August 17, 2012

Finland v. Sweden in the Anti-Olympics

Americans love a winner. We like superstars. We have a huge country and our institutions are conducive to the formulation of world-conquering individuals in sports and entertainment. Outside of vicarious pride, though, it's not clear that America's superstaritis does the average American much good, as measured by, say, diabetes rates.

A Swede writes to inform me of a Sweden v. Finland sports competition that sounds pretty cool, although alien to 21st Century America in its emphasis on national victory by the many instead of producing a few superstars.
The annual Track & Field dual meet between Finland and Sweden (Finnkampen in Swedish) can possibly be an explanation as to why Finnish T&F is no longer competitive on a world basis. It is a big thing in sports in both countries - a T&F field meet with generally ho-hum athletes that fills big stadia for 2 days straight in late summer. In Sweden, national TV devotes at least 5 hours coverage - straight, without ads - of each day. 
[Finland has won eight of the last ten on the men's side, and Sweden all ten on the women's side, but the competitions are close. In 2011, 206-194 among the men and 225-182 among women.]

How can that be bad for Finnish T&F at the Olympics?

How you count means a lot - La Griffe has pointed out that by making tests either insanely hard or laughably simple, it is possible to minimize the race gap in school tests. Similar Principle.

The way that is used to calculate which country wins the competition is really good at doing what it is intended to to - be simple to understand to the casual fan, make all results count, provide human interest stories that the journalists can gobble up, and provide excitement.

Here is how it works: All events in the entire T&F olympic program (except decathlon & heptathlon) are contested during the two days. Each country fields 3 athletes in every event. The winner of an event gets 7 points, the #2 gets 5 points, and so on with 4,3,2, and 1 point for last. Athletes that fail to produce a valid result or a disqualified get 0 points. There are no bonus points for anything - nothing extra for national or world records, nothing.  

American high school and college dual meets are typically scored 5 points for first place, 3 for second, and 1 for third, which isn't hugely different, but does mean it's better for the team to have the winner than the second and third place finishers.
Both countries field competitors that are completely team-loyal - there are no primadonnas that put their own race times before the best of the country.

The 7,5,4,3,2,1 points system ensures that all results count, and this makes makes for stories. Since all fans have booklets with all contestants names and Personal Best results, and the emcee really works the crowd, everybody is fascinated by not just who wins, but by who rises to the occasion and does better than expected.

So, it helps to have a lot of nerds in your country who like their spectator sports with large dollops of arithmetic. Electoral Vote forecaster Nate Silver of the 538 blog would love this meet. I would too.
Every year, there is some athlete who was expected to end up last, but managed to beat one guy on the other team, thus giving his team an unexpected point. Since so many of the points are easy to guess beforehand - in many events, the winner is someone who gets invited to bigger meets in Europe, and is head&shoulders over the the rest in both teams - the overall win is often decided on the marginal athletes. These are athletes that struggle to get bronzes in the national championships, and never get sent to International championships. Suddenly, they get thrust onto a field with 40000 wildly cheering fans, who will roar the names of everyone in the right jersey.  Every year, some of those marginals rise to the challenge, and push their team over the magic 231 points. 
Imagine 40 thousand people roaring SAILER! SAILER! SAILER! while you are completely winded, and trying to overtake some guy who is just marginally better than you with 100 meters left of the 10000 meter race - would you be able to wring out that last ounce of power from your aching muscles?

10000 meters? Sounds exhausting. But, yes, I can imagine my responding to the roar of the crowd chanting my name by heroically keeping my face down in the water a little longer to eke out the last few centimeters to finish fifth instead of sixth in the Plunge for Distance. I would totally do that.
Then, when the two days are over, the entire team - over a hundred strong - takes a victory lap, and throw their head coach into the water pit of the steeplechase. The marginals who managed to nab a unexpected point become media darlings for a few days, and those are they guys who are used to being no-names outside their club, and they are often no-names in their local Podunk also. Suddenly, Podunk News has a new hometown hero to write about. Journalists love such stories. Imagine a 3rd-string Rhode Island GOP politician who, by lots of campaingning, manages to get 3 votes in the electoral college for the GOP, thereby reaching 271 votes total.

So, there are approaching 100 men and 100 women representing each year their small countries of five million (Finland) and nine million (Sweden), so, that must mean that most people in the country are within a couple of degrees of separation of somebody working out to make the national team: my aunt's best friend's grandson is a definite contender to represent the homeland in the steeplechase.
Since the event is so important for both federations (both for money and attracting new kids to the sport) they really work to win it, and that means reacting to the dictates of the points system. (This is like teaching to the test!) In order the win this event, there is no marginal utility for the Finnish federation in improving a promising young guy who reliably can beat all three Swedes, but is not a major player on the international scene, to something better. Time, money, and effort is much better spent on improving the national also-rans so that your weakest guy can reliably beat their weakest guy, and possibly beat their #2 if everything comes together and the gods are smiling.

However, what is strategically sensible WRT improving winning probablity in the annual mealticket meet is not a good recipe for maximising Olympic medal count. The great majority of those who compete in the annual meet are not going to amount to anything on the Olympic level - personal best results show that at a glance. Yet, money&resources get shunted from the top-10 who would be possible Olympic contestants to a whole pile of inherently weaker athletes.

To contend for Olympic gold in track, it makes sense to hire Africans to move to your country, the way Portugal won a silver medal in the men's 100 meter dash awhile ago with a Nigerian sprinter, or rich, sedentary Persian Gulf oil states buy Kenyan distance runners. But if hiring a foreign superstar just discourages your native talent from bothering, it can backfire in this kind of competition where it's important to have a whole bunch of regular guy athletes train hard in the hopes not of becoming the new Bruce Jenner and never having to get a real job, but of representing their country in front of thousands of cheering fans once or twice in their lives.
That is probably a significant part of the explanation for why Finnish T&F has retreated on the international scene, together with the emergence of the East-African runners at distances of 800 meters and up.

I know that saying this will possibly get my Republican voter registration torn up, but Americans could learn a thing or two from the Nordics.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Give the olympics a rest. The hot news story is the climate of hatred fomented by SPLC has caused a shooting.

bjdubbs said...

How do we know beforehand who the star is going to be? US tennis has this problem. The well-funded USTA cherry picks the best juniors, invites them to Florida or California, gives them the best coaching . . . and has never produced a top 100 player. All of the top players come from nowhere and were groomed by parents and local coaches. The fact the US doesn't have a central federation running things is part of our strength (and nobody can pick winners anyway). Donald Young was youngest junior number 1 ever - he just lost his 14th pro match in a row.

Anonyia said...

Sounds a bit like the atmosphere for high school cross-country meets; a bunch of outdoorsy nerds get together and run hard without being oh-so-serious. Scoring is based on the place of top 5 (sometimes 7) individuals on each team. Lowest score wins.

Anonymous said...

Please don't give the Olympics a rest. You've written a lot of fascinating posts over the last month or two.

-Risto

FWG said...

I totally agree with your last line, Steve. If that gets me excommunicated, then fine. I'm so proud to have Finnish heritage. I wasn't even aware of this competition, but like you, I can see myself pushing just a bit harder hearing throngs of people chant my name.

NOTA said...

Wait, does admiring Nordic countries mean you're a Commie or a Nazi? I can never keep these things straight.

DaveinHackensack said...

Of course there are things we can learn from the Nordic countries (and other well-run countries). The key is to learn what we can profitably apply here and what is just the result of different demographics.

Matra said...

Donald Young was youngest junior number 1 ever - he just lost his 14th pro match in a row.

Actually, it's worse than that. He's lost 17 in a row - the most recent earlier this week in Cincinnati.

elvisd said...

"Sounds a bit like the atmosphere for high school cross-country meets; a bunch of outdoorsy nerds get together and run hard without being oh-so-serious. Scoring is based on the place of top 5 (sometimes 7) individuals on each team. Lowest score wins."

Outdoorsy nerds and party types who aren't football material. I remember being the only junior higher on the CC team (I was the nerd) riding with a bunch of Saturday night tailgaiters to a match) at an old national guard training area. I didn't realize that they had knocked back a couple of beers apiece before beginning. We still got third place.

Anonymous said...

i been calling for white leagues forever

dearieme said...

Pah! And pah again! I'll have you know that I, as a boy, attended one of the great needle matches of history: Scotland vs England at quoits.

stari_momak said...

"I know that saying this will possibly get my Republican voter registration torn up, but Americans could learn a thing or two from the Nordics."

We have a strange paradox in this country, where the party which gets an overwhelming number of votes from Euro-Americans positively hates Europe, and the party which is close to, if not past, the point of getting most of its votes from non-Europeans, supposedly loving the fair-skinned folk on the other side of the Atlantic.

stari_momak said...

I've been to a few 10k's here where the MC at the finish line will scan a number, look up the scant personal info from the entry form, and say something like -- "here comes Suzy from Aptos, way to go", or "here's Bob from Escondido, looks like he might have a chance to set a PR". If I recall, the San Fran marathon used to do something similar too, when it finished at Kaiser stadium

Eric said...

I know that saying this will possibly get my Republican voter registration torn up, but Americans could learn a thing or two from the Nordics.

How long will it last, given the rate they're importing people from Africa and the Middle East?

Anonymous said...

Kezar.

ray said...

We have a huge country and our institutions are conducive to the formulation of world-conquering individuals in sports and entertainment

in sports, but certainly not in entertainment

40 or 50 years ago that was true -- every song on my transistor was unique, vibrant, and often took years to create and polish

now . . . the airwaves are full of recycled crap, and music is ruled (like society) by identity-genres, with every song w/in the genre a clone of each other

madonna, minaj, beyonce, gaga ad nauseum/infinitum only "conquer the world" via hucksterism, p.r., repitition, and the incredible dumbing down of the masses . . . their "music" would have been laughed away in better days, and dismissed as the talentless, soul-less junk it is

Anonymous said...

When you talk about this Finland vs. Sweden as opposed to the USA in the Olympics you're illustrating the difference between Patriotism (Love of community/country) and Nationalism (love of the Nation state).

Although they're no doubt working to destroy it, Sweden & Finland are still actual countries, filled with homogeneous populations that can cheer for their guys.

Geoff Matthews said...

I think that there is a growing suspicion among conservatives that Nordic countries are run so well because they are filled with Nordic people.
Even ignoring the HBD side of things, having a group of people who share a common history and culture will also, necessarily, have a lot of internal trust.
Democracy, multiculturalism and socialism, pick two.
Seeing as America was intent on importing slaves, and then instituting Jim Crow, we are stuck with multiculturalism.

beowulf said...

"...by heroically keeping my face down in the water a little longer to eke out the last few centimeters to finish fifth instead of sixth in the Plunge for Distance."

Careful! Drowning victims get 0 points.
Great post. Another thing the Nordics do right is small standing armies and large militia (naturally they still draft). Finland's population of 5 million 350,000 reservists is like the US having 21 million National Guardsmen.

Anonymous said...

Do the Finns get to take their automatic rifles home?

goatweed

gummist said...

Do Americans love winners? Lately not winner-winners. Whites are made to feel bad for having won so much in the past.

Our ideology is victimology, which sides with losers.

But Americans don't like loser-losers all that much either. American Indians and even Mexers to some extent are loser-losers. They lost historically but don't seem to win much in the new order.

America today loves loser-winners, former losers who have risen to the top.
Intellectually, it's the Jews.
Athletically, sexually, and musically it be da negroes.
Creatively and artistically, it's the fruiters.

Loser-winners are the ones with the power and ability to take power and pride from the former
winner-winners.

Also, Americans like power that is expressed and can be measured individually. Jews, gays, and blacks make for strong individualism.
But Mormons and Asians are powerful more for social cohesion, unity, and cooperation than for individual stand-outness, and so they garner far less respect.

Anonymous said...

"But, yes, I can imagine my responding to the roar of the crowd chanting my name by heroically keeping my face down in the water a little longer to eke out the last few centimeters to finish fifth instead of sixth in the Plunge for Distance."

He keeps this up and plunging is gonna be as much a staple of wasp jokes as lightbulbs are to polack jokes.

Anonymous said...

"Another thing the Nordics do right is small standing armies and large militia (naturally they still draft). Finland's population of 5 million 350,000 reservists is like the US having 21 million National Guardsmen."

Yeah, the Nords, especially Swedes seem to be on the lookout for another Nazi invasion--never mind Sweden was not invaded by Germany--, and maybe Sweden is allowing in all those immigrants from Muslim and African nations to win their support in fighting the Nazis who are of course ALL AROUND. Girl with the ass tattoo said so.

Revenge of the Nords is a very stupid thing.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people here have never heard of Malmö it seems. AFAIK the only Nordic country not to have drunk the multicult kool-aid is Denmark.

Anonymous said...

"That is probably a significant part of the explanation for why Finnish T&F has retreated on the international scene, together with the emergence of the East-African runners at distances of 800 meters and up."

Mr. Sailer, please, have you ever checked the development of times "at distances of 800 meters and up"? I will answer instead of you: No, you didn't. It is just much easier to repeat, what other people say. If you actually did it, you would be very, very surprised, what was the so-called "African emergence" based on. It is quite a funny finding, believe me. For a start, I would recommend the 800/1500 m. You can begin in 1980.

Bilejones said...

Americans can't even learn of the dangers of marijuana:
The danger you might be the fastest man on earth.
The danger that you might be the fastest man in water.
As Bolt and Phelps have shown us.

The Country is, however, ineducable.

Anonymous said...

Is Matt Drudge's last name really Drudge? True or not, it's a perfect name for what he does for he drudges up all sorts of news.

Maybe Sailer should change his last name to Plunge. He can be Steve Plunge and have his Plunge Report. And it would suit him because he tries to dive into the deeper meanings of things.

He should at least copyright 'plunge report' or 'plunge forum'.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

We have a huge country and our institutions are conducive to the formulation of world-conquering individuals in sports and entertainment

US dominance seems rather narrow. Our athletes are concentrated in a few TV-friendly specialties. Women's soccer is a prime example of suburban Americans exploiting a niche due to apathy by the rest of the world. US Olympic weightlifting, on the other hand, is a disgrace. I heard zero about US placings in the field events. The coverage struck me as entirely skewed to gymnastics, swimming and women's track.

I don't really follow Olympic sports, so I'm open to being proved wrong.

Anonymous said...

That is really cool Steve, thanks for letting us know about this.

Stirner said...

I spent one spring in high school as the lowly "manager" on the high school track team. Aside from setting up hurdles and toting water bottles, one of the nice things about it was that during meets, you got to play a role in timing events and recording scores.

Steve is absolutely right that Track and Field is incredibly exciting once you have a grip on the scoring situation, and the backstory on the next few competitions. Minute by minute who is winning and who is losing can change, depending on the results from each event, and you can play out all sorts of scoring scenarios to get to a win in the end.

It is sporting catnip for nerds, and it sounds like the Nordics do a great job of bringing all that out for a mass audience. Individual races (as shown in the Olympics) are only mildly exciting. But in the context of an inter-team meet, the interest increases by an order of magnitude.

It sounds like the Nordics are milking the event to create maximum interest, at the cost of Olympic glory. They are probably better off for it, at least in terms of creating gripping sports competitions.

Red Fox said...

"US dominance seems rather narrow. Our athletes are concentrated in a few TV-friendly specialties. Women's soccer is a prime example of suburban Americans exploiting a niche due to apathy by the rest of the world. US Olympic weightlifting, on the other hand, is a disgrace. I heard zero about US placings in the field events. The coverage struck me as entirely skewed to gymnastics, swimming and women's track.

I don't really follow Olympic sports, so I'm open to being proved wrong."

An American man, last name Hoffa, won bronze in shotput. Two American men finished first and second in the decathalon respectively. There may have been others. Television coverage of men's track and field was strong. The U.S. won roughly 30% of its medals in track and field and another 30% in swimming. No other sport was over 10%. The reason why gymnastics, aquatics, and athletics get so much television coverage is that those are the sports in which the U.S. has accumulated the most medals. The NBC Olympics website has good statistics on this year's medal count and the all time count.

Luke Lea said...

In other words a return to amateur sport and local rivalry.

Antioco Dascalon said...

The "African Emergence" seems real enough to me, most clearly in the steeplechase. From 1968-1987, you had a Finn, Swedes, Poles, Americans, Australians, Soviets, French, Italians, etc run the fastest time of the year. But from 1988 to the present only one country had the fastest runner: Kenya. To sum up, in the first 20 years of the modern steeplechase, people from 12 different countries ran the fastest time of the year, but for the past 24 years, only one country has produced the fastest runner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeplechase_(athletics)
And of the top 20 all time performances, 15 are by Kenyan-born runners, 4 by runners of North African descent and one Ugandan squeaking in at #20.

JustAClown said...

and the sort of person who scoffs at the nordics are basically young white males of the online commentator variety. They are driven/pushed to the Right by the white-hating PseudoLeft, and yet these small nordic nations are the best example of why homogeneity makes the best nations of all time.

Ironic?

Beecher Asbury said...

To contend for Olympic gold in track, it makes sense to hire Africans to move to your country, the way Portugal won a silver medal in the men's 100 meter dash awhile ago with a Nigerian sprinter, or rich, sedentary Persian Gulf oil states buy Kenyan distance runners. But if hiring a foreign superstar just discourages your native talent from bothering, it can backfire ...

Can't the same be said about bringing in immigrants in the STEM fields?

DaveinHackensack said...

"Women's soccer is a prime example of suburban Americans exploiting a niche due to apathy by the rest of the world."

Given the zeal with which countries such as China pursue Olympic medals, why the apathy WRT women's soccer? It's not as if they eschew other women's sports.

Jeff W. said...

I am glad you wrote this. You have not had any Finnish content for quite some time.

You can hardly expect to keep your loyal legions of Finnish readers if you won't give them any Finnish content.

jody said...

"That is probably a significant part of the explanation for why Finnish T&F has retreated on the international scene, together with the emergence of the East-African runners at distances of 800 meters and up."

i don't know how to explain it, but it's certainly not the case that "the black guys showed up and just beat the white guys". if you look at what guys from finland were doing from 1972 to 1992, the times they were running in 1972 in the 1500, 5000, and 10000 were fast enough to medal in 1992. in a few cases, they were actually faster than the times from 1992. yet the guys from finland had disappeared by 1992. white guys from other nations were winning medals in the 1500, 5000, and 10000 in 1992 but the runners from finland had vanished.

and i don't mean "well they just got beat by the black guys in the prelims and semis", i mean they don't even show up for the olympic track meet. runners from finland appear to not even go to the olympics now. at the 1996 olympic track meet there is not a single runner from finland in the prelims of the 1500, 5000, or 10000. how do they go from running times in 1972 that are so fast they would be competitive today, to not even sending any runners to the olympic track meet?

jody said...

check the IAAF world rankings in the 5000 for 2012:

http://tinyurl.com/cltpbsb

there is not one guy from finland on the list. if they were "just getting beat now" they would still show up on a list of performances from around the world. they wouldn't need to run well at major international track meets to have their times appear on the internet. in the internet age, we get everybody's electronically timed results from track meets around the world, 24 hours after they happen.

that list is 200 runners deep. yet there is zip, nada, nothing for finland.

what this means is that in 1972 they can run 13:26, in 1976 they can run 13:24, and in 1980 they can run 13:22, but in 2012 they cannot even run 13:34 to place one guy at the bottom of a 200 runner deep list? that's FORTY years later, and they've gotten much SLOWER? if they were trying, they'd be getting faster. even if they were simply getting beat out on the international level and not placing at the world championship or olympic championship, their times would be getting faster.

it's even more dramatic in the 10000:

http://tinyurl.com/bmfbhk9

again not a single runner from finland in the list. again that's about 200 runners. so in 1972 the fastest guy in finland can go 27:38 but in 2012 the fastest guy in finland cannot even go 28:34 to appear at the bottom of the list. that's almost 60 seconds SLOWER after 40 years of what are supposed to be improvements.

so yeah, definitely, the finns lost interest in track. they're for sure not "just getting beat by the black guys". i'm not saying they would be world leaders in distance running today, but they would certainly be able to get to the final of the world championship and the olympic championship.

yet it appears they are not even trying. not only do they not even show up for prelims it's like they they don't even try to run at all. demographic decline might be able to explain this over time, but it can't explain this drop off a cliff.

jody said...

"We have a strange paradox in this country, where the party which gets an overwhelming number of votes from Euro-Americans positively hates Europe"

yes, i've posted about that before. and it's not limited to politics. even euro americans who vote democrat love to bash europe for being inferior to the US at this thing or that thing. or bash canada or australia. and vice versa. europeans bashing each other is popular sport on the internet.

this is a behavior you never, ever see among any other group. you see the exact opposite. almost without exception, immigrant populations extol the tremendous virtues and overall superiority of the nations which they left. mexicans can spend all day telling you how much better mexico is than america or canada or australia, and so on and so forth for chinese, somalian, korean, haitian, indian, filipino, iranian, guatemalan, brazilian, saudi, dominican, puerto rican, egyptian, jamaican, and pakistani immgrants.

in person, i've never met a third world immigrant who espoused the view out loud that the US is actually better than where they came from. i'm sure there are, and it's not the case that none of them are not thankful and respectful, but man, it's rare. especially today, after the federal government has spent 30 years sending the message to them that they should think of themselves as mexicans first (or whatever they are) and americans second.

that america is better than where they came from is something you pretty much only hear from cubans. recent european immigrants also tend to hold this opinion, but their kids will be disconnected from europe, and growing up in the US, canada, or australia, will probably go directly back into the great internet game of europeans bashing europeans.

jody said...

speaking of the 800, i took a look at the 2012 olympic 800 final and i came away thinking it was the most drugged up 800 ever.

clean for sure i would say: david rudisha, nick symmonds, abubaker kaki. been running for years, no positive tests, slow and steady improvement in their times.

probably clean: mohammed aman, andrew osagie. had their best performance ever but it was somewhat in the believable range.

almost certainly on drugs: duane solomon. this guy is a 1:45 runner for years, then in 6 months drops his lifetime best by 3 seconds in an event where that never happens.

absolutely, positively drugged to the eyeballs: nijel amos from botswana, timothy kitum from kenya.

those times were pure unadulterated BS. you know why? because 18 year olds don't run that fast. ever. this one guy, timothy kitum, is SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD. he had ZERO international track meets before 2012 and he just comes from OUT OF NOWHERE and runs 1:42? faster than the fastest american has ever run in 100 years of american track & field? PURE BS.

nijel amos is 18 and drops his personal best time by 6 seconds in 1 year? an 18 year old can run 1:41 in an endurance event that takes 10 years of dedicated training to even get down to the 1:44, 1:45 range? 1:41 was the WORLD RECORD for about 20 years. only 3 guys in history have ever run that fast, until london, where some 18 year old equals the fastest time ever run by sebastian coe, multiple olympic gold medal winner?

here's the real giveaway. david rudisha, the fastest 800 runner ever, did not get to 1:42 until he was 22 years old. so some random guy from botswana is already faster than that at 18? come on.

Anonymous said...

US dominance seems rather narrow. Our athletes are concentrated in a few TV-friendly specialties.

I think heavy marketing of NBA stars around the world has a lot to do with the perception of US dominance in athletics. Without it, the perception probably wouldn't exist. The rest of the world doesn't care about football or baseball, while it does care about men's soccer, which the US is terrible at. And in other sports, from track to swimming to winter olympics, the US by no means dominates and many other countries compete strongly in them against the US.

And it really is the marketing of NBA stars, rather than the dominance of the NBA stars, since there are Euro stars and Euro teams can compete with US teams.

Steve Sailer said...

"You can hardly expect to keep your loyal legions of Finnish readers if you won't give them any Finnish content."

Lately, I've had even more readers in Sweden, so this covers both.

Steve Sailer said...

I've got to work on the Estonian Content, though.

Anonymous said...

Steve - After all these yeras I never knew you were a registered Republican.
I can't square the fact that the wise and witty Steve Sailer who writes such great, informative and insightful articles plumps for the party of 'Chicken McReagans' (ie it's all Right-wing and asshole).

Steve Sailer said...

Luke Lea says: "In other words a return to amateur sport and local rivalry."

Lot to be said for it. Garfield and Roosevelt Highs in east L.A. get 15,000 Mexican Americans to show up for their football game each year. Maybe one player a decade goes on to Div. I college football, but so what?

Problem is that coaches recruit like crazy. The Catholic high schools in L.A. are particularly bad. This goes way back: when I was a senior in high school in 1976, there was a scandal because the young star swimmer was theoretically commuting every day from 50 miles away, but was discovered by a rival school to actually have moved in with my high school's swim coach. That was 36 years ago.

Steve Sailer said...

One thing you can say for the Olympics is that there isn't yet a huge amount of recruiting from foreign countries. Probably over 90% of medal winners are legitimately from the country they represent. Probably not over 95%, though.

Steve Sailer said...

"Track and Field is incredibly exciting once you have a grip on the scoring situation, and the backstory on the next few competitions"

The only spectator sport I can recall my father enthusing about was when he said, "We should go to a track meet. That's really exciting."

The amount of data involved to stay on top of things is high, but a close dual meet is great. When I was a senior in high school in 1976, my friend with the 790 math SAT score drove to Crespi to cheer on Notre Dame HS in a dual meet for the league title. We had the personal bests on paper, and one team would pull ahead on somebody outdoing himself, but eventually it ended up exactly as we'd assumed all along: it would all come down to mile relay, specifically, whether our first three legs could build up a big enough lead so that our anchorman, a friend of ours, could hold off Crespi's all-state anchorman.

Our first three legs built up maybe a ten yard lead, but Crespi's anchorman, who had been killing us all day, blew past our friend on the backstretch, and it looked like it was all over. But then our pal found some unexpected reserve and somehow overtook Crespi's All-California star at the finish line.

It was the most exciting sports event I saw in four years of high school. But, maybe only a dozen or two Notre Dame fans drove the 8 miles to see it because track is a difficult sport to follow.



Anonymous said...

"It was the most exciting sports event I saw in four years of high school. But, maybe only a dozen or two Notre Dame fans drove the 8 miles to see it because track is a difficult sport to follow. "

And the iPhone and internet hadn't been invented yet so you couldn't upload it for posterity.

War Lord said...

"The "African Emergence" seems real enough to me, most clearly in the steeplechase. From 1968-1987, you had a Finn, Swedes, Poles, Americans, Australians, Soviets, French, Italians, etc run the fastest time of the year. But from 1988 to the present only one country had the fastest runner: Kenya."


Well, I see that everybody is clueless and I must reveal this big mystery to you: Times of white runners in long distances started to stagnate in late 70's/early 80's, and in the 800/1500 m, they reached a historical peak in 1985. Then they began to decline in all distances from the 100 m to the marathon. In the early 90's, they sometimes returned 10-15 years back.

And what about African runners and their "emergence"? Well, that's the biggest surprise: In the 800/1500 m, they ran only marginally faster than before (and still slower than white runners before) and the distances stagnated for the whole decade (1986-1995). In other words, what we saw here then, was a mere optical illusion: White runners disappeared, black runners stayed on track and started to compete with each other. Consider that until 1995, no Kenyan has been able to break 3:32 in the 1500 m! The same can be said about the marathon. In the 3-10 km, the new improvemt after 1990 correlated with the influx of Africans, but it didn't deviate from previous trends. What was the real difference was the introduction of EPO around 1995 - and we all know the story and the "marvellous performances" that followed.

Now, somebody could argue that the decline of white times after 1985 was due to the introduction of out-of-competition doping tests. This was really apparent in many athletic events, but I really don't know, how it could influence performances in distance running, when testing of blood doping remained on a very primitive level. For our purpose, it is not important anyway, because if it were true, in 1995 we would see a flood of white guys running 3:28-3:30 in the 1500 m (considering that EPO gives you roughly a 3-4 sec. boost here). This was not the case. The track was simply vacated. Some of the white runners started to dope similarly like Africans, which was obvious from the new improvement of times in all distance events after 1995, but in the 1500 m, they apparently consisted of 3:34-3:35 natural guys.

To sum it up, the only distance events, where you can observe some more-or-less steady improvement of white times after 1995, is the 5000 m and the marathon. And this was very probably due to EPO abuse anyway. The white runners that we currently see on track are B- or even C- athletes that often run times that were a standard 30-40 years ago. For example, in 2011 the best time of a white guy in the 1500 m was 3:31,79 - still not better than Steve Ovett in 1980. In the 800 m, it was 1:43,30 - a time that would be enough to beat Rick Wohlhuter in 1974 by mere 0.1 sec.

I would even dare to say that international competition in middle distances reached its historical bottom, because the ethnic composition of top finishers becomes more and more ridiculous. (And ignore all these "great performances" that we see during the last years, because they are all of chemical orgin.)

Anonymous said...

http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/08/the_european_court_of_human_rights_and_free-speech_schizophrenia.html

Anonymous said...

Pussy riots against Putin: cool.

But harmless twitter by a writer of Girls bad!!

Peter said...

All I can think of is what a good thing this competition is. Much more "human scaled" than the Olympics and probably much more fan-friendly. While it's not mentioned in the article, I also suspect that many if not most of the athletes are true amateurs in the way that Olympic athletes used to be (but no longer are), holding day jobs and practicing in their spare time.

beowulf said...

"I can't square the fact that the wise and witty Steve Sailer who writes such great, informative and insightful articles plumps for the party of 'Chicken McReagans' (ie it's all Right-wing and asshole)."

http://media.ancientfaces.com/images/photos/watermark/4/1/president-nixon-sammy-davis-jr-415830.jpg

Anonymous said...

Interesting story.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your description of scoring in high school track meets is accurate. Here are girls results from the Chandler Rotary Invitational, the largest meet in Arizona, this spring.

http://az.milesplit.com/meets/104829/results/190982

My daughter took 2nd in one event and earned eight points. The scoring went like this: 1st-10, 2nd-8, 3rd-6, 4th-5, 5th-4, etc. down to one point.

Joe H.

Sword said...

jody said...
-------
absolutely, positively drugged to the eyeballs: nijel amos from botswana, timothy kitum from kenya.

those times were pure unadulterated BS. you know why? because 18 year olds don't run that fast. ever. this one guy, timothy kitum, is SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD. he had ZERO international track meets before 2012 and he just comes from OUT OF NOWHERE and runs 1:42? faster than the fastest american has ever run in 100 years of american track & field? PURE BS.

nijel amos is 18 and drops his personal best time by 6 seconds in 1 year? an 18 year old can run 1:41 in an endurance event that takes 10 years of dedicated training to even get down to the 1:44, 1:45 range? 1:41 was the WORLD RECORD for about 20 years. only 3 guys in history have ever run that fast, until london, where some 18 year old equals the fastest time ever run by sebastian coe, multiple olympic gold medal winner?

here's the real giveaway. david rudisha, the fastest 800 runner ever, did not get to 1:42 until he was 22 years old. so some random guy from botswana is already faster than that at 18? come on.
------
How does some random 18-yearold get his hands on the newest super-drug that does not show up on the doping test?

Did the world-leading bioscientists in the Botswanian life-science industry decide to test their newest superdrug on him?

Anonymous said...

even euro americans who vote democrat love to bash europe for being inferior to the US at this thing or that thing.

It seems the other way around. Most Euro-American Dems praise Europe while bashing the US.

Anonymous said...

this is a behavior you never, ever see among any other group. you see the exact opposite. almost without exception, immigrant populations extol the tremendous virtues and overall superiority of the nations which they left.

Euro-Americans are mixed Europeans. There isn't much of a general mixed European identity in Europe, at least not yet. There are various distinctive European national and ethnic identities. There is no quarter-Italian, quarter-German, quarter-Hungarian, quarter-Polish etc. nation and identity or ethnic group in Europe that a Euro-American of that mixed composition would directly identify with. He would just identify as "American" i.e. mixed Euro-American since that is what the identity "American" has basically become.

Steve Sailer said...

America had three high school boys break the 4 minute barrier in the mile in the 1960s, but not another one until after 2000. Oddly enough, longer distance running became a national fad from 1972 when Frank Shorter won the marathon, but it didn't seem to do anything for America in elite competitions. A curious history.

Anonymous said...

the great internet game of europeans bashing europeans.

I think this is more general than you believe.

For example Asians online seem to be about intra-Asian rivalries and bashing.

Anonymous said...

"How does some random 18-yearold get his hands on the newest super-drug that does not show up on the doping test?

Did the world-leading bioscientists in the Botswanian life-science industry decide to test their newest superdrug on him?"

A very good question! The unhappy guy is just so poor that he went to London by bicycle!

The naivety of some people really amazes me...! LOL

DaveinHackensack said...

Steve,

It looks like Manchester City might make you a soccer fan yet.

Hapalong Cassidy said...

Why are people here referring to Finland as a "Nordic" country? Not saying it's wrong, just curious, because Finnish is not a Nordic language. In fact, it's not even an Indo-European language, meaning that Swedish is more closely related to Greek and Hindi than it is to Finnish. I dunno, did Hitler consider the Finns to be Nordic, or did he consider them to be second-rate whites like he did the Slavs?

Anonymous said...

Finland is considered to be a Nordic country for historical, Finland is "nordic" in culture and institutions, and genetic reasons, he population is half "Teutonic" (Ripley). If Novogorod (Russia) had beaten the kingdom of Sweden to Finland in the 13th century and kept hold of Finland, then we would probably not include Finland in the Nordic category today. Hitler considered Finns to be of the east-baltic race with aryan in the west on the country and a good ally in the fight against the second rate slaves. First rule of race club: don't confuse language with race.

Anonymous said...

Finland is considered to be a Nordic country for historical,

But geographically, Finland is not part of Scandinavia. It's a common mistake. If you want to have Finland with Scandinavia, then you would need Fenno-Scandia and Fenno-Balto-Scandia.

neil craig said...

Soccer in the world's richest countries is getting like that too. All the big clubs buy in Nigerians & Ghanans to beat the other top teams' Nigerians and Ghanans. Thus local kids don't bother and the national teams go steadily downhill.