Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pirates Episode IV: A New Hope

Let's face it, the Pirates had a terrible August. The Pirates entered Monday's series against the Cardinals with a 9-15 record for the month and five losses in six games.  They pretty much took themselves out of contention for the division championship, and were apparently letting the wildcard spot slip though their fingers.

But this last series with the Cards show that the Pirates still have some fight left.  After a heartbreaking opening loss 4-3 to the Cardinals on Monday, the Bucs cames back and trounced them 9-0 and 5-0.  Perhaps the best demonstration of Pirate moxie was Josh Harrison obliterating Yadier Molina on a collision at the plate in the Tuesday night game.  Harrison was out, but Molina left the game with back, neck and shoulder pain.   In the same game, the man of the hour, Pedro Alverez, El Toro, went 4 for 5, hitting two homeruns, blasting one out of the park in deep center and possibly into the Allegheny River. Alverez just for good measure hit another homerun in the Wednesday night game.

The two wins may end up meaning nothing, but hope springs eternal and they allow us to believe that all is possilbe and the Power of Zoltan may yet carry the Bucs into post-season play.  There are 32 games left in the season.  The Pirates need to win 12 of them for a winning season, to end the 20-year losing season streak.  The Pirates will probably need to win about 20 to make the play-offs.  May the power of Zoltan be with them.  

Update: sorry, as Jim points out, it has been 19 losing seasons. My error was in the math. I subtracted 1992 from 2012.

Liberal Canon

A recent interview on NPR talked with Beverly Gage, a professor at Yale, about her article in Slate entitled: "Why is there no liberal Ayn Rand?" on why Conservatives have literary canon (Rand, Friedman, Hayek, among others). It's an interesting article and I won't rehash it here, you can read it for yourself (it's not too long). Liberal Canon.

It got me thinking - why don't we have a liberal canon, and what can we do about that? How far back would we go? Do we include classical liberalism, or leave that that the "conservative" canon? Of course economic works are important, but what about political or social, or literary? There are obviously countless texts that could be included. The important part, after determining that long list, would be to have a more narrow, defined list. Something that all liberals would be able to read and digest to some extent.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Teacher Baseball Cards

Having a kid and being awake at 3am really gives you time to think. Last night, as I listened to the sweet whining from the next room, my mind wandered to the issue of schools and the never ending search for the panacea to our "failing" school system. (Sidenote: I think I am in the minority in that I don't actually think our schools are failing, but that's a topic for another post). Anyway, I listen to a lot of sports radio on the way home from work mixed in with my daily dose of NPR, so likely my mind was conflating the two. In any case, I had an epiphany. One issue that comes up again and again in the struggle to improve our schools, is teacher performance. How do you measure something like teacher performance? Is it based on standardized tests (then we complain teachers teach to the test); is it based on grades (well, teachers can just inflate their grades); is it based on graduation rates - the issues go on. But what if we and a system where we take all that information and churn out the equivalent of a teacher baseball card. But instead of BA and ERA and OBP you include the measurements I've already described, plus others. Taking it to the evaluation stage, like baseball these days, lets apply a little advanced metrics in our analysis. Maybe the teacher doesn't have a high batting average (their kids don't perform particularly well on standardized tests), but their on-base percentage is amazing (the number of their kids attending college or some type of post-secondary school is phenomenal). For one example, what do you do about parent involvement? I'd set up a statistical measurement based on number of hours a parent spends helping their child with homework. This way, if the amount of time a parent spends with their child on homework is low, this will be taken into account when assessing a teacher's performance.

This baseball card will help administrators assess their own teachers, parents can see all the factors that go in to teaching and which areas need work (including their own participation), and the card can go with a teacher if they decide to leave a school and other schools can more easily assess the quality of the teacher.

The overall point of the card is to bring together as much of the data as possible, including data that is not yet calculated (see parental involvement) and maintain a fairer assessment of the teacher's ability as a teacher. Of course there are always intangibles, and like any good baseball executive sometimes stats aren't enough. But I think this would benefit everyone involved. And besides, there could be an entirely commercial element to this. Think of packs of teacher trading cards sitting in bright shiny foil wrappers at the checkout counter in the grocery store or Wal-Mart. My guess is they would go like hot cakes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Apple Wins, Consumers Lose

Unless you were lost in the wilderness for the last few weeks, you know that Apple, Inc. won, for the most part, a landmark case against Samsung Electronics. If you were lost, however, you would have a greater appreciation for the meaning of 'landmark'. I wonder why most of our terms describing something important or monumental come from the earth. Landmark, milestone, watershed, even turning point hearken to nature rather than consumer electronics. Hmm?

I know much less than the jury so I have no comment on the outcome of the case, but I'm surprised by some of the fallout rhetoric. There's a lot of "possibly a loss for consumers" being written. Possibly, yes.

Of course looting, illegal downloads, and insurance fraud are big wins for consumers also. In the hierarchy of important activities, consumerism, in my humble opinion, may not rank as high as we sometimes make it out to be. Certainly below truth, justice, and the American Way. Wait, the American Way?…that is consumerism. A win for consumers may even be an oxymoron, like military intelligence, rise from the dead, and guest host. Perhaps we need some losses for consumers. Maybe that is why we have words like landmark, watershed and turning point.

As I read this over, I see it could be construed as some kind of surreptitious promotion of Apple and their case. My intention was simply using the case to say something about consumerism. My view of the case is a trite view that we must seek a middle ground between "standing on the shoulders of giants" and stealing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Apple is a Beast

I took this snapshot myself. (Actually, I only wasted about 15 seconds before it was revealed.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Don't Teach Your Children Religion

I keep reading crazy results from surveys. Here is the graph of one (actually a composite of many) from Jon D. Miller, et al. in Science Magazine in 2005.

I'm sure you have come across many more. Typically, they are used to show the appalling state of scientific education in this country, but they also are commentaries on the appalling state of religious education in this country.

I don't trust surveys for a number of reasons, but the ubiquity of these results seem to indicate something is amiss. And don't get me started about the science versus religion debate. Why isn't there a science versus technology debate? Or a science versus fine dining debate? Religion definitely learns from science. Hopefully, science, or at least scientists, learn from religion.

Then, I ran across this from the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition:

I'm not kidding. If you have a Mac, open your Dictionary App and type "religion". (Snow Leopard ver. 10.6.8 so you mileage may vary)

I understand there's little hope in finding "the unending search for meaning", but this is so wrong in so many ways. We complain about the four horsemen of New Atheism being weakly schooled in religion, but I would bet they know more about religion than 90 percent of the public—and more than some of the clerics they debated. How can so many people—not just internet posters, but scientists, professors, clerics and dictionary writers—know so little about religion?

We could spend a lot of time trying to answer this question. I have a simple one. We teach religion to our children.

Religion is about meaning. What is our place in the universe? "What then must we do?" (from Luke, Tolstoy, and "The Year of Living Dangerously")

These are the most profound questions we can ever ask, and we want children to answer them? Religion is much too advanced for children. How can you teach someone about the search for meaning when they don't even know the meaning of meaning?

When we teach children about religion, one of three things can happen when they grow up. They can keep those same ideas, call them faith, and continue to assign importance to these child-like views. (Granted, some of these people can answer the question "What then must we do?" far better than others with sophisticated knowledge of religion. But it is also how we get people thinking a virgin birth is more important than condoms for birth and AIDS control.) Secondly, they can one day re-examine those teachings, realize they are child-like and reject them. Thirdly, they can re-examine them, reject them as child-like, but learn adult versions of those teachings. In two out of three cases they must first unlearn what they learned as a child. Why require unlearning?

I realize that many of you have formally taught children religion. You have first hand experience. What did you teach, or, more importantly, what do you think they learned? What will they have to unlearn? Do you think there is more benefit than harm?

Practically speaking, it's not going to happen—for many reasons. There are always people who need a comfort crutch. No one wants their kid teased in school for not knowing who God is, even though the kids' knowledge will have to be unlearned. Kids (and parents) aren't going to miss out on the psychic and commercial benefits of religious holidays. Religion is intricately tied to culture especially in the family.

Perhaps as a minimum, however, we could treat religion like sex. At least tell the children that it is very mysterious, and we can't really explain much about it until they are older.

Ever want to be in two places at once?

Starting in 2013, you can…for under $2,000 (well, plus an iPad, or two). Is this creepy or cool?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Steve's Whereabouts

I know that the elder Steve has told everyone that he's been in Namibia for the last 10 weeks.  But can we be sure?

I recently recieved the following photo from Steve documenting his travels:

But then the same day, I happened to see this picture in the paper taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity:
These two photos show a suspiciously similar terrain.  I don't know how he did it, but it looks like somehow Steve got himself to Mars.  Well, compare and decide for yourself.

Meanwhile, in other travels, here is Steve crossing the Sun's Anvil.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Ubiquitous Dark Knight

I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises and while, if you think about it too much you will find things to criticize, there is no getting around that -- and I saw it at an Imax -- it is an incredibly gripping and profoundly unsettling movie.

What's amazing, though, is how the movie has touched a nerve in so many different and unrelated areas of American life

There's the political angle:

The Politics of “The Dark Knight Rises”

No, 'The Dark Knight Rises' Isn't a Right-Wing Opus

The finance angle:

Bane's Plan to Bankrupt Batman Doesn't Make Any Sense

The fashion angle:

The Super-villain's Dress-Code

Conspiracy Theories: The Dark Knight Rises x Ermenegildo Zegna

And, last but not least, the Anne Hathaway angle:

The Awesome Anne Hathaway

Be forewarned:  almost all of these links contain plot spoilers.  You may want to see the movie first and then look up the links.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's a …miracle!

Theresa and Jamie, but mostly Theresa, had a 8 pound 12 ounce boy early Sunday morning. His great grandmother approved the baby today and held him for a half hour or so. He answers to the name of Ronan…or will someday. Jamie has been teaching him the three point stance with limited success.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Werewolves of London Again

I’ve spoken about the Harvey canon before and, at least in my mind, such a thing exists:  a list of books, movies and songs that are essentially Harvey.  Someday, I may attempt to compile the canon.

One song I hope would make the cut is “Werewolves of London.”  You just can’t get much better lyrics than:  I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's/ And his hair was perfect.”

This summer NPR’s All Things Considered is running an occasional feature called "Mom and Dad's Record Collection" – in which the host interviews people about a favorite song of their parents.  Well, one day the guest was Christina Pappas.  She said that her father’s absolutely favorite song of all time was “Werewolves of London.”  She generally hated all her father’s music, but she especially hated  “Werewolves of London.”  When she was young, she would, in her words, “go on these very long, elaborate rants about this song, and how it's what's wrong with the world today; and, you know, if our parents are listening to songs with this kind of nonsensical lyrics, then how could we ever hope to inherit a better world from them?”

Well, that sort of thing just fueled the fire, and every time she would get into his car, or go visit his house, he would start playing the song.  But things went from bad to worse when he got a cellphone.  By that time, he was a truck driver, and he would call her any time of day when he was on the road. And, without introduction, he would blast the song into the phone as soon as she answered.   The thing is, once the joke was over, they’d end up chatting, and it was nice for her to be able to have these regular conversations with her father.  But the intro was always “Werewolves of London.”  When she wasn’t there, he’d leave the song on her answering machine.

When Christina got engaged, her father was adamant that the father-daughter dance must be to “Werewolves of London.”  She absolutely refused.  This was her wedding, after all, and what song could be less appropriate for a wedding?  Ultimately, her father relented and he agreed that he’d dance to whatever song she chose. She decided on “What a Wonderful World.”  It was all set, but as the wedding approached, again in her words, “just probably the week before the wedding, as my husband and I were finalizing the music that we were going to play, and I kept thinking in my mind about that first dance with my father. And I couldn't see us dancing to ‘What a Wonderful World.’ And the only song I could ever see myself dancing with - with my father, was ‘Werewolves of London.’”

So at the wedding – and I’ll let Christina take over here:  “As my dad and I are standing in, you know, the center of the dance floor, kind of waiting for the song to - queued up, once that opening line - that opening - kind of baseline to the song started playing, my dad froze. And he looked at me, and I just smiled and said, ‘this is the only song we could ever dance to.’”

His eyes misted over, and, for only the second time in her life, Christina saw her tough old truck driving father cry.

A story worthy of “This American Life.”  

Report Exposes Pittsburgh's Racial Prevailing Disparities

[This article, by Peter Harvey, was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on August 9, 2012]

During the past couple of months, I have heard a number of newcomers to Pittsburgh say how shocked they were to find a region so segregated.

While census data from the past 30 years indicate some signs of increasing diversity, we still remain a region deeply divided. In 1980, the average white person in the Pittsburgh metro area lived in a census tract that was over 95 percent white.

In 2010, that same white person lived in a tract that was about 92 percent white. Even as their percentage of population in the region has declined, as a group, whites remain very isolated. Blacks in our region, on the other hand, are living in more diverse settings. In 1980, the average black person lived in a census tract that was over 55 percent black. In 2010, that number dropped to under 41 percent. The lie of "separate but equal" was exposed decades ago, but the tragic effects of racial separation in Pittsburgh persist. A recent report by the Urban Institute shows significant racial disparities in the region across a range of indicators from income to homeownership rates to school testing scores. The report gave Pittsburgh a failing grade.

Researchers with the "US 2010" project show that whatever their personal circumstances, black and Hispanic families on average live at disadvantaged neighborhoods.

For the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, the report showed that middle-income and affluent, non-white households all tend to live in poorer neighborhoods than their white counterparts. Affluent blacks live in neighborhoods where the median household income is lower than that of neighborhoods where poor whites live, and non-white households -- whether poor, middle-income or affluent -- tend to live in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates than their white counterparts.

An acute lack of diverse communities in our region is no accident or simply a matter of personal choice. Segregated neighborhoods are products of public policies as well as the result of discriminatory housing practices by real estate agencies, mortgage lenders and private housing providers.

Transforming our segregate landscape remains an imperative, but creating diversity will not be easy. Here are three broad strategies that can help.

1. Spending public funds in ways that encourage integration. The millions of federal dollars that Pittsburgh and surrounding counties receive to fund housing and development are required by law to be used in ways that "affirmatively further fair housing." It is not enough that these jurisdictions not discriminate. They have a positive obligation to use funds to create diverse and inclusive communities. We must know how, and more importantly, where funds are being spent and ensure that projects are not perpetuating segregation, but rather open up real opportunities for inclusion.

2. Combat housing discrimination. A fundamental barrier to diversity is discrimination. For too many people, the choice of where they want to live continues to be limited by discriminatory practices. It is imperative that private groups and government agencies support vigorous enforcement of our fair housing laws. Community education is critical as well. Housing providers must understand their obligations. Home seekers must understand their rights.

3. Expand housing choice. One of the principle reasons that race and poverty remain concentrated in our region is a lack of housing options for low and moderate income families in high quality neighborhoods. One way to shift this paradigm is through inclusionary zoning policies that would obligate housing developers to include a percentage of affordable housing units in their developments. A number of jurisdictions across the country have successfully adopted such zoning practices. Another tool for expanding choice is the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). Vouchers provide some assistance to those with limited resources to access units in the private rental market and the chance to move to neighborhoods where they are more likely to succeed.

Wouldn't it be great if in 10 years newcomers to our region would be surprised by our vibrant and inclusive neighborhoods? To get there we have to work both to eliminate barriers to diversity and use policies that promote it.

Peter Harvey is executive director of the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh. First Published August 9, 2012 12:00 am

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Errol Morris falls on his font face

We all love Errol Morris, but he needs to read more In Progress—specifically 'Why Smart People Are Stupid' by Myk—or, more modestly, the work by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.

You may recall Morris' intriguing quiz in the New York Times Opinionator which was referenced in a comment to the 'Why Smart People Are Stupid' article. It appeared that he took his quiz question right from Kahneman. (In truth, however, he took it from David Deutsch’s second book, The Beginning of Infinity.) I think it was an unfortunate choice.

Here is Errol Morris' follow-up where he explains the true purpose of his first article.
The test consisted of comparing the responses and determining whether font choice influenced our perception of the truth of the passage.
In traditional psychological study fashion, the whole thing was a ruse. It was a great idea, and he includes some interesting information, especially an anecdote about how a student's grades went up when he switched to Georgia font. The article is also a wonderful exposition on fonts and their inventors. His subject is interesting, the articles are fascinating, but his conclusion, for all the statistical analysis, is suspect.

I suppose Mr. Morris feels that the content of the question or passage doesn't matter since the only thing that varied between the six groups was the font. The problem is that the passage, which people read in different fonts, has nothing to do with deciding how to answer the question. As pointed out in the passage, the chance of an earth-hitting-astroid is one in 250,000 years, so, in essence, having modern astroid destroying capability adds nothing to our safety, especially since the invention of the automobile. Whether we believe the passage is true or false, in whatever font, makes no difference when we answer the question—at least for those who see its irrelevance. This is a Kahneman moment. 

Perhaps we do change our perception of truth depending on fonts, but the best Morris can say is that after reading a story in a certain font, we may be more incline to answer questions differently. I don't see where truth comes into play.

Of course, we know that truth never comes in sans comic.

The more I think about this, the more I feel that I shouldn't be quite so quick in dismissing Errol Morris' conclusions. The relative truth of the passage doesn't come into play if we accept the one-in-250,000 years part of the passage. But the font may also keep us from believing that too! So, if we don't believe the stated chance, do we think the chance is greater or lesser? With all this talk of astroids I'm going to say greater, say, one in a hundred or one in a thousand years. So now, because of the font's power, the passage becomes relevant in answering the question. Now we consider how much we believe the passage—font and all. It's the all inclusive nature of the font that lets us discount or accept each and every part of the passage.

However, if it is a truth inducing font, then we believe the one-in-250,000 years, and the passage again remains irrelevant. Hmm…this is a lot more complicated than I thought. Maybe I'm just having a hard time believing Morris' follow-up article(s) because of the font he is using.

Olympic Glory by Country

Just like wealth, murders, and taxes, here is the real medal count by country.

Adding to 'Stories from the Olympics', Slovenia had the early lead. “I’m a little worried about Jamaica,” said the Slovenian Olympic representative at the time. And his concerns were justified.

But he should have been more worried about Grenada. Kirani James won the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter dash, quickly placing his country at the top of the medal list. At 19, James has been setting records since he was 14 years old. Grenada may be hard to catch.

The U.S. is struggling to pass Puerto Rico, but is well ahead of China.

No one caught Grenada. Congratulations! Country of Champion(s)!

The U.S. did pass Puerto Rico, but finished in the middle of the pack—exactly in the middle to be precise. We placed 40th out of 80 countries. So, while we can't wear our 'Slightly above mediocre' Olympic T-shirts, we are the most average in all the world. It kind of feels right considering our pride as the world's melting pot, and the vote of confidence it gives to the fairness of our immigration policies.

Just when I thought the Olympics were over they bring out rhythmic gymnastics. I guess we have to wait until Sunday to find out if the U.S. is the most average nation. They are currently falling behind.

Final UPDATE: 
Peter's right. I wondered why the number of teams went from 80 to 82 and now 85. So any country that wins a medal is above average. Although we probably should calculate the average number of people it takes to win a medal based on the 2012 results. I'm not going to do it, but it would probably be between 2 and 3 million. (Note that Myk calculated medals per world population as one out of about 7 million.) So it would not be unreasonable to discount those countries with populations less than what is expected to win a medal. Anyway, the U.S. did very well. It would not be wrong to break out those "Slightly above mediocre" T-Shirts. We wouldn't even need the "slightly".

You know when you go to Long Beach Island, you always feel more athletic. There is a reason for that. Unbelievably, the top five Olympic medal winning countries are all islands! Four of the five are in the Caribbean! The other is New Zealand.

The second best athletes are in eastern Europe.  Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia, and Belarus are all in the top 20.

I was trying to come up with stats on whether athletes come from the leisure class or the destitute. Rich countries did reasonably well, while Qatar, which reportedly has the highest per capita income came in 20th. Extreme poverty, like in practically everything else, is not helpful. Only two of the 20 poorest countries in the world (Ethiopia and Afghanistan) were medal winners.

Stories from the Olympics

The August 6, 2012, issue of The New Yorker featured a piece by critic Louis Menand: Glory Days: What we watch when we watch the Olympics.  The article was ostensibly a review of several books and videos focused on the Olympics.  But the review also gave Menand the opportunity to share with us some of the more incredible Olympic stories over the years.

For example, we all now know about Oscar Pistorius, a.k.a. the Blade Runner, the South African sprinter who runs on two carbon-fibre lower legs.  But how many of us know of the American gymnast George Eyser who won six medals in one day in the 1904 Games, including a gold in the vault, with a wooden leg.

Perhaps more familiar is Jim Thorpe, who, in the 1912 Stockholm Games, won, by huge margins, both the pentathlon and the decathlon, even though it was the first decathlon he had ever competed in.

Babe Didrikson was allowed to compete in only three events in the 1932 Games, in Los Angeles.  She finished first in two, the javelin throw and the eighty-meter hurdles (a world record), and tied for first in the high jump (another world record).  As if this wasn't enough to demonstrate her wide-ranging talent, she also gained all-American status in basketball, played organized baseball and softball and was an expert diver, roller-skater and bowler.  And, by the way, she happened to become one of the greatest professional golfers in history.

The Bulgarian-born Turkish weight lifter Naim Süleymanoğlu won gold medals in three Olympics, from 1988 to 1996. In Atlanta in 1996, Süleymanoğlu achieved his crowning glory by defeating the Greek lifter Valerios Leonidis for the gold medal in an intense final round, in which both athletes broke the world record.  The drama of the competition was further heightened by the crazed frenzy of the spectators fueled by the long history of hatred between Greece and Turkey. Süleymanoğlu was said to be, pound for pound, the strongest man in the world. To win the medal, he had to clean-and-jerk four hundred and thirteen pounds, almost three times his body weight.

The oldest medalist, Oscar Swahn of Sweden, was seventy-two when he won the silver in team double-shot running deer shooting in the 1920 Olympics.   Who knows what this event involved, but to be second best in the world in anything at age 72 is pretty impressive.   As Menand said, "whatever that is, I’ll have what he’s having."

And then, we have the Czech runner Emil Zátopek, in Helsinki, who in 1952 won the men’s five thousand and ten thousand meters, and then entered the marathon, which he had never competed in before.  He broke the Olympic marathon record.

The Ethiopian runner, Abebe Bikila, won the marathon in 1960 running barefoot through the streets of Rome. 

And who remembers Billy Mills, an American runner and a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe who, in the last twenty meters of the 10,000 meters in Tokyo 1964, broke out of the pack and sprinted past Mohamed Gammoudi and Ron Clarke, the world-record holder at the time, as though they were standing still, winning the gold?

The article also recounts how Dave Wottle passed seven runners with less than a lap to go to win the eight hundred meters by three one-hundredths of a second in Munich in 1972.

We might also recall Kerri Strug, who, despite a sprained ankle, stuck her landing in the vault in Atlanta, in 1996, where the United States won the team gold medal.  But even more amazing was the Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto, who, in the 1976 Games, in Montreal, stuck his dismount from the rings on a broken leg and helped his team win the all-around gold medal. The post-script is that Strug and Fujimoto never fully recovered from their injuries and, as it turns out, the U.S. team did not even need Strug’s score. It would have won gold without it.

Perhaps there's not much more to draw from these stories beyond that, given enough events in enough Olympics, some incredible things are bound to happen.  I'm more inclined to think, however, something more can be found here:  we humans are pretty phenomenal creatures who will constantly surprise and amaze you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reductio ad Hominem

I'm sure some have already found this article. In some ways it seems like the perfect storm for this blog, so I was surprised, in a Chesterton-sort-of-way, that Professor Richard Polt specializes in Heidegger. You may also wish to read some of the comments.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who Says Marriage is Dead?

These guys set the bar pretty high.

The Curious Art of Winning

Recall Tom's greatest football comeback story where one team was trailing by less then a touchdown (more than a field goal) with only a couple of minutes left. The other team had the ball and were close to scoring again on about the 10-yard line. The trailing team felt there was only one chance to win. They did nothing on defense the next play and let the team score, preserving precious time. Their strategy paid off as they ran back the kick-off for a touchdown, recovered an on-side kick, and quickly scored the winning touchdown. Sometimes teams embrace the most unusual strategies, by not competing at times, in their attempt to win.

Fast forward to the 2012 Olympics where eight badminton players were disqualified for "not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”. But clearly they were trying to win…the gold, or at least a silver, medal. If they lost the match they would not have to face the second seeded Chinese team, which unexpectedly lost to the Danes, until the finals.

On the one side:
“It’s depressing, who wants to sit through something like that?” Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee, told reporters at the Olympic Park. “The badminton federation will take it very seriously.” 
On the other:
Yu, Wang, Jung and Kim were booed by the crowd as they exited after the South Korean pair won 21-14, 21-11. Yu told journalists that she and her partner were already through and were conserving energy for the elimination stage. “If we’re not playing the best, it’s because it doesn’t matter,” she said. “The most important thing is the elimination match.”
No one thinks it unusual for teams to pull their starters and basically not play their best when they have already made the playoffs. What is different here?