14 December 2014

Matter Over Mind

It's deep into sports season. NFL is winding down to the last few games, Heisman is today along with the Army-Navy game, NBA is at the ¼ mark. Johnny Manziel is described as a midget. Adrian Peterson doesn't get off Scott free for beating his kid. Baseball teams swap players at multiple tens of millions of moolah a pop; having had some for just a few months. All these obscenely paid walking meat sticks get that money in large part because taxpayers foot the bill for the venues in which they play. Said venues being the only real capital needed to field said teams; the other costs are the franchise fee levied by the other owners (one step removed for Ballmer, but it's the same thing) and the payments to the aforementioned walking meat sticks. Free market? The NFL, as organization, is arranged as a non-profit. That's the truth.

And I, not for the first time, wonder why it is that adolescent males (and, increasingly, females) are willing to spend many hours in the gym/weight room/track getting big muscles, but not a nanosecond in the lib to build a big brain. The odds of finding employment as an NBA player? Well there are 30 NBA teams of 12 (15 if you count inactives) players each. Discounting foreigners (which one could do in years past...) that yields, at best, 450 slots. On a population basis of 319 million, with about 80 million of basketball age, and a 50/50 split in sex for that age cohort, we end up with 40 million candidates. The odds: .001% of being a NBA player; and that assumes all positions are available all the time, which, of course, they're not. For a absurdly detailed analysis of the NBA, go here.

Yet, these walking meat sticks will spend mind numbing time making big muscles, fast muscles, and so forth. In basketball there is the age-old wheeze, "you can't coach height", which limits the odds still further. Not so much in football (unless you're a midget quarterback in an era of tall ones) and baseball. The fact remains: "working" toward a career (typically measured, on average, in single digit years across all of them) in professional sports is as probable, at best, as winning Lotto. This is one case, even if the arithmetic says so, that expected value may not be a rational driver of decision. One need only remember the issue with airplane travel: there's not much chance of a crash, but if you're in one, there's a majority probability of not living through a crash.
According to the 2014 ICAO safety report, the total number of plane accidents in 2013 was 90 world-wide. Only 9 of these accidents were fatal accidents, that is, accidents involving fatalities. The Global Fatal Accident Review of the Civil Aviation Authority gives a total number of 0.6 fatal accidents per one million flights for the ten-year period 2002 to 2011. When expressed as per million hours flown, this number is 0.4. The corresponding number of fatalities is 22.0 fatalities per one million flights or 12.7 when expressed as per million hours flown.
(Or, you can look here.)
Depends on which expected value is of most value to you. Same, it seems, with teen age males. They see a massive carrot (the obscene payment if you play), but ignore the even larger stick (the more massive likelihood you'll be flippin' burgers with those pretty muscles). Those who prefer to not fly in tin coffins are derided as delusional, yet young males who decide to devote themselves to becoming a professional athlete are "living the dream"???

It appears to be that the mind numbing activities of muscle building are preferred just because they dull the mind. After millennia since we crawled out of the muck, we'd rather regress to lower levels of consciousness. Drink and drugs do the same thing, too. Not that Mormons are all that likeable for their temperance. It's kind of sad. Gives the Right Wingnuts ever more fodder. One might also note the increasing prominence of ruralism in entertainment. Country songs, swamp people, gold diggers (not the floozies), huntin' and fishin' shows, farmsonly.com (city folk just don't get it, of course), and so forth. As if the "simpleminded life" were the better one. Trouble with thinking that way is that all those pointy headed -ologists (over a number of centuries of study) have figured something out: it's the density of cities that leads to progress. All those low intellect bush people in Africa and peasants in South America and Asia are proof of that, right? (OK, before regular reader gets her panties in a bunch, that's sarcasm!!) Yet, here we see purposeful regression to low achievement.

No comments: