This is what we get when you don’t vote for third parties

In 2011, I wrote Why I may “throw away my vote”.  

This election is good example of what I predicted might happen if we followed the conventional logic that voting for a third party candidate is like throwing your vote away because that’s one less vote for the lesser of two evils.

Under that voting logic, candidate choices drift further from what we want since candidates have less incentive to be what you want if you are going to vote for them anyway.

In the post from 2011, I gave the example of how the fiscal responsibility message of third party candidate Ross Perot garnered enough popular votes in the 1992 presidential election to get the attention of both major political parties and shift their platforms in that direction to attract those voters.

Now, here we are with the candidates for the two major parties seeming to be not what anyone wants. Perhaps it’s time to consider casting votes for third party candidates to send messages to the two major parties about what we want.

Edifice Complex in Soccer

Dear US Soccer:

More of this:

steet soccer Brazil

Less of that:

US Soccer

The story is here.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe opulent facilities to train coaches in is just the thing. Or, maybe you could use the Internet, like these guys?

When I started coaching rec soccer, I was shocked at how little useful information was out there to help someone like me who knew little about soccer. I wasn’t the only one.

There were many like us who simply put the fastest guys up the middle chasing rec trophies and not teaching them proper technique.

I was shocked that there wasn’t something like the F license online course (which is good, btw) out there for FREE for all.


Inequality can be good for us

I enjoyed this Econtalk podcast with Richard Epstein, discussing the pros and cons of different ways cruise ships offer luxury packages.

One cruise ship operator offers a ‘ship-within-a-ship’ luxury experience, where the luxury passengers are separated from the other passengers.

Another operator embellishes its standard package to help set it apart, like putting a bottle of champagne in the luxury cabin.

The parts of the podcast I enjoyed the most was Epstein’s defense of inequality, which I agree with.

First, for those of us who feel unworthy because we may never enjoy a billionaire lifestyle, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we live better than the elites of even 2-3 generations ago. Would you rather be a commoner today or a wealthy elite in 1900?

If given a true picture of what the life of the elite were in 1800, most people would pick being a commoner today. And, maybe they’d appreciate more of what they have.

Second, and probably more important, is Epstein’s counter to the belief that the wealthy and elite are just lucky. He says, shortly after the 25 minute mark:

There is no question that with respect to any particular venture that any person undertakes that luck will have a lot to say about whether this one works or doesn’t work. But it would be a mistake to assume that life is just one venture which either succeeds or it doesn’t succeed. It turns out that people try many different things in all sorts of different ways; and what you can say is that as you increase the number of plays that you take, the persons which perseverance, imagination, determination, and grit and so forth are the ones who will succeed; and the people who tend to be more lackadaisical and indifferent are the ones who will fail. So, when you look at the end of this particular game, what you are doing is, the people who see at age 50 or 60 turn out to be highly successful; and then you go back and you track how much risk they took, how much discipline they showed, how much hours they put into their job and so forth, I think that you will find that there’s a pretty good correlation between the efforts that people put in and the natural abilities that they have, and the outcomes that they received.

I’d add that it’s just not those who are lackadaisical and indifferent, but it’s those who view failure like the DJ sidekick in this post, while comedian Leslie Jones had a much different view.

Later in the podcast, Epstein discusses Warren Buffett’s view that he doesn’t pay enough in taxes. I’d like to make one point on that.

When evaluating whether to invest in a company, Buffett views what would be his share of the company’s earnings as his own, which is true. As an owner, those are his earnings, even though tax regs do not require that your report those as your own (since those company pays your share of its taxes for you).

But, Buffett is inconsistent when considering his own tax bill. He ignores the taxes paid on his behalf by the companies he owns, which is a considerable amount and would likely increase his average tax rate from what Buffett normally writes about. In fact, this income statement shows his company, Berkshire Hathaway, paid about 30% in taxes in 2015.

In this sense, Buffett like to have his cake and eat it, too.

Exhibit #2: Why U.S. Men’s Soccer lags

Typical soccer court in Brazil:

steet soccer Brazil

Typical soccer field in the U.S.:

Soccer fields US

Notice some differences:

  1. The soccer courts in Brazil are convenient to where the kids live, fostering lots of unorganized play. If there are homes near the U.S. soccer fields, they are distant. U.S. soccer fields are too often built on land far enough away from where kids live, that it’s only convenient to play through organized play when their parents can drive them.
  2. The Brazilian soccer court is small, this fosters development of ball control in tight space. The U.S. soccer field is large. This fosters kicking the ball into space and running to it, especially at youth levels when all too often the fields are much too large for the number and age of players on the field. These large fields favor future track stars and do little for developing soccer skills that will help on the world stage.
  3. The Brazilian soccer court has kids playing on it. The U.S. soccer field does not. Sure, U.S. soccer fields are burgeoning on weekends, but the rest of the week they’re empty, while the Brazilian soccer courts are busy all week long. Even on the weekends, when U.S. soccer fields are busy, each team only gets so much play time, so play time still pales in comparison to kids in Brazil playing several times a week at their local court.
  4. The Brazilian soccer court is concrete. The U.S. soccer field is grass. Not only does the concrete help the Brazilian kids develop their ball control skills, but it’s also playable more of the time. Games and practices on grass fields get canceled due to rain and have seasons where the groundskeepers rest the fields so the grass can grow back. All,the while the Brazilian (and other countries where soccer courts are common), are playing. Plus, someone has to maintain it.

I don’t believe just building soccer courts is the answer. The soccer courts in Brazil exist because the kids were playing in the streets because they love soccer, so their local parks department built the courts to serve an activity that was already prevalent.

If you just build soccer courts in areas where people aren’t already playing street ball, then my guess is those courts will go unused.

So, the courts are really just a marker for soccer culture, rather than a cause.

But, I don’t think building a few courts and fostering more small-side, unorganized play would hurt. More on that in a future post.


Why US Women’s Soccer Team dominates?

A fair question to my previous post is: How did the US Women’s National Team win the World Cup last year?

Do U.S. girls grow up playing street soccer? No.

Isn’t their training and development similar to the US Men? Yes.

So, how did they win their second World Cup in 20 years and continuously rank in the top few teams in the world, if your theory is correct?

When you see pictures of kids playing street soccer from other countries, how often do you see girls in those pictures? Rarely.

The US Men’s team compete against players who grow up playing street soccer, especially from the time they can walk up through about 10-12 years-old, where skill development starts at around 2 years-old.

US Women do not. They compete against players who grew up in development environments similar to U.S. Men and Women: organized team play where skill development starts around ages 8-12, if you’re lucky, with less development of skills in early years and outside of organized team events.

UPDATE: So why do US Women dominate when our training is similar to other countries?

Our pool of female players is larger, so we have more chances for having elite players. Why is our pool larger? Because our country is wealthy enough for lots of teenage girls to spend a good deal of time pursuing a sport and activity that has very little long-term return for them.

It starts with Title IX scholarships. Winning a college scholarship for playing a sport has become a conspicuous consumption item for wealthy families.

College soccer (male or female) doesn’t sell enough tickets to support itself, so the ROI for the college sport is low and is subsidized from other sources by Title IX.

And, if you sum up the cost of being a club athlete vs. the expected value of the college scholarship, that ROI is so low for the parents, so only wealthier families can afford to pursue it.

Take away Title IX and I’d predict that US Women would lose their dominance in soccer within a generation, and it may already be in trouble as more young ladies are choosing volleyball and softball over soccer.

Why US Mens’ Soccer Struggles

I hear lots theories of why US Mens’ soccer doesn’t dominate on the world stage.  I think below is the key reason.

Kids playing soccer in Argentina:

Argentina Soccer

Kids playing soccer in the US:

US Soccer

As a side note, I coach some 10 and 11 year-olds in soccer. I’ve tried for years to get them to learn to juggle. They have plenty of excuses for not doing it. It’s boring. It’s too hard. I was too busy. The weather was bad. 

On a jog a few months ago, I passed a house with an 8-year-old Hispanic kid in the front yard playing. It looked like he was with his Dad as his Dad was doing some work for a homeowner inside. He was juggling a tape measure. Yes, a tape measure. He was holding it by the tape and dangling it and using his feet to juggle the case of the tape measure.

He wanted to learn to juggle because he thought it was cool, not because an adult coach told him to do it. He didn’t have a ball, so he improvised.

Just like the kids in the above picture in Argentina, they didn’t need a $100 ball to kick around on a million dollar sports field with a licensed coach leading them in drills. They improvised. Plastic bottles in the street will do.

Kids in the US don’t improvise. Soccer is something they do in practice. The ball stays in the garage at home, until the next practice. If they play soccer on their own, it’s the FIFA video game.

UPDATE: I’d like to add that the 5-year-old on the right side of the Argentina picture displays some elements in driving (i.e. kicking) form that average 10-year-olds in the U.S. do not have.

First, he’s holding his hand opposite of kicking foot high in the air. This keeps his chest up, maintains balance and squares his body weight to the ball so more of his body’s momentum gets transferred into the ball on the strike.

The average 10-year-old the States keeps that arm down and folds their opposite shoulder over as they strike the ball, losing all the momentum from the opposite side of their body and thus losing power on their shot.

Second, he’s loading his striking leg (pulling it way back), before the kick. This ensures that his foot strikes the ball at maximum speed on the swing. The average 10-year-old in the States, pulls the kicking leg back a few inches before kicking, and usually strikes the ball when the leg is somewhere between a quarter or half max speed.

Third, he’s looking at the bottle he’s about to kick. This helps him make good contact. Like any swinging form, golf or baseball bats, good contact is the key. The average 10-year-old in the states is looking where he wants to kick at this stage, instead of looking at the ball.

The question I have is how did that 5-year-old learn this? By watching and emulating his favorites? By being ridiculed by friends in the street when he did it wrong? I’m guessing a little of both. Who knows, maybe they even teach it at school. Or, perhaps, he just happens to be an exceptional Argentinean kid? Maybe.