This Goon for Hire

 February 2, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

In basketball, assaulting another player on the court used to be called, in ancient times, “playing dirty.”  In more up-to-date language, it is a gift bestowed. Jabbing an elbow into the another player’s face or clotheslining a player who is in midair is called “giving the hard foul.” 

Of course, you don’t want your starters fouling out.  So some observers believe that teams have specialists – designated hitters – who the coach sends in to do this giving.

To verify that the basketball goon is not a myth, Nick Jaroszewicz at the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective looked at patterns of fouls in the major conferences of the NCAA (the “Big 6”).   He was looking for players who didn’t play many minutes but who did pick up a high number of fouls in their brief moments on the court.  He found nine.

Jaroszewicz notes that six of the nine are in the Big East.  He might have added, but didn’t, that five of the nine are white, a proportion well in excess of that race’s overall representation in these conferences.


PCM said...

What do you think race has to do with it?

Jay Livingston said...

Multiple-choice: take your pick.

a. Genetics. White people are just naturally violent.

b. Culture. These white kids have grown up in homes and neighborhoods where they’ve never had to learn to restrain their violent impulses, where they’ve never been taught good sportsmanship.

c. Personality. The white kids are too lazy to put in the hard work necessary to learn to play with grace and finesse. So instead, they use crude tactics.

d. Affirmative Action. In order to achieve diversity, the coaches have to dip lower into the talent pool. Then they have to find some use for these inferior players.

e. Random variation.

f. None of the above. I don’t know.

PCM said...

If I had to pick (assuming there's no penalty for a wrong answer on multiple choice), I'd go with D. But the truthful answer is I don't know.

But consider G: whites are actually better at this job of (to use a hockey term) enforcer. Why? Because white players can get away with rougher play and just get a penalty and not get kicked out of the game).

Just an idea. I'm not a fan of basketball.