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Friday, July 11, 2014

Brooks: Baseball or Soccer?

Is life more like baseball, or is it more like soccer?
...
Most of us spend our days thinking we are playing baseball, but we are really playing soccer. We think we individually choose what career path to take, whom to socialize with, what views to hold. But, in fact, those decisions are shaped by the networks of people around us more than we dare recognize.

If life were anything like that Argentina-Netherlands semifinal, I would have swerved into oncoming traffic years ago.  That was 120 minutes of coaching visits at the mound and guys stepping out to adjust their batting gloves.

Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: July 11, 2014 at 06:24 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: penalties are a stupid way to decide anything, soccer

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   1. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: July 11, 2014 at 10:31 PM (#4749204)
FTA:
Second, predictive models will be less useful. Baseball is wonderful for sabermetricians. In each at bat there is a limited range of possible outcomes. Activities like soccer are not as easily renderable statistically, because the relevant spatial structures are harder to quantify. Even the estimable statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight gave Brazil a 65 percent chance of beating Germany.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: July 11, 2014 at 10:36 PM (#4749206)
It's true ... barely bump a European and he'll crumple to the ground screaming in pain.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 11, 2014 at 10:47 PM (#4749214)
I read the column this morning, and while it's got an interesting POV, I think that sports have been way overmetaphored over the past few years. I still say the best observation was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling." Truer words were never written.
   4. Bhaakon Posted: July 11, 2014 at 11:22 PM (#4749235)
Most of us spend our days thinking we are playing baseball, but we are really playing soccer. We think we individually choose what career path to take, whom to socialize with, what views to hold. But, in fact, those decisions are shaped by the networks of people around us more than we dare recognize.


So it's more like baseball then. Unless I'm missing something, and they changed the rules to let runners bypass bases they don't care for.
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 11, 2014 at 11:30 PM (#4749241)
was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling."

touche Andy

times have changed, haven't they?
   6. BDC Posted: July 11, 2014 at 11:33 PM (#4749247)
All I know is that baseball and soccer are two sports where all fans are convinced their team loses more than 50% of the time.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: July 11, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4749248)
For a lot of people Life is like Soccer...boring and tedious and individuality is frowned upon(except for lawsuits, then it's perfectly acceptable to flop on the ground and sue)

for others it's like baseball, exciting and full of individual moments in between the slow crawl of everyday life. You think about having your first child, that is a homerun, changing jobs, is like trying to stretch a double into a triple not really sure until you make it whether it is going to work, etc....
   8. PreservedFish Posted: July 11, 2014 at 11:53 PM (#4749260)
I still say the best observation was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling." Truer words were never written.

I believe that was De Tocqueville.
   9. Bhaakon Posted: July 12, 2014 at 12:21 AM (#4749282)

All I know is that baseball and soccer are two sports where all fans are convinced their team loses more than 50% of the time.


Depending on how you counts ties, the soccer fans might actually be right.
   10. rlc Posted: July 12, 2014 at 03:22 AM (#4749323)
Imagine my disappointment when I realized this article was not written by my all-time favorite baseball player. No one will ever compare David Brooks to a vacuum cleaner, even though his work often sucks or blows.
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 12, 2014 at 07:22 AM (#4749333)
I still say the best observation was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling." Truer words were never written.

I believe that was De Tocqueville.


Thank God for FactCheck.org.

   12. KingKaufman Posted: July 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM (#4749378)
This was an unusually non-idiotic column from Brooks, though I wouldn't go TOO far north of idiotic. But of course it had to have a paragraph built on assumptions pulled out of his ass:

Most of us spend our days thinking we are playing baseball, but we are really playing soccer. We think we individually choose what career path to take, whom to socialize with, what views to hold. But, in fact, those decisions are shaped by the networks of people around us more than we dare recognize.


I love baseball. Think about it all the time. I do not spend my days thinking I'm playing baseball. Even in the metaphorical sense. More accurate: "Soccer's on people's minds right now and I have a deadline ..." What a hack this guy is.
   13. JRVJ Posted: July 12, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4749383)
Mr. Brooks' column is wrong in that he equates a sport with specific leagues (surely, MLB) or events (surely, the World Cup).

IMO, life is like MLB's regular season (in the sense that you have good days and you have bad days, and by and large, you shouldn't get too high up or too low down for either - granted, it's 162 MLB regular season games vs. 365 days in a year, but you get the point). Not like baseball or even MLB baseball: like MLB's regular season.

Life is not a "Cup", in the sense that you have a very small number of random opportunities every 4 years to achieve your highest goals.
   14. Greg K Posted: July 12, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4749385)
I don't know, in a general sort of way I can get behind that sentiment.

I think we tend to over-estimate the control we have over the events of your lives. I got the job/didn't get the job because I did this. My significant other/spouse is with me because of these traits I have. It's easier to relate that to an bat. It's a discrete event that was more or less initiated out of whole cloth when I stepped up to the plate. Sure, things like the score, and who's on base influence the encounter on the margins, but for the most part every at bat boils down to how you as an individual interact with the other guy in that moment. The outcome too can be influenced by the catcher, umpire, or fielders, but for the most part it's a self-contained episode.

On the other hand the world often works in a more sophisticated manner than that. It's not always useful to think about it that way (it may be more effective to only worry about what you can control). But sometimes, what we think of as the defining moments in our lives, in particular our self-defining moments where we think we made choices that influenced our life and who we are, are really the product of a turnover on the other side of the field we weren't even looking at, and a rush the other way where an out of position winger has to defend you on a break.

I really have no idea who this Brooks character is, and this article obviously doesn't get written if the World Cup isn't on, but I don't really see the passage as particularly glaring. It seems like a fairly banal statement that we talk about all the time here. It's easier to project and model baseball players because they participate in more discrete, measurable events, than hockey or soccer players who more often operate in inter-connections with one another. It's easier to wrap our heads around discrete events, and individual relationships, so I would think it's natural we see our lives in that way more often. In part I think this is the attractiveness of libertarianism. In breaking down everything into relationships and contracts with other individuals it gives life a rational, manageable sheen.

I realize I've now rambled off topic...though I don't feel too bad as this isn't strictly a baseball thread to begin with.
   15. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: July 12, 2014 at 11:26 AM (#4749387)
I love when people who don't usually get into sports can enjoy big events. I think it's great the way sports can bring a community together. I'll never forget taking the subway the morning after Pedro beat the Indians in the 99 ALDS and the way everyone was talking about it.

But man do I hate when those same people make sweeping statements about sport. Just enjoy the moment and don't turn it into a morality play or a referendum on society. Sometimes fun things are just fun.
   16. Greg K Posted: July 12, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4749388)
IMO, life is like MLB's regular season (in the sense that you have good days and you have bad days, and by and large, you shouldn't get too high up or too low down for either - granted, it's 162 MLB regular season games vs. 365 days in a year, but you get the point). Not like baseball or even MLB baseball: like MLB's regular season.

Life is not a "Cup", in the sense that you have a very small number of random opportunities every 4 years to achieve your highest goals.

That's another way of putting it. Nothing else in sport feels quite like day-to-day life more than the 162 game season.
   17. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: July 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4749398)
As someone who loves baseball and soccer, I've always thought that both sports suffer from being accused of being boring because a casual fan can't appreciate either sport properly. When one truly learns the nuances of the sports they become fascinating. There is so much important stuff going on in a baseball game and soccer match that the casual fan misses (and I'll admit my knowledge of soccer is about 40% that of baseball).

Now for life, I think that's more a matter of personality type. Some people live like it's (american) football, some like it's golf. To each his own.
   18. tshipman Posted: July 12, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4749433)
Is life more like baseball, or is it more like soccer?


This is a ####### stupid premise for a column.
   19. Bunny Vincennes Posted: July 12, 2014 at 03:27 PM (#4749469)
I have introduced a handful of friends, women in particular to understand baseball through photographer Niel Liefer's quarto sized book, "Ballet in the Dirt." 1960s Kodachrome. Those Kodachrome skies at Dodger Stadium, unreal beauty. And baseball can be artcul.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: July 13, 2014 at 03:05 AM (#4749670)
I still say the best observation was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling."

I'm curious when he said this because I've been saying it for 30 years and was original as far as I knew.
   21. vivaelpujols Posted: July 13, 2014 at 04:00 AM (#4749673)
For a lot of people Life is like Soccer...boring and tedious and individuality is frowned upon(except for lawsuits, then it's perfectly acceptable to flop on the ground and sue)

for others it's like baseball, exciting and full of individual moments in between the slow crawl of everyday life. You think about having your first child, that is a homerun, changing jobs, is like trying to stretch a double into a triple not really sure until you make it whether it is going to work, etc....


I like this perspective, but I would put soccer a little differently. There are a lot of individually exciting moments in soccer, it's just that they are fleeting and rarely materialize into anything tangible. Where as in baseball everything that does happen is strictly categorized. Soccer kind of reminds me of Dark Side of the Moon "you run and you run to catch up the sun, but it's sinking, running around to come up behind you again" - a lot of effort being put forth, but it's mostly in vein.

The other difference is that in baseball things always run through the pitcher where as in soccer after the initial touch it's a free for all. The pitcher kind of fits with an individual point of view where you are meeting the world and can control when you put yourself out there, where in soccer you are part of the world and can't control when the action happens.

   22. Swedish Chef Posted: July 13, 2014 at 04:07 AM (#4749674)
Hmmm... Wikiquote has Barzun writing:

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game — and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.
-- God's Country and Mine (1954)
   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 13, 2014 at 07:29 AM (#4749680)
I still say the best observation was Jacques Barzun's famous quote, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn professional wrestling."

I'm curious when he said this because I've been saying it for 30 years and was original as far as I knew.


Barzun wrote that famous line in 1954, when superstar wrestlers such as Gorgeous George, Antonino Rocca, and Slave Girl Moolah were performing their feats of skill and daring before packed arenas and millions of enraptured prime time TV viewers every night in America.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Hmmm... Wikiquote has Barzun writing:

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game — and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.
-- God's Country and Mine (1954)


That "baseball" version is a misquote whose absurdity is readily apparent to anyone who knew Barzun's refreshingly realistic and unsentimental views on American culture. It originally appeared due to a proofreader's mistaken "correction", and when Barzun read the final proof he let it stand as an inside joke that had his friends and colleagues in stitches for decades. He lived to be nearly 105, and many people attributed his long life to his droll sense of humor and his ability not to take life too seriously, a trait not necessarily shared by too many newspaper columnists.
   24. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM (#4749689)
superstar wrestlers such as Gorgeous George, Antonino Rocca, and Slave Girl Moolah


Interesting. I've only ever heard her referred to as "the Fabulous Moolah."
   25. BDC Posted: July 13, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4749691)
Andy's right, but even more interesting is that Barzun's first draft read "Anyone who wants to know the heart and mind of Canada had better learn women's naked outdoor curling."
   26. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4749692)
I love baseball. Think about it all the time. I do not spend my days thinking I'm playing baseball.


I do carry a baseball bat around with me everywhere I go. Good for the bludgeonings that life throws your way.
   27. Greg K Posted: July 13, 2014 at 10:27 PM (#4749831)
"Anyone who wants to know the heart and mind of Canada had better learn women's naked outdoor curling."

I did once meet a grad student at a sports history conference in Montreal that was doing her thesis on the culture of nudist frisbee clubs. Naked curling would be difficult, you'd need sliding shoes and pants (if not at the very least knee pads). Bare skin sliding on ice probably doesn't work great.

EDIT: Though in all seriousness hanging out in a curling club in small town Saskatchewan for a weekend is probably one of the most effective ways to pick up what it is to be Canadian. Especially if there's a bonspiel going on.
   28. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM (#4749836)
hough in all seriousness hanging out in a curling club


So ... naked curling it is, then.
   29. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 13, 2014 at 11:14 PM (#4749844)
Andy's right, but even more interesting is that Barzun's first draft read "Anyone who wants to know the heart and mind of Canada had better learn women's naked outdoor curling."

Would that be with or without jello?

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