Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Uber-Nerds Count!

Malcolm Gladwell On Football
Gladwell is wired-tight! See how life is so interrtwined!!!!
From an ESPN Interview

JM: Early on in "Blink," you ask, "When should we trust our instincts, and when should we be wary of them?" That's a great question, and seems at the heart of what happens on the football field. You've got intense, detailed preparation leading up to the game, and lots of fast analysis between plays (by the coaches and players), and then the "instinctive" moves that happen once the ball is snapped. Let's say the Eagles call you up and ask you to spend a day with the team explaining the lessons of "Blink," and how they could be used in the Super Bowl. Would you take them up on the offer? If so, what would you say? Who would you spend the most time with? What would you want to talk about first?
Malcolm Gladwell: Well, it would be slightly terrifying to talk to the players, given that I'm, at my best, 135 pounds. So I'd settle for an hour with Andy Reid. I'd tell him the story from "Blink" about Millennium Challenge, which was the $500 million war game the Pentagon conducted in 2001. It was an elaborate dress rehearsal for the Iraq War, with one side "playing" the U.S. and another team playing Iraq -- and Iraq won. The chapter is all about how that happened, and it focuses on a retired Marine Corps General named Paul Van Riper, who was playing Saddam Hussein.

Gladwell on Sports
Interested in reading some of Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker articles that are directly related to sports? Check these out, at his Web site:
September 10, 2001THE SPORTING SCENEDrugstore AthleteTo beat the competition, first you have to beat the drug test.
August 21 & 28, 2000PERFORMANCE STUDIESThe Art of FailureWhy some people choke and others panic
August 2, 1999REPORTER AT LARGEThe Physical GeniusWhat do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a brain surgeon have in common?
May 19, 1997DEPT. OF DISPUTATIONThe Sports TabooWhy blacks are like boys and whites are like girls.

Van Riper won by speeding up the game. The team playing the U.S. had all kinds of computer programs and decision-making systems, and experts on every conceivable problem. But when the war started, Van Riper hit them with so many unexpected plays so quickly that he forced them out of that kind of conscious, deliberate decision-making mode -- and forced them to rely on their instincts. And they weren't prepared for that. Van Riper, in a sense, went to the "no-huddle" against his much more formidable opponent. And his experience shows that being good at deliberate, conscious decision-making doesn't make you good at instinctive decisions.
That's why I've always been so surprised that more NFL teams don't use the no-huddle. It's not just that it forces your opponent to keep a specific defense on the field. It's that it shifts the game cognitively: it forces coaches and defensive captains to think and react entirely in the instinctive "blink" mode -- and when teams aren't prepared for that kind of fast-paced thinking crazy things happen, like Iraq beating the U.S. Andy Reid has to know that Belichick has an edge when he can calmly and deliberately plot his next move. But does he still have an advantage when he and his players have to make decisions on the spur of the moment? I'd tell Andy Reid to go no-huddle at random, unpredictable points during the game -- to throw Belichick out of his comfort zone.

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