A mafia or cartel need not cheat at every level nor in every facet of its play. The majority of the time such collapsed-market mechanisms operate out of necessity under the integrity of discipline. After all, without standardized praxis, we all fail.
However, in order to effect a desired outcome an intervening agency may only need exploit specific indigo point moments in certain influential yet surreptitious ways. Inflection point theory is the discipline which allows the astute value chain strategist to sense the weather of opportunity and calamity – and moreover, spot the subtle methodology of The Cheat.
Note: because of the surprising and keen interest around this article by various groups, including rather vociferous Oakland Raider fans, I have expanded that section of the article for more clarity/depth on what I have observed; and further, added 6 excerpt links in each appropriate section outlaying the backup analysis for those wishing to review the data. One can scroll directly to that section of the article at about 45% through its essay length.
Inflection Point Theory
In one of my strategy firms over the decades of conducting numerous trade, infrastructure and market strategies, I had the good fortune to work as colleague with one of our Executive Vice Presidents, tier I B-school graduate whose specialty focused in and around inflection point theory. He adeptly grasped and instructed me as to how this species of analytical approach could be applied to develop brand, markets, infrastructure, inventories and even corporate focus or culture. Inflection point theory in a nutshell, is the sub-discipline of value chain analytics or strategy (my expertise) in which particular focus is given those nodes, transactions or constraints which cause the entire value chain to swing wildly (whipsaw) in its outcome (ergodicity). The point of inflection at which such signal is typically detected or hopefully even anticipated, is called an indigo point.
Columbia Business School Strategic advisor Rita McGrath defines an inflection point as “that single point in time when everything changes irrevocably. Disruption is an outcome of an inflection point.”1 While this is not entirely incorrect, in my experience, once an inflection point has been reached, the disruption has actually already taken place (see the oil rig example offered below), and an E-ruptive period of change has just precipitated. It is one thing to be adept with the buzzwords surrounding inflection point theory, and another thing altogether to have held hands with those CEO’s and executive teams while they have ridden out its dynamic, time and time again.
The savvy quietly analyzes the hurricane before its landfall. The expert makes much noise about it thereafter.
The savvy perceives the interleaving of elemental dynamics inside an industry. The expert dazzles himself with academic mathematical equations.
The savvy is employed on the team which is at risk. The expert brings self-attention and bears no skin in the game.
Such is not a retrospective science in the least. Nonetheless, adept understanding of business inflection point theory does in a manner allow one to ‘see around corners’, as McGrath aptly puts it.
Those who ignore inflection points, are destined to fail their clients, if not themselves; left wondering why such resulting calamity could have happened in such short order – or even denying that it has occurred through Nelsonian knowledge. Those who adeptly observe an indigo point signal may succeed, not through simply offering a better product or service, rather more through the act of rendering their organization robust to concavity (Black Swans) and exposed to convexity (White Swans). Conversely under a risk strategy, an inflection-point-savvy company may revise their rollout of a technology to be stakeholder-impact resistant under conditions of Risk Horizon Types I and II and rapid (speed to margin, not just speed for speed’s sake) under a confirmed absence of both risk types.2 As an example, in this chart data from an earlier blog post one can observe the disastrous net impact (either social perception, real or both) of the Centers for Disease Control’s ignoring a very obvious indigo pause-point regarding the dynamic between aggressive vaccine schedule escalations and changes in diagnostic protocol doctrine. Were the CDC my client, I would have advised them in advance to halt deployment at point Indigo, and wait for three years of observation before doing anything new. An indigo point is that point at which one should ethically, at the very least plan to take pause and watch for any new trends or unanticipated consequences in their industry/market/discipline – to make ready for a change in the wind. No science is 100% comprehensive nor 100% perfect – and it is foolishness to pretend that such a confidence in deployment exists a priori. This is the necessary ethic of technology strategy, even when only addressed as a tactic of precaution. When one is responsible for at-risk stakeholders, stockholders, clients or employee families, to ignore such inflection points, borders on criminally stupid activity.
Much of my career has been wound up in helping clients and nations address such daunting decision factors – When do we roll out a technology and how far? When do we pause and monitor results, and how do we do this? What quality control measures need to be in place? What agency, bias or entities may serve to impact the success of the technology or our specific implementation of it? etc. In the end, inflection point theory allows the professional to construct effective definitions, useful in spotting cartels, cabals and mafias. Skills which have turned out to be of help in my years conducting national infrastructure strategy as well. Later in this article, we will outline three cases where such inflection point ignorance is not simply a case of epistemological stupidity, but rather planned maliciousness. In the end, ethically when large groups of stakeholders are at risk, inflection point ignorance and maliciousness become indistinguishable traits.
/philosophy : science : maths/philosophy : neural or dynamic change/ : inflection points are the points along a continuous mathematical function wherein the curvature changes its sign or there is a change in the underlying differential equation or its neural constants/constraints. In a market, it is the point at which a signal is given for a potential or even likely momentum shift away from that market’s most recent trend, range or dynamic.
An inflection point is the point at which one anticipates being able to thereafter analytically observe a change which has already occurred.
Inflection Point Theory (Indigo Point Dynamics)
/philosophy : science : philosophy : value chain theory : inflection point theory/ : the value chain theory which focuses upon the ergodicity entailed from neural or dynamic constraints change, which is a critical but not sufficient condition or event; however, nonetheless serves to impart a desired shift in the underlying dynamic inside an asymmetric, price taking or competitive system. The point of inflection is often called an indigo point (I). Inside a system which they do not control (price taking), successful players will want to be exposed to convexity and robust to concavity at an inflection point. Conversely under a risk horizon, the inflection point savvy company may revise their rollout of a technology to be stakeholder-impact resistant under conditions of Risk Horizon Types I and II and rapid under a confirmed absence of both risk types.
An Example: In March of 2016, monthly high capacity crude oil extraction rig counts by oil formation, had all begun to trend in synchronous patterns (see chart below extracted from University of New Mexico research data).3 This sympathetic and stark trend suggested a neural change in the dynamic driving oil rig counts inside New Mexico oil basin operations. An external factor was imbuing a higher sensitivity contribution to rig count dynamics, than were normal market forces/chaos. This suggested that not only was a change in the math in the offing, but a substantial change in rig dynamics was underway, the numerics of which had not yet surfaced.
Indeed, subsequently Enverus DrillingInfo confirmed that New Mexico’s high capacity crude extraction rig counts increased, against the national downward trend, by a rate of 50+% per year for the ensuing years 2017 and into 2018 – thereby confirming this Indigo Point (inflection point).4
I was involved in some of this analysis for particular clients in that industry. This post-inflection increase was driven by the related-but-unseen shortfall in shallow and shale rigs, lowering production capacity out of Texas during that same time frame and increasing opportunity to produce to price for New Mexico wells – a trend which formerly had served to precipitate the fall in monthly New Mexico Rig Count to an indigo point to begin with. Yet this pre-inflection trend also had to end because the supply of rigs in Texas could not be sustained under such heavy demand for shale production.
Astute New Mexico equipment planners who used Inflection Point theory, might have been able to head this off and ensure their inventories were stocked in order to take advantage of the ‘no-discounts’ margin to be had during the incumbent rush for rigs in New Mexico. This key pattern in the New Mexico well data in particular, was what is called in the industry, an inflection point. My clients were able to increase stocks of tertiary wells, and while not flooding the market, were able to offer ‘limited discount’ sales for the period of short supply. They made good money. They were not raising prices of plywood before a hurricane mind you, rather being a bit more stingy on their negotiated discounts because they had prepared accordingly.
To place it in sailing vernacular: the wind has backed rather than veered, the humidity has changed, the barometric pressure has dropped – get ready to reef your sails and set a run course. A smart business person both becomes robust to inflection point concavity (prepares), and as well is exposed to their convexity (exploits).
The net impact to margin (not revenue) achievable through this approach to market analytics is on the order of 8 to 1 in swing. It is how the successful, make their success. It is how real business is conducted. However, there exists a difference between survival and thriving due to adept perspective-use concerning indigo points, and that activity which seeks to exploit their dynamic for market failure and consolidation (cartel-like behavior).
Self Protection is One Thing – But What about Exploiting an Inflection Point?
There exists a form of inflection point analytics and strategy which is not as en milieu knight-in-shining-armor – one more akin to gaming an industry vertical or market in order to establish enormous barriers to entry, exploit consolidation failure or defraud its participants or stakeholders. This genus of furtive activity is enacted to establish a condition wherein one controls a system, or is a price maker and no longer a price taker – no more ‘a surfer riding the wave’, rather now the creator of the wave itself. Inflection points constitute an excellent avenue through which one may establish a cheat mechanism, without tendering the appearance of doing so.
Inflection Point Exploitation (The Cheat)
/philosophy : science : philosophy : agency/ – a flaw, exploit or vulnerability inside a business vertical or white/grey market which allows that market to be converted into a mechanism exhibiting syndicate (cartel, cabal or mafia-like) behavior. Rather than the market becoming robust to concavity and exposed to convexity – instead, this type of consolidation-of-control market becomes exposed to excessive earnings extraction and sequestration of capital/information on the part of its cronies. Often there is one raison d’être (reason for existence) or mechanism of control which allows its operating cronies to enact the entailed cheat enabling its existence. This single mechanism will serve to convert a price taking market into a price making market and allow the cronies therein to establish behavior which serves to accrete wealth/information/influence into a few hands, and exclude erstwhile market competition from being able to function. Three flavors of syndicated entity result from such inflection point exploitation:
Cartel – a syndicate entity run by cronies which enforces closed door price-making inside an entire economic white market vertical.
Functions through exploitation of buyers (monoopoly) and/or sellers (monopsony) through manipulation of inflection points. Inflection Points where sensitivity is greatest, and as early into the value chain as possible, and finally inside a focal region where attentions are lacking. Its actions are codified as virtuous.
Cabal – a syndicate entity run by a club which enforces closed door price-making inside an information or influence market.
Functions through exploitation of consumers and/or researchers through manipulation of the philosophy which underlies knowledge development (skepticism) or the praxis of the overall market itself. Inflection Points where they can manipulate the outcomes of information and influence, through tampering with a critical inflection point early in its development methodology. Its actions are secretive, or if visible, are externally promoted through media as virtue or for sake of intimidation.
Mafia – a syndicate entity run by cronies which enforces closed door price-making inside a business activity, region or sub-vertical.
Functions through exploitation of its customers and under the table cheating in order to eliminate all competition, manipulate the success of its members and the flow of grey market money to its advantage. Inflection Points where sensitivity is greatest, and where accountability is low or subjective. Its actions are held confidential under threat of severe penalty against its organization participants. It promotes itself through intimidation, exclusive alliance and legislative power.
Three key examples of such cartel, cabal and mafia-like entities follow.
The Cartel Cheat – Exemplified by Exploitation of a Critical Value Chain Inflection Point
Our first example of The Cheat involves the long-sustained decline of US agricultural producer markets. A condition which has persisted since the 1980’s, ironically despite the ‘help’ farmers get from the agricultural technology industry itself.
Cheat where sensitivity is greatest and as early into the value chain as possible, at a point where attentions are lacking. Codify the virtue of your action.
Indigo point raison d’être: Efficiency of Mixed Bin Supply Chain
The agriculture markets in the US are driven by one raison d’être. They principally ship logistically (85%) via a method of supply chain called ‘mixed bin’ shipping. This is a practice wherein every producer of a specific product and class within a region dumps their agri-product into a common stock for delivery (which is detached from the sell, by means of a future). Under this method, purportedly in the name of ‘efficiency’, the farmer is not actually able to sell the value of her crop, rather must sell at a single speculative price (reasonable worst case discounted aggregate) to a few powerful buyers (monopsony).
Another way to describe this in value chain terms, is by characterizing the impact of this ownership of the supply chain by means of common-interdependent practice, as a ‘horizontal monopoly’. The monopoly/oligopoly powers in the presiding ABCD Cartel (as it is called), do not own the vertical supply of Ag products; instead they dominate the single method (value chain) of supply and distribution for all those products. This is what Walmart used in the 1970’s and 80’s to gut regional competitors. Players of lesser clout who could not compete initially inside the 2 – 8% to sales freight margin advantage; fell vulnerable finally the cost purchase discounts on volume which Walmart was eventually able to drive once a locus of purchasing power was established. Own the horizontal supply chain and you will eventually own the vertical as well. You have captured monopoly by using the Indigo Point of mandatory supply chain consolidation. Most US Courts will not catch this trick (plus much of it is practiced offshore) and will miss the incumbent violation of both the Sherman Anti-Trust Act as well as the Clayton Act. By the time the industry began to mimic in the 90’s and 00’s what Walmart had done, it was too late for a majority of the small to medium consumer goods market. They tried to intervene at the later ‘Tau Point’, when the magic had already been effected by Walmart at the lesser obvious ‘Indigo Point’ two or three decades earlier.
Moreover, with respect to agriculture’s resulting extremely powerful middle market, the farmer faces a condition wherein, the only way to improve her earnings is through a process of ‘minimizing all (cost) inputs’. In other words, using excessive growth-accelerant pesticides and the cheapest means to produce as much caloric biomass as possible – even at the cost of critical phloem fulvic human nutrition content and toxin exposure. After all, if you exceed tolerance – your product is going to be mixed with everyone else’s product, so things should be fine. Dilution is the solution to pollution. In fact, such nutrient content and growth accelerant actual ppm’s are never actually monitored at all in the cartel-like agriculture industry. This is criminal activity, because the buyer and consumer are not getting the product which they think they are buying – and they are being poisoned and nutritionally starved in the process of being defrauded.
The net result? Autoimmune diseases of malnutrition skyrocket, market prices go into decades-sustained fall, microbiome impacts from bactericidal pesticide effects plague the global consumer base, nations begin to reject US agri-products, farms trend higher in Chapter 12 bankruptcies, and finally global food security decreases overall – ironically from the very methods which purport an increase in per acre yields.
The industry consolidates and begins to effect even more cartel-like activity. A death spiral of stupidity.
This is the net effect of cartel-like activity. Activity which is always harmful in the end to either human health, society or economy. These cartels exploit one minor but key inflection point inside the supply chain, the virtuous efficiency of shipping and freight, in order to extract a maximum of earnings from that entire economic sub-vertical, at the harm of everything else. This is the tail wagging the dog and constitutes a prime example of inflection point exploitation (The Cheat).
Such unethical activity has resulted in enormous harm to human health, along with a sustained decades-long depression in the agriculture producer industry (as exemplified in the above ‘Chapter 12 Farm Bankruptcies by Region’ graphic by Forbes)5 – but not a commensurate depression in the agriculture futures nor speculator industry.6 Very curious indeed, that the cartel members at Point Tau (see below) are not hurt by their own deleterious activity at Point Indigo. This is part of the game. This is backasswards wrong. It is corruption in every sense of the word.
In order to effect The Cheat, one does not have to be a pervasive cheater.
One only need tweak specific inputs or methods at a paucity of specific points in a system or chain of accountability.
Thereafter an embargo on speaking about the indigo point must be enforced as well,
or an apothegm/buzzword phrase must be introduced which serves to obfuscate its true nature and impact potential.
The Cabal Cheat – Exemplified by Exploitation of Point Indigo for the Scientific Method – Ockham’s Razor
Our second example of The Cheat, cites how science communicators and fake skeptics manipulate the outcomes of science, through tampering with a critical inflection point early in its methodology.
All things being equal, that which appears compatible with what I superficially think scientists believe, tends to obviate the need for any scientific investigation.
Indigo point raison d’être: ‘Occam’s Razor’ Employed in Lieu of Ockham’s Razor
Point indigo for the scientific method is Ockham’s Razor. This is the point, early in the scientific method, at which a competing theory is allowed access into the halls of science for consideration. Remember from our definition above, that cheating is best done early, so as to minimize its necessary scale. Ockham’s Razor is that early point at which both a sponsor, and his or her ideas are considered worthy members of ‘plurality’ – those things to be seriously considered by the ranks of science.7 The method by which fake skeptics (cartel members, or cabal members when not an economy) manipulate what is and what is not admissible into the ranks of scientific endeavor, is by means of a flag they title ‘pseudoscience’. By declaring any idea they dislike to be a pseudoscience, or failing ‘Occam’s Razor’ (it is not simple) – skeptics game the inflection point of the entire means of enacting science, the scientific method. They are able to declare a priori, those answers which will or will not arrive at Point Tau, for tipping into consensus at a later time.
To spray the field of science at night with a pre-emergent pesticide which will ensure that only the answer they desire, will come true in the growing sunlight.
Most of the stakeholder public does not grasp this gaming of inflection theory. Most skeptics do not either, they just go along with it – failing to even perceive that skeptics are to be allies at the Ockham’s Razor sponsorship point, not foes. They are there to help the competitiveness of alternatives, not to corruptly certify the field of monist conclusion. This is after all, what it means to be a skeptic – to seriously consider alternative points of view. To come alongside and help them mature into true hypothesis. They want to see the answer for themselves.
If I do not like a particular avenue of study, all one need do is throw the penalty flag regarding that item’s ‘not being simple’ (Occam’s Razor). Thereafter, by citing its researchers to be pseudo-scientists, because they are using the ‘implements and methods of science to study a pseudoscience’, one has gamed the system of science by means of its inflection exploit mechanism.
They have effectively enacted cartel-like activity around the exercise of science on the public’s behalf. This is corruption. This is why science must ever operate inside the public trust – so that it does not become the lap-dog of such agency.
Seldom seek to influence point Tau as that is difficult and typically is conducted inside an arena of high visibility – your work in deception should always focus first on point Indigo – where stakeholders and monitors are rarely paying attention yet. One can control much, through the adept manipulation of inflection points.
Extreme measures taken to control Point Tau are unnecessary if one possesses the ability to manipulate Point Indigo.
The final step of the scientific method, consensus acceptance, constitutes more of a Malcolm Gladwell tipping point as opposed to an unconstrained inflection point. A tipping point is that point at which the past trend signal is now confirmed as valid or comprehensive in its momentum. An inflection point is that point at which a change in dynamic has transpired, and what has happened in the past is all but guaranteed not to happen next. Technically, a tipping point is nothing but a constrained inflection point. But for the purposes of this presentation and explanatory usefulness, the two need to be made distinct. The graphic to the right portrays these principles, in hope that one can relate the difference in ergodicity dynamic between inflection and tipping points, to their specific applications inside the scientific method. We must, as a scientific trust be extraordinarily wary of tipping points (T), as undeserved enthusiasm for a particular understanding may ironically serve to codify such notions into Omega Hypothesis – that hypothesis which has become more important to protect, than the integrity of science itself. In similar fashion, we must also protect indigo points (I) from the undue influence of agency seeking a desired outcome.
Having science communicators deem what is good and bad science, is like having a mafia set the exchange rate you get at your local bank. Everyone fails, but nobody knows why.
The art of the Indigo-Tau cheat works like this: Game your inflection dynamics sparingly and only until such time as a tipping point has been achieved – and then game no further. Lock up your inflection mechanism and never let it be accessed nor spoken of again. Thereafter, momentum will win the day. Do all your dirty-work, or fail to do essential good-work (Indigo), when the game is in doubt, and then resume fair play and balance, after the game outcome is already fait accompli (Tau). Such activity resides at the very heart of fake skepticism and its highly ironic pretense in ‘communicating science’.
Indigo Point Man (Person) – one who conceals their cleverness or contempt.
Tau Point Man (Person) – one who makes their cleverness or contempt manifest.
Based upon the tenet of ethical skepticism which cites that a shrewdly apportioned omission at Point Indigo, an inflection point early in a system, event or process, is a much more effective and hard to detect cheat/skill, than that of more manifest commission at Point Tau, the tipping point near the end of a system, event or process. Based upon the notion ‘Watch for the gentlemanly Dr. Jekyl at Point Tau, who is also the cunning Mr. Hyde at Point Indigo’. It outlines a principle wherein those who cheat (or apply their skill in a more neutral sense) most effectively, such as in the creation of a cartel, cabal or mafia – tend do do so early in the game and while attentions are placed elsewhere. In contrast, a Tau Point man tends to make their cheat/skill more manifest, near the end of the game or at its Tau Point (tipping point).
Shrewdly apportioned omission at Point Indigo is a much more effective and hard to detect cheat,
than that of more manifest commission at Point Tau. This is the lesson of the ethical skeptic.
Watch for the gentlemanly Dr. Jekyl at Point Tau, who is also the cunning Mr. Hyde at Point Indigo.
Which serves to introduce and segue into our last and most clever form of The Cheat.
The Mafia Cheat – Exemplified by NFL’s Exploitation of Interpretive Penalty Call/No-Call Inflection Points
Our final example of The Cheat involves a circumstance which exhibits how The Cheat itself can be hidden inside the fabric of propriety, leveraging from the subjective nature of shades-of-color interpretations and hard-to-distinguish absences which are very cleverly apportioned to effect a desired outcome.8
Cheating is the spice which makes the chef d’oeuvre. Cheat through bias of omission not commission, only marginally enough to enact the goal and then no further, and while bearing a stately manner in all other things. Intimidate or coerce participants to remain silent.
Indigo point raison d’être: Interpretive Penalty Calls/No-Calls at Critical Indigo Points and Rates which Benefit Perennially Favored Teams and Disadvantage Others
I watched a National Football League (NFL) game last week (statistics herein have been updated for NFL end-of-season 2019) where the entire outcome of the game was determined by three specific and flawed penalty calls on the part of the game referees. The calls in review, were all invalid flag tosses of an interpretive nature, which reversed twice, one team’s (Detroit Lions) stopping a come-from-behind drive by the ‘winning’ team (Green Bay Packers). Twice their opponent was given a touchdown by means of invalid violations for ‘hands-to-the-face’, on the part of a defensive lineman. Penalty flag tosses which cannot be changed by countermanding and clear evidence, as was the case in this game. The flags alone artificially turned the tide of the entire game. The ‘winning’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a man of great talent and integrity, when interviewed afterwards humbly said “It didn’t really feel like we had won the game, until I looked up at the scoreboard at the end.” Aaron Rodgers is a forthright Tau Point Man – he does not hide his bias or agency inside noise. Such honesty serves to contrast the indigo point nature and influence of penalties inside of America’s pastime of professional football. Most of the NFL’s manner of exploitation does not present itself in such obvious Tau Point fashion, as occurred in this Lions-Packers game.
An interpretive penalty is the most high-sensitivity inflection point mechanism impacting the game of professional football. For some reason they are not as impactful in its analogue, the NCAA of college football. Not that referees are not frustrating in that league either, but they do not have the world-crushing and stultifying impact as do the officials inside of the NFL. NFL officials single-handedly and often determine the outcome of games, division competitions and Super Bowl appearances. They achieve this (whether intended or not) impact by means of a critically placed set of calls, and more importantly no-calls, with regard to these interpretive subjective penalties. Patterns which can be observed as consistent across decades of the NFL’s agency-infused and court-defined ‘entertainment’. Let’s examine these call (Indigo Point Commissions) and no-call (Indigo Point Omissions) patterns by means of two specific and recent team examples respectively – the cases of the 2019 Oakland Raiders and the 2017 New England Patriots.
Indigo-Commission Disadvantages Specific NFL Teams: Case of the 2019 Oakland Raiders
Argument #1 – The Penalty Detriment-Benefit Spread and Raider 60-Year Penalty History
The NFL Oakland Raiders have consistently been the ‘most penalized’ team by far, over the last 60 years of NFL operations. Year after year they are flagged more than any other team. For a while, this was an amusing shtick concerning the bad-guy aura the Raiders carried 40 or 50 years ago. But when one examines the statistics, and the types of penalties involved – consistent through six decades, multiple dozens of various level coaches who were not as highly penalized elsewhere in their careers, two owners and 10 varieties of front offices – the idea that this team gets penalized, ‘because they are supposed to’ begins to fall flat under the evidence. Of course it is also no surprise that the Raiders hold the record for the most penalties in a single game as well, 23 penalties and 200 yards penalized.9
A typical year can be observed in the chart to the right, which I created through analyzing the penalty databases at NFLPenalties.com.10 The detailed data analysis can be viewed by clicking here. True to form, the Oakland Raiders were penalized per play once again for 2019 (see the previous years here), more than any other NFL team (save for Jacksonville who narrowly overtook the Raiders with a late-season 16-penalty game). More to the point however, for the 2019 NFL Season the greatest differential between penalties-against and penalties-benefit, once again is held by the Oakland Raiders. What the chart shows is that in general, it takes 9 less plays executed for the Raiders (1 penalty every 21 plays) to be awarded their next penalty flag, as compared to their opponent (one penalty every 30 plays). Or put another way, the Raiders were flagged an average of 8 times per game, while comparatively their opponents were flagged on average 5.6 times per game – inside a range of feasibility which annually runs from about 8.2 to 5.4 to begin with. These Oakland Raider 2019 penalty results are hugging the highest and lowest possible extremes for team versus opponent penalties respectively.
For the NFL’s 2019 season, the Raiders were by far the most penalized team per game play in the NFL –
while the consistently least penalized team per play in the NFL was
whatever team happened to be playing the Oakland Raiders each week.
A popular older version of the graphic, which outlined this condition through game 10 of the season can be viewed here: Most to Least Penalized – 2019 Oakland Raiders and Their Opponents.11 Nevertheless the bottom line is this, and it is unassailable:
The Oakland Raiders are far and above more penalized than any other NFL team, leading the league as the most penalized team in season-years 1963, 1968-69, 1982, 1984, 1991, 1993-96, 2003-05, 2009-11, 2016, and most of 2019 – further then landing in the top 3 penalized teams every year from 1982 through to 2019 with only a few exceptions.12 13
Argument #2 – The Drive-Sustaining Penalty Deficit
In the case of the Raiders, the overcall/undercall of penalties is not a matter of coaching discipline, as one might reasonably presume at first blush – rather, in many of the years in question the vast majority of the penalty incident imbalances involve calls of merely subtle interpretation (marked in yellow in the chart below). Things which can be called on every single play, but for various reasons, are not called for certain teams, and are more heavily called on a few targeted teams – flags thrown or not thrown at critical moments in a drive, or upon a beneficial turnover or touchdown. To wit, in the chart which I developed to the right, one can discern that not only are the Oakland Raiders the most differentially-penalized team in the NFL for the 2019 season once again – but as well, the penalties which are thrown against the Raiders are done so at the most critically-disfavoring moments in their games. Times when the Raiders have forced the opposing team into 3rd down and long circumstances and their opponent therefore needed a break and an automatic first down in order to sustain a scoring drive. As you may observe in the chart, a team playing the Raiders in such a circumstance for 2019, bore by far the greatest likelihood of being awarded the subjective-call14 critical break they needed from NFL officials.15 The curve which is created by the flow of these blue bars is a very familiar curve inside systems theory. It is called a ‘Human-S’ curve, and relates to any system measure which is an outcome of solely human performance. What is key to me as a systems professional is that 31 of 32 teams in this chart fall nicely on an expected Human-S ranking distribution. Only one team does not.16
The net uptake of this is that across their 16-game 2019 season the Raiders had 37 more drives impacted negatively by penalties versus the average NFL team on their schedule – equating to a whopping 96 additional opponent score points (by the Net Drive Points chart below). Above and beyond their opponents’ performances along this same index, this equates to at least an additional 6 points per game (because of unknown ball control minutes impact) being awarded to Raider 2019 opponents. Thereby making the difference between a 7 – 9 versus a 9 – 7 (or possibly even 10 – 6) record – not to mention the loss of a playoff berth. One can view the calculation tables for this set of data here. So yes, this disadvantage versus the NFL teams on the Raider’s 2019 schedule was a big deal in terms of their overall season success.
Calls for objective violations, such as delay of game, too many players, neutral zone infractions, encroachment and false starts – things which are not subject to interpretation – analyze these penalties and you will find that the Raiders actually perform better in these penalty categories than the NFL average (see chart on right for 2019 called penalties). These are the ‘discipline indicator’ class of penalties. What the astute investigator will find is that, contrary to the story-line foisted for decades concerning this reputation on the part of the Raiders, the team actually fares rather well in these measures. In contrast however, one can glean from the Net Drive Points chart below and derive the same number in the chart to the right, that the Raiders are penalized at double (2x) the rate of the average NFL team for scoring-drive subjective-call defensive penalties, and as well 16.3% higher for all interpretive penalty types in total (yellow Raider totals in the Net Drive Points chart below). In contrast, the Raiders are penalized at 72% of the League average for objective class or non-interpretive penalties. It is just a simple fact that the Raiders are examined by League officials with twice as much scrutiny for the violations of defensive holding, unnecessary roughness, offensive and defensive pass interference, roughing the passer, illegal pick, illegal contact and player disqualification. One can observe the analysis supporting this for 2019 Called Penalties here.17
The non-interpretive penalties (or ‘Discipline Class’ in the chart to the right) cannot be employed as inflection points of control, so their statistics will of course trend towards a more reasonable mean. Accordingly, this falsifies the notion that the Raiders are more penalized than other NFL teams because of shortfalls in coaching disciplines. If this were the case, there should be no differential between the objective versus interpretive penalty-type stats. In fact, inside this ‘discipline indicator’ penalty class, the Raiders fare better than the average NFL team. But this broaches the question, do the coaching penalty statistics then corroborate this intelligence? Yes, as it happens, they do.
Argument #3 – Oakland Raider Head Coach Penalty Burden
Further then falsifying this notion that excess Raider penalties are a result of coaching and discipline, are the NFL penalty statistics of the Raider head coaches themselves. Such a notion does not pan out under that evidence either. On average Raider head coaches have been penalized 31.6% higher in their years as a Raider head coach than in their years as head coach of another NFL team. However, for conservancy we have chosen in the graph to the right to weight average coach’s contribution by the number of years coached in each role. Thus, conservatively a Raider head coach is penalized 26.3% more in that role as compared to their head coaching stints both before and after their tenure as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.18 Accordingly, this significant disadvantage has been part of the impetus which has shortened many coach tenures with the Raiders, thereby helping account for the 3.3 year Raider average tenure, versus the 6.6 year average tenure on the part of the same group of coaches both before and after being head coach of the Raiders. One can observe this in the graph, which reflects a blend of eight NFL coaches over the 1979 – 2019 NFL seasons; all prominent NFL coaches who spent significant time – 16 years on average coaching both the Raiders as well as other NFL teams.19
Not even one of the nineteen head coaches in the entire history of the Raider organization bucked this trend of being higher penalized as a Raider head coach. Not even one. Let that sink in.
There is no reasonable possibility, that all these coaches and their variety of organizations could be that undisciplined, almost every single season for 50 years. The data analysis supporting this graphic can be viewed here.
Argument #4 – Oakland Raider Player Penalty Burden
Statistically this coaching differential has to impute to the players’ performances as well, through the association of common-base data. Former Raider cornerback D.J. Hayden portrayed this well in his recent contention that he was penalized more as an Oakland Raider than with other teams. In fact if we examine the Pro Football Reference data, indeed Hayden was penalized a total of 35 times during his four years as a Raider defensive back, and only 11 times in his three years with Detroit and Jacksonville. This equates to 35 penalties in 45 games played for the Raiders, compared to only 11 penalties in 41 games played for other teams.20 That reflects a 65% reduction in penalty per game played and 55% reduction in penalty per snap played during his tenure with a team other than the Oakland Raiders.21
Such detriment constitutes a disincentive for players to want to play for a team which is penalized so often – potentially marring their careers and negatively impacting their dreams for Pro Bowl, MVP or even Hall of Fame selections. This is part of the reason I believe, as to why the badge-of-honor tag-phrase has evolved “Once a Raider, Always a Raider”. In order to play for the Raiders, you pretty much have to acknowledge this shtick inside your career, and live with it for life. Should we now asterisk every player and coach in the NFL Hall of Fame with a ‘Played for the Oakland Raiders’ asterisk now? A kind of reverse steroid-penalty bias negatively impacting a player’s career?
In the end, all such systemic bias serves to do is erode NFL brand, cost the NFL its revenue – and most importantly, harm fans, players, coaches and families.
NFL, your brand and reputation has drifted since the infamous Tuck Rule Game, into becoming ‘Bill Belichick and the Zebra Street Boys’. Yours is a brand containing the word ‘National’, and as a league you should act accordingly to protect it. Nurture and protect it through a strategy of optimizing product quality.
And finally, the most idiotic thing one can do is to blame all this on the Oakland fans, as was done in this boneheaded article by the Bleacher Report on the Raider penalty problem from as far back as February 2012.
Collectively, all this is known inside any other professional context as ‘bias’ or could even be construed by angry fans as cheating – and when members of an organization are forced under financial/career penalty to remain silent about such activity (extortion), when you observe coaches and players and more importantly members of the free press as well, biting their tongue over this issue – this starts to become reminiscent of prohibition era 18 U.S.C. § 1961 – U.S. Code Racketeering activity.
When you examine the history of such data, much of this patterning in bias remains consistent, decade after decade. It is systemic. It is agency. One can find and download into a datamart or spreadsheet for intelligence derivation, the history of NFL penalties by game, type, team, etc. here: NFL Penalty Tracker. Go and look for yourself, and you will see that what I am saying is true. What we have outlined here is a version of the more obvious Indigo-point commission bias. Let’s examine now a more clever form of cheat, the Indigo-point omission bias.
Indigo-Omission Favors Specific NFL Teams: Case of the 2017 New England Patriots
Let’s address an example in contrast to the Oakland Raiders (also from the NFLPenalties.com data set), the case of a perennial NFL Officials’ call-favored team, the New England Patriots. As one can see in an exemplary season for that franchise, portrayed in the chart to the right, the New England Patriots team that traveled to the 2017 Season Super Bowl, was flagged (from game 10 of the season through to the Super Bowl) at a rate which exceeded 2 standard deviations below, even the next least-flagged team inside the group of 31 other NFL teams. Two standard deviations below even the second best team in terms of penalties called against them. That is an enormous bias in signal. One can observe the 2017 game-by-game statistical data from which the graphic to the right is derived here. If one removes the flagrant, non-inflection-point-useful and very obvious penalties from the Patriots’ complete penalty log (non-highlited penalty types in the chart below), this further then means the Patriots were called for 29 interpretive penalties in these final 12 games – the average of which was not called until late in the 3rd quarter, after the game’s outcome was already determined in many cases.22
In the chart to the right, one may observe the Net Drive Points (score) which were the statistical result of each of the most common forms of NFL penalty (Of note is the dramatic skew in Raider penalties towards higher score-sensitive penalties versus the average NFL team (102%). For those penalties (highlighted in yellow in the chart) which can be called on any play, New England opponents for weeks 10 through the end of the 2017 season earned 6.6 interpretive penalties per game, in those same weeks in which New England was flagged 2.4 times on average. This equates to New England earning only 36% as many interpretive penalties as their average opponent during that same timeframe. As well, most teams average their interpretive penalties late in their second quarter of play (as statistically they should), while New England was awarded their interpretive penalties with less than 5 minutes left in the third quarter of each game on average.
This means that New England was very seldom interpretive-penalized during any time in a game in which the outcome of that game was in doubt. This is ‘exploitation of omissions at Point Indigo’ by means of an absence of interpretive calls against them, for on average of the first three quarters of each game played in late 2017. This factor, as much as being a good team, is what propelled them to the Super Bowl.
Exploiting the Tau Point on specific critical plays near the end of a game, constitutes ironically a less effective and more obvious mode of cheating – one which will simply serve to piss-off alert fans, as happened in the January 20th 2019 Rams-Saints ‘No Call’ game. One cannot Indigo Point cheat viscerally for long and not get called on such obvious bias – the highly skilled cheat must be in the form of an exploit conducted when stakeholder attentions are not piqued.
Indigo Point Exploitation: The New England Patriots received their interpretive penalties at 36% the rate of the average NFL team, a full quarter later into the game than the average NFL team, most typically when the game outcome was already well in hand. This constitutes exploitation through omission at the Indigo Point.
In fact, for the entire AFC Championship and Super Bowl that season, New England was only flagged twice for any type of violation – a total of 15 yards. Their opponents? The Jaguars and the Eagles were flagged 10 and 7 times more yards respectively, than were the Patriots in their respective championship games. True to form for 2019, from the same NFLPenalites database employed for the Raiders Penalty Differential chart at the top of this article section, one can examine and find that New England was the second least penalized team in the NFL for most of the 2019 Season, only falling to 6th overall in the final games (after they were busted a 6th time for cheating, by filming the sidelines of next week’s opposing team) – and on track to another probable and tedious Super Bowl appearance.
To put it in gambling terms, or seriously tested means of quantification upon which bookies rely – the Patriot’s opponents in the 2017 NFL Season, on average for games 10 through the Super Bowl, were given 4 more penalties in each game than were the Patriots themselves (3 less awarded to them + 1 higher awarded to their opponent on average). Using the Net Drive Points for the most common interpretive penalty types (highlighted in yellow) from the chart immediately above (published at Sports Information Solutions)23, this equates to awarding 10.8 extra points to the Patriots, per game, every game, all the way from game 10 of the 2017 season, through to and including the Super Bowl. No wonder they got to the Super Bowl.
This equates to awarding the Patriots an extra 10.8 points per game in the second half of the season thru the playoffs.
Half the teams in the NFL could have gotten to the 2017 Season Super Bowl if they were given this
same dishonest two touchdown per game advantage afforded the New England Patriots by league officials that year.
Once again, as in the case of the Oakland Raiders earlier, one can make up the pseudo-theory that ‘hey they are more disciplined team, so they are penalized less’. That is, until one examines the data and observes that this condition has gone on for five decades (ostensibly since, but in reality much further back than the notorious ‘Tuck Rule’ AFC Championship Game, the video of which can no longer be found in its original form because the NFL edited out over 2 minutes in order to conceal the game’s penalty no-call Tau Point league phone call intervention). The penalties which are called or not-called are of an interpretive nature – again those that occur most every single down, but are called on some teams consistently, and on other teams not so much. Again here as well, the penalty classes which are not subject to interpretation, delay of game, false start, etc. – surprise, New England is just average in those ‘no doubt’ classes of penalty.24 If this were a matter of coaching discipline, New England should also therefore be two standard deviations below the mean for objective-class penalties as well. They are not. The subjective-class (yellow) penalty calls and no-calls have nothing whatsoever to do with coaching discipline, and everything to do with a statistically manifest bias on the part of the league and its officials.
This is a pivotal reason why I dumped NFL Sunday Ticket and DirectTV. I am not into being bilked of hard-earned household money through such activity.
Update (Dec 2019): NFL is reportedly planning a “top-down review” of the league’s officiating during the 2020 offseason.
Such shenanigans as exemplified in the three case studies above represent the everpresence and impact of agency (not merely bias). Bias can be mitigated; however, agency involves the removal and/or disruption of the power structures of the cartel, cabal and mafia. These case examples in corruption demonstrate how agency can manipulate inflection dynamics to reach a desired tipping point – after which one can sit in their university office and enjoy tenure, all the way to sure victory. The only tasks which remain are to protect the indigo point secret formula by means of an appropriate catch phrase, and as well ensure that one does not have any mirrors hanging about, so that you do not have to look at yourself.
An ethical skeptic maintains a different view as to how championships, ethical markets, as well as scientific understanding, should be prosecuted and won.
The Ethical Skeptic, “Inflection Point Theory and the Dynamic of The Cheat”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 20 Oct 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-atd