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22 posts categorized "Sports"

July 10, 2006

Penalty kicks and ad revenue

Randy Paul on penalty kicks in the World Cup:

Before anyone starts to blame the fact that penalty kicks decided this championship, let's look at where the problem really lies and to do so, we have to look to the past, specifically 68 years ago to 1938 when the World Cup was played in France for the first time. If you look at the results, pay special attention to the quarter-finals. On June 12 Brazil played Czechoslovakia to a 1-1 tie after extra time. Two days later, the match was replayed in its entirety and Brazil won, 2-1.

So what's the difference between then and now? The influence of money from television. It would rile television networks to promote the event, only to have to run it again (on a Tuesday, no less) two days later. Money is at the root of this evil and I really don't know of a better way to resolve it. Play until players drop dead of exhaustion? Allow completely open substitutions and let them play for another two hours without a goal scored?

I can see why you wouldn't want to replay the match to resolve a tie. That would be anti-climactic.

Personally, I think that it's more honest to allow of the the possibility of ties. Two teams face off for a set amount of time, if neither gets the upper hand, that's life. Let the record show how the two teams actually played rather than the results of a feel-good gimmick.

If you're not prepared to live with the prospect of ties, then you've got to consider tie-breaker methods that produce an emotionally satisfying, decisive, but non-arbitrary outcomes. Penalty kicks in World Cup soccer are totally unsatisfying to watch. The idea that victory should hinge on a measure with so little variability is absurd.

At that level, most of the kicks are going to go into the net. I'd rather see the teams play until they drop in overtime. At least then the final outcome would be a function of stamina and will, rather than a glorified coin toss.

I don't see a nefarious financial agenda behind FIFA's use of penalty kicks to break ties in the World Cup. If it's all about advertising revenue, why not play into overtime? There are no ads during the periods, but there would be ads in between overtime periods. I bet FIFA could have made even more money off this game if sponsors had the option of buying ads between overtime periods.

I can see a financial argument for not having unlimited overtime during the regular season when the game might preempt a higher-value show. However, for the World Cup itself, I find it hard to believe it's a money-losing proposition to run ads in between overtime periods. The NHL acknowledged this fact in 2005 by allowing regular season games to end in shootouts, but keeping indefinite overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Perhaps FIFA should consider a similar approach for the World Cup.

Pourquoi, Zizou?

No doubt hundreds of millions of people are asking the same question: Why did the French team captain Zinedine Zidane viciously headbutt Marco Materazzi? We still don't know what Materazzi said to Zidane. One rumor is that Materazzi insulted Zidane's dying mother. Others suggest that the Italian made a racist comment about Zidane's Algerian heritage. Materazzi may have called Zizou "a terrorist".

Abbas Raza argues that only a particularly vile racial slur could explain Zidane's behavior. Abbas thinks it's unlikely that a seasoned player like Zizou would have lost his cool over something as trite as yo' mamma trashtalk.

Abbas explains very eloquently why a racist taunt would be so uniquely hurtful and infuriating:

But second, and more important, for an insult to really injure its victim there must be an asymmetry preventing the person from just yelling the insult back. It is then, when the person insulted feels he cannot reply, that he replies physically. And this is exactly what racist insults do. If a white man yells the N-word at a black man, there is no equivalent word that the black man can yell back. By using this word, the white man is essentially taunting the black man by reminding him of the abuse that he, his ancestors, his whole race have have to endure at the white man's hand, and how he is impotent to stop it. It is like someone taunting you that he raped your mother, and you knowing that it's true! History denies the black man the opportunity of responding in kind, and the only choice left may seem to be to demonstrate that one is not so impotent after all, that one can hit back. This, that it relies on a history of oppression and injury, and on asymmetrical relations of power, is what is so insidious about racial insult, and why we are so careful to avoid its double-injustice in decent society.

Abbas supplies a coherent rationale for especially tough action by FIFA against race-baiters on the field and in the stands. Within the context of international soccer, racial taunts are much more serious than the usual sports-related verbal abuse that people use to psych out their opponents.

I'm not sure what FIFA can do about Materazzi at this point, or about inaudible racial slurs in general. As far as the game is concerned, if the ref doesn't hear it, it didn't happen. Zero tolerance for racial taunts that the refs do hear would be a good start.

Fans need to put pressure on corporate sponsors who give lucrative endorsements to known race-baiters.

I am convinced by Abbas's argument that a racist taunt from Materazzi would have been an incredibly low blow and an especially serious provocation for Zidane. However, I don't see how a verbal assault of any kind, no matter how reprehensible, can excuse a high-level professional athlete who assaults a fellow player during a critical match.

Am I excusing Zidane? If he was racially insulted, yes I am. Zidane could not help himself under the circumstances. I would excuse Zidane for the same reason that a prosecutor will, under certain circumstances, decline to bring charges against a man who comes home to find his wife in bed with her lover and, in a moment of temporary insanity, kills him. In this, there is an acknowledgment that there is not always a right and wrong in everything. Sometimes, a man loses rationality. That is just human nature. Deal with it. (Or hate all men.)

Provocation is at best a mitigating factor. If an individual becomes so enraged as to lose control of their rationality, then they are less culpable than a cold-blooded assailant, but they are nevertheless culpable. If you catch your spouse cheating on you, you have a right to be furious, but you don't have a right to physically assault anyone. If you do lose control and hurt someone, it's your fault for not having better self-control. The same goes for Zidane.

I don't hate Zidane, let alone all men. However, mitigation is not exculpation. Being the wronged party doesn't give you unlimited latitude to take whatever revenge you want. We've all got darker impulses and we've all got to work to control them. It's the work of a lifetime, but as Dan Dennett has argued repeatedly, the important thing is to cultivate your self-control "offline" so that you have the right instinctive reactions at the critical moment. To the extent that you know your temper is an issue but fail to achieve mastery over it, you are morally culpable for your split-second fits of pique.

If you are a professional athlete in a racially-charged sport, part of your training is to learn to anticipate and ignore racial taunts. If you're less than perfectly thick-skinned, you're failing as an athlete because you're creating a gaping psychological vulnerability that is easy for your opponents to exploit.

Abbas seems to be arguing that some insults are so shocking that nobody could be expected to keep their cool. I disagree. Zidane has endured taunts in the past. Plenty of spouses have found their partners in compromising situations and not killed anyone. Sure, a vicious shock to the system brings out the worst in some people, but not everyone, not even in the same person at different times.

Zidane's fans have every right to criticize him for losing his cool on the field. The headbutt was truly a sad end to an illustrious career.

Zidane made me root for Italy

I was rooting for France in last night's World Cup Final.  At least, I was until the team captain, Zinedine Zidane viciously headbutted Marco Materazzi. Perhaps after Materazzi made an ethnic slur against Zidane.

Watch the footage.

I was personally humiliated that I'd been standing in a public place cheering for a team whose captain had committed such a brutal, thuggish, and seemingly disproportionate act of violence. I was glad when the French lost because of Zidane's abject failure as a captain, a sportsman, and a human being. When I watch the footage, I don't see an uncontrollable fit of passion, I see premeditation.

As much as I wanted the French to win, I felt like it was a moral victory that you can't be that much of a dick in front of one billion people and get away with it.

Zidane didn't just have a personal lapse, he fucked up as team captain. His vicious outburst revealed a catastrophic weakness for the French side. The team deserved to lose for what he did.

Asad Raza has an excellent post on the Zidane incident.

Helmut considers the incident in the context of Zidane's career.

April 14, 2005

What follows is a matter of enormous public interest

DC Media Girl gives us the heads up on Steve Shapin's review of Jose Canseco's Juiced. And rightly so...

The young man leads another to a toilet stall, cautiously looking around to make sure they’re not being observed. Then he has him lower his trousers so that he can get at his buttocks. What follows is a matter of enormous public interest. Years later, President George W. Bush makes a speech condemning it. Congressional hearings are held to investigate it and to frame public policy.

It is the summer of 1988; the toilets are in the home locker room of the Oakland Athletics; and Jose Canseco is injecting Mark McGwire with anabolic steroids. Or so Canseco recounts in “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” (Regan Books; $25.95). “It was really no big deal,” Canseco writes. “We would just slip away, get our syringes and vials, and head into the bathroom area of the clubhouse to inject each other.” By the late nineteen-nineties, according to Canseco, teammates were pairing off together in bathroom stalls with such regularity that it became an object of clubhouse drollery: “What are you guys, fags?”

If this is a matter of public interest (and it is!), surely rumors about Apple's product pipeline deserve a special prosecutor, if not their own C-SPAN show.

March 21, 2005

CIA charters Red Sox jet

No, no... This is too much.

The jet sometimes has a small Red Sox logo on the fuselage near the door. (They claim to remove it on non-Sox business, but I remain skeptical.)

The last thing a person sees before torture is a Red Sox logo? Next thing you know they'll be raping people with tubes full of apple pie. Oh, sorry. Too late.

October 29, 2004

Schilling and Bush

The good news: Curt Schilling won't meet up with George W. Bush on the campaign trail. The bad news: Schilling endorsed Bush. [FOXSports]

Oh well. Nobody's perfect.

October 28, 2004

Terry Francona, liberal avatar/nutruing parent

A few weeks ago, Digby had an interesting post about George Lakoff's favorite framing device strict parent vs. nuturing parent:

If I have a beef with Lakoff it’s that the one frame he’s most known for --- the Republican “strict father” and the Democrat “nurturing parent” --- is one of the most unfortunate metaphors for the progressive cause that I can imagine. [...] I don’t think it’s a very good frame to begin with because it isn’t honest. Let’s not pretend that the real frame isn’t “strict father” vs “nurturing mother.” The frame doesn't really make sense otherwise. And, rightly or wrongly, this frame makes the tension gender based, and in doing so it defines progressive leadership as female leadership, something that is an indistinct and still evolving archetypal image. This puts progressives at a disadvantage because people don't immediately associate women with public leadership just yet. That will, of course, come to pass in the not too distant future (I hope.) But framing isn't a matter for wish fulfillment. To work, it must be immediately recognizable. The fact that Lakoff didn’t use the obvious "father-mother" construction indicates to me that knew that this was a problem.

I disagree that "nuturing parent" is a predominantly female leadership style. Edit: More importantly, I don't think it is recognized as a female leadership style. Lakoff is contrasting frames for conservative vs. liberal governments. The frame isn't that conservatives and liberals are one family with a father and a mother.

Unfortunately, all useful state/government/leadership frames will appeal to some kind of masculinity. The frame is really between "rigid dad" and "nuturing dad." The implicit question is 'Which kind of dad would you rather have?' Someone like Bill Clinton or someone like Richard Nixon? (Digby suggests "rigid" as an alternative to "strict." I think he's onto something.) I think Lakoff faced a problem because he wanted to oppose the strong-male "strict father" to the male-to-neutral "nuturing parent."

Terry Francona is a shining example of the "nutruring parent" leadership style: tough, fair, team-focused, supportive, non-vindictive, and, now, dazzlingly successful.

Go Sox! Go nuturing parents! Go Kerry!

October 22, 2004

Go fish

In the Astros GM's Office

October 21, 2004

"Yankees suck!" naturalized

In a widely cited critical discussion Fafnir and Giblets aired naturalist and non-naturalist accounts of sucking:

"But Giblets how can the Yankees suck if they have beaten the Red Sox so many times?" says me.

"That is not what sucking means!" says Giblets. "Sucking is a moral property Fafnir! It does not reflect what the Yankees have done but what the Yankees intrinsically are. And they are intrinsically evil and suck!"

"I am not sure about your theory of sucking Giblets," says me. "I always believed sucking was reducible to natural properties such as double-parkin your car or stiffin your roommate on rent or leavin in Pedro Martinez for too long."

"No!" says Giblets. "Sucking is an objective irreducible moral property an we can intuit when sucking is present! It is an objective moral truth that the Yankees suck!"

"But Giblets why would so many sucky Yankees be beloved by so many New Yorkers?" says me. "An why would so many sucky Yankees be rewarded with so many pennants?"

"There is no such thing as suckical subjectivity!" says Giblets. "The Yankees suck no matter how much society has approved of and rewarded their sucking!" "Maybe objective sucking does not really exist," says me. "An we are makin false statements when we say that a team sucks or rules."

"How can you say sucking doesn't exist!" says Giblets. "That would mean George Steinbrenner could not suck!"

"It's true that we want to say that George Steinbrenner sucks," says me. "But maybe when we say he sucks we're just expressin our very strong emotional dislike of George Steinbrenner for bein a bastard an firin Billy Martin five times." "Well Giblets does not want to live in a world without laws of objective truth!" says Giblets. "A world where the Yankees don't suck is a world of celestial anarchy!"

Last night we learned that sucking is reducible to natural properties after all: Metaphysical suckage is reducible to LOSING TO THE RED SOX in four straight games.

ETHICAL suckage is exemplified by A-Rod swatting the ball out of Arroyo's glove, getting caught,faking indignation so poorly, and whining about it in the press: "It was a big momentum changer," Rodriguez said. "I don't want those umpires to meet anymore because every time they meet, it goes against the Yankees." [AP]

Steve Gilliard has more on the naturalistically respectable properties that underwrite the moral suckage of the Yankees.

By the same token we are making an objectively true statement when we say that Johnny Damon rules!

September 13, 2004

Proof Paul Crouch hates America

This is an excellent piece of journalism. Summarizes new and old dirt on holy roller media mogul Paul Crouch, star of the latest televangelist sex scandal, As I See It: Independent wrestling loses a major TV outlet

As a sad postscript to the ECW tenth anniversary story and your comments over the last two weeks....Philadelphia wrestling fans were greeted this past week with the news that the longtime Philadelphia channel for professional wrestling (including the last one to air ECW locally); WGTW Channel 48 in Philadelphia, has been sold to the far-right Trinity Broadcasting Network, and will drop ALL wrestling programming [Emphasis original] (as well as other programming) as of September 30th, 2004.

Trinity Broadcasting Network, was founded in 1973 Paul and Jan Crouch, and bills itself as "the world's largest Christian television network". Its programming airs on a network of over worldwide network of 800 broadcast and cable outlets, from the "International Production Center" in Irving, TX.

In place of WGTW's longtime variety of programming, Philadelphians will be limited to such offerings as American Center for Law and Justice Today (an informercial for a right-wing "counterpart" to the ACLU), apocalyptic preacher John Hagee (ironically, a favorite of WWE's own HBK), "Revival of Power", and a number of syndicated evangelical preachers and religious services such as Marilyn Hickey, Rod Parsley, Creflo Dollar, and Kenneth Copeland.

The network also presents fringe programming such as Messianic Jewish (aka "Jews for Jesus") type shows.

TBN also operates a number of stations throughout the United States, and has undertaken at least one situation similar to that in Philadelphia...where a diversity of local and syndicated programming was replaced by TBN's all-religious format....[Enough about media concentration and wrestling. Keep reading for the salacious personal and financial details.]