Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

There is a famous logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc.  That translates from the Latin to “After that, therefore because of that”.  It is the basis of many superstitions such as growing a “playoff beard” because so long as a player is growing it, the team stays in the playoffs.  The most obvious example of this as a logical fallacy would be this:

  • Roosters crow just before sunrise – – therefore – – roosters crowing causes the sun to rise in the morning.

I mention this because it was only two days ago when I commented on the WNBA allowing two of its players to continue to play in the league despite domestic violence allegations against those players.  Today comes news that one of those players has now been suspended.  Let me be clear; my rant from 48 hours ago did not have anything to do with the suspension announced yesterday.

Let me fill in the details of the allegation and charges levied against Riquna Williams, guard for the LA Sparks.

  • On 29 April 2019 – – before the WNBA season began – – Ms. Williams was arrested and charged with assault on one individual and the threat of violence against another individual involving a firearm.
  • The arrest report says Ms. Williams forcibly entered a Florida home and struck her girlfriend, Alkeria Davis, multiple times.  Two men on the scene broke up the fight between the two women whereupon Ms. Williams took a gun from her car, placed it on the hood of her car pointed at one of the men and said “you’ll get all 18” – – referring to the number of rounds in the magazine of that firearm.
  • The case is wending its way through the judicial system; Ms. Williams has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  Until yesterday, she was playing full-time for the LA Sparks.

As I said previously, Ms. Williams is innocent until proven guilty.  Period.  Nonetheless, imagine that the same behavior was exhibited by an NBA guard before the start of next NBA season and that the NBA guard continued to play in an uninterrupted mode until about the All-Star Break which is about the same fraction of the season that Ms. Williams was able to play for the Sparks this year.

Because there is potential victimhood on both sides of this equation – the alleged aggressor is a woman and not a male athlete – the union representing WNBA players has immediately filed a grievance on behalf of Ms. Williams asserting that she has not yet had sufficient time to defend herself against these charges that she denies having committed.  The union wants the league to continue to “look the other way” while the judicial processes take their course.  If – I SAID IF – it turns out that Ms. Williams did exactly what was alleged in the arresting officer’s report, I shall not hold my breath until the union says that it is sorry to have taken the side of a felonious abuser in this matter.  It is possible for “both sides” to act more precipitously in matters such as these.

The league suspension is for 10 games – – not a suspension until the justice system plays itself out.  And therein lies a possible way to handle situations akin to this one;

  • When a player is arrested and charged with crimes, the player can and should be suspended with his/her pay placed in escrow.  If the player is found innocent or if the charges are dropped by the prosecutors, then the player is immediately reinstated, and he/she gets the entirety of the escrow account plus accrued interest.
  • If the player pleads out to lesser charges, he/she may be reinstated – – depending on the severity of the “lesser charges” – but in any case, 90% of the escrow account would be paid to the league as a fine.
  • If the player and the accuser reach a settlement, that is a form of admission of some guilt in the matter so 50% of the escrow account will be forfeited.
  • If the player is found guilty of the crime, he/she loses all the escrowed account plus then should serve a suspension that counts against any future earnings.

These provisions – if entered into a CBA – would make it in the best interest of an innocent athlete to get the process over with as soon as possible and not drag out the process until the next off-season.

Ms. Williams’ grievance matter will go before an arbitrator.  Here are two questions that I would have for the union attorney representing Ms. Williams were I the arbitrator:

  1. Other than the fact that Ms. Williams is a dues-paying member of your union, why do you believe her side of this story as opposed to the allegations of the victims here?
  2. What new knowledge of this incident do you have that the police do not have – – and if you have such information, why have you not shared it with the police?

Now you know why I would never be agreeable to either side as an arbitrator for such disputes even though I have had some experience in similar matters in my professional life prior to retiring and taking up Internet ranting…

Switching gears …  Many people have been predicting the demise of football as evidence rolls in that concussions and head trauma have serious effects on players later in life.  According to many of these seers, the way football will wither on the vine is that there will not be sufficient numbers of players at the high school and college levels to support the NFL’s “habit” and that mothers around the country will prevent their sons from playing football.  It is the sociological outcome of the old song:

  • “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be [Dallas] Cowboys…”

In a report in the Toledo Blade earlier this month, there may be a first sign that such a trend may be building.  Toledo Christian High School will have to try to play “8-man football” this season because only 15 kids turned out for the football team at the school – – and 5 of those 15 players were rising freshmen.  Eight-man football is a thriving sport in nearby Michigan where 77 schools field 8-man teams and there are state level tournaments at the end of the season for “8-man football” as well as “11-man football”.

Finally, since I began today with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and how it sometimes is used to justify superstitions, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Belief:  An absolute certainty that something is true.  Can range from one’s opinion as to whether there is a God to the firm conviction that space aliens are sending coded messages through your fillings.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………