Uncommon Sense

October 24, 2022

How Embarrassing for the American League

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:08 pm
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In 2013 the MLB Houston Astros franchise was moved from the NL Central to the AL West to create two North American major baseball leagues of the same number of teams each (15). Two years later a rebuilt Astros squad shocked the baseball world by adding 16 wins to its total from the previous campaign and advancing to the playoffs.

In the ten years since the move the Astros have made the playoffs seven times and won the “world” Championship once.

Last night the Astros qualified to contest this year’s World Series against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

So, this year there are two National League teams seeking the championship. How embarrassing for the American League.

October 7, 2022

I Am So Tired of the Confusion of Gender and Sex

The Latin roots of confusion are basically to “melt together.” And its meaning of “to mix things that should be kept separate” dates back 500 years or so. Sex and gender are quite different and should be kept separate.

I got interested in this topic when investigating competitive categories in my sport, archery. I would read things like “the competitive categories are separated by gender,” and I would think, surely that is not right. It isn’t, they are separated by sex, but our prudish society avoids the word sex, especially around youths, as it evokes thoughts of coitus.

The word sex refers to biological sex of which there are two. People arguing that there are more than two are blowing smoke. Where it gets confusing is in the messiness of nature. Human beings are usually born as female with XX sex chromosomes or males with XY sex chromosomes, but there is a tiny fraction (0.018%, maybe, not counting those created via diseases) of births where there is a mix-up. People are born with three sex chromosomes, XXY, for example. I remember one case in which a person had two distinctly different DNAs depending on where the sample was drawn from. Apparently, she had starting out to be twins, but the two zygotes fused together early on. Strange things can happen when the occurrence of something like births is very frequent and ongoing.

None of this information was available to use culturally when we made up the terms for our language to refer to men and women, boys and girls, etc. We only had simple observations. We are 95+% a species of two sexes, which we call male and female. People who want different pronouns to be used because they do not “identify” with either sex are confused. They are confused by what we call gender.

If you compare any physical, mental, or social parameter of men and women, you will get two Bell curves which overlap substantially. Let’s take height as an example. In the U.S. the average heights are 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters) for women and 5 feet 9 inches (175 centimeters) for men. But if you have ever seen a WNBA basketball game, you are aware that many of the players are women who are taller than the average man. The Bell curve distributions for height of the two sexes overlap substantially. There are men shorter than the average height of a women and women taller than the average height of the men. But, on average, men are taller than women. Too many people equate this to “men are taller than women” which isn’t true and can cause social problems.

Now, the two sexes, men and women, also display what we call genders. Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. For example, we train little boys to not cry and that pink is not pretty. We teach little girls that wearing dresses is important and the color of pink is pretty. (Pink was not always a “girlie” color. Gainsborough was famous for a painting called “Blue Boy,” showing a boy dressed in blue finery, but also painted a similar boy in pink finery (called, of course, “Pink Boy”).

So, in the two sex categories, we have always had effeminate men, that is men who displayed the social characteristics of women, e.g. comedian Eddie Izzard (a favorite of mine) and women who displayed the social characteristics of men, e.g. actress Katherine Hepburn (also a personal favorite).

At the other end of those two spectra we have “macho men,” men addicted to excessive displays of “manliness,” and “wilting flowers” women who display outsized gender characteristics. We tend not to notice these two categories much as they are conforming to society’s gender characteristics. The people who stand out are men who act like women and women who act like men.

There seems to be an effort ongoing now to characterize a number of gender categories, to which I say “Why?” I think this stems from people who have been ostracized for their lack of fidelity to how society says it wants men and women to act wanting to belong and not feel that they are alone. So, having such a gender category says two things: these folks are not unique and are recognized.

But having dozens of different genders makes a Holy Ned of a mess of our society. For example, back when I was a classroom teacher I typically had three or four lab sections of 20-25 students joined together for a single lecture section, which meant I could have 70-100 students sitting in each lecture class session. I struggled mightily in learning their names (the first sign of respect in a student-teacher relationship). If each of those students were to have their own set of pronouns that they preferred, I would have been overwhelmed. There was no way I could remember those. (Realize that every four and a half months, the group was replaced by another group of different students and the process would start over.)

I think a better solution would be to just accept people for who they are. If Butch wants to wear dresses to class, it shouldn’t be worth even a comment.

If Butch wants be referred to as “she,” however, well Butch is confusing me with someone who cares. Butch should maybe try his friends. They might agree to do that. I prefer to spend my efforts on things that really matter.

Postscript BTW, you cannot get an operation to change your gender. Sports categories are determined by sex, not gender, and the critical factor is whether you had your trans-sex operation before or after puberty. If the operation was after puberty, you would still have the frame and musculature of your original sex and should not be allowed to compete against athletes in your new sex, as it is largely cosmetic.

I suspect that the fireworks will begin now, but then not that many people read this blog, so maybe I am thinking to much of myself.

September 20, 2022

You Don’t Need a Ladder to Get Off Your High Horse

Filed under: Business,Culture,Morality,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:31 pm
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I was watching a televised MLB baseball game the other night and I realized that in large chalked letters running up the first base side of the field was the name of an online gambling site, an “official gaming partner” of the team.

Apparently now that all major sports in the U.S. have endorsed gambling we know what had kept them biased against gambling was that they were not getting a cut of the action (now they are). Of course, the purists will talk about how gamblers were at the fringes of their sport, trying to bribe players to affect the outcomes to favor their bets, but, that no longer seems to be a problem, now that the sports are getting a fair share of the loot involved and, well, the players are making more than the gamblers are.

So, can MLB and the Baseball Writers Association (and the Veteran’s Committee) stop blocking Pete Rose’s entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Yes, I know the HOF is a private organization, which has its own rules, but being flaming hypocrites shouldn’t be one of them. The man accumulated more hits than any other player in the history of MLB, for Pete’s sake.

August 12, 2022

Why Tom Brady is the Actual NFL Quarterback GOAT and Will Be for a Very Long Time

Filed under: Business,Economics,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 11:02 am
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For those not sports lingo fluent a GOAT is the “Greatest Of All Time.” Now many people point to his incredible number of Super Bowl appearances (10) and wins (7), but in a sport that requires a minimum of 22 people to play a game, I don’t think that he was the sole cause of all of those wins. And if you look at his passing stats, it would be hard to say that his ability as a passer was greater than Dan Marino, of the Miami Dolphins, who didn’t win even one championship. (Plus all passing stats have become inflated because of rule changes designed to promote the passing game.)

No, don’t look at statistics, look . . . elsewhere.

What makes Tom Brady the GOAT of all quarterbacks is the way he dealt with his salary. Quarterbacks get paid more than all of the other positions, sometimes as much as the rest of the starting offense combined.

One goat or two?

Where Tom Brady excelled is that he routinely gave back some of his salary so his team, the New England Patriots, could acquire better players. I do not think that at any time Tom Brady was the highest paid player in the NFL. (He currently ranks #1 in earnings which counts endorsements; every corporation wants a piece of excellence in their adverts.)

If you look at the top twenty highest salaried players in the NFL, the 13th, a T14, two T17, and the 20th players are the only non quarterbacks. (Tom Brady is not in the top 20, still.) In fact, many quarterbacks are being paid so much, it is hurting their teams. So much money going to the quarterback means there is less money to go around to other players.

Every time another quarterback becomes “the highest paid player” in the NFL, you will read about stories about how their team had to let go other stars because they didn’t have the money to pay them.

The quarterback, being the highest paid player on the team, effectively sets a salary cap. Every other player looks at that salary and gauges what they should be making off of that. Brady was humble in many, many ways (and really demanding in others). He always introduced himself to new players (as if they didn’t know who he was). His teammates knew he was, if not the greatest quarterback of all time, by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and saw him taking less money to help the team. Guess how that plays in the locker room and with the owners.

And really, how many millions does one need? (Note Anyone claiming “it is not about the money, it is about respect,” it is about the money. See “Tom Brady” above.) I spent close to forty years as a college professor and I made in all of those years about two million dollars. I am sure if those dollars were corrected for inflation, that would be over three and maybe as high as four million of today’s dollars. So, why is it important that these guys get 30-50 million dollars for one year of their services? How much money can a person spend?

And, then, when people remember great NFL quarterbacks, will they remember them because of how much they were paid or how they played and whether they won, because they didn’t take as much as they could so the rest of their teammates could benefit from the team’s success, too.

Can you imagine how things would have gone if Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs had chipped in some of his salary so his best receiver, Tyreek Hill, could get paid? He didn’t and now Mr. Hill, took his 111 receptions from last year and is now playing for the Miami Dolphins. We’ll see what the effect will be on both teams.

July 28, 2022

Steph Curry’s Secret

Filed under: Science,Sports,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:42 pm
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Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammate, Klay Thompson, are two of the best long distance shooters of all time in the NBA. Klay is a classic jump shooter. Steph, acknowledged as the better shooter of the two, is . . . not. Steph’s secret is that he is a set shooter.

Oh, I know I am going to get pushback on this, but I have just watched quite a view YouTube videos showing the two shooting and I think I am right. Some of the pushback, I suggest, is going to come from people who remember or have seen what a set shot looked like in the 1950’s. A “classic” set shot looks a lot like a free throw, with the feet hardly leaving the floor. But no one has shot a classic set shot for decades in the NBA. A modern set shot is modeled on what a young child’s set shot was. If you think back to what kids did to be able to reach the hoop from distance, they launched themselves as well as the ball toward the basket (see the photo just below). That is not a jump shot. It is a set shot aided with additional propulsion from the shooter’s legs.

If you watch Klay Thompson shoot, he displays a classic jump shot. He jumps and then at his peak he shoots. Klay is not the most athletic guy, but since he is 6´6˝, his jump shot allows him to get above smaller players. Steph Curry, on the other hand, isn’t small but he is only 6´2˝ and shoots jump shots usually only closer in to the basket (where the bigger defenders are). Steph’s advantage from distance is what is called a “quick release,” which means he takes very little time to get his shot off, giving the defender very little time to get a contesting hand in his face or even blocking the shot. To do this Steph shoots a modern set shot, which means he is jumping as the ball is being shot. There is no delay at the top of his shot as there would be if he were to be using a jump shot.

The advantages to shooting a modern set shot are that it is quicker and that much of the force needed to propel the ball comes from the legs instead of the arms and shoulders. Those muscles can be used for mostly guidance and just partly for propulsion.

So here is Klay Thompson’s classic jump shot form, in which the ball is yet to be launched and he is near his jump peak.

And here is an excellent montage made by ESPN dissecting Step Curry’s “jump shot.”

You will notice that Steph is nowhere near his jump peak when the shot begins (frame #2 from the left) and that he is at his jump peak in the next to the last frame, when the shot is basically off, not just beginning. He is shooting on the way up, as in a modern set shot.

In other words, Steph shoots like girl and he is transforming the NBA doing so.

April 27, 2022

Surprise . . . Maybe Not!

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am

(Note: It is Spring, so a baseball post is appropriate, one of the two I tend to allow myself. S)

Last year, everyone picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, with the Giants coming in a distant third or fourth. At the end of the season, the Dodgers had 106 wins . . . and the Giants 107.

This year, everyone picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, with the Giants coming in a distant third or fourth. Currently, the Dodgers are 12 and 5 (Ws and Ls) and the Giants are 13 and 5, the best W-L record of all of the teams in MLB.

Are the Giants the Rodney Dangerfield of MLB, in that they “don’t get no respect?” Just askin’.

April 21, 2022

The Transgender Sports Kerfuffle

There is in the news a great deal of discussion about transgender kids and adults participating in sports. Most of this discussion is focused upon all of the wrong things, things like how brave transgender athletes are, or how progressive an event coordinator is, etc.

What is missing is reality. Gender plays no role in sports competitive categories. I believe the word does get used, but only by people who prefer not to use the word sex in this context as they think it refers to copulation. (In my sport, the term “cock feather” (or cock vane) refers to the way arrows are attached to bowstrings (with that particular feather/vane “cocked” away from the bow. And eight-year old boys find the term quite funny. Consequently the prudes want us archery coaches to use the term “index feather/vane” instead. These are the same people whose gentle sensibilities encourage them to use the word gender instead of sex in this context.)

You see, sports competitive categories are defined by biological sex, not by gender. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are gay, lesbian, or transgender, you compete against others of you biological sex, age, ability, etc.

Some of these categorizations stem from people not wanting their sons/daughters mingling closely with competitors of the opposite sex. Girls, for example, were not allowed to wrestle boys when I was in school, and now some can (some, not all). Many of these segregations were completely unnecessary to create competitive balance, just to preserve prudishness, dignity, or whatever. (In my sport, archery, I would lump all boys and girls together in age group or ability categories and I have the data to back that position up. I also recognize that boys and girls can lose points to their score because they are more interested in flirting than shooting, but they have to learn that lesson some time, why not then?)

The separation into competitive groups by biological sex has to do with the biological differences between males and females of our species. (If you haven’t noticed, human beings are sexually dimorphic, with males tending to be larger, stronger, faster, etc. And, please, yes, I know that each of those attributes is represented by a Bell curve distribution and those of males and females overlap in every case, meaning that there are some females with more pronounced characteristics than males. But athletic competition is supposed to be seeking out the best of any sport, which means you don’t compare the top of one curve with the bottom of the other; you compare the top of one curve with the top of the other.

So, transgender kids should be competing in their category as determined by their sex at birth, until . . . until there is an actual medical procedure that allows adults to switch biological sexes. (Something I don’t think kids we allowed to do until they reach full sexual maturity.)

Note I fully expect to be flamed for this post, but I am also willing to be surprised, so fire away!

April 12, 2022

Dissing Sports History

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 11:01 am

Recently, NBC Sports dropped this factoid on us: “Joel Embiid averages more points per minute than anyone who has played at least 300 games — ever. He averages 0.83 points per minute, or about five points for every six minutes he plays.” They went on to gush “Embiid had 13 games this season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds.” And, of course, to pump up Embiid’s chances to be voted Most Valuable Player for the season, they added “For 31 games this season, Embiid averaged better than a point per minute. Think about that. It’s tied for the fourth-longest streak of its kind in the last 40 NBA seasons.”


In the 1961-1962 NBA season, Wilt Chamberlain scored 50.4 points per game (including 45 50+ point games, two 70-point games, and twelve 60-point games) and he played 48.4 -minutes per game. (Since there are only 48 minutes of playing time, how did he get to 48.4 minutes per game? Answer: there were seven overtime games.) Of course, he also lead the league in rebounding with 27.2 rebounds per game.)

Now, where is my calculator. Let’s see. He played in all 82 games, so 50.4 points per game divided by 48.4 minutes per game is . . . carry the one, uh, . . . 1.04 points per minute played.

So, how did NBC Sports come up with “Joel Embiid averages more points per minute than anyone who has played at least 300 games — ever.” Gosh, I guess it was just laziness, since the record book is wide open. Oh, it was Philadelphia-based NBC Sports? Maybe that explains it as Mr. Embiid plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.

And the ironic part of this is that Mr. Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia team (Then it was the Warriors who moved to San Francisco later) in 1961-62 when he set those records.

February 11, 2022

The NFL is Concerned . . .

. . . as to whether you might have a gambling problem. They now regularly run commercials urging you toward moderation while betting and if “it” gets out of hand, to consult a support group. Funny, they never used to show such a concern. But I also read that Americans will wager $8 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) on the Super Bowl and the NFL now gets a cut of that. And the commercials started right at the time they started to cash in.

So, apparently the commercials are of the “cover your ass” variety in case anyone decides the NFL is a bad influence and decides to sue.

January 25, 2022

WTF, NBA Fans?

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:56 am
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Now that the NBA season is fully under way there is, of course, talk, talk, talk about who is worthy of certain awards: Most Valuable Player, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc. And when comparisons are made, I often hear the phrase “in the modern NBA” which seems to equate to “since the NBA has been on TV a lot.”

The reason for this is clear. If a modern players stats are compared with all players across the board, they don’t look so good.

For example, in Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie season, 1959-60, he averaged 37.6 points, 27.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 72 games. He was selected to play in his first All-Star game. He won the Rookie of the Year award and his first MVP award.

In his career, he is also the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game over the entire course of his NBA career. He clearly stated that he stopped trying to be a leading scorer later in his career because his team needed other things. So, Wilt became the only center to lead the league in assists for a season.

Wilt also averaged over 48 minutes per game in a single season. Wait, how many minutes are there in a game? (Answer: 48, not counting overtime minutes) Some wags attribute Wilt’s incredible stats to his large number of minutes played, but they have that point backward. If any “modern” player were to play that many minutes, what do you think the result will be? I will tell you: injury, lower performance, etc. Wilt was not only the strongest player in the NBA when he played (possibly so far), but he also had the most stamina.

Some go so far as to claim that the level of competition was lower “back then.” Well, there were far fewer teams. As a result, because Wilt and Bill Russell were both in the Eastern Division for much of their time they met a whopping 94 times in the regular season. In the playoffs, they added another 49 matchups. Imagine having to play against the best center in the league that many times. (Wilt said that Bill was the best center he ever played against. Bill said that Wilt was the best center he ever played against. I have them ranked 1a and 1b all-time.)

And, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 30.0 points, 28.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists in those 94 games versus Bill Russell. And, Bill tells the story of when he watched the greatest rebounding game in NBA history. Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds in one game. Bill says he had a great seat to see this happen, as he was the opposing center. Imagine setting the all-time record for rebounds in a game while being guarded by one of the greatest defensive centers of all time. (Bill averaged 22.5 rebounds per game for his career. And you might want to note how many the “great” rebounders average now . . . 15-17.)

And to top off the whole argument a fan observed about 120 games Wilt played in and counted the number of shots he blocked. (Blocked shots did not become an official stat until later.) In those games Wilt averaged over eight blocks per game. Currently the NBA leader is averaging just under three blocks per game. And, in addition, I have seen film of Wilt blocking the unblockable shot, Kareem’s Sky Hook.

Modern NBA, my ass.

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