change and in some cases they will crumble. 

Supporting the baseball half of the question are recent developments in furthering the use of technology such as this. The demand for and acceptance of instant replay shows in baseball as it has in other sports that true and rightful outcomes matter to sports fans--even above the cost of tradition, even above the cost of delay of play. If the technology is highly accurate (it is but there are flaws such as in tennis and when human eyes and judgment are involved such as in football) and reasonably quick, seeing an inconsistent outcome on the television replay is seen as unjust and intolerable. Notice that a call by a ref isn't necessarily unjust if it is wrong. It takes it being sufficiently bad for it to be unjust. 

Giving the baseball side some pause is this article in Grantland. It seems the accuracy isn't quite there yet, but I expect it could come pretty quickly. More likely the hold up will be fan/owner/player approval. The article points to how robot and man could team up. That is probably the first step. Yet I am interested in where the machine is making the calls and a human can only intervene to overrule in specific instances--think today's challenge system in football and soon to be baseball. For the baseball part to have come first, this is the threshold.

The article does discuss a point I find important. Namely that standardization of the strike zone would remove a nuance of the game that might be more important than realized at first blush. 
However, standardizing the zone would remove a level of interplay between batter, pitcher, catcher, and umpire that many fans find compelling. No longer could a savvy pitcher with pinpoint command annex extra territory off the corners, like Tom Glavine or Mariano Rivera, or learn how to tailor his approach to each umpire’s personalized zone. And catcher receiving skills — the impact of which has only recently been recognized — would become obsolete overnight...
While these changes might make the batter-pitcher confrontation fairer, they would also sap it of some of its nuance, leaving less to analyze and discuss...
McKean offers another argument in support of keeping umpires around: Removing them, or reducing their role, might make baseball more boring. The former umpire makes the case that the controversy generated by incorrect calls — or at least the perception of incorrect calls — generates excitement.
These are important considerations.

For the other side of the question, it should come as no surprise to readers that we at MM favor a major overhaul in the structure and nature of college athletics. We optimistically believe it is inevitable. There are two changes here under consideration either of which would constitute success for this side of the question: separation of amateur sports from professional, revenue sports (perhaps tennis, rugby, field hockey, etc. from football and men's basketball) and separation of amateur college-level football from professional college-level football (perhaps Harvard, Air Force, Tulsa, et al. from Oklahoma, Notre Dame, et al.). The which comes first threshold here will be once most current NCAA institutions make the first change or the current FBS football and D-1A men's basketball schools make the second change.

There has been a glimmer of hope for change in this direction from within the castle, but it is overwhelmingly likely that this change comes from without. The discussion on this evolution continues. And for good reason.

There are two driving forces for this side of the question at hand: there is too much money involved for the charade of amateurism to continue and there is too much money involved threatening the institutional integrity of the parent organizations.

My take is that technology is ready for umps to be replaced 5-10 years before baseball is institutionally ready while those challenging the institutions of the college sports' status quo are 5-10 years away from being legally and culturally capable of forcing change. Reading between the lines, it is just the technology in baseball that is different. I give the edge to the separations in college sports and say both changes (baseball and college sports) come within a decade.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ranking College Football Programs

If nothing else, sports enthusiasm is great for generating passionate debate about esoteric topics and hypothetical arguments. Within this realm lies the ever popular, hair-splitting activity of determining who is the greatest of all time. And college football is perhaps the most well attended of these masters of the universe feuds--for there can be only one.

You don't have to search for long to find many lists each with there own methodology. Here is one. Here is another. Here yet another. These all came from a quick Google search and all happen to have the Sooners at the top, but you probably can find lists with different results. 

Thinking about this topic myself but trying not to take too seriously any particular method of ranking (including my own), I have developed a ranking that is different from any I've ever come across. However, I believe it is more elegant and more defensible. My method uses historical average margin of victory to determine who's better, who's best. 

The reason this method may have a lot of credence is margin of victory (MoV) is a powerful determinant in predicting college football outcomes. In fact a simple MoV model adjusted for field neutrality can explain about 63% of the outcome in a typical FBS college football game. Keep in mind that this is not just predicting who will win but also by how much.*

So what did I do? Using the amazing data source from James Howell's page along with some supplemental data from the NCAA and College Football Stats, I compiled all the scores from all the college football games involving a Division I-A school for the past 43 years. Why start in 1970? Because that is when I started . . . but there is some foundation as that is around the beginning of the modern era of college football. Around that time saw the evolution of dynamic offensive strategies, the rise and proliferation of black athletes, the end of one platoon football (1966), and the beginnings of a more intrusive NCAA in the name of competitiveness. 

The results:

Since 1970, Nebraska is the clear leader. 

I include it through the top 26 since some would want to exclude Boise State from the rankings due to limited games played in the top level of college football.

Since 1998 (the BCS era):

Check out the workbook for yourself tweaking the constraints as you see fit. You can change the time period examined, the minimum number of games played to be included in the rankings, and the statistic you wish to sort by. 

*The out of sample prediction accuracy falls off some and the magnitude of the variance of outcomes matters such that the ability for such a model to beat Vegas (>~53% necessary prediction accuracy against the spread) is low (actual prediction accuracy ATS of between 51%-58%). 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Highly linkable

What happens when you combine hundreds of images of a sunset into one image? Magic.

Here and here are a couple of takes on photos of the year.

I want to go to there.

It is actually logical, but reprehensible, that part and parcel of the NCAA's enforcement includes limiting universities' abilities to provide additional tutoring.

Here is Landsburg's latest puzzle. It seems simple enough. Once you've attempted, go to the solution--I got it wrong and stumbled initially to see how the solution was true.

The free market is this era's Galileo.

The world needs radicals like the late, great Nelson Mandela. In fact it needs them to be even more radical.

So you're telling me they help write the rules that they will later be forced to follow? Like I said at Cafe Hayek, which deserves a hat tip for the link: "So many people delude themselves into believing that regulation is some benevolent construct created from pure knowledge, guided by thoughtful reason, immune to bad intentions, and protected from unintended consequences. If only the sausage factory were so."

Cass Sunstein says we need Moneyball-like metrics for non-profits. I agree and would take it further. We pay them to solve problems. Not to fail by trying to hit an arbitrary size of administrative expense.

A degree in English does not necessarily mean you can speak the language of business or economics. And here are two more from John Cochrane on why there is hope for healthcare after Obamacare completely fails.

Finally, 2013 saw yet another great economist pass on to that higher utility curve in the sky. Walter Oi is remembered quite well here by Steven Landsburg.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Put Me In Coach

I beat up on coaches a lot. More in conversation than in this blog in fact. I've done my share of armchair, from the bleachers, and Monday morning quarterbacking. Allow me to defend coaching a little and relate some economic concepts to the coaching profession.  I want to focus on college football coaches and to use Oklahoma's Bob Stoops in 2013 as a specific example, but this applies in large part to coaches at all levels and in all sports.

Flat out, coaches have a tough job. Yes, many are very, VERY well paid to do this job. Of course, many more are not. The job is tough because it is high-profile performance judged by a vast sea of people who have much less information and skills and who tend to approach the issue from an emotional standpoint. (Not me, of course; when I am yelling at my TV, it is because of my passion for reason and logical decision making.)

A coach has to balance between running an on-going training program while producing output that meets consumers' high demands. The training program is comprised of the gamut from relative beginners to high-value-producing experts (I'd call them professionals, but this isn't that blog post)--all of them thrown into the same "classroom".

Let me use the 2013 OU football team as an example of how coaches face issues involving asymmetric information, decision-making under uncertainty, skewed risk-reward payoffs, and management of public and intra-firm relations.

Throughout Bob Stoops' very successful 14 seasons as Oklahoma's head football coach he has either had a high-profile, all-star quarterback or an inexperienced newcomer who struggled not just when compared to his high-profile predecessor but also in absolute terms. 2013 was of the latter variety.

As Stoops sought to replace the 4-year record holder Landry Jones, he was evaluating the options with many backseat onlookers. The obvious choice to many was Blake Bell, the two-year backup. But in late August Stoops awarded the 2013 starting job to freshman Trevor Knight. When Knight stumbled some in early games, the natives including me grew restless for Bell to be given a shot. A combination of a bad first half and a slight injury gave the natives what they wanted in the West Virginia game, and Bell performed well. But then a few games into his starting role, Bell too fell into a malaise. The offense stumbled contributing greatly to OU's losses to Texas and Baylor. A little in and out substitution between Knight and Bell over a couple of games ended with Knight regaining the starting job for the Kansas State game (a victory) only to exit the role at half-time against OSU due to injury. Bell came in and played well if not better than Knight. Oh, and the formerly third-string sophomore Kendall Thompson was inserted before Bell replaced him in the OSU game.

To say this wasn't according to script is an understatement. But the script isn't actually written by fan dreams. It is an emergent process governed by both luck and coaching decisions. The coaching decisions are governed by a couple of underappreciated forces--uncertainty and asymmetric information. Coaches know a lot, and I mean A LOT, more than the rest of us. They see these players in practice and in games and in replayed videos of both. They interact with them. They also have a game plan and a complex strategy of plays to accomplish that plan. We don't know the plays, the formations, the game plan theories, or how well or poorly the players fit into them all. Add to that the complexity that combinations of players will imply different outcomes. Oh, and players are living lives all this time meaning they simply aren't the same in Spring of sophomore year as they are in December of senior year. Oh, and coaches are humans with biases and informational blind spots. They are operating in a cloud of uncertainty. We are in a fog orders of magnitude more dense than coaches are due to the asymmetric information.

And yet we judge them and will call for their heads if too many of their decisions turn out "wrong". Was Knight the right choice for Stoops to make in August? In September it seemed like the answer was no. In October and November it seemed more and more like the answer was probably yes. In one half of one game in December (n = .5 for statisticians out there) the best we could say was, "Looks like it was a toss up either way". It took us as onlookers an entire season to finally say what we should have been saying all along. To wit, "The coaches probably are making the best choice available, and that choice is still a guess".

"Coaches are paid the big bucks to make those calls and get them right!" you say. Well, yes and no. What is "get them right"? Right as judged by critics--media, fans, detractors, players, administrators, donors, parents, etc. Coaches have many masters. Effectively managing the intra-firm (i.e., players, assistant coaches, administrators, donors, some fans) relations along with the public (i.e., media, some fans, detractors, other team's coaches) relations implies they have interests that may conflict with simply maximizing the probability of long-term winning. Their risk-reward payoff matrix is skewed to a degree that is hard to appreciate. Balancing this well is an art.

Reflecting on the Sooners' 2013 season has humbled me and caused me to appreciate the coach's job(s). I don't think it is just because I view the season as a success with hindsight knowledge (it would be judged a failure from an ex ante point of view). Trying to put aside how a last-minute comeback victory over Oklahoma State makes me feel, I think I would feel that Stoops did a great job in 2013 win or lose that game.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Highly linkable

NFL overtime is broken. Fortunately, Brian Burke is here to fix it.

Be happy because, well, Cause it's getting better; Growing stronger, warm and wilder; Getting better everyday! (be sure not to miss the second link, Fool!).

But I had the best of intentions; I didn't mean for that to happen.

The real reason Henry Ford raised his worker's wages--standard high school history is lies and garbage.

Something to be thankful for.

The Pope has a lot to learn about economics. Reviewing the extensive Library of Economics and Liberty would be a good start. Here is a recent piece by Bob Murphy to get him started.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Highly linkable

We start with a cool invention: the invisible bicycle helmet.

James Altucher bundles some great life advice in this collection of lessons learned while day trading.

Grantland has two right down the middle: one on maximum overdrive coming to baseball and another on the coach who never punts (a theory after my own heart). While never is probably not the optimal strategy, as the authors mention, the current state is sub optimal from a winning perspective.

As long as we're bucking conventional wisdom, here is something to put in your pipe: popular hysteria about crack and meth is just that--hysteria. Mark Perry shows the way pointing towards an article in the NYT by friend of free thinking John Tierney.

But I thought we should just say no; that drugs = total life destruction was a fact. Well, facts aren't always so factual. Here is a completely different example from Russ Roberts where he shows Simpson's Paradox. One would think that if every sub group of a larger group saw a decline in a measured factor that the larger group itself must exhibit a decline as well. Doh! Not necessarily and importantly not in this case of supposed income inequality.

They're about to start paying you to live in Switzerland--and paying well: ~$2,000 per month just for calling the land of cheese and chocolate home. I like the idea of a negative income tax. I like the idea of largely replacing the social safety net with fixed cash transfers. I think it is a third or perhaps even second-best solution. But $2,000 per month? We've gone from supplement to substitution really fast. Sure it might spur entrepreneurship, but do we really want someone leading the life of Riley starting a business, using capital? Oh, we don't.

One thing all those Swiss might start doing is going to college. But what is the value of that anyway? Here is one version of the debate from the Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Here is the same but Muppetized.

Finally, in most situations where a dispute from within a fraternal order (and one that is not like the typical world) is made public, there is more there than what at first meets the eye. Such is the case with the Miami Dolphin's locker room hubbub suggests Russ Roberts.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Saving football from itself

Football is at a major inflection point. These don't come along often. The first one of this nature was at the beginning of the twentieth century when Teddy Roosevelt "saved" football by urging rule changes. In 1905 there were reportedly 19 fatalities from playing football. Following that season an intercollegiate conference, forerunner to the NCAA, established radical changes for safety's sake. The NCAA would continue in this capacity, in-sport rule-making body, for another 50 years or so before becoming the cartel it is today.

Other inflection points have been the creation of two-platoon football the first time in 1941 ending in 1954 and the second time in 1965 and the widespread racial integration of the sport in the 1970s.

Today the inflection point is again safety related. The sport is getting more physical and more dangerous as society is getting less tolerant of violence and wealthier--meaning the value assigned to safety and health are growing. Just as when the highest scoring offense meets up against the lowest point allowing defense, something's got to give. If not, this could be the end.

Here is a spitball list of some potentially safety enhancing changes to the game. Perhaps changes like these would be enough to save football. To many traditionalists, myself included, these may seem quite unpalatable. But the truth is change of some kind has to come. We can continue to dance around this if we want to, but we might be left behind. Some aspects of football as we know it today probably will someday look totally removed from the real world--the actions of imbeciles with everything out of control.

  • Get rid of the intentional grounding rule.
  • Outlaw all blocking below the waist.
  • Outlaw any tackling or blocking where the one tackling or blocking leaves his feet.
  • Extend the automatic ejection rule for "targeting" (one that I applaud except for the poor decision to not allow the 15-yard penalty portion to be reviewed as the ejection decision is reviewed) to horse-collar tackles or facemask infractions to include helmet and head tackles. For facemasks, perhaps bring back the idea of a difference in severity by including the ejection for more severe facemask infractions.
  • Outlaw zone defense including perhaps not allowing any defender to start play farther than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
  • End kickoffs and punts--force fourth down attempts.