Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Big 12 Expansion

The Big 12 has finally accepted that they need a conference championship to stay relevant in the Power 5 Conference group.  Unfortunately for them, most of the choice colleges are already locked into the other 4, so as they look to expand, they're picked over some room temperature morsels on a devoured party platter.  So who will they select?   It comes down to metropolitan area/audience (TV contract), quality of football, and potential (future TV contracts).  Here are my odds:

1.  Cincinnati (Even):  Pro - 24th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., and a decent football school with some recent success.  Could provide West Virginia with a local rival.  Basketball team would contribute to an already great basketball conference.  Con - in all reality, what you see with the University of Cincinnati is what you get.  The city isn't growing, and the university isn't suddenly going to be a threat for a national championship.

2.  BYU (4:1 odds):  Pro - probably the most significant football program left available.  National recognition and a national following.  Basketball team would fit nicely as well.  Con - metropolitan area is the 7th largest of the possible expansion schools.  Athletic teams don't play on Sunday.  Already has its own TV network.

3.  Central Florida (9:1):  Pro - located in the 24th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.  The potential for Central Florida's program is higher than any other school, in relation to its current status.  Con - for the first decade, the Big XII will be carrying Central Florida, and if the school does things right will begin to carry its weight...but it will take time.  Location - no really close to anything in the Big 12, and should the ACC/Southeastern Conference decide to expand to 16, a successful Central Florida would make for easy pickings.

4.  Memphis (12:1):  Pro - metropolitan area is decent (42nd), basketball team would be an asset.  Proximity to other schools.   Administration is pumping money into athletics in the hopes of getting picked.  Con - metropolitan area is growing slowly, football team, while great last year, has no history.

5.  Houston (12:1):  Pro - school would love to join its SWC brethren again, much like TCU did a few years back.  TCU forced the Big XII's hand by being the best football program available, and Houston is trying to do the same.  5th largest metropolitan area, largest of all the schools available.  Con - the Big 12 already dominates the TV ratings in Houston, so the only reason they would add Houston is to prevent eventual expansion by the SEC.

6.  U Conn (13:1):  Pro - its location screams NEW YORK.  Could be the premier football program in the tri-state area (sorry, Rutgers).  Desperately wants to get into the Power 5.  Fantastic basketball program.  Con - school really isn't in the New York metropolitan area (Storrs is a part of Hartford, ranked 47th).  School would likely also jump ship to the ACC once successful to renew rivalry with BC, Syracuse, Rutgers.

7.  Boise State (20:1)  Pro - has a history of being the premier outside Power 5 football school, besides TCU.  School has been pumping money into athletics.  Instant rivalry with Baylor over the recent scandals in Waco.  Con - Boise is the 2nd smallest metropolitan area available (81st), and not near any schools in the Big XII, though they could become a rival to BYU.

8.  Fresno State (25:1)  Pro - has a history of being a decent football program.  Gives the Big 12 a foothold in California.  Con - 56th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.

9.  Colorado State (25:1)  Pro - would love to join the Big 12, renew rivalry with BYU (should they join).  Decent football program.  Con - smallest metropolitan area (152nd), University of Colorado would dominate the state if they could get their act together, no matter what CSU does.

10.  San Jose State (30:1) Pro - located in the 11th largest metropolitan area of the U.S.  Gives the Big XII a foothold in California.  Con - area is dominated by Stanford/Cal, and this threat could cause the Pac-12 to come knocking on Texas' door again should they expand.  No significant athletic contribution to the Big XII.

11.  Charlotte (50:1) Pro - 22nd largest metropolitan area.  Con - middle of ACC territory, and would be up for grabs should they become successful.

12.  Hawaii (50:1) Pro - no other conference has any interest in Hawaii.  54th largest metropolitan area.  Get to visit Hawaii, imagine how much fun the conference board meetings would be! Con - travel, travel, travel.

The Smart Move:  if I were the Big XII, I would take 4 teams - BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis. I think BYU would be a great addition, Cincinnati a natural rival for WVU, Houston to protect its flank from SEC encroachment, and Memphis to balance it out.

The predicted move:  BYU and Cincinnati.  They may try and overreach to U Conn or Central Florida, but that would eventually bite them in the ass.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The NBA Finals

As much as I hate to admit, I listen to Sports Radio...or, more specifically, Mad Dog Sports Radio.  I used to love Mike and the Mad Dog, and so I followed Chris Russo to satellite radio.  The banter between he and Mike was great; on his own, he just frustrates the living heck out of me.

I understand the purpose of sports radio is to infuriate the listener, and encourage them to respond.  Sadly, it's working...but I never have a chance to call in, so I am responding to something I've heard Mad Dog repeat over and over on his radio show...then following it up with an observation I've made over the last few years.  Bear with me.

Chris Russo gives no credit to the basketball champions of this era.  He called the Golden State Warriors the greatest jump-shooting team in NBA history, but that they wouldn't hold a candle to the great champions of yesteryear.  Needless to say, he was gloating a bit when they lost to LeBron's Cavaliers.  He named a few champions that would crush them:  the 72-10 Bulls.  The 85-86 Celtics.  The Showtime Lakers.  The 82-83 76ers.  The 70-71 Bucks.  The 1960s Celtics.

To which I say:  Mad Dog, you're full of it.

Let's start with the 1960s NBA.

1.  Tommy Heinsohn was a fantastic player for the Celtics - he won the 1956-7 Rookie of the Year, was a 6-time All-Star, and was voted to the NBA 2nd Team four years.

He also smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes a day.

Think about that for a second - what level of quality basketball was being played in the 1960s where a 2 pack a day player can be one of the top 10 players in the league?  Would a player with a habit like that even make a roster in today's NBA?  Hell, if LeBron started a habit of Chesterfields today, I'm not sure he could dominate the 35 and over league I play in these days.

2.  How was Heinsohn able to run up and down the court with half a lung working?  Based on the statistics I found on, I reckon it's because it's because no one other than Bill Russell played defense in the 60s.  Here's a chart, comparing a few seasons up to the present:

FG %

A few things of note:

* The differences in shooting percentages between 1961-2 and 1984-5 work out to about 6.5 per game, leaving the 1960s teams still shooting 13 more times a game. 

* Jordan in 1988-89 averaged 32.5/8.0/8.0 (Pts/Reb/Ast).  If there were as many attempts that season as there were in the early 60s, he would've averaged 39.3/9.7/9.7.  Oscar Robertson averaged 31.4/12.5/11.4 in his triple double season.  

* I included the 1984-5 season because I remember it well - my team (the Denver Nuggets) traded away Kiki Vandeweghe before the season to the Portland Trailblazers for Calvin Natt, Fat Lever and Wayne Cooper, all of which started for the Nuggets.  They finished with the #2 seed in the playoffs, and I thought they might give the Lakers a run in the Western Conference finals...only Fat Lever went down with an injury in the semifinals against the Jazz...and that was it.  

* The difference in shooting attempts between last season and the early 60s (subtracting shooting percentage) is over 20 a game.  The only explanation that is reasonable is that there wasn't much defense being played.

* To a certain extent, this trend lasted until the mid to late 1980s.  I remember a ton of offensive-minded forwards in the Western Conference back then who wouldn't know a defensive rebound if it landed in front of them.  Vandeweghe, for instance, never averaged more than 5.6 rebounds a game, and never topped 3.3 after age 26.  

* I hated the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 1980s, and I'm sure many fans (like myself) viewed that team as a "dirty" team...but looking back, I think one reason why there were detested is because they played defense at every position, on every possession, something most players in the league weren't used to.  

* It is no wonder why the NBA had to radically change the rules - shot attempts bottomed out in the early 2000s at around 78 per game.  

3.  Combine this usage of tobacco with the drug culture in the NBA/ABA in the 1970s and 80s, it is hard to accept that the quality and level of playing was equal to what we see today.  

4.  Mad Dog regularly refers to the 1970-71 Bucks, which might be his favorite team.  He constantly says that team could've destroyed the season win record had they cared about it, and would've destroyed the Warrior team of 2015-6.  

He's wrong, and not just because a couple of guys per team were enjoying a win with a Marlboro and a line of cocaine.  The NBA last year was able to draw from a much larger population than in 1970, yet only had 2 more teams (plus a larger roster).

* In 1970, the NBA expanded to 17 teams.

*  The ABA had 11 teams, which meant there were 28 professional basketball teams in 1970, versus 30 last year. 

*  Rosters were 12 players in 1970-71, 15 in there were 450 NBA-level players last year, 336 in 1970-1.  

*  100 players were foreign-born last year.  In 1970, one 1 was:  Tom Meschery, who was born to Russian parents in China, but lived in the United States from age 8 on.  As a result, there were only 350 American basketball players in the NBA last year.

*  The United States had 205.1 million people in 1970, and 320.1 million people in 2015, which means the United States was 36% smaller.  

*  If all things were equal (training, medical, etc.), the United States would have produced 224 NBA caliber talented players in 1970...and yet, an extra 112 earned paychecks in the NBA/ABA.  That in itself suggests the level of talent was lower. 

*  Milwaukee was lucky - they were able to assemble 2 Hall of Famers (including 2 of the top 15 players in history), as well as a couple of other solid regulars.  In a diluted field, it is no wonder they went 66-16.

*  Milwaukee also started the season 26-7, so I really doubt the Bucks were tuned into breaking the record at that time (68-13).  

5.  All of this leads me to believe a couple of things.  If one were to pick a "greatest team", they would need to do the following:

  • Pick a team that played after 1985.
  • Decide how important the salary cap has played in assembling talent.
  • Decide which rules to play under.
I have no doubt the 1985-6 Celtics were a great team, as well as the 1995-6 Bulls...but if there were playing the Warriors using the rules of 2015-6, I'd have to believe the Warriors would win.  Conversely, the Warriors would never survive a 7 game series against either team if they were transported back in time.

But against the 1970-1 Bucks, or the 1962-3 Celtics?  

Warriors in 4.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saving Cricket

I know this post has little to do with baseball, but indulge me this one time...

I am a huge baseball fan, but I wasn't any good after I broke my arm the summer after 7th grade.  Hell, I may not have been any good before either, but that's neither here nor there.

The fact is, when I lived in the Middle East, one of my closest friends played first-class cricket, and his enthusiasm for the sport led to me looking up clubs to play for when I returned to live in the States, and:

1.  I found a great club
2.  I wound up being better at cricket than baseball.
3.  I also fell in love with all aspects of the game.

And while there are a lot of reasons why it confuses the hell out of Americans, it certainly doesn't help that there are currently 3 different forms played at all levels.

1.  The original:  Test Cricket - in which a team must get their opponent out twice within a 5 day span, while outscoring them as well to earn a win.
2.  One-day cricket, in which each team sees 300 balls (pitches, for our American friends), and the team who scores the most off those 300 wins the game.
3.  T-20, in which each team faces 120 balls to accomplish the same thing.

In the longer versions of the game, a batsman not getting out is of key importance - after all, there are only 10 outs on a team.  If a team is going to win, they really need to avoid giving up 20 outs in TWO AND A HALF DAYS.  Needless to say, taking risks are kept to a minimum.

Alternately, in a T-20 game, playing with a bat that has a flat side makes it a LOT harder for a bowler (pitcher) to get a batsman out.  Since there are only 120 balls, more often than not this resembles a Home Run Derby than strategic batting and bowling.  It is gaining popularity since it only takes 3 hours to play, and can be done mid-week at night, to insure more fans in the stands and watching the television.

And therein lies the problem.  I don't have regular access to cricket, so I tend to catch the highlights, and Test highlights make me think there was a ban on attendance.  There is NO ONE in the stands.

The game at the Test level is dying, and there are 3 nations that are trying to kill it beyond their own borders:  England, India and Australia.

These countries make the money off cricket, and they've squeezed the game in such a way that instead of growing its international popularity, they are condemning it to a future of fringe support. I for one can not support this.  And, more importantly, I have a solution.

Bear with me.   I know cricket supporters will wonder what the hell an American with a baseball background has to do with the future of cricket...but I think my suggestions will lend themselves to expanding the interest in the game, and more importantly, bring interest back towards Test cricket, where many of the international players have honed their skills, and without it cricket won't be cricket'll be baseball.  Tashin Tendulkar himself suggesting breaking up the One-day matches into smaller pieces, like baseball.

There is room for both sports, and they should be popular for their own reasons, not for one imitating the other.

Here we go:

1.  Promotion and relegation.  The top five nations should be in the "A" league, or whatever you wish to call it.  The next five would be in the "B" division.  Teams 11-15 in Division C, and 16-20 in Division D
2.  Over a 2.5 year period, each team will play a series against every team in their division twice (home and away).
3.  The series will be made of Test matches, and One-Day/T-20 games.  Point values would be assigned to each "style", with Test wins worth the most, and T-20 the least.
4.  The calendar will allow for each side to play 2 more series in that span - teams can pick teams from outside their division to create a series.
5.  A calendar of this sort allows for domestic leagues, T-20 leagues, and World Cups to be played as well.

6.  At the end of 2.5 year rotation, the lowest ranked team in Division A will face off against the top team in Division B.  One Test match - the lower ranked team HAS to win; a draw keeps the higher seeded team in the top division.  The lowest ranked in Division B faces off against the top team in Division C, same rules apply.
7.  The locations for these matches will be predetermined, in a neutral site, much like the Super Bowl.  Tickets can be bought well in advance, hotel rooms booked, and a BIG DEAL made out of it leading up to the series.

Here's what I envision happening:

Division A:  Australia, England, India, South Africa, Pakistan
Division B:  New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe
Division C:  Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland, Netherlands, U.A.E
Division D:  Canada, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong (I'm not really sure at this point)

Division C would play 4 day games against one another, but the promotion match would be Test style.

Division D would play 3 day games against one another, but the promotion match of a longer version (I'd accept Test or 4 day, doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned)

All teams below Division D would play One-Day cricket, top team hoping to play into Division D.

1.  This would give all the non-Test teams a chance to earn their way to Test status.
2.  Increased interest in all forms of cricket, but especially Test.
3.  The series between teams attempted to get promoted would be of international interest.
4.  It would force the lower seeded Test nations (I'm looking at you, West Indies/Zimbabwe) to get their acts together, or be relegated.  Ireland's coming for you!

Each series between nations in divisions would have their length decided by the home team, but there would need to be a minimum of 2 Tests matches.

If anyone has comments about my recommendations, feel free to let me know, but remember:  don't nitpick.  If you're unhappy about one aspect, have a solution:  Test cricket is losing its appeal, and other sports (rugby, I'm looking at you) are doing a much better job of promoting their sport to the world.  Cricket needs to shit or get off the pot.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thoughts on Football

Growing up, football was my first love: the first game I ever watched was the Raiders v. Patriots, which the Raiders won...and they became my team.

I attended the 8th grade meeting after school to get papers to play football in high school, but my father refused to sign the papers - he said there was too great a chance to get injured.

I mocked him at times - after all, I broke my leg in gym class playing soccer (thanks to a scissor slide tackle), and suffer leg issues from too much running. But in the long-term, it was a great decision...and now, as I see and hear the conflict within our national pastime (sorry, baseball), I have to point out the following:

1. This truly is the Golden Age of Football...but:
2. Those running the sport today are only worried about padding their pockets, rather than the future of their game.
3. It is the best promoted/advertised activity in the history of humankind. If one were to actually focus on the game itself, it isn't very good - a 60 minute game, with about 17 minutes of actual play, that takes 3 1/2 hours to complete. Think about that.
4. The studies behind long-term brain damage/injuries are only going to reduce the sheer numbers of kids playing the sport - more and more parents will follow what my father did (and I will as well). While it will take time, if less athletes are playing the sport at a young age, the skill level will decrease...and those interested in watching it will as well.

With all this in mind, go read the article about Chris Borland:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My retirement from Cricket.

It’s time.

I need surgery on my wrist (I’m going to see the doctor August 25th), but that is the least of it.  My body aches, my priorities have changed…and it’s time to retire from cricket.  To that point, I want to take the time to that those who have made my 17 years involved in the sport enjoyable.

In 1995, I was at the Damascus French Film Festival with an Australian friend of mine when I met an English college student studying Arabic.  We became fast friends, and I learned cricket through him.  When Freethy spoke about cricket during our time in Syria, he was filled with emotion and passion, and it would have been hard for anyone to not get excited about the sport listening to him.  When we weren’t playing rugby, we were down at Medina Al-Shabab playing pickup cricket games.  My first game didn’t go well – golden duck, and the first ball I bowled was hit for 6. 

When I returned to the States, I practiced for a local rugby team, but my heart wasn’t in it.  It was mostly Americans, and definitely boring.  One night after practice, I picked up The Philadelphia Inquirer and there, in the sports section, was a three-page article about cricket in the area.  I began making some calls to the clubs mentioned.  All of them suggested I reach out to an Englishman named Alfred Reeves.  When I spoke to him on the phone, he asked if I were a native American, and what would I possibly want with cricket.  He then mocked me for having “that baseball thingy” in my arm from playing baseball – I know now he meant a crooked elbow, but at the time I was only faintly amused by his comments.  When I met him a few weeks later, he and his wife Betty warmly welcomed me, and for the years I remained with the BOCC, I (as many other members would say as well) was treated as an extended member of his family.  Thank you for everything Alfred.

In those years of the BOCC, there was room for enthusiasts, no just proper cricket players, and during practice a number of club members looked after me and helped me to become a tennis player who swung a mean backhand while batting.  To al those that took me under their wing, I thank you.  A few that deserve mention:

·      Bruce Gottschalk, who coached (or rather, lambasted) me every time I bowled down leg side.  “What the fuck are you doing?” he’d ask me in his South African accent.  “Bowl it at the fucking off stump!”  Needless to say, the next one would be further down leg.
·      John Hoyes, a club member who treated as an equal, drove like a maniac, and invited me back to his house after a big night at the Wild Onion…only to be sent packing after we put away the better part of a case of Guinness because he had a league game the following day…and I said there was no way I’d be able to play following that night’s drinking. 
·      David Caldwell, who coached me and built up my confidence on the pitch.  One day at practice in 2001, he turned to me and said, “I think we should organize a tour to England next year.  What do you think?”  I loved the idea.  “Good.  You can be treasurer.”  The BOCC tour to England in 2002 was one of the great highlights of my career.
·      Chris Lawrence, who coached me and captained many of those games early in my career, thank you.  I’ll never forget our tour to Toronto in 1999 when you asked me to bowl.  It was intimidating:  on a proper ground, facing a proper team, and the BOCC needing me to complete my 7 overs (needless to say, we were a little short of bowling on that tour).  As I ran into bowl, I completely forgot how to deliver a ball…and I wound up to pitch it like a baseball.  The batsman dropped his bat and ran towards leg umpire.  It was a high rising fast(?)ball, which almost reached the boundary before bouncing.  I went 6 straight balls before I was finally able to gain my senses.  Needless to say, I didn’t complete my 7 overs.  Chris, I apologize.
·      Tahir Maqsood, a BOCC member who has more love and passion for the club and its spirit than anyone I know.  Tahir, I always loved stopping at the border on the way to Toronto and picking up some fantastic scotch…then having to stop on the way home as well since we had finished the bottle.  Thanks for everything.
·      Mike Thomas, who opened up his home and ears to listen to my problems.  I stayed with Mike when I first confronted my mother in 2002, 24 years after she walked out of my life.  The first meeting didn’t go well, and Mike had to hear me talk about it and the struggles I had with trust and relationships.

Thank you.

In 1999, I was traveling in Europe with a friend, and I was invited to meet up with a team of cricketers in Bloemendaal.  Freethy was playing for the Free Foresters, and it was then that I met many of his Cambridge mates:  Nutter, Jonesy, Chuts, Dr. Arnie among others.  During that tour, I truly learned what “touring” was…and in the subsequent years, the Free Foresters visited Philadelphia twice.  In 2001, I played with the Foresters in Holland again (or, rather, sort of – many of the games were cancelled and we responded by going to Amsterdam rather than playing sport.  On the last day of tour, he commented that we looked more like Bosnian refugees than cricketers…and to this day, I couldn’t think of a more a propos metaphor to describe that week).  That winter, I was nominated to become a member of the Free Foresters, the highest honor I have ever received. 

·      Freethy, thanks for the introduction to a great group of university friends, who welcomed the Yank and treated me as one of their own.
·      Nutter – thank you.  I won’t be specific, but thank you.
·      Chuts – thank you for giving me your F.F. jacket and hat at Brownie’s one night, saying, “Here – you need to this more than I do.  I have my accent.”
·      Jonesy, who played wingman that night, and as a result missed playing the following day.

Thank you.

In 2008, I was invited by David Caldwell to come join him in Sydney to get away from it all – I had gone through a difficult patch in life, and I wanted to run and hide…and there is no place further on the Earth than Sydney, Australia.  Over the first few weeks, I did a lot of writing, and I spent a bit of time with he and his boys in the batting cages at Balmoral Beach.  DC and I signed up for the Over 40 Mosman Cricket Club team.  Not 40 Overs, mind you, but Over 40 – I raged at the thought of being that much closer to old.  But cricket was a crutch to me at that time; something that comforted me while the rest of my life swirled out of control.  I clung to it like a life vest after fleeing a sinking ship.  One day, while hanging around the cages again, a group of rag-tag “athletes” rolled up and began a session in the nets.  “Give me the ball.”  I told Dave, and wandered over and asked if I could bowl a few.  I did, and I gave them my e-mail address.  A few days later, I met them practice again.  The practice may have lasted but an hour; the next three hours were spent at the BV Hotel, drinking and laughing.  When I got back to DC’s place that evening, I told him:  “Forget Mosman – we’re playing for Tramway.”

Our first game was against Pigs (both the team name, and their attitude).  It was my true introduction to two-day cricket, and Australian sledging.  Our skipper Richard Hindle asked if I minded going in at 3.  I’m more comfortable between 4 and 6.” I told him.  You can either go in at 3 or go in at 10 – your choice.”  I went in at 3, and was a part of a great win against some tough opposition.  The rest of the season was fantastic.  I can truly say that I’ve never met a closer team/group of friends/brothers in my life.  By the end of my stay in Australia, we were hanging out 5 days a week, and when my wife Sandi and I returned three years later, everyone gotten together again and made her feel welcome.  Of all my friends, Sandi has said she loves Tramway the most. 

·      Andrew Price – thanks for opening up your apartment and allowing me to be a roommate for a few months.  I’m sure I put a dent in your social life, though “Frank” never minded when I cleaned up the remnants of a light night McDonald’s run off his chest and sofa.
·      Grats – thanks for letting me be a roommate as well. It seems like we’ve ended up landing on our feet after some trials and tribulations.  I wish you nothing but the best going forward.  I hope our families catch up sometime in the future, before we’re senile.
·      Hindle – thanks for the opportunity.
·      Buff – thanks for opening your home to Sandi and I while we visited Sydney, and made Australia be everything Sandi thought it might be.  I can only someday hope to repay the hospitality.
·      Red Bull – I was amazed how well you played after a hard night…and I think you surprised yourself as well, seeing that you went at it even harder the following weekend to see if you could do it again.
·      The rest of Tramway – while we may not play cricket any longer, may the spirit live on.

Thank you.

Finally, over the last two years I’ve played for Voorhees/Smart Choice Philadelphia.  What I learned about cricket playing for you was that cricket here in America is more than a sport – it’s a brotherhood.  We all know each other here…I was amazed when I showed the first time for practice that I knew a bunch of guys on the team, and I welcomed more than I could have ever hoped.  Thank you for everything.

There are so many people I haven’t mentioned, and I apologize.  Thanks for the competition, the camaraderie, the memories and the stories I can (and can’t) share.  Thanks and good luck to all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bill James

When I was a sophomore in high school, a friend and I went to the local mall on a Saturday night.  This is what we did as high schoolers in the 80s, when it wasn't a night to check out girls at the roller skating rink.  While there, we stopped in at a local bookstore and I saw People magazine had an article:

Rotisserie Baseball:  'the hottest craze to hit the national pastime since trading cards.'

It mentioned a book called Rotisserie League baseball, which I immediately purchased.  I read it in its entirety that night, and recruited my friend as the second team.  We didn't sleep that night; we stayed up all night cutting out box scores for all the NL teams and preparing for a draft that we didn't know how to run.  By midweek, we had eight teams, and held the draft at my house.

That league is still in its existence, playing its 30th year this draft (we took off in 1988, while all of us were away at school).

I did horribly; I drafted Darryl Strawberry and Dale Murphy for $106, which left me with no money to fill out the rest of my team, and I wound up finishing sixth.  The following year, I vowed I would do better, and my first purchase for the 1985 draft was Bill James' Baseball Abstract.  He was the only one writing at length about the intricacies of baseball statistics at that time, and he wrote in a way that read like a Midwestern veteran telling stories about The Great War.  

If you're not a baseball fan, you may have read Bill Bryson - they write in similar fashions.

Since then, I've been a huge fan of Bill James.

Until this past week.

A few months ago, I signed onto Bill James' website  It wasn't a big splurge, so I was able to get my fix without my wife complaining about spending too much money on my fantasy baseball addiction.  He and a few others contribute articles to the sight, but they also have a "Hey Bill" section, where members can ask or comment to Bill directly.  I thought it was brilliant;  I would be able to write to Bill himself and have read my comments!  So when Bill wrote an article in MY field of history, I felt the need to respond.

The article was called "Small Towns and Mating", in which he wondered the following:

1.  Who were the "winners" and "losers" in history?  While today we view our American ancestors as being "winners", they were in fact losers, fleeing their homeland for some reason or another.  He then rightfully surmised that those people who fled the American small towns for metropolises to have been "losers" as well, but today we look at them in reverse.  
2.  He then stated:  
One of the most critical factors driving the population from small towns to cities was:   Mating. People who write about the urban migration write about it in economic terms, and tend to assume (and assert) that it was economic forces that drove the population from small towns to big cities.  That played some role, yes—but almost all of the economic things that are done in big cities could perfectly well be done in a small town.  I would bet that an equally large or larger cause of the urban migration was (and is, in the places where the urban migration is still occurring) that small towns don’t work particularly well in terms of mating.
3.  He drew this belief based on his own experience of graduating with 18 seniors, 13 of one gender and five of the other, and surmised that in order to find a spouse, these 8 who missed out on the mating "musical chairs" left because they had to be better options in the larger communities.

All fine and nice, and actually a well-written piece, but then again it's Bill James and Bill always writes good articles.  (Another sign of his writing style is that I always refer to him as "Bill", as his writing evokes friendliness - I'm fairly certain that if I ever met Stephen King, I would call him "Mr. King") 

The only problem with his article is that it's wrong.  Not wrong in the sense that no one leaves the small towns looking for mates, it's that he believed based on personal experience that it was the number one cause for migration.  He finished the article with:  "Economics follows yet harsher realities: a community has to work as a mating center, or it doesn’t work."

Actually, there's a greater drive that the need to mate...and that's the need to survive.  If a person is going to starve to death, are they really worried about who they're having sex with?  Mating is important, and it most certainly has contributed to a number of people leaving small towns and moving to a city...but it isn't the number one reason.  I felt the need to write "Hey Bill".

Hey Bill, I found your article about the lack of a mate interesting, but while it makes for interesting speculation, I feel enough research into it has been done to suggest that "finding a mate" to be well down the list of reasons why "losers" left the towns and moved to urban settings. Karl Marx for all his failures was an excellent economic historian, well before this became a dedicated field in history. His research into the English society changing from one based on feudalism to capitalism shows the extraordinary economic struggles the "losers" went through. About five years ago, I lived in Sydney Australia and went to visit a friend who farmed a few hours west of the city. He took me on a tour of the area, which included a series of ghost towns abandoned by people who moved to Sydney. As specialization took over the farming "industry", the average farm expanded greatly, and left the "losers" with two options - repetitive, low-paying jobs (and alcoholism), or moving away.
Asked by: thegue
Answered: 2/17/2014
Did I word it perfectly?  Hell no - questions are limited to 1000 characters, and I had much I wanted to say that I had to narrow down.  So I shouldn't have used "enough research", and maybe written "other studies".  I could've given him some ideas on where to look specifically if he wished to investigate his hypothesis...but then, that would've started me on a 5,000 word article.  I had to keep it short.

He responded:

I find it difficult to believe that any historian would ever suggest that a theory had to wrong because so much research in the area had already been done.

Completely true, and I would've left well enough alone, except for a comment written by another reader a few days later:

 How is your answer to thegue's question different from "My mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts"?Asked by: steve161

And that, ladies and gentleman, got Mr. James going.

No idea in the world what that's in reference to. But I'll do my best to appreciate the instruction. . . . .... . .. . . . . . . . . . .Oh, I see what your problem is. I had proposed a theory about the population evaporation in small towns, and let us say that it was a novel theory; it's probably not a novel theory, it's probably a trite theory, but that's not the point; the query in question addressed it as if it were a novel theory, I think, so let's use that term. I offered a novel theory, and this gentleman suggested that this had to be wrong because migration patterns have been heavily studied. In saying this, of course, he had lapsed into the fundamental anti-intellectual argument, an argument which is ALWAYS invalid, and I was trying to point this out to him as gently as possible. . . . .. I remember my Grade School principal, who attended college just after World War I, told us that when he studied chemistry in college, his professor told the class that they were studying science at the right time, because all the important discoveries had been made now; everything important that was going to be known was known, now, so it was a good time to study science. He told us this, of course, to point out the absurdity of assuming that the search for knowledge is ever finished. . . .. . When Perry Miller was in graduate school at the University of Chicago, late 1920s, he told his advisor that he wanted to study the Puritans. The advisor told him that the Puritans had been studied to death, everything that could be known about them was already known, and he should choose some other subject to work on. He got a different advisor, and stuck with the Puritans. He spent most of his career studying the Puritans, and became one of the greatest historians of the 20th century. He had dozens of protégés over the years, and many of THEM spent THEIR careers studying the Puritans, and many of them went on to distinguished careers, studying the Puritans. . . .. .. Again, the inherent absurdity of suggesting that a field of knowledge is ever "finished". No field of knowledge is ever finished. The intellectual understands that, and accepts it. It's Black Letter Law. A college undergraduate in Physics is allowed to challenge Einstein--if he has argument to make. . . . .. .. It isn't that way, in the rest of the world, and I have spent my career battling this. . ..this turgid, anti-intellectual assumption that everything worth knowing is already known. The non-intellectual world assumes that knowledge is the property of experts, that people who are not experts are not allowed to challenge the experts, but can only learn from them. When I started writing about baseball, I was the undergraduate in Physics who was challenging Einstein; not Einstein, but Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, Dick Young and the Elias Charitable Foundation. In the minds of many people I HAD to be wrong, because these other people were the experts, and I hadn't even played the game, so of course I couldn't be right and the experts wrong. I still get the same argument today, in a different form; people will tell me that the advantage inherent in sabermetrics has played itself out now. Everybody knows these things, so the advantage that WAS there, in the Moneyball era, has evaporated. Same argument; everything is known now; shut up and let us go about our business. The gentleman had forgotten this Black Letter Law, and had lapsed into the assertion that I shouldn't offer a novel theory about this, because. . .well, this has been studied; everything worthwhile is known about it. I didn't want to bust his balls about it; I assumed that he would be embarrassed if I pointed out to him what he was saying, so I tried to say it in the gentlest way I could, saying that I would be surprised if any historian were to make that argument. . .. .. .... ...You, on the other hand, I will bust your balls. Pay more attention in class, kid. If you were half as smart as you think you are, I wouldn't have had to explain this to you.

Where do I begin?  In dealing with "Steve161", Mr. James threw me under a bus.  He called me an "anti-intellectual", and how he treated me with kid gloves in responding as he did, but since someone dare called him to task on it, he would speak his true feelings on the matter.  He didn't want to "bust my balls", but since Steve161 asked for it, he would.

I never intended to state my position as Mr. James read it, and I thought I would clarify my earlier statement with an addendum.  I wrote:

I’m sorry if I came off as curt and “anti-intellectual”, or suggested that you shouldn’t do any research concerning urban migration (2/17).  As a historian and a teacher, the last thing I would want to do was discourage any research whatsoever.  However, if a student of mine suggested an idea about a topic that they haven’t investigated, I would direct them to learn about that field.  If I were to write an article suggesting the offensive explosion of the 1990s was caused by the opening of the Arlington Ballpark due to what I witnessed as a season ticket holder of the Texas Rangers, I would hope you or someone in your field would direct me to learn about research already completed.
And that, in essence, was my point.  If I were going to theorize that the Earth was flat, shouldn't I learn more about the subject then just going by what I saw out my back window?  If I were going to step outside my comfort zone and make "novel" theories about quantum physics, shouldn't I know more about it, rather than make myself look like an ass by those in the field?  My example in baseball (his field) is spot on:  if I were a season-ticket holder with the Texas Rangers in 1994 (the season it opened), and had been the years before, wouldn't I have been shocked at the offensive explosion before my eyes?  What if I suggested years later, say, in 2014, that the reason for this boom in home runs, RBIs and the like took place because of one stadium?  Wouldn't someone suggest that I investigate a bit further before stating something so quaint?  (forgive for sounding a bit turgid on the matter)

He responded...and this is what he posted as my response.

I’m sorry if I came off as curt and “anti-intellectual”, or suggested that you shouldn’t do any research concerning urban migration (2/17). As a historian and a teacher, the last thing I would want to do was discourage any research whatsoever. However, if a student of mine suggested a theory about the abandonment of young people to metropolitan areas, I would suggest they learn about some of the research already done.Asked by: thegueAnswered: 3/3/2014
Mr. James left out the second half of my retort, which drives home the point...and leads directly into his previous argument, which he then reiterates:
Well, I'm sure you're a good teacher. It still sounds improper to me. In telling the student to study the previous research, are you, in essence, telling him to keep his mouth shut and hit the books? It would seem to me that it would be more productive to debate the merits of his idea, rather than attempting to enforce an academic hierarchy.
That's bullshit, but since it's his website, it's his rules, and God forbid should Mr. James look like an ass.  
So, I can't for the life of me call him "Bill" anymore.  Mr. King, you have some company...hopefully he doesn't look down upon you as he does others.