Monday, January 19, 2009

42 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - With all the talk about McNabb not knowing that there were ties in football, and now his team is advancing even though he might be perceived as stupid...what sport has the smartest athletes? Would Jeopardy: Professional Athlete tournament be interestingor embarassing?
A: Bill, as much as I love this question, I don't think I can give you an answer that's as scientific as you deserve. Researching this question has proven harder than I expected. I was hoping to find a list of average IQs for each major sport and just pass that on. Sadly such a list does not exist. Nor can I find any intelligence measurement of the general population that includes professional athletes. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, sure, but not athletes. Or musicians, for that matter.

So I'm going to have to tackle this myself. First, the counter-question that must be asked is what does "smart" mean? Does it mean general intelligence as measured by an IQ or does it mean smart as far as skill required to play the sport? Also, elite and snobby does not necessarily mean smart. I'll admit that my first thought was that golf had the smartest players. Then I realized that it was because of the air surrounding the game, not because of the players themselves.

With that out of the way, what follows is an off-the-top-of-my-head, no-good-reason ranking of the "major" sports:
1. Baseball - Players have to think about their actions and anticipate what others will do. Pitchers and hitters will study film of each other in an effort to gain an advantage.
2. Hockey - Hand-eye coordination like no other sport, plus memorizing plays.
3. Football - You have to memorize complicated playbooks, especially quarterbacks. Lots of time spent analyzing film and learning from it.
4. Basketball - Memorizing plays, but not as complicated as other sports. More about athleticism than intelligence.
5. Soccer - Running up and down a field and kicking a ball.

Like I said, this is hardly scientific. If you'd like me to dedicate more time to this then I will. I find the question fascinating, and I really think it does deserve an entire book. Or maybe a chapter in my book. We'll see.

As for your second question, I think that Jeopardy: Professional Athlete is a great idea. I would actually make it like a tournament. Baseball players one night, football players the next night, and so on. The winner of each round gets to proceed and finally a winner is decided. I would watch that. Especially if the answers were all sports related. That would be some entertaining television.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein -
1) Don't you think speeches such as Crichton's there and movies like Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" only add to the partisan nature of the argument and allowing either of them to profoundly influence your ideas is giving in to the partisan nature of the argument? Both seem to be at the far ends of each sides arguments.
2) Going back to where this started: how is adding solar panels to your house and reducing your "carbon footprint" not adapting to climate change and (trying to) doing something about it?
A: 1. When I say I was profoundly influenced by Michael Crichton's speech I mean that it changed the way that I thought about the issue. I don't see that as giving in to the partisan nature of the debate but rather opening up my mind to other ways of looking at the issue. Once I stopped reflexively believing in whatever the climate change proponents said I was able to start to see the issue in a whole new way. As I said in my last answer I stopped looking at causes and started looking at actions.

I disagree that both Crichton's speech and Al Gore's (and others') films are opposite ends of some kind of spectrum. To me that's engaging in a kind of equivalence between the arguments that misses the point. In the case of the debate about climate change there are scientific facts regarding the issue. Put another way, one side is going to be right and one side is going to be wrong. Will that matter? I don't know. I'll say it again: I see the partisan nature of this debate as the fault of the believers in climate change. Is this because I'm not a believer? Maybe.

2. As I said in my last answer there are many reasons that someone might choose to add solar panels to their house. Motivations and effects are not necessarily linked. Let me illustrate this with a related point. Let's say I trade in my SUV and buy a Chevy Aveo (or some similar small car). What is the effect of that decision? For one thing, I'll get better gas milage and thus spend less money on gas. For another, I'll be polluting less and thus my "carbon footprint" will be smaller. So why did I buy the smaller car? It's impossible to say.

Here's another example that is unrelated to the environment. Back in 1990 President George HW Bush signed a tax increase that included, among other things, a "Luxury Tax" on such things as yachts, private airplanes, and luxury cars. The motivation for the tax was to tax the rich and raise money for the government. The effect of the tax was that the rich bought less of the items being taxed, and thousands of jobs were lost in the industries that produced those goods. Was it President Bush's intention to destroy those jobs? Of course not. But that was the effect.

Similarly the effect of installing solar panels or other "green" home improvements might be to impact climate change (I personally don't believe it, but I'll concede the point for now). But that is not necessarily the motivation for the actions. I'll turn the question back around on you: does it matter what the the motivations for the actions are? I contend that it doesn't, and that we as a people shouldn't be concerned with it. But that's just my opinion, as always.

Q: James Lileks (via Twitter) - What does the guy whose job it is to bang on the drum all day want to do instead of work?
A: This question was not asked of me directly, but I saw it on twitter the other day and was so amused that I had to give my own answer. For those of you who don't know, James Lileks is a humorist who writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and is the editor of He's on par with Dave Barry for humor in my opinion, albeit less wacky than Dave.

Anyway, this is a good question. I think that a professional drummer might want to do any of a number of things all day:
- Work in an office (first suggested by Brett Gobe).
- Learn to play guitar/sing so he can have a chance to get laid.
- Bang on a different drum.

Ultimately it's unanswerable, but still very funny to ponder.