Thursday, November 29, 2012

Windy >> Indy

Editor’s note: This piece is part of an inter-blog point-counterpoint series on the site of the B1G Championship game. Scoot on over to Crossroads of the Interwebz to hear their take on why this years Leaders-Legends showdown should stay in Indianapolis. Stay here and read why it belongs in the Windy City. Either way, make sure to vote in the poll on the sidebar!

This Saturday Wisconsin and Nebraska will face off in Indianapolis for the B1G* championship. One of those things is wrong, and it’s not that Bucky is playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl despite being the third best team in its division. The major problem with the championship game this year and every year is that it will be held in Indianapolis. Now if this was the Big XII or the Mountain West and we were debating between places like Boise, Idaho and Norman, Oklahoma Indy wouldn’t seem so bad. But we’re not stuck in those flyover states,** we have a world class city at the heart of our region in Chicago. Specifically, the alumni base, ease of travel, stadium, and city itself all make Chicago the ideal place to host the B1G championship game. So why isn’t it played there? I don’t know either, but here’s why it should be.

*Yes, I am going to write it that way for the entire post.
**Mostly at least.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Droning on

I’ve taken a lot of classes as a college student. As a result, I’ve come up with more than a few ways of wasting time during lecture. One of my personal favorites is FanGraphs – an analytically inclined baseball blog. The irony of reading up on new hitting metrics during my stats lectures was delicious and I like baseball, so it’s a pretty good marriage. One of their tricks is to post two stat lines without identifying the player. If done right it illustrates for readers how their preconceived notions of player value may have clouded their judgment when evaluating talent. For example, which of these players would you rather have:
Player A – batting avg.: 0.302; on base %: 0.360; slugging %: 0.522*
            Player B – batting avg.: 0.251; on base %: 0.332, slugging %: 0.475*

*Stats per Baseball Reference, contract info (below) via Cot’s Contracts.

Player A is clearly better right!? Well player A is Aaron Hill, a second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks who pulls down $5 million a year and didn’t even make the all star team this year. Player B is Mark Teixeira; he of the $180 million contract and New York Yankee fame. Unless they had already done their homework, few baseball fans would guess that Aaron Hill had a better 2012 than Mark freakin’ Teixeira! Anyways, if you’re into this sort of thing it can be quite fun, and since the presidential election was just a short while ago it might be a cool trick to apply to politics. So, try this one on for size:
President A – drone assassinations: 278; enemy combatants detained: 2,400; awesome quote: “I’ve now been in fifty-seven states; I think one left to go.”
President B – drone assassinations: 52; enemy combatants detained: 1,400; awesome quote: “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Minnesota always has been home and always will be home. We’re damn proud of our lakes, high school hockey, Prince, and Paul Wellstone. We were the first state to answer Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers at the start of the Civil War and we have one of the best social safety nets in the country. But in one week we could also become the 31st state to rewrite its constitution to ban same-sex marriage.*

*This is civil marriage – a legal contract recognized by the state that privileges two parties to state-recognized benefits – not the sacramental union in the Church (which also happens to be recognized by the state). This is an important distinction.

We’re also proud to call ourselves Catholics. It is a beautiful Faith and the Church does some wonderful work from advocacy on Capitol Hill to feeding the homeless at the Dorothy Day Center. Nevertheless, the Minnesota Catholic Church and its exceptional support of the amendment to ban gay marriage are major reasons that the vote Tuesday remains too close to call. It would be a tragedy if Minnesota votes yes – not just for the LGBT community, but for our state, and for our Church. 

Friday, October 12, 2012


Is there any better feeling than waking up and knowing that – if you wanted to – you could watch playoff baseball for something like 12 glorious, uninterrupted hours? It’s like the early days of the NCAA Tournament where you get to devour a sport you love for the better part of a week. Who cares if you can’t tell Savannah State from Gonzaga without the commentators’ help, it’s basketball dammit!  Same thing here. I don’t care that I am perpetually surprised to learn that Scott Rolen hasn’t retired or that my mind races to the former still-playing (!?) catcher Henry every time Gregor Blanco gets his name called. It’s baseball! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Those who spam will be champions

Athletic departments are expensive ventures. Last year the University of Michigan’s operating expenses totaled nearly $125 million. That’s ok though because they brought in $130. With $27 million of that coming from donations it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about how to fundraise. But that doesn’t mean they know how to write emails.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Living strong

"For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill."
- John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”

Things used to be different. In a simpler time, Lance Armstrong only elicited one emotion in me: boredom. It was like Tiger Woods at the height of his powers. There was no competition, no suspense, no sport. For seven straight years, Lance went out from wherever the le Tour de France starts and ended up with a large enough lead to spend the last day coasting through Paris and sipping champagne.* It was amazing the way he won for seven years straight, but it wasn’t very exciting.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Daily Wha?

Those of you that have the pleasure of interacting with me on a daily basis know at least two things about me: 1) I do The Michigan Daily crossword religiously and 2) I bitch about the poor quality journalism just as often. Normally it’s little stuff like capitalizing “University” when the word appears by itself but refers to the University of Michigan* or writing editorials that are poorly thought out or terribly far from the scope of a college newspaper. However both of those mistakes betray a graver problem. The Daily seems to nurture an inflated sense of importance at UM. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Trip through your wires

I will never forget the English class I had sophomore year of high school. There were lifelong friends, a great teacher, and plenty of good books to go around. As a class (with Ms. M-P leading of course) we deconstructed every move that Ivan Denisovich, R.P. McMurphy, or MacBeth made and tried to figure out what the author was trying to use their book to say. It was difficult, frustrating, and thrilling to learn that so much meaning could be pulled from the slender pages of any given book. By the time spring rolled around we were bona fide scholars of literature.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sultan of swing: an ode to Mark Knopfler

The first time I heard Dire Straits I must have been in second grade. “Walk of Life” came on the radio and the Hammond organ hooked me immediately. Of course, being eight I had no idea the song was brought to life by Mark Knopfler and his crew of British rockers or how to ever find it again, so that little riff was consigned to a dusty corner of my mind even as my eight grade self downloaded “Money for Nothing” and “Sultansof Swing” on Napster.* There it sat waiting to be rediscovered with only the harmonica part from “Fear ofFalling” to keep it company. Then, in high school, I bought Dire Straits’ greatest hits CD. Of course I rediscovered “Walk of Life” as I drove the Carter boys and my brothers home from Best Buy in my mom’s minivan.** But I also realized something else: Mark Knopfler is a flipping genius. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

30 (+7) for 30

What if I told you a documentary series could capture the attention of college-aged males across the country? You would probably think I’m nuts, or that it was about the Playboy Mansion or something like that. But what if I told you it was about the last thirty years of sport?

You would probably punch me in the face for asking all these rhetorical questions. But that’s what Bill Simmons and ESPN did during 2010-11. To celebrate ESPN’s thirtieth anniversary they made 30 documentaries exploring all kinds of sports stories from the last 30 years.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Common Mistake

The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. That is not a question, that is not a guess, it is a fact. Ms. Svoboda made damn sure each one of us knew that before we left her seventh grade social studies class.* Ask any one of my classmates today and there’s a pretty good chance they still have each one of those characters etched in their brains. 4-7-6-A-D. Well, nowadays turns out they’d be wrong.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seeing Red Over Blue Chairs

Most people get excited when they see this picture and that’s totally understandable. It’s a clever business card, one hell of a catchy song, and I’m sure Greg Schneider can even notice the faint hint of a watermark. Most people, however, didn’t go to the University of Wisconsin.

Evaluating the Educational Impact of the National School Lunch Program

My absence from Eleanor Ave. for the last couple months can be explained in one word: thesis. Although, technically, it is a “professional paper,” calling it a thesis avoids lots of additional explanation.  No matter what you call it, they both involve lots of words and lots of time.

Because my EA postings ceased as a result of this large collection of words, I decided that I should post the final document

Brief summary:  The National School Lunch Program (commonly referred to as “free/reduced lunch") provides millions of meals to low income school children every day.   The students eligible for free and reduced lunches achieve at almost one standard deviation below their peers on math and reading test scores.  In this paper I ask: do low income children receive any cognitive benefits from receiving a free or low cost meal at school?    In previous research, the answer has been “no, not really, except for select demographics on certain tests.”  Many results even indicated that participation led to lower test scores.  What these researchers did not consider is if, without out the NSLP, eligible students would receive a meal anyway – from their parents, a sibling, a neighbor, or a food shelf.  For this reason, my paper looks at low income children who also have “low food security” – essentially an index of hunger.  For these children, participation in the NSLP free lunch program appears to lead to positive, statistically significant improvements in tests scores, but particularly reading scores.  However, there remain some null and negative results which are likely attributable to the nature of the survey questions.  Additionally, the paper provides recommendations for policymakers and future research on this topic.

For more details about these topics, the history of the program, and methods/models for evaluating the NSLP, check out the full paper.

Special thanks to my advisers, the Humphrey School, and the many others that helped with the editing, support, and encouragement that made this paper possible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Aaron Craft: The Myth of Genius

Considering how easy it is, I’m fairly impressed at how few sportswriters have resorted to a play on his surname to describe Aaron Craft. The lack of “Craft-y” puns*, however, does not make up for journalists’ overreliance on the “coach’s son” narrative to describe the Ohio State sophomore. A cursory reading of the literature available on Craft would leave one with the impression of him as some sort of basketball genius – Archimedes in Adidas or Newton in Nikes.**

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reaction Paper 2*

*This essay was written for my PubPol 754 class (hence the lousy title). It has been slightly modified for posting on the blog (or at the Michigan Daily**, “the Blog”) The ideas – save for one grammatical correction – remain my own, but the message has become even more salient in light of the Regents’ decision earlier this week to file an amicus curie brief supporting the overturn of a recently passed Michigan law banning grad student unionization. Universities file court briefs occasionally, but near as I (or anyone I spoke with) can tell, the governing body of any university taking a such strong stance on a strictly partisan procedural issue is unprecedented.

**Ignoring AP style since 1890. Also, meta alert: footnote within a footnote!

The most recent chapter in the saga of unionization at Michigan began last May when UM regents, against the advice of top university officials, voted to give Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRAs) the option to join the umbrella union for teaching assistants and other student employees. While this was a rare schism between the administration and BoR, it is a startling one. Not only did the board grossly overstep its authority, but vote tallies and quotes show that GSRA unionization was a strictly political question for the regents, with both sides toeing party lines and giving no indication that they had seriously considered how unionization would affect the university. As a partisan body (right now there are 6 Democrats and 2 Republicans), it makes sense for members act and vote in accordance with party dogma. The million dollar question is whether or not that makes sense for the university, its faculty, and its students.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Take me out to the ballpark

You can’t get much further apart than Miami and Minnesota. Lakes versus oceans, cabins versus night clubs, walleye versus dolphins, James, Wade, and Bosh versus this guy*. The Twins and the Marlins, however, have quite a bit more in common than you would think. Both clubs have two World Series championships. Both have spent the majority of the 2000’s as small market teams. And both have brand spanking new stadiums.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

State of the unions

There comes a point in every debate where both parties become wrong; it’s part of what makes American politics great, or at least entertaining. Even Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus* and saw Atlanta burn during the Civil War.** Like William Sherman, Lincoln’s firebug general, the University of Michigan’s “Students Against GSRA Unionization” and their allies began to march stubbornly in that familiar direction Wednesday when the State Senate passed a bill to define Graduate Student Research Assistants as students – and therefore unable to unionize – for all posterity. SB 971 now moves on to the House of Representatives and we safely enter that all-to-typical political territory where both sides of an issue sides start making missteps.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Students Becoming More Than College Rankings

Last week, the Vice President and Dean of Admissions at Claremont McKenna College announced that he had falsified SAT data submitted to college ranking organizations.  Ouch.  How would it feel to be a recently admitted CMC* and find out that your SAT scores weren’t good enough to send in to US News and World Reports?

*I am just going to assume that this is their abbreviation…because up until this scandal, I had never heard of CMC.  I guess that is an upside of this: people around the country now know about the school.

 In addition to their lack of confidence, CMC also has an integrity problem.  Having a lying director of admissions encouraging students to apply does not exactly scream “come here and you will graduate with integrity.”  However, there’s a broader problem, too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The DH and free agency

Last month, Prince Fielder signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers in excess of $200 million. A few weeks earlier, Albert Pujols did the same with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Those two signings mean that four of the five highest paid players (by average annual value of their contracts) now reside in the American League. Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan argues that that salary disparity represents a startling talent gap and is a serious problem.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Politics, drugs, money, religion. Oh, and sex.

This is not just a list of what not to talk about over Thanksgiving dinner, but rather the major topics of the recent Health and Human Services “contraception compromise.”  Given the presence of all of these factors it is no wonder that there were more than a few people upset.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

40 Bucks and My Favorite Band

It wasn’t my favorite band, strictly speaking, but Craig Finn is about four fifths of The Hold Steady. And PJ’s Lager house in Detroit may not have been the Nice Nice, but they were only charging ten dollars for cover. So call it 80 percent of my favorite band at 25 percent the price. Either way, I had to go see Finn play Wednesday night because a.) he’s awesome, b.) he just released his first solo album (“Clear Heart Full Eyes”), and c.) it gave me an excuse to get some pretty sweet barbecue. At first I was worried that he would find himself lost without his buddy Tad Kubler. It’s a funny bit of chemistry when a lead singer sets out on his/her own. But hell, if Stevie Nix could do it, there’s no reason Craig Finn can’t. Over 2 hours, Finn showed he could distance himself from his old bands and still evoke that joy, chaos, and fear that marked previous THS and Lifter Puller (another former group) releases. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Picking a Fight with the NHL

I never played hockey.

Alright, so after getting that nearly blasphemous-for-a-Minnesotan statement out of the way it is important to understand that sometimes it takes an outsider to provide necessary insight. Especially for a bold question like:

Why does the NHL allow – even encourage – fighting?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Your Hometown

So I was one of the four thousand or so people who was lucky enough to see President Barack Obama speak at the University of Michigan January 27th. My apologies for getting this post up late, but there are two things I want to comment on that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Notes on "The State of the Union"

While we were watching President Obama’s state of the union address Tuesday, a couple passages jumped out at us. Here they are, along with our thoughts (please hold your applause until the end):

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flu the coop

H5N1, better known as “bird flu,” doesn’t have a rep as a devastating pathogen. More Stanley Goodspeed than John Mason, it has occupied the same dusty corner of my mind as SARS, swine flu, and every other coulda been shoulda been superbug that was a bigger bust than Darko.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Confessions of a Country Music Convert

If you’re reading this, you've probably heard of country music. I have too.  But, until a year ago, I had only heard of it…and then I started to listen to it.  The decision to start listening to country music was not mine , but exclusively attributable to my brother and sister telling me that from this moment on, “Patrick all of the presets in the cars will be country...even if it means button 5 and 6* are both tuned to K102.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cutting College Costs

On Thursday, Michigan state Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) brought a bill before the state legislature calling for the state to fund the lion’s hare of the cost of attending a Michigan university for four years for in-state, public school students.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Singing in the Church

My friends all have different views on the Church, but one almost universal perception of Catholics is that they are big on ritual. To that I plead guilt-diddily-ilty as charge-diddily-arged*. I think it’s pretty cool that from parish to parish and even country to country, the Mass remains largely unchanged.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Iowa Caucuses: Don't Forget to Take Your Gopiac

Last week, I was driving on the road out of the promised land – some refer to it as “Interstate 35” - through northern Iowa. It was the weekend before the Republican Iowa Caucuses, but because of some stellar luck, I got a sneak preview of the results. Out of all of the GOP presidential candidate bumper stickers I saw, most were for Rep. Ron Paul. The others, well....OK I only saw two...and they were both supporting Paul.

With this knowledge, I did pretty well in predicting the winner. Or, at least the third place finisher.