Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday sports page 

[] Having fumbled health care reform out of bounds, Obama's next play call is safely to the populist center of the field, sending the Justice Department out to tackle college football's Bowl Championship Series.

In a letter sent to Senator Orin Hatch of Utah -- who was upset that his undefeated University of Utah team didn't make the BCS last year (and who is a Republican, making this a fully bipartisan call) -- the Department writes...
"The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football ... raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties"... [AP]
So our nations' political leaders want to spend their efforts on college football, rather than on anything that matters. Every time I think how bad that is, I think it might be good.

[] Passing the time waiting for the Super Bowl to arrive, Football Outsiders is presenting a new "stat of the day" ... daily! For instance: the most unbalanced NFL teams in the last 17 years (as far back as their play-by-play data go):
Entirely Defense: 1998 San Diego Chargers, 2nd on defense, 30th on offense. With Ryan Leaf as your quarterback you can go 5-11 with the second-best defense in the league.

Entirely Offense: 2008 Denver Broncos, 2nd on offense, 31st on defense. This year, 2009, the Broncos hired Dick Nolan as their new defensive coordinator, he improved them to #7 -- the second greatest one-year improvement by any defense in those 17 years -- and they fired him.

Entirely Special Teams: 2005 Buffalo Bills, 1st on special teams, 30th on offense, 26th on defense. It was lonely out there on that punt coverage squad.

[] More on randomness in baseball pitching results. Data from "Pitch f/x cameras", which record the nature and location of every pitch in a game, indicate that pitchers throw as well when getting shelled by batters as when shutting them down.

Yes, some pitchers are better than others, as their full-season records show. But after the ball leaves the mound all the results come from the batter, umpire, fielders, and the luck of the bounce of the ball off the bat and around the field -- producing big random variance in results by inning and game.

(Oddly, fans seem to recognize the influence of luck with batters but not pitchers. If a batter goes 5 for 5, it's "his lucky day" -- nobody expects him to continue like that. But if a pitcher gives up 5 hits in a row, it's "get him out now, he's got nothing", everyone thinks he will continue that way. )

Phil Birnbaum expounds and links to the original research.

[] Have baseball's last 15 years really been "the era of the steroid-powered home run"? Maybe not so much.

[] Is Title IX hurting women's college sports?

The argument: Too many scholarships are given out to women relative to the level of talent. Women actually receive more scholarships than men -- for instance, in NCAA basketball there are 9,285 scholarships for women to only 7,177 for men; women's college teams have 15 scholarships, men's teams only 13 -- even though at the high school level only about 40% of athletes are women.

With a smaller pool of talented players and yet a larger number of scholarships per team, the few best women's college teams are able grab all the best players, while the talent is much more evenly spread out among men's teams.

Result: The University of Connecticut's women's basketball team has been ranked #1 for 18 months while winning 58 straight games -- during which time more than a dozen men's teams have risen to and fallen from the #1 ranking. And it is even worse in other sports. The longest undefeated streak in men's soccer is the University of Indiana's 46 games. In women's soccer, North Carolina set a record 103-game streak, then lost one, then went on another 101-game streak.

Do you know what they call a sport in which the general quality of play is poor, and a just few teams win everything in sight? "Boring." "Unpopular." "Unattended."

[] So this week we were able to see more of the NBA's Greg Ogden than the world needed to see. The old cell phone picture admiring one's full-frontal self while stepping out of the shower, then transmitted to a impress a "friend", and winding up on the web. (No, I'm not providing the link, my mother might read this.)

These kid pro athletes today make so much money that they now have professional personal business managers, personal trainers, personal nutritionists, and so on, all to protect their careers. Maybe they should start hiring professional personal stand-in Dads to smack 'em in the head when they are about to do something stupid.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Who do you trust in TV network news? 

Public Policy Polling asked "who do you trust" of TV news viewers, and discovered...
Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country -- except for Fox News.

Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust -- 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not.
trust distrust net

Fox 49 37 +12
CNN 39 41 - 2
NBC 35 44 - 9
CBS 32 46 -14
ABC 31 46 -15

There is polarization in these results, not surprisingly. Republicans trust Fox more and Democrats trust the others more.

But it is the Independents who are key -- just as on election day. These are the swing voters who voted in Obama with a Democratic Congress in 2008 -- and who this year have turned sharply against Obama and the Democrats, voting for Brown by a 50 point (!) margin in Massachusetts.

Who do independent voters trust among the news networks? Nobody! (They ain't stupid!) But they distrust Fox a lot less than the others.

trust distrust net

Fox 41 44 -3
CNN 33 45 -12
CBS 22 51 -29
NBC 22 52 -30
ABC 21 53 -32

"Fox -- the least distrusted name in news!"

Draw your own conclusions.

A Pulitzer Prize for the National Enquirer for the Edwards story? 

It should get one, says Andrea Peyser.

After all, while the mainstream media slept, looked away, willfully buried its head, the Enquirer dug and dug to reveal the truth about one of the country's top politicians -- and potentially saved the nation great political trauma in the process. (Imagine if the Democrats had nominated Edwards, buying his whole line, and then inevitably the truth had come out.) And it did it practicing just the sort of journalism that Joe Pulitzer specialized in himself.
Enquiring minds are cheated out of Pulitzer

Old Joseph Pulitzer is doing flip-flops in his grave. The National Enquirer, which practices provocative journalism -- just like old Joe did -- is about to be mugged.

Investigative reporters toiling for the supermarket tabloid have pulled off a coup of epic proportions, saving this nation from the scoundrel who is John Edwards, and spurring an investigation that could land him in jail. But will the Enquirer win the Pulitzer Prize it so richly deserves?

Not in my lifetime...

The bombshell [reporting] should have won praise, prizes and the best possible restaurant tables for Enquirer types. Instead, the story was met with utter silence from the "mainstream" media. Until last week, when Edwards 'fessed up...

The journalistic establishment now has a chance to reward the Enquirer with its loftiest prize. It won't. The administrator of the Pulitzer board has already nuked the idea -- on a technicality.

He pointed out that, on its Web site, the Enquirer is called "the original celebrity entertainment magazine."

Magazines, you see, aren't eligible for Pulitzers.

This is a lame excuse, wrapped in jealousy.

The National Enquirer deserves accolades, not scorn ... It deserves a seat next to the snobs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama's impossible-to-square promises on taxes and the deficit. 

In the State of the Union address last night Obama turned populist on the budget, spending a lot of time promising to deliver more spending programs and tax cuts for the middle class and businesses ... while slashing the budget deficit to a sustainable level ... and not increasing taxes on anybody who isn't among "the rich" making over $200,000.

Of course it's obvious why he did, and why he'll keep on making promises this way until the November election, after the Massachusetts calamity. And it's not really any kind of "turn" in electoral tactics for him -- he did the same thing during his 2008 campaign (promising to fund universal health care with a tax cut).

But how realistic -- dare we say "honest"? -- is this combination of promises? Let's see...

Recent Tax Policy Center analysis shows how much taxes will have to increase, under different policy scenarios, just to get the deficit down to a sustainable 2% of GDP post-2015, from today's starting point (not counting the flotilla of new tax breaks and spending programs he just promised)...
The Congressional Budget Office projects an average deficit over the 2015-2019 period of ... 6 percent of GDP [if] Congress follows current policy and makes both the Bush tax cuts and AMT patches permanent as the president has proposed.
... that 6% clearly being unsustainable, since the economy when doing well grows an average of only 3% a year.

What if, keeping Obama's promise, the deficit is reduced to 2% of GDP using tax hikes that hit only persons making over $200,000?
Their rates would go up ... more than 150 percent under current policy. In other words, the top tax rate would return to the bad old days of 90 percent. Even if we go for the Administration’s more modest goals — start with current policy and aim for deficits averaging 3 percent of GDP — those top tax rates would have to more than double, taking the top rate over 75 percent.

And our estimates ignore behavioral response ... cranking the top rate up to 90 percent would lead to a massive reduction in taxable income and hence a lot less additional revenue than we found.
Ouch! But even so, Democrats prefer tax hikes to spending program cuts.

So what if to keep them happy Obama breaks his "tax" promise and increases everybody's taxes from current levels?
rates would have to jump nearly 50 percent. In other words, the 10 percent bracket would become nearly 15 percent and the 35 percent top rate would go to 52 percent.
Ugh ... a full 50% across-the-board income tax increase? I think even the left side of the left would gag on that.

(I'll mention for the record, "what if the Bush tax cuts are not renewed, and there are no more AMT fixes" -- though in reality that would be part of the second option above, a "tax increase on everybody from current policy". It requires another 15% tax increase for everyone on top, which again totals to the revenue-generating equivalent of the 50% across-the-board increase from current policy, only with the impact on who pays how much shifted around somewhat.)

Hey, what if we got rid of "tax breaks for the rich". Heck, get rid of tax breaks for everybody...
eliminating all itemized deductions ... wouldn’t yield enough revenue... Besides, wiping out popular deductions for home mortgage interest, state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and other expenses would never fly. We even looked at capping the tax-reducing value of itemized deductions to 15 percent, but that wouldn’t raise nearly enough under either current law or current policy. (Last year, Obama proposed a more lenient 28 percent cap.)
Conclusion: We've finally reached the point where no imaginable income tax increase(!) can do the job by itself.
Our simple exercise yields two important messages: We can’t balance the budget with income tax increases alone. We also have to cut spending and perhaps look for another revenue source as well. VAT, anyone?
Although nobody's discussing those options either. Instead, the politicians are still competing for votes by ladling out promises of more spending and more tax cuts for everybody except the over-$200k crowd.

Troubling thought: Has the budget deficit finally mathematically reached the "out of control spiral" point?

It's simple arithmetic that Obama can't come even anywhere close to meeting both his promises of (1) reducing annual deficits to sustainable deficits and (2) not increasing taxes on anybody but the over $200k-ers. By hard necessity, one's gotta go overboard -- probably both will.

Well ... his promises today may help get his fellow Democrats through the election this November, but they are still short-sighted even regarding his own self-interest (not to mention the country's).

In 2012 his own re-election campaign will be here, and he is going to be way, way off from delivering his promise on either the deficit or on taxes, if not both.

The problems he just had getting his health plan past the voters that resulted from his, "I'll negotiate it all on C-SPAN! No backroom deals!" broken promises may prove to be as nothing compared to the problems he'll have getting his own self past the voters then, in light of his "I'll slash the deficit and not raise taxes!" broken promises.

The NY Times and Justice Alito call "Bullspit" on a bit of Obama's populist demagoguery. 

From Obama's State of the Union Address ...
Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.

Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.
"Standing applause" ... except for the Supreme Court Justices who remain seated, with Justice Alito visibly mouthing something that seemed unapproving. [Video]

The New York Times explains:
The president appeared to have mischaracterized the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn restrictions on corporate-paid political commercials by suggesting that the decision invited political advertisements by foreign companies, too...

The majority opinion in the case, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, specifically disavowed a verdict on the question....
Which means existing legislation on the point remains in effect. One might think a professional expert on the subject -- a professor of constitutional law, no less -- would know better.

It makes one wonder if there might be any other such partisan bull... misrepresentations in the speech.

Update: Tom Maguire points to the question of whether or not Obama, as a non-tenure track, part-time lecturer, actually was a "professor" or not, discussed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ooops. Uh ... sorry? 

"So how'd the art class trip to the museum go?"

Woman's tear in Picasso slashes value by $65M

A woman who lost her balance and tore a hole in a Pablo Picasso painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art likely cut the $130 million painting's value in half, a top appraiser said yesterday.

Conservators said they will be able to fix the 6-inch tear in "The Actor" (above), but appraiser Gerard van Weyenbergh said the painting may never recover its value.

"It's a 50 percent loss of the value -- at least," van Weyenbergh said...

Museum officials would not identify the woman who fell into the painting... [NY Post]

"Um, would this be covered by my homeowners' policy?"

Some other great "oopsies of the art world" via the AP.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teachers union costs NY schools $700 million. 

How UFT torpedoed NY's shot at $700m

The city teachers union did its best to scuttle the state's application for $700 million in federal school aid by refusing to embrace reform measures required to compete for the funds, education authorities told The Post.

State officials confirmed that the United Federation of Teachers refused to sign a memo supporting the state's Race to the Top application because it would have allowed student test-score data to be used in the evaluation of the union's members.

The UFT also refused to agree to paying the best teachers extra to work in high-poverty schools, arguing that such a move smacked of merit pay.

And it sought to add obstacles for bouncing the lowest-performing teachers from the system, city officials said.

"What the union was proposing on issues of teacher evaluation and teacher compensation not only was not in accordance with the mandates of Race to the Top but would have damaged the state and the city's ability to win the $700 million award," Deputy Schools Chancellor John White said.

"Any statement that the teachers union was trying to satisfy the requirements of Race to the Top through an agreement with the state and the [city] Department of Education is a lie."
Well, that's plain enough. And here it comes:
UFT President Michael Mulgrew countered that the union had been looking to negotiate a memo with the city for weeks...

A copy of the UFT-signed memo contains language that runs counter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's push to have teachers evaluated based on how well their students perform.

It says twice that "test-score data cannot be used for teacher evaluation or individual compensation."... [NY Post]

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! 

Visit the Official Web Site.
"The story begins in 1957 in a garage in Hawthorne, NJ with two engineers, Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding. Marc and Al were trying to make a plastic wallpaper ...

"Surprisingly, this product didn’t take off. They realized, however..."
Who knew?

Another of the great advances of modern civilization made by accident.

Around and about ... 

Bad Russian rocketry makes spectacular Norwegian nights.

Remember Air America? That's all you can do about it now.

"A model of the history of human misery".

Keith Hennessey on Schrodinger’s Health Care Bill. UPDATE: Ooops, somebody peeked. It's dead.

Village Voice: "Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate." How the heck did Bush and the Republicans manage to reign supreme all those years with only 50 to 55 Senate seats?

There's 775 of me. How many of you are out there?

The difference between boys and girls, as revealed by Google searches.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday sports page 

[] If you watch the NFL's Jets - Colts AFC Championship game today, you'll really be watching the Jets versus Peyton Manning & Six of His Friends and a Bunch of Bodies...

The seven highest-paid Indianapolis Colts in 2009 have a combined $81.3 million cap cost -- which leaves the bottom 46 players on the active roster, eight practice-squad players and, say, estimated injured-reserve players to split the remaining estimated $40.7 million of the cap.

Salary-cap average of the relative Colt haves: $11,614,286.

Salary-cap average of the relative Colt have-nots: $678,333. [Peter King]

[] In the NFL, why do the #1 seeds so seldom reach the Super Bowl? The #1 teams from both AFC and NFC haven't met in the Big Game since 1993. This oddity's odds are explained at Pro Football

[] How the balance between rushing and passing has shifted in the NFL over the decades is presented by Brian Burke.

[] The New York Yankees make more money than any other team in major league baseball -- but the Yankees' players extract their share of it. Players in the Yankees uniform get salaries about 40% larger than other players of comparable ability around major league baseball, says the Sports Economist.

[] Go watch the World Cup in relative safety, as long as nobody shoots you.
South Africa's authorities have condemned a London-based company which wants to sell stab-vests to visiting football fans during the World Cup....

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crimes but the authorities say they will tighten security for the tournament.

Protektorvest, which currently sells its merchandise online, says there is a "high demand" for protective clothing and claim the stab-vests which cost close to $70 (£43) are the "No 1 personal protection for the World Cup 2010".

Fans can add their national flag to the vest, or slogans such as "Free hugs" or "Ole"... [BBC]

[] A new basketball league just for slow people who can't jump.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Beware scorning the woman with enough money to put up a billboard in Times Square. 

Jilted mistress proclaims love for exec ex with billboard

A fuming mistress catapulted retribution into a new orbit by plastering the country with billboards that show her nuzzling a married New York business honcho and adviser to President Obama, sources said.

The spurned squeeze, YaVaughnie Wilkins, went nuclear after she learned that Charles E. Phillips -- president of tech conglomerate Oracle and a member of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board -- reconciled with his wife...

Three signs have popped up in the city, as well as one in Atlanta and one in San Francisco -- where Wilkins lives, Phillips owns a home and Oracle's world headquarters are located...

One of the giant signs, posted prominently at the corner of West 52nd Street and Broadway, near Times Square, declares "Charles & YaVaughnie," and shows the couple beaming. Referring to him by his initials, the three-story-tall ad proclaims, "You are my soulmate forever - cep."

But the billboards ... also invite the curious to go to a Web site that is a veritable shrine to Wilkins' ex-love. Featured on are eight years' worth of photos of the pair canoodling around the world, dating to 2001 ... Also included are dozens of ticket stubs from concerts, movies and sporting events -- as well as Obama's inauguration...

There is also a huge collection of notes from Phillips. "You're all that matters to me," he coos in one. In another, he gushes, "I have never met a woman as fascinating as you. You are exactly what I've been looking and waiting for."...

Phillips who lives with his wife and their son, Chas, in an Upper West Side brownstone, said, "Oh, man," after The Post knocked on his door yesterday.... [NY Post]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Political rise and fall... 

Some things look more alluring from a distance.

I want a pony. You want a pony. Polls show that everybody wants a pony!

Let's build a New Permanent Majority by enacting Pony Reform!

OK, we're committed. Upon this foundation of popular reform we will build our power base...

Wait a moment: I want a dark pony. You want a light one. Megan wants a spotted one.

That pony looks like a damn mule.

This pony craps! Who's going to sweep that mess up???

It eats that much? Somebody is going to have to pay to keep it in a stable? PAY HOW DAMN MUCH???

Well, we can pass a law saying next year we'll cut what we spend on maintaining cows by 20% -- CBO scores that as covering 40% of the cost of Pony Reform. The cow farmers don't like that? Tell them we'll pass a separate bill later fixing it for them.

Who's holding out? Err... tell Ben Nelson, OK, the rest of us will pay the hay cost for Nebraska forever. Son of a...

Pony experts say stabling costs are going to shoot up with demand for ponies as everyone gets one?

Well, we can create a Stable Management Effectiveness Commission to reduce growth in stable costs to 2% below the rate of inflation annually in the future, without reducing quality, using ideas they'll come up with later. CBO will score that as covering growth in costs.

As to the rest of that cost today ... I'm not paying, I make under $250,000.

The unions just announced they need until the 23rd century to renegotiate their contracts to enable their workers to pay their share of the cost...

OK, OK, ... we'll apply the payroll tax to investment income, use it to pay for Ponies, but first run it through the Medicare Trust Fund to strengthen Medicare by putting more IOUs in it, total up all that benefit...

WHAT? Dumbass Massachusetts voters just voted *against* this??

How could they??? Aren't they of all people on our side?

Look at the polls, it's still true -- everybody wants a Pony!

So if the polls also say people don't want Pony Reform it has to be because the ignorant masses don't understand it. And people are lying about it. But everyone will like it after we give it to them.

I'll tell you what the damn problem is, we didn't go far enough, didn't create government-run stables to compete with the profiteers. I told you that. But our leaders sold out at the start to the damn corporate stable interests. What sort of reform is that? No wonder...

But this is still a lot better than nothing, we can fix it later. America has been waiting for Pony Reform for far too long, since Truman! We're almost there. Now's the time!

How craven are all these weasels who want to back down now.

We have to do what's right and force this thing through now for the good of the people, whether they want it or not...

Suggested by discussions at various blogs seen during the past day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Post-election this 'n that 

Well, that was probably the most memorable off-off year election to fill a vacant seat we'll ever see.

[] Focus group explains why they voted how...

[] Wishful thinking. The Boston Globe at mid-day accidentally posted a county-by-county map showing "Coakey wins with 100% of precincts reporting", 50-49.

[] Fraud at Polls! In Citizen Kane, on election day as Kane runs for governor the newspaper he own prepares two headlines, "KANE WINS!" and "FRAUD AT POLLS!"

Yesterday Coakley's people issued a memo about reports they were receiving of fraud at the polls, dated the day before.

[] Hitler learns of the Brown win!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Apparently, not enough. 

Floor collapses at Weight Watchers meeting

A floor collapsed beneath a group of about 20 members of Weight Watchers as they gathered to compare how many pounds they had shed over Christmas...

“We suddenly heard a huge thud – we almost thought it was an earthquake and everything flew up in the air..."

The scales were not damaged and the weigh-in continued in a nearby corridor. [Times Online]

Uncle Jay... 

... on the word "Negro", for MLK day.

If Brown wins in Massachusetts, what happens to the health care bill? 

Keith Hennessey explains the procedures and politics that will come into play. Then bravely makes his predictions.

Elsewhere, Barney Frank's prediction: "If Scott Brown wins, it'll kill the health bill."

But it wouldn't be an easy death. As Hennessey points out, even if Brown wins and the Democrats lose their 60th vote in the Senate thereafter, they'll have ample procedural options to push the bill through.

And if the political blowback from doing so "despite the will of the people" costs some Democratic legislators their seats, well, "The President, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Reid ... would not directly bear the electoral risk of enacting a new law. I think they long ago concluded that enacting a new health entitlement is worth losing a few Members."

But the problem there is that the Members may not feel it is worth losing a few Members, when they are the Members to be lost. Just one Democratic Senator "saving himself" by defecting under some plausible political pretext, or only a small handful of Representaives doing so, would collapse the whole thing to make Barney Frank's prediction come true.

And that would be a death of the health care bill amid Democratic internecine warfare.

May we live in interesting times!

I'm a lifetime political independent, but I'll be pulling for Brown to win just for the fun of seeing things become more interesting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday sports page. 

[] It's another exciting weekend of NFL playoff football. With each exciting game consisting of 11 minutes of action and 60 minutes of commercials...

...the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes ... the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps...

"We make it a point to get Dallas cheerleaders on, but otherwise, it's not really important," says Fred Gaudelli, NBC's Sunday Night Football producer. "If we're doing the Jets, I couldn't care less." ... [WSJ]

[] In what may really be the most important event of the past week in the world of sports, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Needle v NFL. In it the NFL is trying to get itself exempted from anti-trust rules by claiming it is a single entity rather than 32 separately-owned business organizations (teams) cooperating with each other.

If it wins, it could be exempted from anti-trust rules in dealing with players, related businesses, fans ... meaning much better terms for the NFL at the cost of everyone else. And also for all the other other pro sports leagues that would follow suit.

But perhaps that's understating things. "Antitrust case could be Armageddon", says Law professor Michael McCann calls this "the most important case in sports history", in SI. You can read Drew Brees's alarmed op-ed about it in the Washington Post.

Drew may draw some comfort from the fact that at oral argument the Justices seemed "skeptical" of the NFL's position, according to the NY Times.

[] Coincidentally related to the above, the effect of the Federal League on major league baseball salaries during its brief existence is illustrated by J. C. Bradbury. Competition matters.

[] Curling championship cancelled do to over-popularity...
Last week it looked as if the Royal Caledonia Curling Club (RCCC) would be able to host a Grand Match of curling on Lake of Monteith near Aberfoyle, Scotland. The Grand Match is a gigantic curling competition in which as many as 2000 curlers compete, and the weather has co-operated so little that it has been held only 38 times since 1837; it was last held in 1979.
Who knew?
This year the temperatures had been below freezing for several weeks leading up to the planned event and the ice was forming nicely on Lake of Monteith, which has nice ice for curling when the weather conditions hold up. The last time the Grand Match was held, there were over 6000 people attending, and it was anticipated there would be as many as 10,000 in attendance this time.

And that caused a problem. A week before the planned event, the RCCC called it off, citing safety issues. The safety concerns were not due to ice conditions. Rather, the RCCC was concerned about access and congestion. From The New Scotsman ...

"Colin Grahamslaw, chief executive of the national governing body, defended the decision of the Grand Match Committee.

"He said: 'Since Monday, we have been working with the police and the emergency services and the local authorities to try and achieve this and make it work, but, in the timescale, it has just not proved possible.

"You are talking about trying to move 2,000 curlers and an unknown number of spectators on and off the site safely..." [The Sports Economist]
Curling is too popular for its own good!

(The Sports Economist suggests the crowds could have been controlled with "congestion pricing".)

[]The worst NFL coach of defense, ever?

It's NFL Hall of Fame nomination season -- and NFL playoff season, during which "defense wins championships", supposedly ... and lack of defense can cost them, certainly.

The question popped to mind because one of the Hall of Fame nominees this year is Don Coryell, famous for coaching St Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers with their the historically innovative, blisteringly high-scoring offenses in the 1970s and 1980s. But Don coached some pretty poor defenses too, and never came close to winning much championship-wise. I remember those great offenses zooming the length of the field trying desperately to stay ahead of what the defense had just given away.

When Coryell's name came up I looked through the great data base at Pro Football to see if his defenses were really as bad as I remembered -- and holy moley, sometimes memory understates!

It's usually very difficult to name a "worst ever" at anything in pro sports, because all serious candidates are nearly sure to get cut quickly and disappear leaving inadequate data to form a true evaluation of just how bad they were. But Coryell's offenses kept him in the league as a head coach for a dozen years.

During his 12 years as an NFL head coach his teams' defenses ranked on average 19th in points allowed, 20th in yards allowed, and 19.4 in average yards per pass attempt allowed, out of an average of 27.4 teams. Not good.

But, man, those Chargers teams! They are even more impressive because upon taking over in San Diego he inherited a good defense, ranked in these categories 6, 6, and 3, of 28 teams.

After Coryell took over the Chargers' defense's rankings in these categories ... watch the plunge!

1979: 2, 5, 5 -- of 28 teams
1980: 18, 6, 4
1981: 26, 27, 27
1982: 24, 25, 24
1983: 28, 26, 24
1984: 24, 26, 27
1985: 25, 28, 27
1986: 24, 23, 24 -- dismissed after 8 games

That five-year run from 1981-1985 is truly extraordinary, averaging 25.4, 26.4, 25.8, of 28 teams.

Basically that's a run of being 26th of 28 -- worse than 92% of the teams in the league -- consistently for five straight years.

I can hardly believe a streak like that could survive regression to the mean. Dumb random chance should have improved that defense.

I suspect that might be the all-time record for worst sustained defenses by one team ever, certainly by one coach.

Don Coryell for the Hall of Fame? As an offensive innovator, maybe.

But as a head coach responsible for the entire team on both sides of the ball? You decide.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Massachusetts against health care reform 

Noted political analyst Charlie Cook, in an article getting a lot of attention both left and right, says the Democrats' pig push Obamacare has been a "colossal miscalculation".

Has it? News from the beating heart of blue territory...
Our exclusive 7NEWS/Suffolk University Poll shows Brown, with 50%, in front of Coakley with 46%. Independent Joe Kennedy gets 3% and just 1% is still undecided.

How quickly has this race turned around? In November, Coakley was beating Brown by 31 percentage points. Now, Brown is up by 4% -- a change of 35% in two months...

Coakley is not being helped by her pledge to help pass the Democrat's national health care bill. Fifty-one percent of likely voters here say no to it while 36% say yes. Sixty-one percent think Washington can't afford it...
Voters are 15-points against Obamacare, 51-36, in Massachusetts. Not Texas or Oklahoma ... Massachusetts.

The fact that people are even talking about the Democrats losing Ted Kennedy's seat shows somebody pretty colossally miscalculated something.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New York: City of Immigrants 

Legal migrants fill 43% of jobs in city

Legal immigrants make up 43 percent of the total work force in New York City and account for more than $200 billion, or 32 percent, of the city's economic activity, a new report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli shows.

The report found a 68 percent increase in legal immigrants in the city's work force from 2000 to 2008...

The report also showed that the nearly 2 million legal immigrants in the work force are living the American dream, with a standard of living that has been rising over the years.

The median household income of New York City's foreign-born population nearly doubled to $45,000 in 2007, from $23,900 in 1990, a growth rate that outpaced inflation.

The number of immigrants owning homes in New York City doubled between 1991 and 2008, and foreign-born residents accounted for 60 percent of all homeowners in 2008...

Immigrants to the city came from an astounding 148 different countries. Fifty-two percent of them are from just 10 countries, the report found...

The 10 countries from which the largest number of immigrants hailed, in order of percentage, were the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Mexico, Guyana, Ecuador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia and Korea.

Queens and Brooklyn have the highest concentrations of immigrant residents, 47 percent and 37 percent, respectively ... In Queens, immigrants make up more than half of the work force -- a larger share than in any other borough -- while in Brooklyn, the makeup is 48 percent.

The 10 neighborhoods with the largest immigrant populations had stronger economic growth than the rest of the city form 2000 to 2007, according to the report.

During that period, the work force in those neighborhoods grew by 8.2 percent, compared to a work-force growth in the rest of the city of just 0.9 percent.

"New York City remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for immigrants from every nation," said DiNapoli.

The report noted that the number of immigrants in the city's population peaked at 41 percent in 1910 and dropped to a low of just 18 percent in 1970.

Several separate studies have estimated the number of illegal immigrants in the city at 500,000, many of whom are employed off the books. [NY Post]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This is just disturbing. 

Fiddling around for a moment with the Google feature that helpfully fills in the most common searches, this came up:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blogging briefly 

The intrusion of real life into my life prevents much more.

[] Why I love the law...
By this argument, the downside of a particle-accelerator disaster that destroys the planet -- assuming it is quick -- is nothing.
In a related thought, if you want to protect yourself from the risk that the world will be destroyed, you can join the wagering at Long Bets on the "it will be" side, and then if it is be compensated by your winnings ... Oh, wait...

[] If one Siamese twin is convicted of murder, do they both get sent to death row? Nobody knows because it's never happened. But reportedly there have been a couple cases involving being held for traffic offenses.

[] Who says there's no American culture? Say: "Texas, cheese and mass destruction".

[] Harlem isn't black any more.

[] The law of unintended consequences: save money with improved traffic lights, cause more accidents.

[] Modern technology forces "The Beaver" magazine to change its name. "Canada's second-oldest magazine ... was launched in 1920 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade that led to the early exploration of Canada."

[] New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson raises a happy puppy by reading to it from John Hersey's "Hiroshima".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Around the blogroll ... 


William Easterly: There's so much good stuff it's hard to pick what's best. Look over the whole thing and the archives too. (Though one post carries special zing for an unnamed economist, named Jeffrey Sachs).

Tim Worstall: "MORE than 1,000 sheep are being kept in British prisons, shock figures have revealed ..."

Scott Sumner: Easy Tight money causes bubbles.

The Tax Policy Institute: The government of San Francsico (of all cities!) told non-profits seeking grants of city money...
... they would be required — for the first time — to provide quantifiable proof their programs were accomplishing something.

The room exploded with outrage ... Not every organization is capable of demonstrating results, a nonprofit CEO complained. He suggested the city's funding process should actually penalize nonprofits able to measure results, so as to put everyone on an even footing. Heads nodded: This was a popular idea...

The Tax Foundation: Turbo Tax isn't going to be taking the blame from Geithner again.

Greg Mankiw: How's that stimulus working out?

Econlog/Henderson: "Yo, ho, ho!" Olden-days pirates and modern-day businessmen.

Econlog/Caplan: The word "relationship" wasn't applied to the boy-girl thing until 1944. What words did they use before then?

Newmark's Door: 57 jokes from beautiful women. (More likely from their press agents, but you get both the jokes and their pictures so don't complain.)

Carpe Diem: So much for peak oil.

Tyler Cowen: Chavez ... Venezuela ... oooops.

Alex Tabarrok: Remembering "the good old days". Ah, I remember them well.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday sports page. 

[] The Babes of Tiger Woods 2010 Calendar is a full-size wall calendar that rewarded purchasers the New York Post as an insert this week. It's not available online, and wouldn't be the same if it was. But you can sort of see it.

Dead tree publication is good for something! My copy is already sealed airtight in plastic and set aside to be a valuable collectors item that will pay for my later retirement years. If you have a friend in NYC get yours from his newspaper recycling bin.

[] Two things that apparently do not go well together: breast implants and Olympic hurdling.

[] After several NYC sports media outlets reported that the New York Giants "mailed in" their last two games this season, losing by a combined 85-16, the U.S. Postal Service threatened to sue.

[] National Hockey League teams are playing for the tie in regulation time -- in another example of "incentives work":

Traditionally in the NHL a win was worth 2 points in the standings, a tie 1, and a loss 0. Then the league decided to get rid of boring ties by having games that are tied at the end of regulation time be decided in overtime or by shootouts. The "point" system was changed to 2 points for a win, 1 point for an overtime/shootout loss, 0 points for a regulation time loss.

See what happens? Now teams that take a game into overtime share 3 points, whereas if they decide the game in regulation time they share only 2. For instance, if a team goes 50% in 10 games, 5 wins and 5 losses, and the games are overtime games it gains 15 points in the standings, but if the games are decided in regulation time it gains only 10. Those extra five points in the standings could be the difference between making the playoffs or not (or being in first place or not).

Phil Birnbaum now points us to research showing -- guess what! -- when games are still close in the third period, scoring plunges as NHL teams play for the tie.

[] Plan your investments for 2010 by the sports pages. Dave Berri reminds us of the Lakers Indicator...
The best kept secret of the past 20 years has been this: When the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship, the market would almost always fall that year. When the Lakers lost, the market would usually rise ...

An investor who put down $1,000 into the Nasdaq at the start of 1987 and stayed fully invested through 2007 would have ended up with $7,604. But an investor who bought the Nasdaq in years the Lakers lost and stayed in cash when the Lakers won would have finished with $21,189. This strategy would have kept you in the market during the 1990s bull market, avoided the 2000-2002 bear and then got back in as the market uptrend resumed...
Ah, but that's only 20 years. I refer you to the 40-year track record of the Super Bowl Indicator...

A triumphant team from the old American Football League (now the American Football Conference or AFC) foreshadows a down market, but a winner from the old NFL (now the National Football Conference or NFC) means dust off your red cape, because the bulls are coming. The Super Bowl Indicator has been on the money 32 years out of 40, a success rate of 80%.
Hey, if you want to be sure of making money in the stock market, use the two of them together. How can you lose?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Will success with health care reform prove toxic for Democrats? 

Here in New York City (the bluest of blue domains) the big unions (the bluest of Democratic constituents) are already in open revolt against "success".

Democratic politicians hope, dream, (fantasize?) that when they finally pass the health care reform legislation, probably within the next month, it will be chalked up as a big victory giving them a permanent boost in the polls -- as did the enactments of Social Security and Medicare at earlier times -- after which all this will be behind them. And that then they'll be able to pick new, favorable political issues to ride to victory at the polls in November.

But there are big differences this time around. Social Security and Medicare were widely popular when acted, while most voters oppose the health reform bill.

And, critically, both Social Security and Medicare provided big benefits to masses of voters immediately, with the major tax increases needed to pay for them arriving only many years later. But with the health care bill, the painful tax increases and new regulations will arrive up front, and the benefits for most voters (if any) only years later.

"Pleasure first, pain only much later (so no need to think about it)", is a time-proven winner in entitlement politics.

"Pain first, pleasure only much later (if ever), so let's dwell on the pain", has already shockingly backfired once on the Democrats among their own entitlement constituents. Remember? Are they setting things up for it to happen again?
Unions warn Dems on health-plan tax

Local unions are waging war against President Obama's proposed "Cadillac tax" on higher-cost health-care plans -- with one leader warning New York Democrats who approve the levy to watch out at the polls this year.

"The proposed tax is both terrible politics and bad policy, and it's going to seriously undermine good health-care coverage for literally tens of millions of middle-class workers," fumed Bob Master, legislative and political director for Communication Workers of America's Northeast chapter.

"We are working furiously to ensure that the New York House delegation stand strong on this," he added.

"On the political side, I can tell you -- and this is not a threat -- that union members and middle-class voters whose taxes go up because of their health care, or whose health care gets cut, are not going to turn out for Democrats in hotly contested elections. I think they just stay home."

Master pointedly mentioned the wave of anti-Democratic sentiment in upstate elections last year, as well as the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races.

Of the 25,000 Verizon workers in the state who belong to the CWA, at least 20,000 active and retired members "will be very heavily hit," Master said ...

George Boncoraglio, regional president of the Civil Service Employees Association, the state's largest public union, railed against the proposed tax.

"The president is out of his mind for attempting to tax health benefits that labor unions fought to get for their working members," said Boncoraglio, whose union represents 300,000 workers in medical facilities and agencies...
With the new taxes and regulations hitting individuals, businesses (and union members!) years before any benefits result, passing the bill may be just the start of the pain for the Democrats.

Once it is locked into place so it can't be changed to mollify new objections -- and as people finally get the chance to review the text, learn of all the behind-the-scenes special-interest deals that will be made but be kept hidden this month, and figure out the countless "unintended consequences" that it must certainly produce -- the bill may becoming a fixed target for a growing number of critics and enemies, even from the left. If so, the Democrats who enacted it will be unable to separate themselves from it. And there will be nobody currently receiving benefits from the bill to form a special interest group that will rise to defend it -- and them.

Keith Hennessey says that the probability that the Obama will sign the health care bill soon is "high. Very high." But will that be the beginning of the end of the pain this bill has caused the Democrats? Or only the end of the beginning of it?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Noted around and about.... 

[] Beware the promises you make, people might want you to keep them.

[] Government airport security fails twice at once, only to seek help from the private sector again.

Newark Airport was closed for hours on Sunday because (1) An unknown person walked in through the exit while the Transportation Security Agency agent supposed to be covering it was instead chatting on a cell phone; then (2) the TSA couldn't determine what had happened because its cameras weren't working.
With the cameras inoperable, the TSA tried to get a second set of surveillance video from Continental Airlines. But the TSA apparently didn't know the correct telephone number and the specific procedures to get the footage. That caused a two hour delay in identifying the intruder and closing the airport to look for him.
They eventually got the video from Continental. But by then it was too late -- and the airport was closed for six hours as everyone there was re-searched.
Port Authority officials and cops are furious they were never told the cameras had failed, sources said ... it is the TSA’s responsibility to make sure they are functioning, officials said...

In addition to causing the cancellation of nearly 100 flights, thousands of passengers had to be led from the secure area so they could be re-screened — and many said they were denied access to food and water....

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the TSA, said the agency "accepts full responsibility for the breach that occurred," adding that, "We regret the inconvenience this caused travelers."
"But that's all, no more than that -- since you can't dock our pay, or fine, fire or sue us, because we're the government!"

[] Well, speaking of security breaches, at least the "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up the plane in Detroit is in real trouble now... they've revoked his visa.

[] Is this spot that was removed from over FDR's left eye a melanoma that killed him -- that his doctors hid from us all?

[] How can women know what they want? They don't even know when they want it!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I didn't know iTunes could do that. 

iTunes Store



You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear missiles, or chemical or biological weapons...
[HT: the world's most eclectic football column, TMQ]

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Is health care a right? Should it be? 

Many say it is -- or should be. For instance, during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama: "I think it should be a right for every American."

Economist Steven Landsburg and historian Ted Brown of the University of Rochester recently had a debate on the subject, the video of which Landsburg has posted on his blog. However the substance of that discussion quickly veered from whether health care is a "right" to how to best provide it.

A few thoughts on the "is it a right" question:

"Rights", as in legal rights, are effectively applied to behavior: a right to free speech, free assembly, not testify against oneself, yell “fire” in a crowded theater (or not), consult with an attorney if charged with a crime, restrict the behavior of police and prosecutors, etc. If you pass a law to create such right, you have it. It is created!

However, proclaiming a general human "right" to a good, service, or physical condition that must be provided using economic and organizational resources accomplishes nothing.

Imagine everyone being given a "right" to a three-room apartment, 50-mpg car, pony, or unicorn. Passing legislation creating the "right" does nothing at all, zip, to provide it. If the thing can’t be provided generally at a plausible economic cost, then after creating the "right" to it, it remains unprovided. The whole exercise is just wishful thinking and, frankly, posing.

Monty Python put it well...

On the other hand, if an item really is so important as to be in general demand, and it can be provided economically, then it will be by the free market, and there is no need to create a "right" to it.

This is why there is no legal "right" to food and clothing, even though they are far more important than medical care to 98% of people 98% of the time. (How long could you live without food, compared to without a visit to the doctor?) They are already provided amply at low cost so there is no need to go through the whole political exercise of creating a "right" to them.

Those on the left who seek to create a "right" to something generally conflate messy thinking along the lines of: "rights are provided by the government ... rights are good (such as ‘civil rights’) ... so if we just create a right to this good thing it will be provided by the government ... then things will be better than now ... More rights are better!”.

Senator Bernie Sanders, independent/socialist of Vermont, provides a typical example:
Health care is a right ... the fight for a national health care program will prevail. Like the civil rights movement, the struggle for women's rights and other grass-roots efforts, justice in this country is often delayed - but it will not be denied. We shall overcome!
This can be very hard to argue with in principle because it is a belief system, and quite amorphous. But one can point to real-world examples showing how it falls apart.

For instance, the closest real-world parallel to the proposed right to health care is the actual right in many state constitutions to "high quality public education". And what has been the result? Fortunes spent on litigation costs, plus here in New York school conditions like these, at a cost now of $20,000 per year, per student.

Why? Because, among other reasons, the "right" to a quality education doesn’t trump collective bargaining agreements with government unions that, among many other things, keep even the most incompetent on the payroll. (The rights of government unions under their contracts are defended by the left a good deal more stridently than rights to education and health.)

Today the left has a dream of creating a "right" to health care that will result in top-quality government-provided health care for all. But the same reality that exists in public education exists for public health care. Decreeing a right to it does nothing to provide it -- certainly not in any satisfactory quality.

Let's discuss the obstacles facing quality health care for a moment.

What are the big structural defects in the US private market health care system today?

(1) The employment tie for health care -- plus tax deduction that employers receive for its cost, combined with tax-free receipt of it by employees.

This makes no sense in any direction. Why should the quality of one's health care depend on whether or not an employer's pockets are deep? Why should the size of a tax subsidy for personal health benefits vary with whether a business is in a high or low tax bracket? Or on one's own personal tax bracket? How can requiring individuals to get different health insurance every time they change jobs possibly be good? No other country has a system like this.

(2) The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which (a) allows state regulators to bar interstate purchases of insurance, thus enabling state politicians to create local monopolies of favored insurers, and (b) prohibits federal anti-trust actions against those local monopolies. Effectively, this act repeals the Commerce Clause for health insurance by eliminating the competitive national market for it, and also places state-regulated local markets beyond federal anti-trust rules.

Note well that both these distortions were created by the government -- not by the free market -- during the exigencies of World War II. (The employer tie was created to enable big businesses that needed to attract more workers to get around federal wage controls by providing a new benefit not counted in "wages".)

Since then, both distortions have been preserved and expanded by interest group politics. The employer tie provides a competitive advantage to big firms that can afford to provide attractive health packages, at the cost of smaller and newer competitors who can't. The employers' tax-deduction for, and employees' tax-free receipt of, benefits provides a valuable tax subsidy for those firms and the people at them. They all insist on keeping all that, no matter how unequal and "unfair" it is compared to others. As to the forces keeping McCarran-Ferguson in place...

Well, what entirely predictably results do you get when you let local politicians block all outside competition to their politically favored local businesses, while also blocking anti-trust regulation of the local businesses?

First, monopolies and cartels, thusly: In New York, just two insurers, GHI and Empire Blue Cross, have 47% of the market. In New Jersey, just one, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has 43%. In Connecticut, Wellpoint by itself has 55%.

Worse, being exempt from anti-trust enforcement and free to engage in anti-competitive practices, the politicians, their favored insurers and the unions set up local monopolistic "iron triangles" that mandate all kinds of excess coverage (via "better" insurance policies, whether consumers want them or not) which create extra premium revenue for the insurers, extra jobs for unionized health care workers, and payof^h^h, er, brib^h^h, er, generous campaign contributions to the politicians. With cost-reducing innovations that threaten this establishment being squashed by regulators.

The effects are starkly seen at state borders. For instance, in Pennsylvania a 55-year old man can go online and have the choice of 99 health plans with cost as low as $141 a month. Go across the border into New York State and he is limited to only 12, and their cost is, er, somewhat larger.

The unions are big supporters of corporatism and oligarchy —- the employer tie and iron triangles —- because they use regulation of the big, government-favored corporations to their own ends. (See: GM & UAW.)

Now let’s imagine the left succeeds in declaring health care to be a legal "right", indeed a "human right". Are its Democratic party politicians then going to dismantle these health care "iron triangles" that are among their most powerful constituent groups?

Not a chance. Not any more than their current health reform plan does, which is "not at all" -- and not any more that the "right" to a quality public education has improved inner city school systems.

So much for the dream.

(The bipartisan Wyden-Bennett health care reform would have addressed the real fundamental problems of the health insurance market by breaking the employer tie ... opening interstate sales of insurance to create competition, breaking the local cartels and driving down costs ... and eliminating the tax subsidy for health insurance while using the tax revenue saved to insure the uninsured -- but Senator Baucus killed that first thing to protect his iron triangle constituents. And White House records show the single most frequent visitor to the White House during 2009 was Andy Stern, president of the big SEIU health care workers union, guiding the "reform" along so as to not displace the incumbents and protect his members from cost-containment measures.)

OK ... now the subject of this post too has changed from "health care as a right" to "what’s the best method to provide health care?" -- which is just what most of the "rightsers" really have in mind (imagining government provision must be the answer, because obviously free markets have failed).

Though sticking to the issue of health care as a "right", we’d have stopped two-thirds of the way back up this post -- noting that creating a legal "right" to enjoy a product, service or physical condition does exactly zippo nada to provide it.

While, in contrast, if that item both is in genuine demand and can be provided at reasonable economic cost, then the free competitive market will provide it, and no discussion of the need to create a legal "right" to it will ever arise.

Unless the politicians intervene to stop the free market from functioning, of course.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The holiday hangover of the comely. -- a meet-up site with a strict "no ugly people policy" -- ... is banning 5,000 members who packed on too much weight during the holidays.

"We were getting a lot of complaints from members who were meeting with people who gained a lot of weight or who gained weight in their photo albums," said the Denmark-based free site's managing director, Greg Hodge. has about 500,000 members around the world. Each has to go through a rigorous entry process, only getting voted in if their fellow members find them sexy enough.

The site now only lets members of the opposite sex vote members out because, Hodge noted, lots of women were voting other women out to simply cut down on the competition. [NY Post]

More: The US, UK and Canada led in the number of members expelled...

"Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model ...

"The USA has been grossly over-indulging since Thanksgiving -- it's no wonder that so many [Americans] have been expelled from the network ... In the UK and Canada, Christmas and the New Year are all about over-eating, over-drinking and watching TV on the sofa."

It's tragic that in today's world holiday eating, drinking and self-indulgence cause so many to forget the true spirit of online dating.

Hey, they have a calendar.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday sports section 

[] Player gifts by bowl game. During this "bowl game weekend" the teams split millions of dollars and their coaches are paid millions, while the players who generate all this money have their amateur status jealously guarded by the NCAA and so can't be paid anything. But, happily, they can receive approved "gifts".

When Auburn played Northwestern at yesterday's Outback Bowl the payout to each team was a $3.3 million guaranteed minimum. The players received a Best Buy gift card, hat, and Outback Steakhouse gift card.

[] Words fail, college football edition. Mike Leach, football coach at Texas Tech acclaimed for his high-scoring passing offense and getting his team to ten bowl games in ten years, didn't get to coach #10 yesterday after getting himself fired the day before. It seems that after one of his players was diagnosed with a concussion and advised not to practice, Leach ordered him to stand (not sit) alone in a cold dark shed during practices, contrary to the advice of the team doctor and trainer.

The player was Adam James, son of prominent former player and current ESPN sports commentator Craig James. Daddy made his complaints known, the president of the university ordered Leach to apologize, Leach refused, the boot ensued. All this happened after, during his previous contract negotiations, Leach went over the head of the Athletic Director directly to the university's regents in a failed attempt to get himself named "Athletic Director for Football" -- cheezing off both the AD and regents, and assuring he would have no friends in high places should any future problems arise. Lawsuit will now follow.

Leach had a $12.7 million five-year contract. I'd hope that if I was a coach smart enough to have a $12.7 million contract I'd realize that locking a player in a cold dark room isn't "coaching", and that as an employee I had a boss. ("Boss, you want me to apologize for something? And I'll get paid $12 million? OK! Standing on my head? OK!") But there seems to be some sort of condition that infects college sports coaches that drives them to indulge themselves. Yet it doesn't affect pros. I'm trying to imagine an NFL coach ordering an injured player to go stand in a cold dark, closet as punishment -- and then when the team's owner tells him to apologize (somehow not being fired already) telling the owner, "No, I'm the boss here". The imagination boggles.

But then, a little while back Michael Lewis wrote a homage to Leach in a New York Times Magazine cover story* lauding him as the model of the innovative, enlightened college coach of the future. So maybe we all should have seen this coming.

(* Reviewed at the time on this blog as being parody quality, if unintentionally so.)

[] Applied physics in pro football. See the energy of two tacklers transferred to each other through the body of the tacklee (who scoots 62 yards for a TD).

[] Tankin' it. It used to be that throwing games was disreputable. Now it's official team policy in the NFL, as teams rest players for the playoffs. Last week the Colts' management offered no apology for pulling the team's best players while holding the lead to then lose to the Jets -- giving the Jets the inside track over the competition for a playoff spot.

In today's NFL games, via the Vegas betting line....

* The 5-10 Bills are 8-point favorites over the now 14-1 Colts. (Sagarin says the Colts if playing to win should be 9-pt favorites -- that's a 17-point swing.)

* The 7-8 Panthers are 3-point favorites over the 13-2 Saints. (The Saints should be 5-point favorites, an 8-point swing.)

* The 8-7 Texans are 8-point favorites over the 10-5 Pats. (The Pats should be 5-point favorites, a 13-point swing.)

And, of course, the 8-7 Jets (with one win already via an opponent tanking it) are 10-point favorites over the 10-5 Bengals.

Place your wagers cautiously. One of these underdog coaches could bet his house on his own team and then play to win.

[] Is it just luck? Do baseball pitchers pitch worse in their bad games than their good games? Maybe not.

[] Words fail even worse, NBA edition. Washington Wizards (formerly Bullets) player Gilbert Arenas reportedly could lose a $100 million contract as the result of bringing guns (plural) into the locker room in a city where possession of them is as illegal as it is here in NYC -- and then deciding to threaten teammate Javaris Crittenton with one, rather than pay off on a bet ... only to have Crittenton draw his own gun in return!

This is post-Plaxico, no less. When members of a local NBA team were asked for comment, "Nets say 3 out of 4 players pack heat".

I can remember a Knicks NBA championship team whose top players were a Rhodes scholar and future U.S. Senator (Bill Bradley), a guy who'd already been a pro player-coach and who would later be a pro team president and pro league comissioner (Dave DeBusschere), a future NBA coach and GM (Willis Reed), a future Hall of Fame coach (Phil Jackson), a fellow who entertained visitors to the locker room by memorizing pages out of the phone book (Jerry Lucas), and a guy doing a PhD (Dick Barnett). With the dummy on the team being being Walt Frazier.

The city game just seems to draw a different kind of player these days. As the money goes up, up, up, the IQ goes ...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year