Tuesday, December 22, 2009

11 comments Simmons and Gladwell Exchange Some (Bad) Ideas: The Sequel Part I

A few months ago Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell got together and emailed each other ideas and just had a general conversation about sports. I covered it here. They decided this past Friday to have another go at a conversation like this and though I didn't absolutely hate the conversation, I of course feel the need to point out some stuff I disagreed with as an uninvited third party into the conversation. I have never read a book by Malcolm Gladwell, but I know what he writes about enough to get a general idea of where he is trying to come from in most discussions. I know he likes Bill Simmons, as many others do and I do 35% of the time, and I know this because he wrote the forward to Bill's new book and basically laid out the reasons why Bill Simmons should be an NBA General Manager. So I know that about him.

These two gentlemen have a mutual admiration society going with each other. The biggest similarities these two have in my mind is that they are both smart (and they know it), and the fact they both have great ideas they love to share them with others. Nothing is wrong with either of these characteristics. Sometimes it is just a bit much, that's all.

And now? We're trying it again. Like you didn't have enough distractions over the holidays, here are nearly 10,000 words of e-mails Gladwell and I exchanged about Kobe, Tiger, concussions, Donaghy, capitalization rates, celebrity sightings and everything else you can imagine.

Modesty? In fact modesty will not be present in this discussion.

SIMMONS

Yeah, this could end badly. I also worry about the third act of anything. For instance, when Hollywood follows a sequel with the dreaded "III," the concession is usually, "We knew this was going to suck, but we couldn't resist cashing in on this franchise one last time." I hope that's not us. But you got me thinking … third movies (re-sequels?) can veer in one of four directions:

Anyone up for a list? You better be because you are getting one. What's up with Bill Simmons calling it a "re-sequel?" He knows pop culture and it is a "three-quel." Come on, he has to get this.

If you forced me to choose which three-quel this discussion was I think I am going with "Spiderman 3." It's the same cast (Gladwell/Simmons), similar ideas (let's discuss sports and advertise for how smart we both can be by brainstorming ideas) and the only difference is there are different conflicts to work through (different ideas about sports and the world), but we know everything is going to be solved by the end and there will eventually one (you know there will be a Gladwell-Simmons Part 4). Along the way there are some interesting ideas revealed that entertain me, but there are certain parts I just can't get past (the dancing in by Peter Parker and the fact both villains weren't very imposing in Spiderman 3) to enjoy in the end.

A very Simmons-esque comparison by me. If I had referenced a movie 20 years old maybe I could have written it exactly like he does.

I don't dislike either Gladwell or Simmons but I can't shake the feeling this exchange of emails is just an exercise by each of them to show each other and the reading audience how brilliant and well-thought out they can each be. It's like an arm-wrestling match using a computer.

"Godfather III" had the single biggest casting misfire of our lifetimes (Sofia Coppola as Michael Corleone's daughter).

Really? Denise Richards as a incredibly intelligent doctor named "Dr. Christmas Jones?" I know Sofia Coppola was a part of one of the most respected trilogies in the history of cinema and is blamed for screwing it up, but Denise Richards played (a) a doctor, (b) an intelligent doctor, (c) a doctor named "Christmas" and (d) a doctor with the last name "Jones." Did the scriptwriters get bored and just think a funny inside joke about Indiana Jones' non-existent sister would be funny? Or did they get lazy and think this:

(Scriptwriter #1) "This movie is coming out near Christmas, that would be a good first name for a scientist...what's a good last name?"

(Scriptwriter #2) "Llewelyn."

(Scriptwriter #1) "No, that name is too difficult to say and we have to direct it towards how the actress we cast for the role would appear to the audience. I don't think she would be a "Llewelyn" at all."

(Scriptwriter #2) "Who did we cast again? Wasn't it Gretchen Mol?"

(Scriptwriter #1) "Denise Richards."

(Scriptwriter #2) "Oh, 'Jones' will work for her then."

The single biggest casting misfire of our lifetimes could also be Rob Schneider in pretty much anything he has been in. This is a great time to re-read Roger Ebert's picture perfect take down of Rob Schneider in Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. I feel like I have to re-read this movie review once a year, just for a good laugh.

I refuse to sit through "The Lord of the Rings," but apparently that's a great example for this.

Bill is going to get around to actually talking about sports here in a minute but right now he is showing off how smart he is by listing sequels that Gladwell-Simmons III could end up being like. I have sat through "The Lord of the Rings," all three of them, and I am not afraid to say I thought they were decent, but I would never sit through them again. I had a rather long discussion with my co-workers about this issue. They think I am crazy, but I didn't really like the movies all that much. Maybe you have to like the books to enjoy the movie or maybe you have to enjoy talking trees and hobbits. I don't really know.

No. 4: Rocky III.
The holy grail of re-sequels. Gets its own category.

"Rocky III" is not a great movie. Sorry. I know Bill has to go back to his favorite movies when making comparisons and he can't compare Gladwell-Simmons III to a movie half of his readers were alive for when it was in theaters...but I am not so sure "Rocky III" is the holy grail of "three-quels." In terms of cheesiness, then maybe that would be true, because there are parts of Rocky III that are epic in their cheesiness.

Our motives are pretty clear. If it's OK with you, even though I'm the white guy and you're the biracial Canadian,

Malcolm Gladwell is Canadian. Don't worry, if you forget this fact you will be reminded 94 other times in this discussion. Also, Canada does everything much better than the United States and nearly every other country does. You will learn that too.

Gladwell: but I was curious if anything has happened so far that makes you want to rethink your Hall of Fame pyramid. Do you have any regrets about "The Book of Basketball"?

I have regrets about Bill's Hall of Fame pyramid. He put Kobe Bryant at #15 of his pyramid behind Bob Pettit. We all love Bob Pettit but Kobe Bryant is probably a better basketball player in the annals of the NBA over him. I also regret that I completely agree with him about George Mikan and actually want him ranked way higher (like #70) than he was in the book. In today's NBA, George Mikan is an untalented, unathletic white center. That's it.

Gladwell: This is what the whole Tiger Woods mess has made clear, I think (and I'm sure we'll get back to him later): We have such incredibly narrow views of what sports celebrities are like. We just can't imagine them as having the full range of human needs and interests. I mean, why shouldn't Adonal Foyle be an art lover?

How narrow minded of us all to not have a broad view of what sports celebrities are like! I think the normal sports fan should take more time to find out what sports celebrities are like rather than just assume they are exactly how they present themselves to the public. Because in the realm of sports, what kind of art Adonal Foyle likes really should matter and all.

I watch sports not to give a crap about what kind of cereal an athlete likes or what he does with his time off from playing sports with his kids. I care about what he does on the field. I am not looking for a meaningful, long time friend...I want to be entertained with sports by sports celebrities. If I learn something interesting along the way, that's fine. I don't feel like I really need to get to know an athlete along the way to make the entertainment more pleasurable for me or to make my life feel more complete. Of course, we learn things about athletes along the way, but I don't feel like I am ignorant because I don't know what Allen Iverson's favorite Broadway play is.

Simmons: Anyway, I think you're right that sports fans are guilty of "athletic profiling."

Part of the problem the snobbish Gladwell and Simmons don't realize is that sports fans don't have access to learn about what some athletes do in their spare time. It's not like we can go interview them or get invited to their house for dinner. So that leaves only the public persona for the average sports fan to chew on and decide what to think about a player. In the limited realm of the media and how the athlete presents him/herself in the media, there has to be a certain amount of "athletic profiling" that goes on.

Allen Iverson has cornrows and tattoos, and he shows up late for practice, and he takes too many shots, so this means he isn't articulate and self-aware (even though he is).

No one assumes because Iverson looks like he does and shows up late for practice (which is also something a sports fan would not know, so I don't know how they could base their "athletic profiling" on a fact they didn't know), he isn't articulate or self-aware. Maybe there are people that think this, but I would say the majority of sports fans who love the NBA don't think this.

Mariano Rivera keeps a low profile, is super-religious and doesn't say much publicly, so this means he has nothing to say (even though Peter Gammons, in his farewell piece for ESPN.com, called him the single most distinctive athlete he covered). Bill Belichick gives monotone answers in news conferences, so this means he doesn't have a sense of humor (even though everyone who knows him swears he does). In all of those cases, our learned perceptions were wrong.

These aren't "learned perceptions" necessarily, these are stereotypes that Bill has made up that the fake generic stupid sports fan thinks. Bill Simmons is stereotyping the average sports fan by criticizing him/her for having misconceptions about athletes. Oh, the irony! Maybe a learned perception Bill and Sir Gladwell have wrong is that sports fans have these learned perceptions and truly believe them.

Bill Simmons seems like a nice, average guy, but this doesn't mean he isn't a raging asshole. I know Jeremy Conlin has a good experience at Bill's book signing with Bill, so he may not be an asshole. Of course how can anyone who knows Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel and Adam "the funniest person in the world if you don't know anyone else in the world" Corrolla be an asshole, right? I am just saying that the public persona of an athlete can be different from the reality and I would think most people can recognize this.

Gladwell: Years ago, I did a story on Tupac, and I tracked down some poems he wrote when he was in high school. They were all about flowers and sunsets and warm kisses. Before there was thug life, apparently, there was hug life. Who knew?

I knew that. I don't believe many sports fans are quite as dumb as these two guys think that they are.

Simmons: To answer your rankings question about my book from five tangents ago, I have many small regrets (to be expected) and one big one: Putting Iverson (No. 29) too high. That was the one Pyramid-related instance of my affection for someone clouding my judgment to some degree.

Or there could be other instances where Bill's affection for someone/something clouded his judgment in his book, like the 954 times he talks about the Boston Garden crowd rising as one to cheer on the team because they are the most educated sports fans in the world. My personal favorite is the time in his book when he said the Celtic crowd starting cheering for the Bulls (with Pippen and Jordan, I think he was referring to the '96 version) because the Celtic crowd knew what greatness was and they were seeing it right then. Whereas some people may see that as a little fickle for the home crowd to cheer for a team beating the snot out of the home team, oh no that's not true, the Boston Garden fans KNOW greatness (as the most educated fans in the world that they are) and they celebrate greatness by cheering for the Bulls.

So I have complaints about Bill Simmons, why do I read and enjoy his latest book? Other than the fact I hate myself of course. Your guess is as good as mine, but he can be a pretty good writer when he isn't writing about things like the passage above.

Gladwell: To me, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is far and away the greatest athlete of our generation. She's been a world-class athlete for 25 years, in a sport where women often peak in their late teens.

This is the type of shit that happens when we sports non-fans and "great thinkers" like Malcolm Gladwell start talking about sports and "thinking." I like Dara Torres and respect all that she has done in the sport of swimming, but she is not FAR AND AWAY the best athlete of our generation.

Also, swimmers DO NOT peak performance-wise in their late teens. Young swimmers do well at the Olympics, and not to get into a swimming related argument but swimmers are in their peak in their very early 20's in my opinion. Really that doesn't matter because either way, Dara Torres is not the best athlete of our generation, much less earning this title, "far and away."

And the finest athletic performance of the past decade has to have been Tom Watson's win at the British Open this year at age 59, with an artificial hip no less -- and I say "win" because even though he finished second in a playoff, I think we can all agree that the difference between his play and Stewart Cink's play that weekend was effectively zero.

But Stewart Cink did win the British Open, which is all that matters. Again, with all due respect to Tom Watson it's not like he was doing anything outside of hitting a golf ball and walking around the golf course. I know golf is hard, but is this the finest athletic performance of the decade? Ok, maybe the finest performance in golf, I will at least entertain this argument, but not in all athletics. There isn't a better performance in the decade other than Tom Watson finishing second in the British Open? Is Malcolm Gladwell sure about this?

Malcolm Gladwell is a "thinker" which means he "believes himself to be really smart." These last 2 statements were not smart.

I'd love to see you factor in age-weighted performance:

Simmons: But age-weighted performance is era-specific to some degree. Think of the advantages for today's athletes with dieting and nutrition, personal training, exercise equipment, athletic equipment, medicine, sneakers, surgeries and first-class travel. Is there any way Dara Torres could have had her career in 1955? Of course not.

Thank you for bitchslapping him with some common sense Bill. It was God's will you did this and He loves you greatly.

Gladwell: Yes. You can only do longevity comparisons within generations. Torres' accomplishment is that of the swimmers who first went to the Olympics in 1984, she's the only one who was still an Olympian in 2008 -- where, I should add, she medaled.

Yes, you can only do longevity comparisons within generations...but medical advances have been (sorry for the terminology) advancing extremely fast even since 1984, so there is no real way to even compare those generations. The same knee injury that knocked out Bernard King in the 1980's would be a one year setback for him now, so with the latest medical advances it's hard to even compare players in the same generation. So the 1984 Dara Torres doesn't have the medical advantages the 2008 Dara Torres has. It's hard to compare players who are even 20 years apart in the same sport sometimes.

Maybe Gladwell isn't aware of the latest medical advances because he gets healthcare in Canada where they have universal healthcare and can't afford these new "fancy" treatments!

(Bengoodfella high-fives himself for making a topical political comment that makes very little sense)

(By, the way, that Derek Jeter and not Watson was Sports Illustrated's athlete of the year was a crime. For Jeter to have had the year Watson did, he would have had to lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2033.)

Bill Simmons would have had more success talking to a horse's ass about sports. The reasoning behind the statement that Jeter should have not gotten athlete of the year over Tom Watson is some terrible reasoning. There is a huge, massive, large difference in the skills required to play golf at the age of 59 years old and the skills required to play baseball at the age of 59. These two sports and ages aren't even comparable to each other. Apparently Malcolm Gladwell thinks all sports awards should be given to a person based on how old they are and what they achieved at that age. An 84 year old who runs a marathon is athlete of the year (To show just how non-sports oriented Gladwell is, it's actually called "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated) over pretty much any other athlete involved with sports.

Gladwell: What we're talking about is what are called capitalization rates, which refers to how efficiently any group makes use of its talent. So, for example, sub-Saharan Africa is radically undercapitalized when it comes to, say, physics: There are a large number of people who live there who have the ability to be physicists but never get the chance to develop that talent. Canada, by contrast, is highly capitalized when it comes to hockey players: If you can play hockey in Canada, trust me, we will find you.

Hurry up everyone and buy Malcolm Gladwell's latest book if you want to hear more arguments about capitalization rates and why Dara Torres is the best athlete of our generation! You know you want to read more about it, so go buy the book...or buy the book for someone you hate, just to make them suffer more. I would bet Gladwell's book sales have gone down overall from people returning his newest book after reading the beginning of his exchange with Bill Simmons.

Case in point: Everyone always says what an incredible advantage it has been for Peyton Manning to have had the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system his entire career. Football offenses are so complex now that they take years to master properly, and having one system in place from the beginning has allowed Manning to capitalize on every inch of his talent. On the other hand, someone like Jason Campbell has had a different offensive coordinator in virtually every season of his pro and college career (and I'm guessing he'll get another this offseason). I'm not convinced that it's possible to say, with certainty, that Campbell has less ability than Manning.

Someone please make this man stop typing. Please...do it for all that is sacred in this world. I don't give a crap if Malcolm Gladwell thinks it is not possible to say, with certainty, that Jason Campbell has less ability than Peyton Manning. I don't give a shit about capitalization rates or anything else when it comes to comparing these two individuals. Just look at the difference in their careers at every level of football they have played and that should be enough data to show us all that, in fact, Peyton Manning has more quarterbacking ability than Jason Campbell. Jason Campbell may be more athletic, but Peyton Manning has more ability than Campbell no matter how many offensive coordinators he has had. I understand capitalization rates, they are like "what if" scenarios for the economic world, but I think we have seen enough of Campbell and Manning to make a decision on which one has more ability.

Jason Campbell will get a new offensive coordinator this offseason...when the Redskins don't re-sign him as a free agent. I get capitalization rates, I am not a dumbass, but this is what's called pure speculation, no matter how much Gladwell tries to give it a different name. I think even if Jason Campbell played in the same offense for 5 straight years he would never have as much quarterback ability as Peyton Manning. Part of the reason Manning has played in the same offense at Indianapolis so long is because he has made the offense work successfully, that has to count for something right?

I'm only sure we can say that Campbell has not been in a situation that has allowed him to exploit his talent the way Manning has. We just don't know how good he is capable of being -- and we may never know.

I think I am pretty confident so far in predicting how good Jason Campbell can be compared to Peyton Manning. If these two switched teams I guarantee everyone Peyton Manning would have had a better career than Campbell in Washington, while playing for the Redskins, than Campbell would have had in Indianapolis in the same offense for years. I have no proof, but of course neither does Malcolm Gladwell when he makes his statement.

I find it strangely bizarre that Malcolm Gladwell thinks Tom Watson was the 2009 SI "Sportsman of the Year" and Dara Torres is the best athlete of our generation, and he is absolutely sure of this, but he isn't sure Jason Campbell wouldn't be as good as Peyton Manning if he played in the same offense for his career. It's not like Peyton ran the Colts offense at Tennessee or anything. Manning hasn't been playing in the same offense since he was in junior high. At some point, he had to learn a new offense just like Jason Campbell has had to do. There is a reason Manning has played on one offense his entire NFL career, and that is because he runs the offense well.

Would Jason Campbell's career be different if he had one offensive coordinator over his entire NFL career? Probably, but I don't think one offensive coordinator would have allowed him to show that he has enough ability to be considered one of the top 5 quarterbacks of all-time. That's very near where Peyton Manning is right now.

Gladwell: But Donaghy says -- and the FBI apparently confirms -- that he got 80 percent of his picks right. Isn't that incredible? So if Iverson were really the great player that people -- like, say, you -- believe, then why does he antagonize refs? Now that we know getting calls is a real and apparently measurable phenomena, should that be factored into your player rankings?

Yes, Bill should have factored in the player's "referee likability factor" to determine whether a player was liked by the NBA officials or not. When attempting to gather together a statistics-backed informative list of the top players of all-time there is nothing like throwing in a few completely subjective criteria such as this to screw up the entire process.

So is Iverson a better player because he didn't get officials' calls or does this make him a worse player because they didn't like him? More importantly, how the hell do you measure this?

Simmons: You're right, I should have graded every Pyramid player from 1 to 10 on their ability to butter up referees.

No, you shouldn't have. This would have been a bad idea in my mind. Does everyone like what Bill is doing by discussing his book in his ESPN columns? If you haven't read the book, you can't enjoy his columns as much, and if you like Bill Simmons you want to enjoy the column...so you go and buy the book.

Certain players (Rick Barry, Iverson, Rasheed, Antoine Walker) made it much harder on themselves by not playing The Ref Game, which goes like this: Don't show them up; don't complain and moan every time you don't get bailed out; don't swear at them or menace them in any way; don't run 25 feet in disbelief after a bad call; and most importantly, call them by their names and not "man," "ref" or "you."

How do you quantify this? I don't know of a way other than using a subjective system of how these players are remembered as to whether the officials liked them or not. At that point, Bill could just throw in 5-6 other subjective criteria into the discussion that would be relevant to which players are the best in NBA history because once you include subjective criteria (other than Bill's own biases and opinions) there isn't much going back.

Gladwell: Leonard Little left a party, got into his car and hit and killed a young woman. He blew .19 on the Breathalyzer. What happened to him? He did 60 days. Six years later, he was arrested for drunk driving again. He still plays for the Rams. Michael Vick did bad things to dogs and went to jail for two years and become the personification of evil. I mean, I love dogs and I was appalled by Vick's behavior. But in what universe is it a bigger crime to fight pit bulls than it is to get wasted and kill an innocent person?

This is a good point. Leonard Little should still be in jail. I mention this once a month and I don't think I mention it enough.

And now we have Tiger Woods, who fooled around on his wife and hit a fire hydrant. And in the middle of this absurd circus, the reigning King of Kings of the NBA and role model to millions is a man who not that long ago was accused of rape and lucked out of a trial because, by all appearances, he was able to buy off his accuser in a civil settlement. Huh?


I don't get the inequity of these punishments. No court is accusing or convicting Tiger Woods of anything, while Kobe settled with his accuser like many other athletes secretly/not-so-secretly have done. Kobe was in legal trouble until he paid off/settled with his accuser. The only person Tiger Woods is in trouble with currently is his wife.

So while Malcolm Gladwell may have a point if he wasn't talking about the justice system and was talking about the reaction of each of these player's wives "should have had" to their situations, he doesn't have a point because Tiger Woods is in no legal trouble...other than the fact his wife is going to divorce him and force him to obliterate the PGA tour over the next couple of years to make more money.

Simmons: It's all about our expectations for famous people. Football players are impossibly big and punish their bodies in an impossible way. All bets are off with them: HGH, steroids, painkillers, whatever. We're ready for anything.

This is a good point by Bill. I don't know if the Leonard Little situation is a result of the expectational difference between him and Vick, I think good lawyering has more to do with that, but I can see his point overall.

I know it makes me angry. I am drifting away from baseball -- just a little -- partly because I loved comparing players from different eras so much, and now I can't.

Well, that and the fact the Boston Red Sox haven't won a World Series in a few years, and really, who wants to pay attention to a team that doesn't win the World Series every year?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have heard Bill's excuse previously for why he completely gave up on the Boston Bruins (the owner didn't spend enough money, which is not a completely good reason), which resulted in him jumping back on the bandwagon every year come playoff time. Now we have heard Bill's excuse for not paying attention to the Red Sox as much lately. Of course it has nothing to do with the fact they aren't as good anymore (which also seems to be a common thread when Bill pulls away from his favorite teams...not to mention the Red Sox aren't bad at all), but because he is just so angry that the Steroid Era has prevented him from using statistics to compare players from previous eras.

Nevermind in his 10 years or so of writing a column I have never actually seen him compare players in baseball from different eras, at least he hasn't done it in-depth that I can recall. This is Bill's excuse from pulling away from the Red Sox, and of course it has nothing to do with the fact they aren't winning the World Series every year...even though I would think the Red Sox recent "dry spell," which isn't even a dry spell has something to do with Bill's reduced interest. So in conclusion, he isn't a fair weather fan, he just has moral outrage at times that happens to coincide with the decline/semi-decline of his favorite teams.

It sucks. I hate what happened. But that's a whole other story.

Which is a story we will never hear because Bill is not about to write down that he gave up on the Red Sox for this reason. He learned his lesson after his "I'm an NHL widow" column a few years ago followed by his jumping back on the Bruin bandwagon, which was followed by readers writing in and calling him a fair weather fan. Bill shall make no more bold public statements like that in the future.

That's enough for today. I will have the second part of the Bill Simmons/Malcolm Gladwell conversation in a few days. After TMQ of course...unless TMQ sucks to make fun of, which almost never happens.

11 comments:

Martin F. said...

I will take the Bill is loving baseball less because the Red Sox seem to be in a "dry spell" (two titles in 5 years...the man is a spoiled brat) a million times over it having anything to do with PED's. His team WON with PED's. Now it's not winning, that's why he's upset. Baseball is pretty much cleaning drugs out of the sport, (excepting HGH, and no IOC and Mr. Congressman, I'm not taking a half assed unreliable blood test) jsut from our own eyeball tests we can see that. Fewer home run totals, fewer freak home run totals from guys who've never hit them before, with no more of these closers who look like they just got out of a WWE ring. It looks like mid-80's baseball and that's fine.

Except for Bill. Secretly Bill likes baseball as it was with PED's. He wishes it could all go back to the way it was, just that nobody knew or suspected. It makes as much sense as his absurd "The lack of ability to compare stats" does for his recent lessening of passion. Or it could be this one last thing....

Bill actually feels weird about the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox can each spend a gazillion dollars, which to him does seem a bit unfair. This also contributes to his embarassment that the Red Sox are no longer the lovable underdogs. They have become the overbearing Red Sox Nation, and he doesn't like the bandwagon so crowded. He feels like his team has become the Yankees, but with different uniforms...and THIS is why he feels a lessening of passion for the sport.

Mantis said...

I remember early in the NFL season and Simmons was kicking ass in his picks and every column seemed to have some breakdown of his picks. Now that he isn't doing so damn well, I can't even find his NFL picks anymore. He's really good at this front-runner thing.

Gladwell says something about having a long talk with a guy who claimed to have been fucking someone in the NBA. He's disappointed this didn't make the forward of Simmons' book. If fate ever decides that I'll cross paths with Gladwell in my life, I'm gonna tell him a story about my passionate love affair with some random NBA superstar. If I ever meet Bill Simmons, I'll recite every line from every Rocky movie I can remember. Then we can compare Vegas stories and talk about how we are only fans of teams that win titles every year. If I ever travel with Peter King, I'm gonna take a shit in a bag and carry it with me. Hopefully I'll be seated next to him on a long plane ride, dutifully holding my bag of shit. Hopefully then I'll get a mention in his aggravating travels of the week after his 5 pages of Brett Favre loving.

Back to the column. I'd probably buy Tupac's "Hug Life".

Dana Torres is the female athlete of the generation, and Tom Watson is the male athlete of the year in Gladwell's mind. Can there be any doubt that Favre was his NFL MVP just by showing up in Minnesota. And Jason Campbell could be better than Peyton Manning??? Really???

I hope that the immense talent of sub-Saharan physicists get recognized soon.

Roger Craig runs marathons after 10 years in the NFL, this puts him in contention for "Athlete of the Year".

Sandra Bullock is hot. Goldie Hawn could be hot. Unfortunately she got old in the 80s, so I guess that sucks. or something.

These two also have an infatuation with celebrities. They have a ranking system and everything. But that system was half-assed, so they use John Hollinger's system instead. Simmons used a toilet after Katie Holmes, she smiled at him, it was awesomeness.

Canada is the best!! They can develop hockey players better than Africa can develop physicists.

There's a part 2 to this. I'll look at it after you do.

ivn said...

a common retort to one any of us regular folk mock someone like Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell is "you're jealous that they're more successful than you!"

well in the case of Malcolm Gladwell, I am jealous. I wish I could get book deals and New Yorker columns without having to do any real research or critical thought about what I write about. it's not fair.

Bengoodfella said...

I think Bill is just going away from baseball because of what you just said as well Martin. I think partially his memories of the Red Sox team has been tainted, but it also has to do with the fact the Red Sox haven't won lately and aren't the lovable team that he had grown to love.

He can't tell me he didn't think that steroids were a problem in baseball in 2004 when the Red Sox won their 1st World Series. That's just naive and Bonds looked huge then too, so it's not like Bonds looking roided up started after the Red Sox won the World Series. He's just using that as an excuse right now to ignore the Red Sox.

I do think Bill feels weird about the fact a lot of people hate the Red Sox because of the overcoverage of the team. I don't know if it is partially his fault or not, but he did write a book about it.

Mantis, he doesn't do his reasoning behind the picks anymore. Mostly it's a column with the picks to the side. I am not exactly doing great in the Pick 'Em league and I am catching up to him.

I would LOVE to be stuck beside Peter King on a flight. I think I may actually not say anything because there is so much I would want to say. Though I would do my best to make his flight uncomfortable just to know I am the inspiration behind his "aggravating travel note."

I respect Dara Torres but she is not the best athlete of this generation. We have plenty of evidence that no matter what offense you put Manning and Campbell in, Manning will have more ability at the quarterback position. I don't see how this can be argued.

Roger Craig also retired fairly early and didn't have any major injuries I can remember in the NFL, which contributes to him being able to run a marathon now.

I think your summary of their celebrity adventures/discussion sums it up well. I think of all the places I would run into Katie Holmes, the bathroom is not one of the places. I would like to talk to her about her life choices though.

Ivn, that is a common retort and I think I have heard it just once, which surprises me. Malcolm Gladwell is smart but I think he may be a little bit oversmart, if that makes sense. Sometimes the reality of a situation speaks for itself.

KentAllard said...

The Denise Richards/Christmas Jones comment = Win! for bengoodfella.

My boss loves to quote Malcolm Gladwell, but to me he sounds like a college freshman who has learned the basic concepts and thinks he knows everything. Except freshmen usually learn they are wrong.

I think everyone with a passing knowledge of the NFL knows that Belichek's passive, humorless pressers are part of his philosophy of keeping everything secret, and realize he is a different person if you are just hanging out with him, talking about non-football stuff.

So age determines the best performances? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. That would mean a utility infielder who managed to hang around the majors for twenty years is a better baseball player than someone who made half a dozen All-Star games, but had his career cut short by injuries in his early thirties.

People get the Vick/little comparison backwards. They always seem to use it to prove that Vick was treated too harshly, when it actually means Little got away too easily.

Oh, and definitely, if Jason Campbell has played for more offensive coordinators than Peyton Manning, that means he may be a better QB. If memory serves me, Ryan Leaf had three OCs in his four years in the league. Maybe he's better than Manning, too. Sheesh.

rich said...

When I was entering my freshman year, they thought it would be a good idea for us to all read Gladwell's first book (whatever the hell it's called). We were then supposed to discuss it during new student orientation for lord knows what reason.

I only read about the first 35-40 pages of the book and honestly Gladwell is almost as self-assured/smug/pretentious as TMQ. The book read like you were essentially an idiot and would never understand the point he was trying to make. He spent like 5 pages talking about how Hush Puppies were popular when a lot of people started wearing them and become unpopular when they didn't. That was his entire friggin' point, but condensed into one sentence.

Now, Gladwell may be smarter than me, but the sheer amount of arrogance in his writing tone is just mind blowing. Here's a guy who literally has no more "insight" into the subjects he writes about than most college (and some high school) educated folks.

Sorry about the rant, but I've hated the guy ever since. It's one thing to be smart and want people to recognize it by subtly letting everyone know you're smarter than them. It's quite another to basically grab a megaphone and just yell at everyone within earshot that you're better than them. Simmons and Gladwell definitely fall into the later category.

AJ said...

I've never heard of this Gladwell person, nor do I really care. Does he work in the newspaper industry? If so, I'm sure that’s why I've never heard of him.

Martin F makes some great points. Maybe he likes basketball so much because it's no longer a sport, it's just like wrestling, sports entertainment.

I don’t know, I can't get into basketball right now, probably cuz football is still on, or maybe its just to crazy right now (we just bought a new house!). Or maybe it's because the outcomes are predetermined and its no longer fun to watch something that feels scripted.

I'll admit I didn’t read this email exchange, mostly because it’s a stupid idea and I read emails all day at work. I read like the first few things you wrote, then gave up because of how dumb this whole idea is. Are they trying to be like PTI, but through the internet instead of TV?

Anyway, just wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone!!! That’s the real reason I wanted to post something, but felt the need to add some comments of my own. I'm on vacation till the 4th! Have a good holiday all!!!

Bengoodfella said...

Thanks Kent, I think I am just going to write little skits from now because I enjoy doing them.

I have never read Malcolm Gladwell and I feel like I should read him just so I can properly make fun of him. I will get around to it. I can sort of see where he comes from with these articles as well. It's just interesting how important it seems like he thinks his ideas are.

Belichick seems unexciting to the world because he keeps everything close to the vest. I think we all know this.

I couldn't make sense of the age equals a better performance thing at all. Comparing what Tom Watson did and what Derek Jeter would have to do is completely stupid. That's like saying Tom Brady isn't as an athlete as John Daly because he can't compete on the football field well into his 40's (I think Daly is there already). It's just a bad metric.

Little got off early and Vick got hit hard. We should not use Leonard Little as a way to measure how to punish athletes who commit crimes.

I can kind of see where Gladwell is coming from on the Campbell/Manning argument, but he chose the two wrong people to make the argument with, because Manning is one of the better quarterbacks of all-time. If he was arguing Campbell/Cutler (before this year), then maybe I could buy the argument, but it still doesn't hold water for me.

Rich, you actually make me want to read a Malcolm Gladwell book just to see how smug and arrogant he can be. I sort of get exactly what you are saying just from his discussion with Bill. It's like he is saying, "I am smart and let me show you this by making a deep, well-thought out comment that may actually be easy to understand, but I will overcomplicate it."

AJ, Happy Holidays to you too. Congrats on the new house. New houses are great except for the fact the first year you are constantly making changes and improvements to it. After that, it is much better. My first year in my house wasn't a nightmare, but looking back there was just a lot of stuff we had to do to it. It pays off in the end though.

It was hard to get through this entire post. There is a reason I broke it up into two different posts, because it was long and headache inducing.

I do think Bill and Gladwell are trying to be a smarter PTI.

KentAllard said...

If you want some laughs at Gladwell's expense, look up where he used the mathematical term "igon value" (which is actually eigenvalue, which I can explain because my second major in college was math. You see, when calculating the vector in a matrix...Oh, wake up, I'll stop.).

And, as AJ said, Happy Holidays to everyone.

Bengoodfella said...

I did google "igon value" and got the following:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-quigg/malcolm-gladwell-and-the_b_358768.html

http://monkeysuncle.stanford.edu/?p=541

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/books/review/Pinker-t.html

http://technews.am/conversations/who-has-time-for-this/gladwells_igon_value_problem

I tried to read all of those and though it sounds like it is over my head, I get the point there are others who think Gladwell likes to tell others how smart he is.

I can't believe he misused that term.

rich said...

KentAllard, here's what I think Gladwell meant:

Eigenvalue:
A*x = lambda*x

Igon value:
Me + Bill >>>>> you

Happy Holidays to everyone.