After Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominated for President by a major political party in the United States (one helluva baseball stat), a lot of ink was spilled in the matter of her outfit. To many, the fixation on the female nominee’s sartorial decision-making was clear evidence of sexism. For the media to give the same sort of attention to what a man chose to wear, they pointed out, would come off as absurd.
According to a study commissioned by the Wall Street Journal, fans of the Washington Redskins have the worst writing skillz in the National Football League — and it isn’t even particularly close. The gap between D.C. and the second-worst New Orleans Saints is a whopping 4.1 mistakes (~30% worse!) for every 100 words published in online comments. That is almost inconceivably bad, kind of like the Redskins on the field (who have won seven times in two years). For the sake of comparison, 22 teams rank within 4.1 mistake-margin from the league-best Detroit Lions:
You are surely aware that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. But don’t forget there are also three kinds of dumb: dumb, extremely dumb… and statistics.
Behold this tweet, published by Pro Football Reference during the Super Bowl one week ago today:
2016 hopeful Chris Christie made headlines a week ago when he was spotted embracing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in that franchise’s owner’s box. While that sight provoked a response of pity or disgust — or a mixture of both — among many observers, it provoked in me a question: which of those two detestable men would I prefer to become the next President of the United States?
Three weeks ago, in a post titled “How freaking stupid do headline writers think we are?“, I decried the tendency of journalists to twist headlines to fit the facts they wished to present. In this second edition of what is sure to devolve into a continuing series, I would like to expand on my previous complaint by presenting the following example of a sensational headline gracing an event that was probably never worth writing about in the first place. Behold:
Well, without knowing more, that certainly sounds interesting. Most babies don’t develop their first tooth until the age of 4-7 months. And it certainly wasn’t their razor-sharp teeth that helped three baby sharks escape the carcass of their beached mother just over a month ago — SPOILER: it was a man with a knife — so it’s unclear what use humans might have for such implements prior to their escape from mummy’s womb.
But whatever the explanation, this is certainly fascinating! Or is it?
The headline, which describes a baby named Alyssa born in a particular location possessing a specific number of teeth, is certainly calculated to give the impression that this is a story about one baby, and one baby alone. The event is rare. It is precious. You should read about it. Except that should you take a moment to read the article, you would quickly discover that such an occurrence is not so unlikely after all:
I’ll make this quick. An article appeared on Huffington Post Women today heralding the arrival of a new breed of trophy wife:
Men are finding the most attractive and sexually desirable women are not brainless beauties whose sole function is to look good and stay quiet, but women who are making good money and are in positions of power.
The woman who got ahead on her looks by marrying a “sugar daddy” is now being replaced by the woman who is equal to her man in earning power and career position.
I’m not going to dispute that sweeping generalization, because, well, I don’t want a potential future wife to throw this blog post in my face — but more importantly, because its claims are impossible to evaluate from where I’m sitting.
That’s not because it would be impossible to marshal empirical evidence in support of the article’s thesis (or vice versa). It’s because that’s not the game this article is trying to play. Behold, the — precisely — two data points the author bothered to cite:
The Oakland Athletics’ season-long masterpiece of performance art mercifully came to an end this evening, but for 20 other baseball teams, the 2014 season wrapped up a couple of days ago (if not earlier).
What follows is a brief illustration of this baseball season, and every baseball season:
The above, courtesy of Red Sox (and former Marlins) owner John Henry, in response to Miami’s complaint that Boston sent a team of minor leaguers to play a spring training game, instead of the major leaguers who had won the 2013 World Series.
Today’s excuse for blogging (as opposed to working) is a first: in a few hours, the Seattle Mariners will play in game #162 of the MLB regular season with a chance to wind up, when all is said and done, with a shot at making the playoffs. The Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001, and have not made the World Series since ever, so — though their chances may be slim — I’m having some difficulty paying attention to, say, Property.
But this post isn’t about the Mariners, because the position in which the team finds itself has so little to do with the Mariners. You see, the Mariners have Marinered — but fortunately for them, the Oakland Athletics have Marinered even worse. Without their help, the Mariners would not be one game out with a game to play in 2014.
The magnitude of Oakland’s collapse is well-rehearsed, and I have no intention of repeating it here. Suffice to say that the team held a 10 (or so) game lead in the AL West at the trade deadline, made a series of moves that was widely applauded at the time, and now sits 11 games out of first place — just 1 ahead of Seattle. According to CoolStandings, an Athletics failure to make the playoffs would mark the second-worst collapse of all time, behind only the 1995 California Angels (the team that Refused to Win).
While many point to the trade deadline as the turning point in Oakland’s season, I think it makes a lot more sense to talk about a different date that came less than a week later: August 5, 2014. Sort of curious, since the team actually won that game with an extra-inning walk-off single and then won three of their next four, but I am absolutely certain that 8/5 was the date that portended the team’s doom. Why’s that? Because this:
Monday night, Stephen Colbert interviewed a sexy mathematician, so it was disappointing to see the very first moments of Jon Stewart’s show the next evening succumb to some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad math.
It all started when Stewart aired part of an interview featuring Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius speaking about Obamacare, way back in September 2013:
I think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.
As you may have heard, the end of March 2014 has now come and gone, and Barack Obama immediately took to the airwaves to proclaim that his program had not only met, but exceeded the goals it set at the outset:
7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces. 7.1.
Michael Bennett played a key role in the Seahawks Superbowl victory, but even though the team would like to resign him, the city it calls home hasn’t exactly been giving him the royal treatment. Take, for instance, his recent experience with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines:
Poor guy. Cookies for dinner? Sounds almost as absurd as candy for breakfast! Or the idea that airline customers matter.