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raydora comments on Sports - Less Wrong

12 Post author: adamzerner 26 December 2015 07:54PM

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Comment author: raydora 28 December 2015 01:37:48PM 1 point [-]

I no longer play sports (unless it's mandated by work), unless you count grappling on occasion.

Yes, I maintain a fantasy football team to practice statistical thinking (as opposed to actual statistics, at the moment) and because I found it ingratiates me with my colleagues. My workplace went from a den of geeks to regular Monday night football types in the space of months, so I switched from D&D to fantasy football.

It's safe to say I don't really have teams I root for (once upon a time it was Newcastle United, because I liked zebras as a kid) or sports I watch more than a few minutes of. Yet I'm interested in sports- now more than ever.

It's in the details. How does a tennis player improve his reaction time? How does handball transfer to boxing? How does the conditioning a football wide receiver employs differ from a midfielder's training in football? What are the steps coaches take to improve performance? When performance is at a peak, what's the best method for getting a group of people with adrenaline driving them to incorporate tactics into their play? Are tactics something you need to pay attention to? Sports provide a simple world with well-defined rules to explore the effect of competition on innovation.

If a team isn't maximizing play within those rules, that team should lose over time. There's a consequence for not paying attention to reality- especially in professional sports. If passing the ball in a particular way is bad form but it works and isn't against the rules, surely teams will eventually start doing it, and the game will have to be re-examined.

You can find a lot of these aspects in multiplayer virtual games, but the physical skills required for sports introduce a whole new element that's extremely interesting. Sure, Counter-Strike might raise your reaction time, but that's just your eyes and your hands. A squash player, now, she'll need to move her whole body.

I see the value in sports. I just don't find it fun to, actually, you know, play, due to skill mismatch. People are either way better or much worse. Unless it's capture the flag, paintball, or some other 'new' sport. The sports I do enjoy are one-on-one, but they carry a high risk of injury or are a heavy time sink.

I do wonder why people haven't come up with a better game- one that maximizes suspense and use of complex tactics.

But which sport has had the most rules changes over time? A cursory glance suggests the NFL, but I suppose I should make a note to crunch those numbers when I'm inclined.

One last thing. I think there might be a better way to structure professional teams to encourage drama. As the saying goes, you're just rooting for a jersey. Perhaps some sort of player buy-in to a team might change that. After all, city leagues, high school games, national, and even college sports make for more compelling stories.

Comment author: adamzerner 28 December 2015 04:49:09PM *  0 points [-]

Interesting points about sports being so meritocratic; I never thought about it that way.

Mandated by work?!

What have your experiences been like with fantasy football? Sorry to be so negative but I've been appalled at the way people approach it. I had an argument with someone once that ended up reducing to the fact that he was valuing a player by how many points they produce (Aaron Rodgers) and I was valuing him less because I was valuing him based on how many points he scores relative to what the alternative would be (I even linked him to the article, which didn't change his mind; it was an ego thing; I'm playing him in the championship now, yay competition!).

I've also been disappointed to see that people heavily reach for players in the draft, effectively saying "I disagree with all of the experts". Maybe they are just trying to have fun and don't actually think it's the best strategy? That isn't my impression, my impression is that it's genuine. Personally, I largely stick to the rankings (experts know more than me), but I do adjust based on the strategy I'm taking, and I do disagree with the experts sometimes. This year, for example, I valued the elite wide receivers very highly compared to the experts (because I liked the receivers and because I didn't like many running backs this year).

I actually never heard the expression of "rooting for a jersey", but I'm very glad to learn of it! Personally, I'm one of the few people I've encountered who doesn't root for a jersey; I root for the teams that I think play the game the right way. In basketball this means I change a lot year to year. In football, I've been a big Steeler fan for a while. Admittedly, I do "root for the jersey" to a nontrivial extent with the Steelers, but at the same time I like the way they approach things and would stop rooting for them it they stopped doing the things I like.

Sorry to hear that you haven't found people to play with whom your skills are matched well with :(

I'd be interested to see a sport (re)designed to encourage drama and fun. Leagues have taken steps to do this, but I think that they are marginal steps as opposed to a fundamental restructuring. Ex. NHL (and soccer too?) made the goals bigger, NBA and NFL penalize hand checking more which benefits the offense and makes for a higher scoring and more fast paced game.

Comment author: Brillyant 28 December 2015 06:12:41PM 1 point [-]

I've also been disappointed to see that people heavily reach for players in the draft, effectively saying "I disagree with all of the experts".

This can be a good strategy. I've played in leagues where the winners have won largely because they chose players before the experts projected they should go.

Following the consensus will likely yield the highest average performance over a span of several seasons, but the experts get it wrong sometimes. If you can pick the overachievers in any given season, it can yield a championship.

Comment author: adamzerner 28 December 2015 06:16:56PM 0 points [-]

Good point.

Comment author: raydora 10 January 2016 05:02:26PM 0 points [-]

We have mandatory 'fun days' where we grill hot dogs and play ultimate football.

Thanks for the link, I'll definitely attempting to implement some of the lessons from it to my draft next year. Incidentally, drafting is where I've always failed- I kind of just picked players without any knowledge or analysis, and then figured out what I could do with them during the season. The waiver wire helped, of course. Mine is an extremely blue collar league, so there's not much in the way of strategy besides 'I follow my gut'.