Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kickoffs, Basketballs, and More Iran

Went into some reasonable depth on a couple of issues with this post, so I'll keep it pretty brief.

The death of the college kickoff.
Okay, so that's a bit of a dramatic way to put it, especially in light of the fact that most college kicking isn't that great. That's a point that Adam Kramer brings up in his piece analyzing the new rule change. It's becoming pretty similar to the NFL rules: kick from the 35; kicking team has to line up 5 yards behind the ball; and a 25 yard touchback. The touchback is the real difference because it's still only a 20 yard touchback in the NFL. I guess the reasoning was to especially encourage the receiving team to accept the touchback. I'm curious to see if the better kickers start trying to maximize height but still land the kicks short of the endzone. Kramer brings up the fact that college kicking isn't what NFL kicking is so a lot of the kicks won't go far enough for the touchbacks even still. I'm sure that's partially true since there are so many teams and such a varying quality. However, I do feel that the game in general is improving and kicking is improving as well (maybe more rapidly than a lot of the rest of the game). Boise State might take issue with me suggesting kicking is getting better. So maybe for the first few seasons most kickers will struggle getting it there, but I could see it becoming ever more common in 5-10 years. Also, the main cases of people threatened with bodily harm on kickoffs is probably in the games with better players, who are also the most likely to kick it for a touchback. So I don't know how much this is completely addressing the issue.

I think my real beef with this increased safety focus is that it seems to be focusing on such a small element of the problem. It's like the kickoff is getting demonized as the whole cause of concussions in football. I've never seen studies done on it, but I wouldn't doubt that compared to an average play, concussions are caused on a kickoff quite a bit more often. However, the percentage of kickoffs to regular plays is quite minuscule, so I would imagine that concussions are still occurring far more regularly during the course of regular play than during kickoffs.

As far as Kramer's post, I take some beef with the way he kind of demonizes those that enjoy the big hits and would complain about these rule changes. I get it, safety is a big deal. However, I don't become a villain for appreciating a monster hit. At least he did get a bit more evenhanded toward the end about the whole matter. Hopefully we can figure out ways to increase safety and still try to keep the game largely intact.

There's a lot in a brand. Especially a brand of basketball. Jefe pointed me to an article about the home court advantage for teams because they get to choose the brand of ball they play with. I had read a piece about this once before and it's a very impressive advantage to have. It really changes a lot about a shot. Very interesting little rule (although it's really about allowing universities to make money for the sponsorships more than creating additional home court advantage). I'll be honest, I didn't really read this piece, but since it was rule related (and if people actually read my blog, which I know they don't since I've seen the data, they might like to know) I figured it would be a good thing to incorporate.

To bomb or not to bomb? The Economist took a look at potentially bombing Iran and why they feel like it's a bad idea. Look, I don't know what the answer is as far as whether or not it's a good idea to bomb or not. War is an awful thing, and I can't deny I've historically been a bit hawkish, but the years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have worn on even me. So the decision on whether or not to bomb is something that I'm just going to trust in the military and the executive to make this decision. I do want to address a lot of what they talk about in the article though.

I'm really not sure that Iran with a bomb is that bad of a thing. Calm down for a second and hear me out. I don't really feel like going into the entire principles of nuclear deterrence, so just read the wikipedia link I've presented. Honestly that doesn't do much justice to the subject so if you're particularly interested, do a quick search. But really the principle is that nuclear weapons are defensive. So a state with nuclear weapons isn't typically much of a threat to use them. The US is the only state to ever have used them. The argument people would present about Iran is that they're too crazy and irrational so they might actually use them. That's fair, but I think that is misjudging the state of Iran. I think they do act quite rational and it's mostly because they have big brothers China and Russia backing them up, which I'll talk about more in a minute. I'm not saying I'd encourage Iran obtaining a bomb, but I'm not sure the world is going to end if they get one.

There might be a stability issue in Iran, but frankly the regime seems to have things in quite a bit of control. Sure there are some issues there and maybe someday there might be a regime change, but currently it looks like it will be at least 10 years and I'd anticipate a regime sympathetic to democracy to take power. I'd also anticipate the Russians and Chinese would give their assistance in protecting the current regime. So lets say worst case scenario, there is a negative regime that takes over. You think they're going to want to randomly start nuking people? No, they will want to stay in power and maintaining their nuclear arsenal is the best way to ensure that. What about if some sort of terrorist group gets their hands on the nuclear weapon? Well, if it's a nuclear weapon of any real significance it will be of such a size and technological basis that really it would be hard to transport and use. Sorry 24 fans, you're not going to see a suitcase bomb blowing up LA anytime soon.

So why not continue our path of sanctions? Here's where I believe the real issues with Russia and China begin. First of all, being members of the security council for the UN they have tremendous power. They can influence the potential for sanctions heavily and I can imagine they are hesitant to allow any sort of major sanctions to be placed on Iran. But even if they did allow for the sanctions I imagine they would simply find a way to go behind everybody and still supply Iran with what they needed. This really is why Iran seems to act irrationally but is quite rational. They know they've got two powerful big brothers looking out for them.

Now as far as issues with actually attacking Iran. First, they mention the potential problems of damaging the Arab Spring's attitudes toward the West. I think this is terrible reasoning because it seems to me that anybody involved in the Arab Spring is sympathetic toward democracy and, at least to some small degree, sympathetic to the West. Second, the Economist argues that stopping the Iranian nuclear program might be nigh impossible. It might legitimately be quite difficult, but I think this is a rather hollow argument for trying to prove that attacking should not be done. It's all a question, that is kind of their point. So the impossibility and possibility are on reasonably level playing fields. We don't know if Iran has successfully hidden their potential arsenal in the earth or not. The idea of hardening a weapon arsenal is something that has been employed by both the former USSR and the US for their nuclear arsenal. However, I'm pretty sure there are still some pretty reasonable means to take care of these hardened weapons if the US and Israel desired to do so. The Daisy Cutter is a pretty impressive device.

Honestly, I don't know what the right answer is with Iran. This I do know, it's not typically a good idea to take your options off the table.

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