Mike Kueber's Blog

November 26, 2014

NFL scheduling

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:25 pm
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Last week on Facebook, one of the ubiquitous Dallas Cowboy haters complained that this year the Cowboys benefited from the easiest schedule in football. I responded that the Cowboy schedule, with top-10 opponents San Fran, Seattle, Arizona, and Indianapolis, was a lot more difficult than the schedule for my friend’s infamous Cleveland Browns, with Indianapolis its only top-10 opponent.

Why was Dallas given such a tough row to hoe, while Cleveland was given an easy slide? I vaguely recalled that NFL scheduling was based primarily on a rotating schedule, with some match-up of cellar-dwellers and pennant winners. A quick check of the NFL website confirmed my understanding. Every team plays 16 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
  • Two intra-conference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Cleveland and the AFC North won the lottery this year because they rotated to play one of the worst divisions ever – the NFC South – which has a division leader at 4-7 and a combined won-lost record 17 games below .500. Its other divisional opponent – the AFC South – is only marginally better at 14 games below .500, entirely on the shoulders of its leader, 7-4 Indianapolis. In fact, every team in those two divisions other than Indianapolis has a losing record.

Because Cleveland finished last in its division last year, it was awarded the right to play the two last-place finishers in the other AFC divisions. The cellar-dweller in the West was Oakland, currently 1-10, and, in Cleveland’s only bit of bad luck, the cellar-dweller in the East was Buffalo, which is a surprising 6-5 this year, compared to the East’s current cellar-dweller Jets, who are 2-9.

In sum, the Browns’ non-divisional opponents are 39 games below .500, and that goes a long way toward explaining the Browns’ illusory record of 7-4. That also explains why the preeminent analytical website, fivethirtyeight.com, gives the Browns less than a 25% chance of making the playoffs.

Unless they move up Johnny Manziel.  Then all bets are off.


August 21, 2014

White cops in black cities

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 6:53 pm
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FiveThirtyEight.com is the name of a website created by Nate Silver. Nate is perhaps the pre-eminent statistics-based analyst in America, and the name of his website is taken from the number of federal legislators (senators and representatives combined).

Yesterday, Nate posted an article related to Ferguson, with its white cops and black population. (The population is almost 70% black, but the cops are only 11% black).  The 538 article described how common it was for large cities to be protected and served by policemen who don’t live in the city, but this was especially the status for white cops and not as much for black or Hispanic cops. For example, in NYC 77% of the black cops and 76% of the Hispanic cops live in the city, but only 45% of the white cops do. In San Antonio, 74% of the Hispanic cops and 57% of the black cops live in the city, but only 44% of the white cops do. According to Silver, cities with largely black populations have the greatest disparity in white cops and non-white cops living in the city they police.

Attorney General Eric Holder, upon his arrival in Ferguson, hinted at this disparity. According to an article in the NY Times:

  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Thursday that the unrest the country has witnessed here over the past two weeks was emblematic of deeper problems that exist across the nation, where a corrosive mistrust exists in certain places between the police and the people they are meant to serve.

Common sense says that being policed by out-of-town cops might facilitate mistrust, and the 538 article noted that many cities require their cops to live in town. But such a requirement might be a great, undue burden on our cops. Further, no cop wants to live in a poor part of town, so it seems almost inevitable that cops will be viewed as outsiders when policing in a poor, inner-city area.

But what is the solution?

The San Antonio Express-News recently published an editorial critical of policing in Ferguson and elsewhere:

  • For young black men in particular, encounters with the law seem to be more fraught with peril. Driving or walking while black — or in some parts of the country, Hispanic — is not a myth. And neither is the disproportionate number of young black men arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison. And disproportionately killed by police — four young black men in the last month alone. Ferguson, predominantly black but whose power structure is dominantly white, is just our latest lesson that we are far from post-racial nirvana. Case in point. On Friday, the Ferguson police chief released the name of the officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown, 18. In the same press conference, he said that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm” robbery at a convenience story. One had and has nothing to do with the other.

I commented as follows to the editorial:

  • One (the robbery) had and has nothing to do with the other (the shooting).” How can you say that? Most reasonable people would believe that a person who has committed a strong-arm robbery in the preceding hour would be more likely to act in a way toward a policeman that would justify self-defense. Most of this editorial seems intent on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem isn’t the police or the Ferguson power structure. If you don’t believe me, ask Detroit, DC, or other urban areas with a black power structure. The problem is the decaying inner city and its residents. You should be focused on ways to fix that.

Incidentally, another article in the NY Times a few days ago partially explained why there were so few black cops in Ferguson – i.e., the city until recently was predominantly white, and it takes time for the changing population to be reflected in long-career positions like law enforcement:

  • Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.