No Panaceas

Thursday, June 12, 2003
Omaha Bound: I know a lot of sports fans are bored this time of year, especially once the NBA playoffs end. But this is my favorite time of the sport's year because first there is the college baseball post-season capped by the College World Series. That is followed by the Tour de France. I'll talk about the Tour in early July, it is easily the greatest annual sporting event in the world. The baseball post-season, especially the CWS, is my favorite U.S. sporting event, especially as an event to attend in person. Every year I try to go to one of the regionals (the first of a three round sequence of playoffs) or the CWS. This year it's the CWS which has been held in Omaha for the last fifty-plus years. The CWS features a terrific mix of good baseball and great atmosphere. In just the first four days of the tourney you get to see eight teams play a total of eight games. As an event it's not too big, but big enough to have energy. The atmosphere is relaxed but not drunken stupid. College baseball as a game has its flaws, but like with the Grateful Dead the flaws are part of the fun.

The baseball playoffs suffer from many of the same intransitivity and small-n problems that I complained about earlier in regard to March Madness (here and here). Indeed, the problem is somewhat exacerbated here. Baseball differs dramatically from football, basketball, and soccer because of the importance of pitching. A team with one or two really good pitchers has an advantage in a short series that it will not necessarily have in a longer series, thus the small-n problem is more severe. Furthermore, for a couple of reasons the NCAA tries to limit travel distances in the regional and super-regionals. This yields extremely variable, and often unfair, matchups. A top team that happens to be from the West, where there are lots of good teams, will likely face a tougher regional and super-regional matchup than a topteam from the North or East. It is an artifact of the way college baseball remains a regional sport. If you drew a line from San Francisco east to the Atlantic you would have to go far back in time to find a team from above that line that won the CWS or even did particularly well in the post-season. Indeed, this year no teams north of the line made it to Omaha.

At any rate, it just so happens that my wife and I have alma maters in Omaha this year (Stanford and Rice). That is icing on the cake. If you like baseball it is a great event regardless of whether or not your particular team is in.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
A look at the Iraqi Freedom Rally Event: A while back (here and here) I discussed Rally Events in the context of the then upcoming war against Iraq. My speculation at the time was that Bush's rally would look somewhat like his father's Desert Storm rally, but then decay as fast if not faster. Iraqi Freedom provided this Bush nothing like the Desert Storm rally. Rather it is starting to look a great deal like Panama and the Iran Hostage Crisis. That's not exactly stellar company as far as major rally events go. Here's Iraqi Freedom compared to Panama, Iran Hostage, and the October Missile Crisis:

Iraqi Freedom provided a modest, ephemeral jump in Bush's approval level. It will be completely gone in a month or so.