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Good Reading -- January 2020

Sources/links in original:

Facts and Figures

  • In the 1990s, home NFL teams won 59.8% of games; in 1999, the N.F.L. added a check on referee influence by instituting instant replay and coaches’ challenges, and in the next season, the home winning percentage dropped from 59.6% to 55.6%. In 2019 it was 51.7%, the lowest level on record. (Source: Why Home Field Advantage Is Not What It Used to Be)

  • U.S. life expectancy at birth increased in 2018 for the first time in four years, reaching the level of 78.7 years it first achieved in 2010.

  • More Americans visited a public library than went to the movies in 2019. (I'm not so sure about this poll but I hope it's true; here is the report from Gallup.)

  • U.S. milk consumption per capita has declined ~40% since 1980.


  • “You’ve got 150 people working in baseball operations, 200 players in a system, some of them have no high school education, some don’t speak English,” [former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow] explained to McKinsey in an interview in 2018. “You’re dealing with a very difficult population to implement new things that are not normal to them.”


  • Invested: Changing Forever the Way Americans Invest -- This is Chuck Schwab's autobiography, and I'd recommend it -- not quite on the level of "Shoe Dog," but in the same ballpark. As the title suggests the writing can be a little clunky at times, but Chuck's life story is so good and his business experience is so rich that the book overcomes any drawbacks.

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants -- I've read two of Bill Bryson's other books, but this one fell a little flat. I might have been in the wrong state of mind for it and I'll probably try again at some point, but after the first four chapters felt like a long list of factoids and non sequiturs I gave up for now. (The reviews are great, so it might just be me.)

  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems -- Maybe my timing was off with this one too, but this book just didn't resonate. (The reviews are beyond great, so it really might just be me.)


  • What I Learned in Avalanche School -- An engaging narrative full of lessons and implications from human psychology.

  • A couple of months ago I linked to an article with Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Its title -- The Renegade Executives of Houston Who Shook Up Sports Management -- looks more than a little prophetic. Morey started an international incident with his praise of Hong Kong protestors, and now Luhnow has been fired in a massive cheating scandal. "Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow have more in common than the location of their offices. They both have MBAs. They both found their way into sports after working at high-powered consulting firms. They both run their teams with a heavy emphasis on analytics and an enormous appetite for risk"

  • MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's office issued a blistering statement that is worth a read. The parallels to John Gutfreund at Salomon -- and many other staples of "The Psychology of Human Misjudgment" are downright eerie. "“While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry.” "“Players stated that if Manager A.J. Hinch told them to stop engaging in the conduct, they would have immediately stopped,” the report said." “Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it."

  • Jürgen Klopp's Authentic, Infectious Aura and Ultimate Mission -- If you liked this profile of Gregg Popovich last year you'll like this one too.

  • Also: Why Steve Kerr Loves a Coach in Liverpool

  • The next U.S. president will have little effect on the stock market. Here's why. -- At the risk of bringing up politics, I would submit this as a worthwhile reality check in the pursuit of financial good-housekeeping. As Lowenstein reminds us, predicting stock market returns off of presidential elections is a fool's errand. The pronouncements of politicians and prognosticators have nothing to do with the fundamentals that matter, and even those fundamentals are nuanced with implications that can be counterintuitive.

  • Why Home Field Advantage Is Not What It Used to Be -- As the article notes, there are multiple factors at play. Better coaching and training techniques help, as do travel and recovery habits. But refereeing is the big factor, and as officials have added tools to improve accuracy mistakes (mostly in favor of the home team due to unintentional human bias) have gone down. And ironically, the undeniable improvement in refereeing has made the referees *less* popular, as noted on Michael Lewis's 2018 podcast "Against the Rules."

  • Robert Caro's Papers Headed to New-York Historical Society -- This is what masterful work looks like. The pictures alone are amazing. I'd also highly recommend Caro's book Working.

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