Risk Reward

With that as the title, I can hear the sound of delete keys firmly struck by my three children, who heard the words endlessly while growing up. For best effect, audible eye rolling and death rattle sighing must always accompany proper “delete-key-striking”.

In their cases the tradeoff always related to their own decisions, their own risks and their own rewards. We never had to discuss decisions made by them or others, risks borne by them or others, or rewards enjoyed by them or others. Nor did we discuss concealing those risks to preclude the possibility of good decision-making if decisions were even considered.

Those questions are raised in the five stories that caught my eye today. Each is excerpted below with a link and a comment or question. Italicized words are mine.

Olympian Dies in America’s Cup Training After Yacht Flips

Andrew Simpson, a 36-year-old British sailor and Olympic gold medalist, died Thursday after a 72-foot America’s Cup yacht owned by the Swedish team Artemis Racing capsized during training in San Francisco Bay.

In recent interviews, several crew members and Cup officials have expressed concerns that the yachts are now “overpowered.”

According to an English “yachty” friend, these “boats” – or are they very-low-flying planes? – achieve speeds of 40 to 45 knots when their only contact with the water is a set of tiny hydrofoils.

“When Oracle crashed, I said, ‘That will not be the only one; this will happen again,’ “ Max Sirena, skipper of America’s Cup challenger Luna Rossa, said in an interview Thursday. “And now it’s happened again. These are dangerous boats.”

Sirena added: “The boat is basically too powerful. At the same time, this is our sport. This is a risk we take.”

The America’s Cup, the oldest major international sporting event, has traditionally been contested in slower monohull yachts. But after the team owner Larry Ellison and Golden Gate Yacht Club won the Cup in 2010 in a huge multihull with an innovative wing mainsail, Ellison and other members of his team decided to defend the 34th America’s Cup in 72-foot catamarans with the same wing-sail technology.

They did so in an effort to broaden the event’s fan base by creating a more extreme, television-friendly competition that might appeal to a younger demographic.

My “yachty” friend calls it rollerball. Are the event designers and the participants having an opportunity to consider an appropriate allocation of the risks and rewards?

The Holy Grail of Battle Re-enactments

Inside Craig Ivey’s travel bag are objects reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

He has a steel, rounded shield; a five-sided, wooden shield; a red, white and blue surcoat; a protective vest; a wraparound helmet, pockmarked with dents; steel pads to hide his forearms, knees, legs and hands; and a blunt-edged sword designed to inflict pain but not cut. His collection cost about $4,000.

Ivey, a fitness trainer in Atlanta, will use all 60 pounds of the equipment Thursday at an outdoor arena in Aigues-Mortes, in the south of France. He will compete in his first Battle of the Nations, a modern-day, medieval-like combat involving national teams of fighters.

“Everybody thinks I’m a little crazy,” Ivey said, without refuting the perception.

Full-contact armored fighting events grew out of participation in historical re-enactments, which are largely theatrical and tame. More common re-enactment fighting involves wooden weapons in the United States. The Battle of the Nations, in its fourth year, is the first international full-contact competition of this scale that uses steel armor — a heightened risk factor that has attracted a certain breed of fighters. It has been won by Russia every year.

Many fighters are intrigued by a time when differences were settled by sword fights to the death.

“This is the perfect sport for someone who wishes to participate in one of the roughest sports on earth, has a love of armor and weapons and Western martial arts, and a desire to be as close to being a knight of old as is possible in this modern age,” he said. “Most of us doing this sport dreamt as children of being a knight one day. Who knew we could make that dream a reality?”

Well, at least for the moment, it is hard to see anyone benefiting from risks taken by others or rewards allocated to anyone other than the risk takers themselves. But lets revisit this sport if it gets televised.

Derrick Rose and the Vacuum Cat

Sorry, I am not going to order Derrick Rose to play for the Chicago Bulls. I am not going to wear a muscle shirt and puff out my chest and act faux-tough and demand that Derrick Rose do it for his team, his city, his game of basketball. I am not going to try and guilt-trip Derrick Rose by citing past examples of champions who played through pain. I am not suggesting that Derrick Rose, one of the most beloved players in the NBA, is damaging his reputation. I am not going to do those things.

Nor am I going to argue that Derrick Rose should stay where he is, on the bench, in a crisp blazer. I am not going to point out that his knee injury is his knee injury, and that only Derrick Rose can be the judge of his recovery. I could say that Derrick Rose should be wise, not impulsive. But I won’t say that. I won’t say Derrick Rose should return when he feels absolutely assured he can deliver the complete Derrick Rose. I am not going to do that, either.

Here’s what I am going to do: I am going to ask you to go over to YouTube. I want you to type in “Cat” and “Roomba.” A Roomba is one of those robotic vacuum discs. A cat is a cat. For some reason cats really like riding atop Roombas.

There are lots of videos. Pick any one. Watch it.

Because that is basically what it feels like, this debate about Rose. Over and over. Stop. Start. Play. Don’t play. Be tough. Be smart. Come back. Stick to the bench. Save Chicago. Keep away.

Round and round it goes, herky-jerky, gliding across the floor, somewhat transfixing, but utterly pointless. Like a cat riding a Roomba vacuum.

I’m going to watch these relentless Chicago Bulls, impressive as constituted, refusing to surrender. When the conversation turns to Derrick Rose, I’m going to watch a cat atop a vacuum cleaner. Until he decides to play, this argument feels like the same exact thing, spinning round and round, just to go round and round.

Here it is not only the owners of the Chicago Bulls, who would surely like to win the NBA Championship, and the player himself, who is paid for playing not sitting on the bench, there are also team doctors with conflicting interests, vocal fans, sports talk radio hosts and even insurance companies going round and round on the Roomba.

Do no harm: Who should bear the costs of retired NFL players’ medical bills?

After 24 knee operations, the National Football League’s former Man of the Year leans heavily on a crutch. When Reggie Williams pulls up his pants leg, what’s underneath looks like the trimmings from a butcher shop. His right leg is so ravaged that it’s three inches shorter than his left. Worse, it’s uninsured.

Once, Williams was the NFL’s high ideal. From 1976 to 1989 he was a spring-legged linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals who set franchise records and played in two Super Bowls. Off the field, he was a civic-minded Dartmouth graduate who won humanitarian awards and served as a city councilman while he was still playing. He was so loyal to the game that he was a pallbearer at legendary team founder Paul Brown’s funeral. He would even be invited to apply for the job of NFL commissioner.

But now, Williams and his battered legs amount to a bill no one wants to pay. Since 2005 Williams, 58, has suffered a cascade of health problems he says stem from his 14-year football career, including multiple knee replacements and a bone infection, which he estimates have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

This unusually long front-page story also discusses forum shopping for workers compensation venues (precluded by standard NFL contracts) because California’s more liberal policies are more favorable than Ohio’s, where Williams spent his career.

Despite the “outlier” outcome, might Williams have received the share of risks and rewards for which he bargained? And who bears the burden of the “unknown-at-the-time”?

VA Whistleblower Ignites Firestorm Over Vets’ Illnesses | The American Conservative

It’s not every day that a scientist creates such intense drama on Capitol Hill.

But Dr. Steven S. Coughlin’s charges that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials hid, manipulated, and even lied about research pertaining to Gulf War Illness (GWI) and health problems plaguing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are still causing fallout a month after his stunning testimony before a key House subcommittee.

“The implications of his testimony are profound,” declared Anthony Hardie, 45, a Gulf War veteran who serves on the congressionally appointed Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC).

Veterans and their advocates, as well as many in the scientific community, have long believed that the VA avoids responsibility for veterans’ care by downplaying or outright ignoring evidence linking wartime experiences—such as exposure to Agent Orange, chemical weapons, or toxic pollution—to veterans’ chronic medical issues back home.

He told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on March 13 that millions of dollars are invested in veterans’ heath studies each year, yet “if the studies produce results that do not support [OPH’s] unwritten policy, they do not release them.” And “on the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible.”

Now add the government to the mix as one of the participants especially when those whose risks were unrewarded are veterans of wars fought on behalf of the very same government.

Wall Street exists to get other people to take your risks and pay you for the privilege, yet there is a discomfort with disproportionate outcomes especially if they result from deception.

Don’t expect the cats to step off the Roombas any time soon.


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