Re: Swimming outlaws sausage casings.

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neither side could fathom

Good one!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 11:47 AM
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And don't miss how wide the gulf . I'm a freaking riot!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 11:50 AM
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rigidly constant

Hyuk!


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 11:58 AM
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and so I found out yesterday that IMHO, treading water for 5 minutes is hard

My still-vaguely-wounded ego thanks you.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 11:58 AM
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Modesty? Give me a break. Women's suits have always been mostly see-thru and men's suits dont leave much to the imagination.

This is about friction.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:06 PM
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They should just make them all swim naked.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:08 PM
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How apropos. Speaking of unusual exercise, today I went jogging in the gym downstairs during my lunch break. Only my first or second bit of aerobic exercise since biking last summer, and it showed. I'll have to remember a lot of stuff to bring and do differently for next time, but still, y'know, good for me for getting down there and all that.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:19 PM
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You went jogging naked, Cyrus?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:21 PM
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Well, etymologically a gymnasium is a place to get naked in, so why not?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:24 PM
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Sausage Casings Outlaw Swimming!
Swimming Outlaws Casing Sausages.
Swimming Sausage Outlaws Are on the Case.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:29 PM
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Sausage Outlaws Case the Swim Meet.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:33 PM
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When sausage is outlawed, only outlaws will have swimming threads.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:34 PM
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mmmm, sausage.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:35 PM
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Hey, whaddya know, Heebie's right!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:48 PM
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When sausage is outlawed, only outlaws will have swimming threads.

Speed the day!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:49 PM
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So if the external genitalia cannot be seen, it's not a record? I could go either way on that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:54 PM
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8: Ouch, you're right, I left some low-hanging fruit there. But no, don't worry, I wasn't naked.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 12:57 PM
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The problem with naked swimming is that the men are structurally draggier, what with the danglies and all. The plus side is that finally there's an advantage to being hung like a dormouse. Laydeez.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:13 PM
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You know, your statement about needing to have as many constants as possible in order to measure a single variable makes more sense than anything anyone said in the original thread, Heebie.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:16 PM
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19: I'm pretty sure that was said repeatedly in the other thread, B.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:17 PM
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20: yep.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:21 PM
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the context must be held as rigidly constant as possible to compare performance

I think this rigidity of context is clearly a chimera. The context is always changing. What ought to be kept constant is the rules, rather than constantly gerrymandering them to rule out some changes (like sausage casings or blade-legs) while allowing others (like conditioning coaches and food supplements).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:25 PM
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The problem with naked swimming is that the men are structurally draggier

In the swimming pools of veldt, the men whose penises shrank in cold water were better able to swim away from predatory marine megafauna.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:28 PM
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20, 21: Having anticipated someone saying that, I changed the word "point" to "statement" in order to emphasize that it was the specific language and tone of Heebie's that I was praising.

But that's okay, boys. You both made good points, too.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:30 PM
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22: But if, when the rules were written, no one was prescient enough to foresee a particular change such as blood doping or the technology behind those swimsuits, does forbidding such things when they appear count as changing the rules to you?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:32 PM
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22: Meh. The true chimera is the idea that Professional* Sport! is somehow very, very important. I mean, if it's merely about measuring one very specific variable (who can run fastest under these conditions? How about those? Those? These other ones?), then there's zero call for anyone to pay much attention.

*Yes, this includes the olympics. Come the fuck on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:34 PM
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24: Whatevs, B.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:35 PM
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26: There's a difference between important and interesting, surely. You can argue about what's important, but you can't really argue about what people find interesting, and for lots of people (not so much me, but lots of people), that's sports.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:36 PM
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then there's zero call for anyone to pay much attention.

And yet, they do. In droves.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:37 PM
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Ack! The dreaded Breathpwn! Wherein LB not only says what you wanted to say before you do, but says it much much better.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:38 PM
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Generally, I'd think most sports would be better off with a very tight definition of allowable equipment, and a general statement that any new developments, whether or not they technically fit within that definition, will be banned by the governing body of the sport if they appear to enhance performance noticeably. If you care about swimming (which I don't, but someone could), the idea that the swimsuit someone bought is going to affect who holds a world record seems wrong to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:39 PM
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The true chimera is the idea that Professional* Sport! is somehow very, very important.

Well yes, but it kind of defines itself as important. Any business in which participants can earn $1m a year is important for values of important that are held dear by the kind of people who decide what's important.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:39 PM
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But if, when the rules were written, no one was prescient enough to foresee a particular change such as blood doping or the technology behind those swimsuits, does forbidding such things when they appear count as changing the rules to you?

Yes. Definitely. I am a purist about this. (Motor racing, of which I am a fan, never fails to infuriate me every season by introducing bullshit rules aimed at hobbling the richest and most technologically sophisticated teams). There is room for disagreement over whether something really radical, like blade runner guy's blades, is really "running" in any meaningful sense, but come on, swimsuits? That's miles inside the line. If the sausage skins help you swim faster, they should be allowed.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:40 PM
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Is there no way to devise a high-tech, low-friction swimsuit which is not also see-through?


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:40 PM
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34: Where would the fun be in that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:42 PM
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Generally, I'd think most sports would be better off with a very tight definition of allowable equipment, and a general statement that any new developments, whether or not they technically fit within that definition, will be banned by the governing body of the sport if they appear to enhance performance noticeably

Why? What sport would be better if it was carried out by people using 1950s technology? Tennis? Golf? And why is it only physical equipment that gets these standards - why not have a tight definition of allowable coaching techniques? These definitions don't hold up under analysis - the only consistent rule is "anything goes".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:42 PM
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Otto neglects to mention the predatory marine megaflora.

...then there's zero call for anyone to pay much attention.

B, that's why I argued against your opinion on the bionic runner case. People who think an activity is of no interest or value shuldn't write its rules.

These issues really are intractable, though. In several Olympic events all-time world records are hard to interpret, notably the weights (steroids) and the pole vault (fiberglass poles). You have before-fiberglass records and post-, and pre-, during- and post-steroid weights records. Maybe letting it all hang out is the way to go.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:42 PM
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The true chimera is the idea that Professional* Sport! is somehow very, very important.

Oh, go give your money to Oxfam, Singer.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:46 PM
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For sports statistics nuts, there should be two distinct categories of athletics: the ultra-purist category, and the whatever you like, knock yourselves out, no skin off our nose if you die of a heart attack before you're 30 category. Records in both groups would be valid on their own terms.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:47 PM
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Also, treading water for 5 min is easy.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:48 PM
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Instead of sports as currently conceived, we should just test people's athletic ability at birth, before differences in nutrition, exercise, education and training vary their advantages and render their performances incomparable.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:48 PM
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41: Do it pre-natal and abort the losers!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:49 PM
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The two big things that the suit rules attempt to address, are no added buoyancy and no surfaces that help move water. Minor edges in these parameters can lead to 1st vs 20th at the international level.

It is impossible to try to keep the playing field level thorugh time. There are a hundred different reasons that Johnny Weismuller's times wouldn't qualify him for the state HS championship meet these days. It is interesting to look at how different the "good ole days" narrative is in sports with relative (like baseball) versus absolute statistics.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:52 PM
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42: Paid for with a tax on church offerings.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:54 PM
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42: Perfect -- we've got to raise the stakes to counteract B's concern that no one would pay attention.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:54 PM
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36: Because most sports fans are more interested in the skill/strength of the competitors than in the equipment, and they're particularly interested in comparing skill between different competitors. Having people you want to compare against each other using different equipment due to technological change screws up those comparisons.

Now, if new equipment significantly changed a game in way that made it more fun or more interesting to watch, that'd be an argument for letting it in. But the new suits don't seem to -- swimming's not different with them, they just make people go a little faster.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:56 PM
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What sport would be better if it was carried out by people using 1950s technology?

What sport would be worse? If you're interested in technology development, start a development league of whatever sport you're interested in. That's how sailing has handled it, with strict classes alongside development classes.

There's also the fact that what's done at the professional level trickles down to the amateur levels. Under the anything goes approach you effectively shut down poorly funded amateur participation since not many people want to invest serious effort in training in order to get their ass handed to them by some trust fund douchebag who paid more for his shoes than most people make in a year.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 1:59 PM
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36: Dsquared loved the 1988 America's Cup race.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:03 PM
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Under the anything goes approach you effectively shut down poorly funded amateur participation

Heh. Buck still complains about being a poor kid on his high school tennis team with what looked like a badminton racket up against all the richer kids with the then-new graphite rackets with the big heads and big sweet spots.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:03 PM
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I talked to an endocrinologist in Oregon (his wife, actually) who supported the idea of two Olympics -- purist and "anything goes". He was talking about doping of all sorts, but the idea could be extended.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:04 PM
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You have a few athletes, like Bob Beamon, whose records are amazingly durable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:06 PM
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I haven't looked at any statistics, but I think a wetsuit makes you about 4 seconds faster per 100.

The new suits basically move toward wetsuit technology. (With the added bulge benefit.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:07 PM
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my dad once told me there was an on-the-veldt type theory that humans have pubic hair where they do bcz it makes them more dynamic while swimming

i have no idea how this works in actual science (he is a botanist)



Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:07 PM
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48: I'm reminded of the April Fools sports coverage in the MIT student newspaper: "The Harvard Fencing team was defeated last Thursday by the MIT Pistol team. MIT team captain explained 'We'd been on a losing streak, and then decided that as a technology school, we should exploit our primary advantage.'"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:08 PM
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32 is totally begging the question.

37: and as I said at the time, I am not actually disinterested in sports.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:08 PM
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Sure, long jump at 8000 feet. And Mike Powell's record has now almost stood as long. Do I think Powell's was not drug-enhanced. No effing way.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:08 PM
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Sports aren't important. Therefore, who cares?


Posted by: OPINIONATED WELSH BLOGGER | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:09 PM
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This book argues that for certain sports limiting technological innovation makes sense for play balance and watchability reasons. It argues that men's tennis has become less fun to watch because technological innovation in rackets has reduced the number of volleys. In contrast, professional golf has strictly limited advances in clubs and balls in order to keep the courses playable as they were designed (rather than allowing for monster drives that sidestep course features).


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:11 PM
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49: I came back to racquetball about 6 years ago after a 20-year hiatus. my first game with my old raquet was hilarious (to my opponent). Current racquetball racquets have more surface area than a Wilson T2000 tennis racquet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:13 PM
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I think that jumps are unique in being a single act, so if you get a perfect storm, you just blow everyone away.

8,000 foot stadiums still existed during the decades after Powell's record. I don't know how many people tried, but they failed for a long time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:14 PM
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Adding aluminum bats to Major League Baseball would be exciting, in that the risk of death would be vastly greater.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:16 PM
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Dude. Some doped up guys came to our tiny weightlifting competition. Holy crap. Being in the same space as them makes you realize they are Not Like Us. My friend said, wonderingly, "They're barely human."

Now, for our tiny low-stakes competition, no one cared. But it is remarkable to stand right next to someone so far outside everything you see in all your years of living.

(Even our gym big guy doesn't strike me the way these guys did.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:16 PM
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18, boobs?


Posted by: Frostbite | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:21 PM
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Why would one take steroids for a tiny weight lifting competition, anyway?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:23 PM
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58: Somewhat, they have still had to redesign classic courses to keep ahead (such as Augusta and Oakmont).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:23 PM
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the rules cycling introduced to preserve the purity of the contest have mostly squashed the little guy and made competition legal equipment more expensive. For example, aerodynamic wheelcovers cost 30$ but are illegal fairings but disc wheels (1000$) are legal because the fairing is structurally integral. And the treatment of Graeme Obree by the UCI was really sad. Obree had developed/discovered a more aerodynamic way of sitting on a bike that allowed him to win a pair of pursuiting world championships and to break the hour record twice. He did all this on a bike he built in a shed using washing machine parts. The UCI changed the rules for him twice. I'd prefer a set of rules that encouraged more Obrees.


Posted by: brian ledford | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:24 PM
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64: You were taking them for more interesting competitions, and decided to go win a little one in passing?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:24 PM
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Don't think they did. I think they're on them anyway and happy to have somewhere local to compete.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:25 PM
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They couldn't do anything to keep bigger stronger guys off the courses. Unless they were black, that is.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:25 PM
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Getting that big seems like a longterm commitment, not something you'd do for any particular competition.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:26 PM
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63: Boobs float.


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:28 PM
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Cocks, being made of pure steel, weigh a swimmer down


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:28 PM
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And how is such a competition scored? It doesn't seem like it would be very challenging.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:29 PM
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63: Would women who've had mastectomies be banned, then?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:30 PM
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Grace Kelly's father changed the way people rowed (shorter, mor powerful, less beautiful, more frequent strokes) and had to go to the law to get into the Olympics. (A long story much more complicated than that). Dick Fosbury changed the way people high-jumped with an uglier style, and people scorned him up until he won it all. Look at all the new stuff in B-ball, for example Dr. J and Wilt. Coaches are more traditionalist than priests.

Fosbury was an engineer and I've always wanted to ask him whether he'd done an elementary analysis and figured out that his way was physically more efficient, which it was.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:31 PM
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73: Form.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:32 PM
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75: Makes sense that he would have -- the whole point of the flop is that your center of gravity doesn't have to clear the bar, right? That seems like the kind of thing someone fooling around after physics class might come up with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:33 PM
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It's pretty elementary if you think about it, but coaches are not thinkers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:34 PM
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What sport would be worse?

The pole vault, unarguably, I think. It's also pretty hard to sustain the argument about mens' tennis being less interesting given the empirical facts about TV viewership.

Sports ought to be about who does the sport thing best (the Olympic motto is not "Citius, Altius, Fortius, Ceteris Paribus"). If people want to have their arguments about pound-for-pound world champions, or their handicap races for amateurs or whatever, then let them, but don't cripple the top level of the sport - that is totally against the point of the exercise.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:35 PM
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(the Olympic motto is not "Citius, Altius, Fortius, Ceteris Paribus").

But it would be totally great if it were.

Sports ought to be about who does the sport thing best

Yep, who does it best. Not what equipment helps most.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:37 PM
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I think that pool cue putters should be legalized.

Also, the underhand free throw shot seems to be best, but it's too girly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:41 PM
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Yep, who does it best. Not what equipment helps most

So this is a view in favour of allowing anabolic steroids, but banning all-in-one swimsuits?

Also, I return to a point above - if you want to measure who does it best, then why do you allow rich people and teams to hire expert coaches, nutritionists, etc? Shouldn't we also ossify training techniques at a specific date?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:41 PM
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From the article (the long, good one)

"he problem has not just been the serial record-breaking, which ended up trivializing the extraordinary and rewriting the all-time top 10 lists in events like the women's 100 backstroke in the space of just a few months. The problem has been in the differences in access to the best of the new suits and also in the cost of the suits to age-group swimmers, eager to imitate the stars.

To sum up, the suits have too often become the story at the expense of the swimmers in a sport that has traditionally kept the equation much simpler.

"Definitely the focus got to be too much on the technology instead of on natural development," Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of FINA, said by telephone this week. "The most important thing is we keep our values, and our values are the values of athletes, which is their physical preparation and effort.""

I find I don't have an opinion, I care too little about sports.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:42 PM
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79 - The point of the exercise being development of better equipment? For most people sport is about the athlete, not the gear.

Deciding that someone "does the sport thing best" based on a competition in which they have an advantage due to more sophisticated equipment seems dodgy to me.

I'm all in favor of development classes (or leagues), but introducing new gear and pretending the playing field is level is just silly.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:46 PM
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This strikes me as the sort of thing that will be revisited if/when the price of the new technology drops and it becomes more common. There's no hard and fast line on any of this, of course, but almost every new technology in sports that have equipment has to be within certain tolerances and new tech usually has to be approved first. Running shoes, skis, figure skates, racing cars. It just sounds like this hasn't really come up much in swimming before because there hadn't been tech that worked as a compression bandage.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:48 PM
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In contrast, professional golf has strictly limited advances in clubs and balls in order to keep the courses playable as they were designed

I can't say I watch enough golf to know for sure, but it seems like in recent years some people adopted some kind of putter roughly as tall as they are that I don't think existed in the past.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:52 PM
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82: I'm honestly unsure about steroids -- that is, I think the health risk to the competitors justifies banning them, but in the absence of that (and I'm not sure that all steroid regimens are that risky), it seems like a hard line to draw.

On training techniques -- I guess my thinking is that if you put a modern athlete in a time machine and sent him back to the original Olympics, he'd kick ass using their equipment (given a certain amount of time to adjust to it). In a competition that would be perceived as fair by the competitors, the modern guy would win because he was better trained, better nourished, and so on -- these are advantages, but they're the sort of advantages that are contemplated by the rules of the sport at any given time.

You can make interesting comparisons across time if you're comparing the humans in the sport, despite the fact that modern training methods mean that present-day athletes would win everything. A modern sprinter is faster than anyone running a century ago would be, even if they were running under exactly the same race-day conditions. But once you introduce significantly different equipment, it's a different sport, and no comparisons are possible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:52 PM
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it seems like in recent years some people adopted some kind of putter roughly as tall as they are that I don't think existed in the past.

I think the PGA banned those. I remember there being debate when someone on the tour first started using one. I also don't watch golf so I may be wrong or they may have changed the rules again.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:56 PM
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For most people sport is about the athlete, not the gear

Well "Most people" can do what they like, since they're unlikely to be competing at the top level of any sport. But you have to recognise that the top level of swimming (pole vaulting etc) is defined by which guy can swim the fastest (pole-vault the highest, win the tennis tournament etc), and that artificial restrictions on how they go about that are a form of interference in the sport, and to be resisted like any other form of protectionism.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:56 PM
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But once you introduce significantly different equipment, it's a different sport, and no comparisons are possible

Comparisons over time are impossible anyway (unless one's seriously going to say that Johnny Weissmuller was a worse swimmer than your average high schooler today). The only comparison that matters is who won on the day, which is why medals matter more than records.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 2:58 PM
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It's very hard to make comparisons across time in many sports, not in the least because the body of knowledge builds on itself. Little girls doing gymnastics at a moderately high level can do Nadia Comaneci's 1976 routine as a warm-up. They have sprung floors, better training techniques, and less of a prejudice against looking athletic (still a problem in 1970s gymnastics.)

To a lesser extent, it's true of timed sports, too. The guys that won the 100m dash in the 1920-whatevers wouldn't even qualify today.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:00 PM
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90: Put him in the same pool, wearing the same suit, as the high school swimmer, and he'd lose, right? That sounds like 'worse swimmer' to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:01 PM
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92: Not clear. And give him a year training and it would probably be quite different. No valid comparison possible.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:03 PM
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less of a prejudice against looking athletic

ahhh, see, in order to maintain any sort of comparability, we need to ensure a specified level of body-shame for gymnasts.

Put him in the same pool, wearing the same suit, as the high school swimmer, and he'd lose, right?

Well no, not if he'd trained with that swim team for a couple of months.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:04 PM
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29: I find it interesting that, on any commuter public transport, when the bulk of the commuters get up and leave with their morning paper, the bits they leave behind invariably include the sports section, if it's separate from the rest of the paper.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:10 PM
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Well no, not if he'd trained with that swim team for a couple of months.

I guess the distinction I'm seeing is that if we go get Johnny with our time machine and throw him in the pool today, I see him losing, getting out of the pool, and saying "You won, fair and square, but give me a year to train with their methods and I'd beat these kids." If instead we brought a new swimsuit back to the 1930s (20s? I think 30s but I'm not sure) and gave it to the guy who got the silver in the Olympics, Johnny's still going to lose, but I don't think he's going to think it was fair.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:11 PM
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See, Dsquared is a contrarain. Not a sensible person like me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:12 PM
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90: There's the complicating factor of swimming styles changing, along with equipment and training regimens. Weissmuller was swimming before the kick turn had been invented.


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:14 PM
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96: I'm not so sure modern swimsuits would make such a big difference with pre-modern technique.


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:17 PM
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Also: changes and upgrades in facilities, training regimens, injury recovery, etc.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:18 PM
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the 1930s (20s? I think 30s but I'm not sure)

20's. He competed at the 1924 Paris games and the 1928 Amsterdam games.

Apparently he was also on the water polo team in 1924. Have there been any great leaps in water-treading technique since then? For purposes of comparison.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:24 PM
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But you have to recognise that the top level of swimming (pole vaulting etc) is defined by which guy can swim the fastest (pole-vault the highest, win the tennis tournament etc), and that artificial restrictions on how they go about that are a form of interference in the sport, and to be resisted like any other form of protectionism.

Motorsport without artificial restrictions has been tried, and turns out to be boring as fuck. One company that sells either sports cars or (less frequently) racing cars ends up spending everyone else into the ground, at which point they go away and the series dies.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:25 PM
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Another way to describe the distinction I'm trying to draw in 96 is between different conditions/equipment during the actual competition, and during the preparation for the competition. So for the gymnasts, sprung floors are a real change that makes comparison impossible. Better technique and less prejudice against looking athletic, OTOH, makes today's moderately high level gymnast a better gymnast than Comenici was.

I'm not claiming that there's any rational basis for this distinction, but it's the distinction I've made, and by god I'm sticking to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:25 PM
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And give him a year training and it would probably be quite different.

Is there a short explanation of how this incredible voodoo works? I hear this sort of statement about training constantly, and it really makes it sound like a coach can tell an athlete "breathe like this" and boom Bill Bixby is Lou Ferrigno.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:25 PM
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If instead we brought a new swimsuit back to the 1930s (20s? I think 30s but I'm not sure) and gave it to the guy who got the silver in the Olympics, Johnny's still going to lose, but I don't think he's going to think it was fair.

It's not the swimsuit he won't think is fair, it's the goggles. Should we get rid of them, too?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:26 PM
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makes it sound like a coach can tell an athlete "breathe like this" and boom Bill Bixby is Lou Ferrigno

Technically he has to say "breathe like this you stupid asshole".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:27 PM
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The goggles, they do nothing.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:29 PM
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105: See, I don't think any of this is terribly important as a matter of principle, which means I don't mind being inconsistent, I just think my distinction makes a good rule of thumb. As a non-competitive swimmer, my guess is that goggles make training/swimming immensely more pleasant for the athletes, rather than just decreasing times. Something like that strikes me as a big enough plus that it's worth sacrificing comparability over the pre-goggles/post-goggles divide.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:29 PM
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Is there a short explanation of how this incredible voodoo works?

It's two things: there are advancements in technique and advancements in training. The technique side gets you things like the Fosbury Flop and the decision to try to run even lap splits during a race rather than relying on a final kick at the end and the flip turn. Training advancements are things like tapering schedules, nutritional programs, the proper mix of weight training and cardio, interval training, and sleeping in a hypobaric chamber at night.

This is knowledge that develops over time, and allows an athlete to perform at a higher level than someone who doesn't know about it.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:33 PM
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artificial restrictions on how they go about that are a form of interference in the sport, and to be resisted like any other form of protectionism.

Which is why it's bullshit that motorcycles aren't permitted in the Tour de France.

Do you have any serious arguments, D^2, or just the ones you've used so far?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:36 PM
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Is there a short explanation of how this incredible voodoo works? I hear this sort of statement about training constantly, and it really makes it sound like a coach can tell an athlete "breathe like this" and boom Bill Bixby is Lou Ferrigno.

There have been huge advancements in swimming technique over the years. A lot of them involved finding loopholes in the rules that were then either closed or officially acknowledged. Butterfly used to be a way to swim breaststroke. The rules were amended to limit underwater dolphin kick on backstroke to however many yards after people started doing pretty much the entire race underwater.

I don't know how much of this transfers to things like running or weightlifting.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:37 PM
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I'm waiting for his appearance as a be-snorkled and -flippered challenger at the next Olympics.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:38 PM
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It's also pretty hard to sustain the argument about mens' tennis being less interesting given the empirical facts about TV viewership.

You mean the fact that tennis ratings in the US have plummeted over the past 30 years (despite the past 2 best men in the world being Americans)?

I'll be glad when the financial crisis is over and you can troll us on topics where the arguments are remotely on your side.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:39 PM
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103: Thing is, the knowledge develops over time, and builds on things done by previous athletes. If Nadia were just beginning training today, she'd likely be competing with the best. Athletes also push each other. I'm not sure anyone would say "I'm a better gymnast than Nadia" unless they were also Olympic champions, just because the cross-years comparison doesn't make any sense.

105: If they had just been introduced and cost $1500, there'd be an argument for excluding them until they were more affordable. I think, from reading the articles, that the worry isn't just that the times have dropped, but that the suits provide such a measurable benefit* *and* they're not widely available, even at the top level.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:40 PM
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||

Just overheard as a group of people leaving a conference walked by my office door:

"I'm pretty beat, so I will be an input device, but I probably won't be an output device."

It was hard to resist appending "at the Mineshaft!"

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:41 PM
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The goggles, they do nothing.

Try more beer.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:42 PM
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114: Oh, I'm not saying that it's fair to Comenici, or that she wouldn't surpass modern gymnasts if her career were under modern conditions; just that it seems to me (again, with my time travel hypothetical) that the modern kid is doing better gymnastics than Comenici did -- the modern kid would astonish the judges in 1976 even using 1976 equipment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:43 PM
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But I think I'm slipping from argument into simple repetition, which suggests that I should be doing some of this work that's sitting here glowering at me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:44 PM
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I'm trying to decide if saying Weismuller is not a better student than a random high schooler today is any more reasonable than saying Isaac Newton was not a better mathematician than any random person enrolled in an analysis class. I don't think the comparison holds up very well, but I can't quite figure out why. (I suppose this is why analogies are banned.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:48 PM
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Fuck. Swimmer, not student.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:48 PM
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One problem with the training argument, BTW, is that it's not always clear which techniques are best. I mean, obviously, modern nutrition is pretty uniformly better than it was 50+ years ago, when it was about as sophisticated as "steak after training, pasta before the event." But if you go to the very top athletes in the world, you'll see all sorts of different regimens, and - chemicals aside - it's not clear that any of them are making measurable differences. Have Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador flip menus, and it's dubious that their relative performances would change. But give Contador Lance's million dollar skinsuit, while Lance gets the standard lycra, and Alberto's going to gain seconds per 10k.

Are you rooting for Lance or for Nike's clothing division?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:49 PM
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120: Weismuller was a whiz at calculus.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:53 PM
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Analogies are also banned because one leg of them tends to trample the other.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:54 PM
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modern nutrition is pretty uniformly better than it was 50+ years ago, when it was about as sophisticated as "steak after training, pasta before the event

I reject your definition of "better".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:54 PM
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A couple of more points on the time-traveling swimmers.

On the new training. Things like swimmers used to believe that weight training was bad (tightened up the muscles), they did far fewer yards of practice etc, etc. Now a guy like Weismuller was clearly a personality who was willing to do what it took back in the day to get to the top (in several areas) plus had good basic athleticism, so I think he would get on pretty well. But there is a good chance he would top off at some level below the very top; his specific strengths and body-type probably not optimial for today's swimming (plus swimming pulled from a far smaller ... pool).

119, 120: Yeah, start Weismuller as an infant and who knows. It really is a mess to try and compare. The quantitative times give the illusion of comparison. Babe Ruth at least seems closer to the Newton example. Think you'd even see him on a major league team?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:57 PM
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119: I think the difference is that 'better' in terms of an athlete is thought of as 'how well/quickly/whatever they accomplish a fixed task' (putting the chronological problems to one side -- I'm talking about contemporary competitors) and 'better' in terms of mathematicians is thought of (nice passive there, LB. "I think of." That wasn't so hard.) in terms of how much new knowledge they added to the body of mathematics.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 3:57 PM
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Babe Ruth at least seems closer to the Newton example. Think you'd even see him on a major league team?

Might -- isn't being a great hitter a matter of freak eyesight as much as anything else? That hasn't changed much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:00 PM
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Also, the rules for cycling's time records were alluded to above, but I want to point them out as, I think, a pretty sensible approach:

A decade or so ago, the ICU standardized the bike for fastest hour attempts at, essentially, Eddy Mercx's 1972 bike. At that point, the basic tech of bikes was modern, albeit without high tech materials and some (physically) tiny mechanical refinements. So we're not looking at people racing on penny farthings. But anyway, it's now possible to compare the fastest hour over the past 35 years, and will remain so. Obree is a fascinating story, and he was treated pretty shittily, but I don't really disagree that what he was doing was anomalous, and somewhat beside the point - he was faster at doing something distinct from what everyone else had been doing.

Anyway, that's the situation for races against the clock. But in road races, in which it's peer vs. peer, the rules allow for lots of innovation, on the premise that no one is getting that far ahead of anyone else - bikes aren't a huge part of a team's budget*, so it's not as if the team from Croatia is stuck on old Schwinns while the Italians are on spaceships with pedals. No one talks about who would win a race between Lance & Eddy; it's understood that the eras are too different. They do talk about who was more dominant in his own era, because that's about peer competition.

Theoretically, skinsuits are fine by that logic, except that they do make a big difference in both budget and results - the 20th best swimmer in the world beats Michael Phelps every time as long as Mr. Nobody gets the skinsuit and Phelps wears Speedos. But Mr. Nobody can't afford the suit, so it's not a race among peers - or it's only a race among the half dozen who can afford them, and now you're into effectively split leagues, with the dividing line being wealth, not ability. And I call that bullshit.

* I suspect they don't pay full price anyway, but even if they did


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:01 PM
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'm talking about contemporary competitors) and 'better' in terms of mathematicians is thought of (nice passive there, LB...)

I'm not actually sure the passive voice is your biggest problem in the original phrasing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:01 PM
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126: That's probably fair. But I wonder if there isn't a sense in which the great athletes of a particular era, by demonstrating the maximum that is possible within the constraints they are working with, are in some sense moving their field of athletic achievement forward in a similar way to what Newton did in his field of achievement. A particular record may not stand, but someone who sets a truly impressive record in a particular era has still achieved something that lasts.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:01 PM
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they should ban all the pseudo-sports which are just about some number always being bigger than some other number, and concentrate on the ones which require the judges to exercise actual judgment, like synchro and dressage


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:02 PM
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You mean the fact that tennis ratings in the US have plummeted over the past 30 years (despite the past 2 best men in the world being Americans)?

Computer says no. Which in turn presumably explains why tennis has been doing much better outside the USA, and why the value of the global rights has been going up.

Since your other arguments appear to be a ludicrous strawman about motorbikes in the Tour de France (which of course, has seen the most astonishing technological changes in the last twenty years; why don't you show up there on your 1980s bike, fool?), plus the straightforward insult "troll", you'll forgive me if I simply respond "fuck you, clown", rather than in detail.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:02 PM
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124: Point well taken.

Mmm, whey.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:02 PM
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Or synchronized dressage -- sport motto: "You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get him to swim on his back you've got something."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:03 PM
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I'm sympathetic to some of the pragmatics of dsquared's view (pole vaulting is going to progress with the technology), but taken as an absolute, it is like some demented Scalia-type originalism with even less validity. There is no time at which the sport gets defined as "this, this right now is the pure essence of xxx", no sport ever has evolved that way, despite people at the time thinking that was what was happening.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:04 PM
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126

These are sort of the same thing, Newton added a lot to mathematics because he was way ahead of his contemporary competitors.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:04 PM
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LIKE HELL HE WAS


Posted by: OPINIONATED LEIBNIZ | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:06 PM
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Theoretically, skinsuits are fine by that logic, except that they do make a big difference in both budget and results - the 20th best swimmer in the world beats Michael Phelps every time as long as Mr. Nobody gets the skinsuit and Phelps wears Speedos. But Mr. Nobody can't afford the suit, so it's not a race among peers - or it's only a race among the half dozen who can afford them, and now you're into effectively split leagues, with the dividing line being wealth, not ability. And I call that bullshit.

The skinsuits cost $600, which won't get you near a racing bicycle. And when you're at the 20th-in-the-world level, you have to be training full-time anyway, so $600 isn't such a big deal.

Might -- isn't being a great hitter a matter of freak eyesight as much as anything else? That hasn't changed much.

Steroids don't improve your eyesight much, yet they sure seemed to help Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:09 PM
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127: Might -- isn't being a great hitter a matter of freak eyesight as much as anything else? That hasn't changed much.

I suspect he would have trouble getting a tryout on a major league team today. Might be a circus sideshow like the best free throw, three-point shooters and basketball dribblers in the world are today. All of the complexities of the Weismuller case and more apply to a sport like baseball.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:09 PM
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138: I thought we were talking about whether Ruth could make it under modern conditions, which would mean as much steroids as everyone else was doing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:10 PM
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the suits provide such a measurable benefit* *and* they're not widely available, even at the top level.

Formula 1 cars and top-quality horses are also plenty expensive, which is why they're only given to an elite minority of athletes who have demonstrated that they know what to do with one.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:11 PM
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136: Not exactly -- Newton wasn't so much competing against his contemporaries on a fixed set of problems, he was coming up with new areas in which there were problems to be solved, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:11 PM
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OK, I'll admit that I though Federer was American (if I'd really thought about it...), but I hardly see how this proves that tennis is astonishingly popular.

In fact, let's be clear on this: your claim was that tennis' TV ratings have improved. My retort was that they've plummeted in what was once tennis' #1 market. Your response is to correct an aside. Well done, sir.

Otherwise, I certainly expected nothing less than a "fuck you, clown." Although it's hardly a new thought that you enjoy trolling this site (as did its founder - it's a respected tradition).

TdF bikes have a minimum weight requirement; is that "artificial restrictions on how they go about [riding the fastest]," or not? Is it to be resisted as protectionism, or is it just defining the sport, just as disallowing motors defines the sport?

Anyway, I would appreciate you telling me which Tour de France victory could be ascribed solely to a technological edge that gained its user a 1% speed gain over the rest. Which winner would have been #20 had he only been riding #2's bike?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:14 PM
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make it a proper sports challenge: the modern schoolteam swimmer races weismuller than they both play tarzan in a movie -- the loser is the one who goes on to star in anything with gabriel byrne in it


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:15 PM
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But there is a good chance he would top off at some level below the very top; his specific strengths and body-type probably not optimial for today's swimming (plus swimming pulled from a far smaller ... pool).

This is a good point. Sports are more specialized around body types today. Another factor is that many athletes today burn out due to overtraining and injury. Someone whose body might have been ideal for a training regimen back in 1920 might have struggled with a modern technique and left the sport due to injury. Or what might have been a remarkable physical gift prior to a new technology (landing the first ever triple jump in competition in boots that were floppy compared to today's) is something that is no longer a distinguishing characteristic of a champion (they start training triples in elementary school now.) Freak eyesight helps in baseball, but not nearly as much as LASIK.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:15 PM
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144: First they both play Tarzan in a movie, then they play Tarzan at singles tennis. The ratings would be spectacular.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:16 PM
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138: exactly - very few pieces of sports equipment are anywhere near as expensive as giving up your job and being a full time sportsperson.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:18 PM
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Formula 1 cars and top-quality horses are also plenty expensive, which is why they're only given to an elite minority of athletes who have demonstrated that they know what to do with one.

Bullshit.

Formula 1 cars are given to the elite minority of athletes who clear a high but not ludicrous bar of driving ability and - more importantly - bring a bunch of money to the table. This money frequently comes from personal sponsorship deals, although it's also known to come from the driver's personal bank account.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:18 PM
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Motorsport without artificial restrictions has been tried, and turns out to be boring as fuck.

Wouldn't have figured you for a NASCAR fan, water moc.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:20 PM
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148: Screw socialized medicine, we need socialized motor sports!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:20 PM
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143: Greg LeMond 1989 (use of triathlon bars in final time trial), H2H. Other than that, I'm afraid that "fuck you clown" is more or less an absorbing state - once you've talked yourself into it, there's a fixed period before I'm even going to consider responding politely. FYC.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:21 PM
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143: Lemond beat Fignon in '89 by using aero-bars. That was pretty clearly a win that can be chalked up to technology. There's also an argument to be made that US Postal Service began using training techniques that were far superior to the rest of the field, techniques that allowed Armstrong to outstrip the competition in recent years. But I tend to think that's bullshit; they just had better drugs.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:22 PM
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You mean the fact that tennis ratings in the US have plummeted over the past 30 years

IIRC, ratings for every sport have plummeted over the past 30 years.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:23 PM
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Steroids don't improve your eyesight much, yet they sure seemed to help Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

Helps with power, so more home runs. But it's not like they had freakishly high batting averages.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:24 PM
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synchro and dressage have maintained their ratings: i rest my case


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:25 PM
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141: Right, but the problem with the swim suits is that the group "elite minority that has demonstrated $foo" is that that group is larger than just the Olympic competitors. I can see why swimmers would be annoyed at losing out on a spot on a team to someone who is only faster because of the suit in a way they wouldn't be if the person worked harder or followed a new training regimen.

I suspect that part of this, though, is that swimming has traditionally been one of the most gear-free sports (assuming you don't count the pool...), and that's preserved the illusion of man vs. own limitations a bit longer.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:25 PM
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in the marathon in one of the early olympics*, one of the runners-up went part of the way by train

*post-revival obviously


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:29 PM
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75: Kelly for brickwork!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:30 PM
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143: the weight minimum is an absolute, though, which is a bit unfair/arbitrary. It doesn't really make sense that 6'4" sprinter Tom Boonen and 5'6" Damiano Cunego should have bikes that weigh the same. Cunego is effectively adding ballast to his.


Posted by: brian ledford | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:31 PM
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157: you aren't thinking of Rosie Ruiz, are you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:32 PM
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sadly it was by car, not train: fred lorz, 1900


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:33 PM
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The skinsuits cost $600

I thought someone up above cited a much higher number. Obviously, $600 isn't making any difference at an Olympic level, and hardly any at a collegiate level (would be a huge one at high school)

That said, as a margin on that line item, it's still quite different from cycling. It's what, 10X a Speedo? Lance's best bike wasn't even 2X the crappiest bike in the peloton. Furthermore, there's a serious matter of diminishing returns in bikes - going from a $700 bike to a $1400 gets you something like a doubling of performance. Doubling cost again gets you maybe - maybe - 50% better performance. By the time you're looking at an $8k bike, it's marginally better than the $5k one (some of this is due to the tradeoffs among aero, stiffness, and the like - other than weight reduction, there's only a few variables that you can truly maximize, as opposed to optimize relative to other considerations), but not enough to completely change a race (you might change the order at the very top, but no one is vaulting from #20 to #1 because he spent an extra $600 on his bike).

Oh, and clowns? Do you fucking think that LeMond, who won 2 TdFs without aero bars, would have come in 20th without the tech? He was in second at the start of the day. Read the goddamn question, if you'll please.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:33 PM
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btw, the same application of Sorites reasoning that allows me to ignore silly arguments about flippers and motorcycles would militate in favour of restrictions on the bouyancy of the swimsuit (which is a big part of the new regulations) - obviously at some point, what you're doing isn't "swimming" as opposed to "paddling a wearable boat" and I'm perfectly prepared to allow the regulatory body to make the stipulation where it wants to stop on that continuum. But just ruling out bodysuits altogether is arbitrary in an unproductive way, and I really don't see what the benefit is for watching artificially slowed-down swimmers.

(I also think that the proliferation of rules on strokes in swimming is counterproductive - there ought to be one event, freestyle, with a few distances, in which people could swim how they liked. This would clearly be a progressive reform as it would remove some of the obvious distortions in the Olympic medal tables arising from people like Michael Phelps who have effectively won the same event, eight times).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:33 PM
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i recalled a proverb
'60 chugants uraldaj neg n turuulne' which means 60 crones (old ladies) compete, one will win


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:34 PM
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Read the goddamn question, if you'll please

ask a sensible one and I might, fyc.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:35 PM
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162: Aren't they so fragile that they're essentially disposable? I think you need a new $600 suit for every meet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:35 PM
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I'd also note Chris Boardman's stage wins, which would have been a lot more difficult to achieve without a specialised time trials bike.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:38 PM
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166: See-through, so tight that you can't pee after you've put it on, and single use? These things sound great!


Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:40 PM
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142

Not exactly -- Newton wasn't so much competing against his contemporaries on a fixed set of problems, he was coming up with new areas in which there were problems to be solved, right?

Both I think. Mathematics at the top level consists in part of coming up with new concepts which often help with existing problems.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:40 PM
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Wouldn't have figured you for a NASCAR fan, water moc.

NASCAR goes too far the other way, of course. I was thinking of Can-Am Group 7, Baja 1000 Unlimited classes, and various periods that I'm pretty sure exist in Le Mans history but can't name offhand.

Of course, nothing says that the arbitrary restrictions have to be complex... something as simple as "no more than $500 not including safety equipment" can do wonders.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:40 PM
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here is my great-uncle teaching sherpas how to pole-vault on everest


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:41 PM
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obviously at some point, what you're doing isn't "swimming" as opposed to "paddling a wearable boat" and I'm perfectly prepared to allow the regulatory body to make the stipulation where it wants to stop on that continuum. But just ruling out bodysuits altogether is arbitrary in an unproductive way, and I really don't see what the benefit is for watching artificially slowed-down swimmers

I'm inclined to agree with this, especially as it still buys me a no-go on Pistonius.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:41 PM
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161: 1904 , I think. St. Louis. His (almost certainly BS) story:

Lorz: "So, after nine miles of running, I'm dead beat. I just can't go on. My trainer, well he's just shouting out the window of the support car, 'Fred, you're killing yourself out here. We need to get you some help, quick'. So I think, 'time to quit', and get in the car and we drive back towards the stadium."

Judge: "But you didn't tell any of the officials, or your fellow runners you were quitting, Mr Lorz?"

Lorz: "No, there was no one around to tell. So we're driving back, and would you believe it, the car breaks down. Well I felt a little better for the rest so I figured I'd just jog the rest of the way. Then, when I got to the stadium I saw I was early. There were all these people there cheering, the clock was still ticking and that red tape was just waiting to be broken ..."

Judge: "So you pretended to be the winner?"

Lorz: "It was just a joke. It seemed like a funny idea at the time. I was going to tell you before you gave me the medal. Honest."

The winner, Hicks, had his own little drama. His trainer afterwards admitted they had decided "to inject him with a milligram of sulphate of strychnine and to make him drink a large glass brimming with brandy".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:42 PM
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I wonder how hot it was during that marathon? Wikipedia makes it sound like people were dropping like flies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:44 PM
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Although if the treatment for exhaustion was a large glass of brandy, I suppose that isn't so surprising.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:44 PM
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I also think that it makes sense to be more restrictive about equipment at lower levels of a sport. The NCAA should feel free to artificially slow down its swimmers, and state high school swimming associations should surely be even more uptight on the subject.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:45 PM
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I'd also note Chris Boardman's stage wins, which would have been a lot more difficult to achieve without a specialised time trials bike.

You mean the guy who, at the very end of his career, broke Eddy Mercx's hour record using a Mercx-era bike? Interesting claim.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:49 PM
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I wonder how hot it was during that marathon?

St. Louis in the summer? I'd guess around 120F, with a heat index north of 200.

But maybe I was just there in a bad month.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:51 PM
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His (almost certainly BS) story

So you think he really ran the whole distance, but wanted to tell a whopper?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:52 PM
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164: Wins the thread AFAIC. For some reason this is affecting me the way a Harry Potter thread would.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 4:55 PM
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For some reason this is affecting me the way a Harry Potter thread would.

Personally, I just don't think it's Quidditch anymore once you have kids flying around on fancy Nimbus 5000s.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:01 PM
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B. is right. All sports are boring, meaningles, stupid, and a waste of time. Rather than try to "fix" them or "maintain" them or "keep them pure" or Z"let them develop freely" we should sabotage them by encouraging them to do the stupid thing at ever turn.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:01 PM
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179: So you think he really ran the whole distance, but wanted to tell a whopper?


No, "It was just a joke. It seemed like a funny idea at the time. I was going to tell you before you gave me the medal. Honest."

174, 178: One account said 90s, all-time high for the date (August 30th) in St. Louis is 100, so probably right. Killer for running a marathon.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:05 PM
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that's the sports or any competition related proverb, very nihilistic
nice, you liked it, JE, when one wins some competition and s/he is a modest being one says that proverb as a response to the praise of others
westerners would probably think it's rude and demeaning of one's and other competitors efforts, but it's a very light-hearted, joke-like saying
another proverb-wish is 'hojil hoer tiishee' means win to the both competing sides


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:05 PM
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Oh and winning time of that marathon: 3:29.
Also, testing the equipment hypothesis:

Coming in fourth was Cuban mailman Felix Carvajal, who became something of a folk hero. With no handlers, no strategy and no training program, Carvajal showed up at the starting line wearing a long-sleeved shirt, heavy-heeled street shoes and long pants, which were sheared off at the knee by another contestant before the race. Legend has it that Carvajal ran a casual race, stopping to practice his English with spectators and detouring into an apple orchard for a snack.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:09 PM
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the snack giving him agonizing stomach pains! and he was wearing a "felt beret"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:15 PM
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I also think that it makes sense to be more restrictive about equipment at lower levels of a sport.

It depends. It might make sense to cap the obvious performance-enhancing stuff that costs serious money, but a lot of the time the benefits of the equipment don't matter as much at the lower levels because the competitors aren't pushing the limits of the equipment, and an extra expensive top-line whatever doesn't do anything to disrupt fair play because the players just don't have the skills.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:15 PM
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I also think that it makes sense to be more restrictive about equipment at lower levels of a sport.

It depends. It might make sense to cap the obvious performance-enhancing stuff that costs serious money, but a lot of the time the benefits of the equipment don't matter as much at the lower levels because the competitors aren't pushing the limits of the equipment, and an extra expensive top-line whatever doesn't do anything to disrupt fair play because the players just don't have the skills.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:15 PM
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To reopen the original argument: Everyone who's said that you can't do the comparisons across time that I've been talking about, standardized equipment or no, you're probably right. But on the other hand, what's the argument that there's a positive gain from allowing new performance enhancing technology? Are there swimming fans who actively enjoy watching races more because of the new suits? Pole-vaulting aficionados who are fascinated by fiberglass, but would be bored by bamboo? It's possible that there is some entertainment value to the new equipment -- I'm not a sports fan, so I don't really get the psychology. But mostly it seems irrelevant to the competition, except that everyone at the highest levels needs the new stuff to be able to play.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:21 PM
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For example, in blog commenting competitions it doesn't matter which high-tech browser people use because they end up double-posting anyway.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:21 PM
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It's possible that there is some entertainment value to the new equipment -- I'm not a sports fan, so I don't really get the psychology. But mostly it seems irrelevant to the competition, except that everyone at the highest levels needs the new stuff to be able to play.

Not exactly irrelevant to the competition...it's not exactly an arms race. Some players have an advantage with the old equipment, and some have an advantage with the new equipment.

When they moved the baseball mound back to 60 feet, a lot of pitchers whose value was their endurance were no longer stars because they just couldn't throw 400 innings per year of these longer, more difficult pitches.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:24 PM
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-of


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:44 PM
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If the rules of chess were changed so that the players' respective pieces were red and green, colorblind people would suck at chess!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:45 PM
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we should sabotage them by encouraging them to do the stupid thing at ever turn.

I've long been an advocate of land mines on golf courses. Enhances the excitement of the game, and eases the game's impact on the environment by reducing the number of golfers. Win-win.

It was nice of everyone not to mock dsquared mercilessly for implying that race car drivers are athletes. Still, hilarious.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:49 PM
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the game, the game. inelegant.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:50 PM
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US Postal Service began using training techniques that were far superior to the rest of the field

I'm glad I kept reading that post, because I was about to send a letter and time it.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 5:51 PM
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Oh and winning time of that marathon: 3:29.

IIRC, my one and only marathon was 3:28:52. If only I'd been in St. Louis in 1904.

But on the other hand, what's the argument that there's a positive gain from allowing new performance enhancing technology?

One word: plastics. No, wait. Marketing! Professional sports exist in significant part to sell clothing and equipment to weekend athletes. People are interested in what new equipment pro athletes are using for the same reasons they're interested in what's new in fashion magazines.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:07 PM
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People are interested in what new equipment pro athletes are using for the same reasons they're interested in what's new in fashion magazines.

Bandwagonism?

||
I really hate to say this, but Obama's "tough choices" rhetoric has begun to grate.
|>


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:15 PM
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136: Not exactly -- Newton wasn't so much competing against his contemporaries on a fixed set of problems, he was coming up with new areas in which there were problems to be solved, right?

Well, there was the matter of the Brachistochrone challenge


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:19 PM
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All sports threads are dull unless you can get into a random fight that has nothing to do with sport.

This one is no exception.

So, I believe in abortion, support Hamas, think Oscar Pistonius should be allowed to compete at the Olympics, and want Barack Obama to be prosecuted for war crimes if he doesn't shut down Bagram Airbase when he closes Guantanamo Bay.

What else? Sifu, you smell of elderberries and your mom dresses you funny.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:25 PM
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198: Also, the phrase "whole host." Change it up, Mr. President.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:34 PM
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Oscar Pistonius should be allowed to compete at the Olympics

Snort. I suppose you think that colorblind chess players should be allowed to play with non-red-and-green pieces, too.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:38 PM
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Can't deny he's articulate. But those little double-takes and hesitations make me think that this is a failed Presidency.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:38 PM
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Mr. President: "It took me a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

Nice.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:39 PM
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"Hard choices" is a neolib cliche going back to Gary Hart at least. I think it means Social Security.

My sister's not political or news oriented at all, but she knows that" programs that don't work" means social services (her job, which isn't directly federal).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:41 PM
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200 -- and a pony?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:41 PM
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It was nice of everyone not to mock dsquared mercilessly for implying that race car drivers are athletes.

Actually, they do have to be physically very fit. Massive g-forces on the neck, extreme heat, etc. Physical fitness is a big part of what they do.*

* I still don't personally find it very interesting as a sport, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:44 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:54 PM
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Not sure about the numbers for the F1 guys, but roller-coasters seem right: wiki.

And they let all those roller-coastering athletes ride without even a helmet that is strapped to their pod.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:54 PM
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But mostly it seems irrelevant to the competition, except that everyone at the highest levels needs the new stuff to be able to play.

Here's an example. In fencing, as you know, a fencer can score a point in foil and sabre only if they have right of way. Competitive fencing on almost every serious level is scored electronically, so when a fencer's sword hits the other fencer on target, a light goes on. There are thus two ways to score a point: hit the other person cleanly so only your light goes on, or in the case that both lights, win the right-of-way judgment, made by the official.

So, here's the issue. The lights are scored electronically, and in sabre, the lightest of taps counts. The lights lock each other out after a couple tenths of a second. So, if you hit me, and then I hit you, it's possible, if I'm slow, that my hit won't register.

A light and whippy sabre blade is next to impossible to parry, which means that chances are, the attacking person will land an attack even if the defender executes a good parry. But if the defender doesn't get the parry off fast enough, she will get locked out of the system. One light means one point.

When I was competing, sabres were light and whippy. (E.g, there were times I parried and got hit in the small of the back by a blade whipping around.) So, since parries were mostly useless, they became far less important than they would have been 30 years ago when my coach was competing and everything was scored by a set of judges. (So you had to hit hard enough to be visible.) A lot of people thought that it weakened the sport; why bother blocking if it wasn't going to help? Why bother establishing a clean line of attack if what was going to matter was whether you locked out the other person?

I believe since I've quit, the governing board has changed the rules to make really whippy sabres illegal. Now, fencing doesn't really have spectators. But a small change did make a significant change in the sport.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 6:57 PM
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Physical fitness is a big part of what they do.

In the sense that a fit driver will have advantages over a slob. Not in the sense that the fittest driver will have a measurable advantage over slightly less fit drivers.

197.last is a key observation. One of the reasons for the dynamics of bike tech that I was discussing is that trickle-down time is incredibly fast - you'll see a new set of gearing components go from just a few members of the peloton to consumer-grade (as in, people with a bit of money and a hobby, not just obsessives and the ultra-rich) in 3-4 years. Often, there will be an ultra-high level set of components spin off into a nearly-equal set the year after they go on the open market, with the only difference being a few grams here and there. My impression is that the best way to defray R&D costs is to get the parts on the (relatively) fat part of the market ASAP, rather than try to charge a high premium to a tiny slice for several years. There are exceptions - ceramic bearings are very helpful, but still crazy-expensive because it's the manufacturing process more than the design/innovation.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:01 PM
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On the Hour record:

All records since 1972, including Boardman's 56.375km (35.03mi) in 1996 were downgraded to Best Human Effort. In 2000, Boardman attempted the UCI record on a traditional bike, and rode 49.441km (30.721mi), topping Merckx by 10m (30 ft) - an improvement of 0.02%. In 2005 Ondřej Sosenka improved Boardman's performance at 49.700km (30.882 mi) using a 54x13 gear. At 2m (6.6 ft) tall, Sosenka used an unusual saddle position and a small vertical frame height to stay within UCI regulations.

So there's about a 5 mile gap between the post-Merckx technology record and the Merckx era technology record. That's a pretty substantial difference. Probably wouldn't be fair to have one person with using one technology race someone using the other.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:03 PM
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re: 211

Someone who isn't extremely fit wouldn't even finish a race -- the forces their bodies have to handle are pretty extreme, and the race lasts for hours.

I'm not a big fan of the sport but it's just ignorance to claim that physical fitness doesn't play a huge part.

Fitness isn't the sine qua non of victory, but it isn't in most sports. The fittest footballer isn't the best footballer, the fittest boxer isn't the best boxer. There are very few sports where raw VO2 max or raw 1-rep power is the be all and end all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:10 PM
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In the sense that a fit driver will have advantages over a slob. Not in the sense that the fittest driver will have a measurable advantage over slightly less fit drivers.

Unless you are defining "slightly less fit" to be "close enough as to provide no measurable advantage", this isn't true. Motor racing involves lots of concentration and fine motor skills, both of which get much worse as you get tired. You get tired and make a mistake, the other guy who is less tired and did not make a mistake and goes past you.

Imagine playing chess while you and your opponent are on exercise bikes that shock you if you don't maintain a certain power output. Fitness is important.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:11 PM
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207: Sure, but there's more to being an athlete. Throw in coordination and (some value of) endurance, and I still say they're not athletes. I'd like to think I'd think the same way if I didn't loathe auto racing.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:12 PM
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re: 215

Actually, their endurance levels aren't 'some level', they have to be extremely high.

Again, I'm not defending it as a sport -- I generally find it boring -- but the levels of physical fitness required exceed quite a few more obviously athletic disciplines.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:15 PM
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Oh, and I think y'all were misunderestimating Babe Ruth. First of all, he wasn't a fat slob when he came up - he was a decent fielder and a superb pitcher, and could even steal some bases. The girth came with age, inclination, and the fact that the guy was so supremely talented that, even as the rest of the league started to catch up with him, he was still by far the best player even as a slob.

Furthermore, it's not as if modern ballplayers all have athletic builds - IIRC, Messrs. Sabathia and Ortiz have found success despite carrying perhaps more weight than current orthodoxy would recommend.

As a result of the Bonds/steroids battles, there's an increased awareness that pre-integration baseball didn't include the best of the best, and so there's a tendency to discount those achievements. The problem with this approach, IMO, is that, when integration came, the black players weren't all, instantly, the best players in the league. They did drive out the worst players, so that's a big change (to trade the 16th-best CF in baseball for Willie Mays), but, frex, Ted Williams was dominant in all-white ball as well as 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke in - clearly, he wasn't succeeding in 1941 just because he played against second class competition.

Finally, "good eyesight" isn't the key trait of a hitter - it's a blend of hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition*. Other features, including eyesight and strength, are secondary. Evidence for this is that tons of strong guys fail to jump from AAA to MLB every year, and LASIK isn't turning Mendoza types into Pete Roses. Bonds was always an extraordinary hitter; what the juice gave him was extraordinary power, plus a big jump in bat speed (which gives the hitter more time to read the pitch and place the bat properly).

* Which is why Michael Jordan, an extraordinary athlete by any measure, was no better than the 2000th-best player in baseball, even after a year of trying


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:17 PM
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216: This may be an F1/NASCAR distinction; I know for a fact that you can succeed in NASCAR without being in better shape than, say, a dedicated weekend warrior (the type who'll travel out of town to do triathlons). But maybe not in F1 (which is certainly more interesting than NASCAR).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:25 PM
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Last thing: evidence that training isn't as big a deal as you might think:

The cycling Hour Record has only been improved by 0.5% over the past 37 years, once equipment is held constant. Now, not every elite cyclist has tried - it's not the most high-profile/remunerative record, and it's staggeringly painful to attempt - but you have to go back 50 years to find even a 5% gain.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:25 PM
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So we're agreed that "better"ness in many, if not all, sports, is a constructed measure?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:25 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:27 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:28 PM
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re: 218

Yeah, it's the sudden braking and hairpin turns. Huge g-forces on the neck, repeatedly, for hours. Plus, according to various F1 sites, they claim that drivers maintain a heartbeat of 160bpm plus for the 2 hour race.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:29 PM
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213, 214: Dale, Sr. was winning* races at age 50. Would you care to point me to other fitness-dependent endeavors in which 50-y.o.s are beating 25- and 35-y.o.s?

Baseball, the most famously non-athletic sport in America, has never had a 50-y.o. player except as a novelty.

* Or placing in. Whatever.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:31 PM
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Last thing: evidence that training isn't as big a deal as you might think

That's going to vary from sport to sport, though. In some sports, big performance gains and in others, not so much.

In one sport the traditional training methods may already be approaching total efficiency [at getting the best possible performance out of an athlete] while in others they may be nowhere near.

I'd bet there are a lot of minority sports where no real money can be earned where you'd see big performance jumps if serious money got involved.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:32 PM
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223: OK, comity.

Thank god. I'm up here because I need to be working, not arguing about sports events I don't care for.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:32 PM
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225: Yeah, I was having those thoughts. One thing about cycling, specifically, is that it was an absolutely huge sport 120 years ago, and the basic physics of the event were set then (as in, positions have hardly changed - no Fosberry Flop, other than what Obree did, and they banned him). So a lot of the improvements that have revolutionized other sports haven't pertained to cycling. But the point remains that cycling, about as pure a VO2 sport as there is, has been pretty steady for decades, tech (and doping) aside - all the hyperbaric chambers, nutritionists, and the like have made only marginal improvements. At least as measured by the best cross-decade metric I can imagine.

And, to come back to the original discussion, I don't see any sense in which better tech leads to better spectation - last year's TdF was largely dope-free, and thus the slowest in years, and it was extremely competitive and exciting. 5 guys going up a mountain at 22 kph is not inherently more exciting to witness than 5 guys going up a mountain at 20 kph. I'm not arguing for all races happening on 1972 bikes; my point is simply to endorse (part of) LB's 189. Tech doesn't nec. add anything to the enjoyment of a sport, and so I have no problem with the concept of tech embargoes.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:42 PM
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I play real sports, not try to see who's the best at exercising.


Posted by: Kenny Powers | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:50 PM
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For the record, what are competitive cycling paces at various distances on the flat?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 7:57 PM
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re: 229

AFAIK, the races aren't on the flat. They are either on roads, which go up and down, or on banked velodrome tracks.

Velodrome speeds are insane. The 1km world record is under a minute. 4km (2.5 miles) is a little over 4 minutes.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:04 PM
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Further to 231, those speeds work out at about 37mph.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:05 PM
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4km (2.5 miles) is a little over 4 minutes

Wait, the running record for a mile is under 4 minutes, but the fastest biker only travels ~2.5x that distance in the same amount of time? Something seems off.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:07 PM
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Point granted on Babe Ruth, probably not the best example given his skills as a pitcher etc. I just like to bring some baseball players into discussions like this, since in stark contrast to the Weissmuller/HS swimmer stuff, the Glory of Their Times types love to wax on about how much better the players were back in the day.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:08 PM
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232: Distance, apo. A human can run over 20 MPH, but only for a couple hundred yards. An average cyclist can maintain 20 MPH for miles and miles, an elite cyclist 30 MPH for that far.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:09 PM
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233: I was thinking earlier - how big a freaking difference have the bats made? Didn't Ruth use a 44 oz. bat? Wouldn't a maple 32 ouncer radically change his results? I can hardly imagine.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:11 PM
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Fast bikes with the tech.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:13 PM
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There's a very short distance where the runner beats the biker.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:14 PM
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re: 232

What JRoth, said. Boardman's 1 hour record involved riding roughly 35 miles, in an hour.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:15 PM
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Oh, and wind resistance. 120 years ago, cyclists were setting speed records by riding behind railroad engines, getting up to extraordinary speeds (60 mph?). All the tech and training in the world hasn't bested those efforts*, except by having faster motorized vehicles to draft behind.

* Or maybe only marginally? I'm not going to look it up.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:16 PM
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re: 237

I've seen that done on TV with runner versus car. Human runners accelerate _really_ quickly from a standing start.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:16 PM
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Human runners accelerate _really_ quickly from a standing start.

Laydeez.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:17 PM
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239: lot faster than 60, I think.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:18 PM
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re: 242

Yeah, a quick google has drafted speeds [behind vehicles] at 150mph+.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:21 PM
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244

Youtube video in 236 says 82mph.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:22 PM
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245

Non-drafted, but with farings.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:23 PM
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246

re: 244

That's without a pace car. With a pace car [which cuts air resistance] it's 150+.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:23 PM
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Nice chart from the NYTimes last summer showing progression in winning rates for various Olympic events over the history of the Games.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:24 PM
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248

But what were trains capable of in 1890, is the question.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:29 PM
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249

248: They passed 100 mph about the turn of the century, so a bit under that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:33 PM
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Current record with pace car is 166.9 mph. On a bicycle, for crying out loud. At half that speed I wouldn't know whether to shit or go blind.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:36 PM
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Just a really good downhill is enough to scare the crap out of me.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:38 PM
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252

Distance, apo.

Yes, I understand the concept. I'm just surprised the multiplier isn't larger over a four-minute period.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 8:44 PM
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Speaking of distance, how come they don't have those six-day bicycle races at Madison Square Garden anymore, like I read about as a kid in the novels of Booth Tarkington and Owen Johnson?

I'm afraid future generations of kids won't be as familiar with Major Taylor as I was.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 9:00 PM
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Roy Blakely? Pee Wee Harris?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 9:13 PM
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I think they still have the six day races. In obscurity.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 9:17 PM
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At half that speed I wouldn't know whether to shit or go blind.

True story from the Olden Days:

They lay wood planks on the RR ties for Cyclist to draft behind the train. Chugga-chugga, rocking along at vast speed. Oh noes, end of planks! Burly Assistant reaches out and grabs Cyclist off bike as bike hits RR ties at vast speed. Thanks, BA.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 10:31 PM
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I'm afraid future generations of kids won't be as familiar with Major Taylor as I was.

Are you aware of the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Pgh? Sponsored, in part, by the Public Health school at your institution. Also, I know of at least one 13-y.o. suburban boy in Robinson who knows all about Major Taylor. I can't attest beyond that, except of course that my kids will know.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-24-09 10:33 PM
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152
There's also an argument to be made that US Postal Service began using training techniques that were far superior to the rest of the field, techniques that allowed Armstrong to outstrip the competition in recent years.

It's hard to argue that technology matters all that much when there's still room for improvement in technique by taking lessons from the post office. Any technology or method derived from practical application of the skills should automatically be acceptable. I remember some "lighter side of the news" story a few years ago about an Olympic sprinter who failed to catch someone who picked his pocket. Yeah, there are all those obvious differences - sprinting fully clothed, and maybe there was a crowd - but if the Olympian wasn't watching how the thief ran, he should have been.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 8:30 AM
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There's a velodrome named for Major Taylor in San Diego. Still does quite a brisk business, although I don't actually know if they do six day races.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-09 10:41 AM
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Speaking of distance, how come they don't have those six-day bicycle races at Madison Square Garden anymore, like I read about as a kid in the novels of Booth Tarkington and Owen Johnson?

The deaths.

(Er, Cyrus, you do know US Postal is the name of a team, not the actually Postal service, right?)


Posted by: keir | Link to this comment | 03-26-09 5:25 PM
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