Sportsmanlike Behavior

Kevin Lewis

March 14, 2010

Raising salary or redistributing it: A panel analysis of major league baseball

Wen-Jhan Jane
Economics Letters, forthcoming

Using data in Major League Baseball(MLB), this article conducts Panel Granger Causality tests for teams' salary structures and corresponding performance. The results show that a reliable way to enhance performance is to compress salaries rather than to enlarge the payroll.


Race Ideology Perpetuated: Media Representations of Newly Hired Football Coaches

George Cunningham & Trevor Bopp
Journal of Sports Media, Spring 2010, Pages 1-19

The purpose of the study was to examine the media coverage of newly hired NCAA Division I-FBS football coaches through the investigation of media releases (n = 191) related to their hires. Results indicate that (a) African Americans were under-represented in the hiring process, when compared to the proportion of African American athletes on the team; (b) African Americans were most likely to be hired to coach positions with a high concentration of African American athletes, while Whites were most likely to be hired as a coordinator; and (c) Whites were more likely than African Americans to be depicted as helping the team through their knowledge and experience, while African Americans were more likely than were Whites to help the team through their recruiting efforts and relationships with the players. Results suggest that the media perpetuate the dominant racial ideology in the U.S. and are discussed accordingly.


Match Madness: Probability Matching in Prediction of the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Sean McCrea & Edward Hirt
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, December 2009, Pages 2809-2839

Every year, billions of dollars are spent gambling on the outcomes of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. This study examines how individuals make predictions for tournament pools, one of the most popular forms of betting, in which individuals must correctly predict as many games in the tournament as possible. We demonstrate that individuals predict more upsets (i.e., wins by a higher seeded team) than would be considered rational by a normative choice model, and that individuals are no better than chance at doing so. These predictions fit a pattern of probability matching, in which individuals predict upsets at a rate equal to past frequency. This pattern emerges because individuals believe the outcomes of the games are nonrandom and, therefore, predictable.


"Rubbin' is racin''': Evidence of the Peltzman effect from NASCAR

Adam Pope & Robert Tollison
Public Choice, March 2010, Pages 507-513

The Peltzman Effect is a well known and controversial theory in the literature. Studies have struggled to find a dataset that can accurately test for the presence of the effect. We have created a unique dataset and use a natural experiment from the sport of stock car racing to test the theory. Using race-level data from NASCAR events, we find strong evidence that a major safety regulation has led to more on-track accidents and an increased risk to both spectators and pit crew members.


Intended and Unintended Effects of Youth Bicycle Helmet Laws

Christopher Carpenter & Mark Stehr
NBER Working Paper, January 2010

Over 20 states have adopted laws requiring youths to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. We confirm previous research indicating that these laws reduced fatalities and increased helmet use, but we also show that the laws significantly reduced youth bicycling. We find this result in standard two-way fixed effects models of parental reports of youth bicycling, as well as in triple difference models of self-reported bicycling among high school youths that explicitly account for bicycling by youths just above the helmet law age threshold. Our results highlight important intended and unintended consequences of a well-intentioned public policy.


Effects of Video-Game Ownership on Young Boys' Academic and Behavioral Functioning: A Randomized, Controlled Study

Robert Weis & Brittany Cerankosky
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Young boys who did not own video games were promised a video-game system and child-appropriate games in exchange for participating in an "ongoing study of child development." After baseline assessment of boys' academic achievement and parent- and teacher-reported behavior, boys were randomly assigned to receive the video-game system immediately or to receive the video-game system after follow-up assessment, 4 months later. Boys who received the system immediately spent more time playing video games and less time engaged in after-school academic activities than comparison children. Boys who received the system immediately also had lower reading and writing scores and greater teacher-reported academic problems at follow-up than comparison children. Amount of video-game play mediated the relationship between video-game ownership and academic outcomes. Results provide experimental evidence that video games may displace after-school activities that have educational value and may interfere with the development of reading and writing skills in some children.


Value of stealing bases in Major League Baseball: "Stealing" runs and wins

Herman Demmink
Public Choice, March 2010, Pages 497-505

This paper asks whether stealing bases contributes to scoring runs and winning games in Major League Baseball. A successful attempt advances the runner to the next base, which raises his chances of scoring a run; being caught stealing results in an out. Exploiting a dataset that includes all professional MLB teams and 15 regular seasons of play (1990-2004), the empirical results suggest that players attempting to steal bases are successful two out of three times. On the average and other things being the same, a one-standard deviation increase in the number of stolen base attempts results in 3.65 more games won per season.


How to Catch a Tiger: Understanding Putting Performance on the PGA Tour

Douglas Fearing, Jason Acimovic & Stephen Graves
MIT Working Paper, January 2010

Existing performance metrics utilized by the PGA TOUR have biases towards specific styles of play, which make relative player comparisons challenging. Our goal is to evaluate golfers in a way that eliminates these biases and to better understand how the best players maintain their advantage. Through a working agreement with the PGA TOUR, we have obtained access to proprietary "ShotLink" data that pinpoints the location of every shot taken on the PGA TOUR. Using these data, we develop distance-based models for two components of putting performance: the probability of making the putt and the remaining distance to the pin conditioned on missing. The first is modeled through a logistic regression, while the second is modeled through a gamma regression. Both of these models fit the data well and provide interesting insights into the game. Additionally, by describing the act of putting using a simple Markov chain, we are able to combine these two models to characterize the putts-to-go for the field from any distance on the green for the PGA TOUR. The results of this Markov model match both the empirical expectation and variance of putts-to-go. We use our models to evaluate putting performance in terms of the strokes or putts gained per round relative to the field. Using this metric, we can determine what portion of a player's overall performance is due to advantage (or loss) gained through putting, and conversely what portion of the player's performance is derived off the green. We demonstrate with examples how our metric eliminates significant biases that exist in the PGA TOUR's Putting Average statistic. Last, extending the concept of putts gained to evaluate player-specific performance, we show how our models can be used to quickly test situational hypotheses, such as differences between putting for par and birdie and performance under pressure.


The Deal on Testosterone Responses to Poker Competition

Eric Steiner, Kimberly Barchard, Marta Meana, Freidun Hadi & Peter Gray
Current Psychology, March 2010, Pages 45-51

The following study investigated the effect of poker competition on testosterone (T) responses. Thirty-two participants played one-on-one poker in a lab on campus. Saliva samples were obtained before and after the poker games. On average, participants produced a significant increase in T during the competition, with no difference between winners and losers. This study is the first of its kind to examine T responses in a gambling competition. Possible implications for destructive gambling behaviors are discussed.


Point Shaving in College Basketball: A Cautionary Tale for Forensic Economics

Dan Bernhardt & Steven Heston
Economic Inquiry, January 2010, Pages 14-25

Point shaving is the practice by favored teams of attempting to win by less than the point spread to yield profits for gamblers who bet on the underdog. Consistent with point shaving, strong favorites are anomalously likely to win by less than the spread. To distinguish between innocent and criminal explanations, we (1) exploit information in line movements and (2) isolate games without betting lines to identify games where point shaving is implausible and document similar patterns. The data are better explained by strategic efforts to maximize the probability of winning. These findings highlight the importance of methodology design.


Athlete Atypicity on the Edge of Human Achievement: Performances Stagnate after the Last Peak, in 1988

Geoffroy Berthelot, Muriel Tafflet, Nour El Helou, Stéphane Len, Sylvie Escolano, Marion Guillaume, Hala Nassif, Julien Tolaïni, Valérie Thibault, François Denis Desgorces, Olivier Hermine & Jean-François Toussaint
PLoS ONE, January 2010, e8800

The growth law for the development of top athletes performances remains unknown in quantifiable sport events. Here we present a growth model for 41351 best performers from 70 track and field (T&F) and swimming events and detail their characteristics over the modern Olympic era. We show that 64% of T&F events no longer improved since 1993, while 47% of swimming events stagnated after 1990, prior to a second progression step starting in 2000. Since then, 100% of swimming events continued to progress. We also provide a measurement of the atypicity for the 3919 best performances (BP) of each year in every event. The secular evolution of this parameter for T&F reveals four peaks; the most recent (1988) followed by a major stagnation. This last peak may correspond to the most recent successful attempt to push forward human physiological limits. No atypicity trend is detected in swimming. The upcoming rarefaction of new records in sport may be delayed by technological innovations, themselves depending upon economical constraints.


'Jumping like a girl': Discursive silences, exclusionary practices and the controversy over women's ski jumping

Jason Laurendeau & Carly Adams
Sport in Society, April 2010, Pages 431-447

This paper considers the recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to deny women the opportunity to compete in ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Drawing on a feminist Foucauldian framework, we suggest that the Olympics is a discourse that constructs excellence and fairness as 'within the true', with the IOC protesting that this recent decision is not about gender, but about the upholding of Olympic ideals. We interrogate three conspicuous absences in this discourse, each of which troubles the IOC's claim that this decision is not evidence of gender discrimination. In particular, we contextualize this decision within the risk discourses upon which the IOC has historically drawn on denying women's participation in particular Olympic events, arguing that the discursive silence around the issue of risk points to 'old wine in new bottles' as the IOC dresses up the same paternalistic practices in new garb. We conclude with a consideration of these discursive structures as more than simply oppressive of women. Instead, they may also be understood as indicative of the 'problem' posed by women, especially those who threaten the gender binary that pervades many sporting structures. Finally, these structures signal opportunities for resistance and subversion as women act to shed light on the discursive silences upon which structures of domination rest.

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