There are plenty of times when knowledge gets in the way of judgement...
March 3, 2006 11:45 AM   Subscribe

There's an excellent two part dialog between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell on ESPN's Page 2 this week. The two cover a wide variety of topics such as writing, how a kid with no TV from the middle of nowhere in Canada can be a sports fan, the NFL, the economics of sports, and everyone's favorite NBA GM Isiah Thomas.
posted by togdon (13 comments total)
I liked Gladwell before. But he really makes, IMHO, an incredibly insightful comment about Tiger Woods' work ethic that makes me want to read everything he's ever written.
posted by frogan at 11:52 AM on March 3, 2006

Yeah, I like Gladwell already, but reading him applying his thinking to sports really drove a lot of points home for me. Also, he's a way bigger sports nut than I will ever be.
posted by mathowie at 12:00 PM on March 3, 2006

I am usually a HUGE Sports Guy fan, although I've never read anything from Gladwell. I was highly disappointed with this dialog. For most of the first part, Simmons was going on and on about how great Gladwell is and how his writing is the pinnacle of literary prose etc etc... it was terrible.

Although there were a few neat ideas thrown around, I had seriously hoped for more disagreement or at least differing view points on some issues. Simmons best dialog, in my opinion, was his talk with David Stern, NBA commish -- now *that* was good reading.
posted by ruwan at 12:03 PM on March 3, 2006

Huh. Very cool. I'm also heartened to read that Gladwell agrees with me that reading about baseball is way, way more interesting than watching baseball. I thought I was alone and weird on that point.
posted by COBRA! at 12:14 PM on March 3, 2006

ruwan, I agree that the discussion with Stern was more interesting to sports fans, but this discussion struck me as more broadly appealing. I also agree that Simmon's fawning was a bit over the top, but I found the ensuing discussion of the writing process was interesting. If you didn't read part two from today based on yesterday's you're definitely missing out on some good stuff...
posted by togdon at 12:22 PM on March 3, 2006

I don't know if I've ever felt sorrier for someone than I did for Manning at the end of that Pittsburgh playoff game.

Bah. Fred Brown, 1982. Bill Bucker, 1986. Donnie Moore, 1986 ... those three come up first, but there are millions more.

He lost me there and never really got me back. (As an aside, does anyone even read anymore? I haven't looked at the site in years, ever since Rob Neyer became pay-only.)

As for your Curry/Mickelson point about athletes failing to motivate themselves out of fear more than weakness, I would argue that Eddy Curry comes to camp overweight because he can't stop eating.

And I would agree. Bah, part 2. This is akin to listening to two guys talk at a bar, except they're better writers.

How can you play on a team with Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton and not try hard? You'd have to be a sociopath not to be infected by their enthusiasm and work ethic.

This is where he really loses me each time. Yes, we know it's about effort. But sustaining a maximum effort isn't as easy as simply deciding to give maximum effort. He never delves into the physical and/or psychological factors that comprise "effort."

BTW, Eddy Curry has been surprisingly helpful to my fantasy team this year.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:48 PM on March 3, 2006

Here is that Bill Simmons interview with David Stern... I hadn't read it before. Pretty good! I'm not even that into sports & I like Bill Simmons's writing.
posted by jcruelty at 12:55 PM on March 3, 2006

I thought the Gladwell/Simmons exchanges were really interesting & funny as well.

Simmons: Wait, I'm still reeling from the fact that you became an NBA fan just from reading back issues of "Sports Illustrated" in a Canadian library... I find this amazing. Have you ever written about this? You were like the sports fan's equivalent of John Travolta in the "Boy in the Plastic Bubble." What happened when you finally got TV? Did you not leave your house for, like, three weeks? You need to start filming something for those ESPN "SportsCentury" shows where they talk about stuff that happened 25-30 years ago -- to cover every segment, you could just say, "I remember reading about that in Sports Illustrated in my local Ontario library and being totally amazed." And then they could plug that little sound bite into, like, 58 shows about anyone from 1975-81.

posted by jcruelty at 1:03 PM on March 3, 2006

I have never passed a link between my friends more than I have with this one. Interestingly, it's all my non-sports-oriented friends who like it most, even though I had to give them a little insight to who Peyton Manning is, for example.

I think Gladwell was spot on about the live versus TV watchability of all those sports. Though, I am sure that if he had access to Hockey Night in Canada, he'd give hockey an A- or a solid B+ for its televisual quality.
posted by travosaurus at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2006

In 1970's Ontario there was no television reception outside a five mile radius of Bloor and Yonge. Basketball was unknown, as there were no hard flat surfaces besides ice (outside a five mile radius of Bloor and Yonge). Also, the grizzly bears that wandered the streets were attracted to large orange circles, so that anyone bearing a basketball or a pumpkin would immediately become indigestion. When I was 15, I did hear whispers of the existence of the NBA from the only person resident in English Canada at the time who wasn't descended through both parents from the MacDonald clan of Harris and Lewis, a 100 year old blind woman named Sweet Georgia Brown. That night the RCMP rode into my bedroom and took me away to a remote monitoring station on an island in the Arctic Circle. During the summer days of 23-hour light, we held a non-stop bonspiel sponsored by Molsons. Once, several years later, I awoke from a dream and shouted, "Who is Earvin 'Magic' Johnson?" My warders quickly said he was the greatest skip ever, the originator of the four rock rule. Then they searched my room for Nike branded sportswear.
posted by TimTypeZed at 3:16 PM on March 3, 2006

Does anyone tire of how Simmons uses metaphor to explain easily understandable concepts from which the metaphor adds nothing to the concept and makes you feel upset you are even thinking about that concept any further?
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:42 PM on March 3, 2006

skepticallypleased: I actually like that. But instead of upset, I get kinda happy inside.
posted by travosaurus at 9:12 PM on March 3, 2006

Spectator sports are awesome when you are in, say, the first twenty-five rows from the field or court. I love baseball when I'm that close, anyway. I have never been that close for a basketball or football game, but I did notice that when I was in the nosebleed seats for a Mariners game my enjoyment of it decreased markedly, as it became a struggle to actually pay attention to the game rather than the people around me. I would imagine I would enjoy basketball and football much more if I had good seats.

Never been to a hockey game. (And this after living for a decade in Detroit.)
posted by kindall at 10:20 PM on March 3, 2006

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