The value of stretching for athletes

Henry Abbott at Truehoop looks at some recent research regarding stretching which suggests stretching before athletic events is not that helpful.

The question arises: why then do athletes go through a stretching routine before a game? I’ll throw out a possible answer: stretching is part of a routine that is psychologically helpful in preparing for a game. Even if stretching beforehand has limited value, as long as it is not harmful, it could help athletes feel like they are doing something worthwhile. Perhaps it helps improve their mental focus. For many, I assume it is part of an established routine that they were socialized into either at a younger age or by an expert. Since they have been doing it in the past, going through the motions helps them prepare.

Where this research could be used is with younger athletes. It is hard to break people out of established patterns but teenagers and kids could chart a new path that includes little or no pregame stretching and more postgame stretching. These younger athletes could then establish new kinds of routines that will be with them throughout their athletic careers.

The highest-paid athlete of all time: a Roman charioteer

There is some discussion these days about the high salaries of modern athletes: are they worth it? Do these salaries demonstrate that society thinks these people are more or most valuable compared to others?

According to a new study, these high salaries are not just a feature of the modern era: a Roman charioteer is considered to be the highest paid athlete of all-time:

According to Peter Struck, associate professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, an illiterate charioteer named Gaius Appuleius Diocles earned “the staggering sum” of 35,863,120 sesterces (ancient Roman coins) in prize money…

Although other racers surpassed him in the total number of victories — a driver called Pompeius Musclosus collected 3,599 winnings — Diocles became the richest of all, as he run and won at big money events. For example, he is recorded to have made 1,450,000 sesterces in just 29 victories.

Struck calculated that Diocles’ s total earnings of 35,863,120 sesterces were enough to provide grain for the entire population of Rome for one year, or to fund the Roman Army at its height for more than two months.

“By today’s standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion,” wrote Struck.

It sounds like Roman society was quite willing to make stars out of its athletes/competitors. I would be curious to know: what it is about societies that causes them to confer celebrity status and vast sums of money on people who compete (and win) in games or events?