Sports and aging

Fascinating and terrific article in this past Sunday’s NYT magazine about sports and aging through the lens of Derek Jeter.  Even if you are only a casual sports fan (or have any interest in the physiology of athletic performance and aging) you should definitely give it a read. Really.   Lots of stuff, I really enjoyed learning about, especially how natural deterioration with age that we don’t notice at all with most activities, is crucially important to hitting a major-league-pitched baseball:

The pitcher-hitter confrontation is weighted against any hitter, but particularly older ones, because the batter’s success depends almost entirely on attributes that decline with age — eyesight, visual processing and fast-twitch muscle. Most big-league hitters tend to have good eyesight (they’re young), but even if they retain it into their 30s, it has probably already degraded in subtle ways. “There’s 20-20, and there’s amazing 20-20,” Don Teig, a Connecticut optometrist who works with professional athletes, told me. “You may still be able to read the line on the eye chart, but after your early 20s, you probably won’t see it with the same clarity and detail.”

According to Teig, the “visual-motor system,” as he called it — nerves and muscles that control the focusing of the lens, as well as the lens itself — becomes less supple with age. At the same time, an athlete Jeter’s age is going through changes in muscle composition that make him less explosive. Human muscle is made up of fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers, which people have in different proportions. No matter what your starting mix is, you lose fast-twitch fibers before you notice a decline in overall muscle mass.

The article also looks at how steroids are uniquely well-suited to overcoming these aging effects and helps explain a lot of the amazing performances that baseball players in the 30’s had during the steroid era, when otherwise, players almost universally perform worse in their 30’s than their 20’s.  Good stuff.

Law school… apparently commentary is necessary

So, I noted the major imbalance between those who passed the bar and actual law jobs.  Apparently my readers think I’m not being fair to the law degree.  A few comments:

1) This is people who passed the bar.  Presumably, you don’t take the bar unless you actually want to practice as a lawyer.  Thus, even though a number of people put their law degree in other fields, i.e., running a non-profit that advocates for election reform, I suspect that most people taking the bar actually want to be a practicing attorney.  Thus, there really is a glut of lawyers in that sense.

2) When you are a Political Science professor/adviser you simply see way way too many students who think they should get a law degree because a) it’s an obvious path to riches; b) their parents think they should; c) they don’t know what else to do.  All to rarely do I see students who are actually interested in the law.  I think that’s kind of depressing.  Being an attorney can be a great and noble calling, or putting that law degree to work leading an advocacy organization, lobbying, etc., can also be terrific.  But, I sense that far too many people end up with a law degree as hopeless and adrift as many a person with a BA in Political Science.

3) Personally, I’m a big fan of learning the (social) scientific method and if the goal is just to learn higher-level analytic skills, I think many would be better off with a high quality MA (e.g., in Public Policy or Applied Economics).  Thus, for these reasons I believe too many people are, in fact, pursuing law degrees and I’m not going to back down from that.

United Corporations of America

Watched a fabulous HBO documentary, “Hot Coffee,” on Monday night.  If you don’t have HBO, get this in your Netflix queue.  Seriously.

It uses the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit (what you think you know is probably wrong) as a jumping off point to look at tort reform.  Basically, companies have decided they don’t want to be held accountable for gross negligence of malfeasance, so they have convinced must states to put caps on lawsuits while decrying the scourge of “frivolous lawsuits.”  Here’s the thing: frivolous lawsuits don’t get $2 million settlements; they get thrown out by a judge.  If you’re getting $2 million, chances are pretty good you deserved it (i.e. McDonald’s ignored over 700 complaints that their coffee was too hot and the victim had unbelievably nasty burns– they show them).  In Nebraska, if a doctor makes a mistake that means you’ll need $5 million in life-time medical expenses, tough luck.  $1.25 million cap no matter what.  Ain’t that nice for the insurance companies.  In a number of states, Appeals courts have declared these caps to be in violation of state Constitutions.  Next step?  Run incredibly well-funded and scurrilous campaigns to take advantage of the absurd fact that most states rely on elections for their judges.  And, when all else fails, have people sign contracts for binding arbitration in which case, you the company, choose the arbitrator and the victim losing all other legal recourse.  Oh, and the arbitrators basically always side with the company or they never work in arbitration again.  If you are Halliburton subsidiary KBR, you can just house a young women in a dormitory in Iraq with hundreds of men, ignore her complaints about harrassment, “lose” the rape kit, and then lock her up after she reports that she’s been drugged and brutally raped.  And she has no legal recourse beyond KBR’s arbitrator.

Welcome to the United Corporations of America.

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