Friday, August 28, 2009

Left Handed Catchers (or the Lack Thereof)

Stuart sends me a link to this post in The Monkey Cage about the dearth of left handed catchers in baseball. The conclusion is (essentially) that the lack of lefties stems more from tradition than anything else... Baseball is as ritualistic as any sport and many practices (from sacrifice bunts to spitting) come as much from convention and habit as from strategy... any thoughts here? Why no lefties behind the plate?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Tour de France and International Politics

A political scientist colleague sent me a link to this story by Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy about the intersection of sports and world politics. Walt, best known perhaps for his article "The Israel Lobby," here lists his top-ten "episodes where sporting events actually had an effect on world politics, or told us something about how the world was changing." Not surprisingly, seven of the ten are related to the Olympics or to the FIFA World Cup...

But none--not even the "also-rans"--are related to cycling and the Tour de France. Given that the Tour is the third largest global sporting event (in terms of media coverage) and the largest annual event it is strange that there have not been any huge "turning-point" moments to come out of it.

The only events that may come close were some of the strikes--notably the one led by Hinault, that may have led to more consiousness (in Europe, or more particularly, in France) about the situation of the working class--and the death of Tom Simpson that led to more scrutiny on doping in professional sports.

Yes, the Tour has significance for the way it reflects national and regional identity, it has played a key role in society's grappling with the limits of human performance, it has created some international icons, but it has not produced any key episodes of global importance that deserve being in any top-ten list. As a cycling fan, I hope you will please tell me I'm forgetting some...

Monday, August 17, 2009

More on Baseball and PED's

Here is a good article by Elizabeth Finn in the Baseball Cooperative about performance enhancing drugs in baseball. She mentions some of the issues we've discussed here (the "steroid era," among others) and discusses why speculation about drug use and power surges by MLB players should be expected.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cheating the Athletes

Sven Wilson sends me the following:

When is it OK to tell lies everyone knows are lies (but for some reason it is socially acceptable to do so)? In sports, we have highly educated university presidents saying that the reason we shouldn’t have a playoff system in major college football is because it would be disruptive to the academic lives of student athletes. Now everyone knows that the whole concept of a “student-athlete” in a BCS conference (with maybe the rare exception of places like Vanderbilt [who would never be in the playoffs anyway]), is completely outlandish.

For a political example: When the party in charge in a state says “Our redistricting plan is not designed for partisan advantage; instead, it is designed to [fill in bogus reason here].” Everyone redistricts for partisan advantage and everyone knows it, but for some reason, politicians still say these ridiculous things. Why?

Apparently, there are some conditions where it is OK to tell a bald-faced lie without causing a scandal. Are some lies such obvious lies that it is OK to lie? How does one know the difference?