Tag Archives: Sports

Imagine if the races were reversed: Cleveland Cavaliers fire successful white coach, citing need for black former player to “refine the habits and culture”

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, under first-year head coach Dave Blatt, won the Eastern Conference title last season (losing to the Golden State Warriors in the finals).  They entered the season as the betting favorites to win in all this year, and have hardly disappointed in amassing a 30-11 record halfway through the season, the best in the East.

None of this stopped Cleveland from firing Blatt yesterday, reports ESPN, and replacing him with former player and assistant coach Tyronn Lue.  No coach had ever been fired during the season with a better record.

Sports Illustrated answers the first question on everyone’s mind:  “Already there are credible reports insisting that James was not directly consulted in the decision to fire Blatt”—note the intriguing use of the word “directly,” also mentioned in the same verbiage in the ESPN article—in an article headlined “LeBron James’s imprint on Cavaliers evident in firing of David Blatt,” referring to the Cavs’ superstar and face of the league.

It seems that Cavaliers’ general manager David Griffin doth protest a lot:  “I didn’t talk to any of the players before this decision” and “LeBron doesn’t run this organization.”  And the media was also quick to pick up the spin.  “A team source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Blatt’s firing means ‘everyone is in the crosshairs right now.'”  ESPN published various sympathetic pieces about the firing.

Even with the absurd turnover in the NBA coaching ranks, this seems surprising on its face.  There were vague rumblings about Blatt’s cultural fit (this was his first NBA job after spending most of his playing and coaching career in Israel, though he was born in Boston and graduated from Princeton):

“What I see is that we need to build a collective spirit, a strength of spirit, a collective will,” Griffin said. “Elite teams always have that, and you see it everywhere. To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity.”

“I am more than confident that [Lue] has the pulse of our team and that he can generate the buy-in required to start to refine the habits and culture that we’ve yet to build,” Griffin told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.”

Perhaps the money quote:  “James fondness for Lue and his desire to be coached by a former player were well-known throughout Cleveland’s organization. . .”

We don’t pretend to be qualified to understand the dynamics involved in basketball coaching.  Like any business, leadership and the culture created by management are no doubt as important or more important than employees’ sheer talent.

But this episode strikes us as a bit ugly.  We have one question.  If a team of white players, say in Major League Baseball, were grumbling that their short-tenured, winning black coach was unable to relate to them, or unable to bring out their best “collective spirit” or “principles” or “identity” or “habits and culture” or “buy-in,” and they needed a white former player with no head-coaching experience to instill these values, wouldn’t the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated be screaming racism!?  The media is already saturated with complaints that black coaches don’t get a fair chance due to, of course, management’s racism that overrides their desire to win.  They would likely call the bit about needing a “former player” a dog whistle alluding to all of the racist narrative about black coaches’ inability to lead.

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What’s the real story behind the Bruce Levenson revelation?

Another scalp for the faux-outrage crowd.  We see nothing wrong with the e-mail that Atlanta Hawks’ owner Bruce Levenson sent to his colleagues:  he was calling for more diversity in the cheerleading team and arena music selection; citing the need to attract more affluent whites to the season ticket ranks; advancing a theory that perhaps some presumably racist white people are afraid to come to games and that the team should address their perception, while being careful to add that he didn’t personally share that perception (this second clause in his statement scurrilously left out of the Washington Post‘s coverage); and benchmarking other teams’ fan bases and marketing approaches.  Seems like normal business.

Cue the moronic template statement from the NBA commissioner:  “As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association.”  This mechanical pablum with utterly no context could have been issued at any time, in any of these phony “scandals.”  If one didn’t know better, one would doubt its sincerity.

The interesting question is how the information came out.  He sent the e-mail in August 2012 and reportedly “voluntarily reported the email to the NBA” in July 2014, triggering an “independent investigation” by the league.  One wonders the circumstances of this reporting.  Why would Levenson report it?  Did he learn that some news was about to leak, and/or the NBA’s “investigation” was about to crucify him, prompting him to try to get out in front of it?  Presumably, during the Donald Sterling fracas, Silver put the other owners on notice that a witch-hunt was coming.  (Of course, the witch-hunt would be coming from the NBA itself, even though the commissioner is supposed to actually represent the owners not sell them out.)  Did Silver offer the owners some type of amnesty, in asking them to get anything potentially damaging out there, and then renege?

(As hackneyed as it is, we can play the usual thought experiment and switch the races in Levenson’s message, and realize that, had he said that the team needs to add more black-oriented music and black cheerleaders, attract more upscale blacks, and otherwise address blacks’ perceptions of the brand to make the environment more comfortable for them, he’d probably receive an award for promoting racial harmony.)

These are all troubling questions, coming soon, no doubt, to your employer too.

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It’s easy to hate soccer

So it’s the World Cup, where third-world nations and Euro-trash get to rejoice at their superiority, in at least one realm, over America (and the politically-correct media like the New York Times and ESPN get to lament how uncouth Americans are for not getting with the program, at least until immigration takes its toll and we come to cherish mamacita and fútball and empañadas).  Fine, let ’em have their diversion.  We loathe soccer:

1. It is utterly corrupt at every level, from selection of the World Cup hosts to officiating in matches to recruiting players. This is not surprising when you give huge sums of money to unaccountable bureaucracies staffed by hacks, Eurocrats, and self-styled dealmakers with third-world values. We are certain that every purchasing and hiring decision make by FIFA and national organizations is completely corrupt. In fact, the entire enterprise is an embodiment of a third-world mentality.  One has to love how Sepp Blatter, the blowhard head of FIFA whose tone deafness makes Hillary Clinton seem like Zubin Mehta, talks about how he wants to be re-elected so that he can clean up the corruption in the organization.  Memo to Sepp:  you’ve been at the helm for 16 years.

Countries and individuals that can ill afford it spend way too many intellectual and economic resources pursuing soccer. No doubt productivity will be even lower in Brazil during the World Cup than it normally is (to the extent that that’s even possible), as rabid followers care more about the game than about feeding their families.  Dictatorships like Russia squander national wealth just for the ego-boost of hosting the tournament. Rich third-world countries like Qatar import players from war-torn countries and give them passports to play on the national team. Yet, amusingly, these teams still lose, because they fail to grasp that to build a culture of success requires strategic thinking, long-term planning, and patience—virtues that such countries are incapable of adopting—by building an infrastructure to identify and cultivate talent from a young age. (We suppose it’s reassuring that soccer victory is one outcome for which money cannot buy quick-fix success.)

Of course, all of these follies parallel those of the “Olympic movement.”

2. It inspires thuggery. “Soccer hooligan” is a redundancy. If only fans would devote as much energy to intellectual pursuits—or to going to work—as they do to following their teams at the pub and the stadium, world GDP would be higher. Crazed fans murder players who make mistakes. Riots at and after games ensnare innocent bystanders. Players shamelessly and comically “flop,” and get away with it, as an epidemic. The cringe induced by a grown man diving to the ground, clutching some body part and wailing in faux pain, then popping his head up to see if a penalty was called if he is brushed in the slightest by an opposing player is enough reason to turn the TV off right away.  Players adopt the same banal celebration every time they score:  running wild, with a grin like a five-year-old who just stuck his face into a huge bowl of chocolate pudding.  We prefer the advice from our little-league coach:  Act like you’ve been there before.

It’s amusing—though parallel to the priorities of universities, government agencies, and similar politically-correct bureaucracies—that FIFA cares more about fans chanting “racist” slogans than about corruption.  They even punish national teams or federations for their fans’ words, as if they are responsible.  It’s a convenient distraction from the real rot wrought by FIFA.

3. The formats are stupid. In the World Cup and Olympics, the first round is round-robin (three games per team) and the successive rounds of the tournament are single-elimination. This is contrary to every other sport, in which a team has to win the same number or more games in later rounds (e.g., baseball, in which the first wild-card game is single-elimination, then the division series is best-of-five, then the league championship and world series are best-of-seven). Soccer’s format makes less sense because a good team is less likely to lose in a fluke in a longer series, and you’d think that you would want your better teams to battle it out in a more legitimate test of superiority.  Not to mention that it would seem preferable to have more games when the quality of play is higher and when the teams at that stage have earned it.  (As an analogy, we have an infinitely higher probability of defeating Phil Mickelson in a single-hole golf match than in an 18-hole round.)

Many national and international series are best-of-two. Who ever heard of such a thing? The series invariably go to some absurd tiebreaker, like whichever team has the most natural-born citizens wins (actually, that would be a good one).

It’s the only sport in which the clock moves forward, not backward. Instead of the obvious logic of stopping it when there’s a break in the action, they keep it running and then add an arbitrary, and approximate, amount of time at the end to make up for the delays.  Meanwhile, the team that’s ahead stalls for time.  One never really knows how long the game will go. And there seems to be no mechanism to add more time in a second instance if time during the first extension is squandered.

When a game cannot end in a tie, such as an elimination game, each team gets a number of “shootout” kicks against solely the goalie.  This is also a silly way to end a game; 75% of such kicks are successful, so—speaking of flukes—the winner is basically the beneficiary of random chance.  Our solution would be to just keep playing until someone scores; perhaps remove one player from each team every 15 minutes.

They use stupidly ambiguous, unique, and highfalutin terms like “pitch” (for field); “match” (for game); “fixture” (for future game); “friendly,” which is supposed to be an adjective not a noun (for exhibition game), etc. ESPN.com seems to be trying too hard in calling the standings “tables.”  (ESPN, an American site, even writes its World Cup recaps in pretentious British English, with a healthy dose of overwrought floridity.)

4. It’s boring. Most “strategy” seems to involve keeping the ball away from the other team and hoping for a miracle goal, many of which come by own goals. Almost every game seems to end 0-0 or 1-0. The over/under on number of goals scored is two for every single game. (Betting the over and paying referees to gift goal opportunities is how fixers usually succeed—it would be simple to obviate this process by making it impossible to know in advance who the referees will be for a given game, but they don’t bother). When one points out the obvious tedium of the game, a self-righteous fan will inevitably respond that “you just don’t understand it.” These same pretentious lemmings call it “the beautiful game”; we prefer Steve Czaban’s moniker: “the dreadful game.”

But it’s true that we don’t understand soccer.  We actually don’t want to.  We don’t understand why coaches never replace a player with a yellow card (if he gets a second yellow card, then the team has to play short-handed for the rest of the game and the player has to sit out the next game), or why they never replace the goalie with a striker when they’re down 1-0 at the end, or why they never seem to play with any urgency even when they’re behind.  We don’t understand why, after the goalie gets possession after a stopped goal attempt, he usually launches the ball three-quarters of the way down the field—giving his team a 50/50 chance of picking it up—instead of dumping it off to one of his own defenders and ensuring that his team keeps possession.

Soccer is an animalistic affair. The game’s premise is to nullify one of the key evolutionary advantages—manual dexterity derived from bipedalism—that separates humans from other land mammals. Feral thug Luis Suarez exemplifies how the game turns men into lower animals by repeatedly biting his opponents.

Very few states of affairs console us about United States culture to a greater extent than do our poor soccer results and indifference about the game.

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NCAA acting as judge, jury, and executioner: What could possibly go wrong?

Many quarters praised the NCAA for not wasting time with its own investigation of the Sandusky affair, which would inevitably take forever and cost a fortune, but rather relying on the report prepared by Louis Freeh’s company.  However, the NCAA’s purview is entirely different from the university’s itself (and, of course, from those of a civil court or criminal prosecutor):  “The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so”—i.e., not the same objective as the Freeh report.

For that matter, what is the NCAA’s interest in this case, beyond any interest of the university itself, the criminal justice system, or the tort lawyers?  None.  Sandusky’s conduct and the corruption at Penn State were horrific, but none of this is alleged to have impacted any Penn State students or anything impacting the competition on the field.  Would the NCAA have similarly intervened if Sandusky shot up a shopping mall while wearing his PSU hat?

The NCAA’s punishment was a gross violation of “the rule of law,” such as there is one that pertains to its relationship with member universities.  It seemed to invent the rules that the university broke and the appropriate punishments as it went along.  Its Orwellian punishment—pretending past Penn State victories (but not losses, apparently) didn’t exist—seems to have nothing to do with the crimes committed.

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The likely ripple effects of Penn State

Sadly, the bureaucratization of risk management that Harvey Silverglate fears will become more prevalent in higher education.

This happens in large companies, too.  Most companies have “risk” or “compliance” czars (not to mention the human resources, accounting, and tax bureaucrats who impose their own constraints) who have to monitor, in very intrusive ways, all business activities to understand the company’s exposure to various forms of liability that can literally destroy the company.

The problem is that these risks do not, for the most part, derive from market competition, but rather from government regulations and from the tort bar.  The worst part is, corporate executives generally side with the “compliance” bureaucracy over the business line if there is a conflict—when the bureaucrat says, “you can’t do that business deal for XYZ reason,” the business manager finds it hard to argue against this claim.  Blanket restrictions substitute for normal business considerations—like judgment, balance, and common sense.

One example of this from our background was a decision that the CEO of our large professional services firm made saying that, due to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, we would simply not do work in Indonesia.  Sure, Indonesia is a minefield, but isn’t it a bit draconian to simply ban the pursuit of all work in such an important market?  Surely a company comprised of such intelligent, seasoned businesspeople could use its judgment to pursue business there in a viable way?

This is a typical example of how conservative large companies have to be.  In fact, large organizations—be they corporations or universities—look awfully like government organizations.  This is no accident; and is another success by the left in transforming our society toward a government-centered one.

The next discrete step in this convergence of large companies and government is government ownership of some companies.  We could easily see “Big 4” accounting industry becoming nationalized the next time we see an Enron-type scandal:  these firms perform, the argument will go, an essentially public service—making sure that the investing public (including, by the way, many public or quasi-public investment funds)—so their functions should be provided by the wise, benevolent government.

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Political interference in the Olympics is unacceptable (sometimes)

We loathe the “Olympic movement.”  That fact that it even ascribes that moniker to itself is evidence of its rot to the core—the corruption, venality, hypocrisy, and arrogance displayed by Olympic officials at the international levels rival those even of the United Nations.

So we found this article confusing:  “The IOC suspended Kuwait in 2010, saying there was evidence of political interference in the country’s sports movement,” but has resolved the issue so Kuwaiti athletes were allowed to compete under their own flag in 2012.

That point is hard to understand.  Are we to believe that Kuwait in 2010 was the only example in the world of “political interference in the country’s sports movement” or a lack of “independence of its sports movement”?  For all Gulf Cooperation Council countries, at a minimum, there is no difference between the public and private sectors when it comes to athletic development (or any other endeavor).  Olympic participation is completely controlled by the government.

How about the example of Greece.  How can that country’s Olympic Committee get away with kicking Voula Papachristou off of its Olympic team for a “racist” tweet?  Her case was steeped in political maneuvering.  Opinion leaders in Greece had targeted her for some time as a “known racist” and a notorious “supporter of right-wing political parties.”  So, in her case, the Olympic ban was basically an attempt to hound such a person out of mainstream society.

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