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Djokovic as GOAT? (II) / Follow-up: Tennis, numbers, and reasoning

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As I suggested earlier this year, a strong case can be made for Djokovic as the GOAT of tennis. As he now has added another two majors, for a three-way tie with Federer and Nadal, even those obsessed with the flawed proxy of majors won (Cf. [1]) should slowly be caving.* This especially as his Wimbledon victories in 2019 and 2021 (this year) point to his being a clear favorite for 2020, had there been a tournament. In a reality just a little different, with Wimbledon postponed and the French Open canceled, Djokovic might lead 21 to 20 to 19 over Federer and Nadal.

*Except that tennis fans are often religious and might change criteria after the fact.

As to my own main proxy, weeks at number one, he has built a lead on Federer (while Nadal is not a factor) and will necessarily extend it further after his Wimbledon defense.

Moreover, as I wrote in [1]:*

*Footnotes removed for brevity.

The best way to proceed is almost certainly to try to make a judgment over an aggregate of many different measures, including majors won, ranking achievements, perceived dominance, length of career, … (And, yes, the task is near impossible.) For instance, look at the Wikipedia page on open era records in men’s singles and note how often Federer appears, how often he is the number one of a list, how often he is one of the top few, and how rarely his name does not appear in a significant list. That is a much stronger argument for his being the GOAT than “20 majors”. Similarly, it gives a decent argument for the Big Three being the top three of the open era; similarly, it explains why I would tend to view Djokovic as ahead of Nadal, and why I see it as more likely that Djokovic overtakes Federer than that Nadal does (in my estimate, not necessarily in e.g. the “has more majors” sense).

Look at the same page today, roughly two years later, and note how the distance between Federer and Djokovic has grown smaller or even reversed in various measures.

Should Djokovic add this year’s U.S. Open, winning the Grand Slam, this would probably close the debate for me. If he does not, I suspect that the developments over the next one or two years will leave the same conclusion. (But let us wait and see.)

Excursion on Federer as GOAT:
Now, if I were to argue Federer as GOAT, which is a position closer to my heart, I would probably rely on two things. Firstly, rivalries tend to favor the younger player, and will almost certainly have done so in the case of players this long-lived. This would give Federer a greater handicap from competing with the other “Big Three” than it does Djokovic and Nadal. Secondly, the great slowdown of surfaces has certainly favored the immensely strong defensive players and runners that are Djokovic and Nadal over Federer, who has a faster and more attacked based game. The downside of this argument, is that we cannot know how other players would have fared without a slowdown—and maybe all three would have seen their success diminished relative some even more attack based, and/or younger, and/or more canon-serving players. (Maybe, for instance, we would have had a four-way tie with Sampras at 14 in terms of majors won, with Sampras still leading in weeks at number one?)

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July 11, 2021 at 9:06 pm

That noble distraction / Follow-up: That noble cause

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A few years back, I wrote about noble causes and how they are used and abused.

Since then, I have grown ever more suspicious that some of them might serve another purpose than I had anticipated—distraction. (Cf. the idea of starting a war to distract from internal problems.)

If the voters are in a near state of panic over global warming, COVID, “systemic racism”, or similar, chances are that they will be too distracted from worse or real* problems that are less publicized (or where the knowledge is deliberately suppressed)—for instance, the damage done by too large a government and too much government intervention, including high taxes and handing out money to the lazy, poorly controlled immigration, dysgenic pressure within the population, misconstructed** healthcare systems, the destruction of education and science, etc.

*Global warming might be real, but systemic racism is not—unless it is in a pro-Black, anti-White, anti-Asian sense. (As evidence e.g. by Blacks being admitted to college with far lower SAT scores than Whites and Asians, and how Blacks are less likely to be shot by the police than Whites in equivalent incidents.)

**For instance, by giving the potential patients incentives to seek help even when help is not needed, and for the healthcare providers to raise prices, because a third-party pays. Notably, health insurance should actually be health insurance, as in “if something really bad happens, the insurance pays”—not a redistribution mechanism, as in “no matter why I go to the hospital or what medication I want, others will pay for me”.

(And note that many of these problems, while bad for the people and/or the nation, are good for the politicians, in general, or the Leftist politicians, in particular, e.g. because they lead to less informed voters, give an excuse to increase government intervention further to buy votes or to create the impression that the government is a rescuing angel, or similar.)

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July 7, 2021 at 10:59 am

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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After watching the next episode (S05E01), I have to make a small addendum in Emily’s defense to my previous text:

I had entirely forgotten about her catching Ross about to go (at least officially platonically) with Rachel on what should have been Ross and Emily’s honeymoon. With that misunderstanding, Ross’s behavior must have appeared much more incriminating to her, which makes her later behavior a little more understandable.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 5, 2021 at 11:52 pm

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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I am currently re-watching “Friends”, and (as always) find it full of examples* of poor female behavior, many reflecting the political problems I suspect in e.g. [1]—as well as a male failure to hold women to a reasonable standard and to take a stand, which could also contribute to political issues. This in particular regarding Rachel and Ross and her double-standards, self-centeredness, disregard for the interests of others, and unwillingness to take personal responsibility. Rachel: Me! Me! Me! Ross: You! You! You!

*I caution that “Friends” is in many ways exaggerated and unrealistic, but many of the behaviors of both sexes match what I have experienced myself or seen/heard/read from others reasonably well in quality, if not necessarily quantity.

Consider the last few episodes that I watched, centering on Ross and Emily’s London wedding. Examples include Rachel flying to London to wreck the wedding,* Emily freaking out about a venue problem to the point that she wants to postpone the wedding, leaving a number of overseas (and probably dozens more local) guests with wasted trips and parents with an expensively paid wedding, and Monica supporting this selfish idiocy—while Ross tries to take a stand, only to cave in the face of what amounts to “But this is really, really important to a woman/girl of five!”. That the woman was in singular and the guests in plural, that any sane person considers the marriage** far more important than the wedding, and that we sometimes have to swallow the bitter pill and do what is right, not what we want or what is easy, did not seem to figure into the equation.

*To her credit, she comes to her senses, possibly partially due to a stern talking to from Hugh Laurie (a man who took a stand). That the wedding ends up being wrecked (in the next season) was not her fault.

**Eventually, the wedding took place and the marriage crashed and burned in short order. Of course, the wedding did not take place because someone talked sense into Emily, but because Ross went out of his way to fix up the ruined original venue to cater to her childish ideas.

As to Ross’s classic line “I take thee, Rachel”, which crashed the marriage: I have considerable sympathies for Emily, as this must have been both humiliating and infuriating, but would not a reasonable person in a deep and loving relationship have been able to move past it? Either she was unreasonable for not doing so or for having pushed for a ceremony at a far too early date, before the two knew each other and the depth or shallowness of their love well enough.*

*Note that while Ross pushes harder for the marriage, per se, the extremely short time between proposal and wedding is Emily’s doing—and for a childish and superficial reason (wanting to be married in a particular venue, before it is torn down; again, missing the point of the marriage being more important than the wedding). With another few months to more than a year of engagement, they would have had so much better chances to straighten themselves out or to terminate a mere engagement instead of an actual marriage.

As to Rachel, in general, she is indeed a horrible, horrible woman (to paraphrase Hugh Laurie) and her personality defects ruined most of the Ross–Rachel saga for me. Her very first appearance on the show follows her running out on her own wedding, still in her wedding dress, and more-or-less assuming that she can move in with Monica, whom she had not dignified with her friendship in years (with some reservations for ret-cons).*

*And note that when Chandler does something similar, much later, he is talked back into the wedding, while Rachel was not. If anything, the general sentiment seems to be that Rachel did the right thing—no matter the damage to the groom, the guests, and the whatnot. By all means, she should not get married against her own convictions, but if she were to back out, she should have done so earlier, when the damage to others would have been small, and not on a last minute whim, when the costs for others were large.

Among her many other idiocies and selfish behaviors, I will give only three (watch an episode at random, if you want more):

Firstly, the whole “Were they on a break?” situation: Watch the relevant episodes, and you will find that immediately after the event Rachel (!) claimed that they were on a break, while Ross thought that they were broken up. Over time, Ross appears to have been a chicken and switched to Rachel’s position (on a break), with the effect that Rachel pushed her own position further to his disadvantage (not on a break). (Incidentally, this is another thing that well matches the current political Left. Give them an inch and they next demand an ell, instead of giving an inch of their own.)

Secondly, the events leading up to Ross’s drinking fat as an act of contrition:* Ross is in a hurry to get to an important event, likely one of career relevance to him, with her as his guest. She utterly disrespects** him and his justified (!) urgency with endless and unnecessary delays, eventually throws a childish fit, refuses to come and/or to dress, and behaves as if he had disrespected her … Eventually, in one of the most absurd scenes of television, the adult man has to earn the forgiveness of the spoiled child by drinking fat.

*That episode pisses me off to such a degree that I skipped most of it, this time around. I make corresponding reservations for vagueness and errors in detail.

**Note the hypocrisy and how the women on the show take the exact opposite attitude on so many occasions, when they are the ones believing something to be important. This is a good example of how turning the male and female roles in a certain situation around can be extremely revealing about the pro-woman double-standard that applies in much of modern society (and modern TV). Have a man be cavalier about an important career event (or a wedding!) and women hit the roof over the alleged egoistical pig. When a woman is cavalier? Not so much.

Thirdly, appearing to accept Ross back as her boyfriend, making him break up with his new girlfriend (Bonnie?)—and then springing an 18-page letter (“Front and back!”) upon Ross, making unconditional demands on him that he must accept in order to be her boyfriend. (Notably, demands that he disagrees strongly with.) As she had made him dump Bonnie, this was utterly unreasonable. If she had such demands, she should have brought them in play before the dumping, to give him an informed choice; after, she had made her bed and should have been forced to lie in it, to take responsibility for her own lack of timing. And what about poor Bonnie—either which way?

Excursion on Emily and red flags:
Looking at Emily, she had a number of earlier events, including in her very first scene, when she comes across as bitchy, but most of them, at least when taken alone, seemed to have legitimate causes. That someone is in a bad mood after a long plane ride, followed by a body-cavity search, followed by falling into a puddle, followed by (apparently) being stood up is understandable.* However, with hindsight, they could be seen as early warning signs, and it might pay to take such warning signs seriously in real life. For instance, if a girlfriend flips out once a week, chances are that a better wife can be found and that a proposal should not take place. (And, certainly, the current disastrous political situation follows decades of warning signs that have been ignored by too many until it was too late.)

*To some approximation her state during that first scene. I might have the details wrong, however.

Excursion on the Left and a childish worldview/moral system:
It strikes me again and again that most people on the left move on an apparent level of (not just women but) children in terms of how undeveloped their worldviews and moral systems tend to be. Pick up a typical children’s book or comic and chances are that exactly their type of thinking will be found, e.g. in that the protagonist is always (morally) right, that the “strong” must selflessly help the “weak” without looking into why help is needed, that the “strong” are always wrong in a conflict with the “weak”, that if the one has then he must share, etc. To some part, this might be because the authors are disproportionately often Leftist, but mostly, I suspect, it is simply that Leftists often have not moved on from ideas popular with children. Compare this with e.g. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.

An interesting case is the Swedish comic “Bamse”, which features an eponymous bear who gains superpowers by eating a particular type of honey (similar to Pop-Eye and his spinach). Either the “bad guys” do what Bamse want, or they are beaten up—with no sign of true moral reflection, e.g. about who is in the wrong and who is in the right. (With reservations for what might have changed in the comic since my own childhood.)

Excursion on Ross and errors:
Ross was by no means ideal either, even if we disregard his weakness and how easily manipulated he was, but, interestingly, the one (off the top of my head!) truly major point where I find him in error, saw him acting in a manner more stereotypically expected of a woman and Rachel of a man: out of jealousy or love he kept pestering Rachel in her office, leading up to an attempt to force her to an anniversary (?) picnic in her office, at a time when she made clear that she had a crisis to handle and that he simply had to wait. Of course, if we switch the roles again, with Ross in the office and Rachel pestering him, chances are that she would have reacted even more negatively than Ross did—and that the female viewers would have lined up to support her.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2021 at 10:10 pm

Drugs and further mistreatment of athletes / Follow-up: Various

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I have written repeatedly about mistreatment of athletes, in particular in the area of drugs, testing protocols, and similar. (Cf. e.g. [1], [2], [3], [4]; and, outside of drugs, e.g. [5].)

In light of events since then, and especially recent events, it is time for a follow-up:

  1. Most recently:

    Sha’Carri Richardson won the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100m dash, after a season that made her a strong gold candidate in the upcoming Olympics.

    Now, it appears that she has tested positive for cannabis, a drug of very disputable relevance to her performance, and she seems set to miss the Olympics. Notably, even to the degree that cannabis has had a positive effect, mere performance enhancement is not enough to make the ban of a particular drug ethically justifiable—there has to be some actual problem with it, e.g. a non-trivial threat to the health* of the athlete (cf. excursion).

    *I have argued for even lesser restrictions in [1] (and I stand by that text), but such a reduction is unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future.

    Here, I cannot suppress the suspicion that various organizations are trying to enforce a particular way of life upon the athletes, which, then, shows a potential for disastrous developments, e.g. that athletes be forbidden from doing this, forced to do that, and maybe even coerced into holding or professing certain opinions to an even higher degree than today. (You drink alcohol or refuse to sign our “diversity and inclusion” statement? No Olympics for you!) Note that, even should this destructive and unfair road not be taken, the current situation shows the risk that it could be taken, which emphasizes the need for the equivalent of civil rights for athletes, that a “either you ‘voluntarily’ agree to this-and-that or you are not allowed to compete” must be reduced to a “this-and-that” which is reasonable and proportionate, that the presumption of innocence must hold, that the burden of proof must always be on the “prosecution”, etc.

    To make matters worse, there might be an additional lottery component, in that the currently claimed suspension of a mere 30 days would have allowed her to compete, had the time from the trials and/or* the date of her suspension to the Olympics been just a little longer.**

    *The sources that I have seen have not made a clear and informed statement about what the exact modalities are.

    **This with the additional uncertainty of whether she is not allowed to run because she will be suspended during the Olympics, or because her victory at the U.S. Olympic trials has been invalidated. However, if the latter, it again shows the problems associated with the idiotic only-three-athletes-per-country-rule. (Cf. [6].)

  2. Very recently, Christine Mboma ran a fabulous junior world record in the 400 meters, faster than all but six seniors in history, and sailed up as a very strong gold candidate in the Olympics. Now, she has withdrawn (or has been withdrawn) under mysterious circumstance, with speculation that she might exceed certain “legal” testosterone levels—with the apparent option that she might still run the 200 meters. Either she is a biological woman, who has not taken illegal drugs, but who might or might not be an extreme outlier* in some regard, and should then be allowed to compete in any women’s event; or she is not a biological woman and should not compete with women at all;** or she is a drug cheat and should not compete at all, with anyone.

    *If extreme outliers are banned, we would also have to ban athletes who, in some sense, are “too tall”, have “too many fast-twitch fibers”, or similar. There is nothing magical about testosterone. Also cf. [4] for a similar discussion around Caster Semenya.

    **While I have my mind on situations like the one that might have applied to Stella Walsh here, the general idea does apply to the recent phenomenon of gender transitioning. Note that a man who transitions to a woman might have a great number of advantages even after extensive operations and hormone treatments, including a greater height and more athletically suitable limb proportions, compared to e.g. a sister-born-as-a-woman.

  3. Just a little while earlier, Shelby Houlihan, who was at least a medal candidate for the Olympics, received a four-year ban and missed the U.S. Olympic trials for testing positive for nandrolone.

    Her explanation for this, that she had eaten a contaminated burrito bought from a food truck, has mostly been derided—and I am highly skeptical, myself. However, her explanation is not impossible, as such contamination is known to occur. In combination with the “strict liability” and “guilty until proved innocent” approach used today, athletes play the lottery every time that they eat food that has not been strictly controlled. This, of course, is not restricted to burritos from a food truck—even a high-end restaurant might, if with a lesser likelihood, be a source of problems. Consider, e.g. and to tie in with the first item, a disgruntled employee who takes his leave by the (in his eyes) mostly harmless prank of smuggling in some “funny” brownies among the regular ones. (What is the worst thing that could happen? That some stuck-up rich lady has a bit of fun? Oh, oops, someone just lost an Olympic gold, her reputation, and millions in lifetime earnings.)

    Similarly, there is a risk of deliberate sabotage from the competition or fans of the competition. (Consider e.g. more sophisticated versions of the Harding/Kerrigan situation and the stabbing of Monica Seles.)

    These are yet other signs that the impositions on the lives of the athletes are too large and that strict liability (etc.) is too unfair.

  4. There has been a number of new cases of “whereabouts” problems, as e.g. with Christian Coleman, where, as with Meraf Bahta (cf. [1], [2], [3]), the problem is not an actual drug finding, but a mere was-not-at-the-right-time-at-the-right-place.

    I grant that the excuses used by specifically by Coleman seem to have fallen apart;* however, the sum of the athletes hit or almost hit show that the system is too error prone. Note the earlier discussions of Bahta for more details.

    *He is likely the most famous of those fallen to this rule, however, and he was arguably the best sprinter in the world at the time.

In sum, I can only reiterate that the current system is unfair and disproportionate; puts an undue burden of knowledge, effort, and sacrifice on the athletes; is incompatible with the judicial norms applied in “real life”; and contains too large elements of chance.

Excursion on performance enhancers:
I occasionally see an automatic reaction of “enhances performance; ergo, must be banned”. However, there are many things that enhance performance without having any major side-effects and the use of which is often quite uncontroversial. Strictly speaking, this naive attitude would require that e.g. vitamin and mineral supplements be banned. Taking it to an extreme, we might even have to ban training … (Indeed, Olympic-level training can do more damage to the body than limited use of e.g. anabolic steroids.)

If we look at e.g. cannabis, some might want to argue that living as “cleanly” as possible is in the athletes best interest, but neither is that a given nor can perfection be demanded of athletes. Work–life balance applies to athletes just as it does to office workers. Maybe an occasional joint makes life a little easier, just as it does for some office workers,* which makes it easier to keep up with all the other sacrifices, which leads to better performance, etc.—while the relaxation might increase happiness in life. If in doubt, an athlete must not be obliged to sign away his life choices to a third party.

*I have, indeed, repeatedly played with the idea of using it myself, both as a way to relax and as a “mood smoothener”. So far, I have been deterred by the combination of the German ban, which is still in place, and claims of issues with memory retention and brain speed; however, I do not by any means rule out that I will use it in the future.

Even cigarettes, which are almost always a bad thing even for office workers, might have a limited place. At least historically, many high-jumpers have smoked in order to keep their weight down and their results up. For them, it is an indirect performance enhancer, and it is widely considered harmful to overall health. Should we then ban all athletes from smoking? If we do, then why not from dieting or having a too high or too low BMI? Why not from this and why not from that? The results would be (even more) preposterous, the regulations would be too complicated to keep up with, and the athlete’s lifestyle would be too ridiculously reduced relative non-athletes.

Excursion on (truly) illegal drugs and behaviors:
Note that a reasoning like e.g. “cannabis is illegal; ergo, it should be banned in sports; ergo, WADA (or whoever) should test and extend bans for it” is fundamentally flawed (even discounting differences in legality between jurisdictions). WADA is not a law-enforcement agency, and it should not meddle with law enforcement. It should not check for illegal-but-not-banned-in-sports drugs anymore than it should check the homes of the athletes for illegal firearms.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 2, 2021 at 12:21 pm

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