html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Where was the ref?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Where was the ref?

I read the BagNewsNotes the same way I read Unfogged, with the feeling that I don’t have the training to understand the discussion. BagNewsNotes is written by a psychologist analyzing pictures; I’m no shrink and profoundly not visual. The discussions over there (when they are more about pictures and less about politics) fascinate me. In my naiveté, it would simply not have occurred to me that a large circle around a subject’s head is meant to suggest a halo and goodness. I don’t expect that I’ll develop any particular skill at interpreting pictures, but some comments have stuck with me.

One commenter (and I wish I could find the link to her) said that she always, with every portrait she views, covers each side of the subject’s face sequentially. She says one side of the portrait will reveal the public persona, the other, the person’s private emotions. I tried it with this Economist cover. The right sides of Bush’s and Hu’s faces were neutral enough. But the left sides! Holy shit, I would never fuck with President Hu. He would eat me for breakfast. That direct gaze and cocked eyebrow? He’s freakin' steel. Then I looked at Bush’s left face and couldn’t believe how sad he is. I almost had some compassion for him.

But then, today I saw this comment:

Check this pic and get out your whistle:

Regardless of which caption correctly describes the behaviour of young George, (as a hero or a villain) observe his left arm, positioning himself for a *head high tackle.* This type of reckless and dangerous play frequently occurs in the final stages of a game due to a close score, skill level, fatigue and surface in particular personality types when under pressure. [additional text omitted]
Posted by: jtfromBC Sep 17, 2006 at 10:27 AM

And I remembered how much I believe you can tell who a person is by how she plays sports. Several years back, there was an entirely pleasant and well-socialized woman who played pick-up with us. You could have her over and she behaved at parties, made friends with people. But I gradually came to the conclusion that she was a sociopath, or whatever you call people with zero empathy for anyone and the belief that the rules don’t apply to them. She would do small sneaky things all the time, like look down, see that she was o.b. and then step back in without stopping play and turning over the disc. And she would do overt things, like shout at you as you were catching (foul). She constantly cherry-picked, which is just ruinous if you care about your defense, but she wanted to catch the score more than she wanted to play as a team. She invariably hucked it long, with her beautiful throws and terrible judgment. As our game got more formal, people were increasingly unwilling to play on her side, which she attributed to our sexism.

In fact, she attributed a lot to our sexism. When people called her on her shit, she’d get angry and tell us that she was playing the way men did and it only seemed strange coming from a woman. (She may have had a point about the pointless long hucks.) But no one else in any game I’ve played in has ever behaved like that. One guy told me that the only time he has ever been low-bridged in the twenty years he has been playing was when he went up for a disc against her and she intentionally knocked his legs from under him. The sexism defense was especially frustrating, because I want to support aggressive woman players. I want to support any woman players. But not her. When I decided she wasn’t right (um, not on any issue, but in the sense that she was wrong inside), I adopted a policy of staying far away from her. I think that broken people are too unpredictable to interact with safely.

I don’t know enough about rugby to know what Bush is doing in that picture. Like Snopes says, sports pictures are ambiguous and I don’t even know what a head high tackle is. But if Bush did dangerous, sneaky shit on the field, I hate him in a whole new way. I hope he is as sad as he looks and I revoke my earlier almost-compassion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, as I've said before, I like extremely competitive people. But, flat out cheating is different. I'd say most of the people I played basketball with would call themselves on things, like if they went out and no one noticed, or traveled and no one noticed.

And, while I'm all for intentional fouls, intentionally doing things that could seriously hurt someone isn't acceptable. Being undercut sucks. And, knocking people out of the air is a good way to send them to the hospital.


4:08 PM  
Anonymous ptm said...

Sounds like her inappropriate long hucks are different than mine - I come up with better explanations. My reciever had height and position! The defender that was a newbie that couldn't be expected to read!

The sample size is rather low, but the only times I've ever been intentionally undercut have been by women. And seeing as how I'm usually a long reciever, I end up going up for a lot of discs.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Really? That's interesting to hear.

Why you gotta huck like that? You were only at a four-count.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous ogged said...

she always, with every portrait she views, covers each side of the subject’s face sequentially

Ha, yeah, I do this too: side and side, top and bottom. It's really amazing how some things jump out.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous ogged said...

Oh, and thanks for the pointer. I didn't know about that site, but it seems very cool.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

He got popular when he got in with Huffington and I thought the comments got away from the pictures and more into politics. So I like the old discussions much better, when it was a bunch of geeks talking about the way the picture was framed.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's cherry picking?

5:32 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Recently heard that GW was the "brander" in his fraternity. Apparently very enthusiastic about his role in burning the frat symbol into fratmates. Yet another creepy thing to hate.

Honestly, I'm so tired of the hating though! Sometimes it seems like they're trying extra hard to bring me to new levels of hating them!

Of course I'm kidding... I know that "they" could not care less what I think about the job they're doing.

I hate them for that too.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

To cherry pick is when a defender hangs back near his own goal when the play has moved toward the offense's goal. The hope is that the offensive team will turn over the disc, and someone from the cherry-picker's team will send it to the uncovered cherry-picker at the far end of the field for a score. The drawback is that it leaves an offensive person open close to his or her own goal.

It is a pretty good strategy for tired people playing casual pick-up, but rude to a team that cares about defense.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

Ah, the same as not running back to play D in basketball. Hate that. It works until the other team figures out how to take advantage of being a man (or woman) up when on offense. Of course, our budding rational choice theorist Megan knows all this and related it to how casual the game is.

Now that I think about it, something similar happens in soccer too. But in soccer, being a man up NEVER helps, so they had to make an offsides rule to prevent cherry-picking.

Sexism is as hard to disprove as it is to prove, unfortunately. I imagine Ultimate isn't the only place she feels victimized.

How were her actual skills? Was she fast? Tall? Etc? Is it possible she would have felt like an embarassment without cheating?

5:58 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

It is the same as not running back to play D in basketball. I must not have explained it well.

Actually, her skills made me sad. I thought she was one of the most natural athletes in our game, an amazing reader, great throws, really quick. I envied her talent and thought her decisions insulted her skills.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you said 'his own goal', you meant the goal that he/she is trying to score on, right? So it's basically neglecting defense in the slightly-unlikely hopes of being able to score if the disc is suddenly intercepted?

-the same anonymouse as before

6:02 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

"Recently heard that GW was the "brander" in his fraternity. Apparently very enthusiastic about his role in burning the frat symbol into fratmates. Yet another creepy thing to hate."

I was highly suspicious of this statement. Nothing on Some reasonably credible Web sites do say that GWB's fraternity at Yale (Dekes) did brand pledges at that time. I found nothing credible to indicate that GWB himself did or did not wield a brand.

Having been in a fraternity (and no, we did not brand pledges, or otherwise physically abuse them!), it is typical for a pledge to have a "big brother" among the active members. I would guess if there was branding in GWB's fraternity, it was a pledge's big brother (or whatever equivalent the Dekes had) who had the responsibility to carry out the branding.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

6:02 Anonymouse:
Yep, that's it.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny to me that there are unwritten rules in all sports, even one as seemingly 'pick-up' as ultimate. (granted I knew very little about ultimate) But there are things in all sports that are considered rude: admiring your home run, skating too close to the other team's bench, cherry-picking... -K.

7:35 AM  
Blogger NL said...

In rugby, one is required by the Law to tackle the ball-carrier below the shoulders, using a wrapping motion. Which is to say, one cannot fly into someone with a shoulder, like in football, and one can (in principle) not pull someone down by the shoulders.

The greatest key to tackling well is to 'get low' and tackle someone around the thighs. As one gets tired this gets harder and harder, and it's often tempting to just run into people. It's ineffective and dangerous.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

NL, since you know the game, would it be possible to attempt to tackle someone at or slightly below shoulder level (whether due to fatigue or lack of skill or whatever), only to have them duck the tackle? Wouldn't a photograph of such an event look much like the cited photograph? We seem to be reading way too much into this.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

Ironically, one of the things I learned playing organized ultimate is that very few people actually have a good sense for when it's rational to huck. Most handlers think they're rationally avoiding the huck, when in fact they're irrationally playing it safe.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

Zach, I've never played Ultimate, but what you say makes a great deal of sense. Competent players in all sports tend to be risk-averse. In particular, if they can delay a decision, they will generally do so. This is all the more true in a team sport where no one wants to be that guy who made a unilateral, executive decision to huck it and lost possession for the team. Megan's reaction to that girl shows how bad this can be.

The same rule goes in football and basketball, academic research has shown that coaches are generally way too conservative. They would rather take a virtually certain chance at staying in the game rather than a decent shot at winning the game when the probabilities suggest they should do the opposite.

5:15 AM  

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