Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why all the dead skiers?

Colorado ski resorts set a record this season for deaths on the slopes at 17. Of course, people are falling all over themselves to explain this dramatic increase (italics indicate sarcasm).

In fact, this is probably not a trend, just a statistical anomaly caused by the small amount of data. But those looking for a cause are pointing towards groomed slopes, saying they cause skiers to ski too fast. Here is a paragraph from the Denver Post story:

Of the record 17 fatal ski accidents this season in Colorado, nine involved skiers hitting trees that flank groomed slopes. Of those nine, seven were wearing helmets. Four more deaths followed bad falls on groomed slopes.

Okay, so here's my question: Why are they blaming groomed slopes and not helmets?

7 of 9 deaths on these slopes involved skiers wearing helmets. I don't know the percentage of skiers wearing helmets, but I'm sure it's below 70%, probably closer to 1/3. Could it be that skiers wearing helmets feel invincible and therefore ski recklessly? Does this make any less sense than the argument that groomed slopes make skiers go faster? I actually doubt either of these is to blame, since there is no trend of increased deaths of helmeted skiers, or of skiers on groomed slopes. But why blame one and not the other?

If wonder what the Freakonomics guys would say about this!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Was Bonds Just Acting Rationally?

Thanks to The Sports Economist (see link at right) I became aware of this article in Scientific American. While focusing mainly on doping in cycling, it raises the specter of game theory in an athlete's decision to take performance enhancing drugs.

Game theory relates to making decisions that will be affected by the actions of others, without knowing what the others will do. It is relevant in business, treaty negotiations, poker.....just about anything in life.

Which brings me to Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, who, if you believe the hysterical media, are responsible for ruining baseball forever. In fact, based on game theory, they were acting rationally. According to what's been written about Bonds, he didn't get on the juice until 1998, after becoming disgusted by the records that McGwire and Sosa were putting up, and knowing they were on steroids. So, considering the risks and costs (almost nil) versus the benefits (all time home run record, and big bucks) Bonds would have been a schmuck not to have taken the juice. If everyone else is on roids, and you aren't, and they are kicking your ass and paying no penalty ( no drug testing back then) you would be a moron not to stick that needle in your butt!

We need to get over this and accept that everyone was on the juice in the past 15 years, and just accept that baseball had it's "Roid Era", just as it has had many other eras. I hardly think players bettering the performance with drugs is anywhere near despicable as baseballs Racist Era, when only white guys could play. And no one, except me, thinks that records set during that era shouldn't count (tell me Dimaggio hits in 56 games if he had better black players in the field!).

And, definitely, all sports need to take measure to make sure that the likely cost of juicing from now on exceeds the benefits, which was not the case when these guys where using.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Random Things

Just a couple thoughts about stuff going on in the world:

  • The debt crisis has worked it's way into the sports world. It appears that many sports facilities were financed with bonds thru the auction market, which now has frozen. This means the costs for municipalities whose taxpayers got hoodwinked into spending their money to help out the rich guys who own the team are going to end up paying more than they thought. Hope they enjoy the games when their garbage isn't collected. Meanwhile, owners are also suffering, as they are also being forced to pay higher rates on debt incurred for their portion of the stadiums. This appears to be leading to a labor crisis in the NFL. Check out Sportsbiz or The Sportseconomist for more on this.
  • Will Mugabe leave office peacefully in Zimbabwe, or will there be a civil war. Africa has very few instances of a dictator leaving peacefully.
  • Yankees lose their first of the season! This is the great thing about hating the Yankees.....even if they have a great year, I am happy 60 times.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Beckham in Thin Air

The World's most famous athlete was here in Colorado on Saturday.....and no, you ethnocentric Americans, it's not Lebron James or Peyton Manning. David Beckham was in town to open the MLS season with the LA Galaxy. Oddly enough, Beckham actually played, going the full 90 minutes in a 4-0 Rapids blowout.

Beck's is certainly not the world's greatest athlete, or even the world's greatest soccer player. But the excitement he generates, particularly among the women, is fun to watch. While all the other Galaxy players got ignored ( or, in the case of Landon Donovan, booed) during introductions, there was a decidely high pitched scream when the Spice Boy's name was announced. We were sitting in the corner near where Beck's took several corner kicks in the second half, and my girlfriend Fiona, who is English, was tempted to flash him. I asked if she was trying to become "Hot Flash Spice".

As for the play of the game, the Galaxy has Beck's and Donovan and not much else, and had trouble getting the ball to Beckham where he is dangerous, or getting on the end of his beautiful crosses when they did. He also seemed to be affected by the thin Colorado air, and did a lot of standing around catching his breath.

Beckham is a guy who has always been more sizzle than steak, and I'm sure after a season here people will wonder what the big deal is about. He has never been the type of player to dominate a game, or make a brilliant individual run. He won't provide many SportCenter moments. And with a team as bad as LA, he may try to get back to Europe by Fall for the start of the season over there.