Timing Matters for Armstrong, Clemens and Lin

One of the great lessons of contracts (and of the law more generally) is that the timing of actions can dramatically change legal consequences.  An offeree who says “I accept” a moment after the offer is withdrawn is in a very different position than an offeree who says the same thing a moment before an attempt to withdrawn.

This past summer three sports stories seemed to turn on matters of timing. Les Carpenter writes that Lance Armstrong could have avoided is downfall if he had stayed retired:

The irony is that Armstrong could have remained a hero. He could have been a saint, as well as a beacon of light to millions who never would have thought he had cheated throughout his career. All he had to do was stay retired.

Why Did the NBA Miss On Jeremy Lin?

In my last post, I reviewed how difficult it was to evaluate quarterbacks in the NFL draft. Essentially, I noted that there were several factors connected to where a quarterback was selected in the draft. But those factors failed to predict future performance. Given how difficult it was to just predict the future performance of veterans in the NFL, the difficulty people have forecasting the NFL performance of college quarterbacks is not surprising.  In sum, “mistakes” on draft day in the NFL simply reflect the immense complexity of the problem.

In the NBA, though, it is a very different story. Veteran NBA players – relative to what we see in the NFL – are far more consistent over time. And although we cannot predict future NBA performance on draft day perfectly, we certainly know something. Part of that “something” that we know is that NBA teams make mistakes by focusing on the “wrong” factors.Right now, people are wondering how a player like Jeremy Lin could have been missed by NBA decision-makers.

Some Links We Like

1. Why people hate economists (HT: Ian McKay)

2. The Planet Money crew holds a live literary event, "Money Greed and Power.”

3. Excellent article by Howard Beck on Jeremy Lin's improvement over past two years; also explains why Golden State cut him:

Unfortunately for the Warriors, they hardly had a chance to assess Lin’s off-season transformation. The N.B.A. lockout prevented them from working with him until camps opened in early December. He was on the court for maybe 90 minutes before the Warriors cut him in a move to clear payroll room to chase a free-agent center.

Jeremy Lin, Honorary Freakonomist?

As Linsanity continues, an illustration by Bobby Bernethy is making the rounds:

Some Links We Like

1. An early fan of Jeremy Lin.

2. How Boston Beer Co. gave beer-drinkers an IPO advantage.

3. A truck where students can stash their phones before school. (HT: Kottke)

4. Levitt once asked what WikiLeaks really affected. Bill Keller answers: "The most palpable legacy ... is that the U.S. government is more secretive than ever.

5. Fewer cars are lemons; fortunately, Akerlof already got his Nobel.

Football Freakonomics: What Can Linsanity Teach Us About the Upcoming NFL Draft?

In his first six NBA starts, Jeremy Lin averaged 24.3 points and 9.5 assists while leading the Knicks to six straight wins. 

If those numbers were attached to someone like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, you wouldn’t bat an eye. But until a couple weeks ago, Lin was little more than roster fodder, an undrafted player already cut by two teams and about to be cut by his third. That’s when a desperate coach who had run out of able-bodied point guards threw him into the fire. The rest – for the moment, at least – is history.

Let’s be honest: the reason we’re hearing so much about Lin is because he was overlooked. This might lead you to think he’s a true anomaly, a great game-time athlete who somehow slipped through a pro sports league’s finely-tuned talent-scouting machine. But if you look closely at the NFL, you’ll find Jeremy Lins all over the place.