Sunday, January 04, 2004

(sports) dahlia vs. the paid sports pundits

King Kaufman is trying valiantly with his daily sports column in Salon to show that some writers with left-leaning-heart-in-the-right-place social values can be every bit as prolifically ignorant about sports as anyone infused with the cowboy-conservatism typical of sports columnists. Really, to use a mild expletive more common in the rural world where I grew up than the academic one I travel in now, King Kaufman is making a spirited run at being the single most thoroughgoing dipshit writing about American sports today, and, if you spend much time reading sportswriting, you know that's saying something.

In his most recent column, he makes predictions about today's playoff games (both of which turned out to be characteristically incorrect), and he went on to discuss his mediocre record for the picks he made this year:
"Ron Jaworski, the former quarterback who now works for ESPN, is a seasoned, savvy and energetic observer of the game who talks regularly to coaches and players and dissects game film... He was the best of's panel of eight experts this year at predicting who would win each game. He got 68.4 percent right... That sounds good until you consider the prediction record of a person who never played the game, rarely talks to coaches or players, doesn't watch game film and only sees a few games each week, sometimes with less than full attention... I was right 61.3 percent of the time. Not as good as Jaworski, but ... [he] certainly has put in a lot of sweat and pain and studying to gain... [an] advantage over the likes of me."
Meanwhile, as readers of the sports posts on this weblog know, my half-sister Dahlia also participated in an NFL pool in which she had to pick the winner of every game. Her winning percentage was 67.2%, which is a whole lot closer to Jaworski's than it is to Kaufman's. Dahlia not only has never played football, never talked to a coach or player, and never has watched a football game, but some readers even continue to believe that she does not actually exist. And, still, she outpredicts King Kaufman by a nontrivial margin. For that matter, Ellie Buckley had a superior performance to Kaufman's for the last two weeks of the NFL season, even though Ellie was making all her picks those weeks using a rubber fish.

(Aside: Kaufman was, incidentally, not only a Nader supporter in 2000, but, of all the columnists who provided justifications for voting for Nader in 2000, gave arguably the most dubious one, namely, that he was still angry at Tipper Gore for her earlier effort to put warning labels on record albums--he said he voted for Nader because of his desire to protect the first amendment. He also said, presciently, that he voted for Nader because he was angry at Clinton for bombing Iraq. I will leave it to the reader to judge whether the non-election of Al Gore has proved either a good thing for the protection of individual civil liberties or a good path to pacifistically preventing the deaths of Iraqis at American hands.)

(Aside to aside: Yes, I recognize that the above paragraph contradicts my earlier proclamation that I was going to replace all my Nader anger with love. Consider this a momentary lapse. These sort of changes are slow and fraught with much potential for backsliding. Henceforth, whenever I read King Kaufman's columns, I will try to do so with a heart filled with tenderness and affection. One day at a time, one day at a time.)

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