Horseshoe Pond

Horseshoe Pond, May 2017

05.09.2017Tagged with:    

Malcolm Gladwell on Underdogs

Malcolm Gladwell was in Akron last night and chose to talk about, among other things, the financial crisis and how it was possible that things went so wrong with so many smart people calling the shots. He wove in a narrative involving Joe Hooker and his stunning defeat to Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville, a battle Hooker had no business losing. His point was that overconfidence can have disastrous results, even if the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor. Other than his hair being a bit more tame than usual, it was a great evening.

Following his prepared talk, Gladwell took some questions, one of which led him to relate the story of a girls basketball team who made up for their lack of talent with an unconventional approach to the game. The full story had been published earlier this year in the New Yorker.

The opposing coaches began to get angry. There was a sense that Redwood City wasn’t playing fair—that it wasn’t right to use the full-court press against twelve-year-old girls, who were just beginning to grasp the rudiments of the game. The point of basketball, the dissenting chorus said, was to learn basketball skills. Of course, you could as easily argue that in playing the press a twelve-year-old girl learned something much more valuable—that effort can trump ability and that conventions are made to be challenged. But the coaches on the other side of Redwood City’s lopsided scores were disinclined to be so philosophical.

Enjoy.

11.13.2009Tagged with: