Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Why we still don’t like soccer and the World Cup

Posted by silentarchimedes on June 20, 2010

I really enjoy watching and playing soccer. I’ve been looking forward to the World Cup ever since the last one. And it’s nice to see that soccer has developed more of a following in America, and there seems to be more excitement this year. However, when you look at some of the things that has already happened in South Africa, you start understanding more why professional soccer still hasn’t taken a foothold (pardon the pun) here. In no particular order, here are reasons that can make a fan flabbergasted at soccer.

Vuvuzela

1. Vuvuzelas – Ok, seriously… I understand that if it’s part of a long tradition in South Africa, it’s fine, but it’s just not true. They became only popular in the 1980s, and introduce in the past couple years to international soccer play. It would be fine too, if it was a few vuvuzelas that provided added excitement and atmosphere, but it is soo loud that players have complained about how it affects their communication and concentration on the pitch. Watching on TV, I can’t even hear the typical sounds of competition, such as cheering, yelling, chanting, ref whistles, etc. It’s a continuous annoying buzz that drowns out all other noise. How is that a respect for the game? If you want to talk about African tradition, how about some drums or African music? That would a really nice atmosphere.

2. Low scoring games and draws – There’s nothing specifically wrong about low scores, but when clean sheets (shutouts) are more the norm than not, it gets a bit boring. Look at these stats for the first round of the knockout phase

– Only 25 goals were scored in the 16 games.

– An average of 1.56 goals per game.

– Thirteen times a team did not score, 15 times a team scored only 1 goal, 3 times – 2 goals and Germany scored four goals in their game.

Which leads to the abundance or high chance of a draw. Of the 16 games in the first round, six ended in a draw (two 0-0, four 1-1). That means 37.5% of the games ended in a draw.

3. Subjective refereeing – Due to the low scores of soccer games, so many issues that normally would be minor are magnified because they can affect the outcome of the game. There have been so many bad calls by referees it’s hard to really appreciate the game. Two that already stand out are the denied US go-ahead goal in the Slovenia game (not to mention all the other bad calls in that game), and the two missed handball fouls (on the same play) on Brazil’s second goal against Ivory Coast.

Bob Bradley – “There are times when a referee blows a foul and now thinks either he didn’t make the correct call on the foul or a previous play,” Bradley said. “Then literally, as soon as the free kick’s taken, he blows his whistle.”

Since writing this post, there’s been two other obviously bad calls by referees that have impacted the game. The phantom off-sides call on Clint Dempsey’s goal against Algeria and the disallowed goal off the crossbar against England’s game tying goal against Germany. Unbelievable.

4. Jabulani – The controversy over the playability of the ball every single World Cup is absurd. Just play the game! Imagine hockey players complaining about the puck, or NBA players complaining about the ball (ok, it did happen once), but stop being so sensitive. Either that, or FIFA needs to establish a standard ball, like in the NFL, and stop making everything a marketing campaign.

Dutch women - Guerilla advertising campaign

5. Orange mini-skirts – Ok, I had to throw this in there, even though I understand FIFA’s reasoning in protecting sponsors and making sure guerilla advertising campaigns don’t occur, but still, who arrests beautiful girls in miniskirts at a sports game?? Kick them out if you have to, but arrest? Go after the beer company if you have to, but to arrest the pawns of the campaign? All FIFA did was bring more attention to the guerilla advertising campaign, and show more the heavy-handedness of FIFA.

6. FIFA – The FIFA governing body reminds me too much of the International Olympic Committee – business suits with big egos and a lack of understanding and sensitivity to its fanbase. FIFA has always enjoyed the subjectivity of soccer because it believes controversy increases awareness and passion for the game. Well, not really. Not if you are trying to break into the United States market. Americans want fairness and want calls to be called right. The controversy surrounding USA’s third goal in the Slovenia game does not make casual fans follow soccer more, it makes them more skeptical of soccer’s fairness. FIFA needs to get off its high horse.

FIFA also hates technology in the game, but when the entire stadium sees the ball cross the goal line in the England-Germany game and the refs disallow it, it’s obvious that simple replay to determine if the ball crossed the goal line must be added. All these horrible calls by refs are ruining the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.

7. Penalty kicks – Penalty kicks are fine, if they were rewarded similarly to penalty shots in hockey, but they are not. They are given for hand balls in the penalty box, if the ref thinks there is any hint of intention. And the subjectivity of whether the hand ball denied a scoring chance is absurd. Even if there was going to be a scoring chance, the chance of a goal is so small. Usually a penalty shot in hockey is only awarded on an obvious breakaway. Of the 28 games through Sunday, June 20, five penalty kicks were given out (4 scored, 1 missed). Two of the five had an impact in the game, whether it was the winning or tying goal. Considering how low scoring the games are, it’s somewhat unfair that penalty kicks play such a big part in a soccer game.

8. Inaccuracy – Sometimes you wonder if the players are kicking a soccer ball for the first time in their lives. These guys are professionals and they practice kicking a soccer ball in all possible scenarios so often, whether it’s at the goal in or outside the penalty box, or a through ball to the striker. So why do so many balls sail waaaaay high over the crossbar or to the side of the goal? Why do so many corner kicks go so far to the other side and out? Why so many through kicks go either too far or too fast? I understand that many times players are trying to be too perfect or they are under too much duress, but seriously? So many of them are just pathetic.

When you look at the precision of other sports, such as Kobe draining a perimeter shot at the buzzer, or Ovechkin putting on evasive maneuvers to score a late winning goal, or Alex Rodriguez crushing a 96mph fastball into the seats for a walk-off homer or many other sports, it just makes soccer look somewhat random regardless of skill and experience. Especially to the casual observer.

Red card

9. Two yellows -> red card -> missed match – Just like the handball-penalty kicks, the way soccer handles yellow cards, red cards and automatic missed match has hints of unfairness. Once again the penalty is too severe for the foul. Not only do you get kicked out of the current match, but you also cannot play in the next game. Since yellow cards are already subjective, it seems so unfair if someone was to get a second yellow early in the game (the first one from the last game), that means an automatic red card, which means he’s ejected from the current game and the next game. For all intents and purposes, a foul in two separate games has cost him and his team two matches.

Oh, and not to forget, when he gets ejected, his team cannot replace his position in the game, which means his team must play a man down! Three penalties for two yellows on a player, and we know some yellows are pretty minor fouls. For reference, if you get a game misconduct in hockey, the other team gets a power play (man advantage) for a few minutes, and the player is ejected only for the current game. Umm, soccer might want to adopt a similar penalty system.

10. Racism – Unfortunately because of the passion, alcohol and whatever other reason, we still hear stories of players having to deal with raucous fans shouting racial and derogatory phrases at opposing players. There’s no place for racism in sports, especially in this day and age. Sports in the United States are more integrated and the population is more diverse than most international cultures. To read about this in soccer, the supposedly most popular sport in the world, it simply turns us off from the sport.

11. Too much passion – Americans are passionate about their sports, especially their football, but we don’t kill a player simply because they messed up. We might affect them psychologically to the point their careers and lives are destroyed, but we won’t take their lives away. There’s already been a couple instances of this occurring in soccer, and it just seems like the sport is a little over the top.

12. Egos – Players not wanting to train (French team this World Cup)? Player getting kicked off the team in the World Cup for cursing out the coach (Anelka of the French team)? That’s just the most obvious in this World Cup, but because the players are national and international heroes and they are one of the highest paid athletes in the world, their egos are also the size of, well, the world. Some of the players have more loyalty to their club team or themselves than their national teams. For example, there were so many questions of the Brazil national team because most of them play on the European club teams now.

13. Lack of sportsmanship – When flopping and diving is considered an art, something is wrong with the sport and the sportsmanship the players exude. Because the players know they can get away with it, sportsmanship goes out the window and they want that instant unfair advantage. What about the Ivory Coast player getting elbowed in the chest by Brazil’s Kaka, only to fall and cover his face as if his face is in pain? Seriously, is this sportsmanship? What about players diving in the ending minutes of a game to waste time only to see the other team drag him off the pitch? Sportsmanship, guys!! Have some! In football, if you waste time, you get a 15-yard penalty. No one wants to see that. Oh yeah, not to mention Zidane’s headbutt from the last World Cup.

14. Soccer is 90 min + ? – Another referee subjectivity. They determine how much injury time to add to each half, but they only have to tell the rest of the world roughly how many minutes it is. Only he knows the exact time the half or game ends. What the…

It’s unfortunate because the game is actually very tactical and requires a lot of teamwork and skill. However, because of the subjectivity, the rules and the commercialization of the sport, it has turned off the big casual market in America.

What other reasons do you guys think can turn off the casual fan from soccer?

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Can Alex Rodriguez jump like Cody Ransom? 60in vertical landing jump!

Posted by silentarchimedes on March 14, 2009

I must say this short YouTube video of Alex Rodriguez’s replacement while he’s out with an injury, Cody Ransom is pretty impressive. The guy is 32 years old this year and still has major ups. He IS 6’2″ so he might get thru as a small point guard in the NBA, but still… They should make the vertical landing jump a measurement in addition to the traditional vertical jump in the combines, not that it correlates well in a real football game.

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Q&A on the baseball steroids scandal (FAQ)

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 13, 2009

1. What are steroids?

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are many types of steroids, and most of them are natural and required by animals, plants and fungi to survive. The scientific definition is a terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings, generally arranged in a 6-6-6-5 fashion. Common steroids include estrogen, testosterone, and cholesterol. Technically, cholesterol is a sterol, which is a combination of steroids and alcohol. The former two are in a category called steroid hormones. These steroids include the sex hormones, corticosteroids (topical steroids are used for skin rashes, etc), and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are the ones used by athletes because their main purpose is to increase muscle and bone synthesis. Because they are related to the testosterone sex hormone, they also have effects of maintaining masculine characteristics, such as growth of  vocal chords and body hair. Anabolic steroids were first identified and synthesized in the 1930s.

2. What is the legal status of anabolic steroids?

Most countries classify steroids as controlled substances, which means that they are illegal to produce, distribute, possess and use without written prescriptions from authorized medical officials. These countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands (NL), and the United Kingdom (UK). However, they are readily available over the counter in Thailand and Mexico. Hence the underground availability of them in the U.S.

However, the status of anabolic steroids is recent considering its 1930s identification. They had no legal status prior to the 1980s and were common in many sports, including football and bodybuilding. It was not until the Ben Johnson controversial Olympic victory that they were placed under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

3. When were steroids banned in Major League Baseball?

1991. There is a huge misconception that steroids were not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB) before 2004. This is completely false. The truth is that they were officially banned in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams and players that illegal drugs, including steroids are illegal. [1][2]

This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs…

The exact same memo was resent by the MLB office in 1997. [3] The reason 2004 is used as the official year was because the rule was not enforced from 1991 until the pressures of Congress forced testing to become official in 2004.

4. Who is responsible for allowing steroids to become a problem from 1991 to 2004?

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

This is the ultimate question. Although guilty players have gotten most of the blame for the problem, logically they were only the end result of the problem. The commissioner and owners turned the other way because the lockout of 1994 had caused baseball to drop precipitously in popularity. An historic home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed the perfect antidote for low ratings. The players’ union, in trying to protect their players’ privacy and rights, instead seemed like they were protecting cheaters instead of looking out for the interests of innocent players. The players who used were at fault because they cheated and lowered the integrity of the game. However, it is unfair to fully blame players who felt pressured to take PEDs after seeing a culture that created unnatural stars. It seems, at least for the moment, that Arod fell into this camp. Innocent players should also shoulder some of the the blame because almost all chose the silent route when questioned if their was a problem in the game. Instead of looking out for the interests of the game, they chose to stick to union lines and protect cheating players that indirectly hurt themselves. It’s hard to fault fans that wanted to see more offense, especially home runs, simply because baseball without all the hits and runs can be construed as boring. Finally, testing for steroids and especially HGH was simply not at a point yet that MLB was comfortable with.

5. What notable players have been tainted by steroids, HGH or other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?

Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Lenny Dykstra, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Mo Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams.

This is only a list of notable players. Tens of second tier players have also been outed by the Mitchell Report. Another 103 are on the list of 104 anonymous players who tested positive in MLB’s steroids survey in 2003. Alex Rodriguez is the first name to be leaked from that list.

6. Should players tainted by steroids allegations be allowed into the Hall of Fame?

This question won’t be answered for at least a decade. There’s a reason why retired players have to wait five years before becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame. This is to allow any attachments and emotions to the player to subside before making a more objective decision. However, the criteria for entering the HOF has always changed with the times and generations. As much as people question the statistics of the Steroid Era, baseball has always allowed questionable players into the HOF. Until the whole steroids influence is fully understood, statistics of all players who played during this era cannot be fully appreciated. At this point, the steroids players are simply the ones that have been caught. To assume someone is clean because they haven’t been caught is naive. It is getting to a point that either all players are treated equally in the Steroid Era (whether they were caught or not or were clean) or that no one gets into the HOF. However, this question won’t be answered for a decade and perceptions may change through the years.

7. What paths have players accused of steroids and PEDs taken when ‘outed’?

Ranging from complete silence or denial to complete admittance and regret, players have had a wide range of reactions when cornered by PEDs allegations. The ones that have been most apologetic have had most success in resuming their playing careers, even if it meant a tainted legacy. Those that have shown completely no remorse or have put the blame on non-believable entities have been vilified by the public. The paths taken by the most notable players include, from strongest denial to strongest admittance:

Complete denial and knowledge of taking steroids, even when confronted by overwhelming evidence and federal investigations, continue to stick to their stance (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens)

Complete silence and avoidance of issue (Mark McGwire)

Complete denial then silence when overwhelming evidence surfaced (Ralphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa)

Vague admittance and apology when caught (Jason Giambi)

Full admittance and regret but with excuses such as injury or peer-pressure (Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez)

Full admittance and then assisted officials with information about steroids, suppliers and other players (Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley)

—–

Notes: This Q&A is not official and is simply my personal interpretation and understanding of the steroids scandal. I will add more questions and answers as they come up. If you would like to see a Q&A added on here, please add it in the comments section and I will gladly update the post.

Posted in Ethics, Health and Fitness, Science and Math, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bud Selig – Baseball’s incompetent commissioner

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 9, 2009

On the same vein as my previous article, an argument that greed is the root of the steroids scandal in baseball, the current economic crisis and global warming, there is one other commonality among the three problems, a void of  leadership.  One can even argue that greed becomes rampant only at the behest  or ignorance of the leadership. In the three problems stated, a lack of leadership for years is what has led to the current situations. Let’s look at the steroids scandal in particular.

BUD SELIG – BASEBALL’S INCOMPETENT COMMISSIONER

There is something special about baseball. Through all its scandals (Black Sox, race, recreational drugs, Pete Rose and gambling) it has always ended up doing the right thing and upholding the integrity of the game, even if it meant banning its all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, or several of its top players (Black Sox scandal – Shoeless Joe Jackson) for life. No player or players were above the game, and the commissioners knew this. The commissioners also knew they were not above the game and although they existed at the whim of the owners, they were supposed to put the interests of the game at the top.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

Well, something happened in 1992. An owner (Milwaukee Brewers), Bud Selig, was unanimously picked by the owners to become the ninth commissioner of baseball. Since 1992, he has allowed baseball to fall into a steroid scandal by ignoring the ramifications of performance enhanced statistics on the game. Any stories about players juicing were swept under the rug because of increasing television ratings and attendance due to historical records falling every year. Instead of looking out for the interest and integrity of the game, Selig exchanged it for higher revenues. Even in the past 7 to 8 years when everyone knew of the oncoming collapse, he acted in a very condescending way, as if the problem was not bigger than the game.  (This sounds just like our past  president and administration on the Iraq War and the current economic crisis?) Consider these players that have now been tainted by performance enhancing drugs:

1. All-time leader in home runs in career and in a season, Barry Bonds
2. Expected future all-time leader in home runs and one of the greatest players in history, Alex Rodriguez
3. Considered best pitcher in the past 25 years, Roger Clemens
4. First to break Roger Maris’ decades long single-season home run record, Mark McGwire
5. Most seasons with 60+ home runs, Sammy Sosa
6. Other 400+ home runs, Jose Canseco, Ralphael Palmeiro, Garry Sheffield

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

That list is too remarkable to ignore. The leader must be held accountable. Selig has been commissioner or acting commissioner since 1992, about the time hints began about steroids usage. Although he might not be the cause of the problem, he allowed it to fester and grow and grow.  Players that would not have used steroids were eventually compelled to use it due to lesser skilled players on par with them now because of PEDs. This is simply human nature. It is now a scandal that won’t go away. As much as the players need to be held accountable for their actions, the leader also needs to be responsible for his lack of action.In any other institution where people are held accountable, the leaders are replaced by the board. The board of the United States, the citizens, overwhelmingly voted the Republicans out of office in the past elections. Even in corporations, strong board of directors have been known to push incompetent CEOs out. However, similarly to baseball, when the board is closely tied to the leader, this almost occurs too late. In baseball, when the owners overwhelmingly approve of an incompetent commissioner that was once an owner himself, then the checks and balance system fails. In my previous article, Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past, the popularity of baseball has decreased more and more as society’s attention has shortened. To compensate for such pressures, Selig’s actions were always for short-term gain (ie interleague play) at the expense of long-term interests.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson

It is time baseball cleaned itself by removing its commissioner and the players that have cheated. It is apparent that without the pressures of Congress, Selig would not have voluntarily instituted stringent drug testing. Even to this day he acts as if nothing is wrong and that history will view him as a good commissioner that brought baseball back from its dark lockout days (Sound familiar?) As a big baseball fan, until there is strong leadership that is interested in cleaning up the game, then the game itself has lost its allure, the allure that I used to have as a kid in the 1980s watching Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield…

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The need for greed. And they all fall. What Arod, recession and global warming have in common.

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 7, 2009

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

What is going on with the world today? Many of the institutions and systems we grew up with and believed in have crumbled faster than a crumb cake in front of Santa Claus. This morning sports fans were shockingly (or not) met with news that one of the few remaining baseball superstars to not be tainted by the steroids scandal, Alex Rodriguez, failed an MLB steroids test in 2003. Considering that this news was corroborated by four independent sources, and based on past evidence of such news, this story likely has meat behind it. As the Barry Bonds’, baseball’s all-time home run king, steroids perjury trial heads to court, we wonder if there is anything sacred anymore in sportsmanship and fair play. The list now includes Bonds, Arod, Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Raphael Palmeiro. All were heroes and idols to millions and millions of kids and sports fans.

Bear Stearns

Bear Stearns

Sports is nothing, however, compared to the deepening economic crisis affecting the country. But, then again we need to ask ourselves how did this country fall into such a dire situation in the first place? With news of unemployment reaching 7.6%, worst since 1982, most Americans are sensing a pessimism in the country and its leadership they have never felt before. Corporations that have long been stalwarts have wilted after years of trustworthy service. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, just to name a few. Even General Electric has fallen on tough times due to untrustworthy leadership expectations and financial exposure. Then there are the frauds of individuals, such Bernie Madoff, and corporations, such as Enron and Global Crossing.

Polar bear cub

Polar bear cub

Then there is the global warming and energy crises. Due to the  irresponsible and rampant use of oil and other natural resources, and the irresponsible output of chemicals into the air, river and ground, the natural balance of Earth has come under question. Dire predictions of sea levels, global temperatures, forestation, glacial coverage, droughts and diseases have left us wondering is there any hope left? Will there exist a viable Earth in 100 to 200 years?

It is truly amazing that all three of these problems have one major thing in common. Greed. Greed. Greed. What is most disturbing is that the situations did not become problems until the ultimate greed kicked in. Arod was already a once in a generation baseball player back in high school. It is fair to say that he did not do steroids as a teenager as his body structure was simply too small. Bonds was a skinny player with the Pirates but was already a five tool player on the path to the Hall of Fame. McGwire  was an amazingly talented rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Why did they feel the need to use steroids and become even better than they already were? Why risk already amazing career trajectories with such greed?

Similarly, the financial companies that have gone bankrupt or bought up were very viable and successful companies (some for over a hundred years) before the ARMs and hedge funds became en vogue. Why the greed to do such risky investments in order to raise the bottom line and stock price?  Was it all due to increasing stock compensation packages of executives? Was it all worth it? To dupe millions of unknowing citizens just for more personal money? What about Madoff? An already well-respected and wealthy investor; what caused him to risk everyone’s money (including hundreds of other wealthy individuals and companies), just to make more money for his firm?

Finally, the earth has remained relatively stable ever since the existence of man. However, since the Industrial Revolution and especially since the widespread use of combustible engines, there has been this disregard for the side effects of using such resources. Coupled with research in biochemistry and synthetic compounds, the effects of pesticides, mercury, lead and carbons have led to a precarious global balance. Millions of animal species extinct or on the brink of survival.

Progress?

Progress?

Are humans, the supposedly most “intelligent” species with opposable thumbs, in fact, the dumbest species ever? Just imagine outsiders writing about the history of man and what they would write about, especially the past 150 years. Just imagine what they would write about western civilization. Just imagine what they would say about the population numbers. Or about technology and medical research? Is this the final goal of evolution? We have reached the ultimate in special survival… our only enemy is ourselves? The whole purpose of natural selection is the survival of the strong. However, part of natural selection is natural balance. A species never wants to become too powerful because then their food sources and natural enemies would disappear. Humans have, in essence, overcome both these natural laws. Through natural selection (our brains and opposable thumbs) we are far and beyond the most powerful species. In a relatively short time, our population and power increased beyond control. Humans have no more natural enemies. The machines we have created are unmatched and only destructible amongst ourselves. So what does this all mean?

The human world does not have a checks and balance system. Nature and other species have always acted as the equalizers. The closest thing that comes to that is the United Nations, and everyone knows how ineffective it is. Additionally, idealistic political systems such as communism and socialism have proven futile. Even checks and balance systems, such as the one in the United States, has a limited efficacy, as witnessed by the politics, lobbyism and other issues. Nature is having a difficult time balancing the effects of human greed and power. Diseases and natural disasters are becoming minimal in damage due to medical research and better disaster predictions. Without any natural enemies, we are left to govern ourselves and our future. As exciting of a possibility that is, the track record of that has been phenomenally pathetic.

Posted in Economics, Ethics, Health and Fitness, Opinion, Politics, Science and Math, Sports, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

My 2009 Predictions

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 22, 2009

Here are my 2009 predictions. None that are too far out there. Just a basic assessment of what I think might happen in 2009.

POLITICS

Barack the Celebrity

Barack the Celebrity

Obama’s approval ratings remain historically high but lower than the inauguration euphoria – Obama’s ability to inspire change and leadership at such a dour time in America gives him public leeway not seen since, well, 9/11. However, Obama’s pragmatism will help him keep the country on course and inspired throughout 2009. He has already made key changes in ethics regulations and state diplomacy in his first days in office. The only thing that will stop him will be… Congress.

Don’t expect much from Congress – Congress had lower approval ratings than President Bush in 2008, even with the Democratic majority and push for change. Expect the same from Pelosi and Reid, who are not strong leaders and have plenty of personal ambitions to prove Congressional strength to the Executive strength. Couple with the Republicans fight for relevancy, expect a 2009 of posturing and tit-for-tats. 2010 seems like a better year for Congress because the public will side with Obama over the frustrating bureaucracy in Congress in 2009.

ECONOMICS

The market moves sideways – There will be strong forces pulling the economy from both the recession side and the growth side. It is what I call the economic paradox. As the economy falls, oil prices drop and the US Dollar rises (somewhat surprisingly). However, as global growth resumes, oil demand and  commodity prices rise again and the US Dollar falls (since investors will begin investing in riskier assets instead of US Treasuries). Both are problems for America. Obama seems focused on passing bills and bailouts that will help light a fire under the economy, especially job market. However, the more he does the more inflation becomes a risk. Expect several major rises and several major slides, but by the end of 2009, the Dow Jones will still be in the 7500-9000 range.

Gold surpasses $1000/oz again – Because of the economic paradox, gold will continue to maintain its safe haven status in 2009. One of these days, gold will surpass $1000/oz again. In looking at the GLD chart, gold hit a low in mid-Nov 08 and has since built a nice rising linear resistance that it bounded in early Dec 08 and mid Jan 09. If gold breaks the upper linear resistance of $900/oz expect $1000/oz in Feb 09. If it does not expect a pullback. Aside from the technicals, 2009 is still a year of unforeseen economic strife and that will keep the price of gold high. Depending on where the economic paradox is at the end of 2009, gold will either be well above $1000/oz or testing it’s multi-year lows of $700/oz again.

Gold (GLD) prices from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009

Gold (GLD) prices from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009 (12-EMA green, 50-EMA red)

There will only be one viable American automaker by year’s end – The Big Three is already, in essence, the Small Two. Chrysler’s recent gift of 35% stake to Fiat for its access to technology and services is a desperation move to prove to the U.S. government that it has a viable plan to survive. However, the U.S. government is not going to perpetually support a half-foreign owned company at taxpayers expense. As for GM and Ford, 2009 will still be a very tough market. Any uptick by buyers will simply be for fuel efficient cars built by Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai. GM is effectively surviving on federal assistance, which runs out every few months. A radical solution has to found soon. Don’t fret though, because of the uniqueness of this market, hopes abound for small automakers that can make a difference in “green” vehicles.

SPORTS

yankeesYankees back in business – Sorry non-Yankees fans, but 2009 is appearing to be the Year of the Yankees. A new stadium, a team salary in excess of $200 million, a re-focused Arod with Mark Texeira pushing him, injury free Posada, Matsui and Chamberlain? It’s gonna be a great three-team AL East battle all summer. Yankees will win the division and make it to the World Series once again.

Posted in Economics, List, Opinion, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mad props to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald – Leaping Larry’s amazing catches

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 11, 2009

Wow, another amazing leaping catch by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Another amazing leaping catch between two close defenders.  There’s a reason they call him Leaping Larry. I’ve always been a fan of Fitzgerald because he played ball at Pitt. I usually root for Pitt because they are in the same city as the one I went to for college.  I don’t remember where but I saw some report about how Dennis Green, the Cardinals’ coach back in 2004 was a close friend of Fitzgerald because Larry was the Vikings’ ball boy back when Green was a coach in Minnesota. Green stated that he would probably draft him third in the first round. Well, that and the fact that Fitzgerald has a good head on his shoulders and is an amazing wide receiver. All he has done since coming into the NFL five years ago is have three years of 1400+ yards receiving. You never hear him complain, especially playing second fiddle to Anquan Boldin sometimes. You never hear him do stupid things. He is one of the reasons the Cardinals are doing well in the playoffs.

The two catches he has in this playoffs have been simply amazing.

TD catch against the Falcons – Wild Card Round, Jan 2009

TD catch against the Panthers – Divisional Round, Jan 2009

Well, Larry has been making unbelievable catches since he was a freshman at Pitt. Check some of these older catches by Fitzgerald:

Larry Fitzgerald insane catch – Insight Bowl, freshman year

Behind the head catch

And here’s a great compilation video that YouTube’s TheFreakShow81 made of Larry’s catches.

Larry Fitzgerald catch highlights

It’s amazing because most of the catches occur against multiple defenders in really tight coverage. This guy has crazy sticky hands, amazing body control and awesome speed. And you’ll never see him celebrate too much. When does he become a free agent so the Giants can sign him to replace Burress? (Larry signed a 4 year $40 million contract after the 2007 season, so looks like he won’t be a free-agent until after 2011. Oh well…)

Mad props…

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Being a sports fan in New York City. What team combinations have had the most success the past 25 years?

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 1, 2009

rangersI was listening to Benigno and Roberts on WFAN on my 3 hour drive from New Jersey to Connecticut on Saturday afternoon. Joe and Evan, both Mets and Jets fans, were ranting with other Mets-Jets fans how that combination of sports teams to be fans of in New York City was probably the worst. Especially with the current Jets collapse after starting out 8-3 and the Mets’ two consecutive late season collapses, the heartbreaking is at an all-timemets high. Well, as a Giants and Yankees fan, it’s been the complete opposite for me. The Yankees made the playoffs 13 years in a row (and winning four championships), while the Giants just came off a stellar Super Bowl dream season, not to mention the 2000 run and this year’s 12-4 season. This led me to do a quick analysis of the different combination of teams of the four major sports that fans can follow in NYC, and which ones have the best happiness and least happiness. First, I will quickly review each team’s success the past 25 years (I chose 25 because I first became a sports fan of a NY team in 1984 with the Yankees, and it’s a nice round number for recent success). Then I will rank the combinations in order of success.

Success will be defined as follows:

ACCOMPLISHMENT POINTS/OCCURRENCE
Winning season 2
Division winner 3
Playoff season 3
Playoff round won 5
Conference championship 15
Championship 20

Points explanation: To be clear, the team accrues points every time one of the accomplishments occur. For example, if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year, they would get points for every single accomplishment, not just the 20 points for winning the championship. That means a championship year for a football division winner would net the team 2+3+3+5(3)+15+20 = 58 points! That also means not all four sports championships are created equal, but they are pretty close, The reason for this is because the excitement and level of accompjetslishment increases up to the championship game. Usually when a team wins a championship, the fans are  relatively satisfied for the next few seasons. A division-winning playoff season coupled with a loss in the first playoff round would net the team 2+3+3 = 8 points. In essence, a championship is loosely equal to seven playoff seasons. Ties in football and the old ties in hockey are counted as non-games when calculating winning percentages.

So, here are the results of the nine New York City metro area sports teams and their successes the past 25 finished seasons. I will update this when the football, basketball and hockey seasons are finished with their 2008 seasons. That means I do not include the Giants accomplishments or the Jets collapse for this season in my analysis.

NEW YORK CITY METRO AREA SPORTS TEAM PROFILES
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT. WIN YRS DIV WIN
PLY YRS
PLY RECORD PLY RNDS RECORD CONF CHMP
CHAMP SUCCESS POINTS
Yankees 2235-1741 .562 21 10 13 78-50 17-9 6 4 366
Mets 2087-1892 .525 16 3 5 30-24 6-4 2 1 136
Giants 215-182 .542 13 7 12 15-9 15-9 4 3 278
Jets 180-218 .452 10 2 8 4-8 4-8 0 0 70
Knicks 1005-1013 .498 13 4 16 89-86 18-16 2 0 206
Nets 882-1136 .437 10 4 13 52-59 10-13 2 0 151
Rangers 863-807 .517 12 3 15 70-76 14-14 1 1 183
Islanders 788-898 .467 10 2 12 41-62 8-15 1 0 117
Devils 918-752 .550 18 7 18 118-98 22-15 4 3 341

WIN YRS – years above .500, DIV WIN – years team won division, PLY YRS – years team made playoffs, PLY RECORD – playoff record, PLY RNDS RECORD – how many playoff rounds team won and lost, CONF CHMP – conference champions, CHAMP – championships

It’s not surprising the Yankees have had the most success the past 25 years. The Devils championship success in the 1990s make them a close second. Although the Mets had 16 winning seasons, they only made the playoffs five of those years because their records were probably closer to .500 than .600. The Jets by far are the worst team. They are the only ones to not even have a conference championship. Conference championships are a major key to a fan’s happiness. All fans hope for is their team to make it to the final round… to the World Series, Super Bowl, or Championship.

new-york-giants-superbowlHowever, the success points by themselves don’t mean much because we can’t compare teams across sports. We need to calculate the total possible points for each team and each sport. In our six points categories, the maximum is 25 (example: 25 possible playoff seasons) except the possible playoff rounds won. The only sport in which playoff rounds won is dependent on the team is football, where there is the extra wild card round. If the team was involved in a wild-card game, then that’s another possible playoff round to be won. In non-playoff seasons, total possible playoff rounds is 3, discounting the wild-card round. From the total possible points each team could have accrued in the past 25 years, we can calculate a success percentage for each team.

The success percentage of the NYC sports teams in the past 25 years, from best to worst:

TEAM RANKINGS
RANK TEAM POINTS TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS
SUCCESS PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees 366 1355 .270
2 Devils 341 1575 .217
3 Giants 278 1490 (8) .187
4 Knicks 206 1575 .131
5 Rangers 183 1575 .116
6 Mets 136 1355 .100
7 Nets 151 1575 .096
8 Islanders 117 1575 .074
9 Jets 70 1485 (7) .047

devilsThe ordering stayed the same when we used success points except the Mets jumped ahead of the Nets because there are less total points in baseball than basketball (mostly due to playoff rounds). The Yankees effectively led all categories except the number of playoff seasons and playoff rounds won. However, unlike the other three sports, baseball is the hardest to get into the playoffs, even after the wild cards were introduced in 1995. The futility of the bottom four teams coincidentally have a team in each sport. That means a fan of the Mets, Nets, Islanders and Jets have been wallowing in the most misery for the past 25 years. The top four teams are also one in each sport. A fan of the Yankees, Devils, Giants and Knicks would be the happiest four-team fan in the area.

knicks2Now that we have a success percentage associated with each team, the fun part begins. We want to find the team combinations that give fans the most happiness. However, to be realistic, we realize that many fans are not hardcore or even big fans of all four sports. I know a lot of fans that are only into baseball and football, but not the other two. Or they are fans of other cities and teams (traitors) for some of the sports. To allow for combinations that don’t include all four teams, we will simply take the average success percentage of the teams involved.

Before giving the results of a lot of the possible combinations, let’s highlight the very popular baseball-football fans:

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS FOR BASEBALL-FOOTBALL FANS
RANK TEAMS HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees, Giants
.229
2 Yankees, Jets
.159
3 Mets, Giants
.144
4 Mets, Jets .074

yankeesWow! If you are a Yankees-Giants fan you have been three-times happier than Mets-Jets fans the past 25 years. The funny thing is that if you are a Yankees-Jets fan or a Mets-Giants fan, the Jets and Mets pull down your overall fan happiness. Being a Jets fan pulls your Yankees fan happiness down by 41%, and being a Mets fan pulls your Giants fan happiness down by 23%. Or to be an optimist, the Yankees and Giants pull up the happiness of Jets and Mets fans. Hehe…

Here are the results of most of the possible combinations of being a NYC metro sports fan. There are too many total possible combinations to list, from 1-team fans up to 4-team fans, so I will make some assumptions in order to remove unpopular combinations. I will assume that multi-sport fans have to be at least a baseball AND a football fan. That means we will only allow combinations in which each must contain a baseball and a football team.

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS
RANK BASEBALL FOOTBALL BASKETBALL HOCKEY HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees .270
2 Yankees Giants .229
3 Yankees
Giants Devils .225
4
Devils
.217
5 Yankees
Giants Knicks Devils .201
6 Yankees
Giants Knicks .196
7 Yankees
Giants Nets Devils .193
8 Yankees
Giants Rangers .191
9
Giants .187
10 Yankees
Giants Nets .184
11 Yankees
Jets Devils .178
12 Yankees
Giants Islanders .177
13
Yankees
Giants Knicks Rangers .176
14 Mets
Giants Devils .168
15 Yankees
Giants Nets Rangers .167
16t Yankees
Giants Knicks Islanders .166
16t Yankees
Jets Knicks Devils .166
18t Yankees Jets .159
18t Mets
Giants Knicks Devils .159
20 Yankees
Jets Nets Devils .158
21 Yankees
Giants Nets Islanders .157
22 Mets
Giants Nets Devils .150
23 Yankees
Jets Knicks .149
24t Mets Giants .144
24t Yankees
Jets Rangers .144
26 Yankees
Jets Knicks Rangers .141
27 Mets
Giants Knicks .139
28
Yankees
Jets Nets .138
29t Mets
Giants Knicks Rangers .134
29t Mets
Giants Rangers .134
31 Yankees
Jets Nets Rangers .132
32t Yankees
Jets Knicks Islanders .131
32t
Knicks .131
34 Yankees
Jets Islanders .130
35 Mets
Giants Nets .128
36 Mets
Giants Nets Rangers .125
37 Mets
Jets Knicks Devils .124
38 Mets
Giants Knicks Islanders .123
39 Yankees
Jets Nets Islanders .122
40 Mets
Jets Devils .121
41 Mets
Giants Islanders .120
42 Rangers .116
43 Mets
Jets Nets Devils .115
44 Mets
Giants Nets Islanders .114
45
Mets .100
46 Mets
Jets Knicks Rangers .099
47
Nets .096
48 Mets
Jets Knicks .093
49 Mets
Jets Nets Rangers .090
50 Mets
Jets Knicks Islanders .089
51 Mets
Jets Rangers .088
52 Mets
Jets Nets .081
53 Mets
Jets Nets Islanders .079
54t Mets
Jets Islanders .074
54t
Islanders .074
54t Mets Jets .074
57
Jets .047

islandersBy far, a pure Yankees fan has had the most happiness the past 25 years in NYC. This is followed by the Yankees-Giants fans not interested in basketball or hockey. Throw in the Devils hockey fans with that combination and you are just as happy. The best four-team combo, unsurprisingly, is the top four successful teams, the Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Devils. My combination of the YGKR is ranked 13th in happiness. If I had been an Islanders fan and not a Knicks+Rangers fan, I would’ve just been as happy. At first glance, this might not make sense since the Islanders success percentage is much lower than the Knicks or Rangers, but because I would not be invested in a fourth sport and team (hockey), the success of the Yankees and Giants keep me very happy even with the Islanders lack of success. The Knicks and Rangers haven’t had enough success to override that extra sport disadvantage. Interesting…

netsOn the flip side, the Mets and Jets dominate the bottom half of the rankings. Their city rivals’ (Yankees and Giants) success coupled with the fact that you can’t be a Mets-Yankees or a Jets-Giants fan (those that are should be forced to move to a one-team city) give their fans plenty to be sad about. If you are solely a Jets fan, you have it worst; being only  happy 4.7% of the time the past 25 years. And for Joe and Evan of WFAN, well, you two have the second worst team combo.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this little exercise. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment below (You will be anonymous). Or leave a comment on what team combo you are. Sorry I couldn’t put all the possible combinations on a chart. There are too many to list. And frankly, how many Nets-Rangers fans are there (without being fans of baseball and football)?

To finish up, please vote for the teams you are fans of below. Of course, you can pick multiple teams.

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When is not a goal a goal in hockey?

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 17, 2008

Something interesting happened in the game between the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks tonight. A goal was awarded to the Rangers in the final second of the game even though the puck did not cross the goal line! Now before I explain how that can happen, I am unaware of this possibility in football or baseball. Even if a wide receiver is interfered with in the end zone, the consequence is simply a pass interference penalty that puts the ball at the goal line. In baseball, the closest thing might be a balk with the bases loaded that forces in a run without the benefit of any doing by the offensive team. However, in basketball, there does exist instances in which a basket is counted even when it has not gone into the net… which is called goaltending.

So, what happened in the Rangers-Ducks game to warrant a goalless goal? Nikolai Zherdev was on a breakaway towards an empty net when he was tripped up by Chris Pronger. In normal situations, Zherdev would be awarded a penalty shot. However, a penalty shot in this situation would be unfair to the Rangers. The official NHL rule book actually addresses this situation:

26.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone on, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team (see 26.3 Infractions –When Goalkeeper is Off the Ice, below).

That’s awesome. I actually would’ve preferred a penalty shot on an empty net to formalize the goal. I equate that to an intentional walk in baseball in which the pitcher still has to throw four balls wide of home plate to formalize the bases on balls.

If you do a search on Awarded Goal in the NHL rulebook, there are actually several instances in which a goalless goal may occur. Most, if not all, occur when the goalie is removed for an extra attacker. My favorite one is Rule 67.5. To summarize, if the goalie builds a snowman in front of the net before he leaves the ice for an extra attacker, the opposing team is awarded a goal. Hahahaha!

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Why Andy Pettitte owes the Yankees. Just look at Plaxico Burress.

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 4, 2008

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Let me get this straight. Both Andy Pettitte and Plaxico Burress hurt themselves. Albeit one with drugs and the other with a gun. And yes, they hurt their teammates (Pettitte’s might be arguable) and the integrity of their respective games. But physically, they only hurt themselves. The Giants proceeded to suspend Burress for four games and put him on the non-injured reserve list; essentially ending his season. The suspension obviously resulted in major financial repercussions for Burress. The Yankees, meanwhile, welcomed Pettitte back with open arms for the guaranteed $16 million. Even with the Mitchell Report coming out just 10-days after Pettitte exercised his $16 million option.

Now comparing Pettitte and Burress is like comparing apples to oranges. Pettitte has always been a model citizen and family man, whereas Burress has been a headcase of suspensions, fines and showmanship for the Steelers and Giants. You could also bring up the fact that Pettitte used HGH to help recover faster to help his team. Not much moral support for Burress being late to a bazillion team meetings or shooting himself in a club.

However, Pettitte still hurt the integrity of the game of baseball. To all those fans that don’t care if players use steroids or HGH, imagine a game without integrity. Full of gambling and drugs. The game would become a farce, much like wrestling is now. So as much as fans are tired of hearing about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in baseball, it’s a necessary fight. Although Pettitte apologized, you can see how differently fans treat PED-using players based on their remorse. Pettitte and Giambi? Back in good grace. Clemens and McGwire? Who are they?

Which brings me to my point. Pettitte is very very lucky the Yankees welcomed him back and fully supported him. The news conference with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi sitting to his sides as he apologized and answered questions must have been tough to watch for some hardcore baseball traditionalists. There was no compromise regarding salary. The whole contract was honored and fans even cheered for him because he owned up to his mistake. He proceeded to go 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA and a team high 204 innings. However, he battled shoulder problems all year and closed the season with a 2-7 record.

Remember this apology? (Getty Images)

Remember this, Andy? (Robert Browman, Getty Images)

Now Pettitte is a free agent. He owes the Yankees. The Yankees would like to bring him back for $10 million. Pettitte does not want to take a pay cut from his $16 million. His agents are shopping him around, especially to Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Although Pettitte has been saying all year that he wants to pitch in the new Yankee stadium (even jokingly picking a locker in the new locker room on  a tour there), when asked if he would take a pay cut to stay with the Yankees, he dodged the topic and deferred to his agents. One, Pettitte will be 37 next season. Two, Pettitte is no where worthy of a top of line $16 million contract. Three, the Yankees saved his career this past season by welcoming him back. Four, the Yankees saved his reputation by allowing him to show complete remorse and prove himself on the field. Five, he owes all the Yankee fans who supported him this past year.

Is he really going to argue over $6 million in pay? I’m sure he doesn’t need the extra money after earning tens of millions in his career. If it’s about getting what he’s worth, well, he’s not worth $16 million. He needs to give a nice Christmas present to the Yankees and their fans. Stop being business-like, show some gratitude towards the team that saved you and the fans that stood by you.

I’m one of them.

RELEVANT LINKS

NY Times – Agents work to avoid a pay cut for Pettitte
Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past
The disappointing 2008 Yankees Season – Stick a fork in it, the Yankees are done
Analysis: New York Yankees at the half

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