Monday, April 6, 2015

Baseball as MOOC.

Mr. DeSantis, perhaps inadvertently, taught me a valuable lesson 50 years ago in fourth year Latin class.  On a Monday morning during football season he became a bit frustrated with the failure of one of the guys in my all boys high school to demonstrate sufficient mastery of the weekend assignment.  Mr. DeSantis said that we can glance at the newspaper once and remember the stats of the previous day's Giants game but we can't get the Latin straight over an entire weekend.

I took that to mean that if we were nearly as interested in Virgil's Aeneid as we were in the New York football Giants we would be successful at our Latin studies.  I realized immediately that DeSantis was correct.

I stopped following college sports decades ago.  Yesterday I was monitoring some of the first Final Four basketball game trying to scout a couple of big men for the Knicks in the upcoming NBA draft.

Aside: Are there more commercials in college basketball games than in any other TV program?

I use the two TV offense: two TVs in the same room.  With the college basketball game with the sound off on the bigger TV, I also watched and listened to a presentation and then discussion of this book:

The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere
by Kevin Carey

The title seemed to confirm something I've thought for a few years: that anyone can learn just about anything if that person has access to the web and the interest to explore.

The panel included:
- a Melville expert from Columbia University
- the president of Lafayette College (where?)
- Chancellor of the New York State University (SUNY) system
- a current and/or former think tank person
Moby Dick final chase.jpg
They seemed to agree that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) were already a thing of the past.  Who knew?  I tried a MOOC on Big Data a year ago.  Never finished.

I have a reasonable knowledge of baseball, though not nearly as much as some, including people I know personally.  I'm pretty good at football and basketball stuff, too, but I'll stick with baseball here.  I never took a course in baseball.  Has anyone?  I do not recall a single arithmetic or math lesson or example that dealt with batting average.  Would it have killed them to use an example like that, instead of: Johnny buys 6 apples at 5 cents each, how much did Johnny spend?

There's been much in the news recently about gender issues in Silicon Valley, including venture capital companies.  The boys got there first and won't let the girls play.  Maybe some of the edge is the interest in the math of sports.

I'm guessing that even for those venture capital boys their first equation of interest was not:

revenue - expense = profit

but this:

hits / at bats = batting average

My math teacher in third year was Mr. Nash.  If Nash thought that a guy was not applying himself, Nash would say: "No, no, no.  You can't get it by osmosis.  You've got to read the book."  But I think we did learn stuff we liked by osmosis.

I think we learned batting average implicitly.  During Yankee telecasts neither Mel Allen nor Red Barber, both college men, ever defined it.  Defining anything never occurred to Phil Rizzuto.  We learned winning percentage, earned run average, etc.  We learned that stuff on our own, not because we were taught.

Why and how?

Baseball was king back then but the concept applies today to football and basketball, which because of point spreads, lend themselves to sports betting much better than baseball.  I think betting accounts for the boom in team sports carried on TV.  What, you thought it was college grads watching their old schools?  They're watching all the schools to see how their bets are doing.

All of which lends itself to venture capital competition.  Most guys waste a lot of time and energy following team sports but not making any money out of it.  Still it keeps their skills sharp and some of them apply those skills in jobs more mundane and less lucrative than venture capital.

With access to the web, the sky is the limit.  People can learn just about anything and for little or no money.  How that knowledge is used is problematic but at least they can learn and learning baseball at an early age is a proven method.  OK, maybe not proven but it's fun, something lost on those college professors I listened to on C-Span.

No comments: