Examining and Analyzing Sports the Way They Should Be

Guess what these numbers, 106,107,111,92, indicate when discussing the Houston Astros?

No, it’s not how many games they have won in each of the past four season, but rather it is how many games they have lost.

The Astros have been the doormat of both the NL and AL in each of the past four seasons, but it appears that those days are over.

If opening day is any indication, the Astros won’t suck this year.

On opening day the Astros defeated the Cleveland Indians, one of the prohibitive favorites in the American League, by the score of 2-0. Dallas Keuchel, won his first career opening day start by throwing seven shutout innings allowing only three hits and striking out four. The bullpen came in and pitched two shutout, hitless innings and looked competent as well.

New manager A.J. Hinch has assembled a young core that will likely hover around the .500 barrier. Jose Altuve, George Springer, Chris Carter (not the NFL hall of famer), and Jake Marisnick help make up the Astros’ young core.

Colby Rasmus and Jed Lowrie both have disappointed for some of their prior teams but seem to have prominent everyday roles allotted to them. On opening day Lowrie was one of the two Astros to score. Rasmus reached base as well. With a mix of raw prospects and veterans such as Rasmus, Lawrie, closer Luke Gregerson, and reliever Pat Neshek, the Astros have the makings not of a playoff team, but of a team that you wouldn’t want to play in September when your making a playoff push and need easy wins. The ‘Stros are no longer the pushover they once were.

And that means as a fan, we will see more of one of the most quirky ballparks in the game on TV more frequently.

-Ben Pickman 


For the first and certainly not last time the New York Yankees lost yesterday to the Toronto Blue Jays. “Ace” Masahiro Tanaka pitched four mediocre innings and already has as many losses as he did by May of the 2014 season.

Michael Pineda though was dominant this spring. In 19 innings he struck out 23 opposing hitters and gave up a mere three earned runs, posting a 0.89 WHIP, and limiting batters to just a .229 average.

Pineda was on track to have a breakout season last year, but injuries as well as pine tar issues derailed his season. Pineda’s HR/FB total was the lowest of his career. His walk rate per nine innings was way down, his velocity was up.

He tried to regain his pre June dominance but never got on track during the second half of the MLB season.

Pineda has a history of injury issues, but with Tanaka on track for a season ending Tommy John surgery and C.C. Sabathia no longer the workhorse ace he once was, the door is open for Pineda to emerge as the Yankees best pitcher. Remember that it was only three years ago, he was the top young pitcher in the Seattle Mariners farm system and the major trade piece in the Jesus Montero deal.

If the Yankees want to sniff the playoffs, Pineda will need to eat up innings and be the dominant force the Yankees traded for seasons ago.

-Ben Pickman 


Here’s a trivia question that Celtics play-by-play announcer Tommy Heinsohn has repeated on the past three Celtics broadcast: In their first 10 games as a Celtic which player has scored the most total points?

The answer is not John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Paul Pierce, or Larry Bird.

The correct answer is Isaiah Thomas, the five foot nine inch guard the Celtics acquired in a trade from the Phoenix Suns at the trade deadline.

Even after voicing his desire to start for the C’s, Thomas has continued to come off the bench for Brad Stevens’ bunch. In his 10 games since arriving in Beantown, Thomas has averaged 21.4 points per game on 41 percent shooting. He is averaging 27.6 minutes per game off the bench and has emerged as the best sixth man in basketball.

Thomas, of late, has been the best fourth quarter player in all of basketball. His 8.9 fourth quarter points is the best mark in the NBA. MVP candidate Stephen Curry is second with 8.4 points per fourth quarter.

The University of Washington product has emerged as the Celtics, go to guy as well.

“For the longest time we kind of just did it by committee, “Celtics center Kelly Olynyk told reporters after the C’s win over the Heat, adding “ Isaiah’s really taken that role by storm and I think it’s good for us. We know what we’re doing. Everyone knows where we’re going. Everyone’s ready to shoot off penetration or throwbacks and that kind of stuff. We all know where shots are coming, so it makes it a lot easier when you know what’s coming, where shots are coming and what our plan is”

Take a look at what Thomas has brought to the Celtics.

Early in the second quarter, Thomas provides the punch that no other Celtic can provide. Watch after receiving the initial pass from Luigi Datome how he penetrates into the paint, forcing both Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker to help. Thomas then kicks it out to Datome for what appears to be an open three. Walker closes quickly and prohibits Datome from pulling up. Datome then takes two pedestrian dribbles and passes back out to Thomas. At this point, this possession seems to be broken.

Kelly Olynyk then sets a screen allowing Thomas to penetrate again. When Thomas catches his dribble at the nine second mark of the video, notice how all five heat players are in the paint. Only Tyler Johnson does not have both of his feet in the paint. Thomas then delivers a pass to Jonas Jerebko who knocks down the long two pointers.

That entire possession only had a chance because of Thomas’s ability to create his own shot. Without him that possession goes nowhere.

Take a look at another example during the fourth quarter when the Celtics rely on Thomas.

Thomas passes to Bass and then V-cuts down toward the corner. Thomas then sets a quick rub screen for Evan Turner allowing him to cut along the baseline and potentially be open for a backdoor pass. Bass delivers the ball back to Jerebko and then sets a down-screen for Thomas. Thomas curls above the screen and elevates for an open three.

Heat defender Tyler Johnson is late because he overplays the screen thinking that Thomas will curl left and then dribble left. Thomas though anticipates well, stops his curl, steps back and hits an open three. Again an easy shot created because of Thomas’s quickness and penetrating ability.

If Thomas wins the Sixth Man of the Year Award he would become the first player to play on two different teams in one season to accomplish such a feat. Jamal Crawford is the other logical choice for the award. His minute totals are similar to Thomas’s and his scoring average of 16.4 points per game is 0.1 points higher than Thomas’s season total. But Thomas has been far more productive since joining the Celtics and his numbers should only continue to improve.

And anyways, Crawford won the award last season and his numbers were better last year than this season.

Thomas has been the best bench player in the league since joining the Celtics. With more than 15 games left, Thomas should only continue to improve his scoring averages and improve his case and the Celtics’ change of making the playoffs.

-Ben Pickman 


NBA D-League All-Star Willie Reed’s name differs from NBA legend Willis Reed’s name by two letters. There current NBA resumes differ by way more than that.

Willis Reed has scored 12,183 career points. He has played 23,073 minutes and grabbed 8,414 career rebounds. Willie Reed is just hoping to play just one minute in the pros.

The 6’10’’ combo center/power forward is a three season veteran of the development league and is currently dominating opponents with the Iowa Energy. The 24-year old is averaging more than 15.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season.

Willie Reed attended St. Louis University. He went onto sign with a now defunct Spanish team and has bounced around summer league rosters.

He only weighs 220 pounds, but other than being just a few bounds too light, Reed looks like an NBA frontcourt player.

He has good feel on the offensive sign of the floor. He has a developing post game, and is improving both his passing and scoring touches. Defensively he uses his length to his advantage. Check out this monster double-double by Reed from just over a month ago.

NBADleague.com ranked Willie Reed as the number one prospect for the first week of March saying, [he is] proven at NBA D-League level; simply waiting on NBA opportunity.”

Teams like the Celtics, Lakers, Timberwolves, and Sixers all could provide the youngster with playing time. Which is all Reed could ask for.

Hopefully Reed gets the chance he deserves. 

-Ben Pickman 


We all know about the major strides that Stephen Curry has made for the Warriors this season. The Davidson guard has emerged as one of if not the best guard in the NBA. Oh and the Warriors have the best record in the Western Conference.

But what about Steph’s younger brother Seth.

Seth is now in his second full D-League season playing with the Erie Bayhawks. After playing one year at Liberty University and two at Duke University, Little Seth went undrafted.

Thinking the Warriors might be able to find the same magic in Seth as they did in older brother Steph, they signed him to a contract in October of 2013. But that experiment didn’t last long, as Seth was cut before the start of the season.

After one 10-day stint with the Cavs last year, Set was cut again and has not made it back to the NBA since. His current career stat line is as followed: 2 games, 13 minutes, 3 points, 2 steals, and 1 rebound. Not exactly MVP numbers.

But this season Seth has torn up the D-League. He has emerged as one of the best players in the entire league.

He is second in scoring average per game at 23.1 ppg. He is shooting a crazy 48.3 percent from three and 90.8 percent from the line. He was a D-League All Star this season representing his Erie Bayhawks and competed in the three point shootout per well.

But it seems like Seth might not get a chance to compete at the NBA level.

According to NBA.com Development League stats projections, Seth’s D-League numbers translate to 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game all while shooting 41 percent from the filed and 36 percent from three.

While of course those numbers are inflated and Curry would never play enough minutes to average 12 points per game, Curry can likely still make an impact at the highest level.

One issue Curry has faced is his size. He truly a shooting guard and not a pure point guard. And while positions were only created for a novice to follow the game, Curry does not have the handling ability to create offense for his teammates. He is an NBA ready shooter and could hypothetically provide a team with solid floor spacing.

The other issue Curry has seen is his defense. Back in college Curry was not a very impactful defender. He struggled defending pick-and-rolls and couldn’t defend bigger point guards.

Since graduating he has improved his defense, but his size is still an issue.

But with the NBA season only 6 weeks away (thank you Denver Nuggets players for that handy reminder) Curry deserves an opportunity to try and impact an NBA game.

Hey Philly, you guys are in need of some solid guard play. The Knicks could use shooting, guard play, and of course a new owner. The Nuggets are experimenting with different guards and could provide Curry some playing time.

Frankly, it likely won’t happen. But it probably should.

-Ben Pickman 


John Stockton is widely regard as one of the best point guards ever. The Utah Jazz legend played the entirety of his 19 year NBA career in Salt Lake City after being selected in the first round of the legendary 1984 NBA draft.

His son David Stockton has not seen the same kind of success as his father. David, a Gonzaga graduate much like his father, was a good college player but was not special. He went undrafted in the 2014 draft before playing for the Suns in the 2014 NBA Summer League. He signed with the Wizards in September but last only 4 days on the Wizards roster.

He sepnt most of the season playing surprisingly well for the Reno Bighorns. Stockton averaged, 17 points, 8 assists, and 3 rebounds in 27 minutes of play for Reno while shooting 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from threee.

These solid numbers caught the eyes of the Sacramento Kings who signed Stockton to a 10-day contract on February 10th.

Stockton has not made the immediate impact his father made.

7 Minutes, 1 point, 2 rebounds, 1 assists, two turnovers. That could very well be the career total of David Stockton. The Kings have played four games since Stockton signed onto the squad and even though all four games were not relatively close and Darren Collison in the lineup, Stockton cannot seem to see the floor.

He likely won’t.

Stockton is facing the harsh reality of living up to his father’s legacy and its become clear very fast, he likely never will.

-Ben Pickman 


Muggsy Bogues is one of the best little guards of all time. At a massive five feet three inches, Bogues was not for putting on a show on the floor, using his body to slither through gaps when traveling toward the rim. The 14- year vet had 39 more blocks than I will ever have in the NBA and 39 more blocks than anyone could have expected when he first entered the NBA. 

Since retiring from the NBA Bogues has continue to gain fame because of his petit frame. He has appeared in numerous movies and commercial. And because I watched Space Jam last night, one of Bogues’ finest acting appearances, I went back and ranked the five best Muggsy Bogues film moments. 

5. AT&T Commercial 

Back in 1994 AT&T was not the multinational telecommunication company it is now. It was just starting to acquire smaller companies and expand its brand en route to being named a top 15 company of the 1998 Fortune 500 list. But in this ad, AT&T seems to really being emphasizing the small in small business. The best part of the commercial comes in the final ten seconds when Bogues enters the phone booth and takes the phone from the taller actor who cannot fit because well, he is too damm tall. The taller actor then says, “I can’t believe this guy,” but guess what tall sir, believe it. Muggsy Bogues did.

4. NBA 2k15 Commercial

This is a perfect of example of how Muggsy has remained relevant. This ad is for NBA 2k15. Not NBA 1994. Bogues plays an elf. What else needs to be said. Elf’s of course are known for being Santa’s petit helpers, and in this ad that’s all he does. Bringing the children to Santa and then moving to the side, allowing Santa to talk to his vistors. Bogues doesn’t speak in the advertisement, but after Santa says that the child who wants to play in the NBA is a little small, “but that hasn’t stopped anyone before,” Muggsy’s smile goes away. 

3. Space Jam Appearance #1 

This is a line from Bogues most famous acting appearance in the great American classic Space Jam. He gets points for talking about some psychosomatic deal. I don’t think many people who watch Space Jam, a movie that is 65 percent Looney Tunes, 30 % Michael Jordan, and 5% everyone else know what a phychosomatic deal is but it didn’t stop the Hornets guard. He then talks about the alignment of the moon, stars, and planet. God, he is smart. I want Muggsy to teach me astronomy and psychology in school!!!!

2. Space Jam Appearance #2

Another clip from Space Jam. All that needs to be said here is Muggsy has his priorities straight. Way to show yo mamma some love, Mugs!!! I love you too Mom!!!!

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm 

This is by far the Muggsy Bogues acting appearance. Larry David and Richard Lewis are talking about the size of their junk, and well Muggsy and his 5 foot 3 inch body walks in and goes to the bathroom. To keep this Space Jam PG, just know to never eye anypart of Muggsy Bogues in a bathroom or he will make you have a near heart attack. David clearly was unaware of that idea, and well has a mini-heart attack.

-Ben Pickman. 


Zoran Dragic is in the NBA for one reason. He is genetically related to Goran Dragic.

That’s it.

Simply put, Zoran Dragic is not an NBA caliber guard. Yet last offseason that didn’t stop the Phoenix Suns from signing the Slovenian guard to a two-year contract. The Suns thought process in signing Zoran was simple: if we sign Zoran, Goran will feel happier and if Goran feels happier he will stay in Phoenix for a long time.

Well, that plan didn’t work and this afternoon the Suns traded the Dragic brothers to the Miami Heat. The Dragic Brothers remain a package deal and the Heat must keep Zoran until Goran re-ups his contract.

Memo to NBA teams: This is never a good strategy.

The Knicks tried this two seasons ago with J.R. Smith. In early September of 2014, te Knicks signed J.R. Smith’s younger brother Chris Smith. Chris Smith played in only two games during his Knick tenure and was waiver on New Year’s Eve 2013.

Upon being waiver, J.R sent out multiple tweets on how he felt betrayed by Knicks management and how upset he was. The Knicks were lucky J.R. resigned and that Chris Smith was only playing on a non-guaranteed one year deal.

The Suns have Zoran Dragic on their books next year. He has played in six games this season and has six total points. And his salary for next season is more than 2 million. That’s not an ideal ratio.

But the Heat have no choice but to keep him if they want to make his older brother happy. And they do want to make his brother happy.

Don’t be surprised if the Warriors superstar point guard Stephen Curry makes the Warriors sign Seth Curry to a mega-contract to insure his happiness. Blake Griffin might plead with Doc Rivers to sign his brother Taylor Griffin. If the Cavs want LeBron to stay for the next ten years they might even have to sign LeBron’s son to a contract. Boy that would be interesting.

NBA team’s just don’t understand that signing a core-players brother isn’t a good idea. But hey, if they did understand that then we wouldn’t get to watch Zoran Dragic.

-Ben Pickman 


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt invited the coaches and athletic directors from Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University to the White House. The group discussed ways to improve the game of football and make it safer for players. In the early twentieth century football was vastly different, but equally dangerous, as the modern game. In 1905 alone at least 18 players died of football related injuries. In an era in which competitors did not wear proper padding or protective equipment, players were often kicked in the head or stomach causing internal injuries or concussions to the brain. Football was more akin to rugby than it is to the game millions of people watch today. Today, more than a hundred years after Roosevelt decided the game should feature a forward pass to reduce injuries and recommended the implementation of helmets, the game is still a violent one.

This has led to a question many parents struggle to answer. Should you let your own children play football? While this is a simple yes-or-no question, no matter which decision you make, there are many internal and external factors that affect one’s judgment. Factors such as social pressure and a possible major financial gain are often-cited reasons for allowing children to play football. Parents’ heuristic biases as well as the positive developmental benefits that children can obtain through playing football are factors that impact parents’ judgment. The obligations of a parent and the trade-offs of seeing your child succeed and flourish in the short term or long term also come into play. All of these factors make the decision of whether or not to let your children play football a complex one.

First, consider some statistics that are crucial to think about when making this decision. In recent years, countless studies have published data pertaining to head and brain injuries as a result of football concussions. Some of the noteworthy statistics are as follows:

-Per the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association (SATA), 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day.

-The SATA also reported that 50% of Second Impact Syndrome Incidents—brain injury caused from a premature return to activity after suffering an initial concussion—result in death.

-75% of people who play tackle football at any level obtain a concussion.

Recently, the narrative on head injuries in football has changed. Getting your “bell rung” never used to be considered a big deal, but the research on Second Impact Syndrome changed all that. Former New York Giants linebacker (1976-88) Harry Carson said on letting his grandchild play football. “ I want him to be intelligent. I want him to be brilliant; I want him to be able to use his brain and not his brawn.” Carson and many other former players feel on a daily basis the effects of playing football. Their constant physical pain, as well as knowledge of statistics like the ones above, are the reasons for their thoughts on not allowing their offspring to play football.

Just this past September, Isaiah Langston, a 17 year old football player from North Carolina, collapsed on the field and died shortly after. A few days after the Langston episode, Demario Harris Jr., another high school football player, collapsed and died after a football game. It was later determined he was playing with a brain hemorrhage and had sustained an undiagnosed concussion. There are countless additional stories similar to that of Langston and Harris Jr. For many parents, medical statistics coupled with tragic anecdotes like those of Langston and Harris Jr. are the reasons they would never allow their children to play football and be put at such risk. For people like Carson the data outweighs any heuristic bias he may have.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Hardy Nickerson

There are some who hold the opposite belief. Former NFL linebacker Hardy Nickerson still believes the benefits of playing football trump the long term medical risks. Nickerson is a spokesman for USA Football, a national organization that promotes youth football. It is not surprising that when asked to comment on letting children play the game he spoke of the benefits: perseverance, teamwork and resiliency, to name a few. USA Football’s website states that “by playing this sport, young athletes learn football’s timeless qualities of leadership, responsibility, perseverance, and teamwork.” It goes on to add that, “football introduces young players to new social groups” and that “research shows athletes tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression. To children, though, the game is about fun, friendships and camaraderie. It’s about achieving success of learning from failure then lining right back up to try again.” One of the main reasons why parents allow their children to play is the developmental benefits that their children may obtain by playing. These benefits such as confidence, hard work, and resilience are all qualities that not only improve one’s play on the field, but also the child’s social life and academic success.

USA Football omits data pertaining to concussions and chooses not to talk about the quantitatively established risks of playing football at any level. There is no mention of Second Impact Syndrome, of the correlation between head injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain, and the impact of physical wear and tear on one’s body, all of which contribute to shortening one’s life span. Rather, USA Football tends to rely on conjecture to make their argument. USA Football does not present medical statistics, but rather relies on statements that present the game in a positive light. This is a form of both selectivity bias and advocacy bias. USA Football chooses to cite research about higher levels of self-esteem rather than research about concussions. Additionally, all of the benefits they bring up can be obtained from playing football, but they can also be obtained from playing other sports such as baseball, basketball, tennis, or soccer.

The decision to allow children to play football is ultimately the parents’. A complicated decision to allow their loved ones to play a dangerous game is full of conflicting internal and external factors. In Drew Westen’s book, The Political Brain, Westen writes, “The political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures, and policies to make a reasoned decision.” While Westen specifically focuses on politics, there are similarities to football in that both can be viewed as a competition between different parties each trying to best the other. Westen’s remarks raise an issue that many are hesitant to admit. We are not objective calculating machines. Even though people may use statistics to make their decisions, the statistics they cite may be used to reinforce their prior opinions which were formed because of biases in the first place. The search for data is not an objective one and often our own biases affect our decision making processes.

Questions about letting their children do something they enjoy strongly plays on the emotional heart strings of parents. As Westen writes, “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins” Of course, parents care about their children’s health and care about their children’s well being. When they see their children having fun, gaining confidence, exhibiting hard work and toughness, all qualities Nickerson cited, they have a hard time thinking about the possible long term effect that playing football might have. They see the benefits in front of them and forget that 75 percent of people that play tackle football obtain a concussion, and overlook the effects that having a concussion might have on school, development, and the child’s future well-being. For many parents, “emotions have much more power to affect reason” than reason does to affect emotion. This leads to a dilemma for parents. Parents can allow their children to play football and, in turn, see their children benefit developmentally, thrive socially, and possibly financially ( as we will discuss later) and take the risk of potential detrimental medical consequences. Or, on the other hand, they may prohibit them from playing, realizing that their denying permission might hinder their children from fully developing socially, decrease the possibilities of future financial success, limit their being socially accepted, but know that their children will not face any possible medical repercussions later in their lives because of football.

Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Steve Young

Steve Young made seven Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He is widely acknowledged as one of the best quarterbacks ever. Young, now retired, was asked by PBS.org about letting his children play football. He said, “As long as I know the assumption of the risk and I understand it, I can make what can be a rational decision.” He adds, “I would [let his children] – [if they were] well coached, well protected. For other reasons... It’s just there is all kinds of other challenges. But young kids, well coached, protected, proper attention to the issues, yeah, I’d let my son play for sure.” A few things jump out about Young’s reasoning for allowing his son to play. One, he assumes that just because he knows the risks and understands them, it means he can make a rational decision. This is, of course, not true. In his mind it may be rational, but his personal biases influence what he comprehends and understands. His own experiences playing football affect his opinions on his children playing football and that is problematic when thinking about if it is truly rational. More importantly, he uses the phrase, “For other reasons” when rationalizing why he would let his children play football. One can logically assume these other reasons might be gaining confidence, learning how to work as a team, learning hard work, being resilient and also in the particular case of Young watching his son enjoy the game that was integral to his own success. As a result, he over-estimates the benefits of football because he himself achieved great success at the highest level. Young has his own thoughts and principles about the game, which make his decision to allow his children to play football seem like the proper decision.

Robert Nozick, a 20th century philosopher once wrote, “Principles constitute a form of binding. We bind ourselves to act as the principles mandate.” To Young, his principles and his “reasons” for allowing his children to play football are not based on statistics. That is why Young’s seemingly rational logic is not necessarily rational. Rather, Young’s decision making process is cluttered with heuristic bias and benefits that Young deems are worth obtaining through football, despite the possible long-term medical risk. Nozick writes, “Rationality in belief and action depends upon some self-consciousness in judging the process by which we come to have our reasons.” Young’s decision seems rational to himself, because his self-conscious decision making process is based on his reasoning. But its irrationality comes from the fact that Young minimizes the possible long term medical effects and emphasizes the emotional benefits. In Al Gore’s book, “ The Assault on Reason”, Gore writes that, “If a subsequent experience is even superficially similar to a traumatic memory it can wield incredible power over emotions and can trigger the same fear responses evoked by the original trauma.” This concept is true of a non-traumatic experience as well. A future positive experience similar to a previous positive memory can lead to power over emotions and can make the new experiences feel even better. Young feels strongly about his children playing, because it was such a positive experience for him.

Another factor that influences parents’ decisions when deciding whether to allow their children to play football is the ability to see the physical benefits of them playing football in the present and not see the onset of possible long-term health risks. Parents watch their children enjoy themselves on the field, notice that they are more confident with friends, working harder in school, and have higher self-esteem. Yet, they cannot detect that their child’s brain is slowly being impacted as a result of the many collisions to the head their child is taking by playing for their favorite team. As Daniel Kahneman, a professor of Psychology at Princeton University writes in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, “we often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to our judgment is missing—what we see is all there is.”

The biggest conundrum in the discussion of risk versus reward comes when considering the possible financial gain a child, and consequently a family, might have when the child plays football.

In 2013, there were approximately 27,000 football scholarships given out by Division I programs. While not every scholarship equals the full cost of tuition, most cover all if not almost all costs the student-athlete might incur to attend the university. In 2011, Dr. Patrick Rishe, a professor of economics and business at Walker University in St. Louis, calculated the net value of attending schools in the AP Top 25, such as USC, the University of Oklahoma, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Alabama, and University of Oregon on a football scholarship. After calculating either in-state or out of state costs for a student to attend the four year institution and adding that to a mid-level career salary, plus the value of a four year college degree, he determined that the value of the football scholarship from those schools exceeded $2 million. Of course, that assumes the student-athletes graduate. However, even in the case of many who do not graduate. but instead chose to go to the NFL, they make millions anyway.

This potential financial benefit often leads parents to allow their children to play football despite the inherent long term health risks. “The combination of loss aversion and narrow framing is a costly curse.” This narrow-framing choice tends to lead to brain damage when the student-athlete is in their 40’s or 50’s. Kahneman writes early in his book, “As we shall see, it [System 1] sometimes answers easier questions than the one it was asked, and it has little understanding of logic and statistics.” An easier question our instinctual mind might answer is does football have benefits, whereas the question we should really ask is whether our children should play football.

For many parents the social pressure of whether to let their children play leads to biased decisions. Consider the town of Massillon, Ohio where every Friday night in the fall 16,000 people file into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to watch Massillon Washington High School’s football team. The town’s population is a mere 32,149 people which means half the town shows up to the game. To further emphasize how important the football program is to the town’s people, Massillon Washington High School is now looking for a new head football coach and is currently interviewing assistant coaches employed at the Ohio State University, Youngstown State, and Liberty State University. For many parents in Massillon, having their son play high school football is the socially-approved norm and there is social pressure on parents to let their children play. There is an inherent heuristic bias. As a parent, if you played high school football and remember the positive memories of playing in front of the town, your own experiences will lead to bias in judgment, “and the prevalence of bias in human judgment is a large issue.” The median household income in Massillon is a mere $36,000. As a result, the lure of playing football and making millions of dollars is even more attractive for both the child and their parents. Football can serve as a way to advance for many people in Massillon which is another factor when considering the social and economic pressure parents face when making this decision.

As a result of these several factors impacting parents’ judgments, it is hard to have an unbiased opinion when deciding whether to let your children play football. There is inherent social pressure, the possibility of major financial gain and immediate developmental benefits. However, the growing body of medical research looms large over the parents who choose to make this decision and the heuristic biases of the parents come into play. Either way, football is still the most popular spectator sport in the United States and its games are the most watched TV programs. Football games make up 49 of the top 50 most watched shows every year and the Super Bowl has more viewers than any other show in TV history. However, as more parents seriously question the different factors involved in allowing their child to play football, don’t be surprised if these numbers change. 

-Ben Pickman

Sources used:

Zezima, Katie. "How Teddy Roosevelt Helped save Football." Washington Post. May 29, 2014. Accessed December 25, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/05/29/teddy-roosevelt-helped-save-football-with-a-white-house-meeting-in-1905/.

Harry Carson, interviewed by Michal Kirk, PBS.org, Pbs.org, September 4th, 2013.

Ann-Gooden, Stacy. "3 Football Deaths in a Week: Would You Let Your Kid Play?" BabyCenter Blog. October 14, 2014. Accessed December 23, 2014. http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/10052014should-parents-think-twice-about-allowing-kids-to-play-football/.

Meredith, Janis. "7 Ways Sports Can Teach Your Child to Give | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body." 7 Ways Sports Can Teach Your Child to Give | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body. May 14, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014. http://usafootball.com/blogs/benefits-of-football/post/8628/7-ways-sports-can-teach-your-child-to-give-.

Ann C. McKee, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Athletes: Progressive Tauopathy following Repetitive Head Injury,” J Neuropoathol Exp Neurol. 68, n. 7 (2009): 709-710.

Drew Westen, The Political Brain, (New York: Public Affairs, 2007) , xv.

Al Gore, The Assault on Reason ( New York: Penguin Press, 2007), 28.

Steve Young, interviewed by Jim Gilmore, PBS.org, PBS.org, March 27, 2013.

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting who will win the Eastern Conference’s 8th seed is like completing an 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle while wearing a blindfold. It’s nearly impossible. While the only difference between the 8th seed and 9th seed is that the 8th seed will take their trip to Puerto Rico a week after the nine seed, thank the Atlanta Hawks for that, every team wants to make the playoffs. For the sake of this discussion we will assume that the Miami Heat will make the playoffs as the seven seed and that the top six teams in the Eastern Conference right now will all make the playoffs. That leaves us with five team’s all currently within three games of the eight seed.

Legit Shots to Make the Dance:

Charlotte Hornets:

Even with all the Lance Stephenson fireworks and trade rumors, Lance and his Hornets have snuck into the playoff picture. Al Jefferson has missed time with injury and now Kemba Walker is hurt. That doesn’t bode well for the Hornets who have already gone through a tumultuous season. Last year the Hornets were a top five defense. Even with the slow footed Al Jefferson manning the paint, the Hornets stopped opposing team’s at the rim. This season, the Hornets defense has taken steps back and has regressed. Playoffstatus.com projects the Hornets to make the 8th seed with a 23% chance, but because of the injury bug the Hornets can easily miss the postseason.

Detroit Pistons:

Detroit’s season is straight out of the Six Flag roller coaster design handbook. It shoots down, then spins and juts up, then goes back down. Right now though we have know idea where the Pistons season is going to end. The Pistons have now lost their last four games and after kicking Josh Smith to the street and improving drastically, the Pistons have fallen back to reality. Brandon Jennings had been playing great basketball since the Pistons cut Smith, but recently tore his Achilles. The Pistons now have D.J. Augustin and Spencer Dinwiddle running the team. That alone could come back to bite the Pistons in the butt. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have been playing incredible basketball since the Pistons discarded Smith, but this team will only go as far as Augustin and Dinwiddle can take them. If these two guards play quality basketball for the remainder of the season, then the elite play by Monroe and Drummond will lead them to the playoffs.

Brooklyn Nets:

Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett. The Nets should make the playoffs. There roster is the best team on paper. But that paper might have been printed back in 2006. The Nets actually play solid defense but saying their offense is stagnant is an understatement. The Nets have no offensive flow. Besides for Mason Plumlee, no player on the roster wants to do the dirty work- set a screen or crash the boards- and as a result they struggle. There is now turmoil involving Head Coach Lionel Hollins and his job security. The Nets could use the All-Star break more than any other team out here. If they have a nice relaxing All-Star break, don’t be surprised if the Nets play five-hundred basketball post All-Star break and sneak into the playoffs.

How Are They Still in the Discussion

Indiana Pacers

Somehow the Pacers are only three games out of the playoff picture. They lost the aforementioned Lance Stephenson in Free Agency and lost Paul George to a gruesome injury shortly afterward in International play. But their somehow in the playoff mix. The Pacers leading scorer is George Hill with 13.6 a game. David West, C.J. Miles, and Rodney Stuckey are not far behind. They have seven players who average in double figures and three more players that average between nine and ten points. Thanks to Frank Vogel, their defense is still stellar but their offense is in the bottom three in the NBA. The Pacers are only 9-12 at home and if they finish the season with a losing record at home, it will be the first time in more than 15 years the Fieldhouse crowd has seen more losses than wins. The Pacers likely do not have enough offensive fire power to make the playoffs, but because of their stellar defense and coaching, it wouldn’t be a total surprise. Oh, and if Paul George does play post-All Star break, they will make the playoffs.

New York Knicks

Just Kidding. Oh wait, they are only 10 games out of the eight seed. Too bad they only have nine wins. Next.

Boston Celtics

Memo to Brad Stevens: Management does not want you to make the playoffs. They are trying to lose. They are trying to make the lottery. They are trying to stockpile picks. The Celtics have more first round picks in the upcoming draft than wins, just joking but not my much. Brad Stevens is a perfect coach for the Celtics. He gets his players to play really hard every night. Every game the Celtics play 45 good minutes, until their lack of playmakers comes back to bite them. They struggle at the end of quarters, but they have a ton of quality young players and if they draft well in the next few seasons, they can contend sooner than later. The Celtics will not make the playoffs and if they do, Danny Ainge will likely fire Brad Stevens for ruining his master tanking plan.

-Ben Pickman