How Nate Silver Hires

Nate Silver at the New York City headquarters of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog on Feb 26, 2014.
Nate Silver at the New York City headquarters of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog on Feb 26, 2014. Brad Harris for TIME

Forget H.R. The ESPN stats star uses a graph to measure his future employees

Read about Nate Silver and his plans for FiveThirtyEight at ESPN in the March 17 issue of TIME.

Since joining ESPN in late July, Nate Silver has spent an estimated 90% of his time interviewing candidates to add to FiveThirtyEight’s team. He is fanatical about hiring. He has insisted that potential hires demonstrate an ability to learn new things. In the journalism business, that might mean computer-programming skills or the creation of a novel beat. Silver judges potential employees by a set of coordinate axes he has saved on his computer. (“Because I’m a dork,” he says.)

The x-axis runs from “quantitative” to “qualitative,” the y-axis (top to bottom) from “rigorous and empirical” to “anecdotal and ad hoc.” All FiveThirtyEight employees, he says, need to land in the upper-left quadrant of the coordinate plane, where they are quantitatively inclined, rigorous and empirical. The adjacent quadrant above the x-axis, Silver says, belongs to journalists like some of his former colleagues at the New York Times and Ezra Klein, most recently of the Washington Post. “People call them numbers whizzes, but they’re not that—just very good journalists.” The bottom two quadrants belong to the dregs of American journalism: on the left, sportswriters who cherry-pick statistics without thinking through them, and on the right, op-ed columnists. “That’s the crap quadrant. Two-thirds of the op-ed columnists at America’s major newspapers are worthless,” Silver says. He hates punditry, he hates narratives, he hates bold proclamations — and so too does he hate the media’s most willing vessels for all three.

“Companies in general ought to spend more time on their hiring — it’s not the kind of thing that should be left to HR reps,” Silver says. “You know, clubhouse chemistry matters.”

Read about Nate Silver and his plans for FiveThirtyEight at ESPN in the March 17 issue of TIME.

TIME Music

Exclusive: Former ‘Wig Guru’ Sues Rapper Nicki Minaj

The "Super Bass" star known for her super locks cut her former hair designer out of millions, the man's lawyer says.

Hell hath no fury like a wig man scorned.

Terrence Davidson, the former “wig guru” for rapper Nicki Minaj, will file suit Friday morning against Minaj in district court in Atlanta, claiming that she stole wig designs he personalized for her, and sold and licensed them without cutting him in on the ensuing massive profits, TIME has learned. Davidson also claims Minaj’s management team discouraged him from a multi-million-dollar reality show deal under the guise that it would disrupt their partnership.

Representatives for Minaj had not returned email messages sent Thursday night.

Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for Davidson, says, “Her lawyers may complicate it, but we don’t need to get into intellectual-property law. This is basic American morality. Nicki Minaj lied to this man and cheated him.” Chestnut plans to seek at least $30 million in damages for Davidson if the case goes to trial.

(PHOTOS: Nicky Minaj Wigs Out: The Rapper’s Most Hair-raising Styles)

Minaj and Davidson began working together in January 2010, before the release of her platinum-selling debut album Pink Friday, but some time after she had achieved success rapping on mixtapes and on posse tracks with her label-mates at Young Money Entertainment. Minaj’s wigs — which ranged from black to blonde to any kind of cotton-candy color in between (often pink) — were one big part of a transformation in 2010 that elevated her from her hip-hop niche to pop superstardom. As Davidson’s attorneys put it in their lawsuit: Davidson created “fresh, hip, and unique wigs” that “significantly contributed to Minaj’s unsurpassed notoriety for her wigs.”

(Among these “fresh, hip, and unique wigs”? The “Pink Upper Bun Wig,” the “Fox Fur Wig,” the “Pink High Top Wig,” the “SuperBass Wig,” the “Half Blonde-Half Pink Wig,” and the “VS Wig.” And those are just the ones cited in the complaint. Helpfully, there are pictures.)

As Minaj’s star grew, so too did the opportunities for Davidson. In the complaint, he claims that he and Minaj planned to go into business together, selling wigs and making a reality show. That was in the blissful days of 2011, when Minaj toured with Britney Spears and “Super Bass” streamed from every car radio in sight.

But come 2012, Davidson alleges, with Minaj’s fame still booming, her management team shuffled him out of their shared business plans. There would be no wig line; there would be no Davidson-centric reality show. In January 2013, he left her team altogether, citing creative differences.

Now — with Minaj-branded wigs on sale on her own website, and with miniature wigs gracing the tops of Minaj’s fragrance bottles — Davidson wants a chunk of Minaj’s vast pink dominion.

“It’s a classic David versus Goliath situation,” Chestnut says. Although Goliath probably never offered to wrap Lil’ Kim’s coffin with a bow.

You can read the full complaint below:

TIME Media

Riding with Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, New Zealand
Chrissy Teigen in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, New Zealand James Macari—Sports Illustrated

On a crosstown trip with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl as she catcalls cops, bemoans Red Robin's hiring practices, and ponders life after modeling

Tap, tap, tap, go the cop’s knuckles on the passenger-side front-seat window.

It’s just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday. We’re idling in a white Lexus SUV on 43rd Street, just past Seventh Avenue, and this, we expect the cop to tell us, is not OK. Our window rolls down. “How long are you gonna be? My boss says you’re going to have to move soon.”

Then the backseat passenger-side window rolls halfway down. A young, slender, tan woman peeks her head out and says, “Hey there, handsome.” The cop — pale, muscular, with crisp features and a shaved head — moves along, but he lets us stay.

The young woman gives the rest of us in the car her read on the situation. “He’s almost like a cop stripper, isn’t he? He’s a little too cool to be a cop.” She drops her voice a couple octaves. “Turn down your music, laaaadies.

Another cop approaches, the boss. He’s older, stockier, and he hustles us along coarsely — “move your f–kin’ car.” But the young woman is in no mood to be picky. “God, so many strippers!”

She cackles. “You know how you feel so hyper when you’re so tired? That’s me right now.”

The young woman is hyper and tired because she is Chrissy Teigen, one of the three women Sports Illustrated put on the cover of its 50th anniversary swimsuit issue, which landed on newsstands Tuesday. As the swimsuit issue has grown from a quirky edition of an offbeat title (in 1964’s debut swimsuit issue, SI‘s masthead listed contributing nature and yachting editors) into the 260-page behemoth it is today, so too has the promotional campaign attending the thing.

Teigen and her cover-model compatriots, Lily Aldridge and Nina Agdal, were awake Monday morning before 3 a.m. Pacific to do the Today show. By day’s end they were on a red-eye to New York, and come Wednesday, they’ll be in Miami. A whirlwind, filled with appearances in most every media outlet up to and including Charlie Rose. Yes, Charlie Rose. Teigen’s excited about that appearance, because the studio allegedly offers a full food spread. And all she’s ingested today is a mimosa and the innards of a tuna sandwich. At least on Monday she had a big breakfast and an IV full of undetermined vitamins.

(A few words of disclosure here before proceeding: TIME and Sports Illustrated are owned by the same company, Time Inc. Occasionally the two titles collaborate on ventures, including my employment. But I had no involvement in the swimsuit issue, as a photographer, writer, editor or model.)

At 28, Teigen is the oldest of the three on the cover, and the most tenured, making her fifth appearance in the magazine. Yet she makes no show of being the most mature: When her makeup artist needs to slide past a reporter — the reporter says, “let’s just switch positions” — she cracks up. “That’s what she said!”

She makes fart noises and sings little songs she makes up on the spot. One was called “Hair Removal Tactics.” Its lyrics were simply, “hair removal tactics,” set to a shifting melody. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m married? Somebody married me?’ I act much younger than I am.” (Teigen married the singer-songwriter John Legend in 2013.)

Her demeanor, she says, has doomed her in the world of high fashion. “I’m not good at” — and here she involuntarily guffaws — “taking pictures. I can’t give a good face. I crack up.” But it has made her something of an icon in the swimsuit world, where charm and approachability work in a model’s favor. It helps that Teigen broadcasts her silly sensibility almost endlessly on Twitter, where, as of last count, she has shared over 45,000 tweets with nearly 360,000 followers. All but two or three of them, it seems, were about Bravo reality shows.

Teigen takes herself not at all seriously, viewing her career as something of a happy accident considering she once couldn’t land her dream job at a chain restaurant. “TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Red Robin, I applied everywhere. I was dying to work at Red Robin.” She was working retail at a surf shop in Huntington Beach, Calif., in her senior year of high school, when a photographer told her she might have the goods to model. She did workaday stuff, catalogs and pamphlets, including one where she posed as a scientist. (She’s mortified of that one surfacing someday.) She climbed the ladder, and then, lo, she was here.

Here, that is, on the cover of a big magazine, on a screen in Times Square, crisscrossing the country. But her dreams are ever-shifting. She’s miffed she never had the chance to have an office job: “If — well, obviously not if — when the day comes that I will have to bow out of being in the issue, I told everyone that I still want to be able to come over to Time headquarters.”

“Hey, I could work there!” she says. “I wanna pack those gift bags that we got every year. I love packing things! I’m very organized! And I would bring things to the office! I love to cook!”

TIME Football

Richie Incognito Is the Bully the NFL Deserves

Miami Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito looks on during a game, October 6, 2013 in Miami Gardens. Incognito was accused of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin with threats and racial epithets.
Miami Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito looks on during a game, October 6, 2013 in Miami Gardens. Incognito was accused of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin with threats and racial epithets. Aaron M. Sprecher—AP

A new report details the terrible working conditions that led Jonathan Martin to flee the Miami Dolphins. But where exactly does the violent and macho league think those conditions come from?

What did you think you were watching all these years? What did you think football was?

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison, LLP earlier today released its exhaustive, NFL-commissioned report (PDF) on the midseason contretemps in the Miami Dolphins locker room that prompted the departure of tackle Jonathan Martin and the suspension of guard Richie Incognito. The report concluded — as though there were any other possible outcome — that Incognito (and two other linemen, John Jerry and Mike “Free Hernandez” Pouncey) had bullied the green, brainy, vulnerable Martin, with racial slurs and dirty joke-threats toward his sister and mother, to the point where he had to depart the team.

The investigators do fine work at reconstructing all of the harassment that occurred, from the time Jim Turner, the offensive line coach, participated in gay jokes about another player to the time Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey wore Japanese-inspired headbands on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor to mock a trainer. They recreate bad scenes in lunchrooms and at parties, and they extract wisely from the trove of text messages made available to them.

It’s all terrific reporting, and totally lacking context. The report over and over again mentions the workplace, and what is appropriate in the workplace. Well, what do these men do for work, at their workplace? “Not an ordinary workplace,” as the report’s conclusion, doesn’t quite cover it. The employees slam into people running at them, over and over again. Sometimes they slam into someone’s upper body, and sometimes they go for the legs. In their free time, when they’re not slamming into others, they train, so that they can weigh more, with more muscle and less body fat, for the next time they slam into others. And they better, because the people coming after them are in all likelihood more fervid than they are.

This is violent labor — labor, indeed, performed at a higher level when further violence is added.

There are, naturally, plenty of football players who would never behave the way Incognito and his cronies did. Many can compartmentalize the game they play, and model good behavior for all their fans and intimates, and thereafter graduate from the NFL to great things: even, in Byron White’s case, to the United States Supreme Court. (Incognito doesn’t appear to be headed that way, but the report does indicate that he plans to move back to Arizona, which assuredly will offer him all kinds of tantalizing possibilities for public office.)

But it’s hard not to notice many examples of lingering violence in retired players, both as scars and as method. In some especially sad cases they converge. So where does emotional violence like that which Martin faced come from? Does it come from a workplace with lax standards? Will telling football players to be more sensitive toward one another make them act that way? It’s a nice thought in February, nearly two weeks removed from the last whistle, approaching the happy and fertile moments of the combine and the draft. But ask again come August when you hear the first crack of two helmets against one another.

TIME Football

Where Do the Players Go After the Super Bowl?

Ninety guys dressed for the big game a year ago; 11 of them never played another snap. Ex-players are trying to plot a path for life after football

The blue-green paper downpour never ceased during the on-field celebration following Seattle’s 43-8 rout of Denver in Sunday night’s Super Bowl. It was there after the final whistle sounded, and it was there when owner Paul Allen hoisted his trophy.

Could you blame a player for thinking the confetti would never stop?

But the NFL is a brutal league, characterized by brief careers with swift endings. Ninety players dressed for Super Bowl XLVII a year ago; eleven of them never played another snap. If a player doesn’t know better, someday he will.

Which is why, on the Saturday afternoon before the Super Bowl, the league offered its benediction by way of branding to a career-networking event for players. In attendance at the Player Networking Event at an expo hall in Harlem—75 blocks north of the rest of the week’s spectacle—where a handful of businesses and vendors, union officials and retired players, all attempting to turn pro football’s ugly sausage-factory image into something a little warmer. Even the NFL Players Choir turned up to croon “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

The players’ central business problem is the massive gulf between the NFL’s well-off classes and its poorest. The average career lasts a little over three years. Yet the average first-round pick’s career runs for over nine years, with sweeter annual compensation, too. For every Peyton Manning (career NFL salary: $217 million, plus countless more in endorsement deals) there are dozens of players who pull in a few hundred grand for a few years, if that.

Financial literacy and savoir-faire do not discriminate, especially among a workforce with its fair share of 23-year-olds flush with cash for the first time in their lives. Plenty of once-great football players see their gravy trains stop far short of their expected destinations. You can give your life to football, with all the bodily trauma that might entail, but football may have little use for you once it comes time to write the proper checks. And then what? What sort of union protects nearly $4 billion in annual payouts to a fairly small membership, and then watches as 78 percent of its onetime members face financial hardship within two years of retirement (as Sports Illustrated reported in 2009)?

One solution is money. The union set up two funds — the Professional Athletes Foundation, in 1990, with funding from player fines, and the Players’ Trust, in late 2013, with funding from the owners negotiated in the 2011 labor agreement — to provide former players with financial assistance, whether for vocational training, medical bills, or finishing college. Both organizations have seen encouraging results. Tyrone Allen, the manager of the Professional Athletes Foundation, says that he had 60 requests for assistance in January. And Bahati VanPelt, the executive director of the Trust, says that 400 former players came to his organization for assistance in the first two months of its existence.

But money goes only so far, Allen admitted. Former players naturally hesitate to take action. So the event had a moral mission, too. You wouldn’t immediately think it, for instance, but football players make model employees, and Allen and Co. are out to convince ex-players just that. And if you take your off-field responsibilities seriously, and get something out of your college education (NFL players are more likely to have degrees than the general population), and you begin networking during your pro career, however short it might be, you can plot your way to an enviable entrepreneur’s lifestyle. They call this transitioning—trade in your chinstraps for bootstraps!

Ben Troupe, who played for the Titans and Buccaneers from 2004 until 2008 and now hosts a sports-radio show in Nashville, says it’s not so hard. “The only difference between me and any other player is that I’m not afraid to look like a fool. Any player who can cash checks can break his behind and work. Real talk!”

Rod Trafford, a tight end who played parts of seasons from 2003 until 2006 with the Patriots, Bills, Eagles and Rams, transitioned easily enough after playing. He took a job in sales at Xenith, a start-up helmet manufacturer, and soon rose to regional sales manager. Now he’s picking between job offers from two other start-ups.

But Spencer Tillman, the former 49er and Oiler who is now the lead analyst for CBS’s College Football Today, worries that generational shiftlessness will thwart such success in the future. One night, after a workout in Los Angeles, he pulled his car up to a Subway near closing time. He saw just one sandwich artist on duty. But when the Subway employee saw Tillman’s headlights, he ducked into the back of the store. He didn’t return—Tillman timed him—for 14 and a half minutes. And when Tillman then asked him, through the store’s front window, to produce a sandwich, the kid mouthed back, “We’re closed.” No sandwich, and the clock hadn’t even struck 10 yet. Upon finishing his parable, Tillman shook his head. “It’s millennials as a cohort. If every one of those kids, in every one of America’s 26,000 Subway stores, makes me a sandwich, instead of closing the store down, we have the power to move GDP.” Alas.

For now, none of Tillman’s colleagues is thinking on such a grand scale. Allen and VanPelt, the union representatives, just want more players to access the benefits their programs offer. They want better medical care for the union’s onetime members, and they want increased financial literacy for everyone. Marquay Baul, a private banker for a number of Denver Broncos players, just tells his clients to be careful with the chunks of their money allotted for risky ventures. “And if they hear the words ‘investment opportunity’ alongside the words ‘club in Miami’? Run away as fast as you can.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser