Archive for December, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize: Gore, Palmeiro, and now Obama.

To start, I want congratulate President Obama for his victory in winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.   He joins Mikhail  Gorbachev (1990) and Nelson Mandela (1993) as notable leaders who won this prestigious award.  He also joins Al Gore (2007) and Rafael Palmeiro (1999) as Americans that cleary do not deserve such an award.  Now, for the record, I am making no accusation towards any of these individuals with respect to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.  However, their lack of achievement in the area (peace or defense) in which they won their awards really takes the awards themselves into the irrational.

Al Gore.  No comment.  We can save that for another day.  Rafael Palmeiro.  I can keep this brief.  Back in 1999,  Palmeiro won a Rawlings Gold Glove award for his play at first base while being a member of the Texas Rangers.  As for background, each year, a “Gold Glove” is given out to one player in each league at each of the nine baseball positions.  To his credit, Palmeiro only made only one error during the 1999 Major League Baseball season (and errors are bad things).  Ordinarily that would be an incredible accomplishment for a first baseman (who is the guy that all the infielders throw to).  However, he only played in 28 games at first base that season (and there are 162 games in a season).  The other games he played (135 of them) were as the designated hitter (a designated hitter is what is says, a player, who only hits, and does not field).  The Rawlings Gold Glove is awarded to those players who exhibit “defensive excellence.”  How that was exhibited by a player that played defense in less than 20% of his team’s games (as opposed to the normal 80-95%) is a question that will remain forever unanswered. 

Now we are presented with another award that does not appear warranted.  As legend tells us, after Alfred Nobel died in 1896, his will spoke to us and offered an annual Nobel Peace Prize “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”  I hope one day President Obama meets this standard.  To claim he already has is dishonest.

It should be noted that this peace prize is awarded by a committee of only five people, all of which are elected by the Norwegian Parliament.  In its press release on October 9, 2009, this committee awarded President Obama the prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”  When did that happen?  The press release specifically stated that the committee “attached special importance to [President] Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”  What work?  And how did the word “vision” get in there?  I believe the standard above specifically states “have done” — visions are irrelevant.  To the committee’s credit, they did try to show how the vision actually did something (”[t]he vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations”), but, seriously, can anyone argue that this rises to the level of the Nobel standard above?

Nonetheless, I again congratulate President Obama for winning this award.  (Mr. Palmeiro gets no such respect from me as that was Tino Martinez’s award in 1999.)  President Obama has obviously “done” something to win this peace prize.  In my opinion, that was impressing five Norwegians with him vision.  Imagine if he actually does something to lead us to a world without nuclear weapons.  What would he win then — a Gold Glove?

Add comment December 14th, 2009

World Cup 2010: Group of Death?

[New York. December 10, 2009.]  After the groups were chosen for the 2010 World Cup, immediately, soccer (a.k.a. non-US football) fans and commentators  commenced the “Group of Death” argument.  As in prior years, the debate ended fast, with little controversy.  Few have chosen to disagree with the football brass on this issue.  (Note the usage of the term “football”; I do not know of any soccer brass.)  They have all dubbed Group G the Group of Death (such group includes  Brazil, North Korea, Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal).  Since this is the World’s game and means more to most than politics, we shall examine.


First, the basics.  World Cup football begins with eight Groups.  Each Group has four teams.  An elaborate selection process is used to determine which teams are placed into each Group.  This process seeks to offer the Groups parity, but, like everything else in sport, true parity cannot be achieved.  Each Group member plays the other three teams once (three points for a win and one for a draw).  The top two teams in each Group by points move on to the “knockout” round (essentially a quarterfinal).   At the December 4, 2009 selection “event,” Charlize Theron told us that the 2010 World Cup groups would be made up as follows:

Group A:  South Africa (86) / Mexico (15) / Uruguay(19) / France (7)
Group B:  Argetina(8) / Nigeria(22) / South Korea(52) / Greece(12)
Group C:  England(9) / United States(14) / Algeria(28) / Slovenia(33)
Group D:  Germany(6) / Australia(21) / Serbia(20) / Ghana(37)
Group E:  Netherlands(3) / Denmark(26) / Japan(43) / Cameroon(11)
Group F:  Italy(4) / Paraguay(30) / New Zealand(77) / Slovakia(34)
Group G:  Brazil(2) / North Korea(84) / Cote d’Ivoire(16) / Portugal(5)
Group H:  Spain(1) / Switzerland(18) / Honduras(38) / Chile(17)

What are  the numbers in the parentheticals?  They are the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, which I will use to analyze the Groups.   For those that do not follow soccer, FIFA is the International Federation of Association Football, is the international organization that governs various tournaments, including the World Cup.  Of course, it is known by its French acronym, FIFA.

FIFA, along with its good friends Coke [NYSE:KO], issue internation team rankings, and the last such rankings were released on November 20, 2009.  Spain is number 1 in the world, Brazil is number 2, and so on.

The analysis I will use involves three components to determine which, if any, of the Groups is the “Group of Death” (in the soccer world, this is the most difficult group to get out of — reminder, only two of the four teams in each group advance).  Each component will rank the eight Groups from most difficult (1 point) to easiest (8 point); then, a weighted-average of each Group’s three components will give a final tally.  Of course, at TRP, we love our math.

Component 1 (25%):  The sum of each team’s FIFA rankings for each Group.  For example, Group A, with France (FIFA Ranking 7), Mexico (15), Uruguay (19) and South Africa (86), has a total of 127.  This is the second highest of all eight groups — so Group A will get a ‘7′ for this component.

Component 2 (50%):  The same calculation as Component 1, but using only the top three teams in each Group.  For example, Group B, with Argentina (8), Greece (12), Nigeria (22) and South Korea (52), has a total of 42.  In my opinion, this is the most relevant component, so it is given double the weight of the two others.

Component 3 (25%): Since the third-place team in each Group does not advance, the FIFA ranking of that team will be used.  For this component, “third-place” means the third highest ranked team in the Group.  For example, Slovakia, in Group F, has the highest ranking of all third-place teams — so Group F will get a ‘8′ for this component.

Based on this analysis, the Groups are ranked as follows:

Group F (8.000) (easiest)
Group C (6.000)
Group D (5.125)
Group B (4.875)
Group A (4.500)
Group E (3.500)
Group G (2.250)
Group H (1.750) (most difficult)

There you have it. Are you confused? Let me try to make this clearer through another example, using the potentially strongest group:  Group H has the least total FIFA ranking of all eight Groups with a 74 (so they get a ‘1′ for Component 1); it has the second lowest total FIFA ranking for its top three teams with a 36 (a ‘2′ for Component 2); and it has the second lowest seeded third placed team with the Swiss 178 (a ‘2′ for Component 3). Now, do the math: 1 x 25% + 2 x 50% + 2 x 25% = 1.75.

Although Group G has been presented to the world as the obvious Group of Death (thanks to Brazil, Portugal and Cote d’Ivoire — three top 16 teams), the analysis above results in a Group H of Death.  Clearly, the reason is that Group G’s North Korea is 84 in the world, whereas, Group H’s weakest team, Honduras, is 38.  I have no doubt that Spain (number 1 in the world) would much rather be in Group H, than in Group G.  However, in Group G, the would get the guaranteed win against North Korea, whereas, Honduras is no guarantee.  With that said, I think we can take the following from the above analysis:

  • Groups G and H can share “Group of Death” status;
  • Groups A, B, D and E are actually evenly matched; and
  • Groups C and F are very weak at the bottom.

If you back U.S., English or Italian soccer, get ready for the knock-out round or for some tears.

1 comment December 10th, 2009



December 2009
« Nov   Jan »

Posts by Month

Posts by Category

Sponsored Links