Knee Jerk Reactions

February 16, 2010

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It is sometimes human nature to react impusively rather than logically. This happens quite often, but I’ll choose to focus on two recent occurences.

The first occurence are the changes to the luge competition in the aftermath of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. His death was most certainly a tragedy. The added retaining wall at the spot where he was ejected from the course is a good idea. Shortening the men’s run by moving their start to the position previously used by the women is not a terrible idea. Shortening the course by these 600 feet (with the accompanying loss of elevation) caused speeds to drop from 95+mph to 90 mph.

The point where I have a concern, however, is the shortening of the women’s course by 800 feet (by moving it to the start point of the Juniors). The women were already at less risk of such extreme accidents by the mere fact that they have a tendency to weigh less than the male competitors (luge is a sport heavily affected by gravity, such that athletes below certain weights are allowed to wear lead weights to boost their mass). Less weight = less speed.  The shortening of the women’s course seems to be an attempt to show that an attempt is being made to ensure safety, when in reality, it is unlikely to make a big difference.  I’m not the only person unhappy about the changes – the competitors themselves were less than thrilled.

The second occurence is probably more likely simply sloppy reporting than intentional exaggeration.   I recently read an article about future Hall of Fame NBA player Tim Duncan. In an effort to show how important Duncan is, the writer pointed to the huge improvement from the 20-62 record the Spurs had he year before he joined the team (1996-97) to the 56-26 record they achieved in Duncan’s first year with the team – implying that Duncan was largely responsible for the 36 win improvement.

Tim Duncan is a great player, and I have utmost respect for him.   However, in this case, the writer is wrong about his impact.  In 1996-97, Hall of Famer David Robinson – then in the prime of his career – played just six games due to injury and All Star guard Sean Elliott also missed substantial time due to injury.  In 1995-96, The Spurs won 59 games on the heels of a 62 win season and a 55 win season.  The 20 win season of 1996-97 was a severe aberration and did not reflect the true talent of the team.  Using this as a baseline for determining Duncan’s impact is, in a word, lazy.

And in other sports new …

In luge, the USA’s Erin Hamlin had a disappointing first day.  After a first run of 41.835 seconds that had her eight overall, she slipped to a time of 42.219 in the second run.  That time was twentieth best in the run, and dropped her combined standing to fifteenth – and a long shot to make a run at a medal.  To nobody’s surprise, three time reigning Luge Word Cup champion Tatjana Hüfner of Germany was in the lead after Monday’s runs.  Hüfner’s 41.760 was third best in the first run.  She then put put down a blistering 41.481 in the second run, setting a track record. The Luge will finish with two more runs this afternoon.

Jamie MacMurray won a marathon Daytona 500.  The race was red flagged a couple of times as officials worked to fix a hole in the track -(yep, the NASCAR folks fix potholes much faster than your local DOT.  Although it was unfortunate that my favorite driver – Tony Stewart – didn’t pick up the win, it’s hard to root against a guy like MacMurray.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to acquire Amare Stoudamire.  Hopefully, LeBron James appreciates what the Cavs are doing and stays put.  Seriously, LeBron, you’re a god in Cleveland and you have a good team around you.  Why trade this in to go to the Knicks – a team in tatters – simply to be in the media spotlight more.  Seriously, you’re getting plenty of attention as it is.

The NFL could be heading toward an uncapped year in 2010.  If this happens, there could be some huge salaries for 2010.  The uncapped year would be the result of owners opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement early.  The labor agreement was originally slated to last through 2013; the owners exercised an option to opt out after the 2011 season.  The uncapped seasons of 2010 and 2011 (assuming that a new agreement is not reached) is a poison pill tied to the owners opting out.  The players’ share of revenues is a key sticking point.  The players currently received 60% of revenues.  The owners would like to see this number shrink.  One beef the players have is that the owners won’t show them financial records.  On this particular point, I am forced to side with the players.  In most cases, I would say that a business has the right to keep their financial records secret.  However, you can’t tie the players’ salary cap to a component of finances without allowing the other side to review the records for accuracy and completeness – this leaves the door wide open for fraudulent behavior.  Don’t want the players to be able to look at your records?  Fine – then don’t tie the salary cap to revenue.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kelly
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 09:18:27

    I wonder if the move of the women’s luge start point to the junior position is an effort to keep the women from competing directly with the men. Although the women’s speed would probably not come near that of the men (the mass and gravity limitations), it would be embarassing for a couple of the best women to beat the times of the slower men. The Olympics has always prevented direct competition between men and women. In sports where sheer size is the driving factor (i.e. basketball) I can see continued sparation. But in sports that are skill based, such as golf and auto racing, we already have some cross over. I actually look forward to the day when some of the Olympic sports, such as luge, have that direct competition.

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  2. kosmo
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 09:35:04

    Yeah, that thought crossed my mind – but if that’s the case, it’s a rather moronic decision. There are lots of Olympic events in which men and women compete at the same distance or exhibit the same skills.

    Look no further than track – the women also run the 100 meter dash, not the 90. And although some of the field events have differences (shot and discus for example) others (long jump, high jump) are completely unchanged.

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