Chart of the day

Thought this was a pretty cool look from 538 on the decline of home field advantage in the Premier League:


What’s responsible for this dramatic shift? Most immediately, it’s the result of a decrease in home-team scoring. Here are the average home and away goals per game, by year:

Although scoring for either side has fluctuated, visitor goals have remained relatively constant, floating mostly between 1.00 and 1.3 per game. Home goals have fallen to roughly 1.5 per game from more than 2.5. The average difference (home goals minus away goals) has fallen to about 0.3 goals last year from about 1.1 goals at the league’s founding.

As for why home goals are down, there’s a myriad of explanations, none definitive.  The best explanation, though, seems to be a decline referee bias.  Fortunately, the Blasters do not run into this problem (there are no real home fields in Rec soccer), but I actually had an official a couple of weeks ago who clearly did not understand the offside call.  It’s where the receiving player is when the ball is kicked, not where he is when he receives it.  The guy blew this call twice in 5 minutes (it’s okay, we won 6-0 anyway).

Chart of the day

I don’t watch baseball at all anymore.  I used to love it, but when my childhood favorite Baltimore Orioles were recently in the ALCS, I realized I could not even name a single player on their roster.  That said, I did find this chart of runs scored per inning to be really interesting as well as the discussion about the changing use of relief pitchers that helps explain it.


Chart of the day

Vox had a pretty awesome feature explaining American sports in 40 charts.  This weekend I turned on an NFL game as it went to commercial.  It came back from commercial and there was a field goal.  Commercial.  Kickoff.  Commercial. And finally more than one consecutive football play.  Needless to say, none of those commercial breaks were short.  This is why I pretty much never watch football on TV without a book, magazine, or papers to grade in my hands.  Anyway, loved seeing this chart today:

Quick hits

1) The zeppelins of WWI

Although the zeppelin was embraced by both the Germans and the Allies during World War I, the Germans made far more extensive use of the rigid, hydrogen-filled airships. The concept of “strategic bombing”—targeted airstrikes on a particular location—didn’t exist before the conflict. The advent of aerial warfare changed that, and also robbed the British of the protection afforded by the English Channel. The zeppelin allowed Germany to bring the war to the English homeland. Kind of.

2) Parenting as a Gen-Xer:

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels.

3) EJ Dionne on NC politics.  And a WSJ piece on how NC politics increasingly resemble those of Virginia.

4) Eating octopus?  No thanks.

5) Jon Chait with an interesting essay on the value of playing football.

6) Are Alabama Judge Tom Parker’s ideas the key to dismantling Roe v. Wade?  I suspect not, but it is disturbing to think about somebody with his ideas (forget the Constitution– the real version– it’s all about God– Parker’s version) serving as a judge.

7) Maria Konnikova on social media and the Dunbar number

Dunbar did the math, using a ratio of neocortical volume to total brain volume and mean group size, and came up with a number. Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty. Anything beyond that would be too complicated to handle at optimal processing levels. For the last twenty-two years, Dunbar has been “unpacking and exploring” what that number actually means—and whether our ever-expanding social networks have done anything to change it.

8) Nice post from Mike Cobb on how to have a healthy skepticism towards non-attitudes reported as attitudes on surveys.

9) Really nice piece from John Dickerson about Matt Bai’s new book, the media, and political scandal.

10) Jon Chait decries California’s new “yes means yes” approach to sexual assault.  Ezra Klein writes easily the most interesting commentary (supportive of the law) I’ve read on the matter.

11) A look at the great impact exercise can have on a child’s brain.  The results are great, but, there’s this:

Each two-hour session also included downtime, since children naturally career about and then collapse, before repeating the process. In total, the boys and girls generally moved at a moderate or vigorous intensity for about 70 minutes and covered more than two miles per session, according to their pedometers.

That doesn’t strike me as remotely scalable.  I’d love to see some efforts along these lines of an exercise program for kids with less time commitment.

12) Vox on why the LED light was worth the Nobel Prize.  (For what it’s worth, I remember reading many years ago how a white LED light was a holy grail).

13) NYT Magazine on how school lunches have become a political battleground.  Personally, I think everybody needs to give pizza more respect.  My middle and high schools all offered pizza as a lunch entree every day.  That’s how it should be.

14) You probably don’t know that much about giraffes.  You should.

15) A sixteen year old spent three years in jail for allegedly stealing a backpack before the charges were dropped.  Just another day (or three years) of criminal justice in America (at least if you are poor).

U16 Rec soccer and the World Cup: Wrong lessons learned

Thanks for the prompt on this Itchy and Mika.  So, this summer, I wrote:

1) A high defensive line.  This was one of the keys to the German approach (nicely summarized here by Michael Coxaka Zonal Marking).  Push the whole team far up the field and leave the space behind the defense, not in front.  This is something I’ve already been pushing for years, but now I think I understand why it works for us and why I am going to emphasize it even more.  A skilled and speedy offensive team can potentially be murder on a high defensive line (look what Netherlands did to Spain and what Algeria would have done to Germany if not for Manuel Neuer).  But we don’t really face speedy and skilled offensive teams.  There’s not a lot of pretty through balls in U16 Rec soccer.  Furthermore, we have assistant referees that are actually pretty good at calling offside, making it all the more harder to get the timing down on a nice through ball.

Now this high defensive line will give away more than it’s fair share of breakaways, but giving the paucity of strong offensive players, many of these breakaways will be thwarted by good defense, good goalkeeping (two areas where my teams have been strong) and by mistakes from the offensive player.  We’ll surely give up some goals this way (and have in the past), but I strongly suspect we would give up far more goals by setting up our defense further back on the field.  The truth is, there’s going to be lots of mistakes– it’s the nature of our players.  I want these mistakes to happen as far from my goal as possible.  Our defenders are not Greece or Costa Rica who can just face wave after wave of crosses and offensive attacks and fend them off because we have 9-10 players organized deep behind the ball.  We’re never going to be all that organized giving constant substitutions and 90 minutes of practice a week and, regardless, there’s going to me plenty of physical and mental errors.

Uh, yeah.  Not so much.  Our league is quite different this year.  After always being one-year age groups, this year our division consists of teams who are mostly U15 (my team) and other teams who are mostly U16.  It’s only a year, but you can definitely see the different in size, if nothing else, between the teams.  More notably, in the Fall, our league does not offer “challenge” for high school age players since so many of the challenge players are playing for their high schools.  That means a number of challenge players are assigned to rec teams and this essentially random assignment of challenge players really shakes things up.  I received 3 challenge players, they are all good, but none are better than my 3 best rec players from last season.  That said, some challenge players are truly game-changers.  One goal against us occurred when an opposing player dribbled faster with the ball towards our goal than my son David’s attempt to chase him down.  I don’t think that’s ever happened before (David is quite lacking in technical skill, but he is very fast for a rec player and great at chasing down opponents).  None of my challenge players were natural defenders so now in games we’ve often had my 3 very good, but still rec-level defenders, playing against challenge forwards.  Can we say huge number of breakaways?  Part of this was also figuring out how to best use my new personnel, but at least for this season, the high defensive line is definitely a failure.  One of my PS professors friends who coaches (in Tennessee) this age warned me this might happen and he was exactly right.

We lost our first two games (and second of those 6-0!), but have since tied 2-2, and won 5-2 and 6-1.  Part of this was the bad luck of playing the two best teams first (both of whom are all older kids as well as being more skilled).  I also adjusted my line-up.  I just needed more help for my rec level defense.  I’m now basically playing a 3-2-3-2.  That is, I took away a forward and added a defensive midfielder.  It has worked really, really well.  One of my more talented players who last year refused to play in position decided he wants to play DM and has been an surprisingly effective deep-lying playmaker.  Then I take one of my more talented defensive oriented players and make him the other DM and tell him it’s his job to basically play a stopper and protect the back line.  I think we’re more talented than the teams we beat, but I do think the new formation and the deeper back line on defense has helped.

Probably more detail than most of you wanted, but most of you didn’t make it this far.

Quick hits (part II)

1) In further asymmetry, you are just not going to find any Democrats as crazy left as these Republicans are crazy right.  And they are about to be elected to Congress.

2) John Judis‘ and Jamelle Bouie’s takes on Brownback and the Kansas GOP experiment run amok.

3) Exercise if great for your brain.  Especially if you’ve got ADHD.  And now we’ve got cool brain images to show it.

4) There are not enough female Republican officeholders because there are few Republican women in the pool of possible candidates.

5) Nice Vox piece on our over-reaction to ISIS.

6) You probably won’t be surprised to see this Reason post about Iowa state troopers stealing $100,000 in legal poker winnings.

7) I’m shocked, shocked that the anti-environmentalists put in charge of the NC environment have not taken the coal ash spill seriously.

8) The demands that the IOC makes on potential Olympic host cities are pretty amusing.

9) I didn’t know about “efficiency wages.”  And now I do.  Nice explanation for why not everyone can work at Costco.

10) Gotta love that the “Republicans are people too” campaign is all based on stock photos.

11) Nice Ruth Marcus column on the 5th Circuit decision on Texas’ abortion laws.  What never ceases to amaze me is the way judges pretend that the purpose of TRAP laws is to protect women’s health as opposed to shut-down abortion clinics.

12) Great example of campaign media just getting it all wrong (regarding chickens and the Iowa Senate race).  And speaking of chickens, love this Vox piece on our ever larger chickens:

Giant chickens with dates







No, not that kind.  I really enjoyed this Post article on how baseball fandom in the DC area has changed dramatically with the addition of the Washington Nationals a decade ago.  I grew up an Orioles fan and to the extend I am still a baseball fan (not much at all, actually) I am still an Orioles fan. The Nationals mean no more to me than the Florida Marlins.  Of course, I’ve not lived in the DC area since the Nationals came to town, so it’s really not a fair comparison in my case.  That said, I’m quite confident that if I still lived in Springfield, VA, I’d be an Orioles fan.  How do you just give up on/replace the team you grew up pulling for?!

I do wonder how many of the Nationals fans are converted Orioles fans and how many are immigrants to the area and how many were fans of other distant MLB teams.  The interactive version of the map below shows the interesting geographic breakdown:

My boyhood home of 22152 prefers the Nationals over the Orioles 87% to 13%.  I would be in the 13 if I were still there.


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