Archive for the 'Slate' Category

Video Games Make You Happy, Maybe

February 17, 2011

I’ve known the joy of preparing to qualify, of leveling up with magic mushrooms, of speeding the flight of an angry bird. Yet video games often leave me feeling stale and restless. Shouldn’t I be outgrowing these electronic entanglements? When one of my sons catches me playing a game on my iPhone, I think of the old-school Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril, who disliked seeing his players eat candy. Here’s the line from a Sports Illustrated profile: “He would wince when he saw a member of his team eating candy. Kids eat candy; he wanted his players to be men, and men drink beer.”

via Halo, Wikipedia, World of Warcraft: How are they good for us? Jane McGonigal explains in Reality is Broken. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

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The Wrath of Talking Carl

February 17, 2011

Fa la la la! Tis’ the season. The kids are out of school, the days are cold, the museums are packed, the Legos are scattered under the couch, and Toy Story 3 has been memorized. It’s time to refresh that most valuable tool in the modern parent’s arsenal: the iPhone. Last year, I wrote about how the iPhone is a Swiss Army knife of digital parenting and asked for your best iPhone apps for kids. Let’s do the same thing this year.

via The best iPhone apps for kids, 2010 edition. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

Zengolf vs. Moneygolf

February 17, 2011

In golf, there have always been those who side with “instincts” and those who side with analysis. I love the stories about 1920s professional golfer George Duncan, who would swing at his ball as soon as he reached it. He considered practice strokes tantamount to cheating. (Those early pros would also be amazed at how today’s top players stalk the green for days to line up a putt.) In our time, the most instinctual golfer would be putting enthusiast Ryan Moore, who, at times, will disdain even to consult a yardage book.

via Should pro golfers pay attention to statistics? – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

Why you aren’t a pro golfer

February 17, 2011

“What an incredible Cinderella story! This unknown comes out of nowhere … to lead the pack … at Augusta. He’s on his final hole. … He’s about 455 yards away. … He’s gonna hit about a 2-iron, I think.” So begins the legend of Carl Spackler, and the finest improvised golf monologue in cinematic history. Not to be too literal-minded about a riff from Caddyshack—but why couldn’t a former greenskeeper win the Masters?

via Why you aren’t a pro golfer: A video slide show. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

Dead Solid Lucky

February 17, 2011

It’s easy to understand the chokehold that putting has on the golfing mind. If you flub a drive or fly the green with a 9-iron, there’s still hope that you can make up for it with a miraculous recovery shot. In contrast, putting delivers a brutal, obvious, and seemingly final judgment. You miss the eight-footer, you drop a stroke. It’s no wonder that Ryan Moore and many of his peers see putting as the skill from which all good things in golf flow

via Does winning a golf tournament come down to skill or luck? – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

The Dark Art of Putting

February 17, 2011

Putting, we’re told, is a dark art of willpower and focus. But putting has accrued such mystique in large part because the stats are a mess. On Tuesday, I explained how Mark Broadie’s shot value allows us to precisely measure how much putting or driving contribute to a player’s score. A team from MIT has built on Broadie’s work by developing a new putting stat for the PGA Tour called “putts gained per round.” It’s similar to Broadie’s shot value but makes a few different decisions in how to set a benchmark putting standard for pro golfers. Putts gained per round is likely to be the stat that brings “moneygolf” to the masses—if all goes according to plan, it should be part of golf’s television broadcasts starting next season.

via A new stat sheds light on the dark art of putting. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

7 Million Shots

February 17, 2011

Bundled together, those 7 million shots make up the richest dataset in sports. These shots teach us about the dynamics of competition: Do golfers really play worse when Tiger Woods is in the field? They teach us about choking: Do golfers who are in contention on Sunday miss more easy putts? And they help us answer golf-world conundrums that have always floated above the fairway, in the realm of hunches and best guesses: What separates an average pro from a champion?

via Moneygolf: Will new statistics unlock the secrets of golf? – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

Bad Lies

February 17, 2011

Watch a golf tournament on television, and you’ll hear the announcers explain why Tiger Woods or Justin Rose or Ernie Els is in the lead. “He’s tops in the field this week in fairways hit,” they might say. Or perhaps they’ll point to his stellar driving distance, or his amazingly low number of putts per round, or his excellent birdie conversion rate. But none of those statistics—the ones we’re told separate the champions from the also-rans—truly reflects why golfers win and lose. At worst, they’re actively misleading, giving us the wrong impression of why the best players in the game succeed.

via Why most golf statistics whiff and how to fix them. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

The Shallows

February 17, 2011

In his new book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind. He begins with a feeling shared by many who have spent the last decade online. “I’m not thinking the way I used to think,” Carr tells us. “I feel it most strongly when I’m reading.” He relates how he gets fidgety with a long text. Like others, he suspects that the Internet has destroyed his ability to read deeply. “My brain,” he writes, “wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it.”

via In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr asks how the Internet is changing minds. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.

The Complete Moneygolf

September 8, 2010

My series on the new golf statistics starts here.