It’s been a long time since my father has been better than me at sports. Probably since I was 14, maybe 15 (depending on the sport). However, he still greatly enjoys the competition. Over the course of the summer, I’m somewhere around 40-3 in basketball… maybe 100-12 in bowling (scratch; I do give him handicap, since we bet on the games)… and 6-0 in baseball (by a combined score of ~95-3).
Today, however, marked a new level of beatdown in our 1-sided battles. The final score of our baseball game was 27-0. We play by a 10-run rule, but I scored 23 runs in 1 inning… and only ended the inning because I was bored and tired, so I switched to batting right handed… and still got 2 hits before being retired. We play 1 out per inning, the game lasted 4 innings. I offered him the ability to quit multiple times, but he’s stubborn and wouldn’t. Maybe next time I won’t be so nice and will keep going until he legitimately gets me out.
I love bowling. I’ve talked about it before in my blog. When I was in LA, I bowled in 3 different scratch leagues. A scratch league means that there is no handicap given to even out the differences in skill between the teams. 1 league was a singles league and the other 2 were team leagues (3 and 4 man, respectively). I really like scratch bowling, for 3 main reasons. 1) I’m a pretty good bowler, and am confident in my abilities to be competitive. 2) I want to push myself every single game to win and improve. 3) If I am going to lose, I want it to be because I was beaten, not because my opponent bowled slightly over his average… winning scratch but losing because of handicap is unbelievably frustrating.
Most handicap bowling leagues use some variation of a 90% differential. This means that if you have 5 man teams with 100 pins difference in average, the inferior team is only losing 2 pins per person over 150-200 pins. Aka, about 1%. Figure at absolute most, you’re down 3%. I’ll leave the statistical variance calculations to someone else, but it’s clear that that is extremely minimal. In poker, 53% vs 47% is still referred to as a coin flip. And that’s what 90% handicap leagues are, mostly… coin flips, at least for individual games. In the long run, that 3% edge widens (and 3% is a very generous number), but it still gives way too much help to inferior teams on a week by week basis. I don’t understand the 90% handicap except in a youth league, where the goal is to make things fair and even for everyone. In a money league, where tens of thousands of dollars are being put into the pool, it should be more about skill and less about luck; for anyone to want it to be so heavily luck based is extremely illogical and baffling to me.
My belief is that, just like in scratch leagues or any professional sport, the best teams SHOULD win. Just because the St. Louis Rams or the Pittsburgh Pirates have been terrible for years doesn’t mean they stop playing… they still go out there and compete, even though their odds of winning are far less than 47%. However in bowling, I keep getting told that nobody will bowl in a 70% handicap league (or scratch) because all the “bad” bowlers will leave. This was not the case in LA… many people liked the challenge, even though they knew they had no shot (and the good bowlers liked the bad bowlers because they were free money). I suggested a 70% handicap for the league I’m currently in (which is the supposed “big boy” league of my area), and I was shot down by more than 90% of the league; good and bad bowlers alike. It makes me sad.
What are your thoughts on handicap in sports? And to note… the only time I find handicap acceptable is when it’s for wagering on a game-by-game basis, and even then I wouldn’t ever give an opponent 90% of our difference (I usually give 80%, if it can be calculated).
tl;dr version: the majority of the people in my league are giant pussies that either aren’t confident in their abilities, don’t want a competitive environment, or are afraid to challenge themselves with superior competition.
As a Philly sports fan, I’ve grown up as the ultimate pessimist. From 1983 through 2008, the city had 0 major championships across the 4 major sports… 100 seasons without one (‘Nova won a championship in 85 in ncaab, Penn State in 86 in ncaaf). 0-7 in championship finals during that span, with at least 1 loss in all 4 sports. Pretty much, we expect to lose. The Phillies are the losingest team in any sport in history (aided by a very long season and 125+ seasons, of course).
So any day when 2 Philly teams are on national TV and win… it’s a big thing to me. Villanova’s 5th ranked Wildcats played in the finals of a tournament in Puerto Rico, aired on ESPN2. Close in the 1st half and early in the 2nd, they pulled away late and won by double digits over Ole Miss. Airing at the exact same time on NBC (doesn’t anyone know not to do this to me?!?) was the Eagles v Bears. Of course, since the never know what to expect out of the Birds, I’m always nervous while watching. They didn’t disappoint, trading the lead back and forth and displaying timid play-calling late in the game when trying to sit on a lead. The Bears had a shot to win in the final 2 minutes, but thankfully Jay Cutler sucks… because Andy Reid’s prevent defense was ripe for the picking.