As mentioned Pete and I just returned from London. The hottest news on the TV was the upcoming World Cup in Soccer and whether or not one of Britain's star players would be healthy enough to play. This got more air time and page space in the news than the meeting between Blair and Bush, or the daily bombings in Iraq.
Let me be clear I am not complaining about this. Sports are both great teachers of life lessons (to the young) and great distractions from the troubles of life (to the old). Sports are in this sense a sanctuary that much of the world turns to. I don't share the love of soccer that is evident throughout the world, but I do appreciate how the World Cup will be the preoccupation of millions over the next few weeks.
My college tennis team just won their conference championship for the 16th year in a row and my college tennis coach continues to amass a record that is among the elite of NCAA coaches. Congratulations to Coach Joe Walters.
On the tennis front, the French Open is currently taking place and will be followed in 6 weeks with Wimbeldon and then roughly two months after that the US Open. So this is one of the great times of the year to be a tennis fan.
My AAU/YBOA basketball team has been playing in tournaments since March. We have had the opportunity to play against some very strong teams (e.g., DC Assault, and Boo Williams) and hopefully it has been a great experience for the boys. We play this weekend in the Virginia state championships for YBOA and enter the tournament ranked 4th in the state. If we hold to our seeding we will qualify for the YBOA National Championships in Florida at the end of June. But we will have several players missing due to conflicts with school. And of course there is always the problem in tournament play of stringing together 4 or 5 good games in a row. We will see.
The NBA playoffs are coming down to the wire. Miami Heat look very strong at the moment.
Not only do I enjoy sports as a fan and as a participant, but also an intellectual exercise. Malcolm Gladwell has some recent columns addressing the statistical analysis of sports. Following the Moneyball phenomena, various individuals have sought to come up with statistical measures that assess the value of athletes in a different way than the conventional wisdom and in a way that would actually help teams win games when those conventional measures would mislead. Now Moneyball actually did raise a puzzle and provide an answer --- how could a small market team like the Oakland A's compete with big market teams like the Yankees? The answer was to be found in finding undervalued athletes. And conventional baseball statistics overlook certain key categories of performance on the field that lead to winning games and yet since they are not captured in these traditional statistics lead to undervaluing them.
In basketball, great coaches such as Dean Smith of UNC, developed elaborate statistical measures to caputre these intangibles long along in developing systems to measure player efficiency. One of the most striking non-captured statistic is the pass that leads to the assist. Another is deflected passes. Yet another is boxing out that might not result in your rebound, but an easier rebound for your teammate. And finally there is of course the ability to set hard picks that free up teammates. Basketball is a team game played by individuals and as such it is full of both individual sacrifice for the good of the team, and individual brilliance. Obviously the conventional wisdom of triple doubles might lead us astray in assessing the value of any one player, but the various intangibles have always been looked at by the great coaches from Claire Bee to Bobby Knight, or Adolf Ruff to Mike Krzyzewski.