Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Standard Error and Confidence Intervals

Here are three videos that should help you understand how to calculate:

  • The standard error for a sample proportion.

  • The standard error for a sample mean.

  • A 95% confidence interval for both a sample proportion and a sample mean.

  • A 99% confidence interval for both a sample proportion and a sample mean.

  • Go ahead and watch all 3 videos in order (each video is approximately 5 minutes):

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    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Gender Stratification in Mixed Martial Arts: What is the Future?


    On August 15, 2009 Cristiane Santos and Gina Carano competed in a mixed martial arts match that had as much crowd anticipation and energy as virtually any men's match (see video, below).

    While critics may suggest certain aspects of the match were sloppy or that the match did not yield pay-per-view buys on par with top UFC fight cards, one should also recall that generally speaking the women's MMA game has not been in play for nearly as long as the men's, and more importantly, as in most other sports, female athletes are not supported in the MMA industry as much as male athletes.

    Since Zuffa (the UFC's parent company) announced earlier this month that it had subsumed the Strikeforce promotion, a number of analysts have discussed the precarious position in which fighters now see themselves (see for example, here). Narrowing the focus, a few pieces have noted the especially uncertain position of female fighters currently under the Strikeforce brand. Fowlkes' piece at MMAFighting.com offers particularly useful perspectives from three of Strikeforce's female fighters -- Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen, and Miesha Tate:

    "I think one of two things can happen," said former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufman. "The first is that they embrace the females and still try to push them using the Strikeforce venue and then maybe pulling them over [into the UFC]. That would be great, if that were to happen. The second option would be, they run the contracts out and then that's it. I'm definitely hoping for the former, but I'm preparing for the latter."

    "I believe that with the knowledge of the UFC, Strikeforce will grow even larger," said Coenen. "If Dana and the others see that women can bring him money, it will be good for us. What we need are the role models like Gina Carano and Miesha and hopefully me, as well, that women can relate to. ...I truly believe that if they can get the women's audience, and if they can identify with a girl next door like me or Miesha, then the female fanbase, which is way more loyal than the men are, will only grow from there. That's the way I think Dana and Zuffa should look at it."

    "I know Dana White isn't a huge women's fighting advocate at all, and I know he's saying he'll honor the contracts, so immediately I don't think anything is going to change," said Tate. "But I'm a little concerned about when renegotiations come around for the women. I don't know how he's going to weigh our value and how we're going to get paid. I'm also more concerned about the big picture when the Showtime contract ends for Strikeforce. That's when I think there's going to be some big changes."

    Tate's point regarding how female fighters are valued in the MMA indsutry can be further analyzed by examining female fighters' recent compensation in major MMA fight cards relative to their male counterparts.


    A more detailed description of the methods for this piece can be found here. In short, to collect data for this project, the available information was gathered from MMA websites for each fighter's publicly stated earned income from UFC 100 to UFC 127, as well as a sample of Strikeforce fighters' salaries who competed within the timeframe. Only major fight cards were examined for this project, essentially meaning cards that were held on a pay-per-view basis. As noted previously, following UFC 127, Zuffa L.L.C. purchased the Strikeforce promotion, thereby putting the UFC and Strikeforce under the same ownership banner.

    For the UFC promotion, a sample of 15 fight cards were examined, in which 326 payouts (also known as a fighter's "purse") were made to fighters; fighter salaries for 13 UFC fight cards during this timeframe could not be located. For the Strikeforce promotion, a sample of 8 fight cards were examined, with 156 payouts. For Strikeforce, two payouts were discarded from the analysis (one in which the majority of the payout was reportedly given to charity and second of which was paid in advance of the competition), rendering this portion of the sample to 154 (Total N = 480).

    Analyses for this article will compare 18 cases specific to female fighters, all in the Strikeforce promotion, in comparison to their male counterparts in Strikeforce (N = 136) and in comparison to the combined cases of males from the Strikeforce and UFC promotions (N = 462). There are a few important limitations to these methods. First, the public compensation made to fighters within the UFC promotion (as noted by commenters in the first article using this data set noted) does not include "backstage/locker room" bonuses that are given to select fighters by management. Nor does the data set include possible royalties that elite fighters may secure from pay-per-view buys, DVD sales, etc. (which would expand the stratification among fighters since lower-tier fighters would likely not secure such compensation). Finally, reflecting gender stratification, the sample size for female fighters is very small.


    As noted previously, among male athletes in the total sample (UFC and Strikeforce fighters) payouts ranged from $940 to $500,000. For female athletes (only Strikeforce fighters), payouts ranged from $1,000 to $125,000. Among the male sample, however, there were 34 cases in which males made at least $200,000 for one competition (30 cases specific to the UFC and 4 specific to Strikeforce). When only examining the male cases specific to the Strikeforce promotion, payouts ranged from $400,000 at the top (paid to Fedor Emelianenko in his loss to Fabricio Werdum) to $940. The following figures display the measures of central tendency and variance for the total sample of males (UFC and Strikeforce males combined), Strikeforce males, and Strikeforce females.

    All males (N = 462)

    • Mean: $54,109

    • Median: $20,000

    • Standard deviation: $85,443

    Strikeforce males (N = 136)

    • Mean: $25,576

    • Median: $4,500

    • Standard deviation: $57,608

    All/Strikeforce females (N = 18)

    • Mean: $16,608

    • Median: $4,500

    • Standard deviation: $29,379

    The mean in all analyses is skewed heavily by outliers where fighters secured especially large purses relative to their co-workers. The median is a better measure of central tendency, and it is clear that the addition of UFC males to Strikeforce males alters the male sample, with the median standing substantially higher at $20,000. When comparing Strikeforce females with their male counterparts, the median is exactly the same, illustrating a degree of parity in compensation between the men and women.

    However, it is also important to examine the standard deviation, which indicates the average dispersion from the mean. For Strikeforce males, the standard deviation is $57,608; for females it is much less, at $29,379. This means even though the standard deviation is quite large for the female sample, on average, female fighters tend to make more similar purses than men in the Strikeforce promotion.

    Because the female sample is so small, it is useful to present all 18 cases:

    • Gina Carano: $125,000

    • Cris Santos: $35,000

    • Cris Santos: $35,000

    • Cris Santos: $25,000

    • Sarah Kaufman: $20,000

    • Cris Santos: $18,000

    • Marloes Coenen: $10,000

    • Jan Finney: $6,000

    • Liz Carmouche: $5,000

    • Elaina Maxwell: $4,000

    • Marloes Coenen: $3,000

    • Jenna Castillo: $3,000

    • Germaine De Randamie: $3,000

    • Marloes Coenen: $2,000

    • Miesha Tate: $1,500

    • Hitomi Akano: $1,450

    • Charlene Gellner: $1,000

    • Stephanie Webber: $1,000

    Clearly this sample (both the mean and standard deviation) is skewed by Carano's purse of $125,000, which she earned in losing to Cris Santos. In fact, Carano's purse is more than 3.5 times higher than the next highest purse of $35,000 given to Cris Santos twice, and notably in both of those cases, Santos earned $15,000 to show, $15,000 to win, and a $5,000 championship bonus, so her income level was not guaranteed. If Carano's purse is omitted from the sample the mean drops to $10,232 and the standard deviation drops to $11,815 (the median only drops to $4,000).

    Keeping Carano's salary of $125,000 in the female sample, a comparison of means was made between male and female Strikeforce fighters, and the differences were not statistically significant. Furthermore, even when omitting Carano's salary, a comparison of means between Strikeforce male and female fighters did not yield statistically significant results.

    Thus, at least within the Strikeforce promotion, the data show that women were not paid less than men to a level that reached statistical significance prior to the promotion being subsumed by Zuffa. Still, a simple glance at the salaries illustrates the extensive range in salaries (high stratification) among female fighters, and the same is true for males.


    Carano's status as both an accomplished fighter and a sex symbol in the MMA game and broader popular culture at the time, clearly leveraged her more power to garner the disproportionate purse. One might argue that Carano made a "patriarchal bargain" to secure her lucrative contract. As Wade notes, "A patriarchal bargain is a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact."

    Without question, Carano's emphasized femininity outside of sport increased her value within a sport that is particularly male-heavy (from ownership, through management, referees, athletes, and fans). This does not detract from Carano's general success as a competitor who was undefeated prior to squaring off with Santos. However, if sporting value is contingent predominantly (or at least largely) upon athletic success, one might rightfully ask why Santos continues to make so much less in comparison since defeating Carano. Additionally, Carano's participation in MMA (significant as it is) has not altered the sport's gender order.

    Additionally, the data supports a question asked previously – how will Zuffa value female fighters in the future, in particular after female fighters' contracts expire. At least from a statistical standpoint, Srikeforce compensated the female fighters on their cards as a whole on par with their male fighters. This does not necessarily mean every individual fighter (male or female) was compensated fairly (fair pay encompasses a number of subjective factors). However, looking at the Strikeforce female and male groups, there was a degree of parity in compensation.

    Will female fighters under Zuffa continue to be compensated with a degree of parity in the near future while contracts are still being honored? If not, why not? And in the long-term future, the bigger question is what will happen to women's MMA in general? Within the United States will women's MMA be limited to Bellator and regional promotions? Or will we see some of the more exciting competitions that women's MMA has provided for MMA fans in Strikeforce and the UFC? I'm hoping for the latter. And if the latter does come to fruition, that female fighters aren't making "$0.70 for every males' dollar."

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    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Social Stratification in Mixed Martial Arts


    In March 2011, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) parent company – Zuffa L.L.C. – purchased the UFC’s primary and only serious MMA promotional competitor – Strikeforce. In doing so, some have argued Zuffa L.L.C. has cornered the major MMA market. By essentially eliminating the competition, high-level MMA fighters are now deprived of options where they make take their talents and leverage their individual worth. As the MMA industry in the United States (and to a large degree globally) currently stands, only those promotions under the Zuffa banner can pay fighters a substantial amount of money for participating in a fairly dangerous line of work.

    This article will be the first in a series that examines a sample of fighters’ salaries from both the UFC and Strikeforce promotions as a means of analyzing the industry before the merger.

    Social Stratification

    Social stratification is a sociological concept suggesting that society is divided into different layers based on wealth, power, and prestige. Wealth includes the amount of resources an individual or group holds; this includes financial resources and social networks that can provide access to resources. Power is defined as the ability to influence one’s own life and the lives of others. Prestige refers to the degree of status one (or a group) holds in society (e.g., popularity, respect).

    These three components, of course, impact one another. A group with extensive wealth tends to have more power in influencing other groups. If one has a low level of prestige, he or she will have less life chances to acquire a substantial amount of wealth. A group with very little power will have a difficult time advocating for greater rights and resources.

    Within the MMA industry, those with the most wealth, power, and prestige are typically promotional owners. They stand at the top of the socially stratified MMA world. As noted previously, however, the number of major MMA promotions across the global landscape is extremely small. Thus one may argue that as the number of major MMA promotions decreases (or fall under the same management), the owners of the large MMA promotions increase their wealth, power, and prestige.

    MMA fighters in contrast, generally have less wealth, power, and prestige than owners. Moreover, there are stratified levels of wealth, power, and prestige among the fighters. Certain fighters are more connected to the owners than others, are more (or less) popular with the fans, and may have better (or less) resources at their disposal (e.g., an effective agent or manager).

    The prestige and resources a fighter has impacts the amount of income one can push for on a contract. An important resource for a fighter is also his or her record. Ostensibly, a lengthy winning record over quality opponents helps leverage more money promised for competing in an MMA fight, assuming the fighter is still in competitive form.

    It is a common perception that MMA fighters who make it to the “big time,” either having competed in the UFC or Strikeforce promotion, make a substantial income. MMA fighters, however, only compete at most four times per year, and it is far more likely that they compete roughly twice per year.

    A fighter’s number of competitions each year is contingent upon numerous variables. A loss may lead to being released from a promotional contract. It is not uncommon for fighters to be injured in practice and then need to drop out of a fight. Fighters may have personal and/or occupational disagreements with promotional management that influences fights booked (or more likely, not booked). In short, if a fighter sits within a low level of the stratified MMA industry, he or she may get minimal fights per year.

    Additionally, fighters’ purses vary immensely, which will be the focus of this article.


    MMA fighters do not have collective bargaining rights; they lack collective, organized power. Consequently, MMA promotions are not always required to release fighters’ salaries to the public after competition. However, commissions in some states require MMA promotions to make fighters’ salaries public. When this occurs, MMA websites typically report the information.

    To collect data for this project, the available information was gathered from MMA websites for each fighter’s publicly stated earned income from UFC 100 to UFC 127, as well as a sample of Strikeforce fighters’ salaries who competed within the timeframe. Only major fight cards were examined for this project, essentially meaning cards that were held on a pay-per-view basis. As noted previously, following UFC 127, Zuffa L.L.C. purchased the Strikeforce promotion, thereby putting the UFC and Strikeforce under the same ownership banner.

    For the UFC promotion, a sample of 15 fight cards were examined, in which 326 payouts (also known as a fighter’s “purse”) were made to fighters; fighter salaries for 13 UFC fight cards during this timeframe could not be located. For the Strikeforce promotion, a sample of 8 fight cards were examined, with 156 payouts. For Strikeforce, two payouts were discarded from the analysis (one in which the majority of the payout was reportedly given to charity and second of which was paid in advance of the competition), rendering this portion of the sample to 154.

    Within the overall sample, a number of fighters competed more than once. For instance, Cris “Cyborg” Santos competed on four out of the eight Strikeforce cards examined; all four of her payouts were included and each was counted separately within the overall sample. Likewise as an example in the UFC, Brock Lesnar competed on three fight cards, and all three of his payouts were examined separately. The nine women’s matches were only in the Strikeforce promotion. Thus for women’s matches, there were a total of 18 payouts to female fighters; there were 462 payouts to male fighters, for a final sample of 480 payouts (N = 480).

    Documentation was made if fighters won or lost their matches, and if a fighter won his/her match and was given a win bonus, what that bonus was in a dollar amount. For instance, in one match Fabricio Werdum was given $25,000 to “show” (i.e., compete), and since he won his match, he earned an additional “win bonus” of $25,000 for a total of $50,000. The $50,000 was the amount counted in the final analysis. The ratio of a win bonus relative to the “show” figure can fluctuate depending on each individual fighter’s ability to leverage a contract with the promotion. Chuck Liddell, one of the most popular MMA stars for instance, leveraged a flat rate of $500,000 to compete without any possible win bonus. Thus, even in losing his match, he still earned $500,000.

    Finally within the UFC sample, “incentive” bonuses were documented. On each UFC fight card, a “Knockout of the Night” bonus is given to one fighter, a “Submission of the Night” bonus is given to one fighter, and a “Fight of the Night” bonus is given to two fighters. These incentive bonuses ranged from $50,000 to $100,000. The final value counted for each UFC fighter payout included incentive bonuses when applicable. On one card for example, Yoshihiro Akiyama received $40,000 to “show,” $20,000 to win, and $100,000 for “Fight of the Night,” earning him a grand total of $160,000 (the amount counted in analyses). Since he earned “Fight of the Night” by beating Alan Belcher, Belcher received his $19,000 “show” money and an additional $100,000 for also being in the “Fight of the Night.” Belcher’s $119,000 was likewise the amount counted in analyses.


    The sample of payouts ranged from $500,000 at the top to $940 at the bottom. Interestingly, the two fighters who both earned $500,000 for one fight both lost. James Toney (a boxer turned MMA fighter for 1 competition to date) earned the top purse after losing to Randy Couture at UFC 118 via a round one submission; for beating Toney, Couture earned $250,000 (flat rate with no win bonus). Chuck Liddell lost at UFC 115 by second round knockout to Rich Franklin; Franklin earned $225,000 ($70,000 to show, $70,000 to win, and $85,000 for “Knockout of the Night”). The lowest purse of $940 was also given to two fighters, but within the Strikeforce promotion.

    The following figures display the measures of central tendency and variance for the total sample and two separate promotions:

    Total Sample (N = 480):

    • Mean: $52,703
    • Median: $20,000
    • Standard Deviation: $84,307

    UFC Sample (N = 326)

    • Mean: $66,012
    • Median: $27,000
    • Standard Deviation: $92,164

    Strikeforce Sample (N = 154)

    • Mean: $24,528
    • Median: $4,500
    • Standard Deviation: $55,068

    When examining data related to income, the mean (mathematical average) is frequently a deceiving measure because it is skewed by outliers, such as the $500,000 payouts to Toney and Liddell. Thus, the mean figures for all three samples, while informative, do not offer the best measure that typifies MMA fighters’ purses.

    In fact, the standard deviation is an indication of how widely the cases in each sample are dispersed from the mean. Because the standard deviation is large for each sample, we can say with greater clarity that the mean does not accurately represent on average what MMA fighters in these promotions earn.

    A better indicator of average income data is the median, which stood at $20,000 for the total sample, $27,000 for the UFC sample, and $4,500 for the Strikeforce sample. Obviously, by examining any measure, one can see that UFC fighters tend to earn more income than Strikeforce fighters, and this difference is statistically significant at the .001 level (which is highly significant).

    Perhaps, however, a more interesting analysis of this data entails examining how many fighters fall into different brackets of income level per fight. The following numbers represent the number of fighters earning purses within six income brackets:

    • 82 cases (roughly one sixth of the sample) earned $90,000 or more per fight
    • 80 cases in the sample earned between $38,000 and $89,000
    • 83 cases in the sample earned between $20,000 and $36,000
    • 66 cases in the sample earned between $11,000 – $19,800
    • 94 cases in the sample earned between $4,000 and $10,000
    • 75 cases in the sample earned $3,940 or less

    To put this into perspective, 35.2% of the cases in the sample earned $10,000 or less per fight; 15.6% of the sample earned $4,000 or less per fight. On the other end of the extreme, 17.1% of the sample earned $90,000 or more per fight. Only 34 cases (7.1% of the sample) earned $200,000 or more per fight.


    Within the MMA industry, status clearly plays a major role in fighters’ ability to leverage resources. James Toney is a professional athlete with an extensive professional boxing history, but who had literally no professional MMA experience. Yet, his boxing status enabled him to leverage a $500,000 payday despite losing very decisively to Randy Couture.

    One then must ask, did Toney’s mere participation on a pay-per-view MMA competition yield significantly increased pay-per-view buys? If not, this certainly calls into question the fairness of Toney earning so much to lose so decisively when other, more capable and experienced MMA fighters produce more competitive fights.

    These data also dispel any assumptions that most MMA fighters earn lucrative incomes as professional athletes. While it is true, most MMA fighters augment their competition purses with income through teaching combat sport classes and possibly by securing sponsorships, that supplementary income is not especially large, in particular for those fighters who do not have high status.

    Furthermore, following competitions when fighters have received their purse money, they typically must distribute portions of it to their trainers, nutritionists, cornermen, and whoever else helped them prepare for the competition. One can see how fast the purse money would disintegrate if a fighter earned $10,000 or less for a competition (recall, that is approximately one third of the entire sample).

    It is not terribly surprising that MMA fighters do not have collective bargaining rights, given that the sport is still less than two decades old. However, it is somewhat surprising that MMA fighters are not taking initial steps to organize so that they may secure collective rights in the near future.

    As the situation currently stands, fighters are essentially at odds with one another in what is known as a “split labor market,” where those who rely on their bodies as labor within a capitalist system compete with each other to assert their value. This is commonly seen as a “divide and conquer” system that privileges management over workers.

    The next series of articles relying on this data set will examine female fighters’ earned income relative to males’, as well as the impact incentive bonuses have within the UFC sample.

    Photo via

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    Friday, March 18, 2011

    ABC Poll Finds Majority of Respondents Support Gay Marriage

    According to ABC News, in 2004 roughly 32% of registered voters supported gay marriage.
    A national poll taken from March 10-13, 2011 of 1,005 randomly selected adults finds significant changes, namely that 53% of respondents support gay marriage (not civil unions, but gay marriage). And there are interesting, perhaps predictable, patterns.

    On the support of gay marriage side:
    • 68% of those under 30 support gay marriage
    • 65% of those in their 30s
    • 52% of those in their 40s
    • 33% of senior citizens (up from 18% in 2006)
    • Female support has increased 10% points
    • Male support has increased 18% points
    • 57% of non-evangelical white Protestants now support gay marriage, up 16% points

    Focusing on a perspective against gay marriage:

    • opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans
    • opposition rises to more than 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants

    Picture via Salon.com.

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    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Response to Too Many 'Model Minority' Asians in the Library

    From The Huffington Post:

    Although she wasn't a celebrity a few days ago, a student at UCLA, Alexandra Wallace has become something of a name for a really unfortunate anti-Asian video she posted to YouTube, "Asians in the Library," in which she makes the mocking "ching-chong" phony Chinese sound and makes a comment about how Asians in the library are irritating her even if they're getting news about their relatives "back home" after the tsunami.

    What is it about this horrible disaster and the tragic aftermath -- we're on the brink of a nuclear meltdown, hello -- that is bringing out such stupid reactions?

    See also

    I enjoyed this response to the Wallace video. One cannot help but notice, however, how gender is built into this video towards the end as a way to put down Wallace (attack discrimination with another form of discrimination). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the bulk of the video here.

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    Contradictory Connections: U.S. Rhetoric and the Money Flow

    So the Obama Administration is urging the leadership in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to show restraint when responding to the civil rights movements that have been pushing on across Northern Africa, and specifically in Bahrain.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been Tunisia and Egypt, speaking to the uprisings in Bahrain specifically. From

    Clinton called the situation "alarming" and said Bahrain and neighbors were on "the wrong track" by trying to quell unrest with troops instead of reform. Bahrain's majority Shia population has been chafing for years under the absolute rule of a Sunni monarchy and, emboldened by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, has begun to more forcefully call for changes.

    "We have deplored the use of force," Clinton told reporters in Cairo before flying to Tunis. "We have said not only to the Bahrainis but to our Gulf partners that we do not think security is the answer to what is going on."

    Clinton's focus on Bahrain stems from their government's recent crackdown on the uprisings. This from
    Al Jazeera English:

    Note from the video @0:45, "More than a thousand troops pouring in from Saudi Arabia." So we call for restraint on the part of these government forces, yet the U.S. has direct ties to Saudi Arabia's military.

    Back in 2010, the U.S. announced plans to sell up to $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The
    rationale for the sale:

    Vershbow and Shapiro both stressed that bolstering Saudi Arabia's own defense capabilities would improve U.S. security in a vital part of the world where fears are growing over Iran's nuclear program.

    "This is not solely about Iran," Shapiro said. "It's about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs ... they live in a dangerous neighborhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security."

    Vershbow said the sale would improve Saudi Arabia's ability to coordinate with the United States on shared security challenges "so it means we may have to station fewer forces on a continuing basis in the region."

    Even if this sale was for militaristic aircrafts and not smaller arms used on the ground (like those seen recently in Bahrain), one can clearly see the connections between military contractors in the U.S. with Saudi Arabia's government. The contradictions are obvious enough. If we do not want Saudi Arabia to partake in the violent crackdown on citizens who are fighting for democratic rights, we should not be selling them the means to carry out violent crackdowns.

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    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Calculating a Z Score for Marion Jones' 100m Time, 2000 Olympic 100m Finals

    Here, we are going to calculate a z score for Marion Jones' time in the finals of the 100m at the 2000 Olympic Games. Her z score will be calculated in comparison to her elite peers in that race. In the photo, below, you can see the large distance between Jones and her peers as she crosses the finish line. The athletes' times for the race are listed, below the picture:

    2000 Olympic Games, Women's 100m Final:
    • Marion Jones: 10.75 seconds
    • Ekaterini Thanou: 11.12
    • Tanya Lawrence: 11.18
    • Merlene Ottey: 11.19
    • Zhanna Pintusevych: 11.20
    • Chandra Sturrup: 11.21
    • Sevaheda Fynes: 11.22
    • Debbie Ferguson: 11.29

    Now in the video, below, we go through process of getting Jones' z score and then locating it within the standard normal table to check for statistical significance. In the video, we will see that Jones' time, relative to her peers is statistically significant at the threshold of 0.05. What about at 0.01? And what does this mean?

    Now, there are more important social issues than sports, but this was a good way of illustrating the process of getting z scores and locating them within the standard normal table. You could do the same thing, examining for instance, "the number of times someone was a victim of violence" or "the number of times someone had used illicit substances" in a given timeframe.

    If you surveyed a large number of people, then you could get z scores for individuals' responses and see where they are located in the standard normal table. This is where statistics is very useful for more socially important topics.

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    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Gendered Photos: Mixed Martial Arts Event

    Last night, I attended the X-1: Champions III mixed martial arts (MMA) event in Honolulu. I left a bit early, so today I went online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to see the last few matches' results. I noticed the page has a series of 20 photos that follow the typical notions of hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity.

    If you were a male at the event, you could be featured visually in this photo array in a diverse range of roles. Of course, you could be pictured as a fighter, as seen below.

    Or, you could be seen as an announcer:

    You could be featured ringside as part of the media or a cornerman (coach):

    Or again as a winning fighter, notably with females on the side.

    Females pictured has more limited roles as shown in the 20 picture photo array. You could be shown as a ring girl.

    Or as a fan in attire that very much emphasizes femininity.

    And by the way, there was a women's fight in which Raquel Paaluhi of Waianae, Hawaii defeated Nicole (last name not shown on results) of Las Vegas, NV by 3rd round TKO stoppage in a very exciting competition. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their photos were not featured.

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    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Calculating a Z Score for Usain Bolt's 100m Time, 2008 Olympic 100m Finals

    Here, we are going to calculate a z score for Usain Bolt's time in the finals of the 100m at the 2008 Olympic Games. His z score will be calculated in comparison to his elite peers in that race. In the photo, above, you can see the distance between Bolt and his peers as he crosses the finish line. Here are the athletes' times for the race:
    • Usain Bolt: 9.69 (seconds)
    • Richard Thompson: 9.89
    • Walter Dix: 9.91
    • Churandy Martina: 9.93
    • Asafa Powell: 9.95
    • Michael Frater: 9.97
    • Marc Burns: 10.01
    • Darvis Patton: 10.03
    Here, you can watch Bolt blow away the competition in video:

    Now in the video, below, we go through process of getting Bolt's z score and then locating it within the standard normal table to check for statistical significance. In the video, we will see that Bolt's time, relative to his peers is statistically significant at the threshold of 0.05. What about at 0.01?

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    Understanding The Bell Curve, Standard Normal Table, and Z Scores

    In this video, I explain the theoretical construct of the bell curve and the standard normal table. In addition, we begin to understand how z scores fall along the bell curve and what their placement along the bell curve means.

    In the next video, we will calculate actual z scores, locate them within the standard normal table, and look specifically for the area beyond z to check for statistical significance.

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    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Sporting Violence and Men's Health

    SocProf over at The Global Sociology Blog has motivated me to review some of the ways that sporting violence and masculinity intertwine in contemporary society, resulting in the systemic deterioration of men's health. Indeed the picture displayed, above, is a vivid example illustrating how so many boys are socialized to positively to value violence, both within and beyond sport.

    Perhaps the young boys' smile as he watches this hockey fight is the most telling aspect of the picture. However, the picture is of former National Hockey League (NHL) player, Bob Probert, who recently passed away. From
    The New York Times:

    The Fighter: Bob Probert
    Bob Probert, who died last summer from heart failure at the age of 45, was notorious for his brutal style of hockey, which included 246 fights with other N.H.L. players over his 16-year career. But these altercations may have also contributed to his chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, which was diagnosed after his death. While the N.H.L. has taken recent steps to reduce brain trauma, it has preserved the league-sanctioned fighting that many argue is part of the sport’s tradition and appeal. Players such as Probert, known as each team’s “enforcer,” continue to be employed, and often admired. The following YouTube videos are a sampling of Probert’s many fights [note: only one shown here].

    The entire New York Times story can be read HERE. I would agree that socialization plays a central role in teaching young males over the life course to view engagement into certain types of violence positively. This was a key finding in my interviews with adult mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, so many of whom grew up watching MMA with key father-figures, fighting with peers, fighting with family, learning to “fight” through wrestling, and so on. Violence in a variety of contexts became a very normalized aspect of their lives.

    On the other hand, as Loic Waquant (2001) has noted in his research with boxers in Chicago, males involved in combat sports are not completely blinded by their socialized history to simply engage in sporting violence without thinking to varying degrees about their choices. Rather, boxers – and male athletes in general – are frequently keenly aware of the risks they take, and the ways they may be exploited when making strategic choices to pursue their athletic and occupational goals. Two boxers quoted from Waquant’s study:

    All boxers, are what they call, figure of speech: they’re fucked over. You know, you see, they’re pimps, the promoters, you know. And boxers is like the whores, you know, so you pimp him. Yeah, that’s the way that go, I’m pretty sure. They don’t really have the bes’ interes’ in the fighter, you know. They jus’ goin’ for the gusto, the gusto is the money. (dejected but matterof-fact) They jus’ goin’ for the money. (p. 182).

    If you go in dere with a nice tough fight, man, rewar’ dis man. I tol’, I saw Highmower fight dis boy, man, man! (chuckle) I hated fightin’, I hated boxin’ ever since, I’m serious. Because, Louie, (incensed) Highmower an’ dat boy nearly killed each other. Man, d’ crowd wen’ crazy, Ralph [the matchmaker] – I’s, I’s like, ‘Look at dis shit!’ Boy, this is slavery all over again. I mean, look at dis shit! Dese men is seriously killin’ each other for (lowering his voice and whispering in joint disbelief and disgust) for a hun’red dollars (stressing each word to dramatize his point) Highmower-cut, that-man-cut, they-all-wen’-down, three-an’-four-time-a-piece. Botha’em wen’ to d’hospital, fer what, fer two hun’red dollars, hun’red each man? I said (shaking his head vigorously), ‘No, that ain’t – tha’s not right.’ (p.183).

    Despite having an awareness of their own exploitation, these boxers continued fighting as "flesh peddlers." This is because the individuals weighed the pros and cons that accompanied boxing, making calculated decisions that involved an assessment of their current resources (e.g., time invested in training, dependents, rent to be paid), potential acquisition of additional resources, social status (including the genered social prestige they would gain with victory), and their physical health.

    Today, with the emerging research on traumatic brain injury manifesting through sport, there is little doubt that young athletes are aware of the long-term costs that can come with prolonged participation in collision sports. This insightful interview with former professional wrestler and Harvard football player, Christopher Nowwinski on
    NPR’s Fresh Air speaks to the evolving research that increasingly demonstrates how repeated concussions harm athletes (the entire interview is thought provoking):

    Concussions, a type of traumatic brain injury, generally occur when the head either spins rapidly or accelerates quickly and then stops — like when a player tackles another player on the field. The National Football League and Congress have both held hearings on the head injuries, which can cause memory loss, confusion, nausea, blurred vision and long-term neurological effects, including symptoms of dementia, headaches and concentration problems.

    The central problem is not that male athletes are unaware of the potential harm that comes with collision sports, or attendant violent sporting activities (namely, fighting). Instead, the problems are:

    • Some athletes, in particular those with fewer resources, must make the uneasy choice to sacrifice their long-term physical and mental health for immediate rewards. And for many of these athletes, those immediate financial rewards are not terribly impressive.
    • Secondly, male athletes too often view the short-term status increases that accompany participation in violent sport (and fighting) as a positive tradeoff. In other words, male athletes know that by partaking in violent activities (and especially if they win), the public will reward them as males, not only financially, but also through gendered adoration. Sporting violence exalts their public masculinity, if only temporarily.

    Both of these social problems can be seen in FX’s recent boxing television series, "Lights Out," where the protagonist boxer must weigh his lost wealth, decreased status, and emerging family crises as he risks his mental and physical health in the ring:

    Scholars that examine masculinity and its ties to different types of violence have often argued that men need to see how perpetuation of violent masculinities hurt men (e.g., gun-related homicides happen most commonly among men over slights of disrespect). But what is more critical is that (1) we do not see more vulnerable men with fewer resources seduced into violent sport; and (2) males are not rewarded socially for their violent behaviors.

    Changing these two criteria means decreasing social stratification in society so that financially vulnerable men are not disproportionately risking their bodies and minds for sport's very limited rewards, and revamping media that glorifies violent men.

    Michelle Martin on “
    Tell Me More” probably says it in a more profound way:

    But it's time to ask whether sports in this country are like oil in the Middle East and Africa. We think sports are making us rich, but are they really making us poor, by keeping us from doing other things that might matter as much or more in the long run? It's an uncomfortable question, but as a fan myself, I have to ask.

    Wacquant, L. (2001). Whores, Slaves and Stallions: Languages of Exploitation and Accommodation among Boxers. Body & Society, 7 (2/3), 181-194.

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    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Dominant-Minority Relations: Malmo, Sweden

    Joseph Rodriguez, with the BBC World Service, has an interesting piece posted titled, "Open Eye: Swedish racial tension." The photofilm effectively demonstrates dominant-minority relations in a community of Malmo, Sweden, known as Rosengard.

    The piece is an effective tool in illustrating how social stratification (social inequality) influences youthful minority group members. As the photofilm shows, young people from Rosengard, live in a heavily segregated community, estranged from the majority population. And in this community, young Palestinians, Iraqis, Somalis, and so on compete with one another for respect in a space with limited resources.

    Those interviewed speak of exclusion and stereotyping on the part of the dominant Swedish culture, who do not always offer young minority students equal opportunities to be exposed to conventional workplaces. Interviewees also describe examples of avoidance, in that some minority group members feel more comfortable remaining in ethnic enclaves, speaking their native language rather than Swedish.

    Deviance is displayed as a reaction among minority youth, who resist what they define as an oppressive and exclusionary broader Swedish culture, as well as retreatism into substance use and withdrawl from the overall social system.

    Because the photofilm is so heavily fixated on the minority youths' perspectives from Rosengard, viewers get a biased perspective on how these groups are integrating (or not integrating) into Sweden's culture. In other words, although youth interviewed overtly state most minority youth from Rosengard do not engage in deviant behaviors, the overall sense in the photofilm is that minority, immigrant youth tend to be trouble-makers (this is a concern that emerges whenever a complex issue is condensed into a piece with limited time).

    Finally, the piece (in particular, the lengthier
    22-minute podcast) offers excellent content for discussing how a society can address social stratification and deviance. Youth discuss Sweden's robust educational and rehabilitative social services. Again, unfortunately, because youth who are not succeeding according to the majority groups' standards are profiled, listeners are left thinking minority group members are more inclined to exploit these services, rather than use them constructively to secure upward social mobility.

    Overall, this is a fantastic film that can spark a number of important conversations regarding multiculturalism, immigration, governmental/social support, dominant-minority relations, and how one coveys messages to the public through media outlets with limited timeframes.

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