To summarize the column, Levitt/Dubner claims that "elite soccer players are more likely to have been born in the earlier months of the year than in the later months," and this proves that nurture is more important than nature. The early birth mont children supposedly get better training because the cut-off date for youth leagues is December 31st. So a kid born early in the year is bigger than a kid born later in the year and "January-born players are the ones who, year after year, receive the training, the deliberate practice and the feedback — to say nothing of the accompanying self-esteem — that will turn them into elites."
The problem is, there is no correlation between elite players and birth month. And thus, the data proves just the opposite of what Levitt/Dubner say. Cream always rises to the top. The kids with the innate talent become the elite players despite the fact that less innately talented kids might be getting better training on account of being born in January.
The commenter who calls himself Bill L. Lloyd writes:
My summaries show that from a sample group of 1,302 players in four World Cups (1982, 1986, 1998, 2006), 638 (49%) were born in the first half of the year, while 664 (51%) were born in the second half of the year.
The NY Times column is currently number three on the paper's most emailed list. People are reading this and getting the wrong message. "You can do anything you want as long as you try hard yada yada yada." Not true. If ever the NY Times owed the world a retraction, it owes it for this poorly researched article.