Monday, June 2, 2008

Public Facts, Greek Love, and MLB Parity

I'm going to clean up some loose ends that have been rattling around in my pending post file. Which means that it's time for all of you to put up with my esoteric leanings. (Hey, I gave you an Alyssa Milano image below. If I don't cockblock you here with some London Review of Books-inspired work, I lose all cred as a wildly unpopular sports blogger.)

"Public facts" is a concept that economists and financial analysts use to determine the veracity of a market. If everyone knows something (say, for instance, the raising or lowering of an interest rate), it's a public fact. If the rate will be changed but only a portion of the market knows, that's a private fact. Markets depend on the swift dissemination of public facts, because if you don't have them, you've got a rigged game, and you won't get fresh money or investors.

Here's another point from reading too many esoteric book reviews... when you think about life among the ancient Greeks, assuming you ever think of such things, you probably think that they are relatively tolerant of gays, given that there's been any number of pieces of art that depict such things.

But when you dig into how people actually lived back there, it really wasn't that way. Sure, among military and aristocratic elites, such things were tolerated, but for the most part, the orientation was regarded the same way that it was throughout most of the ancient world -- with suspicion or derision, because, dammit, when life expectancies and infant mortality is what it was back then, you need all the spawn you can get.

So a false perception of reality is maintained due to the existence of noteworthy art: the pots have survived more than the writing, so voila, Greek Love means what it means.

Now, how does this roll back into sports, since that's what I do? It's all relevant to MLB, this year, this moment.

The public facts about steroid and HGH use among players is still far from known, and not just from the obvious aspects of 500 foot home runs and the track records of various MVPs, Cy Young winners and the whole rogues gallery of users.

We don't know, for instance, how many older players were kept in the game, or had their prime years extended, from the use of the junk. We also do not know, and will never know, how many players are now hitting a hard wall that the needle and pills might have prevented, at least for a little while longer.

But since MLB isn't a traditional market, the failure of public facts has not been a detriment to financial interest. (Compare and contrast this to, say, what's happening with home values right now. Or, better yet, don't, because if you are like me and bought in before the market went south, it'll just make you very, very sad.)

Now, to the Greeks. When you hear people talk about parity, it's almost always in disgust; it means a confederacy of mediocres, with the era being little-known, nor long-remembered. Especially in baseball, people talk about the Yankee Dynasties or the Braves always winning the NL East as being meaningful and memorable... but when you look at the attendance figures, the numbers don't back it up. People like to watch teams that are actually competitive, and more competitive teams equals more stadiums that have filled seats. The existence of the art -- be it pottery or pennant -- does not reflect the reality of what it was like to be there.

Oh, and this also makes fans of MLB+ franchises complete perverts that shouldn't be allowed to marry, and a threat to our traditional values. And that's a Public Fact.

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