The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Situationist Sports’

The Situation of Sexual Assault at Boston University

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 10, 2012

A  report, commissioned by Boston University President after two hockey players were charged with sexual assault, found a “culture of sexual entitlement” in the hockey program and a lack of reporting and discipline against star players.  In effect, the report concluded that the situation contributed significantly to the behavior which put many BU students at risk.  Here are some excerpts:

On March 7, 2012, Boston University President Robert A. Brown established and charged the Men’s Ice Hockey Task Force with the responsibility to review the culture and climate of the Boston University men’s hockey program and to provide a thoughtful and impartial assessment. The task force was initiated in response to criminal charges, which included sexual assault being brought against two members of the men’s ice hockey team within a three-month period. These charges raised serious questions about whether the culture and climate of the ice hockey program contributed in some way to the alleged actions of the two individuals. The University chose to investigate these questions with the understanding that if evidence of systemic problems emerged, then appropriate changes would be made to ensure that our men’s ice hockey program is held to the same high standards to which we hold all members of our university community.

Of primary concern was the question of whether inherent aspects of the program’s culture and climate could have helped to foster the actions that led to the criminal charges. For those unfamiliar with Boston University athletic programs, the men’s hockey team, which has won a total of five national championships, has garnered substantial national recognition and is often among the top university ice hockey programs in the nation. Its visibility both on and off campus exceeds that of any other BU athletic program.

It is essential to note that the task force was not asked to conduct an assessment of the guilt or innocence of the two individuals who were charged with sexual assault. Neither was the task force asked to evaluate the judgments that were rendered in these two cases by Boston University’s Judicial Affairs, which has the responsibility for adjudicating alleged violations of the Student Code of Responsibilities. Those processes are the purview of the State of Massachusetts and the Boston University Dean of Students, respectively. In fact, prosecutors have since dropped the criminal charges that were filed against one of the individuals, while the other individual has pleaded guilty to reduced charges of assault and battery.

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Our assessment of the information and data we gathered and reviewed concerning the Boston University men’s ice hockey program can be considered in two broad categories. The first includes the full range of university structures, processes, and procedures that govern all aspects of the men’s ice hockey program in particular, and competitive athletics at Boston University in general. Our conclusion is that there are a number of important structures and processes that are failing to achieve the full level and quality of oversight of the men’s ice hockey program that is expected and appropriate at a major university. These failings include issues of institutional control and governance structure at the highest levels, as well as shortcomings in leadership at the team level. Further, the absence of a few routine, transparent, and systematic processes that would establish clear expectations for players’ behavior has created a culture in which important aspects of oversight for our student-athletes’ behavior—beyond performance as a team member—has fallen inappropriately to the coaching staff.

The second broad category of findings relates to issues surrounding the social and sexual interactions of the men’s ice hockey players with the broader student community. Our assessment has shown that a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men’s ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus. This culture of sexual entitlement, as evidenced by frequent sexual encounters with women absent an emotional relationship or on-going commitment, can also involve unprotected sex. This culture is actively supported by a small subset of BU’s undergraduate population. The absence of systematic processes for sexual assault prevention training for members of the men’s ice hockey team, and for BU students more broadly, contributes to behaviors that place many University students at risk. Substance abuse, including heavy alcohol use in particular, can be an important part of students’ social and sexual culture. Institutional practices and educational efforts relating to sexual health and substance abuse—for the men’s ice hockey players in particular, and for the undergraduate student body in general—do not provide sufficient information or guidance to our students.

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Read the entire report, including fourteen recommendations here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Education, Situationist Sports, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Brain Injuries and Soccer

Posted by Adam Benforado on November 28, 2011

On Sunday, one of the legends of the soccer world was found dead.

Gary Speed was only 42.  He played for clubs in England’s Premiership for 22 years and holds the record for the most appearances representing Wales for an outfield player.  He had recently taken over as the head coach of the national side and Wales, for the first time in years, had begun to look like a genuinely dangerous team.

But on Sunday, it all ended as Speed took his own life, leaving behind a wife and two sons, aged 13 and 14.

In the coming weeks, we will learn more about the circumstances surrounding the death, but one thing that immediately came to mind upon hearing the tragic news was whether there might be a connection to the string of suicides by football players, boxers, and hockey players who had suffered brain injuries.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy has been documented in autopsies of 20 or so football players who died young, including Dave Dureson, the Pro-Bowl Chicago Bears safety, who shot himself in February.  And there is more general research that shows that people with acquired brain injury are significantly more likely to demonstrate suicidal behaviors than those in the general population.

How might this relate to Gary Speed?

Well, Speed was, as the Guardian noted in its obituary, “an exceptional header of the ball.”  Expertly meeting a gun shot of a cross with his forehead and guiding it in his chosen direction was one of Speed’s special talents.  And he demonstrated that talent for longer than almost anyone: indeed, there are only two players, Ryan Giggs and David James, who played more games in the Premier League.

Although football and boxing have been getting most of the attention lately, we have known for years that there is evidence of chronic traumatic brain injury in professional soccer players.  Indeed, when researchers from the Netherlands looked at a population of professional soccer players in the Netherlands in 1998, the found that they

exhibited impaired performances in memory, planning, and visuoperceptual processing when compared with control subjects. Among professional soccer players, performance on memory, planning, and visuoperceptual tasks were inversely related to the number of concussions incurred in soccer and the frequency of “heading” the ball. Performance on neuropsychological testing also varied according to field position, with forward and defensive players exhibiting more impairment.

We will never know for certain why Gary Speed decided to take his own life, but my hope is that attention will be given to the possibility that the effects of his chosen profession may have contributed to his death.  At present, no one is writing about the role that brain trauma might have played in the tragedy on Sunday, but maybe they should.

In the end, soccer may not be the “safe” alternative to football that so many parents (including my own) have long assumed it to be.

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Related Situationist posts:

Review a collection of sports related Situationist posts by clicking here.

Posted in Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Deterring Divorce through Major League Baseball?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 23, 2009

fenway-parkBusinessWeek has an engaging piece on a new study from the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies which finds that cities with major league baseball teams have a 28% lower divorce rate than other cities.  We excerpt the piece below.

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The family unit is society’s fundamental unit—95 percentage of US citizens marry by age 55. A marriage breakdown is one of the most stressful life events possible, yet more than one in three will experience the trauma of divorce. Not surprisingly, the dynamics of relationships are increasingly the focus of ever more research. The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies in particular is constantly shedding new light on the institution of marriage with recent research findings establishing that the quality of the relationship with parents-in-law is directly connected to marital satisfaction, and more recently, that 90 percent of couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction once their first child is born.

A new study from the centre looking at divorce rates before and after cities got Major League Baseball teams is fascinating in its implications. The study showed that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28 percent lower divorce rate than cities that wanted major league baseball teams. Can marital harmony really be this simple?

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University of Denver (DU) director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies, psychology professor Howard Markman also studied divorce rates in other cities that welcomed a major league team and found a 30 percent decline in divorces in Phoenix, a 30 percent drop in Miami and a 17 percent drop in Tampa Bay area. While there could be many explanations for this significant difference, Markman stresses the importance of fun and friendship in a healthy marriage. Going to baseball games is one way couples can have fun together and talk as friends.

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For the rest of the piece, click here.  For related Situationist posts on the apparent power of Major League Baseball, see Jon Hanson and Michael McCann’s Attributing Blame: From the Baseball Diamond to the War on Terror and The Competitive Situation of Youth Baseball and Softball.

Posted in Life, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Being Stephon Marbury: The Situation of Having “Baggage”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 4, 2009

stephon-marburyJulian Benbow of the Boston Globe has an interesting story on the newest Boston Celtic:  32-year-old Stephon Marbury, a former NBA All-Star point guard who was recently released by the New York Knicks.

Marbury is considered a very talented player, but during a 13-year in which he has consistently played for losing teams, he’s developed a reputation for being a “malcontent” and generally being difficult to be around.

Benbow examines whether Marbury will be viewed differently now that he has joined the World Champion Boston Celtics, which have strong leaders in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.  Will the situation change Marbury or is Marbury stuck in his ways?  We excerpt the piece below.

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Certain players just fit the type, according to [former Boston Celtics coach and current TV announcer Tommy] Heinsohn.

“They’re usually smart guys,” he said. “They’ve got something to prove. I think they understand that this is their shot to win a title and be a special player and reclaim their heritage to the game.”

New England has been good to those kinds of players recently. Randy Moss mooned Packers fans in Green Bay, nudged a traffic officer with his car in Minneapolis, then went to a Super Bowl in his first season as a Patriot.

Corey Dillon went from Cincinnati malcontent to Super Bowl champion.

Stephon Marbury is the latest to come to Boston with baggage, and the constant question around his impending arrival was whether he’d be toxic to team chemistry.

But there’s something reclaimable about Marbury, because of the situation he’s walking into – a veteran locker room with a championship-tested formula – and he wouldn’t be the first player to thrive with the Celtics after being labeled damaged goods.

“Every new guy that came to Boston, they wanted to make sure we kept winning,” said Tom “Satch” Sanders, who won eight rings in Green. “They didn’t want people to say, ‘What was the reason the Celtics didn’t win? It must be that new guy.’ “

“They’re tired of being the reason why,” Heinsohn said. “Tired of being the scapegoat. They wanted to prove that they were really a terrific player. And they want to be on a winning team.”

Ups and downs

Dennis Johnson had the “problem” classification before he came to Boston. His temper torched college coaches, and Lenny Wilkens spent three years butting heads with him in Seattle. Fed up in 1980, Wilkens told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “You can’t get rid of the body, but you can cut out the cancer.”

The Sonics dealt Johnson to Phoenix, and three years later he ended up in Boston. K.C. Jones, the Celtics’ new coach, paid Johnson’s rep no mind.

“When he came, I knew he had a reputation,” Jones said. “I heard things about him, that he was difficult. When he came in, I wanted to see how he played and if he did his job. When he got to the Celtics, he got out there and he played, and nothing came up because none of it showed.”

Johnson won two rings in Boston.

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.  For a related post, see The Situation of the NBA Draft.

Posted in Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Refereeing – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2009

soccer-refereeVincenzo Scoppa has posted an intrguing article, “Are Subjective Evaluations Biased by Social Factors or Connections? An Econometric Analysis of Soccer Referee Decisions” (35 Empirical Economics (2008)) on SSRN.

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Many incentive contracts are based on subjective evaluations and contractual disputes depend on judges’ decisions. However, subjective evaluations raise risks of favouritism and distortions. Sport contests are a fruitful field for testing empirically theories of incentives. In this paper the behaviour of the referees in the Italian soccer (football) league (“Serie A”) is analyzed. Using data on injury (or extra) time subjectively assigned by the referee at the end of the match and controlling for factors which may influence it (players substitutions, yellow and red cards, penalty kicks, etc.), we show that referees are biased in favour of home team, in that injury time is significantly greater if home teams are losing. The refereeing bias increases greatly when there is no running track in the stadium and the crowd is close to the pitch. Following the 2006 “Serie A” scandal we test whether favouritism emerges towards teams suspected of connections with referees finding that these teams obtain favourable decisions. Social pressure by the crowd attending the match however appears to be the main cause of favouritism.

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To download the article for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see ” I’m Objective, You’re Biased,” “Unlevel Playing Fields: From Baseball Diamonds to Emergency Rooms,” and ” What’s Eating David Ortiz?”  To review the collection of posts on “situationist sports,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Baseball Skills

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 19, 2008

Greg Spira had an interesting article, “The Boys of Late Summer,” last week in Slate. The article examines the situational significance of birthdates on who makes it to the Bigs. (We’re grateful to Situationist friend Andrew Perlman for calling our attention to this article.)

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In 2000, John Holway argued in a book called The Baseball Astrologer that the sign under which an individual was born played a significant role in whether he made it in pro ball. Holway identified a real phenomenon, but the explanation does not lie in the stars. Since 1950, a baby born in the United States in August has had a 50 percent to 60 percent better chance of making the big leagues than a baby born in July. The lesson: If you want your child to be a professional baseball player, you should start planning early. Very early. As in before conception.

The table below lays out the full month-to-month data. As of the 2005 season, 503 Americans born in August had made it to the major leagues compared with 313 American born in July. . . .
The pattern is unmistakable. From August through the following July, there is a steady decline in the likelihood that a child born in the United States will become a major leaguer. Meanwhile, among players born outside the 50 states, there are some hints of a pattern but nothing significant enough to reach any conclusions. An analysis of the birth dates of players in baseball’s minor leagues between 1984 and 2000 finds similar patterns, with American-born players far more likely to have been born in August than July. The birth-month pattern among Latin American minor leaguers is very different—if anything, they’re more likely to be born toward the end of the year, in October, November, and December.

from Slate

The magical date of Aug. 1 gives a strong hint as to the explanation for this phenomenon. For more than 55 years, July 31 has been the age-cutoff date used by virtually all nonschool-affiliated baseball leagues in the United States. Youth baseball organizations including Little League, Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth, PONY, Dixie Youth, Hap Dumont, Dizzy Dean, American Legion, and more have long used that date to determine which players are eligible for which levels of play. (There is no such commonly used cutoff date in Latin America.) The result: In almost every American youth league, the oldest players are the ones born in August, and the youngest are those with July birthdays. For example, someone born on July 31, 1990, would almost certainly have been the youngest player on his youth team in 2001, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds league, and of average age in 2002, his second year in the same league. Someone born on Aug. 1, 1989, by contrast, would have been of average age in 2001, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds division, and would almost certainly be the oldest player in the league in 2002.

Twelve full months of development makes a huge difference for an 11- or 12-year-old. The player who is 12 months older will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than his younger counterpart, not to mention more experienced. And those bigger, better players are the ones given opportunities for further advancement. Other players, who are just as skilled for their age, are less likely to be given those same opportunities simply because of when they were born. . . .

This phenomenon will not come as news to social scientists, who have observed the same patterns in a number of different sports. The first major study of what has become known as the “relative age effect” . . . determined that NHL players of the early 1980s were more than four times as likely to be born in the first three months of the calendar year as the last three months. In 2005, a larger study on the relative age effect in European youth soccer . . . . found a large relative age effect in almost every European country, though it seems to shrink in adult leagues and is less significant in women’s soccer. . . .

Interestingly enough, the relative age effect doesn’t appear in the two other major American sports leagues. . . .

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To read more about the relative age effects, including possible explanations for the exceptions and the effects of the new April 30 cutoff date, link to the entire story here.

Posted in Life, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Rational Choice Myth – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 18, 2008

by Erwin Boogert on Flickr

Michael Dorff recently posted his interesting paper, “The Rational Choice Myth: The Selection and Compensation of Critical Performers,” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Some positions within an organization wield unusual impact over the entity’s success. The decision makers who hire these critical performers face a daunting task: to distinguish among closely comparable finalists in a context where small differences in talent can produce enormous outcome divergences. I apply research from psychology and behavioral law and economics to argue that decision makers demonstrate unwarranted confidence in their ability to distinguish among nearly identical candidates. The illusion of validity, representativeness bias, insensitivity to predictability, and the fundamental attribution error all impede decision makers’ ability to make these fine distinctions. Once they have made a selection, cognitive dissonance induces inappropriate confidence in the outcome’s validity and promotes excessive compensation. Involving a group in the decision may worsen these effects by imbuing outcomes with the false veneer of market legitimacy through social cascades and by discouraging contrary views throug hexcessive consensus or groupthink.

I examine two types of critical performers with these insights: professional baseball players (where individual contributions to the enterprise can be measured directly) and public company CEOs (where they cannot). I conclude that in both contexts, these phenomena produce inefficient selection and compensation outcomes. While the relative absence of externalities argues against mandatory regulation in baseball, I propose changes in private ordering that should improve efficiency. In the corporate context, I argue that regulation is called for and propose a combination of mandatory compensation caps linked to firm size and a reverse auction among CEO finalists to determine the successful candidate.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Situationist Sports, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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