1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown November 7-13 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dear Internet -

There have been experiments like this.

Some with rats, or the Israeli Army, or elementary school students.  They all go like this.

There's a random division between two groups.  The rats, the military candidates, the kids, all randomly divided.

But those charged with training the groups (scientists, commanders, teachers) are misled, told that one of the groups has higher intelligence than the other.  Even though the groups, again, completely divided randomly - all of the subjects had been given a test prior to the division; there's no difference in the scores of group A from group B.

A fixed period of time goes by, and then that pre-division test is again administered to the two groups.

What do you suppose is the result?

The group that the instructors believed to be more intelligent did significantly better than the other group.

The things we think about ourselves; the messages in our head about who we essentially are - they come from somewhere and they have real consequences.  Could be a third grade teacher decided for whatever reason that you couldn't do math, and your whole life has been fulfilling that expectation.

Consider this - they took college students and divided them in 3 groups (this experiment might be in the book Sway - I have forgotten)

1. Women
2. Men
3. Mixed

The women were told was they were going to receive a 5 minute phone call from a man they did not know.

The men were told they were going to make a 5 minute phone call to a woman.  They received a picture and bio of the woman they were going to call.  The bios were real.  The pictures were not.  Half of the men got pictures of hot women.  Half the men, not so much.

After the phone call, the men were asked to evaluate the women.

It will not surprise you that the men who had pictures of hot women had significantly higher opinions of those women than those who believed they were talking to less attractive women.  The fake pretty women were smarter, more confident, funnier, more engaging than the fake not pretty women - according to the men.

You get that.  It's an aspect of the halo effect.  We ascribe all sorts of positive qualities to attractive people.  It's one of the reasons why NFL quarterbacks have symmetrical facial features at a significantly higher rate not only than the general public but compared to other football players.  The good looking kid is considered to be a better leader at some early stage of development, and is funneled to quarterback, a position of leadership.  He's treated like a leader, and he becomes a leader.  The elementary school kids are treated like smart kids - and they become smart kids.  And the converse.  Who we become is a function of how we are treated, of the messages about ourselves that are in our brains for reasons we cannot reconstruct.

That's where the mixed group comes in.  They were played the tapes of the phone calls - but just the women's half of the call.  And then they were asked to describe the women.

Which women did they like more?

Yeah - the fake pretty ones.  Smarter, more engaged, more interesting, more confident.

That's how much we are impacted by the way we are treated - men believe they are talking to pretty women and therefore treat them in a particular way - the way they treat them then causes behavior from those women that is so noticeable that it can be heard in a five minute phone call by an outside group.

And the converse.

We think who we are is who we are.  But here are these adult women, personalities fully formed, yet the belief that men have about their level of attractiveness (remember, the pictures - fake) can cause behavior so clear it is evidenced by an entirely non-biased outside group, a group which doesn't hear the men speak and doesn't see the pictures.

I've been doing a lot of writing about the World Champion San Francisco Giants over the last several months; I've talked about my childhood affinity for Charlie Brown, whose status as a loser (a lovable one perhaps, but a loser nonetheless, and a San Francisco Giants fan) was a defining characteristic.  I've posted a link to a 2006 piece I wrote about the Giants that contained a line from Underworld about a character who loved the
New York Giants (the baseball version, yes):

He knows how to find the twisty compensation in the business of losing, being a loser, drawing it out, expanding it, making it sickly sweet, being someone carefully chosen for the role.

If you were to travel back in time a quarter century, either via flux capacitor or hot tub, to see teenage Jim Jividen in Prospect, Ohio - if I wasn't watching a Giants game, you'd probably see me watching the old David Letterman show.

Letterman's the most important comic voice of my lifetime, his "I'm here, but not really here; I'm commenting on this even as I live through it" sensibility is the way that I process my life, and I'd argue the way my generation and maybe the one subsequent has processed its reality (most recently seen in the Stewart/Colbert Un-Rally).  But until this week, when I read The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy Bill Carter's new book about the Conan/Leno contretemps, I hadn't thought about Letterman in Charlie Brown language.

There's a passage that includes a quote from Robert Morton, longtime Letterman producer, discussing the change the show went through when it moved from 12:30 to 11:30 when Dave was passed over for the Tonight Show and moved to CBS.

"The new show had to be about success. It can't be about failure, " Morton had said. The old show had celebrated failure.

And he's right.  And he's right and that's why I liked it, and what I missed about it after the move to CBS.  I enjoyed the failure.  I identified with the failure.

So - which comes first?  The Charlie Brown, David Letterman, San Francisco Giants  - is it that I identified with the failure and so I gravitated toward it - or is it that the I internalized those messages of failure about myself?  Who had the ugly girl picture of me?

That's what I thought about this week.  After the jump - the rest of Tendown 51.  Special Elevendown!

1. I Got You, I Got You, I Got You.
Another book I read this week was Asterisk, the best book about the steroids era I've read, by a California lawyer who focuses on the evidence as to Bonds's guilt.  It's the type of voice glaringly missing in the official histories of the time written by ESPN and Ken Burns. In it, a much told story of Barry Bonds's welcoming himself to the Giants clubhouse for the first time in '93 is revisited - Bonds pointing at each of the Giants pitchers

and saying "I got you, I got you, I got you," in reference to homers he had hit off of his new teammates.  I always liked that story; I like my athletes with a healthy dollup of swagger. 

I thought about that this week when Oprah had as guests former hosts of the daytime talk shows she's vanquished.  Geraldo, Rikki, Sally Jesse, Montel, I think Tempest Bledsoe was back there someplace.  Maybe Soleil Moon Frye.  Hard to say. Oprah's doing a bit of a home run trot; she had Martha Stewart on earlier this season and asked if she had received her cards when she was in jail. 

No, seriously.  That shit happened.  It was funny.

She began the interview with just she and Donahue with something approximating this:

When I came to Chicago, all anyone told me was "Oh, you can't compete against Phil - Donahue's the King - you're gonna get killed...

And then she stopped.  And waited. 

And Phil gave her what she wanted -

Well, they were wrong, Oprah, clearly, you're the best and the biggest, there is no higher, sucker mcs call you sire.

It wasn't that - but it was that level of effusive.  Phil acknowledged that Oprah is, in fact, the unquestioned winner.

And Oprah smiled and grasped his hand.

I got you.

Later, with all of them on stage (Jenny Jones...Bonnie Hunt...remember when Karen from Will and Grace had a show?) Oprah said something to the effect of "25 straight years at number one!  Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!"

I got you.  I got you.  I got you. 

I don't care about Oprah one way or the other.  She doesn't play left field for my club.  But I admire the swag.

2. Our Best and Brightest

We had an election during the Tendown hiatus.  Maybe you heard.

Here's Sandy Adams, winner in Florida 24, who doesn't believe in evolution.  And wants to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments.  The "take our vote away from us!" talking point from the right wing this year is one of my favorites.  Raul Labrador is on board.  He also wants to return to the gold standard.  And leave the UN.  And abolish the Department of Ed.  They'd both like a 23% sales tax.  So - for those of you who need to, you know, buy stuff, good luck with that.  Here's Alan Nunnelee from Mississippi who said the Democrats are worse than Pearl Harbor and he also helped craft the legislation that has eliminated all but one abortion clinic in the entire state.  Tim Griffin from Arkansas 2nd who believes business should have the liberty to fire gay employees and led the right wing fight to disenfranchise minority voters in 2004.  Here's Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania, who spread the right wing meme of crime causing immigrants - and when confronted with evidence as to the lack of crime caused or government services being used by illegals in his town, said "the people in my city don't need numbers."  Also elected - the most anti-gay candidate in America.

Then there's Allen West.  Florida 22.

I'm likely to write a little bit about Allen West over the next two years.  'Cause he's my Congressman.

He said his supporters needed to make his opponent scared to come out of his house. Which seems less like empty, gutless right wing rhetoric when you know why he left the military.  He says we're in a war with Islam, wants to end the tax system, called multiculturalism a "failed ideal", says pro-choice groups are motivated by money making, calls liberalism "tyranny", said Obama is the "dumbest person" in America, compared his Administration to, wait for it, Hitler.

So, things are terrific.

3. Because of God
Not new to Congress, but now up for a leadership position in Energy and Commerce, is John Shimkus, who doesn't believe in global warming...because of Genesis.

The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

4. We're Now a Banana Republic
Mentioning this makes me a communist, according to my Congressman.  But we're now a banana republic.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976.

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

And from Frank Rich, today.

During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

5. Someone's Got to Pump the Gas
But, according to the newest Senator from Kentucky - rich and poor are exactly the same.

We're all interconnected. There are no rich, there are no middle class, there are no poor. We're all interconnected in the economy.

Meanwhile, with my two graduate degrees, and a half dozen years as a full time college professor, I'm looking for a third job to pay my monthly bills.

6. Which Probably Means I Should Stop Writing Tendown
I had a pretty solid increase in readership over the past couple of months (the Giants helped, and I have a particular baseball list with a favorable search engine ranking) but that's a double edged sword, given the existence of companies like this; promising not only to inspect the online lives of prospective employees - but to monitor your current employees online as well.  As the founding fathers would have wanted.

7. If You Get a Weird Email from Keith Olbermann
It's probably from Tucker Carlson.  What does a right winger have to do to get fired in 2010?

8. The International Jew.
Glenn Beck, who doesn't even deserve his Simple Jack nickname this week, was at his most vile in smearing George Soros. What does a right winger have to do to get fired in 2010?

9. I've Got a Good Feeling About This
You've seen the Wheel of Fortune clip with the woman solving the puzzle with one letter.  Here's the thing of it - she knew it with no letters.  Here's how.

10. We're Number 39!
There have been some "worst World Series winner since '88" sports media rumblings about my World Champion San Francisco Giants.  So - by pythagorean record, I've ranked every World Series winner since 1950.  Why only that far?  Haven't had time to go through the rest.  I will though - and make it a separate post.

So, this is every WS winner since 1950.  Next to it - their regular season pythag win total.  For the non 162 game seasons, I'm giving first the pro-rated total and the raw total.  I broke ties by (1) teams that played fewer games were ranked below teams that played more - better to have a .600 winning percentage over 162 games than 154, for example and then (2) caliber of WS opponent, also according to pythag.  I had to use a third tie-break once, and there I took the team that had the better regular season pythag in comparison to their top competitor that year.

So, here are the past 60 World Series Champions.  Ranked in order. When I do the full post I'll offer some commentary.

1. 1998 NYY 108
2. 1953 NYY 108 (101)
3. 1975 Reds 107
4. 1970 Orioles 104
5. 1976 Reds 103
6. 1968 Tigers 103
7. 1986 Mets 103
8. 1961 NYY 103
9. 1956 NYY 103 (98)
10.1954 NYG 102 (97) (the only Mays WS team makes the top 10)

11. 1971 Pirates 101
12. 2002 Angels 101 (the best team to beat SFG in the WS.  Who knew?)
13. 2007 Red Sox 101
14. 1958 NYY 101 (96)
15. 1950 NYY 101 (96)
16. 1955 Dodgers 100 (95)
17. 1952 NYY 100 (95)
18. 1977 NYY 99
19. 1978 NYY 99
20. 1984 Tigers 99

21. 1951 NYY 99 (94)
22. 1981 Dodgers 98 (67)
23. 1974 A’s 97
24. 1972 A’s 97
25. 1967 Cards 97
26. 1989 A’s 97 (me!  they beat me!)
27. 1957 Braves 97 (93)
28. 2004 Boston 96
29. 1999 NYY 96
30. 1966 Orioles 96

31. 1983 Orioles 96
32. 1973 A’s 96
33. 1960 Pirates 96 (92)
34. 1979 Pirates 95
35. 2009 NYY 95    
36. 2001 Arizona 95                             
37. 1962 NYY 94 (the '62 Yanks get slip past me again)
38. 1991 Minn 94
39. 2010 SFG 94
40. 1995 Atlanta 94 (84)

41. 2008 Phils 93
42. 1969 Mets 92 (they beat Orioles who had 110 pythag wins, best regular season team of past 6)
43. 1965 Dodgers 92 (had to go to that third tiebreak)
44. 1963 Dodgers 92
45. 1990 Reds 92
46. 1988 Dodgers 91
47. 1992 Toronto 91
48. 1980 Phils 91
1993 Toronto 91
50. 2005 CWW 91

51. 1982 Cards 90
52. 1964 Cards 88
53. 1996 NYY 88
54. 1997 Marlins 88
55. 2003 Marlins 87
56. 1985 Royals 86
57. 1959 Dodgers 86 (82)
58. 2000 NYY 85
59. 2006 StL 82
60. 1987 Minn 79 ( a sub .500 WS champ - this is why losing in the NLCS was so tough in '87)

11. 52 Years Later

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,


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