Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Non-Basketball Thoughts

If you want to read about basketball, just scroll past this little entry. I have a little write-up on the Orlando Magic, who face the Knicks tonight in New York. There’s just two quick non-basketball things I’d like to talk about.


First an ethics question: Let’s say for your job, they give a test every year. Your salary is directly related to this test, where you could easily make 10 times your salary if you score very high. Of course your score is judged not only on the percentage you get right, but how you fare in comparison to the other testers. You feel very confident going into the test, since you the subject is something you’ve been great at all your life.

When they administer this test, there is no proctor or teacher observing you. No cameras. You notice that lots of people are cheating on the test. You don’t cheat so you go to your supervisor, and tell them there are other workers cheating, but they really don’t care. In fact most of the defrauders get large raises. Your work only cares about the result of the test.

So next year you have two options.

CHEAT:

  • Because your friends are doing it
  • Because you’re naturally better than some others who are cheating and you deserve the same money
  • Because management doesn’t really care if you cheat or not

DON’T CHEAT:

  • Because you’re honest

So far I’ve asked a few people this question and I have yet to find someone that wouldn’t cheat. My point is isn’t this the same as using steroids in baseball? For years players have been using game enhancing substances. I can’t say for how long, but at least since Ball Four, when Jim Bouton wrote about players taking “greenies” or speed pills. Even though Ball Four was written more than 30 years ago, the problem wasn’t taken seriously. For years the powers of baseball have chosen to look aside as players were using substances to enhance their game. When the andro-McGwire story hit the papers, baseball waited for the story to die down before quietly banning andro two years later. It took a federal investigation held in the court of public opinion to make the powers involved in baseball take slightly more notice. Only last year did both parties agree on testing, but the effort was a toothless joke, with guilty players suffering no ill consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it was right for players to have used steroids. It was the wrong thing to do, and now they’re going to have to live with the consequences of their actions. However the players involved aren’t the only guilty parties here. Shouldn’t we assign a similar amount of blame to the owners, the commissioners office, and the player’s union for creating this situation where improving your performance by using drugs was tolerated and rewarded?


Despite the boring sounding title “Legal Fiction”, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Here’s a little excerpt:


But let’s look at the more local issue of the perceived breakdown of the American family. Is this supposed breakdown of families and communities caused by a decline in values? Again, what does that mean ? and how can you test your theory? Doesn’t it make more sense to argue that these breakdowns have been caused by the economic necessities that force both parents to work longer and longer hours with fewer vacations? Or by the relentless pressure put on children to get into a good college from age 3 on? Or by the financial stress of lacking health care (over 40 million Americans)? Or by the gadgets that we stare into all day (Playstation, TV, Internet) – gadgets that isolate us from our family and human connections? Or by the economic pressures and hardships that force families to uproot and leave their friends and communities again and again and again? Perhaps it’s caused by not stopping mass chains like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s from sucking local color and money out of smaller communities, and replacing good jobs with horrible ones. [All of these explanations can be assessed empirically.]

And from the comments page:

I think we can all agree that our nightly newscasts, and even our newspapers, frankly stink. They glorify sensational stories and ignore more substantive ones. Why is that? Because people are more likely to tune into a story about stuff being blown up than an in-depth analysis about the crisis in Ukraine. So it the network’s fault for trying to gain an audience or is the audience’s fault for demanding junk-food quality news? And if the audience to blame why are they so lustful for sensationalistic stories? What feeds that mentality?

Heavy hitting stuff.