Category Archives: Sports

2017 Predictions

It’s fun to have opinions, and it’s easy to craft a narrative to fit your beliefs. But it’s especially dangerous to look back at events and place them retroactively into your model of the world. You can’t learn anything if you’re only ever looking for evidence that supports you.  However, if you try to use your model of the world to create testable predictions, those predictions can be proven right or wrong, and you can actually learn something. Incorrect predictions can help update our models.

This is, of course, the basis for the scientific method, and generally increasing our understanding of the world. Making predictions is also important for making us more humble; we don’t know everything and so putting our beliefs to the test requires us to reduce our certainty until we’ve researched a subject before making baseless claims.  Confidence levels are an important part of predictions, as they force us to think in the context of value and betting: a 90% confidence level means I would take a $100 bet that required me to put up anything less that $90. Moreover, it’s not just a good idea to make predictions to help increase your knowledge; people who have opinions but refuse to predict things with accompanying confidence levels, and therefore refuse to subject their theories to scrutiny and testability, must be classified as more fraudulent and intellectually dishonest.

First let’s take a look at how I did this past year, and see if my calibration levels were correct. Incorrect predictions are crossed out.

World Events

  1. Liberland will be recognized by <5 UN members: 99% (recognized by 0)
  2. Free State Project to reach goal of 20,000 people in 2016: 50% (occurred February 3rd)
  3. ISIS to still exist: 80%
  4. ISIS to kill < 100 Americans 2016: 80% (I think <100 were killed by any terrorists, fewer in combat)
  5. US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 80%
  6. No terrorist attack in the USA will kill > 100 people: 80% (50 did die in the Orlando shooting unfortunately)
  7. Donald Trump will not be Republican Nominee: 80% (whoops)
  8. Hillary Clinton to be Democratic nominee: 90%
  9. Republicans to hold Senate: 60%
  10. Republicans to hold House: 80%
  11. Republicans to win Presidential Election: 50% (I predicted in December, Nate Silver had Trump at 35% the day of, who’s a genius now??)
  12. I will vote for the Libertarian Presidential Candidate: 70% *
  13. S&P 500 level end of year < 2500: 70%
  14. Unemployment rate December 2016 < 6% : 70%
  15. WTI Crude Oil price < $50 : 80%
  16. Price of Bitcoin > $500:  60%
  17. Price of Bitcoin < $1000: 80%
  18. Sentient General AI will not be created this year: 99%
  19. Self-driving cars will not be available this year to purchase / legally operate for < $100k: 99%
  20. I will not be able to rent trips on self-driving cars from Uber/ Lyft: 90% **
  21. Humans will not land on moon by end of 2016: 95%
  22. Edward Snowden will not be pardoned by end of Obama Administration: 80% *

Personal

  1. Employed in current job:  90%
  2. I will have less than 300 Twitter followers: 60%
  3. I will have authored > 12 more blog posts by June 30, 2016:  50% *
  4. michaelelgart.com to have >4,000 page loads 2016: 50%
  5. These predictions are underconfident: 70%

Sports

  1. Miami Heat make playoffs 2016:  80%
  2. Miami Heat will not make Eastern Conference Finals:  90%
  3. Duke basketball wins 1 game or more against UNC: 60%
  4. Duke basketball makes it to Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament: 70%
  5. Duke basketball does not make Final Four: 90%
  6. USA wins Olympic gold medal in basketball: 70%
  7. Kevin Durant will not be highest paid NBA player during 2016-17 season: 70%

*I didn’t personally vote for the libertarian candidate, but I did trade my vote, resulting in Gary Johnson getting two votes more than he would have had I not voted at all. I’m counting this as at least a vote for Johnson.

**Technically, I am not particularly able to get a ride on a self-driving Uber because I don’t live in Pittsburgh, but I don’t think that’s what I meant. I also didn’t expect any self-driving Uber rides to be available anywhere, so I’m counting it against me.

*Obama still has a few weeks to pardon Snowden, but it’s not looking good

**Most of the blog posts were not on this blog.

So let’s take a look at how I did by category:

  • Of items I marked as 50% confident, 2 were right and 1 was wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 60% confident, 4 were right and 0 were wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 70% confident, 7 were right and 0 were wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 80% confident, 8 were right and 2 were wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 90% confident, 4 were right and 1 was wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 95% confident, 1 was right and 0 were wrong.
  • Of items I marked as 99% confident, 3 were right and 0 were wrong.

 

2016-predictions-personal

You’re supposed to be as close to the perfect calibration line as possible. The big problems are the 60% and 70% predictions all coming true. The chance of all 60% predictions coming true assuming they actually had a 60% chance of happening is 13%. The chance of all 70% predictions coming true was 8%. These seem unlikely, so I need to work on finding more uncertain things to predict or upping my confidence in some of my predictions.

Predictions for 2017:

World Events

  1. Trump Approval Rating end of June <50% (Reuters or Gallup): 60%
  2. Trump Approval Rating end of year <50% (Reuters or Gallup): 80%
  3. Trump Approval Rating end of year <45% (Reuters or Gallup): 60%
  4. Trump 2017 Average Approval Rating (Gallup) <50%: 70%
  5. ISIS to still exist as a fighting force in Palmyra, Mosul, or Al-Raqqah: 60%
  6. ISIS to kill < 100 Americans: 80%
  7. US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 60%
  8. No terrorist attack in the USA will kill > 100 people: 90%
  9. France will not vote to leave to the EU: 80%
  10. The UK will trigger Article 50 this year: 70%
  11. The UK will not fully leave the EU this year: 99%
  12. No country will leave the Euro (adopt another currency as their national currency): 80%
  13. S&P 500 2016 >10% growth: 60%
  14. S&P 500 will be between 2000 and 2850: 80% (80% confidence interval)
  15. Unemployment rate December 2017 < 6% : 70%
  16. WTI Crude Oil price > $60 : 70%
  17. Price of Bitcoin > $750: 60%
  18. Price of Bitcoin < $1000: 50%
  19. Price of Bitcoin < $2000: 80%
  20. There will not be another cryptocurrency with market cap above $1B: 80%
  21. There will not be another cryptocurrency with market cap above $500M: 50%
  22. Sentient General AI will not be created this year: 99%
  23. Self-driving cars will not be available this year for general purchase: 90%
  24. Self-driving cars will not be available this year to purchase / legally operate for < $100k: 99%
  25. I will not be able to buy trips on self-driving cars from Uber/Lyft in a location I am living: 80%
  26. I will not be able to buy a trip on a self-driving car from Uber/Lyft without a backup employee in the car anywhere in the US: 90%
  27. Humans will not land on moon by end of 2017: 95%
  28. SpaceX will bring humans to low earth orbit: 50%
  29. SpaceX successfully launches a reused rocket: 60%
  30. No SpaceX rockets explode without launching their payload to orbit: 60%
  31. Actual wall on Mexican border not built: 99%
  32. Some increased spending on immigration through expanding CBP, ICE, or the border fence: 80%
  33. Corporate Tax Rate will be cut to 20% or below: 50%
  34. Obamacare (at least mandate, community pricing, pre-existing conditions) not reversed: 80%
  35. Budget deficit will increase: 90%
  36. Increase in spending or action on Drug War (e.g. raiding marijuana dispensaries, increased spending on DEA, etc): 70%
  37. Some tariffs raised: 90%
  38. The US will not significantly change its relationship to NAFTA: 60%
  39. Federal government institutes some interference with state level legal marijuana: 60%
  40. At least one instance where the executive branch violates a citable civil liberties court case: 70%
  41. Trump administration does not file a lawsuit against any news organization for defamation: 60%
  42. Trump not impeached (also no Trump resignation): 95%

Sports

  1. Miami Heat do not make playoffs:  95%
  2. Miami Heat get top 6 draft pick: 60%
  3. Duke basketball wins 1 game or more against UNC: 80%
  4. Duke basketball makes it to Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament: 90%
  5. Duke basketball makes Final Four: 50%
  6. Duke basketball does not win NCAA tournament: 80%
  7. Warriors or Cavs will win the NBA title: 60%
  8. Lebron James will not be highest paid NBA player during 2017-18 season: 70%

Personal

  1. Employed in current job:  90%
  2. I will have less than 300 Twitter followers: 60%
  3. I will change my registered party from Republican to Libertarian: 70%
  4. I will have authored > 14 more blog posts (not just on this blog) by June 30, 2017: 90%
  5. I will have authored > 30 more blog posts (not just on this blog) by December 31, 2017: 80%
  6. michaelelgart.com to have >3,000 page loads 2017: 70%
  7. These predictions are under-confident: 70%
overwatch-ed

Overwatch

If you’ve been wondering where all my political blogging that I did last year has gone, I’ve transferred it over to a new blog to better separate personal stuff from political things.  I’m not linking it as to make it slightly harder for random prospective employers from the far future to find it. If you don’t know what my new blog is, just tweet at me or message me privately.

I enjoy videogames, but I often don’t have enough time to really indulge in them. I’ve had great experiences with past Blizzard games, and so when Overwatch came out in May, I decided to get it.

Not only do I not usually play video games, but I also don’t tend to play games when they first come out. I also like to stick to single-player, story-driven games (Portal, Arkham Asylum, Skyrim) and sometimes strategy games (Total War series, Civ V) or both (XCOM). And, of course, I tend to play these on a long delay, waiting for Steam sales to reduce the financial burden of my infrequent hobby. But in this case I decided to go for a multi-player game soon after it had come out.  Many have rightly stated that Overwatch is a Team Fortress 2 rip-off. Of course, I think people are far too protective of intellectual property anyway, and good rip-offs can be even better than the originals. Blizzard took the excellent gameplay ideas in Team Fortress 2, inserted their art and character backgrounds from their failed MMO Titan, and then created an amazingly fun and deep multi-player shooter.

Competitive role-based multi-player gaming is pretty fun. Trying to beat puzzles crafted by game designers is great too, but there’s something you can’t reproduce without battling against other people and their strategies. I always enjoyed player-vs-player parts of WoW, but part of it always came down to players who sank more time into the game got better weapons. This isn’t the case in Overwatch. Of course, this isn’t a new game genre either, but the creativity of what you can do and the absolute chaos you can fall into so easily is incredible. It’s just pure fun.

Blizzard also just did an incredible job with all the details apart from gameplay: the world is engaging and beautifully detailed, the game isn’t buggy at all, the point system is well crafted, the matching algorithms work quickly and efficiently, and the community dialogue has been amazingly transparent.  I don’t know what the game is like as a power player who wants to play competitively for dozens of hours a week, but I know for what I want as a casual gamer who will only sink a few hours into it a week, this game is essentially perfect. It’s also very easy to get into, and Blizzard has already started releasing additional content with no extra cost. If you haven’t played this game and were thinking about it, I can fully recommend it.

But this video game has also coincided with a renewal of board game popularity, not just in my life but in the entire market. This is somewhat surprising given the already mature market for games on computers, consoles, and mobile devices. Nonetheless here we are in the midst of a board game revolution. Somehow in the past year I’ve found myself playing Catan, Codenames, Escape: The Curse of the Temple, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Avalon, and more. I’ve undoubtedly played more board games this year than any other year I’ve been alive. And I even dabbled in Go a bit this year as AlphaGo made headlines. I suspect this renewed interest in applied game theory in a fun setting contributed to me buying Overwatch.

Unlike other multi-player video games which might rely on grinding to give players an edge, these board games rely exclusively on luck and skill; time devoted doesn’t factor in besides how long it takes you to learn. To me it makes these games a fundamentally higher brain exercise than something like WoW or Skyrim could ever be.  For me personally, this is a pretty exciting way to see gaming go mainstream (In a related vein, I’ve really enjoyed Crash Course’s new Games series with Andre Meadows).

When you put games on this axis of simple tactics to complex strategies, it also becomes clear why so many people want to watch games like Counterstrike, League of Legends, Rocket League, or Overwatch rather than games like WoW, Minecraft, or Grand Theft Auto; games that require more learned skill, innate talent, and strategy are far more interesting to watch that games that rely on grinding. And if you move further along the axis towards complexity and strategy, you’ll start to run into competitive physical sports like basketball and soccer. Obviously strategy and complexity aren’t sufficient make games universally popular (cricket is fairly complex but isn’t very popular in America, american football has similar popularity issues in the rest of the world), but they are necessary. EconTalk had a great discussion this week regarding the development of sports into entertainment; 50 years ago the major sports of today were nothing like we know them. They have developed into much improved products, and it wasn’t just TV exposure; the sports are measurably better in every way. Rules, nutrition, training, professionalism, advertising, etc have all improved drastically. There’s no reason to think games beyond the physical won’t see similar growth over the next 50 years.

It’s also worth pressing that this gaming revolution is a sign that Things Are Pretty Much Ok (TM). Despite what you may be hearing, violence and terrorism is trending downwards, fewer people are living below $1 a day than ever before, and apparently despite the ongoing technological isolation of our society, social board games where people play face-to-face are doing better than they’ve ever done. Seriously, if we agree that developed countries have mostly solved lifting everyone above subsistence existence, we get to philosophical questions of human existence beyond survival. What should people be doing, what activities should they engage in? Enjoying social gatherings with strategic brain games, seems like a wonderful way to spend that time, and I think could provide a proxy for a type of win condition for economic policy.  The future of games isn’t just fun, it should be a major part of our culture for many years to come.

Duke's National Championship team went to the White House this year. Carolina couldn't make it. Public Domain Image.

Duke-Carolina Rivalry: Keeping Score

Tonight is the first of at least two meetings between Duke and UNC’s men’s basketball teams this year. I predicted Duke had a 60% chance to win at least one of these games, given the consensus that Carolina fields a better team this year. I think that’s still a bit of an underestimate, as that equates to Carolina having a 63% chance to win each game, which seems a bit high, given how competitive these games usually are.  Moreover, against common opponents this year, Duke is 7-3 to UNC’s 8-2.  Carolina certainly has the advantage at home tonight (and with only 6 Duke players playing more than 5 minutes), though it’s unlikely to be a blowout.

Let’s talk about the rivalry. Duke and Carolina have played 240 men’s basketball games against each other, with UNC currently winning the series 133-107.  But I contend this fact is not relevant because more distant sports results tend to fade from memory and importance over time.  It’s the most recent outcomes that everyone talks about…

2015 ncaa national championship

Duke's National Championship team went to the White House this year. Carolina couldn't make it. Public Domain Image.

Duke’s National Championship team went to the White House this year. Carolina couldn’t make it. Public Domain Image.

And last year, guess who not only won a national championship, but who also swept their rivals? The Blue Devils. Of course, dominance in the last year can’t define an entire rivalry, so let’s look at the last couple years. Since 2014, who has done better? Duke is up 3-1.  But what if what really matters is the last 3, 4, or 5 years? Duke 5-1, 6-2, 8-3. In fact, we can keep this trend going:

last <Y> years last <x> games Dating Back To Duke record
1  2 2015  2-0
2  4  2014  3-1
3  6  2013  5-1
4  8  2012  6-2
5  11  2011  8-3
6  13  2010  10-3
7  15  2009  10-5
8  17  2008  11-6
9  19  2007  11-8
10  21  2006  12-9
12  25  2004  15-10
14  31  2002  20-11
16  36  2000  24-12
18  42  1998  28-14
20  46  1996  29-17
25  58  1991  34-24
30  60  1986  39-31
35  71  1981  42-39
38  82  1978  47-45
39  85  1977  47-48

Duke has a winning record against Carolina over the last X years, where X is any number of years you’d care about.

Since UNC’s Class of 2019 was born, UNC is about 14-28 against Duke. Since their seniors were born, UNC is 21-29 against Duke. Their lives have been defined by an era of Blue Devil Dominance (for the first few years of current seniors’ lives, UNC did have a winning record against Duke, which means, as far as this rivalry in concerned, their glory days were during preschool, something they share with many other Tar Heels).

You might hear a stat on ESPN tonight that “dating back to 1977, this rivalry is tied!” That’s because you literally have to go back to 1977 to get a tie in the rivalry, Duke has been so dominant recently. But hey, if you count all the games going back to the Ford administration, the Tar Heels are right there with them!

So when Carolina fans brag about how their team is better for having gone undefeated in 1957, an era where lasers and zip codes hadn’t yet been invented, or having won 6 national titles to Duke’s 5 since they count that ultra-competitive 1924 season which was only retroactively declared a championship 20 years later, let them have this. They’ve been getting crushed by Duke for the last 38 years, it’s only fair.

GTHC.

2016 Predictions

How confident should we be? People tend to be overconfident.  One way to figure out if our confidence levels are correct is to test our calibration levels by making predictions and seeing how many of them pan out. Inspired by Slate Star Codex’s predictions, here are my predictions and accompanying confidence levels. For the sake of convenience I will choose from confidence levels of 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 95% or 99%. All predictions are by December 31, 2016 unless noted otherwise.

World Events

  1. Liberland will be recognized by <5 UN members: 99%
  2. Free State Project to reach goal of 20,000 people in 2016: 50%
  3. ISIS to still exist: 80%
  4. ISIS to kill < 100 Americans 2016: 80%
  5. US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 80%
  6. No terrorist attack in the USA will kill > 100 people: 80%
  7. Donald Trump will not be Republican Nominee: 80%
  8. Hillary Clinton to be Democratic nominee: 90%
  9. Republicans to hold Senate: 60%
  10. Republicans to hold House: 80%
  11. Republicans to win Presidential Election: 50%
  12. I will vote for the Libertarian Presidential Candidate: 70%
  13. S&P 500 level end of year < 2500: 70%
  14. Unemployment rate December 2016 < 6% : 70%
  15. WTI Crude Oil price < $50 : 80%
  16. Price of Bitcoin > $500:  60%
  17. Price of Bitcoin < $1000: 80%
  18. Sentient General AI will not be created this year: 99%
  19. Self-driving cars will not be available this year to purchase / legally operate for < $100k: 99%
  20. I will not be able to rent trips on self-driving cars from Uber/ Lyft: 90%
  21. Humans will not land on moon by end of 2016: 95%
  22. Edward Snowden will not be pardoned by end of Obama Administration: 80%

Personal

  1. Employed in current job:  90%
  2. I will have less than 300 Twitter followers: 60%
  3. I will have authored > 12 more blog posts by June 30, 2016:  50%
  4. michaelelgart.com to have >4,000 page loads 2016: 50%
  5. These predictions are underconfident: 70%

Sports

  1. Miami Heat make playoffs 2016:  80%
  2. Miami Heat will not make Eastern Conference Finals:  90%
  3. Duke basketball wins 1 game or more against UNC: 60%
  4. Duke basketball makes it to Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament: 70%
  5. Duke basketball does not make Final Four: 90%
  6. USA wins Olympic gold medal in basketball: 70%
  7. Kevin Durant will not be highest paid NBA player during 2016-17 season: 70%

Choosing Sides: College Football Edition

Building off of some of my reasoning in my NBA Finals post, I realized I needed a better system for deciding which teams to cheer for in college football. There are 128 college football teams in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (known as FBS), and since each team only plays about 12 games a year, most teams do not play each other. Consequently, if you cheer for only one team, you end up only watching a small fraction of the available games, and you’ll never see most good teams play.  But since I like football and, as noted in the NBA Finals post, sports are much more fun when you have a narrative, I’ve decided to properly develop a system to dictate who I will cheer for in different games. This is especially useful with the upcoming conference championships today as well as the many bowl games later in the month.

The system is a pretty straightforward hierarchy, but since I don’t have strong enough feelings on all 128 FBS teams (or even most in the Power 5 conferences), I’ve divided the teams into 3 groups:

  • Group A is a ranked hierarchy of teams I will cheer for against all other teams, except those that are higher in Group A
  • Group Omega is a ranked hierarchy of all the teams I will always cheer against, except those that are higher in Group Omega.  You’ll notice it is larger than group A.
  • Group Meh is all the teams I don’t have strong feelings about. I will cheer against them when they play Group A, and for them when they play Group Omega. I won’t care when they play each other.

Continue reading

Credit Michael Tipton, Used and Licensed under CC-BY-SA

The NBA Should Shorten Their Season

I.

Did you know that the NBA has the best YouTube channel of any major North American sport? This is remarkable considering it is a distant third in terms of revenue.  It’s also a fascinating exercise in fan outreach, as the NBA actively encourages fan-made videos and other content while other sports use restrictive copyrights to make themselves the sole distributor of content. In addition to these policies (and the fact that I like basketball), it’s worth noting that while football is clearly the king of team sports in the US (especially if you include college football), there’s a risk that increased awareness of concussions and other injuries could cause football to lose out on revenue in the future. This could happen through changes in demand, with fewer people wanting to watch football, or changes in supply, as fewer athletes want to play. If you think it can’t happen, don’t forget that boxing used to be one of America’s most dominant sports.

Will this same fate happen to football? It’s impossible to know, but as a basketball fan, I hope the NBA is be prepared to try and take over that market space.  Before they are under the spotlight and the opportunity passes, they should implement some reforms. An important one would be the shortening of the season. Continue reading

Choosing Sides: NBA Finals Edition

For the first time in eight years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made the NBA Finals. As a Heat fan who got to watch the greatest player, perhaps ever, in his prime bring my team to the NBA Finals four years in a row, it’s weird to see Lebron leading the Cavs.  And now I’m faced with the question of whether to root for him or not. Continue reading

Does Tom Thibodeau work his players too hard?

Last night, the Heat held the Bulls to their lowest point total ever in a postseason game (65), as well as lowest field goal percentage ever (25.7%).  And this happened while Dwyane Wade has bone bruises on his left knee. After the game Wade spoke with the media: “When you have a [bone] bruise, you try to move the kneecap over so it won’t rub When you get into game sweat you have to re-tape it a bit.” Ouch.

But speaking of injuries, the clearest cause of the Bulls’ troubles has been the plethora of health problems their team is facing. Derek Rose has been out for a year, and Luol Deng has been sidelined after a health scare relating to a spinal tap he had done.  Until recently, Joakim Noah was sidelined with plantar fasciitis.  Kirk Hinrich’s calf has been bothering him for a while now. Derek Rose has been cleared medically to play for months now, but has yet to play in a real game.

Is it possible that Bulls Coach Thibodeau worked his players too hard this year? It’s certainly a possibility.  Thibodeau’s trademark defensive strategy is one of the best in the league, and in the past 2 years prior, with a healthy Rose, the Bulls obtained the top record in the East.  It’s undisputed that the Bulls push themselves hard in every game, but could that strategy backfire?  Injuries are a function of exhaustion, age, and randomness.  The Lakers this year certainly saw the results of a combined ancient team with a lack of depth. Almost every player on the Lakers saw time on the bench due to injury, not least of all Kobe Bryant’s crushing torn ligament at the end of the season after the 35 year old had been playing minutes in the high 30s all year.

But the Bulls are not an old team, especially in comparison to the Heat, which leaves exhaustion and randomness. The injury to Derek Rose could be a source of extra minutes to other Bulls players this past year, resulting in them being more injury prone. And Tom Thibodeau has a history of pushing his players hard in the regular season. On the other hand, Luol Deng’s injury was a medical freak accident which could not have been foreseen.  And sometimes injuries just pile up and there isn’t a lot to be done.

If it is random, then it is likely we will see the Bulls be much better next year, especially if/when Derek Rose returns.  But if the Bulls continue to fall short due to injuries, there may be a deeper root of the problem.

Some great links

Haven’t written much this weekend, but I’ve got some nice links to check out. In the politics and econ areas, I highly recommend this article from Reason about the End of Power.  Also check out this Op-Ed from the NY Times from an actual Gitmo detainee.

In the cool techie things department, reddit has compiled a beautiful list of so-called internet tricks, that everyone should know.

If Bitcoin is your thing, after all the volatility last week, some people have gotten together to build an open source Bitcoin exchange to help alleviate some of the problems experienced by the community. Here is the reddit link, and here is the project on github.  I’m also writing a short paper on Bitcoin and virtual currencies for my CS seminar, so if you have cool articles, feel free to tweet @mjelgart.

Finally, in basketball news, the Heat have wrapped up home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Somehow, after winning a championship last year, they are even better then they’ve ever been before. Look at these numbers. The Heat are really good right now. As a Miami native, I cannot wait for the playoffs to start this weekend.