FiT, BISG, and the future of the textbook

March 14, 2011

At the Book Industry Study Group (#BISG) conference on ebooks and higher learning, which took place last month in New York, several industry specialists turned their attention to the manifest destiny of digital texts and trade books.

The conference opened with the statement, “There is tremendous noise in the industry.”

It’s hard to avoid the oft-overused “Wild West” descriptor, but it’s true. It was apparent today that while industry gurus have a strong grasp on focus groups, marketing numbers, and projected stats, the future of digital media in higher learning is still a great unknown. While it is achievable to poll several thousand students from 1,100 universities and colleges across the Western world to see what their preferences and current trends are, it is difficult to predict the impact of technology as it changes as fast as people can assemble a business plan.

The conversion from print to digital media has been complex. According to Steve Paxhia, President of Kaplan Publishing, three years ago only 1.5% of magazines were read online, compared to 38% today. And newspapers are finding 61% of their readers are getting their news online. Trade books had no digital market four years ago (this fact can probably be refuted, although minimally), yet today their digital share is 10% and doubling annually.

But textbooks are tricky. Students are confounding predictions, since conventional wisdom suggests that they are the first to adopt “gadgets” like androids and iPhones, iPads and tablets, and Kindles and Nooks. But the economy has dragged down student pocketbooks, as well as the pocketbooks of their families. Fewer loans are going out, tuition has been rising, and the cost of textbooks continues to escalate.

BISG put out a lot of great information, some of the highlights are listed below:

—The longer students are in school, the more likely they are to obtain their study material via alternative methods. Some of methods of procurement include: copying textbooks, downloading texts and quizzes from online sources, screen capturing, using International texts, and staying with old editions (only 62% stick with current new/used editions).

—Students still prefer print textbooks by a 4 to 1 margin. Reasons for this include: high expenses of technology, the ability to resell textbooks for “money” (of an undefined number), because they are directed to by faculty, and the feel and permanence of print (they are able to carry that book with them into their careers).

—The top four platforms students use for ebooks are: 1) Laptop computer, 2) Desktop computer, 3) Kindle, and 4) iPad. Computers (#1 and #2) overwhelmingly make up the vast majority of platforms.

Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services for RR Bowker, says that in spite of dire predictions of the textbook market, it continues to grow. One reason for this is the massive return of professionals to school, due to the state of the economy.

—Textbooks that deal with the sciences are more often kept by students, unlike liberal arts textbooks.

—According to Rob Reynolds, Director of Product Design and Research at Xplana, for-profit universities, tech schools, and colleges are continuing to rise dramatically. From 2005-2010, they rose from 903 to 1,215.

—Because of the economical strain, students have become much more savvy with their purchasing, as quoted by the National Association of College Stores (NACS). Students are comparing prices, shopping around, and are utilizing coupons and discounts.

—Students are a great test group, because they are willing to experiment with new technology, but only as long as there is a viable, tangible reward or payoff.

—There is a new future developing where textbooks are going to experience the “iTunes effect”; that is, they are going to be chopped up into smaller, more affordable segments that can be pieced together into a custom ebook.

How does this relate to FiT? We have made a committment to listening to the professors, faculty, and students that we engage with on a daily basis. We solicit their thoughts and needs, and plan accordingly. We have been making several of our books available as an accessible, interactive e-book. We also realize that many students like to keep their hands on hard copies of texts for future reference, or as a type of barter that enables cash-in-pocket at the end of the semester (although e-books are usually, ultimately cheaper down the stretch).

We are interested in hearing what you have to say, and we want to know your thoughts. Whether you’re a new student in a sport psychology course, an academic who wants our trade books on the iPad2, or you’re a faculty member that wants a comprehensive package of print, digital, and “packaged” slides and material, please drop us an email to fiteditors@mail.wvu.edu. Tell us what you like, what you want to see us do, and what suggestions you have for us. We welcome all of your ideas and comments. You can even tell us what we’re doing right!


Fantasy football lockout might deal with real numbers

February 4, 2011
To some, the idea of playing in a fantasy sport league may seem childish and unnecessary; to others it’s a way of life. With $800 million spent last year on fantasy leagues alone, the leagues are hard to ignore. As the industry becomes more widely followed and the fans become more involved, it’s hard to imagine a year without the excitement of drafts and statistics. Some players might say fantasy sports are mostly about having fun, making money, and competing against friends, but the industry is much more complicated. In the probable event that the NFL has a lockout this year, what happens to fantasy football will be much more than simply locking out fans from playing for entertainment.

 There are entire shows on ESPN dedicated to fantasy football statistics, keeping fantasy footballers up-to-date with all of their players.  Many companies are banking on the amount of interest fantasy football incurs each season, such as Yahoo and CBS. According to CNBC online, there are an estimated 21 million fantasy football players bringing in millions of dollars for the industry, and the amount of players continues to grow each year. CNBC also said that 60 percent of the leagues cost money to join and the average league costs $60-80 per team. With statistics like that, it’s easy to see how the leagues bring in such a significant amount of money. For most people, fantasy football wouldn’t be their first concern in the case of a lockout, although for some, it could mean a great financial loss. Advertisers who make money on fantasy football websites and businesses that offer fantasy football software would be greatly affected. For Art of the Fan, a website devoted entirely to fantasy football merchandise, priding itself on original t-shirt designs and the perfect gift for the fantasy fanatic, next season may mean few if any buyers. In the event of a lockout, websites and businesses such as Art of the Fan will have no one to turn to for recourse. The NFL doesn’t endorse this small business along with other similarly small businesses and will have no obligation to help them during the lockout.  

ESPN tells the story of a man named Nathan Harrington who was on medical leave from his job and was subsequently evicted from his apartment, leaving him, his fiancé and their son homeless. Luckily for him, he had his fantasy team to pull him through. He checked friend’s computers, library, and nursing home computers to keep up with his team. His time and effort finally paid off when he came in first in the league on ESPN, making $2,500 that would ultimately help find a way off of the street. What would have happened to Nathan Harrington if the season had been canceled? Fantasy football gave him and his family a second chance. Obviously, while this is a not a scenario that is highly likely for the average American, but it is something to think about in the upcoming months.

Many leagues use pre-draft boards to organize members and players.

Fantasy draft parties make up a large part of fantasy revenue for businesses. On Squidoo you can find tips for what not to do in when you become a fantasy football coach. Yahoo also features a community site, Associated Content,where you can find an extensive list of tips for planning your next NFL draft party. If planning your own party is not for you, you can head over to bars like Hooters that held a staggering 25,000 draft parties this year, offering free draft kits with each reservation.

Most of the discussion on the possibility of an NFL lockout revolves around effects it will have on the owners and player’s union but the true victims in this situation could be the fans. Without a fantasy football season to concentrate on, fans may turn to other fantasy sports, leaving fantasy football in the dust. Similarly, without an NFL season for fans to follow, other leagues may grow in popularity, such as the MLB, NBA and NHL.  During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Ken Dryden, former NHL goaltender stated, “You never want to give a fan a chance to find out whether it was passion or habit.” The lockout could potentially benefit other sports leagues by taking the most popular sport in America out of the entertainment scene. Time magazine online states that, “for fans, well, no football wouldn’t just be a bitter disappointment that could rearrange their fall weekend schedules, but also a betrayal of intense loyalty that could permanently damage America’s best sports brand.” It’s not just going to affect the sport for one season; this cancellation could mean the loss of fans for many years to come. Those who aren’t already lifelong fans may decide that football isn’t worth the time and money spent following the teams.

There are young men, some as young as eight years old, who dedicate their lives to perfecting their skills as football players and one day dream of making it to the NFL. What will happen if this lockout turns into more than just one season? Many of the boys and men who have trained their entire lives to play in the NFL may lose hope for success. For the owners and the players, there are more things than just wage percentages that must factor into the potential 2011 lockout; they should consider the long-term effects the canceled season will bring. There are millions of fans and businesses who will suffer from this lockout which could potentially harm the football industry for years to come. After all, without fans, there wouldn’t be any football.



Former Super Bowl MVP Offers Tips On Thriving In High-Pressure Game

February 1, 2011

As Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers prepare for Super Bowl XLV, the two starting quarterbacks are likely experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Anticipation, anxiety, and excitement are just a few of the feelings they must deal with as the big game quickly approaches.

Roethlisberger has been in this situation before, guiding the Steelers to two Super Bowl championships. Rodgers, one would think, would have a more difficult time trying to put aside the added scrutiny, distractions, and immense pressures during the days and hours leading up to America’s most revered sports spectacle.

One quarterback who could advise Rodgers on how to successfully manage his emotions is Phil Simms, who led the New York Giants to a victory over John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. Simms still holds the Super Bowl completion percentage record after connecting on 22 of 25 passes en route to being named Super Bowl XXI MVP.

“Early in my career I had read many accounts of quarterbacks saying that the Super Bowl game was so big that they could not settle down until the second quarter of the game,” Simms said. “They had a difficult time remembering and focusing on the plays that they ran during the first quarter. And as I read those accounts I recall thinking, ‘If I ever get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, I am not going to waste 25% of that game just trying to settle down.’

“In the two weeks leading up to that game in January 1987, I thought to myself many times, ‘I am not worried about the outcome. I am going to be aggressive and confident in my thinking.’ I remember thinking, ‘I am not afraid to fail.’ Having that mindset just kept me loose and confident leading up to and through the entire game. As I look back over my career, I have often thought, ‘Why didn’t I approach more games like that, or really, why didn’t I approach all my games like that?’”

Simms’ revelation about his mental focus and preparation appears in the foreword he wrote for the forthcoming Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life, published by Fitness Information Technology (FiT). Written by former Olympic rower and America’s Cup sailor Dr. Amy Baltzell, Living in the Sweet Spot provides a fresh look at the integration of sport psychology and positive psychology and gives readers expert guidance as they prepare for life’s big performances.

“As I look back, I realize just how powerful your mind can be when it comes to athletic performance,” said Simms, who is now a lead NFL analyst for CBS Sports. “But I didn’t have a book like Living in the Sweet Spot to help me develop consistency in using my mind to help produce great performances.”

Another former NFL quarterback has found the information presented in Living in the Sweet Spot to be useful in his new position as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, whose home stadium will serve as the site of Super Bowl XLV.

“I’ve always been interested in how to perform better—for myself and now for our players,” said Jason Garrett in his testimonial for the book. “Performance at the highest level is always a challenge. This book provides some excellent practical ideas of how to achieve and sustain high levels of performance from the psychological perspective.”

Simms and Garrett are joined by several other prominent athletes, coaches, musicians, and psychologists who either offer testimonials for Living in the Sweet Spot, or whose experiences, struggles, and subsequent victories over mental obstacles are detailed by Baltzell. A licensed psychologist and professor at Boston University, Baltzell serves as a consultant to many elite athletes and musicians and has been featured in interviews both locally in Boston and nationwide on programs such as CBS Sunday Morning.

“The focus of this book is about how to create and use your habit of positive emotion and focus to prepare for such high-pressure performance moments so you can thrive under pressure,” Baltzell said.

Click here for more information on Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life or to order an advance copy of the book.


Cutler Case Proves Players Need to be Better Educated about Use of Social Media

January 27, 2011

National Football League players should now have a greater understanding of the impact of social media. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler certainly is aware of its effects.

In a story that has been well documented, Cutler suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of his team’s NFC Championship game against its long-time rival, the Green Bay Packers. Cutler started the third quarter but quickly exited and failed to play the remainder of the game.

Many of Cutler’s colleagues around the league watching the game on TV immediately grabbed their iPhones, iPads, and other devices and headed to Twitter, where they questioned his toughness, heart, desire, and just about everything else for not playing the rest of the game. Here’s a snippet of some of the tweets by NFL players:

“You dont not play in the NFC championship game cuz your knee hurt, only way I’d come out is if my knee is jus shattered” — Aaron Curry, Seattle Seahawks linebacker

“Hey I think the urban meyer rule is effect right now… When the going gets tough……..QUIT.” — Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars running back

“All I’m saying is that he can finish the game with a hurt knee… I played the whole season on one.” —Jones-Drew

“Cutler u little siSsy…how does it feel that ur back up’s backup is the only 1that can put pts on the board!I bet cutler comes back now!” — Raheem Brock, Seattle Seahawks defensive end

“Cutler…wut a sissy! This is the NFC Championship game! Guaranteed if it was brett farve..he would still be in the game!” —Brock

“If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!” — Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman

After receiving backlash about his Twitter posts, and after it was revealed Cutler sprained his MCL in his knee, Jones-Drew tried to backtrack on his tweets, insinuating that they were taken out of context, as if there really is “context” in which tweets should be viewed.

With the exploding popularity of social media, players at both the professional and collegiate level need to be schooled on the ramifications of the tweet-what-you-think mentality. Players standing in front of a group of sports reporters generally would never say many of the things they tweet, yet what they post on Twitter is distributed to just as wide an audience — and it’s distributed immediately without filter.

Brad Schultz, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, editor of the Journal of Sports Media, and co-author of Media Relations in Sport, 3rd Edition, believes that players, and everyone in general, need to be better educated about how they use social media.

“The one thing we’re seeing not just in sports, but in all of our culture, is a lack of recognition of the power and immediacy of the social media,” Schultz said. “People will tweet or post, believing that they are just ‘ranting’ to a few friends. In fact, their comments reach a potentially global audience and have a real sense of permanence.”

Perhaps even more education provided to players by sports information specialists, coaches, administrators, or front office personnel is needed to better educate players about the ramifications of their social media use. But some schools, teams, and leagues are taking it a step further, and supervising, regulating, and sometimes banning players’ use of social media.

“Look at the trouble the North Carolina football program got in last fall when several players were suspended for inappropriate tweets,” Schultz said. “The school now has a coach whose duties include monitoring each player’s social media site and Twitter account. Obviously, it’s a different story in professional leagues, and while the NFL does have a policy in place, the situation needs to be more firmly addressed by individual teams.”


Sports writing, Gay Talese, and the human drama: a review

January 25, 2011

[Braham Dabscheck is an industrial relations scholar, sports writer and enthusiast, and author of the upcoming title, Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game, to be published this summer, 2011, by FiT. He has written extensively on many aspects of sport, and he continues with that tradition today by offering a review of The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese, by Michael Rosenwald, 2010. Dabscheck is a man proper from Down Under, and out of respect for his Australian English, no edits have been made to his vernacular.]

Michael Rosenwald (ed.), The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese, Walker & Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-7753-9, pp. viii + 308, US $16.00, paper.

Gay Talese is a leading American writer and journalist. He is now into his seventh decade of writing. Besides his journalism and The Silent Season of a Herohe has published eleven other books. They range over such matters as the Italian immigrant experience, American sexuality, a mafia family, New York, bridge building, a behind the scenes peek of the New York Times, portraits of leading American characters, musings on writing and an edited work of short stories.

In the Introduction to The Silent Season of a Hero Talese points to a mesmerising sentence penned by Carson McCullen, in a piece entitled The Jockey that appeared in the New Yorker on 23 August 1941. It reads, “If he eats a lamb chop, you can see the shape of it in his stomach a hour later”. He read this in 1956 when he was 24 and found himself fascinated by the imagery of the sentence. He goes on to say that in his writing he sought to apply the skills of fiction writing to non fiction (p. 3). He modelled himself on Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara and Irwin Shaw, the latter two writers with theNew Yorker.

Talese came to writing by chance. Lorin Angevine, a customer of his father, who was a tailor in Ocean City, New Jersey, asked Talese to contribute articles to his weekly, the Sentinel-Ledger on “High School Highlights”. He also wrote a column called “Sportopics”. He was unsuccessful in his quest to find a college in his region after graduating from high school. Another friend of his father contacted his alma mater, the University of Alabama, who agreed to enrol Talese in a journalism course. By his junior year he was writing sports stories for the Crimson-White. After graduating he landed a job as a copyboy with the New York Times in 1953.

Michael Rosenwald, a staff writer with the Washington Post has brought together some of the best examples of Talese’s sports writing. Rosenwald tells us that Talese was an outsider at school and rejected the approach that his journalism teachers, of who-what-when-where-why, tried to drill into him (pp.17-19). There are also indications that Talese had more than a few battles with editors over his approach to writing. Talese from a young age had worked out how he wanted to write and held steadfast to his views. The proof of his pudding is in its eating.

Talese’s sports writing is really unconcerned with who won or lost. He is more concerned with the playing out of the human drama, of those who find themselves caught up in the spider’s web that is sport. Talese is interested in the oddball, or what others might regard or tangential matters associated with sport. There are three issues which feature in The Silent Season of a Hero. First, there are those persons who operate apart from or outside the gaze of the mainstream of sport; whether they be a boxing referee, the time-keeper of boxing matches at Madison Square Garden, a boxing trainer, a former bare-knuckle boxer, a female golfing star, a female roller derby veteran, a horseshoe maker, a barbell exponent, a mouth guard making dentist or a baseball (off the field) sports agent. Second, he is fascinated by losers; of how they respond to loss and coming to grips with the pressure of unrealised expectations; whether it be Floyd Paterson after being shown up twice by Sonny Liston or the female Chinese soccer player Liu Ying, who missed her kick in the penalty shoot out in the 1999 Female World Cup, which was won by America. Third, the pathos of former stars, such as Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio and Muhammad Ali who, in different ways, find themselves trapped in a glorious life lived long, long ago.

The Silent Season of a Hero comprises 38 chapters. They range in length to little more than a page, pieces written for a newspaper, to longer pieces over 25 pages for magazines or other publications. Seventeen are devoted to boxing, four each to baseball and more general issues, three to golf, two to football and the rest are spread across a broad range of sports. One piece is pure whimsy where Talese gives full rein to his humour. He refers to a social anthropologist, a Dr. Ray Birdwhistell who devoted his life to studying athletes who perform “merely to provide Roman circuses for customers: (p. 200). Amongst other things, this chapter highlights the vulnerability of male athletes, who by stint of circumstances and the demands of monastic minded coaches are forced into all male environments, and “just never seemed to learn how to defend themselves against a marrying woman” (p. 188). The good Dr. also noted how those who can play baseball are subject to the revenge of those hopeless kids in sandlot games who were chosen last and forced to play right field who subsequently became sports writers or managers (p. 194). His more substantive point is that athletes who go to college should be given six year scholarships, so that those, the majority, who do not make it to the big time, can be given a real education to enable them to obtain a career and earn a decent living (p. 200).

The chapters included here range from pieces written by Talese as a school boy and then college reporter to his early professional writing where he established his reputation, through to his more mature years. His skill is in his combination of character and narrative. Talese is able to pull readers into the scene, drama and the various persons he is writing about. Especially with his portrayal of his “out of sight” characters I had the feeling that I could see them, knew how they walked, how they dressed, even what they ate for lunch. His most poignant pieces are those of the stars of yesterday: Joe Louis filling in time in his good natured way; Joe DiMaggio’s loneliness in not knowing what to do with the rest of his life; and the awkwardness of the meeting between Muhammad Ali’s meeting with Fidel Castro in Havana in 1996, when “The Greatest” presented a photo of himself and Malcolm X taken on 1963. El Presidente had many skills, but one of them was not one unscripted small talk.

My favourite chapter is “The Loser” on Floyd Paterson, which was first published in 1964, as he seeks to come to terms with his second loss to Sonny Liston. Amongst other things the chapter demonstrates Paterson’s inability to stand up to school boys who are teasing his daughter. There is something in Talese that enables him to obtain the confidence of those who he finds interesting. Paterson opens up to him and explains how in boxing he found a way to escape the poverty of his family circumstances and his sense of inferiority and self loathing. Paterson told Talese

When you’re hungry, you’re not choosy, and so I chose the thing that was closest to me. That was boxing. One day I just wandered into a gymnasium and boxed a boy. And I beat him. Then I boxed another boy. I beat him too. Then I kept boxing. And winning. And I said, “Here, finally, is something I can do!” (pp. 162-3).

Michael Rosenwald tells us that Gay Talese wrote 37 articles on Floyd Paterson (p. 111). Why so many? While the circumstances of Paterson’s and Talese’s early years are radically different, they had in common the problem of finding something to do. They both turned to “the thing that was closest to” them. In Paterson’s case it was boxing, something which he found himself; for Talese it was the pen; something which his father’s acquaintances found for him. Being an outsider Talese was fascinated by and never lost his compassion for other outsiders and those who struggled against overwhelming odds; whether themselves, the fickle finger of fate or the negotiation of the long and sad descent into irrelevance. This is what gave Gay Talese his edge and propelled him to the centre stage of American writing and journalism.

© Braham Dabscheck

Faculty of Law

University of Melbourne

 


Martin Luther King: The Measure of Man (and sport)

January 18, 2011

In recent months we, the staff at Fitness Information Technology, have had the privilege of publishing (or are preparing to publish) some fine books that have examined the history, culture, and defining roles of African-Americans in sport. These books, together with yesterday’s celebration of what would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 82nd birthday, has helped our office gain considerable introspect to the dynamics of the sporting arena, and how it has shaped the lives of not only the African-American community, but the national and global community of sport as a whole. We have found that while much focus has been brought to the triumphs of African-Americans in sport, there exists a parallel side—a bleaker side—that shows we still have much to change. Yet we still have much to be thankful for.

The realm of sport in America is a complicated one. Throughout America’s history, the role of the black athlete has been severely limited; many athletes suffered mightily through poor wages, hostile crowds, and even saboteurs and cheating. In the upcoming Sport, Race, and Ethnicity, edited by Daryl Adair, author and scholar Andrew Ritchie brings new focus to Major Taylor, an African-American cyclist who resorted to racing in white Australia to escape the horrors of racing at home. At the time, white Australia was very intolerant towards Aborigines and blacks, yet they observed the champion cyclist with a sort of wondrous enthusiasm as explained by Taylor when he first arrived:

I could not restrain my tears as I looked over the side of the liner and saw hundreds of boats . . . decked out with American flags with their whistles tooting and men and women aboard them with megaphones greeting me with this salutation, ‘Taylor, Taylor! Welcome Major Taylor!’

In another chapter by Randy Roberts, the iconic, prize-fighting white brawler, John L. Sullivan, is showcased against another icon of American masculinity—the legendary black fighter Jack Johnson. Roberts writes how Sullivan declined to fight black boxers in 1892—although there were several great contenders within the ranks–and,

In one stroke, Sullivan banned black boxers from the empire of American masculinity. He set a precedent—Jim Crowing the most important athletic title at a time when ‘separate but equal’ was becoming the law of the land.

But we need not look too far back to realize that African-Americans in modern sport are still facing troublesome times, even though great changes have been made in terms of equality. Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and author of 100 Pioneers: African Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport, shared some of his thoughts:

In the 1970s, African-American student-athletes were graduating at rates hovering around 25 percent and were not employed in any significant way in college athletic departments, professional franchises, or league offices. It was easy to conclude that African-American athletes were being used and exploited at that period of time. Students would come to our colleges and universities dreaming that they would become a pro or at least have a college degree and go home to their communities with neither and seem to be double losers.

After many years of pressure and studies, the disparity between blacks and whites in the hiring practices has certainly changed. Now all of the major professional sports leagues that we cover in the Racial and Gender Report Cards receive A’s in their racial hiring practices and B’s for gender hiring practices.

The sad exception is college sport, where issues of unfair hiring practices or lack of opportunity for African-Americans are still too evident. Women still coach less than half of the women’s teams in college sport. In terms of the graduation rates, the rates of African-Americans have increased dramatically. The greatest remaining problem in that area is that the disparity between the graduation rates for African-Americans and whites is still too significant. More pressure is needed, as exerted by organizations like the Black Coaches and Administrators.

Braham Dabscheck, industrial relations scholar, sporting aficionado, and author of the upcoming Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game, explores, within parts of his book, complicated labor intricacies and how they have been applied to racial divides. Dabscheck wrote about the different worlds Babe Ruth and Satchel Paige—“The Darling of Whiteball and the Epicentre of Blackball”—lived and competed in. He compared the men as being at the top of their game—in hitting and pitching, respectively—and they both had rambunctious nocturnal lives, yet, “The real difference between Paige and Ruth, of course, is that they lived in two different United States of Americas . . . during his prime, Paige was denied the chance to display his talents in the ‘big-time’ because of the color of his skin.”

But Dabscheck was among those who celebrated the inroads that Martin Luther King created within the spectacle and culture of sport, writing to us:

[Dr. King] had a dream that his children would ‘live up in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

Sport is one such arena where African-American athletes have demonstrated again and again that they are equal to any of the ‘great stars’ who have dazzled us with their skills and daring. Sport, in its celebration of excellence, is intolerant of arrangements or ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ which discriminate on the basis of race, color, or creed.

In terms of the long march of African-Americans towards equality, Jackie Robinson—who broke the color barrier in ‘The National Pastime’ when he turned out for his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947—has assumed an important role as an exemplar of Martin Luther King’s dream. He was just one of many such athletes, in baseball and other sports, who have demonstrated the equality of opportunity, not so-called racial or other characteristics, is the key to success and performance.

Here, at FiT, we are proud to help promote the academic and cultural backgrounds of sport—the raw beginnings of social change, the overtures of hope, the spirit of pure competition, and the endurance of the spirit. We thank our authors, readers, and colleagues for their assistance in improving our world to one in which we can be proud of, and we thank Dr. King for providing a great foundation of ideals in which we can follow and invoke.

Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy. – From the speech, “The Measures of Man,” 1959. (In memoriam, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2011)

***

Daryl Adair is an associate professor of sport management at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. He is the editor of an upcoming collection of essays, titled Sport, Race, and Ethnicity: Narratives of Difference and Diversity, to be published by Fitness Information Technology this summer, 2011.

Richard Lapchick is a pioneer in social change and racial equality in sport. He is chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. He is also the director for both the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. He has written extensively on race, gender, diversity, and hope in sport, including the titles 100 Pioneers: African Americans Who Broke the Color Barrier, 100 Campeones: Latino Groundbreakers Who Paved the Way in Sport, 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Athletes Who Opened Doors for Future Generations, and150 Heroes: People in Sport Who Make This a Better World, published by FiT.

Braham Dabscheck is an industrial relations scholar, sports writer and enthusiast, and author of the upcoming title, Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game, to be published this summer, 2011, by FiT.


Quantitative Analysis of How to Win H-O-R-S-E … Seriously?

January 6, 2011

As the production editor of the International Journal of Sport Finance during all of its five years of existence, I have grown to appreciate the quantitative research and analysis that permeates the journal. Even though my brain functions primarily in a qualitative mode (what do you expect from an editor who works daily with words?), I have been enlightened and seen the importance of such analysis relating to sport topics such as stadium finance, uncertainty of outcome, ticket pricing, salaries, state appropriates, donations, and even gambling.

That’s why I was so excited when I saw a post on the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective blog titled “Optimal H-O-R-S-E Strategy.” I thought to myself, “Sweet! I can learn some secret tips that will help me dominate my opponents when we play H-O-R-S-E on my driveway basketball hoop.” After all, my son is nearly 5 years old and is growing stronger and taller daily, and my daughter, nearly 3, can already dribble a basketball. I desperately need some tips or else they’ll soon start defeating their old man in our games of H-O-R-S-E.

I read through the post, concentrating as best as I could in order to grasp the meaning of the equations and all of the letters such as p, n, and k. Math was always my strongest subject in school, but after changing my major from engineering to journalism, I think the portion of my brain that comprehended statistical analysis went into permanent hibernation.

Anyway, the statistical analysis in the blog post wasn’t really difficult to comprehend. But to be honest, the end of the article left me feeling a bit duped. Sure, it was interesting to learn when to take higher percentage field goal attempts and when to take more risky shots (like my favorite from behind the goal and over the backboard). But I felt a bit deflated when I read the following:

“The bad news is if you’re a weaker shot than your opponent it can be very difficult to win even when you use superior strategy. While it will help if you call your shots based on these calculations, at the end of the day the best way to improve your H-O-R-S-E odds is to become more familiar with a basketball and not just with a calculator.”

Upon reading that, I felt crushed. My dreams of being a dominant H-O-R-S-E player by implementing the findings of the article were just dashed. When the snow melts away, the temperatures rise, and winter gives way to spring, it appears my calculator and all my newly acquired knowledge about the statistical analysis of shot selection in the game of H-O-R-S-E won’t really compensate for my utter lack of shooting prowess.