Friday, March 24, 2017

Duke hate

I haven't paid any attention to the NCAA tournament since Duke lost (in typical fashion). But this post from LGM got me thinking about Duke hate again:

I am sure you are all rooting for Oregon against Michigan and its Trump voters. Regardless, we can all agree that it’s great that Duke and its seemingly endless supply of privileged white players lost.

Wait, so the implication is that Coach K shouldn't get good players if they're privileged and white because white men are too privileged by society? This argument would have merit if that's all he was doing, fielding a team full of mediocre white players because his team only serves to continue to further white male privilege. But the notion that this is even remotely what is happening is preposterous.

I legit struggle to think of white players that got significant playing time who were mediocre. Gregg Paulus comes to mind. That kid was shit and I think he was only there because this was the time where K was refusing to recruit one and dones. The rest of the white players that come to mind range from decent (Kyle Singler) to all time great (Redick).

I get the Duke hate in the sense that they're the Yankees of CBB. They win all the time (who would care if they weren't good). Because they win they're on tv all the time, which is annoying if they aren't your team. Because they're on tv all the time (and consistently get good ratings) they're forced to be talked about all the time, which is also annoying. And even for a fan this can be annoying when literally anything goes wrong with the team. Then you have to hear about negative stuff all the time when all you want to do is relax and take a break from the shit going on in the world.

But the angle of the Duke hate that draws on the white players is puzzling to me. The only way I get it is if you think fans latch onto them because of the white players. That's certainly possible, and maybe why they were put on tv a lot. I tend to think it's not a big portion of it. I think more casual fans are like me and got attached because they were on tv a lot and were winning a lot (bandwagoning, basically). I fully cop to that. I started watching when Trayjon Langdon was raining threes and Elton Brand was dominating in the post. And fully fell in love when Shane Battier and Jason Williams got them a title.

Maybe I’m being naive but I don’t get the sense Duke is some kind of Pepe thing where there’s a bunch of white dudes who love the team because they’re “white” in some sense. Of course, now that I’ve put that on the internet I’m sure some shitbag will see it and make it a thing on reddit or something. And in short order I’ll have to become a UNC fan or something

Update: Talked about this with my gf and there's certainly a racial aspect of who K recruits. He seems to recruit from a higher socioeconomic background than most, presumably because he wants more well adjusted kids he can handle/coach better. The racial part of that is obvious, in that racism has kept black people out of that higher socioeconomic tier. So even though K may not be actively racist, his criteria has the effect of pulling in more white guys than average.

And it's not like there aren't quality players that don't meat K's criteria. Many teams have good players and many teams other than Duke win. So he's not constrained when trying to find quality players. He's making an active choice. The issue is whether he's willing to risk losing a few more games while not taking advantage of society's racial constructs in order to provide more equality of opportunity. Or to just keep doing what's made him wildly successful, even if it doesn't do anything to try to change racism.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Buffy season 6

I picked a great time to rewatch one of my favorite shows and one of the most important ones to me personally, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With all of the misogyny with Trump and Republicans it's nice to see a great female hero figuratively smash the patriarchy. And this happens to be the 20th anniversary of the show first airing. So it's all come together for good timing.

The first five seasons were as expected. 2 and 3 still stand out as the best, truly some of the best tv ever. Season 4 is pretty solid despite less well defined "big bad". Season 5 has a stronger big bad in Glory, but fewer good stand alone episodes. Season 6 is known as the really dark season. And apparently some fans are really down on it because of that. I remembered it being dark but not all that different in quality than season 5. And with Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair pointing out that the big bad of the season are basically a bunch of alt-right internet trolls before that was a thing, I was hopeful that I'd enjoy season 6 more than before.

Well, nothing has changed. I just watched the episode where Xander leaves Anya at the alter and I'm just awash in the darkness. But it's a different kind of darkness that the show has always been about. It just seems cruel for the sake of it. And the season as a whole is lacking in both stand alone episodes and quality big bads. The only thing propping up the season is Spike. And his and Buffy's arc ends much like Xander's does with Anya, with him being almost pointlessly cruel based on what they've done with the character up to this point.

Ok, that's unfair to the Spike arc because there is a point to the attempted rape scene. Though I'm not sure they set it up well enough, nor did they with Xander's betrayal of Anya. That's my real problem here. Not that it's dark. That it's dark and cruel without good reason. Spike has spent the last few seasons not being bad. That's mostly because of the chip. But he's actively helping Buffy most of the time (which trying to get in her pants, obviously). I said I was unfair regarding Spike's arc because it does make sense that he would react to Buffy's rejection with physical, sexual violence against her. He is, despite the chip and recent good behavior, an evil vampire.

Xander, on the other hand, is a good guy with a good, stable job. Hell, by this point in season 6 he's the most well-adjusted person on the show. He's dropped the fawning, asshole-ish relationship he had with Buffy for the first few seasons that understandably get on people's nerves. And he's moved beyond the moping, slacker phase where he felt left out while Buffy and Willow were in college. He's in a good relationship and keeps helping his friends with both fighting evil and taking care of Dawn. The only hint that there's anything wrong with his relationship with Anya is his hesitancy to tell everyone they're engaged. Perhaps I was reading it wrong, but I took his hesitancy at face value, in that they were all dealing with Buffy's death and it didn't seem like the right time.

Maybe season 6 is just about how shitty life can be without any kind of warning or set up. Having been laid off at the beginning of this year and still not having a job, I can certainly attest to that. Sure enough, the episode after Xander leaving Anya at the alter is the one where Buffy thinks she's been in a mental hospital hallucinating the entire show. So that, along with the even more dark ending of this season, and there's strong evidence that Whedon and Nixon wanted this season to be a metaphor for the random shittiness of life. That's fine in theory and mirrors real life, but with tv I think we needed more set up for or some more levity within the unrelenting darkness of some of the season's decisions.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The way forward for Democrats

I used to work for a state Democratic party. So I saw the challenges of trying to win races in a red state up close. And for the most part, it's not going to change. I say that because with Democrats' embrace of civil rights in the 60s and the southern strategy of the Republicans, TN and much of the south change from being a Democratic stronghold to a Republican stronghold. This took a while, in part because it took a while for voters to fully get the signals and change their partisanship (which is something that rarely changes) and because they were used to voting for incumbents that they liked. Once Democratic incumbents retired voters finally made the switch.

So we aren't going to get a lot of those people back, at least as long as the Democratic party is committed to equality and not being racist and sexist, which I obviously think we should. Sure, some of these people could be open to voting for us on economic issues, as they did with President Obama in 2008 and 2012. But those are unique circumstances (2008 financial crisis) that we simply can't bank on happening, at least when we need them to happen.

So I think we should do what we can to get people who already share our values, not try to convince racists and sexists to flip parties. That means we need massive, targeted voter registration drives. Before I was laid off at the TNDP, I proposed reverse engineering Votebuilder to basically canvass areas we think are Democratic, skipping the ones already registered in Votebuilder, and trying to get our people registered. Much like many human actions, getting involved in politics and voting are habits that we build up. Once we get people registered, get their emails/phone numbers, and get them to the polls for us, they'll likely get into that habit.

Once campaigns start ramping up we can focus on polling so that we can find the right message and target the right swing voters (few though they may be). But until campaigns ramp up, we should be going all out with the voter registration plan I laid out above. And I don't think state parties and county parties can just rely on volunteers to get this done. We need to fund this operation from the top down, from the DNC to the state parties to the county parties. We need young and old people being paid to do this efficiently and effectively. Assuming we can fight through the restrictive voting laws Republicans are passing and get people registered and stay engaged with them I'm confident we'll benefit at the polls.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why the explosion of passing in the NFL?

Brian Burke at ESPN asks why NFL passing numbers are exploding.

It's no secret that the passing numbers in the NFL keep climbing. Analysts have been calling the NFL a passing league for the past few years, but the truth is it has been so for two generations, and there's no end in sight for passing's ascendancy.

He does a good job looking strictly at the numbers. But one area I think worth discussing is the widened talent pool of potential NFL QBs. For much of NFL and college history, only white guys were QBs. Given that non-white guys make up a significant (if not the majority) % of the other positions on the field, it would make sense that when you start letting non-white guys play the position, you get an influx of talent. Combined with that new talent, you push out some of the less talented white guys who may have been holding onto positions simply because of a lack of resources. So now the NFL is choosing from a wider, more talented pool of players.

This also works for the type of QBs the NFL is choosing from. Because of shorter QBs like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, you would think teams are more willing to acquire and play guys who don't fit the traditional prototype of what an NFL QB has to be. Similar to size you also get QBs more willing to move out of the pocket, which is where I'm almost certain the data would say provides good passing numbers when they throw, not to mention the fact that this just wasn't a thing until fairly recently in the sport.

And finally I think part of the better passing is simply the across the board better athletes over time. When you look at track you see the same thing as passing, consistent improvement. This encompasses a lot of things; better training (chemically-induced included), longer training periods, more specialized training from a young age, probably more sophisticated offenses in high school, etc.. By the time guys are getting to college they're good, strong athletes with good skills. They leave as really good, really strong athletes with very good skills. And they spend a few years in the NFL reaching elite levels.

Combine better athleticism with the fact that a current rookie in the NFL like Dak Prescott has probably seen more coverages and thrown more passes than a rookie in the NFL 15-20 years ago. Combine that with the increase in technology that allows coaches to better see what happens on the field and more/better analytical approaches to the game (though the NFL seems to lag behind other major sports here) and I think this goes a long way to explain why passing numbers are exploding.