EppsNet Archive: Sports

The NFL Doesn’t Condone Alcohol Abuse?

25 Jan 2015 /


Teaching Computer Science: Collected Thoughts

10 Jan 2015 /

If you recognize the person on this next slide, please raise your hand. Don’t yell out the name, just raise your hand.

Derek Jeter

About two-thirds of you recognize Derek Jeter. I thought everyone would recognize him, but still a clear majority.

I’m not a Yankees fan or a Derek Jeter fan particularly but the Captain and I are on the same page on this topic. I have to admit I was pretty competitive as a student. I didn’t want anyone to do better than me and I especially didn’t want anyone to do better than me because they worked harder than me.

This Jeter quote reminded me of a quote from another notable sports figure . . .

Bob Knight

This is Bob Knight, college basketball coach, most notably at the University of Indiana. He won 902 games, three NCAA championships, and he coached the 1984 Olympic basketball team to a gold medal.

Notice that he says “everyone” and “no one.” He doesn’t say some people don’t want to come to practice. There’s a universal aspiration to accomplish great results without a corresponding level of effort. I recognize that in myself, definitely. As far as I can tell, this approach rarely if ever works, even for people we think of as prodigies.

Mozart used to say that anyone who thought composing music came easily to him was very much mistaken. While all the other kids were playing kickball, Mozart was in the house practicing his music lessons. In case you’re thinking that kickball wasn’t even a game at that time, you may be right. The point is that if there was kickball, Mozart wouldn’t have been playing it because he was practicing his music lessons.

One more on this topic . . .

Michelangelo's David

This is a quote from Michelangelo. Nothing great seems to happen without a lot of practice.

Once again, please raise your hand if you recognize the person on this next slide.

Anton Chekhov

He looks Russian.

Yes, he is Russian.

Dostoevsky? Tolstoy? Mendeleev? Pushkin? Boris Pasternak?

No . . . he’s known as an author of plays and short stories.

[A student sitting next to a smart but quiet young man from Russia points to the Russian boy and says, “He knows.”]

Who is it? Chekhov.

Right . . . this is Anton Chekhov. He wasn’t a programmer but his advice is relevant to many different endeavors.

Don’t overcomplicate things. A good heuristic – which is a fancy way of saying “rule of thumb” – is to do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Method A could work, Method B could work — which one should we try first? Try the simplest one first.

Note that the heuristic doesn’t say to do the simplest thing. If the simplest thing couldn’t possibly work, don’t do it. Do the simplest thing that might actually work.

One final slide. I don’t think anyone will know these people so I’m not asking for a show of hands.

2 days in a closet

I saw an article last week about a man and a woman who were “trapped” in a janitor’s closet at the Daytona State College Marine and Environmental Science Center for two days. They got themselves in the closet last Sunday and finally on Tuesday, the gentleman on the right got the idea to call 911. Why that idea took two days to incubate is unclear. Police showed up to let them out and found out the closet was not locked. They could have opened the door themselves.

Maybe the lock was meth’d up, like the woman. “Meth’d” up, get it?

Are they students at Daytona State College? The article doesn’t say. Do any of you have Daytona State College on your college wish list? If so, you may want to take it off. Or just keep it as a safety school in case Harvard and the Sorbonne don’t come through for you.

What can we learn from this story? I don’t want to say “don’t make assumptions” but don’t make unwarranted assumptions. Don’t make assumptions about things that you can easily verify. If you’re in a closet, don’t assume the door is locked. Try it and see. A lot of uncertainty can be dispelled by trying things out.

Assumptions can hurt you as a programmer. You might be stuck because you’re assuming some condition is true that isn’t true. Or you’re assuming that some condition can never be true when it really can be true. Don’t make unwarranted assumptions.

I couldn’t help noticing that a lot more people recognized Derek Jeter than recognized Anton Chekhov. If you want to achieve great renown, if you want to be part of the public consciousness, entertain people in a simple-minded way, like hitting a ball with a stick and running around in a park. People can be entertained by Derek Jeter without expending any effort.

Where Chekhov went wrong is that he failed to anticipate a world where nobody reads anymore. Furthermore, he believed that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. His plays and stories don’t have a traditional structure where everything is tied up neatly at the end, so you not only have to put in the time to read them, you have to go into overtime to ponder the moral ambiguities. Who has time for that in their busy lives?


The College Football Playoff is Working

3 Jan 2015 /

Under the old two-team BCS format, the teams that lost the semifinal games — Alabama and Florida State — would likely have played each other in the championship game, while the two winners — Oregon and Ohio State — would likely have been voted out.

Florida State, as the defending champs and only undefeated team, would have been in for sure, while Ohio State would have just as certainly been out. That leaves Alabama and Oregon. One would have had to be dropped and it probably would have been Oregon.

Four teams is still not enough (see TCU’s 42-3 blowout of Mississippi State) to be able to say that none of the teams voted out was good enough to win it.

Also: I am sick unto death of the goddamn Larry Culpepper commercials. Enough of that already.


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of

3 Jan 2015 /

Larry Culpepper


People I Thought Were Dead

3 Jan 2015 /
  • Al Kaline – baseball player, Detroit Tigers
  • Wink Martindale – game show host

Mo’ne Davis: Female Athlete of the Year?

31 Dec 2014 /

Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis made a big impression on the sports landscape in 2014—enough to garner Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year honors.

Mo'ne Davis

I can’t decide if this is demeaning only to female athletes or to women in general.

Reality check: Mo’ne Davis pitched two games for the Pennsylvania team in the 2014 Little League World Series — a 4-0 win and an 8-1 loss. Her team was knocked out in a semifinal game by the Nevada team, which went on to lose the final game to Illinois.

Would the AP ever select a little league baseball player (or other 13-year-old boy) as Male Athlete of the Year? Would the AP ever select a Male Athlete of the Year who has not distinguished himself among his peers and has zero notable accomplishments? Pitching and winning a Little League World Series game is not in itself a notable accomplishment. None of the boys who did it got any votes for 2014 AP Male Athlete of the Year.

The 2014 AP Male Athlete of the Year is, like Mo’ne Davis, a baseball pitcher: Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. What did he do that was so special? Well, he was the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series, in which he was 2-0 with a save, a 0.43 ERA, 17 strikeouts and one walk in 21 innings, which serves to emphasize what a joke the Female Athlete of the Year award is.

Clayton Kershaw finished second in the voting, followed by Derek Jeter, Rory McIlroy, Peyton Manning, Tim Howard, Lionel Messi, Tim Duncan, Aaron Rodgers, Novak Djokovic, Richard Sherman, Tom Brady, Thomas Mueller, Sidney Crosby, Marcus Mariota and LeBron James, all of whom distinguished themselves without qualification among the best athletes in their respective sports.

There’s no one in that list who is exceptional only under special pleading, e.g., he’s not a great soccer player but for a guy with one leg, he’s tremendous!

Sure, there are lots of better baseball players than Mo’ne Davis but she’s pretty good for a girl so let’s give her a big-time award.


UC Berkeley Roller Hockey

25 Oct 2014 /

Cal hasn’t fielded a roller hockey team since 2011 but the boys (and one girl), including our kid, got a team together this season, rejoined the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League, and they’re playing their first tournament this weekend, with games against UC Santa Cruz, USC, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

No scholarships and you pay for your own unis and travel expenses.

GO BEARS!

Cal roller hockey uniforms


L’Affaire Winston

18 Oct 2014 /
Jameis Winston

Florida State said Friday its athletic department compliance staff is reviewing the reported authenticated signatures by Jameis Winston, but has yet to find evidence that the star quarterback accepted payment for the autographs.

ESPN reported Thursday that more than 2,000 authenticated signatures by Winston have been found on the James Spence Authentication website.

A couple of very surprising things about this:

  1. Jameis Winston can write his name. That may be a clue. Before I bought any signed Jameis Winston memorabilia, I’d insist on independent verification of his ability to write his name, lest someone be foisting some counterfeit goods on me. Caveat emptor.
  2. Florida State’s football coach — a grown man named Jimbo — believes (or claims to believe) that Winston signed 2,000 items without being paid for doing it. He signed 2,000 items for free. I wouldn’t sign 2,000 items for free, would you? How long would that take — several hours, right? I’m sure Winston as a college student has homework and classes and other things he should be doing with his time.

The Lowlight of My Weekend

14 Oct 2014 /
Robert Hass

Robert Hass

I had lunch over the weekend with Robert Hass — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, UC Berkeley professor and former Poet Laureate of the United States. When I say I had lunch with him, I mean he was one of five people seated at our table.

I asked to take a photo with him, which he graciously consented to. I don’t have any photos of myself with Pulitzer Prize winners and still don’t because the photo didn’t come out at all. I completely botched it somehow.

So that was probably the lowlight of my weekend, except for Cal getting blown out by Washington on the gridiron 31-7, while four Husky fans sat directly behind us screaming the whole game.

Football at Cal unfortunately is like academics at Washington: not terribly distinguished.


Incan Gold

14 Oct 2014 /
Incan Gold

A couple of coworkers are playing a board game called Incan Gold.

“What’s the objective of the game?” I ask. “To decimate an indigenous civilization and plunder its riches?”

Evidently Incan Gold requires a lot of concentration because neither player answers my question.

“Why is ‘Redskins’ a bad name for a football team but ‘Incan Gold’ is an acceptable name for a board game?” I ask.

No response.

“Is there a board game called ‘Aztec Genocide’?”

No response.

“How about ‘Mayan Massacre’?”


Are There Any Intelligent People Currently Living?

4 Aug 2014 /

I was at LA Fitness this morning . . . one of the TVs was showing an interview with Jameis Winston on ESPN. Winston is borderline retarded but thinks he’s articulate — a deadly combination.

He’s a very talented athlete. Just show clips of his athletic accomplishments. They’re impressive and fun to watch. Why would anyone want to talk to him or listen to him talk? The interviewer is paid to endure it, I get that, but why foist it on the viewing public? Maybe it’s the train wreck element. It was very painful to watch and yet I couldn’t look away!

Rarely is one person gifted in multiple ways. Some people are great athletes, some people are intelligent and interesting . . . the overlap between the two groups is very small.

Venn diagram: Athletic / Intelligent

Listening to Jameis Winston talk is like watching Milton Friedman take batting practice or Albert Einstein work on his five-step drop.

(I know the Milton Friedman and Albert Einstein references are dated but I’m having trouble thinking of anyone who’s a) highly intelligent; b) well known to the general public; and c) currently alive.)


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Dr. Maya Angelou

4 Aug 2014 /
Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou received quite a few honorary doctoral degrees in her lifetime and elected for some reason to refer to herself as Dr. Maya Angelou, despite not having an earned doctoral degree and despite, to my knowledge, never attending college at all.

Many famous people are given honorary doctorates by universities but thank god they don’t all go around referring to themselves as, say, Dr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dr. Mike Tyson, Dr. Glenn Beck, etc., etc., etc.

I’m also sick unto death of people who quote insipid thoughts from Maya Angelou as profundities, particularly if they refer to her as Dr. Maya Angelou when doing so.


You Could Be Someone Special

27 Jul 2014 /

Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me, “You could be someone special, if you really work at it.” I took that heart, pops, and look at us today.

— Frank Thomas, induction speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame


The Softball Waivers

24 Jul 2014 /

Our company’s having an in-house softball game tonight, hosted at a field across the street at UC Irvine . . .

Three-Quarter Century Softball Team

Members of the Three-Quarter Century Softball Club: St. Petersburg, Florida (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

That’s not our actual team in the picture, the difference being that the players in the picture look like they may have been athletes at one time.

I’m not playing because I have a piano lesson tonight. (Actually, I wouldn’t have played anyway because I can no longer do things like run and see that used to serve me so well on the diamond all those years ago. But the piano lesson is a convenient excuse.)

Everyone who is playing had to sign a waiver provided by UCI. Good move. Company softball games are rife with injuries. I picture a scenario like this:

Dear UCI Parents,

We regret that your students are not able to graduate on time, but as you know, we’ve had to cut back drastically on our course offerings since the infamous softball lawsuit of 2014.


One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: Tony Dungy Edition

24 Jul 2014 /
Tony Dungy

“What’s your beef with Tony Dungy?”

He said he wouldn’t draft Michael Sam. He’s not showing the requisite level of tolerance and inclusiveness toward people who are different than he is.”

“Isn’t Dungy himself entitled to tolerance and inclusiveness?”

“Oh, no. No. Absolutely not. Because he’s being different in a way that’s totally unacceptable.”

“So you’re not against intolerance as a matter of principle, so long as the ‘right’ people and groups get ostracized.”

“Right.”

“I don’t remember anyone until fairly recently saying that having openly gay players in the NFL is a good idea. Now that we’ve reached a point in history where everyone in America has a breezy indifference to homosexuality . . . everyone knows people, works with people, has people in their family who are openly gay . . . every single TV show and movie has at least one gay character — NOW people like you are ‘brave’ enough to support the idea, for the same stupid reason you never supported it before: because you don’t want to be on the wrong side of public opinion.”


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Stuart Scott

17 Jul 2014 /

I’m hearing on the radio this morning that Stuart Scott received something called the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYs last night . . .

Who knew you could get an award for having cancer? I am exhausted by sports people, media people, entertainment people, sports media entertainment people sucking each other’s dicks.

Stuart Scott and people like Stuart Scott have killed my enjoyment of sports with their endless self-promotional bullshit while I’m trying to watch highlights. I hate sports and it’s all because of Stuart Scott. And now he gets an award for having cancer.

Everyone unfortunately has family members and/or friends who get cancer and battle it to the best of their abilities without receiving a goddamn award. It’s insulting to all of those people to give someone an award for having cancer and it’s doubly insulting to accept an award for having cancer.

I have come to bear witness! I have faced my own mortality. I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker.

Yes, you and 1.7 million other people diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S alone.

I am exhausted with people putting their lives on display based on a delusion about their own uniqueness and importance. Oh what a plague.

Fuck Stuart Scott.


People Who Don’t Want Me to Know Things

12 Jul 2014 /

What I want to know is why there are so many people who don’t want me to know things . . .

Trudeau's book Natural Cures Updated Edition

And that doesn’t even include all the things that people “won’t tell me.”


Futility

5 Jul 2014 /
BODIES

We saw BODIES: The Exhibition at the Luxor in Las Vegas. You’ve probably heard about this . . . dissected bodies are preserved and displayed for educational purposes.

Most of the bodies are displayed in athletic poses with props: baseball, basketball, tennis racket, etc.

One of the bodies is aiming a dart with his right hand while holding a second dart in his left hand. Of course he’s never going to need that second dart because he’s never going to throw the first dart. Because he’s dead.

It creates a sad effect in my opinion . . . plans, unbeknownst to the planner, that will never come to fruition. Futility doesn’t always end with death.

Meanwhile . . . I overheard a young woman telling her girlfriend that one of the cadavers had “a nice butt.” Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.


Infographic of Soccer Players, Fish and Gunshot Victims

26 Jun 2014 /

Infographic idea: A multivariate analysis of who spends more time flopping around: soccer players, fish on a boat deck or people who’ve just been shot.


Random Thoughts on Paying College Athletes

17 May 2014 /

Where is the money going to come from? Most people seem to think that college athletic programs are big money makers. They aren’t. Despite the big revenue dollars associated with two sports — football and men’s basketball — 90 percent of Division I athletic programs, because of the much larger number of non-revenue sports, operate at a loss. They’re subsidized by the general fund of the university. Paying athletes would require additional dollars to be directed away from academic endeavors: hiring and paying professors, funding research, offering financial aid to non-athletes, etc.

 

Title IX requires gender equity. You couldn’t just pay football players and men’s basketball players. Everyone would need to be paid equally in some sense, even in non-revenue sports.

 

How much money are we talking about? Let’s say at a medium to large school, we have 500 to 1,000 student athletes and we’re going to pay all of them a modest stipend of $10,000. That’s a cost of 5 to 10 million dollars a year. Sorry, Mom and Dad, that your kid couldn’t get the classes he or she needed to graduate in four years but when we pink-slipped professors so we could pay the athletes, we had to cut back on the number of available courses.

 

Are college athletes being exploited imposed upon financially? It makes sense to consider athletes in two groups:

  1. Future professional athletes. They have available to them a large group of coaches and support staff whose job is to prepare them athletically and promote them so as to make as much money as possible in highly lucrative occupations. If they don’t get paid right now, they’ll get paid a lot of money very soon.
     
  2. Everyone else (a much bigger group). Everyone else will have to go forth into the world and try to earn a living in some non-athletic pursuit. An athletic scholarship gives them the benefit of a paid-for college education that most of them would not otherwise receive. What is the monetary value of that over the course of a lifetime? Quite a lot.
 

With all the national and local sports networks, playing football or basketball at a Division I school makes you not only a big man on campus, but a local, if not national, celebrity. It’s fun! You get to play games with your buddies, travel around, stay in nice hotels, appear on television. If you’re a good player, people will talk about you on TV, on the radio, on the Internet – constantly – like you’re some kind of an important person. There are worse things that can happen to you in life than being a Division I scholarship athlete.

 

All that being said, if you as a college athlete really feel that you are being taken advantage of and not adequately compensated for the value of your contribution, don’t play. It’s not exploitation if you do it voluntarily.


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