In Defense of Daylight Savings
About this time every year, article after article after article comes out about how terrible daylight saving time is. It doesn't save energy. It makes everyone tired. It's economically disruptive. It's archaic.
I suppose that's to be expected. We all get grumpy when an hour of our weekend is taken away. And when an hour of sleep is taken away from us (though we don't direct this same kind of anger at Netflix for some reason).
I get it. And I feel the same way. I used to hate the time change. I still do really. It throws everything off for a while. The great schedule that you've got your kids on has to change all of the sudden. And try explaining that to a toddler.
But really, are we going to blame all of our problems on daylight savings? We all know it's coming, but how many of us decided to stay up watching a movie anyway (I raise my hand as guilty on that one). Yeah, we're tired. But how often is that the case? Always? It's just this weekend we can all point to the same culprit and direct all our anger at it.
I look forward to daylight savings every year. I want the long evenings. I don't need extra daylight in the morning. Mornings are for working. Or sleeping in. Evenings are for relaxing, spending time with family, grilling, ball games, etc. A little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about (John Mayer agrees). And those summer nights are what summer is all about.
And let's be honest, how many of us like changing our clocks in the fall and losing an hour of daylight in the evening? I don't know anyone who likes that. Our consolation prize is getting an extra hour of sleep, but that's a small comfort when you're driving home from work at 5pm and it's already dark out.
I would certainly prefer to not have any time change too. But I would prefer to have daylight savings all year long. If we can make that happen, I'm on board. If not, I'll live with switching the clocks twice a year in order to enjoy longer evenings. Tiredness be damned.
How to Improve the Beautiful Game
Over the years, I've given a lot of thought about ways to improve soccer. While I'm sure that some of these things have been written about or discussed - maybe extensively - I haven't really followed any of those debates. So here are the suggestions:
Stop the Clock. I hate time wasting. Hate it. And the added time at the end doesn't make up for it. So how about just stopping the game clock whenever there is a stoppage of play. No more incentive to make pointless substitutions, fake injuries or otherwise waste time. And this would ensure that 90 minutes of soccer have been played.
Review Crucial Calls. Refs make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes change the game. So let's start having a video review by another official after important calls. That would include goals, penalties and red cards. It wouldn't take much extra time. And there aren't a lot of these events (and many of my suggestions would make them less impactful), so let's make sure we get them right.
No More Free Goals. I hate penalties. Many times they are the difference in a game. You can't convince me that a hard tackle just inside the box on the end line is worthy of a free goal. But that is the reward. I really like the back-pass rule here. Just let the opposing team have a free kick in the box wherever the infraction occurred. It gives keepers a fighting change while still putting them in dangerous spot.
Add Subs. While I'd be open to adding more substitutes to a game (probably very controversial), I'm just referring to extra time here. If the teams are going to play an extra 30 minutes, let's give them each an extra 2 subs at least. It's no fun watching tired soccer, so let them get some fresh legs out there.
Red Cards. What if a red card wasn't a death stroke? What if a substitute could be brought on? You could give the opposing team a power play (say 5-10 minutes of being a man up) and then allow the other team to bring on a sub (assuming they still have subs available). Games are far better when it is 11v11.
Post Facto Cards. Not everything is caught during the game. While players can be fined or suspended after games, let's add cards to that. This would apply critically to diving. Make the diving stop.
Soccer is notoriously stubborn when it comes to change, but it is past time to embrace it. We have new technology that could really help in getting things right and keeping everyone honest. And while the rules may have been in place for a while, why not rethink some of those? Let's get it done for the good of the game.
The World Cup
I love the World Cup. I love soccer in general. I've had pretty much a lifelong relationship with it and will likely die a soccer man.
On the eve of the World Cup, I'm pretty much brimming with anticipation. I've got my phone set for constant updates. Not that I'll need them, because frankly my calendar has been blocked off for most of the games and I'm fortunate enough to be in a work environment where all the TVs are tuned in (as well as my computer). My colleagues and I agree that it really should be considered a semi-holiday.
Which gives me hope for the future of American soccer. I have to admit, I do get a little disappointed when the majority of people don't seem to share my enthusiasm (though that may be a high bar). But the optimist in me sees a great deal of progress.
When Landon Donovan didn't make this year's team, the explosion on social media was crazy. While we can debate that decision (let's not though since every forum has already debated it to death), the takeaway was that people actually care. And that's good progress.
American soccer has really been making great strides over the past 20 years. The MLS is becoming a destination for world-class players who are still in their prime. Granted, it's a slow rise, but it's still happening. The league continues to grow as do home-grown players. Given it's starting point just 20 years ago, the progress has been huge and in the coming years the MLS will continue to grow as a destination for some of the best players in the world. It may never be the Premier League, but it will compete with many of the top international leagues, drawing some of the best from around the world and keeping the very best Americans as well.
Not only that, but in the next 20 years we'll be seeing America becoming a soccer powerhouse. A soccer superpower if you will. This World Cup, and its group of death, are likely to be difficult (my bracket has the US advancing, just FYI, so I believe it can be done), but over the next few World Cups I expect to see the US really arriving on the scene and dominating the Germans, the Brazilians etc.
Bold prediction: 2022 sees the US hosting once again, and going further than it has before under Jason Kries. Maybe wishful thinking, but still could be.
As for now, I think Brazil wins it all in front of the home crowd. They have a tough road, but it feels like their year. If not (and especially if it's Argentina's year), I expect to see a lot of people losing their jobs, from Brazil's manager up to their President.
I wish I could be down there now, enjoying the festivities and seeing old friends from around the country. But I'll content myself with watching as much as possible.
Go USA! Vai Brasil!
I was recently in a cab on the way to the airport. When the driver learned I worked in finance, he asked if we were in a recession still. "No," I responded. He then asked why a certain company was laying off thousands of workers. "Frankly, it's because the government's response to the downturn has made it worse."
I didn't get the chance to dive deeper into the subject, which was unfortunate. Though I don't know if he would have enjoyed it as much as I would.
So much of the focus has been on trying to drive consumer demand. Many people think, wrongly, that consumption is the engine of our economy. If we all just get out and buy more stuff, everything will all turn around. The economy will pick up and all will be well.
And we can all ride unicorns over rainbows to our new wealth.
This idea is fundamentally backwards. It isn't consumption, buying more stuff, that drives our economy. It is investment. It is productivity. It is the creation of new things.
It is easy to understand why we get this backward. It is ingrained in our thinking. It is how everyone looks at the economy. It is how all the talking heads explain it.
When we talk about GDP, we generally break it down into consumption and investment, and investment (buying capital like new machines to produce stuff) is always a much smaller portion than the consumption. But that isn't the reality of the economy, it is the flaw in our explanation.
Basically, in order to eliminate double counting from the data, we only look at "finished goods." So we don't take into account the production of all the goods. That phone in your pocket has a lot of parts to it. And you can be a lot of investment went into the production of all those parts. But only the finished phone is being counted in GDP. Which is fine, except when we want to talk about what really drives us forward.
"Well," you might say, "that is all well and good, but if we increase demand for products by buying more, won't that spur more production?"
Therein lies the fundamental problem with our thinking.
In order for us to consume anything, we must first produce something of value. You cannot simply go out and get a new smartphone. First, you must produce something for which you get paid. Once you've produced, you can then consume that new phone.
But our government policies have been completely focused on just the consumption. So in order to "spur demand," money is taken from someone, passed through multiple levels of government bureaucracy, and then a fraction of the original amount is delivered to the recipient. NOTHING HAS BEEN PRODUCED. Not only that, but actual value has been destroyed in the transfer. So while Person A now has a portion of Person B's money, the total value in the system is the same or less. So Person A can buy a phone, but Person B cannot.
In order to actually drive the economy forward, we must focus on production. We must focus on investment. We must focus on productivity and value. Taking money from B to give to A does nothing for us. But encouraging A and B to both produce will create real value for both. And with that added value, both can consume additional amounts.
How best to encourage productivity? Rather than the government forcibly taking money from Person B, we could allow Person B to keep more of what he makes. This could be accomplished through a reduced tax rate.
And what about Person A. If he is unemployed for example, continuing to pay him to not work or produce would seem counter productive. Rather, we could go back to a normal amount of unemployment benefits so that unemployment isn't a lifestyle, but rather a blip.
Ultimately, we must invest to move the economy along. We must encourage production as a means to increased consumption rather than the other way around.
My personal musings on a variety of topics.