Accountability in Sports

One of the criticisms professional sports players receive is that they’re paid millions to play “a child’s game.” This is to discuss one aspect of why professional athletes receive high compensation: Accountability.

I’ve spent considerable time discussing why I think professional sports at the highest level is just not playing a “childs’ game” – if you really think they’re playing a child’s game, I would direct your kind attention to some Little League baseball. Please do report out when you get back. Here’s but one defense of high salaries. Please note, however, that I do believe – as in any industry – there are those who under perform their salary, there are those who outperform their salary, and those organizations who have no idea how to compensate or evaluate.

Tell me the last time you heard anyone reference Roger Clemens’ little league or high school pitching statistics. That’s right, you haven’t.

Over a 5 year career between 1938 and 1942, Leonard Barnum played 52 games and started 21 of them for both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles as a punter, and quarterback. You can find his statistics in as much detail as was available in the day, which weren’t much, but then again they weren’t paid as much. You can look up the 1910 statistics on Nap Lajoie. In fact, you can look up just about any player who has played any professional sport ever and see what they’ve done when the lights come on. Nap died 50 years ago, yet we can find out what he did in any given season; as we get more sophisticated, we know what any player did on any given date in any given day.

There’s been a level of accountability in sports for as long as there have been professional sports – some more rudimentary than others, but the numbers are there. Today, we’ve got home/road splits, slugging, first pitch, second pitch, against lefties/righties, all sorts of minutia and all sorts of derivative statistics which will live on for as long as anyone cares about a given sport.

I’m not arguing that one has caused the other – in fact, I don’t much care which came first – I am however arguing there is a correlation: a statistical strength of relationship, but not a causal relationship.

As with any job that carries with it a high salary, there are expectations and is accountability. To pull down that six- or seven-figure salary, you’ve got to be able to demonstrate performance on specific metrics: shareholder value, income growth, expenses reduction, etc. We can argue whether or not sports metrics are meaningful, but we can’t argue that we could indeed – were we so inclined – to track just about every pitch Curt Schilling has ever thrown, how many innings thrown, how many pitches per inning, wins/losses, hit batsmen. How many of us have that level of accountability in our jobs? How many of us could account for every minute of every work day we’re on the job with definable metrics? How many of us would have a significant amount of time in the restroom or at the coffee machine?

For sure, pro athlete stats are tracked on their game performance and not necessarily what they do on the job, but off-field, but rest assured, they are fully accountable for what they do before, after and in preparation for the game. The meaning of the numbers – comparisons across different eras – is up for debate, but each athlete’s performance represented as quantified statistics is there for all time. I cannot think of any other profession where there is such a high degree of accountability.

Afterward: This is a post I had written in February/March 2008 and recently just uncovered.  I’ll post them as I cull through for the most interesting among them. Happy 10 year anniversary!

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Accountability Report Week 1

In my last post, I talked about getting better (to the point I made that the title – Yay Bleachers!) and my plan for the now current year.

Here is how I plan to get better (Categories with updated bolded):

  1. 1000 Miles (20 Miles/week):
    As I near the end of week 1, I’m at 24.9 Miles – just about 5 miles over plan.  Truth be told I should be at 25, but my watch died mid run and I didn’t capture some distance.  Since I don’t have it recorded, it didn’t happen and therefore I sit at 24.9.
  2. #Kill22 Challenge: Add a push up a day to the challenge.
    1. Day 6: Check
  3. 2 Rounds (4 months) of Beachbody “Insanity”
    1. Starts Sunday.
  4. Spartan Trifecta
    1. Scheduled
    2. Additional Sprint Scheduled (x2 Trifecta?)
  5. 2 Half Marathons – one of which will be less than 2 hours
  6. I will attempt at least 5 things that I’m not convinced I can complete
    1. To succeed, you cannot fear failure.
    2. Fear is a liar, desperate to convince you that you cannot succeed.

      The first of 5 things happens this weekend: The Fat Ass 50k Trail Run.  The furthest I’ve ever run in one block was 13.5 miles.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of runs I’ve had of 13+ miles: 3.  All of which were street runs, this is a cross-country/trail race. So I’m ill-prepared, and certainly not trained up for this. I may fail – 30 Miles is not to be trifled with.  In fact, there’s a significant probability I will fail.  But I’m going to try, because if I don’t try, I’ll never know if I can do it or even what my limits are.

      I haven’t quite figured out how to quantify this goal, so the best I can do right now is say, “trust me, I know when I’m unsure.” I’ve stated my attempt and why I believe I may not complete it.  For now, I think that works.   That said, if I do conquer the entire 30 miles, that would mean I’ve smashed my first weekly goal by 35 miles – had I set that as a goal, I wouldn’t have believed I could do that. It’s going to be a long day – easily 5+ hours.  Wish me luck.

1000 Miles: I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself

HEY! I WANNA GET BETTER.” Last January 1, I decided I needed to do something different – if nothing changes, nothing changes – and so on January 2, 2016 I proceeded to walk 18 miles or so.  It doesn’t seem like a lot in retrospect, but at the time it was the longest such trip I had done in as long as I can remember.

This January 2, I find myself in a different place.  Before this past year, I could count the number of races I had actually run on one hand.  By days’ end December 31, I had completed 66 races; the majority of which were 5k, but as the year progressed they increased in their distance: 10k, Ragnar relay, Spartan trifecta, marathon relay, half-marathon.

On January 1, I started the year with a 5-Mile race.  Today, I ran a half-marathon distance.  I wanna get better.  My goal last year was number of races; my goal this year is distance.  1000.  I finished the race yesterday at position 100 of 254.  I can do better.  I finished 71/132 of Men.  Should definitely do better.  I finished 22/28 in my age group.  I HAVE to do better.  I’ve been working at this over 66 races and 328 miles over the past year.   If I had finished 254/254, or 132/132. or 28/28 and I felt like that was all I was capable of, I think I could be okay with that.  But its not.  I KNOW it’s not.

Last February 13, I ran my very first race of the year.  As I was leaving my then ten-year old son left me with these parting words: “I hope you do great, and that this is your worst race of the year.”  I did.  And it was.  It took me over 29-minutes to finish that 5k, but it was the best I could do at that point.  For the rest of the year, I didn’t come close to that time for a 5k street race.

I ran that 13.1 miles today.  My knees started giving me the business at mile 10 and for the next 2 miles my pace slowed to almost 11-minute miles.  I bargained one more mile with myself and pushed through a more reasonable pace, but the damage was done to my time and my proverbial heart.  I got the half-marathon, but the rest was not to be had today.

This is where it would be easy to stop.  Get discouraged.  Give up the goal.  But alas, enter the support system.

It’s not about the mileage. It’s about your inner-dialogue.  You’re done with the 5K stuff. You are on a whole level and you don’t know it. You went for 18 because there is a part of you that knows it’s possible. Trust it and again do it for someone for which failure is not an option; Dedicate your next run to your father.

I know what my plan is.  I know what I have to do to get to my plan.  I know what I have to do to punch that plan in the face and go beyond.  I cannot allow myself the option of failure.  Today was as much a failure of the will as it was of the body, and I know that.  I was given good advice and direction from one of my biggest supporters: think about your dad,

Near the end of the year, I wished that I had chronicled my races.  How they went.  Commit those feelings to writing.  I’m going to do better this year.

Here is how I plan to get better:

  1. 1000 Miles (20 Miles/week):
    As of 1/2/17 – Week 1:18.1/1000
  2. #Kill22 Challenge: Add a push up a day to the challenge.
    1. Day 2: Check
  3. 2 Rounds (4 months) of Beachbody “Insanity”
  4. Spartan Trifecta
    1. Scheduled
    2. Additional Sprint Scheduled (x2 Trifecta?)
  5. 2 Half Marathons – one of which will be less than 2 hours
  6. I will attempt at least 5 things that I’m not convinced I can complete
    1. To succeed, you cannot fear failure.
    2. Fear is a liar, desperate to convince you that you cannot succeed.

I KNOW I can accomplish most of the goals on this list, which is why #6 is so important.  It is the least quantifiable – I either run 2 halfs, one in less than -hours or I don’t – but what does “I’m not convinced” mean?  It means that it will be something I haven’t done, but it also means that I have to be honest with myself.  It can’t be an ex-post-facto excuse for failing something at which I thought I should succeed.  As such, I’ll do my level best to be honest and accountable.

January 1 – 5 Miles; 5 Miles Total

January 2 – 13.1 Miles; 18.1 Miles Total.

2017 is getting punched in the mouth.