Showing posts with label Sport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sport. Show all posts

Fox Sports, Fox News, and Toxic Masculinity

August 26, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Doug Gottlieb, who talks about sports on Fox, had this to say about Andrew Luck’s decision to retire from the NFL.

(Click for a better view.)

In his announcement, Luck said,

For the last four years or so, I've been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it's be unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football. . . . After 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again.

The injuries requiring rehab included
  • Torn cartilage in two ribs
  • A partially torn abdomen
  • A lacerated kidney
  • A torn labrum.
  • A calf injury, which extended to a high ankle sprain.

Gottlieb’s tweet was not about Trump or Democrats or politics, yet it seemed so Fox-like. It too me a moment or two to see the common intertwined threads, but there they were: toxic masculinity and antipathy towards young people.

I rarely use the phrase toxic masculinity rather than machismo because so often the toxicity, the damage, is indirect and intangible. But here Gottlieb’s waving the flag of masculinity is clearly a demand that Luck do even further damage to his body. That’s typical, for in many cases the masculinity being called for is toxic to someone else, not the one waving the flag. In this post  ten years ago, I noted that commentators who wanted the US to continue to torture Afghanis, Iraqis, and other non-Americans framed it in terms of masculinity. To ban torture was to “emasculate” the CIA.

As for the millennials, what nettles Gottlieb and many others on the right is the refusal of young people to get sucked into the masculinity game. What must be especially infuriating to him and other masculinists is the indifference of many young men to the old machismo-based insults — “weak,” “soft,” “pussy,” etc. That response, or lack of response, calls that whole game into question, and often the anger of older people towards kids seems to be an effort to deny that maybe these younger people have a point. Maybe there’s something to be said for a less rigid and brittle masculinity, one where, instead of doing the hard work of rehab so that you can keep injuring yourself, you respond to the messages your body is giving you.

It’s not just Gottlieb. News of Luck’s retirement broke during a Colts exhibition game. Word spread quickly through the stadium, and the fans booed.

Like other elements of the “culture war,” the Gottlieb reaction to millennials (or what he imagines them to be) is nothing new. In 1970, Philip Slater in The Pursuit of Loneliness wrote of

a vague resentment towards youth — a resentment with roots in the parents’ discontent with their own lives. It’s a condition ideally suited to produce anger toward young people who live differently and more pleasurably than did the parental generation.

The old-culture is saying, “I worked hard at an unrewarding job, I gave up pleasure and fulfillment. Now you should do the same.”

In that light, it’s especially noteworthy that Luck was supported in his decision by nearly all NFL players who made public statements. They where highly critical of the booing fans and of Gottlieb. Troy Aikman, a former NFL quarterback who also now works for Fox, called Gottlieb’s tweet “total bullshit.” Here is a more thoughtful response from All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, now in his ninth season, who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.


See also the comments on Gottleib’s tweet (here ) — much criticism, little support, and a couple that stooped so low as to mention Gottlieb’s credit card theft of some years back.

Addendum, Aug. 29: A day after I posted this, the New York Times ran a piece (here )by Michael Serazio, “Why Andrew Luck’s Retirement Was So Shocking.” Serazio refers t the “collective gasp . . . from the sports world” at Luck’s announcement.

My impression was that most people in the sports world, especially players, understood Luck’s decision. Serazio has a different impression, though he cites only one NFL player who criticized Luck — former quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who wrote that Luck “owes it to his team” to keep playing.

Either way, Serazio is pointing out the same basic problem with “hegemonic masculinity” — it’s toxic. “Our shock at a player’s willingness to opt for self-preservation over inevitable bodily immolation shows how deeply rooted that toxic masculinity remains.”



Alarm in the Power 5

August 6, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

What’s alarming in big-time college football? You may have thought that it was the high rate of concussions and later-life chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among the scholar-athletes in the Power 5 conferences. Or you may have thought that it was the amount of drinking on campus — high enough as it is but especially elevated on football weekends. (Ten years ago, Sarah Koenig did an episode for This American Life about football and drinking at Penn State. It’s still worth listening to — here).

The trouble is that you don’t get Axios Sports e-mailed to you every day as I do. Here is a screenshot from my inbox this morning showing how Axios Sportsman-in-chief Kendall Baker sees the problem. [The emphasis – those red boxes – are of course my own.]

(Click for a larger and clearer view.)


  • Alarming Problem: Students are losing interest in the college concussion factory.
  • Solution:  Let them get wasted on site. No more need for pre-gaming.

Where’s Charlie?

June 13, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

The trend in how we address one another is towards informality. But it also seems that there’s a counter-trend in names — a trend away from informal and diminutive versions of names. 

This occurred to me as I was reading two recent posts — one by Tristan Bridges , the other by Philip Cohen  — that discuss the name Charlie. Charles as a name for boys has been in decline for a long while, but recently, since about 2000, Charlie has been on the rise for both girls and boys.

(These graphs are from Tristan Bridges. Click on an image for a larger view.)

Philip and Tristan are interested in the question of androgyny in name trends and its possible connection to changes in gender in society at large. But what came to my mind was a different question:  What happened to Chuck?  Birth certificates with Charles on the dotted line may have been more numerous in decades long past, but many of those boys went by Chuck or Charlie or Charley, even as they grew to adulthood. Today, Charles is Charles, at least that’s my impression.

Unfortunately, our main source of data on names, the Social Security website, is of no use here. It logs only the official name. So for names in use I turned to a different source — the NFL. The NFL.com database uses the names that players were known by regardless of what might have been on their birth certificates. So while the Social Security Agency might have recorded the 1950s Giants quarterback as Charles Conerly, on the field and the sports pages, he was Charlie. If you remember him, you probably also remember Chuck — not Charles — Bednarik, who played center and linebacker for the Eagles.* In fact, in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, when a total of 89 Chucks, Charlies, and Charleys entered the NFL, there was only one Charles, a guy named Smith, who lasted only one season.

That was then.



In the current century, the preferred version by far is Charles, which outnumbers the others combined by a ratio of four to one.

A similar way, the Mike is giving way to the more formal Michael.


I suspect that this pattern holds for other names that have maintained their popularity. Thomas instead of Tom or Tommy; James, not Jim or Jimmy; Richard rather than Rich, Rick, Ricky, Richie, or Dick.

There is one perennial name where the Social Security database turns out to be useful — William. Since at least 1900, it has never ranked lower than 20, and for most of that time, it has been in the top ten. But in early 20th century, the less formal Willie was also in the top 20.



Willie Mays (b. 1931) and Willie Nelson (b. 1933) both born before the great Willie decline that started in the 1940s while William remained popular. But I would guess that up until the last quarter-century or so, many of those Williams were known as Bill or Will or even Willie. 

Without a better source of data, all this is speculative. But as long as I’m speculating, here’s one more guess. The trend away from nicknames and towards formal names is especially pronounced among African Americans. For Whites, a diminutive like Jimmy might not raise questions of dignity. It’s a boys name, but that’s no threat to manhood among men who refer to themselves as good ol’ boys. But for Blacks, the name Jimmy, like the word boy itself, reverberates with other overtones.

The difference in name preference might also explain the NFL data. In 1959, when both Charley Conerly and Chuck Bednarik were still playing, the Black proportion of the NFL was only 12%. Today. It’s closer to 70%.

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 * Bednarik played both offense and defense. He was probably the NFL’s last “60-minute man.”

Umpires and Allegories

May 22, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

Michael Stewart’s podcast “Against the Rules” is about “what’s happened to fairness — in financial markets, newsrooms, basketball games, courts of law, and much more” (according to the Website blurb). What happens to legitimacy, to faith in the rule of law, if everyone is screaming, “Ref, you suck,” (the title of the first episode)?

Lewis talked about this question at the 92nd Street Y with fellow journalist and podcasater Malcolm Gladwell.  Lewis says that one inspiration for the series was what happened after a close play at home in a softball game played by nine-year old girls. It happened ten years earlier. But it can easily be an allegory for tactics and a tactician of the present moment.


 (If Blogger has deleted this audio clip, you can go here and listen. It's about 2:20.)

The story continues (to hear the rest of it, get the entire episode and push the slider to about 12:40), but the excerpt here is sufficient. It shows a winning-obsessed and angry man using his position of power to bully an impartial judge. I chose to end the clip at the point where the angry bully says, “You’re fired.” (We’re not long on subtlety here at the Socioblog. For a recent “Ref, you suck” moment from the leader of the free world, see this post from two weeks ago.)

Lewis has another anecdote turned allegory about another man on the far right becoming enraged at impartial judges who threaten his privilege. This time, it’s Curt Schilling.




 Lewis is worried about what happens when influential people (the stars of sports, media, and politics) encourage people to dismiss the refs as partisan agents helping out their own side. In sports, says Lewis, as the calls have gotten more accurate, fans and players have become even more outraged at the refs. I’m not sure he’s right, and even if he is right today, attitudes and behavior may soon change towards a greater acceptance of the refs’ calls. It’s hard to imagine John McEnroe yelling “You cannot be serious!” and other verbal abuse at the Hawk-Eye replay system.*

But that’s sports, and sports are a convenient metaphor.  Chief Justice Roberts famously said that what he does as a judge is to “call balls and strikes.” But the courts have no pitch-track machine, no Hawk-Eye, no hi-def, slo-mo replay. So Lewis is right to worry that if the independence and authority of courts and other referees dwindles, the biggest bullies will be the winners even more than they already are.

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* In this anecdote about Schilling v. Pitch-Track, Lewis says parenthetically, “Why they even keep the umpires there is another question, ’cause the machine could just do it.”

Today (May 23), Kendall Baker of Axios sports brings this news:

An electronic radar system called TrackMan will soon be calling balls and strikes in the Atlantic League, an independent East Coast league that has emerged as MLB's testing ground for new rules and equipment initiatives. 

In a simple test to make sure that TrackMan data could be successfully transmitted and understood, home plate umpires were fitted with earpieces that relayed calls to them one-tenth of a second after the ball crossed the plate.

Today’s Big Match-Up

February 3, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

It’s Superbowl Sunday, and this year we’re about to see a contest between two rivals that have met several times previously on this blog. No, not the Rams and the Patriots, not exactly. It’s The Wisdom of Crowds versus The Smart Money.

The theory of the wisdom of crowds says that the average guess of all the interested participants is better than the guesses of the experts. The full title of James Surowiecki’s 2004 book on the topic is The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. He begins with the famous anecdote of Galton at the fair. Here’s a summary from an earlier blog post on the topic.


Plymouth, England, 1906. On display is an ox, slaughtered and dressed. How much does it weigh? Fairgoers submitted their guesses. A statistician, Francis Galton, happened to be there and recorded the data. Galton was also a eugenicist, so he was certain that the guesses of the masses would be less accurate than those of the experts. But it turned out that the crowd, as a group, was far more accurate. The average of all the guesses (n=787) was within one pound of the actual weight (1,198 lbs). No individual guess came that close.

Surowiecki doesn’t say much about sports betting, unless you consider ox-weight estimation to be a sport. But my immediate reaction was that if Surowiecki is right, then bookmakers should be an endangered species, constantly paying out on many bets and collecting few. Not a good business model.

Sports books are experts. They set a line that they think will bring in an equal amount on both sides.* They often assume that the public will share their views on the abilities of the teams, and often they are right. But sometimes, the public thinks that the bookmakers are wrong and bet so much on one team that the books have to adjust the point spread to bring in more action on the other side.

This year, bookmakers judged the Rams and Patriots as evenly matched. The opening line on the Superbowl was pick-’em. Neither team was favored. (A small number of books had the Rams as a 1-point favorite, a few others had the Patriots by one.) The crowd roared in on the Patriots, and the books quickly raised the line to New England minus 2½. Bet the Rams, and you start the game ahead by that many points. Or bet them without points and get $120 for a $100.

Even that couldn’t attract enough money on LA.  Bookies are holding three times as much money on the Pats as on the Rams. On Thursday, a high roller bet $2 million on the Rams at the MGM, and that still didn’t offset the New England money. If the Rams win and MGM has to pay out that $2M, it will still finish well in the black from all the losing bets from Patriots backers.

It’s not just the oddsmakers who think the crowd is wrong. The “sharps,” professional gamblers who make a living from sports betting,** are also hitting the Rams — just not in large enough amounts to balance the millions of dollars coming in on the Pats.

I am posting this four hours before kickoff, and perhaps the crowd will move in with lots of money on the Rams, but I doubt it. If things stay as they are, today’s game is a good example of The Wisdom of Crowds vs. The Smart Money. (Of course, it is only  a single data point and by itself will prove nothing.)
 
UPDATE: The crowd was wise. The Patriots won 13 - 3. The crowd was also wise on the over/under which started at about 58, but the crowd, betting heavily on the under, brought it down a couple of points.




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* Most point-spread bets are 11-10 — the bettor wagers $110 to win $100. If the action is evenly divided, the book makes money no matter who wins, paying out $100 to each winner and collecting $110 from each loser.

** The guy who made the $2M bet is not considered a sharp, even though he won a very large bet last year when he took the Eagles over the Patriots in last year’s Superbowl.

The Social Construction of Brutality

February 4, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

Super. It’s Superbowl Sunday. On the front page of the New York Times Review section is an article by the wife of former NFL safety Rob Kelly. The title is “Football Destroyed My Husband’s Mind.” Mood swings, paranoia, depression, irrationality. “Often he would forget to eat. I’d find full bowls of cereal left around the house, on bookshelves or the fireplace mantel.” It’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the result of concussions and other physical insults to the brain.  

The kickoff today is at 6:30.

            *            *            *            *

Construction Job. In The Social Construction of Reality, Berger and Luckman describe how behaviors that start as a one-off – let’s meet for lunch tomorrow at 1:00 – can become institutionalized as regular practices. It turns into the Tuesday one o’clock lunch – external to the people involved. As more people become a part of it, its reality becomes more and more solid, literally, with buildings and equipment as well as rules and scheduling. We now have an institution that is seemingly unchangeable. Any other way of doing things is unimaginable.
                                                                               
            *            *            *            *

Imagine That. Last year, after a Penn State student died during a fraternity hazing, Lisa Wade tried to reframe the whole argument.

Imagine a world in which everything was the same about higher education except there have never been Greek organizations. An 18-year-old waltzes into a dean’s office and says, “I want to start an exclusive club on campus that doesn’t allow women and serves mostly white and privileged students and we’re going to throw parties all the time that are illegal, and at these parties, all the bad stuff that happens on campus is going to happen disproportionately. What do you think?”

By “bad stuff” she means rape and less criminal kinds of sexual coercion, drunkenness, physical and psychological intimidation, and brutality resulting in injury, sometimes hospitalization, and the occasional death.

Some people preferred to imagine Lisa being raped or killed for suggesting that their fraternities led to rape and brutality. 

            *            *            *            *

Zero-based Reality Construction. In “zero-based budgeting” no part of an organization has its budget automatically renewed. Instead, budgeteers ask of each item, “Is this necessary? What does it contribute to our goals?”

Imagine a world with no football. A group of athletes puts forward a proposal for a new sport to be played by school teams and professionals. It will cost a lot of money – money that most schools will not recoup. Many who play at the collegiate level and nearly all those who play professionally will live the rest of their lives with some pain and injury. Many will suffer permanent brain injury. Even those who play only in high school are at risk. Should we get started on making this a national institution?

            *            *            *            *

What’s done is done and cannot be undone. Institutions once constructed cannot be unconstructed, at least not quickly and only with great difficulty. Even if everyone agreed that fraternities or football are toxic institutions, nobody could imagine how to get rid of them. So instead, we get minor adjustments – rules about helmets and hits and heads, rules about drinking (requiring “third-party vendors”) or rush (reducing it from eight weeks to six). [Inside Higher Ed]

But there is no such agreement that these institutions do more harm than good, certainly no agreement on fraternities and probably not on football. Millions of us watch football and suffer no apparent harm. What happens to the players is, well, too bad. But that’s the way it is. What can you do?

Enjoy the game.

One For the Books

January 15, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

The ending of the Vikings-Saints game was one for the books.

By “ending” I don’t mean the fluke 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown as the clock ran out.  I mean the actual ending – the final play, the extra point, which didn’t come until eight minutes (it seemed like 20) after the touchdown.

And by “books” I don’t mean the record books. I mean the bookmakers. That point, or non-point, made a big difference only to them and their customers.

It was also one for this blog. In the early days of this blog, I had several posts that considered the idea of “the wisdom of crowds.” James Surowiecki’s book with that title was much on my mind, mostly because I thought that it was wrong, at least when the topic was football gambling. (See this post, for example.) The basic idea is that for guessing what is now unknown (a lost ship, the outcome of next week’s game, the weight of an ox), don’t ask an expert. Ask a crowd of ordinary but interested people and take the average. Gamblers call that choice the “chalk” – the team (or horse) that’s getting most of the action.

But gamblers also talk about the “smart money.” In sports betting, bookmakers don’t care so much about the crowd. But there are a few people whose action the books do pay special attention to, and not just because the bets are usually large. Last Monday, most books opened the Vikings-Saints game with the Vikings as 3½-point favorites. The public liked the Saints. Two out of every three bets took New Orleans plus the points.

Since bookmakers have a guaranteed profit when the amount bet on each side is the same, bookmakers should then have tried to discourage more Saints money by reducing the points – say from 3½ to 3. Instead, they raised the line to 4 and then 4½, The public may have been backing the Saints, but the smart money, the “sharps,” were taking the Vikings. By the weekend, the line had gone to 5 and then 5½.

With the Saints leading 24-23 with ten seconds left and the Vikings 60 yards from the goal line, it looked like the crowd was right. Then came the touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. The score was now Vikings 29, Saints 24; the clock showed all zeros. The smart money, the bettors who had gone with the Vikings early in the week, looked very smart indeed. Among Saints backers, those who had bet late and gotten the 5½ came out ahead.

Bookmakers still lost money since a lot of the Saints action had come in on Sunday at 5½. But the touchdown saved them from paying off all those early bets on the Saints.

Then came the bizarre extra point. After the touchdown, with no time left on the clock, everyone thought the game was over. TV crews and others went out onto the field. Players strode gleefully or walked dejectedly to the locker room. The refs had to call them back out for the extra point. NFL rules require it. But there was no way the outcome would be changed, so who cared? Bettors and bookies, that’s who. The score was 29-24. For anyone who had bet the game at 5½, the extra point was the difference between winning and losing.

The Saints weren’t too enthusiastic about things and took their time coming out of the locker room and back onto the field.


When both teams had finally shown up, the Vikings, rather than trying to score, politely took a knee. Game over, finally.
 
It would have been even better for the books –  and worse for the crowd –  if the teams had taken the extra-point seriously. Normally, even with only a few seconds left on the clock, the teams would have lined up for the extra point, the kick would have been good, and the Vikings would have won by 6 points rather than 5. Bookies would have kept all the money that had been bet on the Saints. Instead, they had to pay off the late bets that came in on the Saints plus 5½.

In the end, the smart money – the sharps who bet the Vikings giving 3½ or 4 points – won. As for the crowd, some won, some lost, some got a push.


Connie Hawkins — 1943 - 2017

October 8, 2017 
Posted by Jay Livingston

(Click for a larger view. You can’t really tell from this picture, 
but it’s just possible that Clyde made the shot.)
The opening chapter of  Pete Axthelm’s  The City Game (1970) is about the Rucker Tournament in Harlem – playground basketball at its best. Even NBA (or at the time ABA) players would show up. Julius Erving, Nate Archibald, Wilt. The chapter is also about Connie Hawkins

Axthelm was an excellent sports journalist, and it’s a wonderful chapter. At the risk of tl;dr and copyright violation, I’m going to quote a fair amount of it.

Axthelm’s informant is Pat Smith, who had played at Marquette. As they walk by the playground where Rucker used to take place, Smith points to a tree. “When I was a kid, I’d climb up into that tree. I’d stake out one of the branches early in the morning and just sit there all day.”

“It was the kind of game that established citywide reputations. Clinton Robinson was playing. Jackie Jackson was there. So was Wilt Chamberlain, who was in his first or second year of pro ball at the time....” He savored each name as he spoke it; this was a very special honor roll. Some of the names, like Robinson’s and Jackson’s, would be familiar only to the ghetto kids who once worshiped them; others, like Chamberlain’s, would be recognized by every basketball fan. But to Smith and many others they were all gods, and their best games were Olympian clashes. “Chamberlain and Robinson were on the same team along with some other greats, and they were ahead by about 15 points. They looked like easy winners. Then, up in the tree, I heard a strange noise. There were maybe four, five thousand people watching the game, and all of a sudden a hush came over them. All you could hear was a whisper: ‘The Hawk, The Hawk, The Hawk is here.’ Then the crowd parted. And the Hawk walked onto the court.”

Axthelm interweaves Smith’s account of the game with backstory about Rucker and about Hawkins – Brooklyn Boys High, U of Iowa, the scandal and suspension, the Globetrotters (for godssake, the Globetrotters – thanks NBA), the lawsuit against the NBA. You can read about all that in the obits today. (Try Richard Goldstein in the Times.)

Then back to the game.

“The crowd was still hushed as they called time out,” Smith continued. “They surrounded the man. They undressed the man. And finally he finished lacing up his sneakers and walked out into the backcourt. He got the ball, picked up speed, and started his first move. Chamberlain came right out to stop him. The Hawk went up-he was still way out beyond the foul line-and started floating toward the basket. Wilt, taller and stronger, stayed right with him- but then The Hawk hook -dunked the ball right over Chamberlain. He hook -dunked! Nobody had ever done anything like that to Wilt. The crowd went so crazy that they had to stop the game for five minutes. And I almost fell out of the tree.”

But, Smith says, one move, no matter how spectactular does not close out a game. It takes it up a level.. Chamberlain, 7' 1" and strong, stuffs two-handed over Hawkins.

“By then everybody on the court was fired up-and it was time for The Hawk to take charge again. Clinton Robinson came toward him with the ball, throwing those crazy moves on anyone who tried to stop him, and then he tried to loft a lay-up way up onto the board, the way he had done before. Only this time The Hawk was up there waiting for it. He was up so high that he blocked the shot with his chest. Still in midair, he kind of swept his hands down across his chest as if he were wiping his shirt-and slammed the ball down at Robinson’s feet. The play seemed to turn the whole game around, and The Hawk's team came from behind to win. That was The Hawk. Just beautiful. I don’t think anybody who was in that crowd could ever forget that game.” 

The Wisdom of Crowds Redux —Bookies and Bettors

February 5, 2017
Posted by Jay Livingston

Several posts in the early years of this blog (e.g., here ) looked at the “wisdom of crowds” – the idea that the collective wisdom of large numbers of interested people is usually more accurate than the guesses of a few experts. Each post focused on a single event, usually a football game, where the public favored one side while the “smart money” (a small number of professional gamblers) favored the other. 

My thesis was that at least in sports gambling, the crowd was not so wise. If it were, it would have put a lot of bookmakers out of business.

The only data I had, unfortunately, was anecdotal – a few games, like the 2010 Superbowl, where the public heavily favored one side and lost. But this season, I’ve compiled a more complete data set – all NFL games. My indicator of the crowd’s opinion is the change in the point spread late in the week – from Friday to kickoff.*  If the spread goes up, it’s probably because the public is betting the favorite. The bookies are raising the line to attract more money on the underdog and thus balance their books. (On most bets the bettor puts up $110 to win $100. The book with equal amounts on both sides – say $1100 on the favorite, $1100 on the underdog –  is guaranteed a net of $100 no matter who wins.)

I looked at games this season where the line moved by at least one point.** Here are the results.


If you had bed against the wisdom of crowds, you’d have won 54 bets and lost 32. Putting up $110 to win $100 on each of the 86 games, you’d have come out $1880 to the good on a total investment of $9460 – about a 20% return. And except for the first week – 1 Win, 3 Losses – the whole season you’d have been in the black, playing with house money.

As for today’s Superbowl, there has been no movement in the line. It opened at 3 two weeks ago and has stayed there.*** Small bettors are tending towards the Patriots, larger bettors towards the Falcons, so the money is about evenly distributed. Of course the deluge of bets in the next few hours could change that balance.

My own hunch is that the Falcons will win it on the field.


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* Line changes early in the week are usually caused by large bets from “sharps.”

** The change in the point spread is not a perfect variable. For one thing, different books put out different lines. I used the consensus number. For another, bookmakers now respond to betting imbalances by changing the odds rather than the point spread. For example, in today’s Superbowl, the point spread is 3. If a book is getting too much action on the Patriots and needs more Falcons money, rather than raising the line to 3½, they will adjust the “vig.” Bettors usually think of the vig as a tax on losing bets. If you win, you get $100. If you lose, you pay $100 plus the tax – usually 10%. But to balance the bets, a book might raise the vig on the Patriots to 15% or 20% and lower the Falcon bettors’ rate to 5% or even 0%.  In this case, the unchanged point spread would be misleading. The public would be betting on the Patriots, but the line remains at 3.

*** Books are very reluctant to change a point spread of 3. It’s the most common outcome – out 10% of games are decided by three points. If a book raises the line to 3½ and gets a lot of action on the underdog, and if the final score is 20-17, the book loses all those 3½-point bets while not collecting on the 3-point bets. That’s one reason that when the line is 3, books are much more likely to adjust the vig rather than the points.

Short Con, Long Gain

December 7, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Erving Goffman wasn’t much of a football fan, but he would have loved this play that the Patriots pulled off against the Eagles yesterday. It’s all about self-presentation.

(If YouTube prevents the embedded video from running, click here and watch it there.)

It’s a con basically, and Goffman loved con games. The con man:
  • makes a presentation of self that . . .
  • projects a definition of the situation. . . .
  • so that others will act on that definition. . . .
  • and behave towards him the way he wants them to.

Why do the Eagles leave Brady uncovered?  A guy I know who saw the play said, “At that point, Brady looks just like a running back in the slot position (in fact, that’s what he is), so there should have been a linebacker covering him.”

But  “what he is” is what people define him to be, and at first, he projects the definition of himself as the quarterback. He goes down the line yelling at the linemen as though he is calling an audible or shouting instructions. That’s what quarterbacks do, and there is no information to suggest that he is not the quarterback. Then he stops for at most a second. The announcer says that he looked confused. The ball is snapped, and even then Brady just stands there. He is no longer projecting a definition of himself as quarterback, but he is not acting like a slot receiver either. The Eagle defenders cover the usual suspects, a list which does not include Tom Brady the famous quarterback.

Finally, he runs his pass route without an Eagle anywhere near.*

Goffman liked con artists because they provide a clear example of what we all do. The main difference is that the con man is doing deliberately and consciously what the rest of us do unawares. In fact, most of us would deny that we are trying to manipulate others’ impressions of us. It’s only when some mistake happens and we fear that others might get the wrong impression that we can see how much work goes into making sure that they get the right impression.
                       
[A similarly Goffmanesque football deception, though at a less professional level (middle school), was the subject of this blogpost  of five years ago.]

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*This sneaky stratagem, unlike others in the Belichick-Brady book, has the virtue of not violating any NFL rules. With this reception Brady was making a good gain but not smashing any records, not even those on his cell phone.       

The Front Page is the Stage for Moral Outrage

October 13, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

The world of the tabloids is a constant drama of moral clarity. Usually the plot centers on a moral outrage – what bad guys do and get away with – but sometimes the good guys win. The point is that the moral boundary is unmistakable, and the characters are clearly on one side or the other. The specifics can vary, and either side may win, just so long as there are black hats and white hats.

In sport, we root root root for the home team, and when they are also on the good side of a moral conflict, and when they win, that’s the story that gets the front page.  In today’s episode, the white hats and the black hats are both actually blue, but the only shades of grey are the visitors’s uniforms.

Yesterday’s playoff game between the Mets and the Dodgers at Citi Field was not just about winning and losing. It was about justice. In the previous game, Shane Utley had broken the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada on a slide aimed clearly at Tejada and not at second base. The Post abandoned the usual sports euphemism of “hard” (in basketball, a player “gives the hard foul” – e.g., by smashing his elbow into another player’s body or face) and used the old-fashioned, morally charged term “dirty.”


Baseball officials had suspended Utley for his crime, so he was not in the game last night. But he played a key position in the tabloid headlines.* “Mets bash LA; Utley,” said the Post. The News was even more punishing of the Dodger who was nowhere to be seen, bashed, or kicked: “Kicked ’em in the Uts.”


In the tabloids, justice in absentia is better than no justice at all.

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* New York’s broadsheet, the Times, seems not to have noticed this triumph of Good over Evil. The front page is devoid of sports news, and if there is a moral angle in any of the stories, it rests subtly between the lines. 


Pigskin Preview (i.e., Football Cliches)

September 2, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

The previous post was about the University of Illinois football coach forcing injured players to go out on the field even at the risk of turning those injuries into lifelong debilitating and career-ending injuries. The coach and the athletic director both stayed on script and insisted that they put the health and well-being of the scholar athletes “above all else.” Right.

My point was that blaming individuals was a distraction and that the view of players as “disposable bodies” (as one player tweeted) was part of a system rather than the moral failings of individuals.

But systems don’t make for good stories. It’s so much easier to think in terms of individuals and morality, not organizations and outcomes. We want good guys and bad guys, crime and punishment. That’s true in the legal system. Convicting individuals who commit their crimes as individuals or in small groups is fairly easy. Convicting corporations or individuals acting as part of a corporation is very difficult.

That preference for stories is especially strong in movies. In that earlier post, I said that the U of Illinois case had some parallels with the NFL and its reaction to the problem of concussions. I didn’t realize that Sony pictures had made a movie about that very topic (title - “Concussion”), scheduled for release in a few months. 

Hacked e-mails show that Sony, fearful of lawsuits from the NFL, wanted to shift the emphasis from the organization to the individual.

Sony executives; the director, Peter Landesman; and representatives of Mr. Smith discussed how to avoid antagonizing the N.F.L. by altering the script and marketing the film more as a whistle-blower story, rather than a condemnation of football or the league. . . .

Hannah Minghella, a top [Sony] executive, suggested that “rather than portray the N.F.L. as one corrupt organization can we identify the individuals within the N.F.L. who were guilty of denying/covering up the truth.” [source: New York Times]

I don’t know what the movie will be like, but the trailer clearly puts the focus on one man – Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith. He’s the good guy.


Will the film show as clearly how the campaign to obscure and deny the truth about concussions was a necessary and almost inevitable part of the NFL? Or will it give us a few bad guys – greedy, ruthless, scheming NFL bigwigs – and the corollary that if only those positions had been staffed by good guys, none of this would have happened?

The NFL, when asked to comment on the movie, went to the same playbook of cliches that the Illinois coach and athletic director used.

“We are encouraged by the ongoing focus on the critical issue of player health and safety. We have no higher priority.”


Coach and Economy

August 31, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Illinois football head coach, Tim Beckman, was just fired after a ton of evidence showed that he forced Fighting Illini scholar-athletes to play hurt.

[A] player, Simon Cvijanovic, alleged that Beckman and his staff pushed the athlete into playing with an injured shoulder and knee and lied to him about how long his recovery would take. He said that the coaching staff frequently berated injured players, threatening to take away their scholarships if they did not return to practice quickly after an injury.

Cvijanovic tweeted that athletic medical staff withheld information from him regarding the extent of his knee injury, and that he now faces a “lifetime of surgery” related to the deterioration of an injured muscle that was largely left untreated. The staff called hurt players derogatory names and dressed them in a rival team's colors during practices in an attempt to shame them, the former player said. [Source: Inside Higher Ed.


In response, Coach Beckman said,

The health and well-being of our student athletes is of paramount importance to me, and any statement made to the contrary is utterly false.

You can’t blame the coach for lying. What else could he have said?

The problem is not that the coach is a liar or that he callously ignores the risk of lifelong debilitating injury to his players. Beckman is surely not the only coach who pressures players this way, and it’s not because the coaches all lack moral character. Nor will firing one coach have much effect. Coaches “act like our bodies are just disposable” (as Cvijanovic tweeted) not because coaches are moral monsters but because the entire system of Division I football is focused on winning.

Deep Throat was right: follow the money. Winning teams at big schools can bring in big money – media deals, tchotchke sales, alumni donations, etc. That multi-million dollar contract that Illinois gave Beckman wasn’t for improving the health and well-being of the players. It was for winning.

As long as the team’s won-lost record was improving,* university officials were not concerned about what Beckman was doing. Or if they knew, they probably assumed, correctly, that this is how coaches coach. When the news first reported Cvijanovic’s accusations back in May, Coach Beckman’s boss, the Athletic Director, said that Beckman “has put the welfare of this young man above all else.” It was only after the investigation – triggered by the young man’s tweets – that the Athletic Director was shocked, shocked to discover that Beckman made footballers play hurt.

Will the NCAA now impose new rules on the treatment of injured players? If so, my guess is that the reason will not be an overriding concern with the health and well-being of players. I’m going with Deep Throat. The IHE story doesn’t mention it, but Cvijanovic has filed a lawsuit against the university. As with concussions in the NFL, a few successful lawsuits might lead to changes. Failing that, it will be the Humanitarian Impulses of the coaching staff versus the economic pressure on Winning. In that contest, Humanitarian Impulses is a big underdog. My advice: go with Winning and give the points.

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* When Beckman took over in 2012, the team went 2-10 and 0-8 in their Big Ten division. Two years later, they were 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the division.   

My Handshakes Bring All the Boys to the Yard

April 6, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Handshakes are important. They can make a difference.

After Kentucky lost to Wisconsin in the semis Saturday night, several of the Wildcats started off the court, skipping the handshake line.The Kentucky coaches managed to round up some of them, but three of the Kentucky stars shook no hands.* 

That was now. But this Kentucky-handshake contretemps seems to be history repeating itself, albeit with some color reversal.

In 1950, for post-season basketball, the NCAA had a close rival in the NIT. The “I” stands for “invitational,” and Kentucky, always a basketball power, easily won an invite. City College was a bit iffier, but they too were invited, and in the second round they matched up against Kentucky, coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp.

Part of the Rupp legend was racism.  According to journalist Marvin Kalb, Rupp had been quoted saying he’d never coach a team with “kikes” and “blacks.”  This was still in the days when Southern universities were segregated. The Kentucky squad was all White, all Christian, something of a contrast to the City College starting five – three Jews and two Blacks.

Kentucky was a heavy favorite. City College coach Nat Holman knew that if his team was going to have a chance, he would have to get his players really psyched up. So he told his players to show their sportsmanship before the game by shaking hands with their Kentucky counterparts. The City College players went to their positions for the opening tip-off and, following coach’s orders, each extended a hand to the Wildcat standing next to him. Before a crowd of 18,000 at the Garden, the Kentucky players turned away. No handshakes from the Wildcats.

The scenario had the effect Holman had intended. The City College players were, to say the least, fired up. Final score: City College 89, Kentucky 50. That may still stand as the worst loss in Kentucky’s history.

Sure there are differences – the no-handshake before rather than after the game, the players doing the snubbing Black, the snubbees mostly White. But the similarities – Kentucky, no handshake, loss to a Northern team – were a thematic echo I found too intriguing to pass up.
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* Some observers lumped this unsportsmanlike conduct together with Andrew Harrison’s comment about Wisconsin’s center Frank Kaminsky. In a post-game team interview, when a reporter asked a question about Kaminsky, Harrison, thinking he was off-mike, muttered, “Fuck that nigga.” I see this less as poor sportsmanship than as grudging admiration. If I were Kaminsky, I wouldn’t be offended. I’d be flattered.


Deflated

February 4, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

For Seattle fans, it was what poker players call a “bad beat” – a big pot and a hand that’s nearly sure to win but then loses on the final, unlikely card. A loss like that can dampen enthusiasm for things beyond football, at least in the short run. On the other hand, a sudden and satisfying victory can whet other appetites.

PornHub, which purports to be the most popular place for porn, ran its data on traffic before, during, and after the big game (their full report is here). The chart below shows the data for the home cities of the two teams plus Phoenix, where the game took place.

(Click on the chart for a larger view.)

As you might expect, the Super Bowl took a bite out of porn, and more so in Boston and Seattle than in other cities.  The folks who would ordinarily be checking in to PornHub started leaving early for an hour or two of pre-game hype, and of course they stayed for the real game.  Even Katy Perry held their attention at halftime.

But after Pete Carrol’s game-losing call and Malcolm Butler’s game-saving interception, porn paths parted. The seekers in Seattle hurried back online while those in Boston apparently stuck with their TVs for some of the post-game ceremony.

Then, about an hour after the game, porn traffic in Boston rose and didn’t begin to taper off until after midnight. But in Seattle, the post-Bowl bump was shorter lived. Even though the night was young (8 p.m. PST) the Seattle fans lost their interest in PornHub. Phoenix, in the Mountain time zone,  is a useful comparison. Even though the hour was later, Phoenix pornophiles were still checking in as their disheartened Seattle counterparts were logging out.

In the end, it was Seattle that was deflated.

Patriots and Scoundrels

January 25, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Sunday, and no football. But we’ll always have Belichick and Brady.

I’m not saying that the Patriots are out-and-out liars. But they are outliers.

The advantage of an underinflated ball, like the eleven of the twelve footballs the Patriots used last Sunday, is that it’s easier to grip. Ball carriers will be less likely fumble if they’re gripping a ball they can sink their fingers into.

We can’t go back and measure the pressure of balls the Patriots were using before the Colts game, but Warren Sharp (here) went back and dug up the data on fumbles for all NFL games since 2010.  Since a team that controls the ball and runs more plays has more chances to fumble, Sharp graphed the ratio of plays to fumbles (values in red squares in the chart below) along with the absolute number of fumbles (values in blue circles). The higher the ratio, the less fumble-prone the team was.

(Click on an image for a larger view.)

One of these things is not like the others.  That’s what an outlier is. It’s off the charts. It’s nowhere near the trend line. Something about it is very different. The variables that might explain the differences among the other data points – better players, better weather or a domed stadium, a pass-centered offense – don’t apply. Something else is going on.

As the graph shows, when the teams are rank ordered on the plays/fumbles ratio, the difference between one team and the next higher is usually 0-2, there are only two gaps of 5 until the 9-point gap between #3 Atlanta and #2 Houston. From the second-best Texans and to the Patriots there’s a 47-point jump. 

Sharp also graphed the data as a histogram.


It’s pretty much a bell curve centered around the mean of 105 plays-per-fumble. Except for that outlier. And the chart shows just how far out it lies.

The Patriots play in a cold-weather climate in a stadium exposed to the elements.  Yet their plays/fumble ratio is 50% higher than that of the Packers, 80% higher than the Bears. They have good players, but those players fumble less often for the Patriots than they did when they played for other NFL teams. 

Usually, the statistical anomaly comes first – someone notices that US healthcare costs are double those of other nations – and then people try to come up with explanations.  In this case, it wasn’t until we had a possible explanatory variable that researchers went back and found the outlier. As Peter Sagal of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” said, “The League became suspicious when a Patriots player scored a touchdown and instead of spiking the ball he just folded it and put it in his pocket.”

UPDATE, Jan. 28: Since I posted this, there has been some discussion of Sharp’s data (“discussion” is a euphemism – this is sports and the Internet after all). If you’re really interested in pursuing this, try Advanced Football Analytics  or this piece  at Deadspin “Why Those Statistics About The Patriots’ Fumbles Are Mostly Junk,” (to repeat, “discussion” is a euphemism, and if you want more strongly voiced views, read the comments).  Neil Paine at FiveThirtyEight  links to some others.  In sum, the evidence is not as strong as what Sharp’s version suggests. (One of the difficulties I suspect is that a fumble is a rare event. The difference between the teams with the surest grip and the most butterfingered is about one fumble every couple of games.

Gifted and Talented – Academics and Athletes

January 16, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Can women be brilliant?  Apparently, academics don’t think so, at least not according to some research reported in The Chronicle (here). 
New research has found that women tend to be underrepresented in disciplines whose practitioners think innate talent or "brilliance" is required to succeed.
Women might be successful in those fields, but while the top men in those fields will be seen as having some ineffable je ne sais quoi – in the words of the survey questionnaire, “a special aptitude that just can’t be taught” – women achieve their place the old fashioned way– hard work.  The Chronicle interviewed Sarah-Jane Leslie, one of the authors of the study.

It’s easy to find portrayals of men with a “special spark of innate, unschooled genius,” like various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes or television’s House, M.D. But accomplished and smart women—think Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series—are typically depicted as simply hard-working.

That reminded me immediately of a similar issue in sports, where the key variable is not gender but race. (See this HuffPo piece.) The observation has become almost a cliche. Blacks are perceived to have natural talent while Whites achieve a place on the All-Star team through diligence and perseverance. Or to paraphrase Ms. Leslie and The Chronicle:

It’s easy to find portrayals of Blacks with a “special spark of innate, unschooled genius,” like Michael Jackson or Magic (note that name) Johnson. But accomplished Whites – Larry Bird or Steve Nash – are typically depicted as simply hard-working.

The Wisdom of Crowds vs. The Smart Money - Again

January 4, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Several posts in this blog have looked at the “wisdom of crowds” in football betting. In brief, the wisdom of crowds idea asserts that the collective opinions of the many are more accurate than the opinions of a few experts. (For a fuller explanation, see this post from 2009.)

Today’s playoff game between the Bengals and the Colts provides an example. The crowd loves Indianapolis.  Two-thirds of bets have been coming in on the Colts, who opened as 4-point favorites.  Nevertheless, early in the week, the line went down to 3 ½.  Apparently, the bettors who the bookies most respected, were taking the Bengals, even though the Bengals' star receiver, A. J. Green will not be playing.

Today, the public has continued to bet the Colts, with the result that some books have raised the line back to 4. 

The smart money is still on the Bengals. But if you believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, you should be on the Colts.

UPDATE:  The smart money wasn’t. The crowd was wise. The Colts easily beat the Bengals 26-10.

Social Capital and Social Values

October 1, 2014
Posted by Jay Livingston

In the previous post, I offered data showing that among professional footballers, wide receivers and cornerbacks, compared with other positions, were more likely to have been arrested. By coincidence, shortly after posting that I listened to a recent interview on WNYC’s “Death, Sex, Money”  (here) with former cornerback Dominique Foxworth. Googling Foxworth led me to an April 2014 video from the Harvard Business School. Given the representation – two cornerbacks, one wide receiver, and a running back – I figured that the famous HBS case method was now including cases involving sociopaths. 

Here is a brief excerpt. The speaker is cornerback and media-certified thug* Richard Sherman.



So it turns out the athletes are there not as examples of social pathology but for their particular expertise on social capital, though the discussion winds through many other topics. The other panelists along with cornerbacks Sherman and Foxworth are wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and running back Arian Foster. They are bright, informative, and frequently funny. If you have an hour, listen to the whole thing.

If you watch from the beginning, you will also hear the moderator’s introduction of the panel members, which is worth noting for what it says about HBS values. In addition to listing some statistics about their athletic records, Prof. Elberse is careful to specify how much money each of them is making.  In the football stadium, what matters most is the final score. At the Harvard Business School it’s income. What’s surprising is not the implicit value itself; it’s that Prof. Elberse makes it so blatant.**

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* In the wake of his comments after the most recent Superbowl, Sherman was widely labeled a “thug.” The word was used about him at least 600 times on television. For more, go here, or just Google “Richard Sherman thug” and check out any of the 112,000 pages.

** For more on money as the ultimate value, and how this value emerges in ordinary conversation, see this earlier post.

Football Violence - Position or Disposition

September 27, 2014
Posted by Jay Livingston

When sports stories wind up in the headlines and network news, something’s usually very wrong. The news biz, whether print or TV, usually keeps athletes confined in the sports section.  So now we have the network anchors talking about Adrian Peterson leaving welts on the flesh of his son, age four, or showing us the video of Ray Rice coldcocking his fiancee in the elevator. Other NFL domestic violence stories, previously ignored (no superstar players, no video), are now mentioned since they fit the news theme.

These incidents all suggest that maybe football players are just violent people – men with a streak of violence in their dispositions. This personality trait that allows them to flourish on the field, but too often it gets them in trouble after they leave the stadium. 

This is the kind of psychological “kinds of people” explanation that I ask students to avoid or at least question, and to question it with data. Conveniently, we have some data. USA Today has the entire NFL rap sheet (here), and it looks like a long one – more than 700 arrests since 2000.  Nearly 100 arrests for assault, another 85 or so for domestic violence. And those are just the arrests. No doubt many battered wives or girlfriends and many bruised bodies in bars didn’t make it into these statistics. Are football players simply violent people – violent off the field as well as on?

Well, no. The largest category of arrests is drunk driving  – potentially very harmful, but not what most people would call violent.  And besides, NFL players are arrested at a lower rate than are their uncleated counterparts – men in their late twenties.*

(Click to enlarge. The graph comes from Benjamin Morris at FiveThirtyEight. )

This suggests that the violence we see in the stadiums on Sunday is situational (perhaps like the piety and moral rectitude we encounter elsewhere on Sunday).  The violence resides not in the players but in the game.  On every down, players must be willing to use violence against another person. Few off-the-field situations call for violence, so we shouldn’t be surprised that these same men have a relatively low rate of arrest (low relative to other young men).

But let's not discard the personal angle completely. If we look at arrests within the NFL, we see two things that suggest there might be something to this idea that violence, or at least a lack of restraint, might have an individual component as well.  First, although NFL arrests are lower for all crimes, they are much, much lower for non-violent offenses like theft. But for domestic violence, the rate is closer that of non-footballers.  The NFL rate for domestic violence is still substantially lower than the national average – 55 NFL arrests for every 100 among non-NFL men. But for theft, the ratio is one-tenth of that – 5.5 NFL arrests per 100 non-NFL. Also on the higher side are other offenses against a person (murder, sex offenses) and offenses that might indicate a careless attitude toward danger – DUI, guns. 


Second, some positions have a disproportionate number of offenders. The graphs below show the percent of all arrests accounted for by each position and also the percent the position represents of the total NFL roster.  For example, cornerbacks make up about 10% of all players, but they accounted for about 14% of all arrests. (The difference is not huge, but it’s something; there would be a very slight overlap in the error bars if my version of Excel made it easy to include them.)



The positions disproportionately likely to be arrested are wide receivers and defensive tackles. Those most under-represented in arrests are the offensive linemen. 

This fits with my own image of these positions. The wide-outs seem to have more than their share of free-spirits – players who care little for convention or rules. Some are just oddball amusing, like Chad Ochocinco formerly of the Bengals.** Others are trouble and get traded from team to team despite their abilities, like Terrell Owens of the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals.

As for the linemen, the arrest differential down in the trenches also might be expected.  Back in the 1970s, a psychiatrist hired by the San Diego Chargers noted this difference on his first visit to the locker room. It wasn’t the players - the offensive and defensive lineman themselves looked about the same (huge, strong guys) – it was their lockers. They were a metaphor for on-the-field play.  Defensive linemen charge, push, pull, slap – whatever they can do to knock over opponents, especially the one holding the ball. Their lockers were messy, clothes and equipment thrown about carelessly. Offensive lineman, by contrast, are more restricted. Even on a run play, their movements are carefully co-ordinated, almost choreographed. Watch a slo-mo of the offensive line on a sweep, and you’ll see legs moving in chorus-line unison.  Correspondingly, their lockers were models of organization and restraint.

Maybe these same personal qualities prevail off the field as well. Those offensive lineman get arrested at a rate only half of what we would expect from their numbers in the NFL population. Arrests of defensive linemen and wide receivers are 50% more likely than their proportion on the rosters. Position can’t be the entire explanation of course. Running counter to this “kinds of people” approach are the other hard-hitting defensive players – defensive ends and linebackers. According to the principle of violent people in violent positions, they should be over-represented in arrest figures just like the defensive tackles and cornerbacks. But they are not.

If this were a real article, a journal article, this final paragraph would be where the author calls for more data. But the trend in NFL arrests has been downward, and if fewer arrests means less data but also less domestic violence, that’s fine with me.


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* Some critics have questioned this comparison since it does not take income into account. Of course, arrest is a fairly rare event, and it would be kind of hard to find a large enough sample to allow for estimates among men 25-29 with incomes over $500,000.  

** Changing his name to match his uniform number is one example. For another, once during an official video review of his catch of a pass to determine if he was in bounds, Ochocinco borrowed a dollar bill from an assistant on the sideline, went up to one of the refs on the field, and offered the dollar as a “bribe” to rule in his favor.  Everyone who saw the gag found it funny – everyone except the NFL brass, who fined him $20,000.