Study Shows Domestic Violence Increases after Upset Loss in NFL

March 24, 2011

In a study published online earlier this week by The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2011, Vol. 126, pp. 1-41), two California physicians have reported that domestic violence against women increases significantly in areas where the home fans’ National Football League (NFL) teams just suffered an upset loss at home.

In the article, Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior, authors David Card and Gordon Dahl report their findings after studying the results of NFL games and comparing those to local police reports of family violence that occurred in a small window immediately following the conclusion of the game. Their study matched NFL game outcomes and family violence reports of six teams: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans.

When a team lost at home in a game it was favored to win by at least four points, the study discovered a 10% increase in at-home domestic violence by men against women in the local area of the losing franchise. The percentage doubled to 20% when the team lost to a rival.

“Taken together, our findings suggest that emotional cues based on the outcomes of professional football games exert a relatively strong effect on the occurrence of family violence.” (p. 3)

The authors did report that domestic violence cases are still much more frequent during holidays—typically a peak time for domestic violence incidents—although the spike following an NFL team’s loss was approximately equal to the domestic violence reports that occur on hot days, also generally a time when domestic violence cases increase.

“In our case, NFL football games are likely to bring couples together, and the emotional cues associated with televised games place women at an elevated risk of abuse.” (p. 38)

Full journal article: The Quarterly Journal of Economics

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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.



Welcome to Qatar, World Cup Host of 2022

December 9, 2010
 

 

Warning: The following story is one of satire. As an American and soccer/football enthusiast I reserve the right to make fun of other sovereign nations that outbid my country financially for the World Cup 2022. Who would have thought that a desert land with the third-highest GDP in the world would be able to line the FIFA gods’ coffers more than my own American colleagues? How dare such a tiny country win out against the solid money-machines of the United States, Australia, and Japan.

Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 after extensively paying off FIFA executives more than the United States.

 

 

Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup:

A pamphlet for soccer fans from the United States

Welcome to Qatar, a peninsular land of vast oil and natural gas reserves. We are roughly the same size as Connecticut, and we have the same population as Phoenix, Arizona. We have never had a World Cup team, but were are surrounded by Middle Eastern countries that have made it to the first or second round—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Iraq. We also had our Under 20 Football Team earn second place in the FIFA World Youth Championship! We love soccer—it’s our favorite sport, just ahead of cricket.

Visitors will find our landscapes breathtaking, if only because the temperature sucks the moisture right out of your lungs. We tried to secure a spot as host of the 2016 World Cup, but lost because we thought it would be best to have the entire South American and European leagues change their schedules in order to play in our “autumn” month of October. But in 2022, we plan on hosting the tournament during our hottest months of June and July, which have average highs of 106 and 114, respectively. Never mind that the heat reflecting off of the sand can reach above 130 (F) degrees! To combat this we will build state-of-the-art stadiums that cool the venues to a respectable 81 (F) degrees. How will we do this? We are investing in billions of dollars in photovoltaic energy that will cool large tanks of water that air will circulate around. Cool air will flood the field and down the backs of the upper decks of each venue. Never mind that stadium architect Jack Boyle says that the design wasn’t “economically viable” for Phoenix, Arizona. Money is no worry! We don’t mind waste, after all, as exemplified that we are the No. 1 country in emissions and CO2 output per capita in the world, just ahead of the United States.

We recognize that our airport only hosted three million passengers a decade ago, compared to 23.3 million at Dulles International Airport on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.—that’s why we’re building a new airport! We started building it so we could win the 2016 Olympics bid, which we lost. We also started building a new city from scratch so we could be a stronger force for bidding for the Olympics and World Cup. We call it Lusail City. We even started building a new stadium before people started to live there! It’s called the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which has a capacity for over 86,000 fans—more than the people that lived in Lusail City until just recently. Isn’t that interesting? The stadium has already served us well after we bought earned the right to host the 2006 Asian Games.

We are on the move, especially after a successful political coup in 1995. We are progressive, even though most people around the Western world don’t think so. For example, we now allow women to drive! We’re also culturally diverse: the majority of people here are not Qatari, instead they are our laborers and servants. We have a really neat system of modern-day slavery called kafeel; but you’ll hear us call it “sponsorship.” We bring over poor, migrant workers from India, the Philippines, Nepal, China, and Africa, and we don’t allow them to change jobs or leave the country without our permission. But do not worry—our rate of sex trafficking and violent crimes against the poor won’t be as showcased as South Africa’s sex trade and murder rate prior to their World Cup debut. We have considered abolishing this slave sponsorship system like our neighbors of Kuwait and Bahrain, but we simply need this labor system in order to continue our quest to host every major sporting event in the world. We’re going to host the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals and the 2011 Asian Indoor Games. We already used these laborers to prepare for the 15th Asian Games of 2006 and the 3rd West Asian Games in 2005.

And have no fear, you American, Russian, and European hooligans with a taste for alcohol. We actually serve beer and liquor! Drinks and cocktails are available exclusively in our upscale bars and private clubs for a handsome sum. Beware, though, Sharia Law prohibits you from being drunk or having any alcohol outside these establishments. For this reason, we have one company, and one company alone that has exclusive rights over serving alcoholic beverages, and the income goes directly to the monarchy.

And, finally, please behave in our country. We do not follow the International Court of Justice, and we hold people accountable, again, to a combination of Islamic and civil law. We do not tolerate homosexuality, adultery, or apostasy, and we forbid alcohol and pornography. But don’t worry, if you’re an expatriate, we’ll arrest you under your own law, confine you to a police station, and it’s probable that you won’t be given any type of legal or consular assistance. Your statement for your crime must be translated into Arabic, and it’s your responsibility to ensure your translation is correct.

We have beautiful architecture, world-class educational facilities, and our health care is the best in our region of the world. But we don’t know what we’re going to do when our liquid gold runs out in 37 years from now, which is precisely why we need to party it up while we can. We’ll see you in 2022!


Players Becoming More Outspoken about NFL Safety Measures

December 2, 2010

Just as the National Football League season heads into the final few weeks and fans’ interest peaks in anticipation of the playoffs, Commissioner Roger Goodell has a growing public relations dilemma.

Reacting in part to several scientific studies recently conducted about the effects of concussions, the NFL has made player safety a priority. One way the league did so was by enforcing rules regarding hitting “defenseless” receivers and striking players “helmet to helmet.” As a result, a bundle of fines and flags have been thrown at the feet of players this season.

But now the NFL may need to react to a groundswell of confusion and anger by players who say they believe the NFL has become too protective, too inconsistent, and too quick to issue fines for players who violate the rules. What’s ironic is that the very players the NFL is attempting to protect from head injuries are the ones complaining about the rules, claiming that aggression is being removed from the game.

While at first it was a select few defensive players who had reputations for being quick-tempered that were speaking out against the NFL’s new crackdown on cracking heads, this week the source of criticism has crossed the line of scrimmage. Offensive players, such as Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward, are now joining the crowd that claims the NFL is unfairly and inconsistently punishing certain defenders for aggressive play on the field.

In fact, Ward, one of the most respected players in the game, went so far as to call the NFL brass “hypocrites” because if player safety was such a concern, he argues the NFL wouldn’t have recently agreed to extend the regular season from 16 to 18 games (although the preseason schedule will be reduced).

While Ward is concerned about his perception that players are being treated unfairly by the NFL, he is also likely looking out for the interest of his own team, because the Steelers have made a reputation of being a hard-hitting defense, and teammate James Harrison has been fined four times for $125,000 by the NFL for hits it deemed were against the rules.

“If they’re so concerned about safety, why are you adding two more games? That right there tells it all,” Ward told a group of reporters. “They don’t care about the safety of the game. If they’re worried about concussions … mandate each player has a new helmet. They don’t do that. They collect money from every helmet (company) that pays them enough money to get their helmets on the field. Now they have three different helmets, and none of them (are) proven that they work.”

But Ward didn’t stop there. He claimed hypocrisy by the NFL on other things, from gambling to alcohol, and truthfully he raises some interesting points.

“Talk about safety, but you add two games. Talk about you don’t want players to drink, but our major endorsement is Coors Light. That’s all you see is beer commercials. … You say you don’t want us to gamble, but you have (point) spreads.”

Ward’s comments have certainly ignited an already hotly debated issue. The NFL, now, must figure out a way to douse the flames while attempting to balance player safety with player satisfaction.


NFL’s 18-game season: 8 reasons to think twice about it

October 8, 2010

Hines Ward has a point. The veteran Steelers’ receiver believes that he might be the “last double-digit guy” to play in the NFL, meaning that once the season is extended to 18 games, most players are going to retire from football before they reach a decade of playing time. Ward, like other NFL athletes, usually has a difficult time finishing out the season—the wear and tear from frequent blocking, tackling, and running can take a mean toll throughout the year for any NFL athlete. ESPN.com mentioned that Ward’s shoulders ache badly with every pass reception, and his legs take heavy wear and tear on artificial turf surfaces, not to mention he gets tackled by some of the world’s biggest and fastest athletes.

Although the proposal for adding two games includes taking away two games from the preseason, there can be no denying the vast differences in pre-season and regular season play when it comes to taking a toll on first-string, first-rate players like Ward.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a large proportion of league owners want the extended season, because, as Goodell says, it “would give fans more games worth watching and eliminate some that are next to meaningless.” Also, it must be noted, the fans aren’t so crazy about the preseason, either.

But let’s call this for what it is: Money. I can guarantee you Goodell isn’t supporting this because of the soft spot in his heart for the fans, and just as well the players certainly want to get paid the most they can get. As the NFL has become more commercialized and organized throughout the years, the seasons have increased in length—in the 1950s, schedules were 12 games long; in the 60s it grew to 14 games. With a longer stretch of 18 games, we’re likely to see a lot of extra money changing hands—through TV channel deals, advertisements, ticket sales, concessions—so far at the expense of the players. But should we care? They, after all, are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, and they are playing to the wishes of the fan base. At least the players don’t seem to be hiding behind the pretense that they are only concerned about injuries and time on the road.

“I might get in trouble, I might get a call, but it’s all about money,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. “If you want guys to play 18 games, there is some ways guys are going to have to be compensated for that.” Clark also made a good observation when he said that the NFL is contradicting itself after levying new rules to protect players from concussions and injuries, yet is now pushing to put players into a new realm of injury threats.

Steelers’ Charlie Batch has the dubious distinction of being the team’s player representative, and he, according to ESPN, is opposed to expansion because of the risk of injury, something injury-prone Batch knows well. But even he, like others, admits the concept of a longer season in the 21st century will be a new beast. But what can we expect to change? What should we look for?

1. Injuries will rise: Yes, there might be an equal amount of games, but seriously folks, preseason football is like watching college lacrosse—mildly entertaining, but in the end nobody outside of the lacrosse community really cares. In the NFL pre-season we get to watch for new talent, unused quarterbacks, and third stringers trying to make the cut, but without the fun and fanfare of a good intercollegiate game. Lackluster performances by the first-tiered starters mar the action, and the heat is dialed way down, compared to the spine-shaking hits and daring passes into double tomahawk coverage that accompanies play later on in the season–when it counts.

2. The hidden talent dynamic will shift: According to technews.com, Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday,the Colts’ quarterback and center, believe an 18-game season could work severely against undrafted rookies that are trying to make the team. Indianapolis is one of the league’s best at discovering overlooked and hidden talent, and could very well suffer from the advantages of pre-season rookie jubilees. Untested and unproven players will have fewer opportunities to showcase their talents in real games, and will therefore miss out on valuable roster positions.

3. The roster size will expand: As players become injured, strained, and fatigued, someone will have to fill the gaps, so we should anticipate larger drafting pools and a deeper dip into the well of new talent.

4. Network TV wars: This depends on how the NFL sorts out the bye weeks. They might altogether lose the bye weeks (in order to ratchet out a more fluid, regular season schedule), and fuse a schedule that lands games on Thursdays and Saturdays, which might cause the divorce rate to skyrocket. Does this mean we’re going to have more regular games going to cable coverage? It’s already a nasty smack against the blue collar Joes and Janes that can’t afford to watch ESPN for some Monday Night Football action. It just ain’t American.

5. The NCAA might get angry: If games are pushed into Saturday, we’ll be watching two bloated, cumbersome, money-hogging juggernauts slapping each other upside the helmet for financial rights to the Saturday piece of football pie. Think about it. Texas/OU’s Red River Rivalry, or the Cowboy/Redskins game? Some fans will probably spontaneously explode, or fantasy football players won’t have enough time to scout players prior to their fantasy drafts.

6. Losing teams will hurt more financially: By the NFL’s statistics, 14 franchises didn’t make money or were in the red last year. Let’s imagine the Raider fans being asked to pick up a hike in revenue to cover the cost of two more games that nobody wants to attend. You tell them the news, because I’m not going to do it.

7. What about the (not so little) linemen?: Getting personal, Sean Bubin, a friend and former NFL lineman, spoke to me about the dregs of being on the line. Bubin was drafted in 2004 by the Jaguars, and he played for the Lions and Vikings before spending time abroad with the Hamburg Sea Devils for NFL Europe—he retired at the ripe old age of 26. “I seized up—I couldn’t bend my limbs anymore,” said Bubin. “It happens to a lot of us.” Medical News Today cites that the average NFL career length in 2008 was 4.6 years, and only 7% of players made it past Hines Ward’s magic double-digit number of 10 seasons in the league. We may say we’re paying NFL players a boatload of money, but when you waste your body away in four or five years, that money better be worth it. According to the Boston Globe, Bubin only made $360,000 in his final, one-year contract with the New England Patriots.

8. DUI incidents will rise: Okay, so I made this one up, but it sounded good. And I’ll probably be right.


Some Schools Use Millions in Student Fees to Supplement Athletic Revenue

October 4, 2010

Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano is making more than $2 million per season, and in recent years the University committed to spending more than $100 million to upgrade its football stadium. Meanwhile, student fees contributed nearly $8 million toward Rutger’s athletic department revenue in 2008-09, which equals more than 13% of the revenue generated by Rutgers’ athletics.

According to a USA Today database on athletic department budgets, Rutgers netted less than $200,000 in 2008-09. Take away the nearly $8 million contributed from student fees and the athletic department would have severely overspent.

Rutgers isn’t alone. A recent report by USA Today outlined in detail how some universities are using escalating student fees to support the multi-million dollar budgets of their athletic departments. The practice has some academicians, students, and parents crying foul.

Transparency, or the lack of it, is what has some up in arms, as many universities go to great lengths to make it difficult to discern just how much their athletic departments are benefitting from receiving student fees.

To some, it seems as if the athletic department is the big, bad bully on the block, stealing lunch money from poor students to pay its coaches millions of dollars and build lavish luxury suites for its millionaire alums.

But as Dr. William Kern, chair of the Department of Economics at Western Michigan University, pointed out to Fitness Information Technology, athletic departments aren’t the only units in a university that receive financial support from general funds. Kern and Donald Alexander, also a professor and economist at Western Michigan University, recently conducted a study on the effect of athletic success on state appropriations to universities. Their research will be published in the November issue of the International Journal of Sport Finance.

“There are a number of activities across the university that are subsidized through one means or another,” Kern said. “For example, there are probably a number of academic departments on every campus that don’t generate revenues sufficient to cover the costs of their operations.

“Philosophy might be such a case and the reader can probably think of others in the fine arts where this might also be the case. But we subsidize them because we think they are a necessary part of the university. That argument is easier to justify in the case of philosophy than in the case of non-revenue sports but some would no doubt argue much the same way that sports are an integral part of the university.”

Perhaps the biggest objection with using general funds and state appropriations to support athletic department budgets is the fact that salaries for coaches in football and men’s basketball, in particular, have escalated at a rapid pace during the past decade. It’s now atypical that a coach in one of those two sports at a large university isn’t earning in the neighborhood of $1 million annually, with a select few football coaches earning $3-4 million per year.

In addition, many universities are spending millions to upgrade athletic facilities, not necessarily because they are structurally unfit, but because their rival schools have enhanced their facilities.

“There seems to be an arms race with regard to improvement in facilities and coaches’ salaries, at least in the major sports at large state universities,” Kern said. “This spending is not likely to decline as any individual university that stops spending finds itself at a competitive disadvantage against its rivals. What is really needed to stop this is some sort of rule that constrains spending that applies to all schools. Robert Frank has a nice analysis of this issue in his Knight Commission report of collegiate athletics.”

Frank, an economist at Cornell University, concluded in his 2004 Knight Commission Report that after extensive research, “The empirical literature seems to say that if the overall net effect of athletic success on alumni giving is positive, it is likely to be small.”

Still, while Frank and other economists profess that athletic success has little effect on donations, it should be noted that athletic success is believed to contribute to school loyalty and a student’s enjoyment while on campus.

“Students seem to be demanding more and more amenities associated with their college experience and sports in both participant and spectator forms appear to be a part of that,” Kern said. “Most students don’t seem to want to attend ‘no-frills’ universities that would eliminate these sorts of things and just stick to the basics of instruction.”


How do small towns produce so many pro athletes?

September 23, 2010

 

I’m sure you’ve seen Friday Night Lights. Or perhaps you’ve watched Hoosiers or Varsity Blues or any of the other hordes of small-town sports movies that showcase the standard formula—a group of high school kids with nothing else to do band together to overcome long odds to succeed. It’s as if the mythos of the small town somehow breeds magic and success into the blood and bones of the young athletes

The myth-and-fact farrago of these movies—emblazoned in our minds by pop culture—might be more science and sociology than we think. Sport psychologist Jean Côté co-authored studies that use statistics to show that small towns are producing more top-tier athletes than cities—a lot more. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, writer Austin Kelley uses NFL quarterback Jason Campbell (Oakland Raiders) as an example of how growing up in small-town Taylorsville, Mississippi, (pop: 1,341) can be a positive reinforcement to young athletes, a contrast to big-city sports that Côté says is “overorganized and overcoached.”

Also of note is the NFL-famous town of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania (Pop: 11,734), that has churned out the likes of “Iron” Mike Ditka, Sean Gilbert, Tony Dorsett, and Ty Law. In 2007, Aliquippa added two more names to the NFL—Derrelle Revis (Aliquippa High/Pitt) and Paul Posluszny (Hopewell HS/Penn State).

The stats are there: although only 25% of our citizens come from small towns, a whopping 50% of the NFL’s ranks are born and raised in cities under a population of 50,000. The same can be said of 45% of the PGA’s golfers. Also of note are the athletes from the NHL (39%), MLB (38%), and NBA (28%). The argument seems to be that young athletes that have a chance to build their confidence—in an environment where the opposition might be somewhat relaxed—might have an advantage over big-city kids who are primed and prepped from a very young age to be a cog in the pro sports machine. Quite often the small-town athletes play several different sports; Aliquippa’s Revis and Posluzny competed in high school basketball against each other since they belonged to rival schools.

The argument, however, isn’t necessarily confined to the great American Midwest or the dusty towns of West Texas. CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a feature on “Football Island”—aka American Samoa—where a population of 65,000 has more than 30 players in the NFL, and more than 200 in Division I college football.* 60 Minutes producer Scott Pelley noted that in the last five years the six high schools on the island have produced 10 NFL linemen, and that a child born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any kid in America.

But how much of this is truly psychological and/or sociological? In American Samoa’s case, there is little debate that genetics plays a significant role—especially when Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu is standing over you. But Côté, co-editor of the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, cites a number of factors that lead to “little town” success, some of which were reported in the WSJ. Among the factors cited were, “The accessibility of sports role models in little towns, the cultural values placed on sport, and even the ‘big fish little pond’ effect, which can be a positive reinforcement for young athletes.”

Côté refutes the prevailing notion that children do not need to find a specialized niche early in their sporting careers. They are successful because they do not spend all of their free time learning specialized skill sets.

Pelley reported that, aside from biology, Samoans seem to try hard to overcome their socioeconomic status—their nation is extremely poor. He also reports that the lives of young men are immersed in football culture. If we follow the logic of socioeconomic status and background, we start venturing into Hoop Dreams territory—city boys spend every waking hour trying to get into schools that breathe basketball skills and fine coaching, just so they can get a shot at the pros or a college scholarship.

Wherever the data leads, there is definitely some science in the numbers of small-town athletes. But I think we like to think there’s a lot of magic, too. At least that’s what the movies tell us.

*To be fair, many of them are of Samoan descent, and reside in the mainland United States, Hawaii, and elsewhere.