The Cromartie Conundrum, the Foreman Solution, and the Chamberlain Estimate

New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is getting mocked for a clip where he takes some time to name all his children (the clip isn’t as bad as the description makes it sound– he’s slow, but he doesn’t struggle all that badly). Cromartie claims that HBO manipulated the footage to make him look bad.

Of course, there’s an easy way to avoid this kind of mess: simply give all the kids the same name, thereby reducing it to a previously solved problem.

In discussion on a mailing list where this came up, someone wondered about how many children Wilt Chamberlain would’ve fathered, given his claim to have had sex with 20,000 women. This is, of course, something that can be approached as a Fermi Problem:

Wilt’s claim was to have slept with 20,000 women over his career. Figure a 30% chance of the woman in question ovulating at the right time to allow conception (we’ll assume that they weren’t all so anxious to have sex with Chamberlain that they would do so while actively menstruating), and you’re down to a maximum of 6,000 possible children. Then you need to account for the probability of conception even when the conditions are right, which we’ll make a wild guess of 25% at, and that means about 1,500 expected children.

Of course, a notorious womanizer like Chamberlain might well have been smart enough to use protection, even in the free-wheeling 1960’s when he was in his heyday. If you use an estimated 90% effectiveness for the contraceptives, that would mean that you would expect Wilt to have fathered somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 children. Brigham Young, eat your heart out.

Of course, there doesn’t seem to be any record of Chamberlain having that number of kids, so one of those numbers must be off. Given that Chamberlain’s claim would’ve required him to sleep with something like ten different women a week from puberty through the time when he made that assertion, though people with knowledge of the relevant biology should feel free to correct my other figures in the comments.

(Yes, I’m procrastinating.)

8 thoughts on “The Cromartie Conundrum, the Foreman Solution, and the Chamberlain Estimate

  1. Don’t assume that women won’t want sex when they’re menstruating: libido does not necessarily vanish then (I gather it does for some women, but that’s not true of all of us), and the reduced likelihood of conception might be appealing. I have no idea of Chamberlain’s preferences, but unless he’s explicitly said that the idea bothered him, we can’t assume that either.

  2. Foreman’s solution may be prior to Cromartie, but even before George starting having kids, Dr. Seuss showed it was suboptimal:

    Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
    Had twenty-three sons, and she named them all Dave?
    Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
    You see, when she wants one, and calls out “Yoo-Hoo!
    Come into the house, Dave!” she doesn’t get one.
    All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!

  3. Actually, many women are more receptive to (or actively pursue) sex at the time of ovulation, so another confounder.

    I can’t think of ‘Comartie’ without thinking of the defunct TV show
    Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles where Cromartie was the name given to the evil terminator.

  4. Canadian Curmudgeon:

    To make things even more confusing, the Jets also have a rookie fullback named John Conner, who has been nicknamed “The Terminator.”

    I guess that is a little better than “The Guy That The Terminator is Either Trying to Kill or Protect, Depending on Where You Are in the Series.”

  5. I arrive at slightly lower figures: There are 6 fertile days out of each 28, that’s 21%. Chance of successful fertilization varies between 10 and 33% on those days, that averages out to 21,5 % – only about every other cycle yields a viable ovum, so the base chance should be something like 2,2% per sex act. Assuming a 90 % percent effectiveness rate of contraception, that works out to only about 44 kids from 20.000 sexual encounters – but that still would be a pretty impressive number, seeing how competitors like Brigham Young and various Japanese Emperors achieved their record-breaking numbers of offspring without the ‘handicap’ of contraceptives.

  6. There weren’t that many offspring. Wilt probably had the numbers of a few good abortion doctors.

  7. Don’t forget, frequent ejaculation (as his sexual frequency would demand) would leave him with a constantly low sperm count, meaning he would probably have very little chance of getting many of the women pregnant. It takes time to make all those little swimmers. His frequency may have been a form of birth control.

  8. If you really attempt to have sex that frequently, the name “Wilt” is going to become a very apt description of part of your anatomy.

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