Fallacies and the World of Sports
- Nov 18, 2010
- Advice on Logical Reasoning, LSAT, Sports
- Reviewed by: Matt Riley
Fallacies and the World of Sports
Who doesn’t love a good sports cliche? These little gems of oft-repeated wisdom can easily translate to any facet of life — including the LSAT. As you know, there is less than a month until the December LSAT, or “gameday” as we like to call it here at Blueprint. These last few weeks are crunch time, but if you take it one logical reasoning question at a time, give 110%, and stick to your game plan, you should come out on top with a “W”. Always remember the fundamentals.
Last month, Blueprint founder Jodi Triplett wrote a post about fallacies and some show called “Project Runway”. I’m not familiar with this show, but I would imagine that it airs sometime before “Dancing with the Stars” but after “The Real Housewives of Des Moines.” Anyway, I thought I would balance out the estrogen of that post with a quick drill that will help you spot common fallacies. I’ll be using recent sports news to show you the exact same flaws that are going to rear their fallacious heads on your December 11th exam:
The Argument: “The Dallas Cowboys have been nothing short of awful this season. After an abysmal 1-7 start with one of the league’s most pathetic defenses, and after they lost Quarterback Tony Romo to injury, the Cowboys front office decided to fire their head coach, Wade Phillips. The very next game, they crushed one of the best teams in the league 33-20. Clearly, Phillips was holding the team back and the change in head coaches made all the difference.”
The Flaw: This is a classic correlation to causation flaw. Just because two things happen to occur together, (replacing a head coach and earning an impressive victory) it doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other. Causation is hard to prove on the LSAT and in sports. You know what else happened during the Cowboys game? Joe Shmoe in section 314 topped his personal record by eating 14 hot dogs before kick-off. He is sure that this led to his teams impressive victory, and he vows to eat 14 hot dogs before every game. Joe is crazy, and probably has an unhealthy Body Mass Index. Just because the Cowboys happened to earn a rare victory after firing their coach does not mean that the two phenomena are related.
The Argument: Chris Johnson is the best player in the NFL. Therefore, the Tennessee Titans are the best team in the NFL.
The Flaw: If you couldn’t quickly identify this as a composition flaw, it’s time to go back and review Lesson 6. Just because one part of something has a certain quality, doesn’t mean that the whole has the same quality. If you have any further questions about how this works, Dan Marino will be fielding questions today from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time on our discussion board. (**Note: Colin Elzie calls himself Dan Marino on Wednesdays. It’s unsettling).
The Argument: Sports Fan In Cleveland: “Lebron James is a #@$%^# ^&@%#-bag for leaving his old team behind and making his ego-maniacal announcement on national television. I loathe him and everything he stands for. Therefore, the Miami Heat suck.”
The Flaws: I know what you’re thinking: the Cleveland police department should be watching this fan closely. You’re also thinking that this is a blatant ad hominem attack. Instead of addressing the real factors that contribute to whether a team is good or bad (namely, athleticism, coaching, and experience), our angry Cleveland-ite simply attacks Lebron James’ character. You’ll probably run into one ad hominem flaw question on test day, and it won’t involve angry sports fans. Nonetheless, the concept is the same.
The Argument: There is no way that Brett Favre sent pictures of his genitalia to Jenn Sterger. He is a living legend. The man has passed for over 70,000 yards in his career, he has started in 318 consecutive football games. He threw for over 400 yards a couple weeks ago and the man is in his 40s. Prior to these allegations, he spent most of his free time running around his backyard in Wrangler jeans throwing a football through a tire swing. Nobody with such an impressive career and squeaky clean image could possibly have sexted those photos.
The Flaw: This stimulus, which was on the October 2010 LSAT (no, it wasn’t), is a classic example of the flaw of exclusivity. Just because someone is a great athlete and has a clean image doesn’t mean that they aren’t up to some weird stuff in their personal life. In other words, it “could be both”. Passing for 455 yards does not exclude the possibility that you will then go home, take a cell-phone photo of your junk, and send it to some reporter.
The Argument: Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is concerned about the public backlash against him as well as angry requests for him to sell the team. Mr. McCourt calls 5 of his employees into his office who are all die-hard fans of the team. He sits them down and asks them if they think he is a good owner. All 5 employees nervously tell him how great he is, and he concludes that he must have the overwhelming support of the city.
The Flaw: This is a horrible sampling fallacy. First of all, it’s a pretty small sample. Surveying five fans is unlikely to give you much information about the fan base as a whole. More importantly, our dim-witted owner has failed to recognize that this sample is likely to be biased and unrepresentative. Those five employees probably have an interest in keeping their job and aren’t very likely to illuminate the fact that Mr. McCourt is destroying this team.
The Argument: “The Los Angeles Lakers will win the NBA championship this year. After all, they have won the championship the last two years. Furthermore, they have the league’s best player, so it naturally follows that they are the best team. We asked 20 randomly selected fans who were leaving a Lakers game who they thought would win it all, and 19 of the 20 fans responded “Lakers for life!” The Lakers also have the best record after 10 games, and they are therefore on pace to be one of the best teams in recent memory. Basketball expert Magic Johnson also predicts that the Lakers will win their third straight championship. While veteran announcer Marv Albert predicts the Miami Heat will win the championship, I think his reputation for strange sexual encounters is enough to discredit this prediction.”
The Flaw: Some arguments just don’t have any flaws.
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