What causes knockouts?

Preliminary reading: Concussions Do Not Cause CTE and Concussions Resolve Themselves

Stress and blood pressure builds over the course of the fight, and the volatility of the boxer increases as he gets tired and damage is done.

By the end of the fight, it takes much less of a blow for the boxer the cross the pressure threshold and lose consciousness. So even as the punches lose power, the boxers are still more and more likely to get knocked out.

Each punch raises the internal pressure of the brain system of the boxer. While they recover between rounds, and between blows, the threshold for a mini-stroke becomes lower and lower. Once that threshold is reached, lights-out.

Dear Tiger Woods,

You aren’t trying to be the healthiest golfer in the world. Do not change your diet. Or if you do, keep in mind that your game may change as well. Lowering your weight does not necessarily lower your score. Look at Brooks Koepka or Jason Dufner. There are all sorts of examples.

You aren’t trying to be the strongest golfer in the world. Yes, extra yards off the tee are great, but they don’t mean anything if you can’t get the ball in the cup. Take it to the extreme and you have the Hulk Hogan wannabes hitting the balls half a mile, but they couldn’t hold a torch to the average pro player. Tiger and Rory are exceptions not the rule. And they have had to make major adjustments after they started really hitting the weight room. And they have had their struggles around the greens.

The sport is a very delicate balance of slow and fast switch, power and finesse, and mental endurance. And as we’ve demonstrated in our article about pitching, gaining fast twitch muscles comes at a price.

Your trainer is not a professional golfer. If he was, he wouldn’t be a trainer. He knows how to get you in better shape. If he knew how to make you the best golfer in the world, he would be the best golfer in the world.

Your nutritionist is not a professional golfer. He just isn’t. So start keto or slow carb or whatever so you look better at the beach, but it will come at a cost. Your brain is the most delicate organ of your body. And your nutritionist does not know how your brain works.

What matters is results. Your job is to shoot low. If your trainer or nutritionist takes you down a path that changes your golf game in a negative way, kick the diet. Kick the workout routine. Otherwise you give away your edge. You’re not trying to be the best golfer in the world with a six-pack. You’re trying to be the best golfer in the world.

No one knows how you got to where you were. If they did, they would be there. If anyone asked you, you probably told them that it was all the hours you put in on the range growing up. I won’t argue with that. But I bet you didn’t make drastic diet changes during your teenage years while you were developing your swing and ironing out the kinks. So when you make these changes, be prepared to go back to the drawing board. And there is no one in the world that can get you back to where you were, except you.

Why Can’t DB’s catch?

Hint: It’s the same reason that Shaq couldn’t consistently make free throws. It’s the difference between the start and the finish of the 100-meter dash. 

Their instincts are to chase, to disrupt, to defend. They are typically quicker than the receivers, but can’t catch a cold. Why is that?

It’s because of their mindset. They are in fight-or-flight mode. And the catch is a delicate maneuver.

Receivers have a set path, and a plan of attack. The defensive strategy is entirely reactive, based on what they see from the offense. So thinking quickly is part of their programming. The problem is that thinking quickly does not help you catch a football.

Think about it…receivers catch more passes when they are hit in stride, and don’t have to react or adjust to a bad throw. It’s because the act of changing the path and reacting to an off-target throw takes more energy, and the time is the same.

Look at the catch rate of these receivers. Does it remind you of the free throw percentages in the NBA? It should. Receiving stats look just like free throw stats. The best catchers hover near 90%, and the worst are around 50%, some even dip below 40%. And you know what they call receivers that catch less than 50% of their passes: defensive backs. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.footballdb.com/leaders/active-passing-intpct
  2. https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/player-stat/receiving-catch-rate

Decoding Free Throws

Why can’t some NBA players shoot free throws?

It seems simple. But when you dive in, you realize that it’s a much more intricate problem. We know that countless teams have had infinite time and money to solve this problem, but you still have superstars that can’t shoot any better than someone chosen at random in your neighborhood gym. 

Let’s rule out some arguments. 

It’s not because they are tall. The NBA is filled with tall people that can shoot. Look at Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki. 

It’s not genetics. We’ve already dug into genetics. Gene’s change over time, anyways. There may be some portion that is inherited, but it shouldn’t prevent anyone with twenty years of experience from shooting 70% from the line. 

It’s not the amount of practice they put in. These athletes have dedicated their lives to the sport, so it’s not fair to say that practice is the difference. I think it’s safe to say that Shaq spent at least as much time shooting free throws in practice as Steve Nash. 

Your best athlete is never your best free throw shooter. Unless, you just don’t have any above average shooters. The mindset of an athlete is fast. And the faster the mind, the better the athlete. But at the solitude of the stripe, accuracy and reproduction of the stroke are key, and just like pitchers are endurance athletes, your best shooters will be endurance athletes as well.

Think about it: LeBron, Kyrie, Iverson. Not to mention Russell Westbrook and John Wall, who are shooting under 70% from the line.  They certainly shoot at a higher clip than you or me, but they will never touch Steve Nash or Steph Curry.

Why couldn’t Shaq make free throws?

It’s because these strong guys typically have much more energy than the shorter guys. When they run the court, it takes them longer to settle in. Basically, he uses more energy to do the same amount of work, in part, because he’s big, but also because he’s quick. The faster his mind cycles during his dash down the court, the longer it will take it to slow down enough to shoot. And they don’t give him any more time to shoot just because he’s bigger or pushing himself harder than anyone else. So he has to shoot before he’s ready. Before he’s comfortably at rest. So he flips a coin. 

Shaq, Deandre Jordan, and countless others know only one speed on the court, and that’s full speed. Maximum exertion. The problem is the free throw line rewards those who play in the opposing mindset. We’ve explored how pitchers are endurance athletes. The best shooters are endurance athletes as well. Not because shooting free throws takes any kind of aerobic capacity, but the higher the capacity, the lower the energy of the player when he starts shooting. And that means a shot that’s easier to replicate, and more accurate. 

What is your typical rate of play? How much do you exert yourself to play at that speed? The more efficient and effortless your movement is, the less added strain you’ll have when you go to the line after getting fouled. And the less time you’ll need to settle in to a state of mind that can sink free throws with more precision. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.noahbasketball.com/blog/the-best-free-throw-shooters-in-nba-history
  2. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/79174958
  3. https://www.mensjournal.com/sports/top-10-most-athletic-nba-players-millennium/2-blake-griffin-clippers/
  4. https://www.usab.com/youth/news/2010/01/the-science-behind-your-free-throws.aspx
  5. https://www.82games.com/random23.htm
  6. https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/10/lebron-james-shocking-free-throw-stat
  7. https://stats.nba.com/player/2544/traditional/?Season=2018-19&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&Split=clutch

Rethinking the 100-meter dash

What’s the smallest unit of time that you can perceive. How much does it change throughout the day? At what points does time fly? 

I’ve noticed is that as I relax my mind and see better, my “now” becomes longer. I think it’s why if you focus on a single point when you’re running or working out, you perform better. Because the more “nows” between me and my destination, the worse I’m going to run. Counter-intuitively, the choppier the curves of now, the smoother the time feels. So the fewer points that time stops, the faster time flies. 

Is there any math behind this theory? Yes. Simple calculus. Integre_area37115

Calculus is the math behind finding the exact area of the curve. Take a look at this curve. For a moment, I want you to imagine the curve as time it takes you to run 10 meters. The chops of the curve are your instantaneous now. As you stress your mind and body, these shorten. And you run slower, and you use more energy. The key to your fastest race is the thickest bars under the graph [after you get going]. 

Think about the 100-meter dash. Let’s assume that everyone has perfect running form, and a perfect start. Usain Bolt takes 41 strides, Justin Gatlin takes 42.5, Johan Blake takes 46. Why does that matter? The person that wins the 100-meter dash is the person that slows down the least. Everyone slows down. And if everyone has the same top speed, and gets to that speed in the same amount of time, the only difference between Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin is that Gatlin slows down a little more over the course of the race. His relative “now” is slightly shorter than Bolts, meaning that he’ll need more strides to complete the race. And more energy. And more time. 

There’s one more important thing to discuss about the 100-meter dash. The acceleration phase. The portion of the race where the runner accelerates to top speed. This portion rewards those that compress time the most. The harder you push, the shorter the amount of time between strides, the faster you accelerate. 

So before you write off the 100-meter dash as a simple display of athleticism, remember the delicate balance of rest and relaxation. The race pits runners against each other, and against themselves. Push too hard, and you’ll come up short. Don’t push hard enough, and you lose. Transitioning two opposing mindsets is key as the runners changing their perception of time throughout the race. 

Sources:

  1. https://news.ncsu.edu/2011/06/wms-dogs/
  2. https://animalogic.ca/wild/7-near-psychic-animals-that-might-just-be-able-to-predict-disasters-before-they-happen

I am Seau

I finally got around to watching the 30-for-30 on Junior Seau last night. As a natural follow up to my posts about concussions and CTE, this was a must. Not to mention the documentary was incredible, and provided great insight to an unbelievable career that met an unfortunate end. 

Junior Seau was the most talented athlete of his family, a hard worker, and freak of nature on the field. He made his presence known in college and moved on to the NFL where he continued to dominate. He imposed his will on NFL offenses for two decades. 

The problem comes off the field. When they get home. This state of mind is a gift for coaches and for teams, but it can be a curse for the individuals, if they don’t know how to properly wield it. It’s paramount that this beast is left on the field. If you bring this home to meet your family, you’ll bring home a void that you will never fill. 

Imagine, if you had the ability to freeze time, but didn’t know it. Once you remove the outlet [football], things really start to go haywire. These guys consume massive amounts of calories and have no problem burning them off in the warrior mindset. But when they retire and make their entrance into the real world, they will have some big adjustments to make. Not only will they need to make some diet changes, but the outlet for this mindset is even more important. Without that, the frame spills into your life. The insatiable, unbreakable beast has no place in your home. Your wife will never be enough. You will never be enough. 

How can I compare myself to such a legend?

Because I know what this feels like. The expectations. The relentless work. The speed. The instincts. I just always assumed that as long as I worked harder than everyone else, I would be successful. So I just constantly pushed myself, for fifteen years. I doubt anyone has logged more time working out in the past two decades than this guy. I know how to push. 

The problem is, though, that I’ve always struggled with relaxation and recovery. I can’t be the best, because I can’t relax. There is always something that I’m working to improve, to learn, to do, so why would I ever just chill? It turns out, that is as important as anything you do. The time that you do nothing. Or for me, just the ability to do nothing. 

I developed an entire personality around my lizard brain. I lived that way for years. The problem is, it makes relationships hard. It makes every thing that makes life worth living, impossible. Life is a slow game, and people that do whatever it is that I did, die early. So I’m trying to learn to settle in. To hang out. To chill. To be content. It’s not easy, because I can pretty easily go down a train of thoughts to convince myself I could be doing something better with my time. Something more productive. But it turns out that life isn’t a race. Or at very least, it isn’t a sprint. 

What you need to know if you’re trying to transition from warrior to settled? 

Know that it’s going to be the hardest thing you ever do. You’re going to be sad and helpless, but it will pass. You were happy before your fame, and you’ll be happy after. Find some way to burn off steam, to tap into that frame of mind that made you special. Do not sit in front of a desk for the next decade. 

Use your gifts. You were made a warrior, so no amount of sitting in front of a screen will change any part of that. Find something you’re passionate about, and pursue it with reckless abandon, the same way you pursued football. 

Your condition is reversible. Your brain is fully capable of the level of happy that you had when you were younger. 

Suicide is not an option.  What’s next may be worse than what you’re going through now. And it may last a whole lot longer. 

Talk to someone. A friend. A counselor. Someone you can completely open up to. Be completely honest, and question your own logic. Doubt your fears. 

Don’t be like me. Don’t be like Seau. Check your abilities at the door. Control your inner beast. Your sanity and longevity depend on it. 

Rethinking Home Field Advantage

Everyone seems to have a theory about home field advantage. Here’s one you haven’t heard before. 

Freakonomics says it’s the referees. There is probably some truth to this, but what about sports that do not have referees? Since 1983, the host team has won the Ryder Cup 70% of the time. So there is something else at play here.

There are more fouls in important games. But why? If we say that the referees are so crucial to the game outcomes, it’s probably because there is more pressure on them. FiveThirtyEight’s blog did a piece about the home advantage playoff “boost.” Strangely enough, hockey does not get a boost at all.

In baseball, playing at home is only gives you a 2.6% edge.  That’s really low if you’re thinking that crowd, umpires, and atmosphere play a major role here. Not to mention the added advantage of the home team batting last.

Soccer has the best home field advantage of any mainstream sport. The home team wins 49% of the time, and the away team only wins 29% of the time. Draws make up the other 22%.

Also worth noting, Denver athletics have the top home field advantage in every sport [Except hockey. Calgary has the highest advantage in hockey, and has an altitude of 3500 feet]. So altitude definitely plays a role here. 

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It’s clear that it’s the sports. Not the franchises.

So why the huge difference between home field advantage in soccer and basketball?

Being similar endurance sports, you’d expect similar results. The home team in soccer wins 49% of the time, the away team wins 29% of the time, and they draw 22% of the time. If we say that half of the draws are wins, and half are losses you get a home field advantage right on par with that of basketball [8%-10%].

Why doesn’t home field advantage in baseball matter much at all? 

Home advantage in baseball is under 3%. That’s almost a fair game. Take a look at the endurance athletes, that make decisions that impact the play of the game. It’s the pitchers, and they have much less control over a game than a quarterback does on a football field.  Not to mention, they may be pulled before they complete the game for match ups , poor performance, or if they just didn’t have good “stuff” that day. So even if pitchers had a decent control over the action, they may only throw for a couple innings.

Your batters and fielders in baseball are your speed and strength guys. They are less effected by the environment, and translate better to road games.

What conclusions can we make here? 

The main decision makers in the game, what type of athletes are they? If they are endurance athletes, home field advantage is much greater. For example, take the quarterbacks of the NFL. They are going to be the individuals most effected by the change in environment, and since they basically run the show, it’s a much more dramatic home field advantage.

In soccer and basketball, most of the athletes are endurance athletes and decision makers. The new environment has a small but measurable impact in the athletes, changing their timing, essentially. This is why the warm up is essential, even to players who have been at it their whole lives. Conditions are never exactly the same.

Your speed/strength athletes will be effected much less by the conditions. If you’re strong at sea level, you’re strong at 5000 feet. But timing is much more complicated than that. A basketball shot isn’t about how far you can shoot or how high you can jump. It’s a very precise, fluid motion. There’s a lot more room for error around the rim, so your “bigs” in basketball should be less effected by the environment. 

Translating this to football, the majority of the athletes are speed and strength guys. So naturally, the sport is much less effected by home field advantage. The quarterbacks are the athletes most affected by the new environment, and because in most NFL games they play a major role in the outcome, it comes to reason that home field advantage should be close behind soccer and basketball. Obviously, this line of thought has its limitations. Alabama has the biggest, fastest, and strongest players in college football, so the quarterback really doesn’t matter.

The sport is the most important factor in determining the strength of your home field advantage. The nature of the athletes controlling play is more important than altitude or the referees in determining how many wins you have at home. 

Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_advantage
  2. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/in-126-years-english-football-has-seen-13475-nil-nil-draws/
  3. https://deadspin.com/which-teams-in-each-sport-have-the-biggest-home-field-a-1828880402
  4. https://statsbylopez.netlify.com/post/playing-at-home/
  5. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-home-playoff-game-is-a-big-advantage-unless-you-play-hockey/
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/sports/soccer/12score.html
  7. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/07/25/home-field-advantage/#6598fad73fdc
  8. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sbnation.com/platform/amp/tennis/2013/8/9/4599096/tennis-home-court-advantage-us-open
  9. https://www.sbnation.com/2011/1/19/1940438/home-field-advantage-sports-stats-data
  10. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbssports.com/fantasy/baseball/news/home-away-splits-factor-into-making-fantasy-pitching-decisions—but-theres-a-twist/amp/
  11. https://www.google.com/amp/s/gizmodo.com/the-surprising-way-jet-lag-impacts-major-league-basebal-1791521616/amp
  12. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.isportsweb.com/2016/06/29/mlb-analytics-statistical-discrepancies-home-away-games/amp/
  13. http://review.chicagobooth.edu/magazine/spring-2014/home-field-advantage-the-facts-and-the-fiction
  14. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1604854-how-much-does-home-field-advantage-matter-in-soccer
  15. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1520496-how-important-is-home-court-advantage-in-the-nba
  16. https://www.numberfire.com/nfl/news/7490/the-best-home-and-road-quarterbacks-of-2015