Monday, November 09, 2009

Diminish Marginal Returns of Athletics

An interesting piece from the Colonel if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

I thought he was the major. Lousy conspiracies.

Nick Rowe said...

Got promoted twice while in captivity. Just found out.

Anonymous said...

Wait... wait... so Captain Capitalism is Nick Rowe? = Clarey?

Captain Capitalism said...

No, I'm not a POW in California.

The concentration camp I'm at is Minnesota.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that there are some significant barriers to a women being able to compete physically against men when similar effort is put in, I don’t believe that high-level athletics is really a fair comparison; primarily because athletics are becoming more and more about genetic abnormalities that give someone a significant advantage in a very narrow athletic pursuit.

To understand what I mean, there is no woman who will ever swim as well as Michael Phelps but there is also no man whose proportions fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean who will ever swim as well as Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps is an individual who’s proportions work against him in (pretty much) every sport or athletic activity except for swimming where they give him a massive advantage.

While it is an unnecessarily insulting analogy, athletics today is akin to having an IQ competition based on counting toothpicks and declaring an Autistic-Savant the smartest man in the world.

Nick Rowe said...


I'm not sure I understand your point.

I don't see these as genetic "abnormalities". Yes, there are body characteristics which give advantages for certain sports, but there are tens of thousands of people with these characteristics.

As exposure to sports spreads throughout the globe and population expands, we will necessarily develop more "giants" of the sport. Indeed it will marginalize a lot of people but it will make sports more competitive.

Sports like swimming and sprinting are already there. The difference between a world record and fifth place is a fraction of a second. Slight differences in body shape, technique, or even shaving body hair has an impact. This is part of the art and science of the sport and it's exciting. Phelps won 8 gold medals in a field that finished under 1 second behind him. I think that's pretty demonstrative of both his superiority and how sharp the cutting edge is.

Phelps' background was not particularly conducive to excellence in swimming. In contrast, East Africans are genetically, culturally, and environmentally attuned to long-distance running.

One point I left out: the second place female in the NYC marathon was a Russian. I'm assuming she was white. So even though Eastern Europeans have a history of cheating, they are obviously magnificent athletes.

Using performance enhancing drugs was one way to gain that slight edge, which is one reason why it has been banned.

Look at how the Chinese cheated using underage gymnasts. Their strength to bodyweight was superior to older athletes. They broke the rule designed to protect athletes in order to gain an advantage.

Watching the World Series, I was struck by how amazing the athletes were. They were making diving catches like they were routine. Even when they made mistakes they could either recover or turn the mistake into an advantage. The difference between the Yankees and the Phillies winning came down to a handful of small mistakes.

That's the way professional competitive sports should be: a game played by giants at the margin of human performance.

The main question of my article is whether we should put women in a separate class and reward them accordingly. The guy who finished in 49th place won nothing except knowing he was faster than the fastest female endurance runner in the world.