August 19, 2007
Maradona as Political Commentator
By Randy Paul of Beautiful Horizons
I'm hardly an America love it or leave it type. I have no problem with making informed, well-grounded criticisms of my nation's government when merited.
However, should I take seriously a multiple-rehabbed, possibly brain-damaged, ex-footballer who cannot control his addictive behavior or ignorant statements, whose sole World Cup Championship will forever be tainted by the fact that he cheated to attain a major victory in the run to the championship and who blamed his inability to defend the championship on the mafia, when he says “I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength?”
Here's an artist's rendering of Maradona's first training session of national team coach:
Fortunately, even the AFA has more sense than to give Maradona that job.
July 08, 2006
Wanker of the Tournament
by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
To my untrained eye, I think this award has to go to Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Manchester United). C Ronaldo's main contributions to his national side's fourth-place finish consist of frequent sprints from midfield towards the 18-yard box, ineffective stepovers and fake-stepovers that fool absolutely no one, and the Portuguese special, diving and WATB-esque carping towards the referees for not blowing the whistle. The harassment he's suffered since Wayne Rooney's groin stomp is inexcusable, but from an on-the-field standpoint, if he's leaving the Red Devils, I say good riddance. Manchester are a better side without him. Rumors have him headed to Real Madrid, a collection of famous but now-overrated footballers (see Zidane, Zinedine; Beckham, David; Ronaldo; Raul—exceptions: Robinho) where he'll fit in perfectly.
The top scorer gets the golden boot; the top player gets the golden ball; what's the award for the Wanker of the Tournament? The Golden Yellow Card?
Consider this a World Cup open thread.
April 23, 2006
I thought Nicholas' letter parodying the Sonics' request for public stadium funding was pretty funny.
February 05, 2006
Once More into the Breech
Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
Matthew Yglesias counters that the health care industry in Pittsbrugh requires lots of low-wage workers, which is true. But in addition, any hospital needs lots of nurses, who make decent middle-class to upper-middle class wages and are certainly not considered blue collar. Meanwhile, someone has to keep the buildings clean at Boeing and Microsoft, though there certainly isn't as much cleaning to do in an office park as there in a hospital. And it's not clear how we should count call center workers, internal tech support, and other tech-sector jobs that pay wages somewhere middle-class and "working class". But we can argue about it, or we can look it up. Returning to the Census employment survey, the percentage of workers describing their job as "service" in Pittsburgh is 16%, and in the Seattle is ... 14%. Perhaps lots of staff workers, billing professionals, and research assistants at Pittsburgh's medical centers count themselves as having "managerial, professional and related occupations" despite not making that much money; perhaps to the huge barista population in Seattle is raising the city's service number. The data seems inconclusive; we could use better information on the income distribution for workers in the health care sector.
The Steelers' real proletariat cred comes from the surrounding areas, which include the coal country of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Southern Ohio, as well as various Rust Belt towns that are outside Pittsburgh's offical metro area (Erie, PA; Youngstown, OH; etc.). If we play this game, however, the Seahawks get to include the Tacoma metro area, whose education profile matches Pittsburgh's quite well.
As for football, problem here is the gratuitous overuse of the term "West Coast Offense", which carries the perception of 6-yard slant routes, quick outs, short-yardage drag routes, and dinky passes to the fullback or tailback [things that the Seahawks don't do, according to the eggheads at Football Outsiders]. This image comes from Holmgren's 1996 Green Bay Packers, who didn't run very often after an injury to Edgar Bennett, as well as other pass-wacky WCOs such as the current vintage Eagles and various recent incarnations of the Rams. And of course there's the original WCO, the 1983 49ers, who played a different brand of football than their competition; they had a noticeably higher completion rate and lower yards-per-completion than other quality teams of their era. But when Holmgren has a feature running back, such as Shaun Alexander today or Dorsey Levens in 1997, he's shown no fear of the running game. The 'Hawks do retain the other primary characteristic of the West Coast Offense, which is the release of all five receivers on passing plays; traditional offenses explicitly leave the tight end and/or running backs as extra blockers in many cases.
Either way, the Emerald City's presence of heart will be proved (or disproved) within the next few hours. Go 'Hawks.
February 04, 2006
Who 'You Callin' "Frou Frou"? The Fuzzy Math of Matthew Yglesias, Part II
It's time for another round of our guessing game, this time with mystery football teams. Here's a table of various egghead measures of how "tough" a football team plays (setting aside questions of whether or not catching a pass in middle of the field when the Strong Safety is about to pounce requires toughness), with the team's rank within the NFL in parens:
|Team A||Team B|
|Rushing Attempts per Game||34.3 (1)||32.4 (7)|
|Rushing Plays/All Plays||57.2 (1)||50.1 (6)|
|Passes over 20 yards||44 (T-10)||44 (T-10)|
|Passes over 40 yards||14 (1)||11 (T-11)|
|Yards per Completion||12.8 (1)||11.8 (11)|
|% Receptions Resulting in 1st down||69.6 (1)||68.0 (3)|
|Weenie pass percentage||9.6 (27)||9.4 (31)|
[In the "weenie pass percentage" category, a lower ranking means the team makes fewer passes of five yards or fewer. In this case, this mean team B makes fewer dink-and-dunk tosses than team A.]
Your intuition is right this time. Team A is the Pittsburgh
Steelers Health Care Workers, while team B is the Seahawks. The point here wasn't to surprise anyone; it was just to show that while they're not the league leaders in running the football and passing Only When It Matters, the Seahawks are at least top third of the league.
No, the Seahawks do not run as much as the Steelers. But that's because no one runs as much as the Steelers. In the past few years, no one has ever really come close to running as much as the Steelers. If the Steelers are ahead in the second half, Bill Cowher simply refuses to pass the ball in situations where other teams would put it in the air. If people are going to call the Seahawks a bunch of nancy boys because they run the ball 32 times per game instead of 34 times per game, that's their right, but I think their desires for a run-only offense are highly unrealistic. After all, even the Steelers in the past few years have needed a high-octane passing game in order to advance in the playoffs.
To go along with their top-tier (though not as top tier as the Steelers) defense, the 'Hawks run an extremely effective vanilla offense, with lots of 3-7 yard runs and 9-16 yard passes. This is not an offense that looks like this year's Eagles, Patriots, or thid 1996 Green Bay Packers, all of which would count as "West Coast Offenses" that run slants or quick outs instead of handing the ball to a running back. There's no shame in what Holmgren has put together this year.
Personally I think there's no shame in the 1999 or 2001 Rams offense, but my views on that subject are clearly outside the mainstream, which demands that Real Men play football by having large guys run up the middle for four or five yards as frequently as possible, and win games through Defense and Running The Football. How the pass-wacky Patriots have avoided being called "soft" is beyond me.
Who 'You Callin' "Frou-Frou"? The Fuzzy Math of Matthew Yglesias, Part I
Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
Matthew Yglesias has thrown down the gauntlet with a David Brooks-esque dismissal of the Seahawks, [UPDATE: Oliver Willis earns himself a reeducation followed by CBS], so I think to defend the honor of my current home city and its football team, I'm obliged to pick it up. I'd like to play a little guessing game. I'm going to describe two American cities and their suburbs, and you try and guess what they are [employment data courtesy of the BLS]:
The metro area of City A employs 10.9% of its workers in manufacturing, 8900 of them in metal production. Its largest employer is a manufacturer of durable goods. 80% of the people who live there are white. 10.3% of its workforce is employed in the "education, health, and social services" sector, 6.3% in "professional services", and 6.7% in "financial activities".
The metro area of City B employs 9.1% of its workers in manufacturing, 14,600 of them in metal production. Its largest employer is a medical center attached to a major state university. 90% of the people who live there are white. 18.3% of its work force is employed in the "education, health, and social services" sector, 5.5% in "professional services" and 6.1% in "financial activities".
They look pretty similar. If anything, City B is the more white-collar town, with a few more professional-class workers moving towards the education and health care industries instead of working in real estate agencies or insurance. But in press coverage one of these cities is constantly referred to as the lunch-bucket, working-man's (and woman's) middle America, while the other is by reputation chock full o' wine-and-cheese costal liberals. Which is which?
At this point, the ruse is probably obvious. City A is Seattle, where the largest employer is Boeing, while City B is Pittsburgh, where the largest employer is ... wait for it ... University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (second largest? The University itself. Third largest? Mellon Financial Corp]. US Steel provides a whopping 1800 jobs in the area; Carnegie Mellon University has twice as many workers on its payroll. There are roughly 5000 mining related jobs in the region compared to less than one thousand in Seattle.
That's it. Less than ten thousand jobs in metals production [the metalworking jobs in Seattle are in aluminum, if you're curious] and five thousand jobs in mining represents the difference in blue collar work between the two cities. Pittsburgh's image rests on its legacy as the center of the once-vibrant steel trade and coal mining in the region, which is, to say the least, less vibrant than it once was.
On exactly one measure does Pittsburgh out-blue-collar Seattle, though it's a big one: education. 38% of Seattle metro residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and only 54% have an education level of "some college, no degree" or lower. In Pittsburgh, those figures are 27% and 65%, respectively. Nonetheless, Matt's been in a self-correcting mood lately so perhaps when the weekend is over he'll use his much larger microphone to point out that yes, we're not all a bunch of Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, eyebrow-piercing, whatevers. Then maybe he can mention his experience to the San Jose Mercury News.
December 11, 2005
World Cup Draw
Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
This past Friday, FIFA conducted the seeding draw for the 2006 world cup finals. Now that the results are in, Team USA has a tough road to hoe. Italy is the clear favorite, which leaves Ghana, the Czech Republic, and the Americans to duke it out for the remaining qualifying spot. Realistically, the U.S. will have to beat both the non-Italian teams in order to guarantee an appearance in bracket play.
Elsewhere, Group C is clearly the toughest, although I think group F will be hard fought for the non-Brazil teams. History has shown that European teams always overperform when the Continent hosts the Cup final, so look for surprising performances from teams like Serbia, Croatia, and the surprisingly low-seeded Portugal.
Consider this an open thread on international
September 24, 2005
Raffy Update: The Bush League Rat Strikes Again
By Dr. Pepper of the Daily Pepper
Back on August 2, I had a lot of fun comparing the fortunes of George Bush to those of his favorite baseball player: Rafael Palmeiro. Bush had won reelection (still hard to say those words) on an ad campaign that emphasized his physical fitness. Slate.com could even plausibly attribute his sucesses to the benefits of steroids, beginning with the high profit margins involved in signing a disproportionately large number of chemically assisted sluggers to the Rangers during his tenure as face of the organization. Not that the Rangers ever succeeded at winning anything, but home runs sold tickets, and selling the ducats makes you buckets o' cash.
Now, as we noted a couple of days ago, Bush has gone from meathead to hooch hound. And just like the local wino who wags his finger at everyone else rather than deal with his own addiction, the good old boy has been trying to find scapegoats for his own absolute incompetence, whether it's friend-turned-fall guy Michael "Brownie" or his old friends, Southern local authorities who -- he alleges -- didn't ask quickly enough for federal assistance.
Meanwhile, now that Congress is investigating Palmeiro on perjury charges, Raffy is following his old friend's tried-and-true method: blaming someone else. Raffy has been telling federal investigators that it was teammate Miguel Tejada who injected him with steroids. Those very investigators have proved the charge completely baseless, but Raffy probably found it a convenient way of implying that he had only been on the 'roids since he joined the Orioles in 2004.
After his ratting was exposed in the press a few days ago, Raffy was promptly dismissed from the team. Teammates weren't too happy about his false accusations. Commented teammate and fellow slugger Jay Gibbons:
It's kind of like a family in here, and I said yesterday that you have to take responsibility for your own actions. You're a grown man and if you make a mistake, just own up to it. Everybody makes mistakes, but when you rat out a teammate, whatever he did, I don't know, I think he's denying it, it makes you seem like a coward.
Translation: Nobody minds when a good old boy falls off the wagon, but the other good old boys will hate you when you blame them for doing so.
In times of success, this is just how the Bush administration kept its own secrets. But when things go sour, the code of honor becomes a joke, and everyone starts pointing fingers in order to avoid responsibility.
Nonetheless, there will always be little pawns to stand up for the strong. The classic little guy, Chris Gomez (Tejada's backup at shortstop), expressed his naive trust in Raffy. When you read the following quotation from Gomez, think of F. Scott Fitzgerald's George Wilson, in The Great Gatsby:
I just find it kind of hard to believe that Raffy would deliberately do something like that.
Incredible. This about Palmeiro -- a guy whose life-story comes straight out of the film "Major League," whose previous major scandal was sleeping with several of his teammate's wives, and whose ad campaign for Viagra capitalized on that claim to fame to sell medication for erectile dysfunction!!! The good old boy wouldn't betray his teammates, would he? Hell, Gomez, he's probably slept with your wife, too!
August 11, 2005
Pay to Play
Props to Villaraigosa for stuffing the NFL's demand for public stadium financing back in the face of the owners making it. LA is the second largest media market in the country, we've got a population that could pack more stadiums than public financing could possibly build, we're a damn good place for a football team and the only reason we don't have one is that owners elsewhere have been spoiled by sweetheart deals from city councils and local pols and refuse to bless the City of Angels unless we give them the same payoffs.
Well, fuck 'em.
The economic arguments for public financing of stadiums are, on their own merits, wrong. Reason's demolished them a couple times (here, and, particularly, here) but that shouldn't even be necessary. The fact of it is, sports teams make money for sport team owners, not cities. And when they stop doing that, owners move them. Sports teams are not a publicly owned resource committed to the good of the city, and the city should not pretend as if they are.
If the NFL wants to create a Packers' situation where a couple hundred thousand people can be part of the ownership and the team can never, ever leave the city, fine, maybe then they could make a case for public citizens to help pay for a publicly-owned franchise. But this? It's a private corporation looking at a profitable opportunity and deciding they won't enter unless they can make taxpayers pay the upfront costs.
LA remembers the Rams. Franchise loyalty is seen cynically over here, as well it should be. And if franchise want the freedom to leave, they can exercise that same freedom when they enter. The NFL needs LA much more than LA needs the NFL.
July 30, 2005
Incidentally, what's all this fuss over cage fighting? I mean, not my cup of tea, but if a bunch of wannabe-warriors want to step between chicken wire and beat the consensual crap out of each other, who cares? I'm glad that they have fewer deaths than boxing, I'm pleased that the cage prevents whiplash, but in the end, when people want to do stupid shit outside the eyes of regulation, there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop them. Indeed, if you really were concerned about safety, you wouldn't criminalize or shun the sport, you'd try and usher it into some sort of more regulated, more codified system where the rules could be normalized, best-methods for safety could be observed, and competent referees could keep an eye on the action.
When I was 15, I went to the Southern California championships for wrestling. It was my first year on varsity, I was a sophomore. In my first match, my opponent, an older, lumbering, heavier guy, flipped me. Generally, I did well with bigger dudes, but this guy just flipped me. The problem was, he landed on my throat. I couldn't get any air. Couldn't cough or gag, couldn't talk or scream. I tried to tap out, but the ref didn't see. So I started trying to shove my fingers in his eyes. Thankfully, the ref called me pinned before I passed out. It was damn scary though, scariest thing that ever happened to me.
That was in a high school sanctioned sport, but even so, the ref wasn't watching for the tap. These ones are. But what if one forgets? You want safety, normalize the rules, like they did in New Jersey and Nevada, make sure the competitors know their exit strategies and the referees are watching for when they run towards the door. That keeps people safe. Our disapproval, lawsuits against the promoters...the farther you drive this underground, the more dangerous it'll get, the more brutal it'll be, and the more people will be hurt or killed.