Eight More Cheers

A recent article in The National Review was, “Four Cheers For Capitalism.”  Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine has reason for eight more cheers: four for Idaho and four for the Department of Justice.  We are well versed in the battles for girls and women’s sports.  It appears to us that Idaho has got it just right.  Of course you should read the whole thing and check the links.  Paul tells us about the Idaho law:

First, covered athletic teams shall be expressly designated as one of the following based on biological sex: (a) Males, men, or boys; (b) Females, women, or girls; or (c) Coed or mixed.

Second, “[a]thletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.” The Act does not contain a comparable limitation for biological females who wish to participate on a team designated for biological males.

The Act was promptly challenged as unconstitutional.

So four cheers for Idaho.  They have gotten about as close to exactly right as it is possible in making a law.  The US Department of Justice has come in on, gasp, the side of justice.  Paul quotes Attorney General Barr as saying:

Allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes. Under the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause allows Idaho to recognize the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics. Because of these differences, the Fairness Act’s limiting of certain athletic teams to biological females provides equal protection.

Then Paul nails it with:

So obvious are these points that it’s distressing the Justice Department needs to make them. But the DOJ does.

Four more cheers for the Department of Justice.  We know that folks get upset with The Donald and his behavior.  Other folks love it.  We ignore it.  Our point is that The Donald’s administration does numerous good things.  This is one of them.  Do you really want The Frontrunner as president?



American Football And English Soccer

A few weeks ago Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine asked the question, “What’s the Difference between American Football and English [Soccer]?  Paul concluded that language was the difference.  The English fans were much more vile:

[T]he Everton fanatics in the Gwladys Street End were cursing at their team within 15 minutes after the opening whistle. When Everton fell behind, it got truly nasty.

We’re not convinced.  We went to a 49er’s game and heard a female fan screaming vitriol at the top for at least the first half.  Of course, she was screaming at Tom Brady rather than the home team.  The obvious difference is that the English fans chant or sing while the most complicated thing the American fans do is Dee-Fence.  The only chant we remember from our visit to Arsenal was, “The ref’s a wanker,” but we remember that some of the chants were much longer.  And there are the songs.  We have been to a Liverpool game and it will not start until the fans have finished You’ll Never Walk Alone.  If you see a red shirt with YNWA it is a Liverpool fan.

Double Sidebar: First, we always thought it was written by Gerry and the Pacemakers until we checked on Wikipedia.  Second, we wonder what happens when Liverpool plays Borussia Dortmund?  Do they both sing it?  Wikipedia (scowl down) tells us that many soccer teams have adopted YNWA.  End Double Sidebar.

So chants and songs are one difference between football and English soccer.  Another difference is the possible accomplishments.  In American sports, and football in particular, everything is about the Super Bowl.  Did you make the playoffs and how did you do in them?  In soccer you can win the league but there are no playoffs.  It is rare that the league race goes down to the last week of the season.  Typically, the relegation race (who gets sent to a lower league) goes longer than the race to win the Premiership.

There are several other prizes besides the the league including the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League or Europa League (you can only be in one of those two).  So it is possible to win four different championships.  The Carabao Cup is for Premiership teams only and the least prestigious of the four.  The top four Premiership teams compete in the Champions League against other European teams while the Europa League is a similar competition for a few less accomplished teams.  The Champions League final is the biggest game in club soccer so it is probably a bigger accomplishment than the Premiership title.

We want you to be interested in the FA Cup.  It is an English (actually England and Wales) competition for all comers.  The Premiership teams get a bye for the the first two rounds but otherwise it is unseeded.  So in the third round when there are 32 teams Paul’s Everton was unlucky to play the best team on the planet, fellow Premiership Liverpool.  Everton is out.

Sidebar Two: One other strange thing is that ties lead to replays at the visitor place.  So Wolverhamton hosted Manchester United on January 4 and tied zero-zero.  They will play again on January 14 in Manchester to settle things.  End Sidebar Two.

It is exciting because it is a playoff format- win or go home.  It is exciting because there are big upsets, often because a big team will name a weaker starting line-up versus lesser competition.  An upset or a lucky draw can help a weaker team go far in the FA Cup competition.  In 2013, Wigan Athletic won the FA Cup but was relegated from the Premiership.  Watch the FA Cup.  It is one of the big differences between American football and English soccer.



Men, Women: Reality and Fantasy

It has been building for years but the current hot item in TV shows and movies is for women to beat up men.  Sometimes, like in Stargate SG1, Samantha (Sam) gets to beat up an alien man.  It is a bit of silly fun.  We have recently been watching Whiskey Cavalier (WC) and Blood and Treasure (B&T) where this behavior is happening all the time.  The former is the better of the two although currently, the latter is the only one to be renewed.  Or perhaps not.  Why do we like WC better?  The characters are interesting in WC.  Lauren Cohan in WC looks intimidating but her pictures suggest otherwise.  It may take awhile when looking a Lauren’s pictures but eventually you can bring your focus to her biceps.  Her bulges are elsewhere.  B&T has some interesting flashbacks but the main characters are not very interesting.  In one particularly silly B&T sequence Gwen (Katia Winter check her arms too) beats up Bruno and then Bruno escapes from his cell  by beating up two beefy policemen.

It is great fun having pretty women beat up big guys.  Is it the cause of some of our current confusion?  Men, on average, are stronger and faster than women.  We see amazing women all the time but the strongest and fastest men are much stronger and faster than the strongest and fastest women.  Military .com tells us about some amazing women.  The US Army Ranger school has graduated twelve of them to date.  They also tell us that 40 percent of the men pass but they don’t give a pass rate for women although it seems to be two or three out of nineteen.  Elsewhere, there are assertions that there was an Army thumb on the scale for women:

But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.

We take no opinion on these assertions of the Army playing favorites other than to say hats off to the women and men that graduated and that any woman is highly unlikely to be the top scorer in Ranger school.

Sidebar: In running there might be some extremely long distances, like 100 miles where the top women can compete with the top men.  In addition, boys and girls can compete equally at very young ages too.  These exceptions are more proof of the general rule.  End Sidebar

Here is some evidence from sports.  Over the weekend the men (PGA) and and women (LPGA) both had a golf tournament on a par 71 golf course.  The men’s course was 7,353 yards and the women’s course was 6,427 yards for a difference of over 900 yards or 50 yard a hole.  There is a reason for separate tours.  Of course, as Madeline Kearns reports at NRO, the transgender movement has led to unsurprising results.  Connecticut allows men who identify as women to compete with women:

Since enacted in 2017, the Connecticut state [high school] conference policy has enabled two young men to win 15 women’s championships, titles that were held by 10 young women the year before. State athletic conferences in 18 other states have similar policies.

We don’t know if the fantasy of TV and movies has confused folks that women athletes can compete with men.  It is not that a female can never beat a male.  We have seen the women at the handball tournaments and many could hold us to three or less but they can’t compete with the men in the open class.  It is just that the best woman has little chance against a pretty good man.

Let’s bring back Whiskey Cavalier.  It is not a great show but it is interesting enough to renew.  But we shouldn’t be confused that women can compete in athletics with men on the high school, college, or professional level.  We shouldn’t let any group convince us that it is a good idea.

A Little Disagreement With Deirdre

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey was one of our favorite people even before she became who she is now.  MWG was a grad student with a few toes in economics but more in accounting and The Rhetoric Of Economics really helped us understand the differences between the two disciplines.  Her insight into the significance of what she calls The Great Enrichment (Jonah Goldberg calls “The Miracle,”  we like Deirdre’s name) are priceless.  Deirdre is at work on NRO debunking the myth that Sweden is a socialist country.  Ian Burell is over at The Herd talking about the economics of soccer in How Football Raised Its Game.  It is a bit confusing because he calls soccer football and he is specific that he is discussing English soccer.

Sidebar: The English part of English soccer is not exactly right either.  England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have their own separate national teams but England and Wales are join together in professional soccer so Welch teams can play in the Premiership league.  Cardiff City did this year but was relegated.  End Sidebar

Deirdre takes those to task who use Sweden as an example of socialism starting right with her NRO title, Sweden Is Capitalist.  You must read it all but here is a taste of it:

If “socialism” means government ownership of the means of production, which is the classic definition, Sweden never qualified. When little Sweden’s economists were second in academic standing only to big Britain’s, in the early 20th century, they were “liberal” in the European sense: free-traders opposed to central planning and governmental ownership. None of Sweden’s manufacturing or extractive industries has ever been socialized, this in contrast, for example, to the experiment after 1946 in the world’s first innovative economy [that’s Britain], when the Labour party’s Clause IV nationalized the Bank of England, coal, inland transport, gas, steel, health services, and much else. Sweden never followed even the more modest example of America’s temporary nationalization of railways during the First World War. Sweden’s Systembolaget, the state liquor store, was sold off in 2008, as it has not yet been in all the U.S. Apoteket, the maddeningly inefficient Swedish-government drug-store monopoly, was privatized, too, praise the Lord.

We know Deirdre is right but we have a soft spot in our heart for the state liquor stores in New Hampshire.  Well, one in particular.  New Hampshire has made a few miles of I-89 a toll road so there is the New Hampshire State Liquor Store and Safety Rest Stop right on the highway.  It is a great way to speed you on your vacation.

Our disagreement with Deirdre comes from the last two words of this:

Like the Land of 10,000 Lakes [that’s Minnesota], Sweden is a place of private ownership and thrusting [that’s what it says] inventors, Swedish bachelor farmers and pretty generous social provision, pretty good schools (with vouchers) and terrible weather. [Emphasis added]

We would agree that Minnesota can get a little hot in the summer but Sweden sounds like a lovely place.  The southern part is close to perfect for us:

In Götaland, where you’ll find the cities Gothenburg and Malmö, winters are shorter and milder, while daytime summer temperatures normally range from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Malmo is almost 56 degrees north (a little south of Juneau, Alaska) so the sun isn’t too intense.  It is as close to perfect as weather gets for us.

Ian is trying to generalize from soccer to all labor markets

Clearly there are costs to progress. Yet ultimately we should give thanks to the power of globalisation in transforming our national game, which has been revived by the free movement of labour and capital – and bear in mind the wider lessons for other parts of the economy as we cheer on these teams.

Another comparison of European countries and the US is that the teams in European soccer leagues have much more economic freedom than American teams.  European teams do not have restrictions like salary caps so the rich teams almost always win.  They also play in multiple competitions.  There are exceptions as Ajax almost broke through in the Champion’s League this year and Leicester City won the Premiership in 2015-16 but such events are rare.  More common is that Bayern Munich has won the Bundesliga the last six years and is poised to make it seven next week.  The poor teams are often fighting relegation.  Relegation means that the better teams from the lower leagues are promoted consistent with economic freedom.

Top soccer players and coaches, as Ian explains, are extraordinarily talented.  The players are also extraordinarily expensive costing teams (called transfer fees) as much as €222 million to buy their contract.  Ian’s argument supports restricted immigration for talented individuals rather than open borders.  That’s the wider lesson.

We have four lessons about Sweden and soccer.  First, capitalism makes countries and the individuals in them rich.  The same capitalism makes soccer great and soccer players rich.  Second, Sweden is both rich and capitalistic.  Both Deirdre and Heritage agree that Sweden and the US have about the same degree of economic freedom.  They both agree that there are differences but some are in one direction and some in the other.  Thirdly, the impact of importing extraordinarily talented soccer players might tell us to bring in similar folks in other lines of work but it does not suggest that we have open borders.   Lastly, weather preferences are personal.  The weather preferences for Deirdre and MWG don’t seem to match.


Three Cheers For Standards

We are not involved with Twitter but somewhere we saw that The Donald had tweeted about the Kentucky Derby and concluded that, “The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!”  It happens in sports all the time that the best horse, dog, person, or team doesn’t win.  In some cases it is bad luck and in other cases they break the rules.  There were two cases of the latter that we observed yesterday.

The first was when Tottenham Hotspurs (Spurs) visited Bournemouth in a English Premiership soccer game the Spurs needed to and expected to win despite being the visitors.  The Spurs were third and Bournemouth 14th at the beginning of the match.  The Spurs needed a win to ensure playing in the lucrative Champion’s League next year while Bournemouth had no particular incentive.  The Spurs dominated most of the first half and only the heroics of Bournemouth’s debutant goalkeeper, Mark Travers, kept the game level.  Then, just before halftime, Son Heung-Min got a deserved red card for assaulting an opponent.  A red card means the player is out of the game and the team plays a man down for the rest of the game.  Two yellow cards equal a red so the coach, Mauricio Porchettino wisely, it seemed at the time, took out two players with yellow cards at halftime.  Yet one of the substitutes, Juan Foyth, earned a red card after just over two minutes of play in the second half.  The Spurs played nine versus eleven for almost the whole second half and finally gave up a goal in stoppage time to Nathan Ake (wouldn’t he look good in an Arsenal kit).  The Spurs were the better team but the referee, Craig Pawson, correctly enforced the rules that led to a different outcome.

The stewards at Churchill Downs did just what Craig Pawson did.  They enforced the rules under even more extreme pressure.  Maximum Security, one of the favorites, was first over the finish line but he clearly interfered with other horses near the top of the stretch.  Maximum Security was great coming down to the finish as he held off several strong bids including the long shot Country House who was second under the wire.  Maximum Security was, as The Donald said, a deserving winner of an exciting race.  But he interfered with and endangered horses earlier.  To almost everyone’s surprise the stewards did the right thing and disqualified Maximum Security making Country House the winner.

We wish The Donald was more attached to process rather than outcomes.  We want to remind him that it is about William Barr following process.  We think it is likely that William will find that some folks did not follow the correct processes.  But it is about doing it right like Craig and the stewards.  It is not about him bringing joy to The Donald.  We wish everyone on both sides of the aisle recognized that.

Talent And Success

We are in Nashville to watch the Patriots play the Titans.  While in Music City we decided to take in a little music.  We went to the Five Spot to see some live music.

Sidebar: We were talking to the manager of the Brooks Hubbard Band and he said he was from MA.  It turned out that he and one of the band members both went to the same high schools as MWG.  It can be a very small world.  MWG would recommend BHB even without the high school connection.  End Sidebar.

The four bands we saw, and especially the Brooks Hubbard Band were really good.  They were talented to try to be more specific.  Of course, the exact dimensions of talented are murky.  Does talent include drive to succeed?  Watch Tin Cup to see some of the subtle distinctions that come into play.  Tin Cup brings up the point that athletes and musicians face a similar problem of talent and success.

On the other hand, if you are a talented accountant, your probability of success is really high.  There is much more risk for athletes and musicians.  Risk, as we know, has both upside and downside elements.  The Rolling Stones make more than their accountants even though both are near the top of their professions.

Talent and risk make it a complicated world for making decisions about careers.  It is hard to evaluate your own talent.  It isn’t easy to evaluate others talent.  And very few of us understand risk very well.  And then there are all of the human issues.  It is easy to see why folks have difficulty with career decisions.


Tony Finau

Being consistently good is extraordinarily difficult in sports.  It is especially difficult in golf.  We don’t have it verbatim but we think it was Rory McIlroy that said, essentially, that variance is good in golf.  About 150 players start each tournament and the top sixty (and ties) make the cut and get a check.  What he means is it is much better to win one week and miss the cut the next week rather than to finish 30th each week.  Money, glory, and FedExCup points are all about winning.

Sidebar One: For the uninitiated, the FedExCup is the season-long contest culminating in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.  This year it is September 20-23.  The winner of the FedExCup gets $10 million plus, perhaps, over $1.5 million from winning the tournament.  End Sidebar One.

Tony Finau has had an excellent year because he is third in the FedExCup standings going into the Tour Championship.  He was just selected for the US Ryder Cup team.  Being in the top five is crucial because if anyone of the top five win the Tour Championship then they win the FedExCup and that nice eight figure check.

Sidebar Two: Well, it isn’t a check.  Brent Snedeker tells the story about being on his banking app so he can see his account balance go to eight figures when the transfer was made.  End Sidebar Two.

What makes Tony’s season amazing is that he hasn’t won a tournament all year.  In fact, he has only one one PGA tournament, the second tier Puerto Rico Open.  The four others in the top five have won either two or three times.  Tony turned pro in 2007 but played on minor tours before showing up on the PGA Tour in 2015.  He has come up the hard way.  We hope he wins the 2018 FedExCup.  It would be appropriate if he won the Cup by finishing second at the Tour Championship.

Risky Business

Nike (NKE) has decided to make Colin Kaepernick its new poster boy.  We thought making a failed player Nike’s guy seemed risky at best.  Add his, at best, confusing politics made it seem like a bad choice.  The Morning Jolt trusts the suits:

And now, for the cost of a few million — remember Nike had nearly $10 billion in revenue last quarter — the company bought the loyalty of the woke Social Justice Warrior crowd. Sure, some folks on the right will announce they’re boycotting, but nobody collects and analyzes marketing research data like Nike. They’ve no doubt run the numbers on this and concluded that the controversy was worth it.

Instapundit and Debra Heine are less sanguine:

Nike (NKE.N) stock dropped 2.7 percent today, amid calls on social media for a boycott of the sportswear giant, according to Reuters.

The headline says plunged but the text is closer at dropped and Debra is with us that the final outcome is unclear so far.  MWG trusts the market more than the suits but this is only the first day.  We have added NKE to our watch list.  It is at 79.60 now after a 2.60 drop that reduced its market capitalization by $3.75 billion.  Let’s watch.

Soccer Rule Changes

NRO has reprinted Sami J. Karam’s suggestions for soccer rule changes under the title Soccer For Americans.  We guess that the title means that Americans would like soccer if it only changed its rules.  The problem that Sami focuses on is nicely illustrated by last night’s baseball game between the Nationals and the Marlins.  The Nats were down nine to nil going into the bottom of the fourth.  The Nats then scored 14 runs to take a five run lead only to see the Marlins score three to make it a nail-biter at the end.  On the other hand, when France scored the second goal versus Uruguay in the 61st minute (of 90) everyone assumed it was over.

Sidebar: When Japan went up two nil versus Belgium in the 52nd minute being earlier wasn’t the big difference.  The big difference was that Belgium had had numerous scoring opportunities and players with the skill to succeed.  Still, in order to win in regular time Belgium needed a blunder by Japan (not taking the corner short) and one of the great goals in World Cup history.  There can be comebacks in soccer but you need to watch lots of unsuccessful ones to see a success.  Sami does a good job of making that point.  End Sidebar.

Sami has three suggestions: change the rules for more goals, change the scoring, do away with penalty shoot-outs.  Sami’s only suggestion for more goals is changing the offsides rule which he concedes won’t produce much.  We are not impressed but there might be an idea out there that doesn’t change the game and produces more goals.

We like part of the scoring change idea.  Particularly we agree that a goal (notice the rhetorical device of implying that a penalty is not a “real” goal) should count twice as much as a penalty kick.  We don’t care if it is two versus one or one versus a half.  This will reduce the number of ties.  The rest we can do without.

Then there is doing away with penalty shoot-out and references this article with a list of alternatives to shoot-outs.  Other than the MWG recommendation that we reduce players we don’t see much interesting.  We do think that reducing players should be tied to increased substitution opportunities.  In this World Cup there is an extra substitution allowed in overtime.  We think that another plus allowing the removed players to be free substitutes would improve the quality of the overtime periods and decide soccer games with soccer.

It is highly likely that Sami’s first two suggestions will come to naught.  We still think fewer players and more subs in overtime means more goals.  Who can we find that can afford to bribe FIFA so we can get this fixed?


MLB Scheduling And Relegation

Relegation in MLB, as we discussed recently, is the only real solution to tanking.  By tanking we mean teams that give up on the current year to either maximize current profits or build for the future.

Sidebar: We saw a nice example of soccer tanking in the 0-0 tie between France and Denmark  both teams were happy with a tie and did little to try and score.  Will Belgium versus England be the same today?  End Sidebar.

It is unlikely to happen but if it does there is one additional problem: MLB doesn’t play a balanced schedule.  For example, consider the situation where MLB relegates exactly one team.  Currently, the Orioles (23 and 56) would be the first choice for relegation and the Royals (25 and 55) would be the second.

In soccer leagues that use relegation it is a fair result because every team plays a balanced schedule of each opponent home and away.  In MLB, teams play division rivals more often.  So far in 2018, the teams with the two best records in MLB are the Red Sox and the Yankees.  The Orioles will play each of them 19 times.  The Royals will play each of them six times.  It seems likely that the ranking of the Orioles and the Royals would be reversed if the teams played a balanced schedule.  Our proposed MLB relegation would raise a ruckus but it would be a triple ruckus, and properly so, without a balanced schedule.