“Watch the Game, Nerds!”

Hockey has long been a sport in which hard work is cherished as the ultimate virtue. You certainly won’t find me arguing that players and coaches do not need to work hard, but somewhere along the line, an undercurrent of distaste for intelligence has developed. Using analytical tools to evaluate players and teams has been met with suspicion and often even hostile disapproval.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about all intelligence being frowned upon here, just the kind that comes from the mouths of those that have never played the game at the NHL level. Intelligent analysis or strategy from “hockey guys” is of course granted a place of almost mythical honor in the sport, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that hockey rejects smartness as a whole. It’s more that hockey often demands that you have the appropriate level of street cred, or rink cred, I guess, in order to be considered to have intelligence of any actual value.

The heart of the now years long stats vs anti-stats battle lies in this mentality. Traditional analysis in hockey tends to put the most stock in experience and knowledge gained from years of playing the game. Statistical analysis in hockey tends to put the most stock in the gathering of data and analysis based there upon. “Watch the game, nerds” and “Your eye-test sucks” spring from the perceived disconnect between those two sides.

Traditional analysts see statistical analysts basing opinions of a player’s skill or value on numbers and perceive a lack of “hockey knowledge” in the results of a computation. This hockey knowledge has in many cases been built through playing the game at an elite level or being part of the game for many years. No one wants to feel like their hard earned skills are not unique or special and are easily replaced by a nerd behind a computer who didn’t have enough talent to play the game. What they usually mean when they say “Watch the Game, Nerds” is “Watch the game the way my years of experience tell me to watch it. Value the qualities that I value.” Continue reading

A Quick Thought On The Slippery Slope Of Hate Politics

We seem to be living in a very precarious time in the US, where average white Americans are becoming increasingly more radicalized against anyone who doesn’t look, think, pray or love exactly like them. I know the people who have been the targets of hatred have felt like this for years, but I, perhaps naively, thought we had been making some small steps toward a more inclusive society. At this point, my overwhelming sense of dread for what is to come has prompted me to put my thoughts into written form.

This is just my opinion on my own personal blog, so take it for what it’s worth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how what we are seeing play out in American politics feels like the long, slow ascent up the first hill of a roller coaster. It will not take much to propel it over the top and send it plummeting down a terrifying hill. The people willingly along for the ride aren’t nihilists hell-bent on the destruction of the Earth. They are just regular people whose fear and anger have made them easy targets for manipulation.

It reminds me of the slow transformation of Germany before World War II. I think the passage of time has made many forget that the Nazis didn’t start their assent to power by saying “we need to exterminate the Jews (and others).” It took years of misdirection, deception and fear-mongering to incite the requisite amount of anti-Jew, anti-Polish sentiment for the German people to even start to support their country’s involvement in another war and even then, acts of aggression by neighboring countries were created or exaggerated in order to sway public support (much like the reports and events that swayed public opinion in the lead up to the Spanish-American War).

The Nazis painted the German way of life as under attack by foreign aggressors. They played upon the economic woes and fears of the regular, everyday people, like you and me, and used their lingering resentment over previous wars and confrontations with neighboring countries to plant the seeds of acceptable hatred and the denial of compassion for other human beings who were different from them. Every bit of this was done under the auspices of making the world a better, safer place.

Even after the German people were at a “sufficient” level of disdain for their government’s chosen enemies, the Nazis didn’t just lay out the details of the plans for the “Final Solution”. They continued to use propaganda and deception (we’re building hospitals, we’re helping them, stay out of the ghettos because it’s not safe for you there, etc). All the while, the real aim was the acquisition of power, empire building and genocide. Many of the people believed the party line because the sentiments the Nazis worked so meticulously to instill made them easy to satisfy with deceptive information and made them lack any impetus to question whether any of it was true or what was really going on.

This is the truly terrifying reality of what we are seeing in the United States. We keep asking “who are these people?” that support leaders with such blatantly hostile approaches to any person or group of people who aren’t exactly like them. The answer to this question is “They are us”. They are your parents, your siblings, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your friends, your co-workers.

We have eaten up the spoon-fed doses of what is happening in the world laced with the poison of hatred and resentment for so long that what should be considered radical ideas of intolerance and unacceptance no longer seem all that extreme to many people. They believe that the world is not a better, safer place because it is constantly under attack by whatever group of people they have been led into resenting so strongly. This belief is what allows people to accept that immoral means are justified by seemingly moral ends. The sentiment of “If we can just get back to when things were good, before {insert group here – women, black people, Muslims, gays, immigrants, etc…} messed everything up” allows people to rationalize a host of actions they would otherwise consider reprehensible and detach themselves from human compassion.

Just something to think about.