Tuesday, November 21, 2006

From the Files ...

by Unknown

... of "Unsupported Theories Dressed in Needlessly Complex Methods with a Side Order of Jargon," I present this article, from the most recent issue (71[5]) of American Sociological Review:*

The Institutionalization of Fame: Achievement, Recognition, and Cultural Consecration in Baseball, by Michael Allen and Nicholas Parsons**

"This article examines the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame as a cultural consecration project. It argues that the legitimacy of any consecration project depends on the cultural authority of the organization initiating the project, the rigorous selection procedures used by this organization, the relative selectivity of its outcomes, and the existence of objective differences in merit between the consecrated and the unconsecrated. However, prior research suggests that the relationship between merit and consecration is mediated by a series of social characteristics and contextual factors. This study proposes a theory of cumulative recognition, which asserts that the likelihood of consecration is affected by the cumulative effects of social characteristics and circumstances, prior social recognition, and media discourse, as well as by objective differences in achievement. The results of discrete-time event-history analyses of the outcomes of the Hall of Fame elections over the past four decades provide substantial confirmation of this theory. Overall, it is concluded that the procedural and substantive rationality exhibited by the Hall of Fame contributes greatly to its cultural legitimacy as a consecration project."

Translation of the results: When casting their Hall of Fame ballots, sportswriters are more likely to vote for players about whom sportswriters have written a lot of articles than to vote for equally productive players about whom sportswriters haven't written a lot of articles.

Yet simpler translation: Sportswriters vote for (i.e., they like) players who they write about (i.e., they like, usually).

Broader implication of results: Different measures of the same group's opinions are often correlated.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Now, about that support for the theory of legitimacy in cultural consecration projects...

* Lest you think I'm just picking on the abstract, the paper contains a series of dropped balls, strike outs, errors, and blown saves. With unlimited time, one could write up a full critique (if only to get to use all these puns).

UPDATE: A good friend is thinking about writing a comment on the article for ASR. He noticed an interesting result about which the original authors don't much to say: the more teams players have, um, played for, the longer it takes them to get into the HoF (net of productivity and media recognition). He has some plausible explanations for the result, all of which are testable if he could get his hands on the authors' data. Let's hope they read and are swayed by Jeremy's accountability-in-sociology" article.

**No, not THAT Parsons.
Now I know why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn't work, at least.
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