# Category: Sports

## Betting on the World Series

You pays your money and you takes your chances, but the House always has an edge.

Did you ever wonder how big that edge is?

Among the simplest edges to compute is Las Vegas roulette.  If your chips are on one of the numbers from 1 to 36, and you win, you get paid 35-1. That means that if you put \$1 on each of those 36 numbers, when the ball drops onto one of those numbers, you’ll get your winning bet back plus \$35; you’ll break even. Those are fair odds.  But the House, as I said, always has an edge. Las Vegas wheels include two other numbers that also pay 35-1: 0 and 00. So to be sure you’ll win, you’d have to place 38 one-dollar bets, thus giving the House a \$2 profit on every \$38 you bet (a 5.26% margin). Continue reading “Betting on the World Series”

## Deflategate and Bikeshedding

With Super Bowl XLIX (how many Americans can quickly translate Roman Numerals?) just days away, the sports pages (even some science and editorial pages) are passionately afroth with Deflategate chatter. Was the football intentionally underinflated during the first half of the Patriots/Colts game? Hands are wringing! The world trembles with the possibility that an NFL team might be cheating!

In 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson, British naval historian and author of over 60 books, published the international best-seller, Parkinson’s Law, a series of trenchant and oft-humorous essays, which made him a name in public administration and management. The eponymous adage explained in the titular essay as Parkinson’s Law is: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Less well known, but just as pithy and important, is Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.

Now also known as “bikeshedding,” Parkinson’s Law of Triviality states that the more complex an issue, the less time spent on it. Continue reading “Deflategate and Bikeshedding”

## A Different Kind of Basketball

Over four years ago I wrote about basketball at little Grinnell College (Iowa, 1500 students). They play a run-and-gun style that’s fun to watch. Two days ago, Grinnell sophomore Jack Taylor lived the dream of every kid who ever tossed the ball up at a backyard hoop. He broke the NCAA record for points in a game: 138! Here’s the Associated Press story.

How did Grinnell’s Jack Taylor wind up with 138 points in a game?

Well, he did miss 56 shots, more than he made. And he didn’t play for four minutes.

Otherwise he would have scored even more.

As it was, Taylor shattered the NCAA scoring record by 25 points Tuesday night in the Pioneers’ 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible in Grinnell, Iowa. Continue reading “A Different Kind of Basketball”

## Mac Crash

My 3.5-year-old Macbook Pro went on the disabled list Wednesday.

Symptoms: Normal start up, but then, as the blue screen and desktop icons appeared, so did the spinning beach ball of death…and a queasy stomach.

Interior sirens wailing, I rushed to my not-too-far-away Apple Store where, amid dozens of milling i-enthusiasts, the patient was taken into the back room, and I was told to go home and wait. Two hours later I got the news. “It’s a severe hard disk charley horse. Maybe even a full quadriceps tear,” the Apple Genius said with great sympathy. This made sense to me; I had noticed, over the past couple of months, a not-so-subtle limp and an intermittent tendency to be slower than normal on ground balls to the backhand. Continue reading “Mac Crash”

## A Captain and the Majors

Time and situation award only a few in each generation with an opportunity to take a place in history. How much smaller is the number who are twice-touched by fate. Today’s post is about one such man. It starts with the differences between North and South and ends with the thin line that separates fair and foul.

The Civil War was a mold for heroes and villains. Out of its tragedies and triumphs Continue reading “A Captain and the Majors”

## Final Four Math — 2011

This year’s March Madness has brought us a Final Four with no #1 or #2 seeds, unique in NCAA tournament history. But the absence of high-seed teams has not dulled enthusiasm for the last three games. In fact, some sports pundits are trumpeting the “Cinderella” factor: can a #11 seed, Virginia Commonwealth University, pull off the all-time, unexpected upset?

But no matter who matter who wins the game, the bookies win their money. The bookie’s odds always include a built-in percentage for the house. In 2009 I calculated the Las Vegas Final Four edge at 9.8%; in 2010, the edge was larger (14.3%). This year the edge, if you can actually get these published odds, is unbelievably small…only 2.2%!