Many of the 15 quarterbacks selected in the 2016 draft have benefited from factors such as parental involvement, family wealth, individual instruction and offseason competition—or some combination that increased opportunity not only for personal growth, but also to be noticed by coaches and scouts along the way. It begs two obvious questions: How much do these factors separate NFL draftees from the rest of the crop? And who is being left out?
A passage from an essay on climate change that applies to predictive analytics in general:
People often say that meteorologists' inability to predict weather credibly beyond about ten days bodes ill for climate projection over decades. This misses a key difference between the instantaneous state of the atmosphere - weather - versus its time and space averages - climate. Even though the evolution of atmospheric conditions is inherently chaotic and the slightest perturbation today can make a huge difference in the weather a thousand miles away and weeks hence, large scale climate show little tendency to exhibit chaotic behaviour (at least on timescales longer than a decade).
- Confidence, Consensus and the Uncertainty Cops: Tackling Risk Management in Climate Change, Stephen H. Schneider
Would you ever want to know if you're susceptible to a metabolic disease? That you have genetic markers that indicate that you are more (or less) at risk to develop a medical condition? That's one of the selling points of 23andMe's genetic testing, which has only recently reappeared on the US market after some trickiness around their claims and the capacity of how people can digest and understand that information.
How about with human performance? Would you want to know if you're genetically wired to perform at a higher level than the general population? Perhaps you can go farther or recover quicker. That's the main drive between Athletigen, which uses 23andMe's test to highlight specific traits tied to human performance with the goal of targeted training and coaching for increased performance.
But how much of this is pseudoscience? How much do any of us actually know about genetic traits and what they really mean? How much can we actually understand? Is there a generation of athletes coming up that will be identified not by testing or observation, but through a cheek swab?
In that spirit, here's an amazing story of how much traits including those tied to human performance present themselves regardless of upbringing: A Tale of Two Sisters by Nancy L. Segal
These past few days have been extremely interesting with two very different situations leading to sport teams standing up and walking out until change occurs.
In Missouri, the football team declared they were not going to practice or play until the president of the university stepped down. The strong stance was in response to racial tension at the school and it worked, with the president soon resigning.
Meanwhile, in a situation that may not have had as important motivation but was no less revelatory, the entire roster of the OHL's Flint Firebirds quit after their coaching staff was fired, forcing team management to back-peddle and re-instate.
Like the VICE article details, these incidents are nearly unprecedented. Perhaps the only surprising fact is that situations like this, with teams taking a united stand against what they feel is not right, are not happening more often, especially in environments like college sports and junior hockey.
That door is now wide open. What happens next?
This article from Slate really intrigued me. It looked at team logos from major professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL) and compared the usage of the devices of the sport (like a basketball or a baseball bat) to the prominence of the league.
In what might be it's own indication about prominence, the NHL and their logos were left out. So let's have a quick look:
I count four primary NHL logos that feature a device of the sport: the Islanders, the Penguins, the Sharks and the Capitals. This makes up 13% of the league and is comparable to the NFL, according to Slate.
As Slate describes it:
Today, football is the most popular sport in the U.S., and few NFL teams are inclined to include footballs in their logos. They don’t need to, because the public knows that they are football teams; there’s no reason to spell it out.
But what does this say about hockey?
Interesting enough, about 10 years ago (2003-04 season as the 04-05 was lost), this number was much higher: the Ducks, the Thrashers, the Blue Jackets, the Panthers, the Kings, the Islanders, the Penguins, the Sharks and the Capitals all featured references to the sport in their logos.
This put them at 30%, closer to baseball's numbers (43%) but still far back from the NBA's 73%.
Perhaps particularly notable, if we're accepting Slate's assertion that logos without a reference to the sport are due to recognition, is that no Canadian teams appear on either list and it is south of the border that the NHL is still working to grow their prominence. However, it is also interesting that many Southern-based teams like the Ducks, the Panthers and the Kings have all phased hockey sticks out of their logo designs.
Perhaps this Slate article is full of it...
That guy right there. He's the CapGeek guy. He's on The Hockey News's list of influential people. Sitting right fucking there.
I can still remember that night, at the Metro Centre here in Halifax. It was some forgettable game for the Halifax Mooseheads and during the first intermission, everyone in the press box was rushing to grab a sandwich before the healthy scratches got there. And one of the scouts at the game, looking down at a beat reporter typing notes into his laptop, dropped that line in absolute amazement. Because he just figured out Matt Wuest's "secret identity".
I had credentials for the Mooseheads for about half a dozen years or so and Matt was there working for the Daily News and then for the Metro for most of them. But that scout's incredulous reaction is a testament to how he went about his work. He was quiet, worked hard and let his work speak for itself. He also never hesitated to help, whether that was a question about Red Wings prospects, NHL contracts or QMJHL players.
CapGeek is what he'll be remembered by and it's through CapGeek that his passion for the sport of hockey becomes clear. After he made the decision to shutter the site, I, like many people I'm sure, had the conversation with some of my more technically inclined friends about being able to fill that void. We looked at it like a project and tried to do a bit of due diligence. The nuances of the NHL's CBA and the different clauses and rules, the daily transactions and calculations with everything from contract bonuses being carried over to the next year to long term injury reserve to buyouts, etc etc. Plus the quality of the information coming in, which was the lynchpin, as the site would be worthless if it wasn't accurate.
And that's the thing, when you look at the amount of work he put into CapGeek and consider that it was his hobby, the thing he did when he wasn't working, that's where the realization of his passion for the sport really hits home. That's the incredible part of it.
Thank you, Matt.
One other thing to add:
Last summer, CapGeek sold their "Armchair GM" shirts with proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society. By that point in time, Matt would have been sick, but that wouldn't have been known by practically anyone. Consider donating to the Canadian Cancer Society here.
Many year's ago, shortly after I first moved to Halifax, I went to a Mooseheads game. As luck would have it, Jane Seymour was in town filming a movie and I happened to be sitting a few rows behind her and what I can only assume was her husband and her children. As it sometimes happens with hockey, and often happens with junior hockey, a fight broke out on the ice and as everyone else stood up and strained to watch, I can distinctively remember Seymour staying seated while her male companion motioned for others to sit down and loudly booed. It seemed that aspect of hockey wasn't their cup of tea.
A few years later, as I got into actually covering junior hockey, my views started moving closer to those of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. There were the jokes about watching 16-year-old boys beat each other up, which masked the reality of that being exactly what it was. I stopped cheering when the gloves dropped, I viewed it more of an uncomfortable inconvenience.
How things have changed in a decade and a half. Hockey fans have watched a parade of tough guys die young; we've seen a series of star players fold up their careers early after one, or three, or 40 too many hits to the head. We've started debating the role of fighting in the game, about how best to combat headshots. We–some of us, at least–have felt a trickle of guilt at the cheers when the gloves hit the ice.
Chait was saying that the members of Team A—faced with referees who are knowingly, purposely cheating them out of a fair shot to succeed, and in this case for something as arbitrary and as capricious as the idea of race—should play on valiantly. Instead of despairing, or refusing to play altogether, Team A's players should keep their heads down, work hard, and play by a set of rules designed specifically to deny their team victory, hoping that a player or two will manage to fluke a double-double. Chait was underestimating and, more importantly, discounting the sheer amount of rage that Team A would experience every day and would have every right to experience. He was telling Team A's players to just get on with this sham, to ignore how fucked they are, how it's in the officials' interest to keep fucking them, and how this is why Team A will remain fucked as long as it agrees to play this game. In the face of blatant injustice, he was telling Team A to pretend it didn't exist.
There’s a great scene in North Dallas Forty, from all the way back in 1979, when the owner of a fictional football team is watching practice with business associates. He worries aloud about his team’s playoff chances, so one of them responds, “Christ, you make more with your manufacturing division in one week than you do on this goddamned football team in the whole year, even if they DO win.”
And the owner laughs and says, “That’s true … but my manufacturing division never got the cover of Time magazine.”
So am I not a fan anymore? I know my daughter is not going to understand most of what happens at the game, but I want to give her the chance to be near it, and become enmeshed in it. After all, we don’t fall in love with live basketball, at least not at first, because of beautiful down screens or crisp defensive rotations or true shooting percentages. It’s the atmosphere that does it, the feeling of being gathered into something bigger and stronger than oneself. It’s something I almost can’t even see anymore, except through her.
The news of Donald Sterling in Los Angeles, as Sean Newell from Deadspin put it: "But it's not just basketball, it's a disgusting spectacle. An unapologetic racist sits entrenched, as other rich white men try to figure out how best to mitigate his disgraceful conduct, while men he thinks of as property amuse him, because that's all they can do. This isn't basketball at all."
It all has me thinking a lot about what's important in sport and life and business and games.
Even if we forget it sometimes, there’s more to basketball than the basketball. There are millions of things, all teeming and lit up with various vibrations, resonances that reach back into the places where the game first took hold. It may be that my daughter will never love basketball, but I hope she loves the world. I hope she never stops wanting to learn about it without ever completely forgetting how it feels at the very beginning.