Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Fix College Football

Yesterday the Tennessee Volunteers football team got thumped again, 34-20, by the 4th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, a defeat that was widely predicted and by a margin close to what was expected. Previously they were also roundly beaten 34-10 by then 3rd ranked Oklahoma and 34-3 by 3rd ranked Ole Miss.

In contrast, they thrashed the minnows of Chattanooga, Arkansas State and Utah State earlier on.
So, out of 9 Vols games so far this season, 7 have been match-ups between clearly unequal teams.

Its a wonder anyone bothers to turn up at Neyland Stadium. It's not as if there's much excitement there any more.

They should not be playing teams ranked 50 places above them. It's boring for the fans, and demoralizing  for the young kids on the losing team.

Here's how to fix it:

At the beginning of the season there is a preliminary ranking of schools. Only the first month should be firmly scheduled, with games against teams within 15 places either side in the rankings, preferably geographically close. That means that, in the current rankings, the Vols would be playing colleges such as UNC, Western Kentucky, MTSU, Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Texas Tech.
These would all be exciting games because we WOULDN'T KNOW IN ADVANCE WHO IS GOING TO WIN!

Now, in college football teams can sometimes turn out to be much better or worse than expected, as the roster turnover each year is high. So every week, as the rankings are adjusted, so would be the schedule for games a month away and longer. Thus the schedule would adapt to the strength of the team. We'd keep all games scheduled within 4 weeks as they are, though, so as to not disrupt travel plans. But a team that is 6-0 after the first month and half could well be facing Top Ten teams in the third month.

Of course, this would be the virtual demise of the conference system; no more SEC, ACC etc.
And some of our treasured match-ups, such as Alabama, LSU etc, wouldn't take place every year.
But what's the point of them when the game is a foregone conclusion?
Adaptive Scheduling - the Future of College Football!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Superman Disorder?

When I was 13 years old I was diagnosed with Gilbert's Syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting the promoter of a gene for the enzyme glucuronyltransferase, which conjugates bilirubin. 5-10% of the population have GS, and it is benign, leading only to elevated levels of unconjugated bilirubin in blood tests and occasional slight jaundice, which friends of mine have sometimes remarked on.

What seems weird, though, is that in the last few years there has been a raft of statistical epidemiological studies suggesting that us GS guys have a huge, invisible health shield! Those of us with the disorder appear to be  protected, sometimes strongly,  against cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and kidney disease, and have lower BMIs, reduced cholesterol, more elastic arteries, reduced inflammation status and all sorts of other yummy stuff. There was even an article published last year showing success in the bottom line: in a study of 25,000 people over 350,000 person-years the overall mortality  of us Gilbert's Grenadiers was only half that of normal people.

Why would this be? The suggestion (albeit disputed) is that protection arises at least in part because unconjugated bilirubin is a powerful antioxidant, and therefore protects against oxidative stress. That would then be a bit like having had your ration of five fruits and vegetables before you even get up in the morning.

I'm not buying it, of course. There has to be a catch somewhere, doesn't there? Hyperbilirubinemia in infants can lead to irreversible kernicterus, or brain damage. Also, drug toxicity would appear to be worse in some cases for us guys. So I'm waiting for the negative metabolic effects of GS to be elucidated using systems medicine approaches. But until that time, I'm formally in the superman club!