Class Warfare Blog

April 26, 2018

Consequences of 24 Hour “News” Cycles

Filed under: Politics,Sports,The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:28 am
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I will start with a comment about sports reporting. Yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers won a game in dramatic fashion over the Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs (basketball). The Cavaliers now have a 3-2 advantage in a best of seven series. One more win and they move on to the second round of playoffs. The other team goes home with a “better luck next year” wreath. All of the yada, yada, yada surrounding the game, though, shows a lack of appreciation for the basic situation.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were supposed to win that game and should be described as being very lucky that they did not lose it. At the end of the “regular” season, the top eight teams are placed onto a playoff grid based upon their won-lost records. Then the first ranked team plays the eighth-ranked team, the second-ranked and the seventh-ranked teams play, etc. So, an advantage is built in for the better teams in that they are given weaker opponents (at least initially). Additional advantages are given to the higher ranked team in that four of the seven games are scheduled to be played in their home stadiums, with the first two games being played on their home turf, giving them the ability to get a “good start” to the series. This is the basis of what is called the “home field advantage” or “home court advantage.”

The team with the advantage gets to play at a site in which they get to sleep in their own beds, eat home-cooked meals, drive their own cars, practice in their own practice facility and compete on a field/court with which they are more familiar than anyone else. (The Boston Celtics old home court, the infamous Boston Gardens, was so irregular that a ball dribbled from one end to the other would not make the same sound on any two bounces. The floor had dead spots, live spots, unlevel spots, you name it. It was never repaired because the Celtics players knew what to expect everywhere on that court, but their opponents did not. Why give away such an advantage?)

The “visiting” team had none of those advantages. They sleep in hotel beds, eat restaurant food, practice in unfamiliar surroundings and compete at a disadvantage on the opponent’s favorite court.

And then there are the fans. The word “fan” is short for fanatic and there are stories that would curl your hair about what fans will do to give their team a further advantage. I leave that topic up to your own research.

In a seven game series in basketball or baseball, the home field advantage is significant. Teams are compared on their records “home” v. “away.” Good teams almost always have a better record at home rather than in other venues. This is due to the “home court advantage.”

So, the “home team” is supposed to win! Cleveland was supposed to win that game last night as it was in their home arena and had every advantage in doing so. Cleveland is the higher-ranked team. Cleveland is supposed to win their series. That they had to struggle so heroically on their home court to win a game they were supposed to win is not a good sign. Instead the focus is on how brilliant their star was, how well he performed, how he won the game for them.

So, why are these things not emphasized as they were in my youth?

I think it is a consequence of the 24-hour news cycle. If you turn on a TV at any hour, you can find sports programming. When I was young, that was not the case. (When I was young, there was nothing on TV from 12 midnight to 6 AM; all you would get was “snow,” the visual noise of your TV trying to process no signal at all.) The sheer volume of reportage has increased many fold. For example, the first NFL Super Bowl had a 15-minute introductory show. Currently, every NFL game during the ordinary season has two to three hours of introductory material, provided by multiple channels! The Super Bowl is hyped for two weeks, almost nonstop. This is typical of modern sports reporting.

And with that much time to fill, you cannot just repeat the basic parameters of a series. So, those basic “truths” get diluted, diluted, and diluted some more. And what do they get diluted with? Necessarily, they are diluted with less important details. For example, human interest stories abound … now. What impact do these have upon the outcome of the game being covered? Answer: none.

The “basic truths” of sports competitions are being buried in oceans of irrelevancies.

We can also fault the shallowness of the reporting. Whenever the Olympics comes around, we are inundated with stories of Olympians, of how at a young age they decided to “go for the gold” and then we are shown “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” in all of its drama. Why, at no point, do these reports put things in perspectives? Why do they not point out that a huge majority of those with “Olympic Dreams” did not even make their teams and are nowhere to be seen? Why do they not point out the unfairness of the competitions staged to make the teams and the myriad of other political issues surrounding those sports. They will point out Olympic organizing committee corruption because it is now part of the genre, but little else of what goes on behind the scenes is shown. Oh, and cheating gets reported, somewhat.

So, this is a bit of the impact of the 24-hour news cycle on sports reporting.

My whole purpose in laying this out is to ask: “What is the impact of the 24-hour news cycle on political reporting?” Instead of sports reporting in which nothing is really at stake, in politics lives and livelihoods are at stake. There are real consequences in the political arena. What basic truths are being buried in irrelevant details? Could a politician, latch onto this as a modus operandi, and bury us in irrelevant details to hide what is really going on? Deliberately feed “The Beast” (the reporting media) what they like to eat and to hell with the public’s need to know. The salacious sells, so the heck with in-depth economics reporting or business reporting.

Could somebody do this?

Yes, his name is Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

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April 9, 2018

Patrick Reed: Master’s Champion … From a Broken Home … WTF?

A professional golfer by the name of Patrick Reed won the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament yesterday, a major breakthrough in his career. To celebrate this achievement a number of “news” sources decided to run stories about how Mr. Reed is estranged from his immediate family. Apparently he and his wife and wife’s family are quite at odds with Mr. Reed’s family.

And I have to ask: what the fuck does that have to do with Reed winning the most important golf tournament of his professional career? None of these stories was looking for the motivation that drives Patrick Reed to professional excellence. In fact neither of the stories explained the rift in his family. This is a huge invasion of privacy. What if there was a family betrayal of Mr. Reed? Would anyone be served by making that public? What if Mr. Reed is an atheist and has been disowned by his Christian family (or vice versa)? Is anyone one served by such a revelation?

One article even brought up allegations of him cheating while playing college golf, of course none of these allegations were proved.

What are these articles but cheap gossip, possibly published to tar Mr. Reed’s accomplishment. As I read these pieces with a growing sense of outrage, I kept looking for the point of these articles, something other than an interest in the salacious details of someone’s private life. I found none.

Just because someone is celebrated for athletic achievements, doesn’t mean we are allowed access to their private lives. This does not come under the public’s right to know that is so bandied about. This might have been different if Mr. Reed took some sort of political stance involving family values or its ilk, but I have seen no evidence of that.

I think hit pieces run like this need right next to the “Like” button a “Fuck You, Asshole, Mind Your Own Business” button.

November 2, 2017

Probably of Interest Only to Chicago Sports Fans

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 9:47 am
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Newsflash The 49ers just traded a second round draft pick in next year’s draft to get the New England Patriots back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. You know Jimmy Garoppolo, who last season posted a stellar 117.0 rating while completing 70 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns without a single interception. He led New England to an opening night win over Arizona on the road before pushing the team to a 24-3 halftime lead against Miami. He exited that game with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder.

The Chicago Bears last year cashed in their third overall (First Round!) pick and the Bears’ third- and fourth-round selections, Nos. 67 and 111, and a third-round pick next year (aka this year) in order to acquire rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who has started four games for the Bears this year and has played like a rookie. How much value Mr. Trubisky will have is still quite debatable because he played just one year in college for a notable basketball school.

Mr. Garoppolo has been tutored by the Patriots and been able to observe and learn from Tom Brady, who is probably the best quarterback of a generation, if not of all time.

The Bears paid a first round pick, two thirds, and a fourth for Mr. Trubisky. The 49ers paid one second round pick for Mr. Garoppolo.

At what point does the quality of the Bear’s management come into question?

October 26, 2017

Okay, People, Listen Up

Filed under: Sports,The News — Steve Ruis @ 10:32 am
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I am more than a little sick of the round the clock hyping of sporting events. Every damned Monday Night Football game has a longer pre-game show than the first forty Super Bowls did, for example

I wakened this morning to this sports headline:

World Series: Astros save season in wildly dramatic Game 2 win over Dodgers!

Save season …, WTF?!

Idiots, I am surrounded by idiots.

The World Series is just that, a series of games. The team which entered the playoffs with the better won-loss record has what is called home field advantage. In this case, the Dodgers had the home field advantage because four of the possible seven games were scheduled to be played at their stadium and only three of the seven scheduled for the Astros home stadium.

It is called the home field advantage because the team that plays half of their games in that stadium during the regular season, the home team, the team which considers that stadium their home, tends to win those games more often than not. This is because: they get to sleep in their own beds, eat home cooking rather than restaurant cooking, they don’t have to sit in an airplane seat for five hours the day before a game, they get to play on a field they are more familiar with than any other field (they know all of the subtleties, quirks, and oddities about “their” field). Not only that but American League pitchers don’t normally hit in their lineup; National League pitchers do, so every ninth batter on the American League team has had virtually no practice hitting major league pitching. That is part of the home field advantage for National League teams. (In American League parks and games, the National League looks at the ability to basically pinch hit for their pitcher, using the same pinch hitter over and over, to be a major benefit, so that lessens the home field advantage for the American League teams.)

The home team has the advantage over the other team when the games are played on their home field. (That’s why it is called the …) Get it?

In the previous series, the Astros lead off winning the first two games … at home. Then the games switched to the Yankees’ home stadium and the Yankees won the next three games … at home. Then the Astros won the next two games, becoming American League Champions and winning the right to go to the World Series … at home.

Get it? It is called home field advantage for many, many reasons.

Every school boy when I was growing up knew that a series couldn’t end until Game 7 or at least the “away team” won a game in the other guy’s park.

Every school boy when I was growing up knew that the team without the home field advantage had the goal of winning one of the first two games because … wait for it … wait for it … then they would have the home field advantage. The current series is tied 1-1, but now the Astros have three games scheduled to be played in their home park, but the Dodgers only have two of such games left (they played two of their four already).

So, now the Astros are “in control,” or “in the catbird’s set,” or “one up on the Dodgers,” but if they had lost Game 2 in Dodger’s Park, well, that would have been normal, just like it was in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees.

So, “Astros Save Season?” WTF?

Could these news companies please get some headline writers who understand baseball … please? At least get someone who is over 25 and didn’t grow up playing video games all of the time. They don’t have to have played baseball, but at least understand it … that would be nice.

 

October 13, 2017

Just Sayin’ (This Time It is Post-season Baseball … Again)

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:09 pm
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This post-season we have both Jose Altuve (5 feet 6 inches tall) the shortest MLB player and Aaron Judge (6 feet 7 inches tall) the next to the tallest MLB player and their ghosted in strike zones on the TV are roughly the same size (all such zones having a fixed width but height adjusted to the height of the batter). I still think that on their best days this service appears to be run by an intern touching a light pen on a tablet display near where he thinks the ball crossed the plate and on their worst days, it appears they replaced the intern with a chimpanzee. I wish they would just turn off the distracting, inaccurate thing!

And while I am grousing here, they need to find some directors who love baseball. They frequently show a sequence of the pitcher’s face, then the batter’s, then the pitcher’s face again, then the batter and then snap out to a “normal” centerfield shot which shows the pitcher, batter, catcher, and umpire (then they cut to someone in the dugout, well their face anyway, and …). Why they are doing this I do not know. Do they believe the eyes of the pitcher and batter are windows into their souls? It is strange and they are missing the game at the same time. The infield has shifted to match the batter’s “spray pattern;” do they show that? No. The first baseman is inching in suspecting a possible bunt; do they show that? No. The pitcher throws to the first baseman while the runner is standing on the base; do they explain that? No. “The pitcher throws to first” is the comment. Hey, television is a visual medium, we can see that …. it …. just …. happened! This is not radio in which the action needs to be described. Why did the pitcher throw over when there was no chance in hell of “picking off” the base runner? There are reasons. He might have just been checking his pick off throw. If he hadn’t made one from that mound, or made one in quite a while, it is best to try an easy one, a rehearsal, before trying a harder one. He may have been lulling the base runner into thinking that weak ass throw was his “A Move” to first base, when he actually has a much quicker and better move in his repertoire. And there are other reasons.

Baseball is a sport declining in popularity … on TV, but with still strong attendance in ball parks. When are they going to wake up to the fact that their incredibly lame TV coverage might be due part of the blame.

September 14, 2017

Racism is as American as Baseball

Filed under: Culture,Race,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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Some baseball fans unfurled a banner with the above printed on it at last night’s Red Sox baseball game. Of course they were ejected … for telling the truth. (Actually there is a team policy forbidding “signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” but I was feeling snarky writing this.)

Actually I believe this statement is true but baseball may show us the way forward. Baseball had a racist past. Early on, people of color played but soon enough, Backs and Hispanics were banned from the professional game. (There were still plenty of “colored” baseball players, but they usually were relegated to playing on and against teams made up of just Black and Brown players in front of Black and Brown audiences.)

In 1942, as almost everyone knows, the “color barrier” in white, major league baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Robinson, the player, took the abuse on the field while Rickey, the schemer behind the effort, took the abuse from other baseball executives and from fans in his mail.

Many brave actions were taken by players supporting members of their own team and many despicable actions were taken by players not supporting members of their own team but eventually everything was sorted out. I saw my first major league professional game in 1958 and by then there were quite a number of Black and Brown players. What I did not know was that even my team, the S.F. Giants, had a self-segregated clubhouse. The Blacks kept to themselves, the Hispanic players kept to themselves, and the whites kept to themselves, mostly.

Fast forward to now and you see major league teams in which Black, Brown, and White players mingle, enjoy each other’s company off of the field, support one another when they have family issues, etc. It isn’t a perfect world, but it is far, far better than where it began.

Sports teams, in general, have embraced Rodney King’s plea of “Can’t we all just get along?”

The U.S. is not the last bastion of racism. Racism is a live and well elsewhere around the world. But racism is a smear on a facade of a country claiming to be a better place, an exceptional place. It is time we address our racist past and our racist present and make ourselves an exception, rather than a manifestation of the rule.

August 24, 2017

Why is Colin Kaepernick Still Unsigned?

The Guardian summed up the situation thus:

The NFL season begins in two weeks and the quarterback who took the San Francisco 49ers to within seven yards of winning the Super Bowl four years ago does not have a job. His absence isn’t difficult to explain. His refusal to stand for the national anthem last year as a way to draw attention to racial inequality in the US has apparently made him toxic to the league’s owners who fear a backlash from white fans and corporate sponsors offended by a perceived lack of patriotism.”

So, the obvious question is why is “patriotism” symbolized more by a mindless participation in a ritual than in the actual exercise of rights of citizens as defined by our constitution? In a similar vein, why do people equate support of our military as support for our country? Are we not more than a support system for a mighty fist? How was Colin Kaepernick being “unpatriotic”? How possibly could exercising one’s rights as a citizen be unpatriotic? Is the argument one of balance? Is overt and vicious racism no good reason for disrupting the jingoistic symbolism surrounding a football game?

I wonder how this would all have gone had Kaepernick been white? I am sure team and league officials would have huddled with a star white quarterback and figured out a symbolic way to “address the issue.” which typically would be a grant of some money to a symbolic organization, the quarterback would then have been hustled in front of some microphones to read an apology written by his publicist, and then everyone would be back doing what made this country great: making money, for fuck’s sake! That’s patriotism!

July 9, 2017

The Puzzlement of the Talents

Filed under: Culture,Science,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 6:33 pm
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I have been going back and forth with one of my students, who is in many ways my intellectual superior, over the nature of “talent.” I have argued and continue to argue that their ain’t no such thing. He argues that surely there must be.

I argue that scientists have looked and looked for a biological source of a talent and come up dry. There does not seem to be such a thing. What I am talking about is a specific talent, such as for baseball or poker or the violin, not a general propensity to be good at something. People with “talent” seem to progress rapidly and effortlessly in their chosen endeavor. I argue that in most cases what people are observing is a developed skill. When somebody sees a basketball star execute a slick play, gosh they just have to be talented. Of course, the commenter hasn’t seen the dozens and dozens of hours that move got practiced.

People in my camp argue that a physical skill, e.g. hitting a baseball or playing the flute comes from a considerable amount of practice. We acknowledge that people have built in attributes that make them stand out amongst beginners and allow them to learn faster than the crowd. Tall people have an advantage in basketball, for example. (Coach John Wooden used to say “You can’t teach quickness or height, so I recruit for those.”) Baseball requires good hand-eye coordination, strong wrists, and, etc. But is there a talent for baseball? I do not think so. (As an example, think of the multi-sport star athlete in high school. were they born with talents for all of those sports or are they just a good all-around athlete who practices hard?)

My argument is that high levels of skill are developed through training. Training is only pursued when there is interest, so the people who seem to “have a lot of talent,” tried something and were good enough at it that they liked it and so pursued serious training for a time. For example, Mozart was considered a musical child prodigy. But Mozart’s father was a music teacher and Mozart spent many, many hours in practice because, either he had to or he enjoyed it. Expert analysis of Mozart’s early compositions, those of his youth, indicated that they were rather derivative and ordinary. But how many youths are composing serious classical music at a young age? We tend to compare these “prodigies” with ordinary adults in the same endeavor, not with the greats of that endeavor.

One of the counter arguments offered against my position is so many people used the word talent in describing their situation, surely it can’t be just made up. Actually I think it was just made up. I offer, but cannot prove, the following scenario as justification. A youth shows behavior beyond his years. His parents fear demon possession, but a passing clergyman, eager to claim all good happenings for his god, counters that the child has “a gift from god.” These “gifts” became “God-given talents” over time, again to claim their god as the source of all good things (but not the bad things—interestingly, the bad things come from the Devil, or Satan … nobody asks where they came from).

So the idea of a talent was spin. It was an explanation of something that was borderline uncanny that was acceptable to most all people. The existence of talents/gifts was not questioned because they were so common (most people tend to be good at something) but when finally some scientists set out to find the basis for talents, they came and continue to come up with nothing.

If you are familiar with the Bell curve, aka a Gaussian distribution, it is obvious that our attributes and abilities are spread over quite a range. My height, for example, puts me in the top 2.5% of Americans. My IQ puts me in the top 0.5% of Americans. People that are way out on the tails (both high and low) are considered “different.” So, somebody who shows abilities far exceeding the expectations set up for his/her age can be singled out. But I do not see humans who are “off the charts” in their abilities. I see many kids who have opportunities and a few who embrace them seriously and a very few who excel at that activity. We do not sit around and discuss the child who quits right away. (This is a stupid sport; I am going home!) We sit around and ooh and ahh about those whose performances exceed our expectations. We say “They have talent.” What that means, in my thinking, is “They have developed a great deal of skill.” They stand out because they developed that skill faster than others, so at a younger age. Studies of “whiz kids” and “Wunderkinder” do not show a common continuation of their rate of progress into adulthood, many plateau off or “burn out” (not literally). How many stellar performers are you aware of who were child prodigies when young? Not many is my guess.

So, talent? Meh, not so much.

What do you think?

May 3, 2017

This Is Ridiculous!

Filed under: Education,Morality,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 9:23 am
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The University of Alabama has just given its football coach a three-year extension on his current contract with a price tag of $65,000,000 additional in salary. This is ridiculous.

If said coach worked as many hours as an average worker, this means he would be making $11,500 per hour, that’s right per hour.

This means that said coach would make more than the average worker in the U.S. makes in a year in one afternoon.

This is madness. This is not for some life-saving surgeon or freedom-ensuring lawyer, this is for an effing football coach, a coach of amateur football.

Do we need any more evidence that capitalism is broken?

November 20, 2016

A Follow-up to Baseball Season: Ted Williams’ Balls

Ted Williams was one of the finest hitters to ever play professional baseball in the USA. When he retired he wrote a book (“The Science of Hitting”) on hitting that included a famous photo: it was of the “Splendid Splinter” at the plate and the current strike zone was filled with baseballs, each ball labeled with William’s estimate of the percentage of these locations that he would get hits at. The balls were color coded in that if he would hit for a high average, they would be “red” hot, and for a very low average they would be grey, with various colors in between. Note that pitches “low and away” were mostly grey. But realize that ‘Teddy Ballgame” (whatever happened to splendid nicknames?) played in what was then a “high ball league.” In the American League, umpires set up right above the catcher’s head, making it easier to see high strikes and harder to see low strikes, so you might get the benefit of the doubt on a low pitch but not on a high one. The National League’s umpires set up over the catcher’s shoulder on the inside of the plate making the National League a “low ball league” because the umpires had a better view of the low part of the plate. If you couldn’t hit the high fast ball, you couldn’t play in the American league and if you look at Williams’ color code, he feasted on high pitches.ted-williams-balls-2

The only time these two umpire’s perspectives came into play was in the World Series, but when baseball decided upon more “interleague play” one of the things that had to be sorted out before that could be done was this difference between the strike zones in the two leagues. This has been done and both leagues are now “low ball leagues” as MLB standardized on the NL style of umpiring.

The yellow box I have superimposed on Williams’ box of balls is what his current strike zone would be. I wonder what he would have hit had this been the zone in his day. Williams is the last major leaguer to end a full season with a batting average over 0.400 (he hit 0.401 in 1941 if memory serves). Now the pitching has gotten a great deal better but I wonder what Ted Williams would have hit with such a small strike zone. His 20/15 vision and wonderful hand-eye coordination plus his fierce competitiveness would certainly have allowed him to adapt to the new zone and being much smaller that he had to contend with, how high do you think he could have gone?

As an aside, this year’s NL MVP, Kris Bryant of the Cubs, was taught to hit by his father … using the principles described in Teddy Ballgame’s book.

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