Ethan Zuckerman ’93 and Chad Orzel ’93 provide interesting overviews of algorithms for deciding who to root for at the World Cup. Read them all.

But I thought the most interesting idea came from one of Ethan’s commentators:

the european team with highest number of players from non european origin

Hmmmm. From the context, it is fairly clear (?) that “non european” in this context does not mean, say, a white from Australia. I think that using the race of individual players as a reason for rooting for and against specific teams would be a very problematic attitude within the Williams community. And, as always, the taboos of a community tell you much of importance. (Note that Ethan’s number one criteria — “Sub-Saharan African teams get my support, especially Ghana, recognizing that it’s looking like a tough tournament for the African sides.” — is less problematic because the racial angle is sub-rosa rather than on-the-tabla.)

Imagine that I was rooting for Germany because my cousin played on the team. No one could object to that! Imagine that it was my second-cousin or third-cousin. That would still be OK, although a little strange. But what happens when it is my 8th cousin, i.e. someone with the same great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, someone whose familial/genetic link to me goes back to the 18th century? That seems even stranger. But let’s continue down the genetic rabbit hole . . .

Why am I following this line of thought? Because race/genetics is a fascinating topic and, for all our kowtowing to “diversity,” not enough Ephs understand the details of what is going on. The science in this era is proceeding at a break-taboo pace. Consider some representative graphics (from here, here and here):

Read the links for full backgrounds. The scientific details are fascinating, but the main point from a World Cup point of view is that we will soon (?) be able to provide good estimates are how related you are to any other individual on Earth. In other words, we will be able to recreate the family true of all humanity. Pretty cool, eh?

Come up with a measure of genetic distance. (There is not a single way of measuring how separated I am from, say, Adam Falk.) Apply that measure to all members of each World Cup team. Root for the team that is closest to you. (There are multiple possible measures of closeness: team with the single individual most related to you, team with the closest average, and so on.) For me, that might be Germany, or maybe even Australia. It would probably not be England (despite some family roots) because the English team is so diverse. It would certainly not be the US, for the same reason. Who would you be rooting for according to this criteria?

Feel free to use this thread to comment on today’s World Cup action.

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