Category Archives: sports

big data hubris

A not-very-important, yet instructive, series of events on Friday offers a cautionary tale about the allure of big data and the fashionable mistrust of local knowledge.

Continue reading

david vs. goliath

A small woodland creature takes on the man responsible for the technique-revolution in competitive eating. Whatever, I found it inspiring. [HT: RCM]

the unc athletics scandal in context

[I apologize in advance to regular Scatterplot readers and authors, as this post, like my last one, has an awful lot of “inside baseball.” I plan to return to writing on matters of academia and social science soon.]

A few years ago I was part of a group of UNC faculty who began meeting in the aftermath of the revelations about fake classes. Horrified at the misconduct perpetrated by a colleague and upset about the apparent disregard for academic quality that disproportionately helped student-athletes stay eligible to play, our group—which eventually became the Athletics Reform Group (ARG)—met and discussed how to voice our disapproval and advocate for educational opportunities and academic integrity with respect to athletes. I was proud to be one of the signatories of a statement we released at the first game of UNC’s new football coach, Larry Fedora, and of a set of principles we put out later. We had many discussions about the problems of college athletics and the compromises that are required. These included experts in the field of college sports as well as many of us who are simply concerned, informed faculty. We met with outside figures like Taylor Branch and Joe Nocera as well as current and former Carolina athletes. The group included many faculty leaders at Carolina, many of whom have ended up on different sides of the debates that have followed since.

Continue reading

media sociology from the other side

I was quoted in last Sunday’s New York Times in an article about UNC’s ongoing athletics scandal. This article was specifically about the relationship between UNC and Dan Kane, the reporter from the Raleigh News & Observer assigned to cover the scandal. Predictably, the article amounted to one reporter fawning over another for just how important and groundbreaking the latter’s work has been, with my quote pretty much the only countervailing position offered. Later in the post I’ll paste in the full extent of what I told Sarah Lyall (the reporter on the story), and later this week or next I’m planning a much longer post about the state of the scandal. But here I want to think a little about my experiences with the media’s miserable coverage of this set of stories in relief with what we know, and I appreciate, about the current sociology of the media.

Continue reading

take me out to the asa ballgame

Princeton U Press editor Eric Schwartz has a great idea for this year’s ASA baseball trip. Why not go to a minor league game? Cheaper tickets, better seats, and a chance to see some great baseball. So this year, we have cooked up the following plan:

Staten Island Yankees: Friday, August 9 at 7pm

Featuring:

  • tickets that cost no more than $25 plus fees
  • two free rides on the Staten Island Ferry, which has the best view of the Statue of Liberty (especially now that you can no longer climb into her head)
  • throwback jerseys given away to the first 2,500 fans
  • amazing views of the Manhattan skyline
  • friendly sociologists hanging out together

If we get a group of 10 together, we can get even cheaper tickets (I know, right?). Please email me at fetner@gmail.com if you are interested in joining us. Everyone is welcome; don’t be shy.

fairness and high-risk, high-reward

I have heard recently two concerns about training for job markets that might be called high-risk, high-reward jobs. The implication is that such training programs are unfair because they aim too high for students’ likely job prospects.

Continue reading

scatterplot competition: guess the nra’s membership

You know what sounds fun? A Scatterplot competition! I know it’s not exactly a sequel to the epic Mario Kart races of 2009, but it might still be fun. This time it is a guessing game. How many members will the NRA have in June of 2013? Continue reading

the brains behind youth hockey

I know, I know, no one cares about ice hockey. Except Canadians, Russians, and sociology bloggers, that is. Up here, hockey is in the news because someone did a study to dispel a widely held myth so stupid that it burns. The idea is that introducing body checking in hockey at a younger age reduces the number of concussions and other injuries. If they learn to check earlier, it is held, they will be better at it, so it won’t cause as much damage. This is like saying the more you hit a hammer with a nail the more resistant the nail will become to sinking into the wood. Continue reading

asa baseball 2nd chance

Did you miss your chance to order tickets for the ASA baseball game? Maybe you didn’t know about your trip schedule, or you didn’t want to take a chance on missing Just Desserts. Perhaps you were so excited about THE HUB that you couldn’t dream of walking away from the beating heart of technology information. It’s okay; we understand. But, alas! Here is another chance for you. I am ordering another batch of tickets, and if we act now we can all get seats together.

The game is Friday, August 17 at 6:40pm. We can walk there from the conference center. Tickets will cost you $18. What are you waiting for? Email me if you want a ticket: fetner@gmail.com.

majoring in football

Joe Nocera of the NYT wrote a column the other day endorsing the idea of allowing football players to “major in football.” The column begins at a lunch here at UNC. I was at that lunch, and Nocera’s claims are broader than what was actually said at the luncheon. Continue reading

gay men can play hockey

Has it really been four years since we pondered the number of closeted lesbians and gay men in sports? Where does the time go? In that post, I made the rather obvious claim that many sports, especially those with large audiences like baseball, football, and hockey, are particularly unwelcoming to gay men. I am not aware of any out gay men among the active players at the professional levels of any of these sports, but a handful have come out after they retired. When are professional sports, bastions of traditional masculinity, ever going to catch up with the changing attitudes toward homosexuality in U.S. and Canadian society? Perhaps the first steps are underway. Continue reading

asa baseball is back

You might think that we have abandoned the scatterplot tradition of organizing a trip to a baseball game during the ASA, but no! The ASA’s move to Las Vegas foiled our plans last year, but we are back on track in 2012, and I am especially excited because I have never, ever been to Coors Field. Ohmigodimgonnadieofexcitement!

I am tempted to suggest the Sunday afternoon game (a day game? in a new stadium? *breathe, breathe*), even though we would need to buy the tickets before the ASA program comes out, as we always do. However, I am willing to be talked down from that plan–here is the schedule. So, who is joining me?

Continue reading

athletics and academics

As I have made clear in the past, I am a Tar Heel fan. I am also ambivalent about the relationship between big-time athletics and academics. Continue reading

food for thought from/re graham spanier

The below comes from my colleague Philip Cohen. (Spanier was president of Penn State from 1995 until yesterday):

Excerpts from Graham Spanier’s article: “Higher Education Administration: One Sociologist’s View,” Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 295-300, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1389050.

I truly believe that it is something like athletic accomplishment. To be really good you must want to do it, be willing to make the sacrifice, put in the hours of preparation, and stick with it against sometimes great odds. But apart from such commitment, only some will move to positions at the highest level, because some basic personal characteristics must be there to begin with and they are not easily learned. The most dedicated athlete may simply not make the cut. Similarly, some faculty just aren’t cut out for administration, despite a keen interest in it.

Continued involvement in the profession doesn’t have to focus on the collection of original data. It can entail involvement in association leadership positions, an occasional book review, an essay of the sort that an “elder statesman” might write, and teaching a course from time to time. Such involvement is also good insurance. Administrative positions have always been vulnerable, and are increasingly so. Academics must preserve the opportunity to return to a productive role as a faculty member, not just the right to return to a tenured position.

My plea is not that administrators should have thick skins. Rather, one needs perspective. One must be prepared to feel bad, be able to survive it, and then bounce back quickly-very quickly-and get everything back on track. If you can’t handle the occasional attack, don’t subject yourself to it. (On the other hand, if this happens a lot you are probably doing something wrong and shouldn’t be in the job in the first place.)

Don’t accept an administrative position unless you are prepared to make every decision in relation to what is best for the institution. You should have your own agenda, of course, but every decision must be weighed in relation to the good of the university. The easy decision is often one that is not best for the department, college, or university in the long run. If you can’t make that tough decision, don’t take the job.

Administrators who are fearful of the consequences of a controversial or difficult decision often make the choice that is not in the best interests of the institution. Realism and compromise find their way into most tough situations, but above all, be committed to integrity and principle.

if the university is a body, what organ is athletics?

In the wake of athletics scandals, general budget cuts, and a new athletic director, questions of how athletics fits into the University in general are high on the agenda these days. Yesterday there was a forum with the outgoing Athletic Director, Dick Baddour, and several other people involved in athletics, to discuss the role of athletics. (I couldn’t go because we had a faculty meeting at the same time.) In the Daily Tar Heel story about the meeting, Faculty Athletics Committee chair Steve Reznick is quoted as saying:

Athletics is part of our body. You can’t just remove the pancreas.

Now, the corporeal metaphor is interesting enough on its own, but the choice of pancreas is really creative. It does turn out that pancreatectomy has a very poor prognosis, probably because the pancreas’s contribution to the body is made up of many different roles. Here’s my imagination of the upcoming game next Friday. I can hear Jones Angell now, the new voice of the Heels, aboard the USS Carl Vinson: 26 seconds to go in the second half, Carolina behind 78-75, Marshall with the ball, President Obama on his feet but fearing the worst. Angell has the call:

Marshall gets the inbound pass and crosses the timeline. Marshall takes it inside, fakes the dish to Zeller, then kicks it back out to Henson for the three at the buzzer. The game goes into overtime, all thanks to a sensational play by Kendall Marshall. That kid is all pancreas!

And so, dear readers: if your university is a body, what organ is athletics?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,504 other followers