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Off Topic – Let’s Talk About Sports

It’s Friday, the markets are rising (what else is new) and there’s not a lot of interesting things to talk about so let’s talk about something else – sports.

1)  How does Lebron James cramp up in an NBA finals game?

First, the people who are criticizing Lebron for not going back into the game clearly have no idea what it’s like to cramp up that way.  I am in the process of training for my first Half Ironman and cramping is a continual problem with any event that depletes fluids over the course of a sustained period.  Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re cramping up severely it can take hours to get the nutrients back into the muscles so you can even move normally again.  His severity of cramping was not something you just play through or stretch out.  It was debilitating in much the same way that a broken bone is (though obviously not as permanent).  So the question is not why didn’t he come back into the game, but how the hell does this even happen to such a high level athlete performing in a difficult environment in such an important event?

I am certainly no pro athlete, but there’s one thing I’ve learned in my endurance training and it’s the importance of fueling.  I don’t care who you are, you can’t sustain 3+ hours of continual rapid fluid depletion without having a strict fuel plan.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about endurance athletes (at least the good ones) it’s that they’re great at battling the conditions by preparing for the game before the game.  Ie, they prepare meticulous fueling plans so that they don’t run into something like Lebron James did.  Now, I know that basketball isn’t like a 5-10 hour triathlon, but in the 90 degree heat it’s not that far off.  In fact, some might argue that it’s more grueling given the high intensity of the back and forth and the physicality.  But how does the medical staff not ensure that James, who has a history of cramping, isn’t well fueled?  To me, this isn’t a weakness in Lebron James.  It’s a weakness in whoever runs the medical staff there.  After all, it’s not like he’s in bad shape.  He clearly just needed to be fueled properly and wasn’t.

Of course, there are doctors and real experts here who read this site who would know a lot more about this than I do….I’d be interested in their thoughts.

2)  California Chrome, the hands down favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, will lose.

Gambling and betting on sports has always been funny to me.  You take people who are mostly novices at something (that they think they know a lot about -see above commentary for instance), play to their behavioral biases, rig the game in your favor and you have a recipe for one of the greatest money making schemes in the history of mankind.  Most gambling and sports betting involves something that most of us don’t know a lot about, don’t have sufficiently useful information about and really can’t interact in the event that helps us improve the odds of a winning outcome.  Oh, and throw in the fact that the house always has an edge or scrapes a fee and you’re destined to lose.  So, before I say anything, understand that gambling is almost always a very stupid thing to engage in.

Now that I got that off my chest I am going to engage in some vague analysis that probably means nothing, but will provide for some personal entertainment (and embarrassment) this weekend.  I love horse racing.  I love horses.  I love trying to predict things I know I shouldn’t.  I love trying to better understand things I don’t.  Enter the Belmont Stakes this weekend.

As a contrarian the easy bet is obviously California Chrome.  But the odds say that horses who run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness simply don’t win the third leg.  It’s too grueling a schedule, the Belmont is too long, etc.  Throw in the 2 post where Chrome is starting from and you’ve got a potential set-up for a rough start and a horse that has to push too hard too early to get in position.  Unfortunately, the field isn’t that strong and so our options leave us pretty limited.  So, we look at a horse like Ride on Curlin, who also raced the first two legs, but whose half brother won the Belmont last year and will post in the 5 spot where he should be able to get out to a good spot with no trouble.  Ride on Curlin is a feisty horse who pushed CA Chrome in the Preakness and looked to be gaining on him going into the finish, but there wasn’t enough track for him to run him down.  If he runs a similar race and has that extra quarter mile to let the legs go he could have enough to outpace his rival this time.*

How’s that for recency bias and amateurish analysis?

* Please don’t take my advice here.  🙂

3)  Jurgen Klinsmann said the USA has no chance of winning this World Cup.

Let’s be honest.  I think he’s right.  And that’s why I think this confirms my initial thoughts about why Landon Donovan was left off the team.   Klinsmann made these comments while criticizing the way American sports franchises pay exorbitant sums for washed up athletes.  Which makes sense if you just want to win.  You have to know when to rebuild.  And the US soccer coach is probably looking past this World Cup hoping he can turn some rookies into veterans for 2018.   I still think it’s the right decision.  Unfortunately, in 2018 he’ll likely be thinking about ways to rebuild for 2022!  And that’s the sad reality of American soccer – we just don’t have the right crop of talented athletes pouring into the sport consistently so we continually fail to compete at the highest levels….

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