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Screenshot 2017-06-01 23.45.41The Washington Post has an article with some interesting graphics about how home run hitting in baseball is up, perhaps attributable to the introduction of technology in 2015 recording the launch angle and exit velocity of batted balls. In 2016 a number of hitters, such as Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals, switched to trying to hit more fly balls than ground balls, with good results. This year the trend toward fly balls and homers seems to be increasing.

The graph above, with launch angle on the vertical scale and how hard the ball is hit on the left to right scale shows that quite a few hits in baseball are flukes, such as all the Texas Leaguer bloops that fall in for singles in front of outfielders, bunts, slow dribblers, and hard Baltimore Chops that take so long to come down that the batter beats out the hit. (Does anybody still use terms like Texas Leaguer and Baltimore Chops? I have all this Branch Rickey era baseball vocabulary, like Merkle’s Boner, from the used baseball books my mom would bring home from the thrift shop where she worked in 1967, but I can’t tell whether anybody knows those terms anymore.)

Due to better data, about a half decade ago, teams started shifting infielders around radically for each batter, whereas back in the 1940s only Ted Williams had been greeted with a personalized shift. So batters are now using launch angle data to respond to the declining chance of hitting a grounder between infielders by hitting more balls in the air.

On the other hand, some hitters have had seasons wrecked by trying to alter their swings to put the ball in the air more, such as Jason Heyward who had an embarrassing year in 2016 with the otherwise sterling Chicago Cubs. This year they told him to just go back to swinging the way he had been and he’s doing somewhat better.

The problem with baseball is that the home run is really so much more valuable than other kinds of hits that baseball has a logical tendency to turn into home run hitting contest.

A problem with that is that not many men much below 200 pounds, and only very strong ones above 200 pounds, can regularly hit balls over major league fences. Yet baseball is a more interesting game when it has a role for interesting non-sluggers like Ichiro Suzuki, Ozzie Smith, Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Mark Belanger, Eddie Collins, Willie Wilson, Maury Wills, Juan Pierre, and David Eckstein.

Baseball hierarchs should be thinking about how to reward line drive hitters. The ability to hit a 90+ mph pitch squarely is pretty interesting even if you can’t consistently hit it over the fence.

I wrote a post in 2014 about how they could greenskeep the outfields so that the ball would roll faster on the grass so that line drives would be more likely to roll between the outfielders to the fence for a triple, the most entertaining kind of hit (other than the rare inside-the-park homer).

For example, today they usually mow the outfield so that the nap of the grass is back and forth, making those attractive geometric designs. But they could mow the grass so the the blades lay down away from home plate, thus cutting resistance.

The most radical change would be to dig up the outfield and resod them, sloping the outfields downward away from home plate, kind of like at the Lord’s Cricket Club in London.

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From CBS Sports:

A Dallas FC under-15 boys squad beat the U.S. Women’s National Team in a scrimmage

The match was in preparation for Thursday’s USWNT friendly versus Russia
Roger Gonzalez
Apr 04, 2017 • 1 min read

In preparation for two upcoming friendlies against Russia, the U.S. women’s national team played the FC Dallas U-15 boys academy team on Sunday and fell 5-2, according to FC Dallas’ official website.

This friendly came as the U.S. looked to tune up before taking on Russia on Thursday night in a friendly.

Of course, this match against the academy team was very informal and should not be a major cause for alarm.

Indeed. The USA women’s team that lost 5-2 to adolescent Dallas boys then beat the Russian national women’s team 4-0.

By the way, let me repeat my suggestion that rather than try to keep alive a women’s league based on cities, instead the national women’s team should just barnstorm around America with the Russian national women’s team as their Washington Generals. Patriotic feminist sports chauvinism sells a lot better in America than city-based women’s leagues.

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Five years ago I was flipping through a book by golfer Tiger Woods’ ex-swing coach Hank Haney and came upon Haney’s claim that Woods’ now career-ruining injuries started, after the death of his father, when he became obsessed with quitting golf and joining the Navy Seals. I thought it was pretty fascinating and wrote it up into a Taki’s Magazine column, but didn’t hear any more about it for years, so I started to wonder if Haney had just been blowing smoke.

But a reader has directed me to this ESPN article from April 21, 2016:

The Secret History of Tiger Woods

The death of his father set a battle raging inside the world’s greatest golfer. How he waged that war — through an obsession with the Navy SEALs — is the tale of how Tiger lost his way.

… To many people inside Tiger’s circle, Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors wasn’t as important to Tiger as it was to the golfing media and fans. He never mentioned it. Multiple people who’ve spent significant amounts of time with him say that. When Tiger did talk about it, someone else usually brought it up and he merely responded. The record instead became something to break so he could chase something that truly mattered. He loved the anonymity of wearing a uniform and being part of a team. “It was very, very serious,” the friend says. “If he had had a hot two years and broken the record, he would have hung up his clubs and enlisted. No doubt.”

Here’s a 2009 Taki’s Magazine article, “Tiger Juice,” I wrote about how the once wiry Tiger, the most famous athlete since Michael Jordan, had changed shaped massively over the last few years without sports fans much discussing it.

We now know two things I didn’t know then.

Tiger had been blackmailed by National Enquirer into doing the cover story in their sister publication Men’s Fitness that had caught my eye as being out of character for him. National Enquirer had telephoto pictures of Tiger and a waitress in a restaurant parking lot.* Tiger agreed to do the Men’s Fitness story in return for National Enquirer spiking the waitress story.

And Tiger was bulking up in hopes that he would quit golf and become a Navy SEAL.

* By the way, I can never remember the exact legal reasoning why Bill Cosby and David Letterman, when in analogous situations, simply had their blackmailers taken away by the police. It’s been explained to me several times and each time I ultimately have to admit that the law against blackmail does make sense, but I can never remember the justification. Presumably, the friendly folks at National Enquirer understand the law on blackmail extremely well.

But what’s the use of being friends with the Navy SEALs if they won’t help you out of a jam with the National Enquirer?

• Tags: Golf, Sports, Tiger Woods 
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From the NYT:

Spurs’ Tim Duncan Retires After 19 N.B.A. Seasons and 5 Titles


After 19 years and five championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan announced Monday morning that he would retire at age 40.

Duncan was an elite player on an excellent Spurs team for his entire career. The Spurs made the playoffs every year in his tenure, never with a winning percentage lower than .610, and won five titles, with Duncan the finals’ most valuable player in three of them. He also won the league M.V.P. Award twice.

A relative latecomer to basketball growing up in the Virgin Islands, the 6-foot-11 Duncan was initially a swimmer. He was the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft after four years at Wake Forest.

Duncan was an NBA-quality player for his last 3 seasons in college, so that would have put him at a record 22 NBA seasons if he’d opted to leave college after his freshman year, as most major talents do today. (Leaving college early isn’t just for the immediate money, but also for extending one’s NBA career at the other end. For example, Patrick Ewing had an excellent NBA career, but there’s the suspicion that his knees never really were the same after his even better four-year college career.)

Duncan’s low-key nature often kept him out of the spotlight, but the sheer force of his accomplishments pushes him onto just about every list of the greats.

Duncan ranks fifth in career blocked shots (3,020), sixth in rebounds (15,091), seventh in games played (1,392) and 14th in points (26,496). …

Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted.

• Tags: Basketball, Sports 
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From The Undefeated, formerly Jason Whitlock’s long-awaited website, on a topic I’ve often discussed:

Mission Impossible: African-Americans & analytics
Why blacks are not feeling the sports metrics movement


May 24, 2016

The mission was to find black folks who spend anytime talking about advanced analytics, whose conversations are framed by — or even casually include references to — win shares or effective shooting percentage, WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) or points per 100 possessions. It’s a failed mission so far. Totally empty. Conclusion: Advanced analytics and black folks hardly ever mix. Set aside the tiny handful of black men who make a living somewhere in the sports industry dealing directly with the numbers and there is absolutely zero mingling.

Log onto any mainstream website or media outlet (certainly any program within the ESPN empire) and 30 seconds cannot pass without extreme statistical analysis, which didn’t exist 20 years ago, hijacking the conversation. But not in “BlackWorld,” where never is heard an advanced analytical word. Not in urban barbershops. Not in text chains during three-hour games. Not around office water coolers. Not even in pressrooms or locker rooms where black folks who make a living in the industry spend all day and half the night talking about the most intimate details of sports.

Draymond Green playing by feel

Let’s take the Golden State Warriors locker room, for example. I thought the complete stiff-arming of the statistical revolution might very well be generational. Old black folks don’t, but younger black folks might.


I asked Draymond Green, the Warriors star whose new-age game is constantly being defined statistically, if he engages in any advanced analytics conversation either professionally or personally. His answer was emphatic.

“No. Neither. Professionally, I play completely off of feel. I hear people discussing my game in terms of all these advanced numbers. I have no part of it,” Green said. “Even paying attention to it, from a playing standpoint, would make me robotic and undermine my game.”

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

For example, in the first half of the 20th Century, the highly articulate Ty Cobb, the son of a college professor, tended to win the verbal debates over whether ballplayers should strive to hit line drives or, as the less intellectual Babe Ruth contended, swing with an uppercut to hit home runs. The fans sided with Ruth, but the sportswriters tended to side with Cobb, pointing to his even higher batting average, the traditionally most prestigious hitting statistic. But Ruth collected a huge number of walks (which aren’t counted in the batting average) due to pitchers fearing to throw one down the middle that he could hit out of the park, so more sophisticated statistical analysis has subsequently demonstrated what every 12 year old boy in America knew in 1923: Ruth was even better than Cobb.

As I pointed out in my 2011 Taki’s Magazine review of the movie Moneyball:

Smart middle-aged white guys really like baseball statistics. Sabermetrics provides men with a sheltered playpen in which to study nature and nurture with little risk of being called sexist or racist.

The bigger question is whether smart quantitatively-oriented white guys devote too much of their time to thinking hard about sports numbers (for which they are unlikely to become the object of Two Minutes Hates) rather than more important real world issues (at the risk of having their careers destroyed).

I’ve pointed out that blogger / psychiatrist Scott Alexander is a potential Bill James of psychiatric pharmaceuticals, a field of huge importance to human happiness that currently tends to lack sources of high quality independent critical analysis.

Real estate is another field in which moneyball techniques could be applied. As I’ve pointed out, economist Raj Chetty’s current project where he’s wheedled his way into access to an unbelievable trove of IRS 1040 data has revealed a whole series of interesting patterns. For example, states without many trees (e.g., the Dakotas) have done relatively better economically since 2007 than states with a lot of trees (e.g., the Carolinas), a reversal of the 1990s. But neither Chetty nor most of the journalists writing about his work have bothered to look hard at the implications of his numbers.

There’s a definite crimestop problem where almost anything could get you in trouble these days, leading to smart guys tending to go into playpens like sabermetrics where they won’t get Watsoned.

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From USA Today:

As MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson, dearth of black pitchers concern many
Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports 11:07 p.m. EDT April 14, 2016

Major League Baseball celebrates the 69th anniversary Friday of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, and while the number of African-American players on teams remain near historic low levels, there’s an alarming trend that mystifies the industry.

It’s the dearth of African-American pitchers.

While the African-American population in baseball remains flat at just 8%, according to an examination of opening-day rosters conducted by USA TODAY Sports, the scarcity of black pitchers is staggering.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 02.06.22

Here are the top 20 active pitchers in terms of career Wins Above Replacement. Keep in mind that #19 on this list, Johnny Cueto, isn’t considered black (he’s “Latin”), while #1 C.C. Sabathia is considered black.

There have been black superstar pitchers from Latin America, such as Juan Marichal, Luis Tiant, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, and Johan Santana, but they aren’t counted as black for the purposes of writing articles about baseball’s Black Lack.

So the top 20 active pitchers look like they are about 70% non-Hispanic white American, which is some kind of crisis.

Being a Major League pitcher is a really good job, one that I would recommend. You don’t even have to be in shape or young. For example, #5 on the list, Bartolo Colon, is a middle-aged fat guy and he made $11 million pitching (pretty effectively) for the Mets last year (and is off to a good start this year). Of course, the cells in Colon’s pitching arm are probably about four decades younger than the rest of him.

Of the 449 pitchers on major league opening-day rosters and the disabled list this year, just 14 were African American.


Seven starters. Seven relievers.

No team has more than one black pitcher on its major league staff, and four of those starters reside in the American League East: CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, David Price of the Boston Red Sox, Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays and Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays. …

Considering the increased emphasis on pitching depth in baseball – with every team employing 12 or 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster when 10 or 11 used to suffice – it’s clear that Major League Baseball’s efforts to diversify the makeup of American-born players will hit a ceiling without a resurgence in the number of black pitchers.

Tall white guys are excelling at pitching in this decade. The L.A. Dodgers, for example, last year had two starters — Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw — who were probably better than Koufax and Drysdale at their mid-60s peak. (They’re #3 and #4 in the picture above. Greinke is the guy with the crazy blue eyes who missed the 2006 season with social anxiety disorder and attributes his return to form to Zoloft.)

That’s probably the flip side of white Americans not playing basketball at a high level anymore.

The average height for the top 20 pitchers above is 6’4″.

But there aren’t many articles about that.

African Americans comprise just 1.6% of major league pitchers – well below their 7.9% of the general player population. Forty-two of 69 African American major leaguers – 61% – are outfielders. And when teams opt to carry a 12th or 13th pitcher on their roster, it often comes at the expense of an extra outfielder.

So the cruel reality is that the African-American baseball player – whether prodded to abandon pitching or by their own volition – is being excluded from more than half the jobs in the industry.

Anecdotally, the immediate future doesn’t look much more promising. The top 100 minor league prospects, according to rankings by, include just four African-American pitchers – Dillon Tate, Amir Garrett, Touki Toussaint and Justus Sheffield.

… Oh, where have you gone, Bob Gibson?

Of the top 200 pitchers of all time in Wins Above Replacement, five were non-Hispanic black. I’m using that term rather than “African American” because #1, slightly ahead of Gibson, was Ferguson Jenkins from Canada. The others were C.C. Sabathia, Dwight Gooden, and Vida Blue. (Drug/alcohol problems are not uncommon on that list, but the sample size is small.)

By the way, I’m not exactly sure what Sabathia’s ancestry is, but he’s from Vallejo, CA, a small town in the San Francisco Bay area that’s been leading the country in diversity since the days of Sly & the Family Stone. It also led California cities into bankruptcy as it got taken to the cleaners by its cops and firemen, who had far more espirit de corps than the citizenry.

“When you think about it, the black pitchers have almost become extinct,” says Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, one of only 15 black pitchers to win 20 games in a season. “There are a lot of reasons, I don’t know if any of them are valid, but it seems like a lot of teams take black pitchers and convert them to infielders or outfielders.

“I know it happened a lot in the past, so maybe it’s still happening.’’

Certainly, it’s possible ingrained patterns of stereotyping remain. Major league rosters are filled with failed position players turned pitchers – St. Louis’ Trevor Rosenthal, Oakland’s Sean Doolittle, Colorado’s Jason Motte, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen among the current crop – but rarely are they black.

Kenley Jackson is a Dutch-speaking black giant from the Caribbean island of Curacao who played catcher for the 2009 Netherlands national team. Actually, he grew up speaking:

Papiamentu is the local language of the ABC Islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Papiamentu is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, and it also has some Arawak Indian and African influences. Papiamentu is one of the few Creole Languages of the Caribbean that has survived to the present day.

Back to the USA Today article:

It’s similar with the catching position, with Canadian-born Russell Martin of the Toronto Blue Jays the lone black catcher. The last African-American everyday catcher was Charles Johnson, and he retired 11 years ago.

“Historically, pitchers and catchers did not transition from the Negro Leagues,’’ Kendrick said. “There were great arms in the Negro Leagues, and we had great catchers from Josh Gibson to Roy Campanella, but that was considered a cerebral position. And the general consensus back then was that these men weren’t smart enough to play in the major leagues.”

Other than the half-black Roy Campanella winning the National League MVP award in 1951, 1953, and 1955. (Josh Gibson drank himself to death in early 1947.) And Elston Howard winning the AL MVP in 1964. If African Americans have stopped playing catcher, it’s not from lack of historical role models.

Anyway, what’s going on with pitchers is a couple of thing:

- Black Americans aren’t very interested in baseball anymore because they are obsessed with basketball and football, both of which also reward height the way pitching does.

- Pitching, like catching, is a skill position. In contrast, African-Americans who choose a career in baseball over football, such as Pittsburgh Pirates MVP Andrew McCutchen, tend to get dropped into centerfield where their natural speed is most useful. Alternatively, the really big guys, like 1990s White Sox slugger Frank Thomas and the (not aptly named) Fielders, father and son, go to first base, the easiest defensive position.

Back in the days of segregation, black baseball teams needed catchers and pitchers, so they trained their own. These days, however, top black athletes (0r mixed race ones like Giancarlo Stanton) who are interested in baseball have little trouble getting scholarships from, say, Catholic high schools, unless they are extremely ghetto. And ghetto blacks have little interest in training hard at the skills of baseball, so if they do wind up in baseball, it’s at the easier positions of outfielder or first base.

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On GoTrackTownUSA, 3 time All-American female distance runner Alexi Pappas writes:


By Alexi Pappas / TrackTown USA

EUGENE, Ore. – My family stood together in the small waiting room just outside the Oval Office, nervously smiling like a group of kids waiting their turn at the top of a waterslide. My brother Louis stood at the front of our pack, ready to walk in first – he had spent the past few years working on President Obama’s staff, and this was his last day on the job. The Oval Office door cracked open and laughter spilled out into the waiting room. The family ahead of us walked out, and there he was: the President of the United States, standing just a few feet away.

We shook his hand one by one. Louis introduced me as a professional runner from Eugene, Oregon. The President’s attention then focused directly on me. First, he told me about his visit to Hayward Field during his 2008 campaign. A wonderful place, we agreed. At that moment, Mr. Obama looked me directly in the eye. “You have a gift,” he said. “You were born with a body that was meant to run long distances, more than the average human.”

I was taken aback. Right away I knew what I wanted to say in response … but dare I risk embarrassing my brother and disagree with Mr. Obama? I started by thanking the President, and then I couldn’t help myself – I added that my performance in the sport is actually a result of hard work, motivation and support from my community.

This was not the answer the President wanted to hear.

“No, no,” he said, “Your body is able to flush out lactic acid better than the average person – running is what you were born to do.” Mr. Obama’s energy and tone were so confident and convincing that he could have told me the moon is really made out of cheese and I would have agreed with him. I nodded and thanked him. Besides, our five-minute meeting time was up. I left the Oval Office feeling very honored, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about what the President had said.

The idea that I was meant to run, that I was born with a special ability, felt like it subtracted from my own willpower and motivation to pursue something to the fullest and at the highest level.

A couple of Christmas-shopping seasons ago, the President was seen buying Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein’s explicitly HBD book The Sports Gene. The Los Angeles Times reported:

But most of Obama’s choices lean more toward pure escapism.

“The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance,” by Sports illustrated writer David Epstein, tries to dispel common myths about what makes athletes great.

Personally, I think that studying sports for patterns that are revealing about humanity in general, such as the roles played by nature and nurture, isn’t pure escapism.

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The New York Times Magazine has a giant article on tennis player Serena Williams by Claudia Rankine (pictured at right) that serves as yet another illustration of my observation that while many female journalists routinely crusade on the surface against sexism, racism, etc., a close reading of their most passionate articles suggests that their highest priority in demanding a cultural revolution to overturn society’s oppressive values is that they want to wind up being considered hotter-looking.

The Meaning of Serena Williams
On tennis and black excellence.

… There is a belief among some African-Americans that to defeat racism, they have to work harder, be smarter, be better. Only after they give 150 percent will white Americans recognize black excellence for what it is. But of course, once recognized, black excellence is then supposed to perform with good manners and forgiveness in the face of any racist slights or attacks. Black excellence is not supposed to be emotional as it pulls itself together to win after questionable calls. And in winning, it’s not supposed to swagger, to leap and pump its fist, to state boldly, in the words of Kanye West, ‘‘That’s what it is, black excellence, baby.’’

Right, as you can see how black NFL defensive players never visibly celebrate after tackling somebody for just a two-yard gain. The white power structure forces black football receivers to merely hand the ball to the ref in the end zone with an aw shucks look. Similarly, LeBron James could dunk the ball, but white society thinks it’s overly abrasive to humiliate your opponents like that, so LeBron just gently lays the ball in the basket.

… Imagine that you have to contend with critiques of your body that perpetuate racist notions that black women are hypermasculine and unattractive.

But it’s also racist to wonder if Serena’s giant muscles aren’t wholly the result of black genes. Some people, who look at Serena compared to her older sister Venus, wonder if maybe Serena represents not just black nature but advanced nurture too.

But thinking that is racist as well, so just stop thinking.

Serena’s grace comes because she won’t be forced into stillness; she won’t accept those racist projections onto her body without speaking back; she won’t go gently into the white light of victory. Her excellence doesn’t mask the struggle it takes to achieve each win. For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal. But Serena refuses to keep to that script. Somehow, along the way, she made a decision to be excellent while still being Serena.

It’s like how Muhammad Ali could have exulted over the fallen Sonny Liston, but instead white culture forced him to be impassive.

Similarly, deep down Tiger Woods might like to pump his fist after making a good putt, but he knows that white country club golfers lynch blacks who get uppity, so he’s never done it (pumping his fist, that is; never making a good putt is only recent).

When Serena was a little girl, she was so timid about expressing emotions that her sister Venus once said what a miracle it was that she could summon the courage to speak at all, usually just to ask for food when she was hungry though. She innately sensed that racism was real, immanent, and suffocating. As her body grew, her emotions grew too. Tennis became an outlet for those emotions, an outlet for her humanity. Years of quiet shyness or just fear bloomed forth into an amazing athlete, no one could deny. Suddenly she started to speak, especially on the tennis court, or as her father adoringly dotes, “My little grunter.” …

She would feel what she feels in front of everyone, in response to anyone. At Wimbledon this year, for example, in a match against the home favorite Heather Watson, Serena, interrupted during play by the deafening support of Watson, wagged her index finger at the crowd and said, ‘‘Don’t try me.’’

She will tell an audience or an official that they are disrespectful or unjust, whether she says, simply, ‘‘No, no, no’’ or something much more forceful, as happened at the U.S. Open in 2009, when she told the lineswoman, ‘‘I swear to God I am [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat.’’

Fight the Power! Don’t the let the White Male Power Structure (embodied, in this particular case, by a tiny Asian lady) keep the Black Man and Black Woman down!

… To accept the self, its humanity, is to discard the white racist gaze. Serena has freed herself from it. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be emotional or hurt by challenges to her humanity. It doesn’t mean she won’t battle for the right to be excellent. There is nothing wrong with Serena, but surely there is something wrong with the expectation that she be ‘‘good’’ while she is achieving greatness. Why should Serena not respond to racism? In whose world should it be answered with good manners? The notable difference between black excellence and white excellence is white excellence is achieved without having to battle racism. Imagine.

Two years ago, recovering from cancer and to celebrate my 50th birthday, I flew from LAX to J.F.K. during Serena’s semifinal match at the U.S. Open with the hope of seeing her play in the final. I had just passed through a year when so much was out of my control, and Serena epitomized not so much winning as the pure drive to win. I couldn’t quite shake the feeling (I still can’t quite shake it) that my body’s frailty, not the cancer but the depth of my exhaustion, had been brought on in part by the constant onslaught of racism, whether something as terrible as the killing of Trayvon Martin or something as mundane as the guy who let the door slam in my face. The daily grind of being rendered invisible, or being attacked, whether physically or verbally, for being visible, wears a body down. Serena’s strength and focus in the face of the realities we shared oddly consoled me.

That Sunday in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the women’s final, though the crowd generally seemed pro-Serena, the man seated next to me was cheering for the formidable tall blonde Victoria Azarenka. I asked him if he was American. ‘‘Yes,” he said.

‘‘We’re at the U.S. Open. Why are you cheering for the player from Belarus?’’ I asked.

‘‘Oh, I just want the match to be competitive,’’ he said.

After Serena lost the second set, at the opening of the third, I turned to him again, and asked him, no doubt in my own frustration, why he was still cheering for Azarenka. He didn’t answer, as was his prerogative. By the time it was clear that Serena was likely to win, his seat had been vacated. I had to admit to myself that in those moments I needed her to win, not just in the pure sense of a fan supporting her player, but to prove something that could never be proven, because if black excellence could cure us of anything, black people — or rather this black person — would be free from needing Serena to win. …

I was moved by Serena’s positioning herself in relation to other African-Americans. A crucial component of white privilege is the idea that your accomplishments can be, have been, achieved on your own. The private clubs that housed the tennis courts remained closed to minorities well into the second half of the 20th century. Serena reminded me that in addition to being a phenomenon, she has come out of a long line of African-Americans who battled for the right to be excellent in a such a space that attached its value to its whiteness and worked overtime to keep it segregated.

Serena’s excellence comes with the ability to imagine herself achieving a new kind of history for all of us. As long as she remains healthy, she will most likely tie and eventually pass Graf’s 22 majors, regardless of what happens at the U.S. Open this year. I want Serena to win, but I know better than to think her winning can end something she didn’t start. But Serena is providing a new script, one in which winning doesn’t carry the burden of curing racism, in which we win just to win — knowing that it is simply her excellence, baby.

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Back before 1992 Olympics, Runner’s World executive editor Amby Burfoot published a cover story “White Men Can’t Run” pointing out the West African / East African distinction between who wins Olympic sprints versus distances races.

At that point, blacks of West African descent had made up all of the last 16 finalists in the Olympics men’s 100m dash, the race that determines the World’s Fastest Man. A white Scotsman had won the 100m dash at the Moscow 1980 Olympics, but in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, all the finalists who had made it through three preliminary rounds were black.

Amazingly, that’s now true for eight straight Olympics; 64 out of the last 64 finalists have been black from 1984 through 2012. That’s one of most astounding statistics in all of human biodiversity studies.

On the other hand, a few non-blacks have had some success in the 100m in recent years. A white Frenchman became the first white man to clearly break the 10 second barrier, getting as low as 9.92 in 2011. And Japanese sprinters regularly make the Olympic semifinals, so this streak no doubt won’t last forever. This spring Bingtian Su of China became the first Asian to run 9.99.

In Beijing, at the current world championships of track & field (one tier below the Olympics), Usain Bolt of Jamaica, 2008-2012 Olympic gold medalist, edged out Justin Gatlin, the American 2004 Olympic gold medalist who was twice subsequently caught for PEDs, in a time of 9.79 to 9.80.

Of note, Bingtian Su of China pleased the home fans in the semifinal by tying his recent Asian record of 9.99. In the expanded 9-man final, he finished last at 10.06.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Human Biodiversity, Sports 
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#1 ranked golfer Rory McIlroy

Fall guy Wilmer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) in The Maltese Falcon

• Tags: Golf, Movies, Sports 
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Before Tiger Woods, five African-Americans had won on the PGA golf tour, and each one would make an entertaining and inspirational biopic. For example, Calvin Peete, a grade school dropout, came out of the Old, Weird America before the 10,000 Hour Rule to win a dozen tournaments after he turned 35, even though he never tried golf until around his 23rd birthday and was never a strong man. Bruce Weber writes in the New York Times:

Peete’s top win, the 5th major, at age 41

Calvin Peete, whose life traced one of sport’s most triumphant arcs — a school dropout with a crooked left arm who did not pick up a golf club until his 20s, did not join the pro tour until his 30s, and still became one of the leading players of his era and the most successful black professional golfer before Tiger Woods — has died. He was 71.

… A self-taught player who never hit especially long, Peete was one of golf’s most accurate drivers and fairway players. He won his first Professional Golfers Association tour event, the Greater Milwaukee Open, in 1979, and from 1982 through 1986 was among the tour’s most prolific champions, winning 11 tournaments, including four in 1982.

In 1984, he averaged 70.56 shots per round, winning the Vardon Trophy, given annually to the professional golfer with the lowest per-round score. …

His story is Dickensian in its down-and-out beginnings and American in its particular obstacles and eventual rewards. He was born in Detroit on July 18, 1943. According to numerous sources, his parents had nine children, and after they divorced, his father, Dennis, had 10 more.

Calvin lived with his father, a vegetable picker in Pahokee, Fla., in the south-central part of the state, and after he dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help feed the family, he, too, worked in the corn and bean fields. He was unable to do heavy work, however; at age 12, he had fallen out of a tree and broken his left elbow, leaving him unable to straighten the arm.

It was perhaps a serendipitous accident. It is a golfing dictum that for right-handed golfers, the left arm remains straight during a swing, but Peete, who never had a golf lesson before he turned pro, developed his own method, compensating for his handicap and developing a stroke uncanny in its accuracy, or, as his onetime caddy Dolphus Hill said in 1986, “He goes flag on you.”

Peete was regularly among the tour leaders in driving accuracy and greens hit in regulation. …

Peete led the PGA Tour eight straight years in percent of fairways hit off the tee. In 1983 he peaked at avoiding the rough on 84.55% of his tee shots. (In 2014, David Toms led all pros with a 75.49%, despite large technological advances in clubs and balls since about 1990.]

Peete never ranked higher than 128th in driving distance. He was a little bit like a baseball player making the All Star Games in the 1980s by choking up on the bat and trying to hit ‘em where they ain’t like in the Dead Ball Era. The baseball player I’d compare him to might be Ichiro Suzuki: you wouldn’t necessarily advise a kid to follow Peete’s or Suzuki’s strategies, but they made being a fan more interesting because they were so idiosyncratic.

It was in Rochester, in the summer of 1966, that he tried golf for the first time. He was 23. Friends invited him to a fish fry, he recalled in a 1986 interview with Boys’ Life magazine, but they took him to a golf course instead.

“I couldn’t get a ride home,” he said, “so I went along with the fool idea.”

Quickly bitten by the bug, and with his selling done at night, he began spending days on the golf course, teaching himself by reading books. He took advice on his grip from the man who sold him his golf gloves, practiced on a baseball field, made films of his stroke and studied them. It took him nine years and three trips to the PGA qualifying school before he earned the right to join the tour, at 32, in 1975.

At the time, blacks were rare in professional golf, a sport that had a history of exclusion. A “Caucasian-only” clause was not rescinded by the PGA until 1961, and only a handful of black golfers — among them Charlie Sifford (who died in February), Lee Elder and Jim Dent — preceded Peete on the pro tour.

Actually, black golfers are less common today. The quarter black Tiger is the only black winner since Peete in 1986. Caddying and mowing fairways offered poor boys entry level jobs, and there was a shadowy career path in the Darwinian world of golf hustling. Lee Elder, for example, worked as the chauffeur of famous gambler Titanic Thompson as part of a long-running scam in which Thompson would fleece wealthy suckers by telling them “Hell, I can beat the two of you with my chauffeur as my partner.”

A white player of Peete’s generation, Larry Nelson, took up golf at 21 after getting back from a tour of infantry duty in Vietnam. He went on to win ten times, including three majors. Nelson qualified for the pro tour more quickly than Peete, only a half dozen years after taking up golf, but it still him took him over a decade before his first win.

Since then I’m not familiar with anybody having much pro success taking up golf after their teen years. There are a huge number of retired team sport athletes who would love to play on the over-50 pro golf tour, but almost none have made the transition.

Sports are getting more specialized, more dependent upon early concentrations. It’s clear from Jack Nicklaus’ autobiography that he subscribed to a philosophy of well-roundedness in sports that has faded in recent decades.

Thus it seems bizarre today, but when Nicklaus enrolled at Ohio State in 1959, he expected to walk on to the Buckeye basketball team to give him a sport to play when the golf courses were snowed under. After all, he had been a fine high school basketball player and had just set the Ohio schoolboy record for most consecutive free throws made (26). But then Nicklaus discovered just how good was the Ohio State basketball team, which won the NCAA champion the next spring with John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and a reserve named Bobby Knight, so he decided to finally concentrate on golf.

These days, however, most of the variety among pros’ backgrounds is in just how early they started. Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irish superstar appears to have started hitting balls before he was three. The new American star Jordan Spieth was less precocious: he got interested in golf when his parents joined a country club when he was eight and he took up golf intensively the next summer at nine.

The 10,000 Hour rule really does apply in a negative sense to golf.

One possibility is that golf strategy has evolved to favor the most precocious at obsessing over golf.

The first famous American pro golfer, Walter Hagen, had a style optimized for winning bets: he was a careless driver, but remarkably good at recovery shots. I suspect he made a lot of money upping his bet on who would win the hole after he hit a bad drive. Golf is more fun to bet on when you bet on who will win each hole rather than on who will shoot the lowest score for the whole round or the whole four-day tournament.

Over time, golf strategy evolved in a more conservative direction aimed at optimizing scores over 72 hole tournaments. Ben Hogan’s spectacular run in the rigorous U.S. Open after WWII influenced Jack Nicklaus to play a quite cautious game. Nicklaus emerged out of an upper middle class background with an emphasis on winning tournaments rather than winning bets, so he de-emphasized spectacular shots even though he probably could have been a much longer driver than almost anybody else on tour if he hadn’t put his game under so much intellectual constraint.

The slightly android style of Nicklaus’s game was very intimidating to his contemporaries, but I suspect he would have been even more successful if he hadn’t fetishized cautiousness.

Peete, oddly enough, was kind of the ultimate evolution of the Hogan-Nicklaus strategy of minimizing trouble. Peete was a very short, very straight driver who tried to avoid getting in the rough or trees where he’d have to improvise a shot out of trouble. He preferred to have the ball sitting up in the middle of the fairway. Peete’s game was rather robotic, but now that I think of it, his strategy makes a lot of sense if you recall he didn’t have all those adolescent years to practice crazy shots out of trouble and develop as much natural feel for all the different shots you’d have to hit if you wander into the rough and trees.

It made Peete a rather fascinating figure during his prime in the first half of the 1980s because he had emerged from virtually an underclass background to become the most overachieving exponent of the cautious Calvinist style on the pro tour.

Late in the 20th Century, however, there emerged a new, more swashbuckling strategy of long, sometimes sloppy driving and spectacular extrications from bad drives.

Y axis is number of tour pros (out of roughly 125 regulars and 25-50 fringe players).

Looking at this graph from JamieOnSport, it’s easy to see the introduction of the Callaway Big Bertha driver in 1991, which caused a large jump in the percentage of pros hitting at least 70% of their fairways (blue line). Suddenly, over 75% of tour pros could come close to Peete’s benchmarks for accuracy.

After Tiger Woods laid waste to the tour in 2000, however, pros rapidly chose to trade accuracy for distance.

The Mickelson-Woods style — Flog It and Find It or Bomb and Gouge — was driven in part, by the addition of more wedges for escaping from trouble to the golfer’s bag. Phil Mickelson, for example, usually carries four wedges compared to Nicklaus’s two.

Another likelihood is that players are stronger than they used to be, due to weightlifting and/or steroids. This lets them generate more clubhead speed to get out of the rough consistently. I followed Peete around for a few holes at the 1985 U.S. Open in Detroit, where he had come in as one of the favorites because his accurate game seemed suited to the narrow fairways. But as a slight 40-something, he seemed to be having problems generating the clubhead speed to deal with the high U.S. Open rough. (I haven’t been to a pro tournament in a decade, but my impression from going to tournaments in the mid-2000s was that players were significantly bigger than in the 1970s and 1980s. At Shinnecock for the 2004 U.S. Open, I’d say about 2 out 3 players were, say, 6 foot or taller and 190 pounds or heavier (i.e., noticeably bigger than the average man), whereas a generation before the majority of golfers were in the 5’10″ and 170 pound range (i.e., roughly average).

And the Bomb and Gouge turn was driven in part by early childhood focus on golf that allowed players to get an immense amount of experience at all facets of the game when they were young and their central nervous systems were impressionable.

By the way, it appears that driving distances have been getting shorter the last couple of years. Whether that’s because the flog it and find it style had hit diminishing returns or because the PGA Tour introduced quiet drug testing a few years ago is unknown. Big hitter Dustin Johnson disappeared for about half a year, although the tour won’t say if he was suspended for performance-enhancing or recreational drugs, or if he just felt like taking a break.

• Tags: Golf, RIP, Sports 
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Track and Battlefield
Everybody knows that the “gender gap” between men and women runners in the Olympics is narrowing. Everybody is wrong.
by Steve Sailer and Dr. Stephen Seiler
Published in National Review, December 31, 1997
Everybody knows that the “gender gap” in physical performance between male and female athletes is rapidly narrowing. Moreover, in an opinion poll just before the 1996 Olympics, 66% claimed “the day is coming when top female athletes will beat top males at the highest competitive levels.” The most publicized scientific study supporting this belief appeared in Nature in 1992: “Will Women Soon Outrun Men?” Physiologists Susan Ward and Brian Whipp pointed out that since the Twenties women’s world records in running had been falling faster than men’s. Assuming these trends continued, men’s and women’s marathon records would equalize by 1998, and during the early 21st Century for the shorter races.
This is not sports trivia. Whether the gender gap in athletic performance stems from biological differences between men and women, or is simply a social construct imposed by the Male Power Structure, is highly relevant both to fundamental debates about the malleability of human nature, as well as to current political controversies such as the role of women in the military.
When everybody is so sure of something, it’s time to update the numbers. So, I began an in-depth study with my research partner, Dr. Stephen Seiler, an American sports physiologist teaching at Agder College in Norway. (Yes, we do have almost identical names, but don’t blame him for all the opinions in this article: of the two of us, I am the evil twin).
The conclusion: Although the 1998 outdoor running season isn’t even here yet, we can already discard Ward and Whipp’s forecast: women will not catch up to men in the marathon this year. The gender gap between the best marathon times remains the equivalent of the woman record holder losing by over 2.6 miles. In fact, we can now be certain that in fair competition the fastest women will never equal the fastest men at any standard length race. Why? Contrary to all expectations, the overall gender gap has been widening throughout the Nineties. While men’s times have continued to get faster, world class women are now running noticeably slower than in the Eighties. How come? It’s a fascinating tale of sex discrimination, ethnic superiority, hormones, and the fall of the Berlin Wall that reconfirms the unpopular fact that biological differences between the sexes and the races will continue to play a large, perhaps even a growing, role in human affairs.
First, though, why is running the best sport for carefully measuring changes in the gender gap? Obviously, there are different size gender gaps in different sports (and even within a sport: in basketball, for example, the gap in slam dunking is enormously greater than in free throw shooting). Indeed, women do sometimes “beat top males at the highest competitive levels” in equestrian, yachting, drag racing and a few other riding sports, as well as in some stationary events like shooting. One self-propelled sport where women arguably outperform men is ocean swimming, in which they’ve achieved amazing firsts like paddling from Alaska to Siberia. (This is a rare sport where a higher body fat percentage is a boon.) Two Olympic sports are open only to females: synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. In America, however, both the male and the feminist sports establishments roundly ridicule these events (undeservedly in the case of rhythmic gymnastics, an enchanting exercise). Similarly, other demanding but female-dominated physical activities like dancing, aerobics, and cheerleading are seldom considered sports at all by Americans.
Thus, the current climate of opinion demands that we analyze a “major” (i.e., traditionally male) sport. In these games, however, women’s sports advocates insist on “separate but equal” competition. Separateness, however, badly hinders the equality of measurements. Since they play in what might as well be alternative universes, it’s difficult to confidently quantify, for example, precisely how much better the NBA’s Michael Jordan is than the WNBA’s Sheryl Swoopes.
Fortunately for our analytical purposes, men and women currently compete under identical conditions in ten Olympic running events, making their times directly comparable. In general, track is ideal for statistical study because it’s such a simple sport: all that matters are the times. Another advantage to focusing on running is that it’s probably the most universal sport. Track medalists in the 1996 Olympics included an Australian aborigine as well as runners from Burundi, Trinidad & Tobago, South Korea, Mozambique, Norway, and Namibia. Running is so fundamental to life and so cheap that most children on Earth compete at it enough to reveal whether they possess any talent for it.
So, Ward & Whipp were certainly correct to concentrate upon running. As they noted, the gender gap did narrow sharply up through the Eighties. Let’s focus upon those ten directly comparable races. Way back in 1970, women’s world record times averaged 21.3% higher (worse) than men’s. But during the Seventies women broke or equaled world records 79 times, compared to only 18 times by men, lowering the average gender gap in world records to 13.3%. In the Eighties, women set 47 records compared to only 23 by men, and the gender gap shrank to just 10.2%. Further narrowing seemed inevitable in the Nineties.
Yet, male runners are now pulling away from female runners. Women’s performances have collapsed, with only five record-setting efforts so far in this decade, compared to 30 by men. (The growth of the gender gap has even been accelerating. Men broke or tied records seven times in 1997, the most in any year since 1968.) The average gender gap for WR’s has increased from 10.2% to 11.0%. And since four of the five women’s “records” set in the Nineties occurred at extremely questionable Chinese meets (as we shall see later), it’s probably more accurate to say that for relatively legitimate records in the Nineties, men are ahead of women 30 to 1, and the average world record gender gap has grown from 10.2% to 11.5%.
Despite all the hype about 1996 being the “Women’s Olympics,” in the Atlanta Games’ central events — the footraces — female medalists performed worse relative to male medalists than in any Olympics since 1972. In the 1988 Games the gender gap for medalists was 10.9%, but it grew to 12.2% in 1996. Even stranger is the trend in absolute times. Track fans expect slow but steady progress; thus, nobody is surprised that male medalists became 0.5% faster from the 1988 to the 1996 Olympics. Remarkably, though, women medalists became 0.6% slower over the same period.
Why is the gender gap growing?
1. In the Longer Races. From 800m to the marathon, but especially in the 5,000m and 10,000m races, the main reason women are falling further behind men is discrimination, society forcing women to stay home and have six babies. Of course, I’m not talking about the industrialized world, but about a few polygamous, high-birth rate African nations. All 17 male distance record-settings in the Nineties belong to Kenyans (9), Ethi
opians (5), Algerians (2), or Moroccans (1). A culture can encourage all women to pursue glory in athletics or to have a half-dozen kids, but not both. Thus, Kenya’s high birth rate (not long ago it was more than five times West Germany’s) has contributed to an ever-swelling torrent of brilliant male runners, but has kept any Kenyan woman from winning Olympic gold.
Wilson Kipketer of Kenya
These facts, though, raise a disturbing question: Why is women’s distance running so debilitated by sexism in these obscure African countries? Because, as bankrobber Willie Sutton might say, that’s where the talent is. You can’t understand women’s running without comparing it to men’s running, and that has become incomprehensible unless you grasp how, as equality of opportunity has improved in men’s track, ethnic inequality of result has skyrocketed. The African tidal wave culminated on August 13, 1997 when Wilson Kipketer, a Kenyan running for Denmark, broke the great Sebastian Coe’s 800m mark, erasing the last major record held by any man not of African descent.
African superiority is now so manifest that even Burundi, a small East African hell-hole, drubbed the U.S. in the men’s distance races at our own Atlanta Games.
Yet, there are striking systematic differences between even African ethnic groups. This can best be seen by graphing each population’s bell curve for running. The Olympic events from 100 meters to the marathon run along the horizontal axis, and the percentage of the 100 best times in history go along the vertical axis. For Kenyan men, for example, a lovely bell curve appears showing which distances they are best suited for. These East Africans are outclassed in the 100m and 200m, but become competitive in the 400m, then are outstanding from 800m to 10,000m, before tailing off slightly in the marathon (42,000m). Not surprisingly, the Kenyan’s peak is in the middle of their range — the 3,000m steeplechase — where Kenyans own the 53 fastest times ever.
In contrast, for the black men of the West African Diaspora (e.g., U.S., Nigeria, Cuba, Brazil, Canada, Britain, and France), only the right half of their bell curve is visible. They absolutely monopolize the 100m. Men of West African descent have broken the 10 second barrier 134 times; nobody else has ever done it. They remain almost as overwhelming in the 200m and 400m, then drop off to being merely quite competitive in the 800m. They are last sighted in the 1500m, and then are absolutely not a factor in the long distance events.
While there are the usual nature vs. nurture arguments over why African runners win so much, there is no possibility that culture alone can account for how much West African and East African runners differ in power vs. endurance. Track is ultracompetitive: Coaches test all their runners at different distances until they find their best lengths. Even in the unlikely event that Kenya’s coaches were too self-defeating to exploit their 100m talent, and Jamaica’s leadership was ignoring their 10,000m prodigies, American and European coaches and agents would swoop in and poach them. No, what’s infinitely more plausible is that both West Africans and East Africans are performing relatively close to their highly distinct biological limits.
None of this conforms to American obsessions about race. First, we dread empirical studies of human biodiversity, worrying that they will uncover the intolerable reality of racial supremacy. Is this fear realistic? Consider merely running: are West Africans generally better runners than whites? In sprints, absolutely. In distance races, absolutely not. Overall racial supremacy is nonsense; specific ethnic superiorities are a manifold reality.
Second, our crude racial categories blur over many fascinating genetic differences between, for example, groups as similar in color as West and East Africans. And even within the highlands of East Africa there are different track bell curves: Ethiopians, while almost as strong as Kenyans at 5,000m and longer, are not a factor below 3,000m. And the African dominance is not just a black thing. Moroccans and Algerians tend to be more white than black, yet they possess a bell curve similar to, if slightly less impressive than, Kenyans. Further research will uncover many more fascinating patterns: for example, Europeans appear to be consistently mediocre, achieving world class performances primarily at distances like 800m and the marathon that fall outside of the prime ranges for West Africans and Kenyans.
These ethnic patterns among male runners are crucial to understanding the causes of the growth in the gender gap, because it appears that women runners possess the same natural strengths and weaknesses as their menfolk. For example, the bell curves for men and women runners of West African descent are both equally sprint-focused. Therefore, if a nation’s women perform very differently than its men, something is peculiar. With high-birthrate African countries like Kenya and Morocco, it’s clear the social systems restrain marriage-aged women from competing. This offers hope that the distance gender gap will someday stop widening. Indeed, since the Kenyan birthrate began dropping a few years back, we have begun to see a few outstanding Kenyan women.
2. In the Shorter Races. The gender gap is widening not just because men (especially African distance runners) are running faster today, but also because women (especially East European sprinters) are now running slower.
From 1970-1989, white women from communist countries accounted for 71 of the 84 records set at 100m-1500m. In contrast, white men from communist countries accounted for exactly zero of the 23 male records. Those memorable East German frauleins alone set records 49 times in just the sprints and relays (100m-400m). This was especially bizarre because men of West African descent have utterly dominated white men in sprinting. Another oddity of that era is that communist women set only seven (and East Germans none) of the 48 female records in the 5k, 10k, and the marathon.
The crash of women’s running was br
ought about by two seemingly irrelevant events in the late Eighties: Ben Johnson got caught, and the Berlin Wall fell. At the 1988 Olympics, in the most anticipated 100m race of all time, Johnson, the surly Jamaican-Canadian sprinter who could benchpress 396 pounds, demolished Carl Lewis with a jaw-dropping world record of 9.79 seconds. Two days later Johnson was stripped of his medal and record because his urine contained steroids — muscle-building artificial male hormones. Embarrassed that it had let a man called “Benoid” by other runners (because his massively muscled body was so flooded with steroids that his eyeballs had turned yellow) become the biggest star in the sport, track officialdom finally got fairly serious about testing for steroids in 1989.
Then the Berlin Wall fell, and we learned exactly how East German coaches enabled white women to outsprint black women: by chemically masculinizing them. It turns out that masculinity — in its lowest common denominator definition of muscularity and aggressiveness — is not a social construct at all: East German biochemists simply mass-produced masculinity. Obviously, the communists weren’t the only dopers, but they were the best organized. Newsweek reported, “Under East Germany’s notorious State Plan 14.25, more than 1,000 scientists, trainers and physicians spent much of the 1980′s developing better ways to drug the nation’s athletes.” East German coaches are now finally going on trial for forcing enormous doses of steroids on uninformed teenagers. The Soviet Union, although less brilliant in the laboratory, also engaged in cheating on an impressively industrial scale.
Even today, this pattern of women’s records coming mostly from communist countries continues: four of this decade’s five female marks were set by teenagers at the Chinese National Games, where tough drug testing is politically impossible. (The 1997 Games in Shanghai were such a bacchanal of doping that all 24 women’s weightlifting records were broken, but weightlifting’s governing officials had the guts to refuse to ratify any of these absurd marks.) In contrast to the astounding accomplishments by China’s fuel-injected women, Chinese men’s performances remain mediocre. [Note: a few weeks after this was published, the Chinese Women's Swim team was disgraced at the World Championships in Australia, when a Chinese woman swimmer was caught trying to smuggle Human Growth Hormone into the country, and numerous teammates were caught by steroid testing.]
Exemplifying the differences in drug testing between the Eighties and Nineties are the contrasting fates of two Eastern European women: Jarmila Kratochvílová and Katrin Krabbe. The extremely muscular Miss Kraticholivova, described by Track & Field News as a “Mack truck,” won the 400m and the 800m at the 1983 World Championships, and her 800m record still stands. Runner Rosalyn Bryant commented, “I’m still not envious of the ‘Wonder Woman’ of Czechoslovakia. I could have chosen the same way, but I didn’t want to change my body, given to me by God, into a new shape. … Five years ago she was a normal woman. Now she is all muscles and runs World Records.” Her rival Gaby Bussmann called her, flatly, “a man.” Miss K. replied, “One day, if [Ms. Bussman] produces performances like mine, she will have to have sacrificed some of her good looks. In athletics, one has to decide how much to sacrifice. The women of the West don’t work as hard as we do.” Miss K. was never caught by the drug tests of her day.
In contrast, Katrin Krabbe, a product of the old East German training system, won the 100m and 200m at the 1991 World Championships to rave reviews. Track & Field News called her “beautiful” and “sleek,” and pointedly contrasted her to the “masculine” Miss Kraticholivova. Even before her victories, young Ms. Krabbe had signed a million dollars in modeling and product endorsement contracts. Although she couldn’t have been very heavily doped by Eighties’ standards, in 1992 she was disqualified because of tampering with her urine sample. Thus, East German women won eight medals at the 1988 Olympics, but during the 1992 and 1996 Games combined, reunited Germany’s women could garner only a single bronze.
Flo-Jo, Before (1984)
The communists were almost completely stumped at producing male champions because the benefits of a given amount of steroids are much greater for women than men. Since men average 10 times more natural testosterone than women, they need dangerously large, Ben Johnson-sized doses to make huge improvements, while women can bulk-up significantly on smaller, less-easily detected amounts. The primitive testing at the 1988 Olympics did succeed in catching Benoid; yet the female star of those Games, America’s Florence Griffith-Joyner, passed every urinalysis she ever faced. The naturally lissome Flo-Jo may have been the world’s fastest clean 200 meter woman from 1984-1987, but she kept finishing second in big races to suspiciously brawny women.
Flo-Jo, After (1988)
She then asked Ben Johnson for training advice, and emerged from a winter in the weight room looking like a Saturday morning cartoon superheroine. She made a magnificent joke out of women’s track in 1988, setting records in the 100m and 200m that few had expected to see before the middle of the 21st Century. Then, she retired before random drug testing began in 1989, having passed every drug test she ever took.
Why didn’t the East German labs synthesize successful women distance runners? Although artificial male hormones are fairly useful to distance runners (in part because they increase the will to win), sprinters get the biggest bang for their steroid buck. The shorter the race, the more it demands anaerobic power (which steroids boost), while the longer the race, the more it test
s aerobic and heat dispersal capacities.
Doping has not disappeared from track, but runners have responded to better testing by using fewer steroids, and by trying less potent but harder to detect drugs like Human Growth Hormone. These new drugs affect both sexes much more equally than Old King Steroid. The decline in steroid use has allowed the natural order to reassert itself: before steroids overwhelmed women’s track in the Seventies, black women like Wilma Rudolph and Wyomia Tyus dominated sprinting. Today, lead by young Marian Jones, who is potentially the Carl Lewis of women’s track, black women rule once more. However, white women are still much more heavily represented among the top sprinters than are white men.
This could mean that the “ethnic gap” in natural talent between West Africans and Europeans is smaller among women than men. Or, more likely, doping continues to enhance women’s times more than men’s. Thus, if testing can continue to improve faster than doping, the gender gap would tend to grow even wider.*
In conclusion, studying sports’ gender gaps offers new perspectives on a host of contemporary issues seemingly far removed from athletics, such as women in the military. Ironically, feminists in sports have successfully campaigned for the funding of thousands of sexually segregated, female-only teams, while feminists in the media and Congress have compelled the Armed Forces (outside of the defiant Marines) to sexually integrate basic training and many operating units, even including some combat teams.
Who’s right? Female college coaches have some powerful reasons for believing that coed competition would badly damage their mission of turning girls into strong, take-charge women. For example, they fear that female athletes would inevitably be sexually harassed.
Even more distracting to their mission than the unwanted sexual advances from male teammates, however, would be the wanted ones. This opinion is based on more than just lesbian jealousy: research on single sex vs. coed schools shows that teenage girls are more likely to develop into leaders in all-female groups, whereas in coed settings young females tend to compete with each other in coyly deferring to good-looking guys. Any hard-headed female basketball coach could tell you that merging her team with the school’s men’s team would simply turn two dedicated squads now focused on beating their respective opponents into one all-consuming soap opera of lust, betrayal, jealousy, and revenge. (Does this remind you of the current state of any superpower’s military?) Yet, feminists utterly forget to apply their own hard-earned wisdom to the armed forces: on the whole, deploying young women in cramped quarters alongside young fighting men does not make the women into better warriors, it make them into moms. For example, the Washington Times reports that for every year a coed warship is at sea, the Navy has to airlift out 16% of the female sailors as their pregnancies become advanced.
Reorganizing the military along the lines of the sexually segregated teams characteristic of contemporary college sports will do much both to more fully use the potential of women in uniform and to quell the endless sexual brouhahas currently bedeviling our coed military. Yet, the crucial issue remains: Should women fight? The main justification feminists give for a coed-izing the military is that lack of combat experience unfairly hampers female officers’ chances for promotion.
We can again turn for guidance to female coaches. The main reason they favor sexual apartheid on the playing fields is that in open competition males would slaughter females. It seems reasonable to conclude the same would happen on the battlefields. This may sound alarmist. After all, running’s gender gap is a rather marginal-sounding 1/8th; surely, many women are faster than the average man, and, by the same logic, many would make better soldiers.
First, though, as economists have long pointed out, competition occurs at the margins: runners don’t race against the average Joe, but against other runners. And soldiers fight other soldiers. Second, while the moderate width of track’s gender gap is representative of many simple sports that test primarily a single physical skill (the main exceptions are tests of upper body strength like shotputting, where the top men are as much as twice as strong as the top women), in free-flowing multidimensional sports like basketball where many skills must be combined, overall gender gaps tend to be so imposing that after puberty females almost never compete with males. Consider what traits help just in enabling you to dunk a basketball: height, vertical leaping ability, footspeed (to generate horizontal momentum that can be diverted into vertical liftoff), and hand size and hand strength (to dunk one-handed).
Not one of these five individual gender gaps is enormous, but they combine to create a huge difference in results: almost everybody in the NBA can dunk compared to almost nobody in the WNBA. Basketball, however, is far more than slam and jam. Throw in the need for massiveness and upper body strength in rebounding and defense, wrist strength in jumpshooting, etc., and multiply all these male advantages together, and the resulting gender gap in basketball ability is so vast that despite the WNBA’s state of the art marketing, it’s actual product resembles an all white high school boys’ game from a few decades ago.
Although the unique ease of our Gulf War victory encouraged the fantasy that technology has made fighting almost effortless, the chaos of combat will continue to demand a wide diversity of both physical aptitudes (like being able to hump a load of depleted-uranium ammunition) and mental attitudes (like the urge to kill) that interact to create a huge gender gap in fighting ability.
While in theory it might be nice if we could accommodate ambitious female officers’ need for combat experience by negotiating during wars with our enemies to set up separate all-female battles between our Amazon units and their Amazon units, this is where the analogy with sports finally breaks down: opponents in war don’t have to play by the rules … causing our women to be defeated, captured, raped, and killed. Still, if (as, in effect, so many feminists insist) female officers’ right to equal promotion opportunities requires that they be furnished with female cannon fodder, there is one proven formula for narrowing the gender gap to give our enlisted women more of a fighting chance. Feminist logic implies that just as our military once imported ex-Nazi German rocket scientists, it should now import ex-Communist German steroid pushers.
Steve Sailer is a businessman and writer. Dr. Stephen Seiler is an American sports physiologist at Norway’s Agder College. Yes, they really are different people, and, No, they haven’t yet decided which one is the evil twin. Background statistics are posted at . This is the final draft rather than the slightly shorter and slightly different one published in National Review. So blame us for anything you don’t like, not the magazine.
Updates as of 4/12/2014:
- I was trying to be optimistic about the future of women’s running in 1997, but my reference to Marion Jones, the American heroine of t
he 2000 Olympics, turned out unfortunate: she went to prison in 2005 in relation to her steroid use.
- I was naive about the explosion of new distance running records set by East Africans in the mid-1990s. In retrospect, it appears that the anti-anemia drug EPO arrived in East African distance running circles around 1995. Before then, EPO seems to have been largely restricted to some European runners.
- I updated my data analysis by nationality and race up through the 2008 Olympics here.
- Current best times in all track and field events are kept up to the moment by Peter Larsson here. Feel free to check out how much the big picture has changed statistically over the last 17 years since I wrote this article.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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I don’t know anything about football, but let me make a Super Bowl prediction. 

Las Vegas initially established the strong defense and run Seattle Seahawks as the favorite, but a flood of public money on Peyton Manning’s high-scoring Denver Broncos reversed that. (Both teams are 15-3.) 

After all, Manning set records this years for touchdown passes and yards passing. In the regular season of 16 games, he tossed 55 touchdowns compared to only 10 interceptions and was sacked only 18 times. 

He had a great game in the AFC championship against archrival Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, throwing for 400 yards. This is all despite the 37-year-old Manning being one of the weakest-armed and least mobile quarterbacks in the league. Much of the season, he looked more like a symphony conductor, waving his arms around to direct his players in what to do, than a football player.

I’m a big Peyton Manning fan, as I’m a big Tom Brady fan. In fact, the endless Manning vs. Brady debate helped inspire one of my bigger (and most boring) ideas: Back in 2009, when Malcolm Gladwell was denouncing Steven Pinker in the New York Times for citing known crimethinker Steve Sailer’s research debunking Gladwell’s contention that the performance of NFL quarterbacks “can’t be predicted,” Pinker and I got to discussing why humans are most fascinated by arguing over things that are least provable, such as who’s best: Manning or Brady? Pinker told me, “mental effort seems to be engaged most with the knife edge at which one finds extreme and radically different consequences with each outcome, but the considerations militating towards each one are close to equal.”

Still, that doesn’t mean that Manning is bound to win.

The Seahawk’s quarterback Russell Wilson is 25-years-old and in his second season in the NFL. He had strong statistics but not up in the stratosphere with Manning’s. (Wilson, who is black, is remarkably short for an NFL QB: at 5’11″ a half foot shorter than Manning.)

Since pro football is increasingly dominated by quarterbacks, you gotta bet on the guy with the big numbers, right? 

Maybe, but I have this hunch that Manning is due for some regression toward the mean. I mean, how likely is it that he’s going to be better on Sunday than he was against New England or the average for his remarkable season? In contrast, what’s the chance that playing outdoors in New Jersey in February is going to catch up with him?

And I suspect Seattle has devoted some careful thought over these two weeks to how they are going to make Manning feel less like a young philharmonic conductor and more like an old football player.

So, I’m picking Seattle.

By the way, I was wondering why the Seahawks’ Russell didn’t make the NFL until age 24. It turns out that, after redshirting his freshman year at North Carolina St., he started three full seasons, and completed his degree (in communications, of course) while playing minor league baseball in the summers. But after three good seasons as a starter, nobody invited him to the NFL draft combine — he’s under 6 feet tall.

So, he transferred to Wisconsin (without having to sit out a year because he enrolled in a graduate program at his new school) and had such a spectacular season, 33 touchdowns and 4 interceptions and winning the Rose Bowl, that he was drafted in the third round.

Russell comes from an upscale black family in Richmond. His father was a lawyer. I believe Russell’s Wonderlic test score equates to an IQ of a 114, same as Manning’s. Here are Wonderlic’s for active Super Bowl winners:

Here are the Wonderlic scores of active Super Bowl winners, with the mean equaling 21 and two IQ points per additional right answer.

Eli Manning, Ole Miss 39 — 136
Aaron Rodgers, Cal 35 — 128
Tom Brady, Michigan 33 — 124
Peyton Manning, Tennessee 28 — 114
Drew Brees, Purdue 28 — 114
Joe Flacco, Delaware 27 — 112
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) 25 — 108

These guys probably study up for the Wonderlic, which boosts their scores, but still, it seems plausible that a 3-digit-IQ is an advantage for 21st Century NFL quarterbacks.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From the New York Times:

In a Transition Game, David Stern Is Passing the N.B.A. Commissioner’s Hat to Adam Silver 


David Stern stepped into a conference room through a side door from his office. He carried a can of soda and a small plate of tortilla chips. 

“My lunch,” he said on a recent weekday afternoon as he settled in to be interviewed jointly with Adam Silver, who will succeed him Saturday as N.B.A. commissioner. 

… Stern, 71, was, in the 1970s, a rising star at the New York law firm Proskauer Rose, which provided legal counsel to the N.B.A. and created a way inside the sport he followed growing up across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Teaneck, N.J. 

Silver, 51, spent much of his youth in Rye, north of New York City, the son of a Proskauer partner. …

After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Silver seemed to be following in the legal footsteps of his father. “I loved basketball, but I never dreamed about playing in the N.B.A. or certainly working for the N.B.A.,” he said. 

The credentials and connections couldn’t have hurt after he wrote a letter to Stern seeking career advice. Silver joined the league in 1992 as Stern’s special assistant and subsequently became chief of staff, the senior vice president of N.B.A. Entertainment, and the deputy commissioner when Russ Granik left that position in 2006. 

“We’ve been working intensely close for 22 years,” Stern said. “I’ve been giving him advice and he’s been giving me advice for over two decades. It depended upon the owners ultimately, but I thought he was the logical successor.” 

Such is the rebuttal to the social media chatter about the commissioner’s office being too New York-centric, or even too Jewish. Support for Silver, according to league insiders, was widespread. … 

On average, as Bryant Gumbel has suggested, NBA team owners aren’t exactly all that different demographically from Stern and his protege Silver.

But when Stern said, “We think alike about a lot of things — not just about basketball, but about life,” he was stressing a more essential point that N.B.A. owners seemed to grasp. 


(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From my book review in Taki’s Magazine:

Structured around the dismantling of the profitable notion pushed by self-help seers such as Malcolm Gladwell that 10,000 hours of monomaniacal practice is the secret of success, David Epstein’s The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance is one of the best books on human biodiversity in recent years.  

Beyond undermining Gladwellian blank-slatism, Epstein extols the sheer pleasure of noticing humanity’s variety for its own sake. On his book’s penultimate page, he writes:  

…sports will continue to provide a splendid stage for the fantastic menagerie that’s human biological diversity. Amid the pageantry of the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, make sure to look for the extremes of the human physique.…It is breathtaking to think that, in the truest genetic sense, we are all a large family, and that the paths of our ancestors have left us wonderfully distinct. 

Epstein, a Sports Illustrated reporter, builds upon the work of journalists such as Jon Entine (Taboo) and me in taking an evenhanded look at the roles of both nature and nurture.

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Sam Borden writes in the New York Times:

One of the most dominant basketball players in recent memory came out as gay Wednesday, casually mentioning the fact in an interview as if it were an afterthought. The news media and the sports world seemed to treat it as such, too, with little mention of the star’s sexuality showing up on social media or on message boards, and virtually no analysis of what the revelation meant for tolerance in society as a whole.

At first glance, it seemed implausible. After all, players, fans, coaches and league executives had been waiting with bated breath for weeks, if not months and years, to see if an active team-sport athlete would come out. So how could this sort of revelation be treated with such nonchalance? 

“Because it was a woman,” said Jim Buzinski, a founder of, a Web site about homosexuality and sports. “Can you imagine if it was a man who did the exact same thing? Everyone’s head would have exploded.” 

The aftermath of the former Baylor star Brittney Griner’s revelation in several interviews this week was muted, to say the least. Griner, who was chosen with the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft Monday, did not treat the issue with any outward hesitation — in fact, she appeared to refer to her coming out in the past tense, as though it had happened before — giving a casual feeling to the entire episode. 

It was an odd juxtaposition: as there is increased speculation about whether a male athlete — any male athlete — will come out while still playing a major professional team sport, one of the best female athletes in the history of team sports comes out, and the reaction is roughly equivalent to what one might see when a baseball manager reveals his starting rotation for a three-game series in July. …

There is, obviously, a more substantial history to female athletes’ coming out and continuing to play. Individual-sport stars like the tennis legend Martina Navratilova and team-sport players like basketball’s Sheryl Swoopes and soccer’s Megan Rapinoe are among the women to continue playing after publicly discussing their sexuality. 

But those players generally received a similarly subdued response, with nothing close to the expected surge in attention that figures to follow a male athlete’s coming out. The reaction to Griner’s disclosure, then, was simply the latest example of a disturbing trend, according to some leaders of L.G.B.T. causes. 

“We talk a lot in the L.G.B.T. community about how sexism is a big part of what contributes to homophobia,” said Anna Aagenes, the executive director of GO! Athletes, a national network of L.G.B.T. athletes. “It’s disheartening when there are so many great role model female athletes out that we’re so focused on waiting for a male pro athlete to come out in one of the four major sports.” 

Context may not be the only factor in the ho-hum public response to Griner’s disclosure. Stereotypes that top female athletes are gay continue to persist, and that probably played a role in how the sports world responded to Griner, said Sherri Murrell, the women’s basketball coach at Portland State and the only openly gay basketball coach in Division I. …

She continued: “I think we’re always going to be living in that bias. I think it’s getting better, but there is still that tag.” 

That persistent stereotype about female athletes does damage on multiple levels, said Patrick Burke, a founder of You Can Play, a prominent advocacy group for L.G.B.T. athletes. While a number of heterosexual male athletes, including the N.F.L. players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, have publicly supported the efforts of L.G.B.T. athlete groups, it has been much harder to find straight female athletes to speak out in support, Burke said. 

“In sports right now, there are two different stereotypes — that there are no gay male athletes, and every female athlete is a lesbian,” Burke said. “We’ve had tremendous success in getting straight male players to speak to the issue; we’re having a tougher time finding straight female athletes speaking on this issue because they’ve spent their entire careers fighting the perception that they’re a lesbian.”

Maybe the straight female athletes know that the stereotype that female jocks are disproportionately lesbian is true?

And, maybe, male jocks are disproportionately not gay? Could that possibly be?

Everybody treats this like it’s a new question because nobody remembers anything. But, Sports Illustrated gave a lot of attention to homosexual athletes around 1975. For example, Former NFL player Dave Kopay came out that year, too. About the same time, 1968 Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell came out. In early 1975 SI’s (arguably) top writer Frank Deford ran a two part extract from his biography of 1920s tennis great Bill Tilden. Deford said he wrote a book about Tilden precisely because he was gay … and that so few top male athletes are gay. (Here are Deford’s first article and second article.)

Here’s my 1994 National Review article “Why Lesbians Aren’t Gay,” which points out the radical difference in sexual orientation of male and female athletes.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From Slate:

The Running Men 

Are mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick more injury-prone than pocket passers? 

By Omar Bashir and Chris Oates 

This year’s Super Bowl matchup shows you don’t need a particular type of quarterback to win in the NFL. The Ravens’ Joe Flacco has 38 rushing yards this season. The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick ran for 56 yards on a single touchdown gallop against the Packers a few weeks ago. But in the long term, when you’re building a franchise, which kind of signal-caller is the better bet? 

Conventional wisdom says a runner is more likely to get hurt than a stay-in-the-pocket statue. Just ask Joe Flacco, who told the assembled press on Wednesday that “quarterbacks like [Kaepernick] are eventually going to have to become mostly pocket passers to survive in this league.” 

… But is this correct—are mobile quarterbacks like Kaepernick, Michael Vick, and RGIII, more prone to getting hurt than conventional passers such as Flacco, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady?  

… We tried to shed some light on the injury question by collecting quarterback injury data and applying some basic statistical tests. 

Finally, we ensured that each of the four total ways of separating “mobile” passers from the rest yielded a reasonable set of names. For instance, when mobility is defined by four or more rushes per start over a regular-season career, nine of 82 players in the dataset qualify: Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, Vince Young, Daunte Culpepper, David Garrard, Quincy Carter, Colt McCoy, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow. (Kaepernick would also qualify under the four-rushes-per-start criterion.) 

As you’ll see in the chart below, regardless of how we sliced the data, there was no statistically significant difference in injury rates between mobile and conventional quarterbacks. Quarterbacks of both types tend to lose 11 to 14 percent of their starts to injury. Even without counting the thus-far injury-free Kaepernick, three of the four tests produced a lower injury rate for mobile quarterbacks. The gap, though, is small enough that a statistician would call it zero.

A few things:

First: What Flacco says is literally true: “quarterbacks like [Kaepernick] are eventually going to have to become mostly pocket passers to survive in this league.” 

Running backs can get stronger into their mid-20s: e.g., Adrian Peterson just had his best year at age 27. But running quarterbacks generally don’t succeed by lowering their shoulder and running over linebackers, they succeed through being elusive, like Kaepernick. Elusiveness is mostly a matter of foot speed, cutting ability, and instinct. Most players come into the NFL about as elusive as they’ll ever be. Aging and injuries, large and small, take their toll rapidly in the NFL. 

Whether or not running quarterbacks suffer more major injuries doesn’t really matter. Just about everybody in football except, maybe placekickers, gets progressively dinged up, and thus their elusiveness erodes with age. 

If a quarterback comes into the NFL as an outstanding runner, he might be able to be fairly effective as a starting QB immediately even if he hasn’t learned how to be an NFL-quality passer. But, if he doesn’t learn how to pass, he’s not going to be starting in his mid-30s.

Second, there’s always a lot of excitement around the idea that running quarterbacks are going to revolutionize the NFL Real Soon Now. They make for great highlight clips and they’re the simplest players to win with in football video games. My son told me that when his friends forced him to play Madden, he’d always just pick Michael Vick and have him run around with the ball.

Similarly, the easiest way to win in Pop Warner football for little boys is to snap the ball to the best athlete and let him do whatever he wants with it. One man heroics work less, however, as you ascend the pyramid of training. At the highest level (the NFL), collaboration among specialists tends to produce better results than having an all-around athlete do his own thing.

Third, here’s a baseball analogy to a young running quarterback: Say, a very fast first baseman wins Rookie of the Year at age 24 by leading the league with 15 triples (versus only five homers), stealing 60 bases, and getting to grounders in the hole between first and second base better than any other first baseman in the league. (Why is somebody that fast playing first base? Let’s say, he can’t play other infield positions because he’s lefthanded and he can’t play the outfield because he’s terrible at judging flyballs.)

If your friend says, “He’s going to revolutionize the first base position, turn it into a speed position!”

You’d reply: “He was fun as a rookie, but to have a good, long MLB career at first base, he’s going to have to develop homerun power, because he’s not going to get faster as the years go by. It’s not hard to come up with a slow first baseman who hits 25 homers year after year and thus contributes more overall than this guy does, especially in a few years when he’s hitting only six triples per year instead of 15.”

Exciting young running quarterbacks are kind of like that: they naturally get worse at running, so they’d better get better at passing.

Fourth, as a running quarterback’s running skills decline with age, defenses can concentrate more on stopping his passing, so, unless his passing improves, the effectiveness of his passing will also get worse as his rushing declines.

Fifth, all else being equal, it’s better for a quarterback to be a good runner than not a good runner, just as all else being equal, it’s good for a first baseman to be good at fielding and baserunning. But the Venn diagram intersection of NFL-Quality Passer and NFL-Quality Rusher is not large.

Sixth, all else being equal, the player who gets hit more often is going to get hurt more often. But, things are seldom equal. 

Seventh, much of the confusion surrounding this topic is due to it being closely linked to questions of race, which lowers collective IQs by 20 points: “Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, Vince Young, Daunte Culpepper, David Garrard, Quincy Carter, Colt McCoy, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow. (Kaepernick would also qualify under the four-rushes-per-start criterion.)” 

So, the study shows seven black running QBs, one biracial (Kaepernick), and two whites. I would imagine that pocket passers would be skewed at least as heavily in the opposite racial direction.

Much of the talk about running quarterbacks getting injured more is excuse-making and misdirection for the quarterback position in the NFL remaining white-dominated. (Notice that blacks aren’t underrepresented at quarterback in the NFL relative to their share of the national population, they just aren’t over-represented like at most other positions. In today’s mental climate, black monopolies at cornerback or running back don’t need explanation — that’s just the way it is, and, hey, why are you even noticing? — but white domination at quarterback does require rationalizations.)

What seems to be happening is that, per capita, black quarterbacks are more likely to start in the NFL before they’ve become NFL quality passers, because their, on average, more dangerous running ability makes them more effective at a young age. But, the percentage of college quarterbacks of any race who mature into elite NFL passers is quite small. So, as young black running QB starters slow down with age, they lose the skill that made them effective without being an NFL quality passer, so they tend to flame out in spectacular fashions.

So, to explain phenomenon such as why Vince Young was on the cover of Madden NFL 08 but is now a backup, the running QBs gets hurt more party line gets propounded.

In contrast, a young slow white quarterback who isn’t ready yet to be an NFL pocket passer is more likely stuck on the bench or the taxi squad. And if he fails to develop into an NFL-quality passer, he quickly moves into the rewarding world of insurance sales without much muss or fuss.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The Minnesota Timberwolves go into the season with only five black players on their 15-man roster, and some people are calling it a conspiracy. 

From Jerry Zgoda and Dennis Brackin of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: 

“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.” 

That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves’ fan base, which is overwhelmingly white. 

Lou Amundson, JJ Barea, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, and Greg Stiemsma make up 2/3 of the T-Wolves roster, and they are all white. 

Minnesota civil rights activist Ron Edwards thinks something is up too, and he told the paper, “It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended. I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”

I don’t see much evidence at all that white Americans like foreign whites more than African-Americans, but it might someday happen. More likely, a small market team management might try a strategy of building a whiter team in the hopes of getting better team play interaction effects.

So far, the Timberwolves’ Achilles heel (or anterior cruciate ligament, in the case of Ricky Rubio) has been injuries. Rubio, the former Spanish child prodigy point guard, has been out since the middle of last season, and Love, the closest thing to a white American superstar the NBA has at present (at least as measured by his huge points/rebounds numbers — the rest of his game …), recently broke his hand. So, we won’t see if this strategy, if it is a strategy and not just randomness, works or not until the second half of the season.

One interesting study that I haven’t seen done is differences in injury rates between races. I wouldn’t be surprised if the prejudice against, say, white running backs in big time football might be based on a greater likelihood of white runners to get too dinged up to be effective. 

Back in the 1980s, Bill James did a rare race study comparing white and black pairs of baseball players with similar rookie year number for speed-related stats such as triples, grounded into double plays, defensive range, and percent of time caught stealing. He found a strong tendency for black ballplayers to maintain their speed later into their careers than white players. I can’t find James’ essay online, but here is Jon Entine’s summary of it.

Now, this analysis couldn’t distinguish between the differential effects of injuries on speed and the differential effects of aging on speed, but it’s still about the best starting point I’ve heard of.

For example, on paper, Oakland’s Reggie Jackson and Bob Allison, a 1960s Minnesota Twin who was electrifying for a few years, looked equally fast as rookies, but Allison’s speed fell off faster, while Reggie stayed fast enough to stay in the league long enough to put up Hall of Fame career numbers. James also cites Davey Lopes’s then-amazing 1985 season with the Cubs as a 39 year old part-timer in which he stole 47 bases in 51 attempts.

You might think that somebody would have looked into this more over the quarter of a century since then, but sabermetrics appears pretty allergic to obvious racial analyses. With the gigantic obsession in 21st Century America with fantasy sports leagues, in which hobbyists draft lineups and compete with each other based on their players’ subsequent stats, you would think this question would be a big one. Instead, though, stat analysts appear content to let racial stereotypes and hunches, rather than statistically informed analyses, drive fans’ decision-making in this regard.

I wouldn’t be surprised that black athletes have greater resilience to the wear-and-tear of injuries, but I can think of a couple of other explanations for James’ results.

The first is that James’ methodology of finding matching pairs might not be that good. Assume that the black bell curve of speed is shifted to the right of the white bell curve, but you have only crude measures of baseball speed. For example, Allison led the league in triples as rookie with 9, which is a good indicator of speed, but it’s a small sample size. Some of the other stats, such as defensive range and caught stealing, are confounded by baseball savvy. Maybe white baseball players tend to be savvier as rookies, while blacks tended to be multi-sport athletes who only decided to concentrate upon baseball at a later age? (Certainly Reggie Jackson evolved into one of the more cunning ballplayers by late in his career, but he was a star football player in college.) 

So, maybe Bob Allison was never quite the spectacular athlete that Reggie Jackson was, he just happened to have somewhat similar numbers based on not totally reliable measures. For example, James makes a big deal out of both guys being good college football players, but Allison was a fullback while Reggie was a defensive back. Big difference in likely speed. Perhaps white players who appear to be as fast as their matched black counterparts aren’t really as fast on average, they’re just the best that James’ system can come up with. For example, I presume he didn’t find any white matches for, say, Ricky Henderson, Willie Wilson, or Vince Coleman.

The second issue with the study is … juicing. We don’t know much about pre-Canseco experiments with steroids, but I’m developing some suspicions. 

I saw Reggie Jackson’s t itanic homer in the 1971 All-Star Game off the light stand on top of the third deck in right field of Tiger Stadium. It was almost unprecedented, but by 30 years later it wasn’t so amazing. Barry Bonds hit two similar blasts in the 2002 World Series that the TV cameraman couldn’t track.

As he got older, Reggie developed the top-heavy look of a serious lifter that became common in 1990s baseball. California muscle building culture was way ahead of the rest of the country in technical sophistication in the 1960s and 1970s.

Or consider James’s example of Davey Lopes

I was a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan during their strong 1970s, and I recall being at Dodger Stadium in the late 1970s when all the Dodger sluggers (the 1977 Dodgers was the first team with four 30-homer men) took a pregame jog through the outfield. They were men of average height, but extraordinarily wide.

Lopes was a leadoff man / second baseman whose career high in homeruns through age 31 was 10. Then he started developing more power and at age 34 in 1979 hit 28 homeruns, which seemed a bizarre total for a middle infielder at the time.

(Lopes’ development, now that I think about it, had something to do with moving the outfield fences in at Dodger Stadium. In Sandy Koufax’s 1960s, centerfield was 410 feet, then they brought it in to 400. The Dodgers had a lot of players who could hit minimal homers just over the outfielder’s glove — Ron Cey drove my Dodger-hating roommate crazy with a lot of cheap home runs that barely made it over the fence.) So, management then made the centerfield fence only 395′. Then MLB set a minimum of 400 in center, so they had to move it out again, but I don’t remember the exact years.)

I’m just tossing some evidence out there, mind you, not drawing conclusions.

By the way, I only saw about a minute of the World Series, but I was happy to see that the Giants’ young superstar catcher Buster Posey seemed to be built more like an old fashioned lithe athlete, in the mold of Roger Federer or Chris Paul, rather than a top-heavy 1990′s slugger. Hope (and fandom) springs eternal …
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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With the World Series on, I’m reminded that baseball has some exciting young players like 20-year-old Mike Trout, who might win the A.L. MVP despite one of the various Cabreras winning the Triple Crown, and 19-year-old Bryce Harper. But are they too exciting? I mean, Harper has looked like he’s 30 years old since he was 16. 

Last year, Ryan Braun won the MVP in the N.L., only to immediately get caught for performance enhancing drugs (although he managed to lawyer his way out of the 50 game suspension). This season, the San Francisco Cabrera was leading the N.L. in batting average when he got caught. 

Judging by the depressed overall offensive totals, the game is cleaner than it was a 10-15 years ago. But does that just mean that whoever is racking up standout statistics this year is probably just one of the smaller number of juicers?

A vast amount of analytical talent is devoted to thinking about baseball (statistical talent that might more usefully be deployed upon more significant statistical issues, such as, say, figuring out the long-run impact of immigration policies, but never mind for now). But, the sabermetricians, led by the sainted Bill James, tended to be unenthusiastic in the 1990s and early 2000s about thinking about why exactly all the most famous slugging records were suddenly being broken. 

Have they caught up? Are there websites that, say, explore how much confidence you can have that if you invest some loyalty in rooting for Player X based upon his impressive numbers, you won’t suddenly find it’s all been a fraud?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The division-leading Washington Nationals baseball team has gone ahead with their plan and shut their prize young pitcher Stephen Strasburg down for the season. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery and team management had decided early to only let him pitch 160 innings, even if they had a chance to go to the postseason with him.

I don’t have anything intelligent to say about Strasburg, I just wanted to use this opportunity to post a link to a video I saw on the evening sports news on May 6, 1998. I was sitting on the couch talking to my wife with the TV on but the volume off, so I didn’t get any audio hints about what was coming. I vaguely recognized Kerry Wood, the Chicago Cubs’ 20-year-old phenom pitcher, and was hardly surprised when they started showing clips of his strikeout pitches from that afternoon’s game at Wrigley Field against the hard-hitting Houston Astros (Bagwell & Biggio). 

But I became increasingly distracted from my conversation as the strikeout pitch clips kept going on and on, past all reasonable limits, a dozen, a dozen and a half, and still kept piling up. And the pitches weren’t just Wood’s 98 mph fastball. He was getting bizarre motion on the ball. By the end of the game (the 19th is 3:00 into the video), Wood was throwing what looked like 90+ mph whiffle balls at the befuddled batters. The catcher could barely backhand the 20th and last strikeout pitch, which broke two feet horizontally from right to left. The poor batter would have needed a pool cue to get any wood on the ball.

Was Wood’s 20 strikeout one-hitter in batter-friendly Wrigley Field in 1998, the McGwire-Sosa peak of the steroid slugger era, the greatest game ever pitched? Many people think so.

I saw Sandy Koufax pitch at Dodger Stadium when I was five, and have been a big Koufax fan ever since. But Koufax was pitching with a huge vertical strikezone, bottom of the knees to shoulders. So he threw two main pitches: a curve that dropped sharply (but didn’t swerve much horizontally like Wood’s last pitch) and a rising fastball. A baseball thrown hard enough with enough backspin will tend to sail upward above its natural trajectory and that’s what a lot of legendary 1960s pitchers threw. (By rising fastball, I mean one that falls slower than gravity alone would imply.) Pitching 320 innings per year burned out Koufax, who retired in 1966 after going 27-9. 

But the leagues and the umpires progressively took the rising fastball away from pitchers after 1968. By the 1990s, the strikezone barely extended above the belt, forcing pitchers into odd contortions to avoid rising fastballs. 

After Wood’s 20-strikeout game, it suddenly became hugely important to everybody interested in baseball, for reasons that no longer are clear, for Wood to break the record for most strikeouts in two consecutive starts, which he did. And then he had to break the record in three consecutive starts, which he did. A few months later he had Tommy John surgery.

And Wood was never quite the same. He had three operations on his arm, and 14 trips to the disabled list. He retired earlier this season with a career record of 86-75. It was a fine career with two All Star game appearances, but it wasn’t what everybody had hoped that May afternoon when he was 20.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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