WWW

Conflict can be good: While We’re Waiting

I have found myself pondering conflict more in 2017 than I have in any other year since God blessed me with life on this Earth. Everywhere conflict has reigned supreme whether it be in general news coverage, politics, or, yes, sports. A vast majority of the clashes have been received as a negative.

However, the optimist inside me cannot help but be reminded that humanity’s greatest achievements have been borne out of conflict as James 1:12 tells us aptly, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” The greatest generation was dubbed as much due to their willingness and ability to sacrifice their own well-being for the good of the world. Many literally putting themselves in harm’s way to ensure moral sanctity had a chance at surviving in Europe and Asia. The Cold War created the Space Race, which helped push the technology of the world further ahead than could have even been imagined on the pages of the fantastical science fiction pages. Present day Silicon Valley is another sector thriving on conflict as the bloodbath to become the next Amazon or Facebook is a brutal game of survival.

Don’t incite, provide insight.

Humans just are not designed to live without some form of conflict. Our instinct is to band together in small (or large) groups who identify with each other and seek to “win” against the opponent. Agent Smith from the movie The Matrix had the most poignant quote that described human’s inability to be satisfied or happy for lengthy amounts of time in a utopia.

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from.

WFNY’s Andrew Schnitkey wondered on Tuesday about finding a place for sports in our life, and how sports are a needed escape from the harsh realities around us. Here’s the money snippet from his excellent article:

I think more than anything, I find myself mostly filled with sadness at the divide between us as humans. Whether those divides are along racial lines, political affiliations, religious beliefs, ideology, philosophy, gender, or social class, we do seem to struggle to find common ground in a way that I’m not sure has always been this bad. We like to believe that we are progressing as a society at large, but in many ways, we are becoming more divided than ever, and it’s disheartening.

My response was that sports have an opportunity to bind people together with a commonality they would not have been bound by otherwise. Sports can offer a starting point of discussion, which can progress outwards to other topics as we see on the WFNY comment pages. The only way these discussions can be productive though is for all of us to respect each other. Without that respect, the defensive instincts kick in as we go into combat mode. Rather than explaining our point of view in the context and nuance it deserves, the discussion becomes an argument to stir things up. Thus, the utmost importance needs to be placed on providing insight to discussions.

The opportunity is passed upon by far too many people with large platforms who prefer to incite a fight. As WFNY detailed recently, Tony Grossi has declared all-out war against football analytics, and he was even willing to throw preposterous allegations about the Cleveland Browns front office somehow out-sourcing decisions to ESPN writer Bill Barnwell as a grenade in his fight. Grossi also has taken to mocking both the NFL Draft, and those individuals who wish he double-checked his work. His mock draft 7.0 would have three duplicates on the initial published revision though it was edited so that only one player was selected by two teams.

Somehow, the answer was three duplicates.

STO’s Jensen Lewis has taken a similar course regarding the new Statcast metrics as curse words in his lexicon to only be used as an object of derision. WFNY has detailed how Exit Velocity and Launch Angle project the likelihood of success at the plate. Professional teams, players, and hitting instructors are utilizing this data to alter their approach to hitting.

Neither exit velocity or launch angle or any of the other data such as route efficiency offer any guarantees. A 20 mile per hour squibbler down the third base line can still be a hit if the batter runs it out well enough. What they do provide is additional insight into the game of baseball for why things are happening on the field. The idea is that someone whose job is to analyze the game of baseball could utilize these new tools.

Instead, here is a sampling of how Lewis treats both advanced metrics and his colleagues who use them.

Spurring conversation apparently

When Lewis says about Starling Marte’s drug suspension, “The whole lack of knowledge argument doesn’t play anymore. He should be embarrassed to the highest degree,” my initial response is to write back a snarky comment about how I agree with his statement and that it applies to advanced statistics. I have a deep human desire to do so, which will provide a sense of relief and satisfaction the moment the send button is hit. The end result though is counter-productive for what I truly wish to happen.

Whether it is a stubbornness of wanting the old ways to remain or a fear of being labelled inadequate with the wash of the new wave in both football and baseball, I want both Grossi and Lewis to overcome their hurdles to further the discussion rather than create more barriers for others. Conflict can be good. It is imperative to have individuals question the validity of new ideas, while also providing a bridge to those who prefer the ways of the past. Quite quickly, those bridges will demonstrate that there isn’t much new. After all, Exit Velocity and Launch Angle are just an added nuance to what baseball people have always referred to as ground balls, line drives, bloopers, fly balls, and pop flies.

As Schnitkey noted, there are far more important topics in the world to discuss other than sports, but starting to build a community through our professional teams to earn each others’ respect is a strong way to better our ability to debate those issues. Even as conflict rules the world and dichotomies appear to have created gulfs too large to overcome, there are plenty of examples of the good in humanity. The Cleveland community rallied behind the Aviles family when their daughter Adriana was diagnosed with cancer in ways that still can bring tears to the eye. Employees at an Erie Pennsylvania McDonald’s risked their lives to help catch the Facebook Killer.

Let’s attempt to remember conflict can be good and continue to find ways to make positive marks on each other’s lives.

  • jpftribe

    3….2……1…..

  • RGB
  • chrisdottcomm

    Great piece Bode.

  • mgbode

    Thank you sir.

  • mgbode

    NFL Draft time already?

  • RGB
  • NankirPhelge

    I’m conflicted over it. πŸ™‚

  • Natedawg86

    Great piece. Thanks for sharing.
    I feel like one of the issues that we face that is not likely to go away is that people inherently want others to share the same opinions and beliefs as theirs. If society can ever get to a point where we look inward to find happiness, and treat others with respect, the world would be a lot better place. Seems like hate and anger (a personal choice to feel this way) will always find a way to try to thwart the happiness of others.

  • WFNY is getting contemplative this week in WWW and I love it. Good stuff, Bode!

  • Allen P

    Excellent WWW Michael. While not a religious type, I certainly can appreciate your points regarding conflict resulting in progress; there are mountains of evidence that most big breakthroughs come after multiple failures and plenty of conflict.
    As for the pitting of “football/baseball people” vs “analytics people” – this drives me nuts. The best “football/baseball people” are those who combine their knowledge of the game through experience and augment it with the data available to us. These are not separate and distinct things. As an engineer, I make the best decisions when I combine my 15 years of experience with the data collected. “In God we trust, everyone else bring data.”
    Those who reject data/analytics outright are unwilling to admit that they are not keeping up with technology and fear being left behind.

  • maxfnmloans

    Its not that we are more divided, we are just more aware of the divide, and people have a greater ability to broadcast their opinions to a larger audience. Prior to the internet, most of the thoughts on the internet just stayed in people’s heads.

    I may be giving Grossi too much credit here, but Im also to admit Ive never been a huge fan of his but here goes: I think the analytics tweets are obvious trolling. The Barnwell article got his name plastered on the ESPN main page, and while Im not sure how Twitter marketing works, Im sure for a person like Grossi, having all those mentions in one day will be useful come contract negotiation time. Maybe he understands analytics better than he’s letting on and just doesnt care if the public rips on him. Also, with the mock drafts…if you ever listen to what he actually says about them on the radio its pretty obvious he takes the word “mock” literally. I think he’s either making “mistakes on purpose” or he’s being intentionally sloppy with the copy and past jobs to show his antipathy for what the pre-draft silly season has become.

    In regards to exit velocity…its a fun stat and all, and Im all about information, but I dont think things like exit velocity and launch angle go through a hitter’s head while he is in the box. He’s got around a second to decide what the pitch is and whether or not to swing. It may be useful to study after the fact but I dont know what that info really does for players in the moment

  • RGB
  • NankirPhelge

    The two things that I see are the cause of so much division are (assuming the oft-erroneous position that there are only two sides to every debate):

    1. One side’s refusal to acknowledge that the other side has a valid point that is worthy of merit.

    2. Both sides’ ascribing evil motives to the other — i.e., you’re against abortion because you want to oppress women, or you’re against the death penalty because you love criminals. We’re all better off if we stick to the issues and not invent nefarious motives for people.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Those who reject data/analytics outright are unwilling to admit that they are not keeping up with technology and fear being left behind.”

    In keeping with the theme of today’s WWW, I have to politely take a little bit of issue with this dichotomy, though I appreciate what you’re saying. I count myself as one that doesn’t care about analytics much, and would have been one that previously rejected it outright. It has nothing to do with being unwilling to admit anything, though. I readily admit that I don’t keep up with emerging technology trends unless I want to, but I also have no fear of being left behind. Rather, I just don’t enjoy it. It isn’t interesting to me, and it doesn’t enhance my enjoyment of baseball (or football, etc). I sometimes joke about analytics, but I have certainly come to appreciate that it has a place – just not for me. Now I just don’t say much, anymore. Which I think is the real problem (perhaps with the world today). I would offer that those that reject data/analytics outright should probably just not talk about it. (But if they do, can’t that also be okay?)

    Despite the temptation, we really don’t have to have an opinion about everything, and there is no inherent right to have our dumb opinions broadcasted or heard. Sometimes, silence is golden.

    (He says, after typing his dumb opinion for all the world to see and revel in reading.)

  • Garry_Owen

    Let’s face it: The problem with the world today is that everyone doesn’t see it the way that I do.

  • RGB

    Opinions are like toothbrushes.
    Everybody has one, so there’s no need to share.
    (Well, except maybe in West Virginia…)

  • Garry_Owen

    Brevity is the soul of wit.

  • mgbode

    Well, that’s a good thing πŸ™‚

  • mgbode

    Easy to fall into the fear, anger, hate trap rather than embrace the differences between us all.

  • mgbode

    Thank you Rock. Spurred by your discussion yesterday.

  • RGB
  • mgbode

    And, you are the audience that Lewis and Grossi could easily appeal to, while others that do a deeper dive into the data can appeal to those who want to understand that side. There doesn’t have to be this war between just based on how we want to consume our sports. As noted, I do believe the sides are closer than many think too.

  • Harv

    Briefest of two cents: engagement in a discussion is the cost of having your ideas being taken seriously. There’s plenty of valid and constructive ways to challenge analytics; snark is not such a path. Plus/minus in basketball doesn’t adequately reveal one individual’s impact, and may be so crude that we don’t use it in 5 years. Exit velo, hand size, 40 yard dash times – all are crude, but may be useful. My prob with Grossi’s attitude is his failure to engage with his reasons – which intentionally prevents readers from pointing out his hypocrisy in using stats he wants to use. I mean, if a QB “just wins,” ain’t that analytics?

  • mgbode

    Yes, there is little reason for such a strong push back as they are giving. One of my favorite examples is how Jimmie Johnson is a “football guy” though he is easily one of the grandfather’s of this analytical age in the NFL with how he approached player evaluations.

  • mgbode

    Fair point on awareness.

    I have no doubt Grossi is making these mistakes on purpose as he is getting as close to directly stating it as he can before he posts them. Antipathy towards the job he is being paid to do though is part of my issue here. Plenty of items that I don’t enjoy doing that are part of my job. I still do them to the best of my ability.

  • mgbode

    Good points.

  • mgbode

    That statement is the entire premise to the current sitcom The Good Place.

  • Garry_Owen

    War is just stupid, and usually unnecessary.

    The funny thing is, Grossi doesn’t appeal to me at all simply because he does this stupid line-drawing thing. (I don’t follow Lewis at all, and am not aware of his presence, apart from glimpses of him sitting at a desk with Al Powlowlowskilowski). In general, I find myself rejecting all line-drawers on any issue. It has become a refreshing component of my life finding bridge-builders to read and listen to on truly important stuff. To your point, I think we are generally, in all areas, much closer to each other than we think or want to think.

    To take this thing full circle, the only reason that I appreciate analytics at all is because I’ve developed what I would consider to be friends in this WFNY community, you included, that really love it. In a bubble, I would reject analytics outright, and be just fine – totally fine – in that space. Community helps me see the value of other people, who value other things that I might not otherwise value. (And the funny thing in that to me is that I generally dismiss the value of “social media” relationships as superficial, banal, or even harmful; though I have to admit that I have personally benefited from some of these relationships, however superficial.)

  • Garry_Owen

    We can still snark, though, right? Especially if we’re not trying to be constructive?

  • RGB

    #TeamSnark never sleeps.

  • mgbode

    Yes, I intentionally used the word “could” because I think they turn off a large portion that could be their base just because of how they approach these discussions.

    Quite glad to hear we’ve helped bridge the ideas to you and you – and plenty of others here- have done the same on topics for me. Community is whatever you are a part of, no matter how superficial they appear to be.

  • mgbode

    Being confrontational for the sake of confrontation is how he often reads to me.

  • Chris

    Vladdy is a ton of fun to watch. Hell of a young player.

  • Chris
  • nj0

    I don’t buy the “we’re more divided than ever” narrative. Not in the least. Our history is nothing but division.

  • mgbode

    I agree there has always been division. I also agree that it is more apparent on a wider array of topics given our modern day conveniences.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yandy?

    Wish he would take his time and set his feet before throwing . . .

  • chrisdottcomm

    “Fear leads to anger, anger to hate, hate leads to suffering”

    — a foam puppet.

  • mgbode

    Lonnie looked like Vladdy digging a ball out of the dirt for a hit!

  • mgbode

    He uses more core/upper body than is ideal for the position for sure. Then again, he has it to spare.

  • mgbode

    Appeared more felt than foam to me.

  • chrisdottcomm

    We’re all foam on the inside.

  • Garry_Owen

    Felt-covered foam.

  • Garry_Owen

    Pure speculation alert: He just looks to me like he thinks the Majors are so much faster than AAA, which it isn’t (at least not in terms of fielding and throwing). Seems to be rushing his throws, when he doesn’t need to do so.

  • Garry_Owen

    “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

    — everyone everywhere in a galaxy far, far away

  • tsm

    Garry – you’ve crossed the line with this statement.

  • nj0

    Eh, I’m not really sure how you argue that one way or the other. Its not hard to think that back in 1850ish a Georgia farmer and a banker from Boston were both keenly aware of how vastly different every aspect of their lives were.

    I will agree that we’re presented with our divisions much more regularly thanks to modern technology.

  • BenRM

    Is anyone else having trouble finding new content on the site?

  • mgbode

    Perhaps I’m wrong but I think that we are just inundated more with a wider range of things that we would otherwise think we at least agree upon.

    For instance, Earth is a sphere doesn’t seem like a controversial topic but there are apparently a good sect of people who think otherwise.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Dude straight up invents the Draft Value Chart pioneering a new course on player evaluations but you know… “YEE HAW LOVE DEM COWBOYS, JIMMY IS A FOOTBALL MAN”

    …why yes, yes he is a football man who used sound data to make the game of football better. imagine that.