Race and the Full Court Press.


Malcolm Gladwell has caught a lot of flak for his piece last week on how underdogs win, and perhaps rightly so. His central point, though — that the outgunned can have a fighting chance at success if they ditch convention and play to their strengths — is one worth considering, and given the resilience and tactics of the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a topical one, too.
But in making his point, he goes to some weird places. The framing device for this story is a not-particularly-talented eighth grade girl’s basketball team at Redwood City in the Silicon Valley. There are only two decent players on the squad, and their coach is a TIBCO software executive named Vivek Ranadivé, an Indian emigré who had never seen or played basketball before he arrived in the States. The upshot of that background is that he didn’t have any preconceived notions about the right way to play basketball. So instead of having his players run back on defense after a score or an opponent’s rebound and wait to be picked apart by more skilled players, he instituted the full-court press. His team proceeded to beat up on and frustrate teams with better players, and found themselves in the national championship game. Obviously, the press can make up big gaps in talent.*
But one of the things that raised the eyebrow of my blogmate and fellow sports junkie blackink was the problematic way the Redwood City Girls were described, versus the way their ‘talented’ opponents were characterized.

“My girls were all blond-haired white girls,” Ranadivé said. “My daughter is the closest we have to a black girl, because she’s half-Indian. One time, we were playing this all-black team from East San Jose. They had been playing for years. These were born-with-a-basketball girls. We were just crushing them. We were up something like twenty to zero. We wouldn’t even let them inbound the ball, and the coach got so mad that he took a chair and threw it. He started screaming at his girls, and of course the more you scream at girls that age the more nervous they get.” Ranadivé shook his head: never, ever raise your voice. “Finally, the ref physically threw him out of the building. I was afraid. I think he couldn’t stand it because here were all these blond-haired girls who were clearly inferior players, and we were killing them.”

Let’s not touch the half-Indian bit right now. But the other part speaks to a very old, very insidious meme in the sports world, and basketball in particular: Black players are natively talented, and white players work hard and play smart. This is in no way a compliment to black folks, of course, what with its insinuation that black athletes are lazy, dumb, and possessed of some kind of peculiar physicality. But the idea is so much a part of the way sports are discussed in America that people will try to shoehorn reality into it.**
Gladwell didn’t utter those sentences, but he left the quote in, which has the regrettable effect of perpetuating this problematic racialized shorthand. Ranadivé’s quote also downplays his own girls’ considerable  advantages in terms of resources; their fitness consultant was Roger Craig — a former NFL Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers who still runs marathons. 

“It’s an exhausting strategy,” Roger Craig said. He and Ranadivé were in a TIBCO conference room, reminiscing about their dream season. Ranadivé was at the whiteboard, diagramming the intricacies of the Redwood City press. Craig was sitting at the table.

“My girls had to be more fit than the others,” Ranadivé said.

“He used to make them run,” Craig said, nodding approvingly.

“We followed soccer strategy in practice,” Ranadivé said. “I would make them run and run and run. I couldn’t teach them skills in that short period of time, and so all we did was make sure they were fit and had some basic understanding of the game. That’s why attitude plays such a big role in this, because you’re going to get tired.”

In short, these “little blonde white girls” may not have been better basketball players than their opponents, but they were better conditioned and fitter; they were, in the end, better athletes. But that narrative is a much harder sell.
*Within reason. It can be run effectively on the college level, but a deep team with good ballhandlers could easily beat it. It would be near impossible to employ full-time on the pro level; the NBA season is nearly three times as long as the college season, and even the tallest NBA players are competent enough dribblers and passers to break the press.
Gladwell uses Rick Pitino, the head coach at Lousiville to expand on his point about the press’s virtues. Pitino became a die-hard disciple of the press when he was a benchwarmer on a Dr. J-led UMass team that got their asses handed to them by a far less talented Fordham team using the press. Gladwell writes, somewhat disingenously, that Pitino won national championships on the college level with teams have didn’t boasted the kind of talent that goes on to become NBA stars.

College coaches of Pitino’s calibre typically have had numerous players who have gone on to be bona-fide all-stars at the professional level. In his many years of coaching, Pitino has had one, Antoine Walker. It doesn’t matter. Every year, he racks up more and more victories.

‘All-Star’ is the key phrase there. Not to put to fine a point on it, but even a marginal NBA player is a few orders of magnitude better than a very good college player. A  good college team might have one NBA prospect on it. A great college team might have two or three. What Gladwell conveniently left out is that Pitino’s 1996 Kentucky Wildcats team that won the national championship boasted an astounding nine players that went on to play in the NBA. They were absolutely loaded.

Wondering what it look like when a team full of future pros runs Pitino’s press? It ain’t pretty.
Underdogs, my ass. Gladwell knows his sports, so we can only assume that that elision was intentional. And his team was so laden with talent that it would have been dominant, press or no. 

**Scouting projections regularly compare white players to other white players , even when their games/physiques/builds are not that similar. And of course, for a very long time, black quarterbacks would be switched to other positions once they got to the pros, because they were so “athletic” and their “talents” would be better used at, say, wide receiver.


48 thoughts on “Race and the Full Court Press.

  1. quadmoniker May 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm Reply

    Yeah, I cringed at that quote as well. It’s actually one of my problems with Gladwell. As always, an overall good point and a great read, but he makes some convenient exclusions to reach conveniently tidy conclusions that a disciplined social scientist never would. Sometimes, that’s the fault of the social scientists. Other times, it shows why Gladwell could use more discipline.

  2. WestIndianArchie May 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm Reply

    I mentioned this exact paragraph on OKP.

    1) I agree with his over all point
    2) The sports people will tell you that GENERALLY, full court press is for superior opponents to dominate weaker opponents. And the sports folks had a great time ripping apart Malc’s take on sports
    3) Gladwell is great at bringing up ideas, but he’s not the kind of person to carefully vet every fact, nor will he consider all of the counter arguments.

    But I only add to the debate here because I find that half Jamaican/Half Canadian Gladwell is like the New Yorker’s much cooler version of John McWhorter. I’m not saying everybody has to be on that Elijah Muhammad status like myself, but he has lots of racial gaffes, much like another biracial guy that I won’t mention.

    Ways to read the inclusion of the Indian guy’s quote
    – Gladwell buys into the “born with basketballs”
    – Gladwell wants to show how racist and classist this Indian guy is, one who can call up big times sports people for his team of privileged blonde girls.
    – Gladwell is just reporting the facts.

    Often I can’t tell where he’s coming from. His last chapter in outliers, where he talks about the colorism in Jamaica, and how not being dark allowed his mother/grandmother to make moves is well…it’s just hard to read.

    • G.D. May 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm Reply

      the point he was making in the last chapter of Outliers — and I thought to great effect — was that the way we think of merit/success is inextricable from how opportunities are allocated. Essentially, “imagine how many more successes we would have if everyone was afforded the kinds of opportunities given to the very few.”

      What did you find hard to read about it?

      • dilettante May 15, 2009 at 10:18 am Reply

        When Malcolm was interviewed on NPR ‘s On point, about Outliers, back in November, he made a jump from his ‘colored’ mother, to his distant relative Colin Powell ,straight to Obama. All in one breath about lighter black people internalizing their superiority.

        I thought it was a cheap shot to extrapolate that on to someone raised in a totally different environment. Barack’s mother/grand parents being at the top of the color pyramid would not have been as obsessed about the gradients some ‘not all the way white’ people who needed to maintain this status would be. From what he’s [Obama] revealed about his child hood in Indonesia/Hawaii – his ‘black’ childhood sounds very different from Malcolm’s Mom and other colored Jamaicans. I found that disappointing.

        • G.D. May 15, 2009 at 10:21 am Reply

          Barack’s mother/grand parents being at the top of the color pyramid would not have been as obsessed about the gradients some ‘not all the way white’ people who needed to maintain this status would be.

          Hmmm. I dunno if them not being explicitly obsessed with the relative social value given to his skin color means that they didn’t ever reenforce or transmit that it was a socially valuable thing.

          • dilettante May 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm Reply

            dunno if them not being explicitly…means that they didn’t ever reinforce or transmit that it was a socially valuable

            Agreed, it doesn’t, besides the larger society would re-inforce that anyway. In Dreams from my father- he states when is was 11 or 12 he stopped himself from volunteering his bio data on having a white mother as he realzied it was coming from a desire to ingratiate himself with whites.

            But my larger point was I think his family environment would have been much less ‘self aware’ in valuing his racial mixture than the ‘colored’ Caribbeans Gladwell threw him in with. There is a whole Caribbean subculture built up for generations on this idea, that I don’t think we can place Obama in. I like Malcolm, but sometimes his sloppiness is disappointing.

  3. blackink May 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm Reply

    Amen. I don’t have much more to add to the discussion about the quote from Ranadive other than it’s troubling to see people readily embrace the meme that black people are naturally superior athletes, even from the earliest ages. How would anyone have much of a clue as to the relative athleticism of 8-year-olds? If Ranadive assumes some girls were born with a basketball, what would he assume when faced with a classroom of 8-year-old black girls?

    But on the full-court press angle, Gladwell and ESPN’s Bill Simmons actually have a really interesting back-and-forth about how the application of a 94-floor defensive strategy might work in the NBA. Basically, it would require the deployment of one of the team’s better scorers surrounded by the 9th through 12th-best players on the team. And the coach would then use that unit at the start of the second and fourth quarters.

    This works, I suppose, because it would have the effect of briefly altering the pace of the game, possibly taking advantage of the opposing team’s weaker units (since the start of the second and fourth quarters is often when coaches turn to their bench), wearing down the opposing team’s best player and finding a use for every player on the roster.

    It actually makes sense, I think. But I might argue that you’d have to be a little more unpredictable with the substitution pattern. Otherwise, the opposing team would too easily know when to anticipate the press.

    • G.D. May 15, 2009 at 12:47 am Reply

      Yeah, that was a really interesting exchange. It’s a compelling argument for the press, I think, and one that teams with rangy, athletic benches could employ to great effect. It softened me on the idea of the press in the NBA, and the D-League is a cornucopia of players ho would be great 9-12 guys for 15 minutes a game.

      Is there a team right now that has the kind of personnel that could make this work? I think the Pistons actually have the kind of bench that might excel at it, and their starters already take terms being the go-to guy each night. The Blazers and Lakers, too, i think. Anyone else?

      • blackink May 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm Reply

        The Sixers, Nets and Thunder, definitely. The Knicks, because it wouldn’t be hard for them to adjust to the tempo change.

        But I love the idea of the Utah Jazz and the full-court press. They’ve got a couple of proficient scorers, a deep bench, a lot of interchangeable parts and a unique home-court advantage.

  4. young_ May 14, 2009 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting, G.D.– I was pretty infuriated by the quotes when I read the piece last week and I’m glad to hear he’s been called out on it. The lengthy “born with a basketball girls” quote was the most offensive and I can’t see why Gladwell would have used it stylistically unless he bought into it himself. I agree with Archie’s take on his stuff about full court press piece strategy being extremely suspect too (I thought it was a given that full court presses are what more athletic teams do to emphasize their athletic advantages over their opponents, which sounds like it’s exactly what Pitino and the girls team did…)

    Also, kind of convenient that Gladwell doesn’t make any effort to confirm Randives’ descriptions of the refs and the other teams and their coaches, or at least give us something on their side of the story. I agree with Quadmonicker that this piece is representative of the general lack of rigor in Gladwell’s approach, a flaw for which he has rightly received harsh criticism from many academics.

    In his defense though, I’m glad he at least disclosed the Roger Craig information (albeit in such a strange way that made me wonder whether he even realized how extraordinary it is for a 12-years girl team to have an all-pro NFL fitness coordinator…) But at least he put that out there for discerning readers to dissect.

    • G.D. May 15, 2009 at 12:48 am Reply

      Yeah, the Roger Craig thing kind of blew my mind. Could you call a team that had, say, Bo Jackson as its fitness coach “underdogs?”

  5. Aisha May 15, 2009 at 12:31 am Reply

    I have to read the whole article before I comment. I just read Outliers last week and what I read in this post seems to contradict the points he makes about opportunity.

  6. Kia May 15, 2009 at 9:29 am Reply

    I generally like Gladwell but I’m also frustrated that this article essentially perpetuates the black vs white smart & hardworking vs talented & athletic dynamic.

    A while back Michael Lewis’ piece on Shane Battier made the point that what is commonly perceived as the right/white way to play basketball, diving for balls, taking charges, is a direct result of how and where you learn to play. Diving on parquet in a adult supervised youth league is a lot different from doing so on a concrete playground. And learned habits are hard to shake.

    • G.D. May 15, 2009 at 9:38 am Reply

      exactly. there’s also the stereotype that whites are better shooters than black players, which I don’t necessarily buy. If there is anything to that, it’s not a black/white thing but more of a city/suburb thing. If you learn how to play ball on the unforgiving courts in inner-cities, with no nets and whose rims have no give, you become much more adept at taking the ball to the hole. Of the many, many NBA PGs who have come from New York City — Cousy, Marbury, Kenny Anderson, Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson, Telfair, etc. — none of them were fantastic shooters when they got to the League.

      • Winslowalrob May 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm Reply

        I actually disagree about the markers of ‘hustle’ being tied to the physical court. While the Wizards had Antonio Daniels (a decent backup PG), he would throw his body around with no regards to his well-being, and one interview explained that when he was groing up in rugged Columbus and he had to teach himself how to fall without getting hurt on the asphalt courts. Not a lot of players in the NBA dive for anything come playoff time anyways. Hell, I never got to play in indoor courts until I came to the US for high school, and even before that I dove for everything, took charges, etc, crushing my knees in the process, but until I was 15 I did not care. I actually thought the NYT’s explanation was sloppy (not as terrible as Gladwell’s piece, to be sure), as a lot of cats are simply not good team players, no matter the court. I would LOVE to see a racial breakdown of taking charges and diving for loose balls, because in my estimation about 20% of the whites do it and 20% of the blacks do it. Should we count Shane ‘the Brain’ as white or black though :)?

        • young_ May 19, 2009 at 1:22 pm Reply

          Good point. Also, I think the prevailing explanation is based on some outdated Asher Roth type stereotypes that generally equate black with urban and white with middle-class and suburban… I don’t have statistics, but I get the impression that fewer and fewer black players in the NBA actually come from urban backgrounds and that those who do are more likely to come up in organized summer and travel leagues, not on the asphalt playgrounds.

          Not sure if you all already discussed this, but I found this espn.com article on the hoops scene in PG County pretty fascinating.


          • Winslowalrob May 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm Reply

            Good point, forgot to add that. Burbs/Urbz? Lines are blurry, and people live in both. And wouldn’t the AAU kind of equalize a lot of stuff?

            Dunno about NBA player backgrounds, THAT is hard to categorize and we gotta go back all the way to Mikan to look at what attracted pro ballplayers.

            Ahh PG county, ballas paradise, VERY underrated. I hope Gibby and KD go back to Berry Farms in DC for another jam as well.

            • Kia May 19, 2009 at 3:02 pm Reply

              It goes without saying that there are few one size fits all theories.

              You are definitely right that the NBA and Div I basketball are not currently culling talent from Rucker Park and like environs (though that’s actually decent as compared to the NYC parks of my youth) The product is identified younger and younger so someone who has a realistic shot at pro ball is indoors with a coach and trainer at their disposal.

              Since I’m not a scout my limited personal experiences on the situation were through my baby brother days in youth leagues which eventually led to my parents goal of having someone else pay his way thru college (they had already footed the bill for myself and my sister.) And the quality of some of those courts in the late 1980’s and 1990’s (some of which were in suburbs in Staten and Long Island) were not conducive to diving for anything. Granted my brother’s nick name was Romeo so he wasn’t messing up his pretty grill for nobody!

    • G.D. May 15, 2009 at 9:52 am Reply

      Also re: the Battier piece: he was a suburban kid who played at the same high school in Michigan that Chris Webber did, and so everyone was trying to shoehorn him into the big black athletic freak box, even though that’s not Battier’s game at all. Black opponents thought he was soft. It was fascinating.

      • Kia May 15, 2009 at 10:17 am Reply

        We’re a UNC family so it takes a lot for me to show Duke alums any love but that piece made me have some respect for Battier…

    • blackink12 May 15, 2009 at 10:01 am Reply

      Kia, that’s a great point. I must say, I never even thought of that – why some kids might not be inclined to dive after loose balls and why others might based on their respective training grounds. But it actually explains a lot.

      • Kia May 15, 2009 at 10:21 am Reply

        My husband claims to have made this point years ago but that it took an article in the NYT to make it valid for me!

  7. R. May 15, 2009 at 11:11 am Reply

    I remember Tony Delk was also a member of that Wildcat team. He might have not flourished in the NBA as Walker did but the dude was no pushover (All-American & NCAA Tourney MVP).

    I’m big fan of Gladwell’s writing but I found this to be a generally lazy piece (and it dragged on forever). His lack of thoroughness is normally the source of complaints and I can understand him not being an expert on the topics he covers but in this case, he seems to sidestep the point he made in his last book. Besides the fact that Ranadivé was utterly unfamiliar with the sport (and that he had Roger Craig as his fitness consultant) we really don’t know much about the skill of the girls his team, well, other than being “little blonde girls,” and even less of the other girls in the league. All we know is that his team had access to resources that would not be readily available to just any team (in any league). Who knows if these are the conditions one of those girls needs to move on to bigger and better things?

    Maybe he’s setting us up for his next piece: David the hard working Outlier and Goliath the mismanaged talent.

  8. Lemmy C May 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm Reply

    I have to wonder: if the story had been reversed – about a group of (largely non-white) kids from an inner city school whose chess team makes it to the national finals, would you have the same qualms about the racial aspects of the narrative? Or would those aspects get foregrounded?

    • quadmoniker May 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm Reply

      The problem with your question, well, one of the problems anyway, is that you’re still making the same problematic assumptions about racial groups. Here you’re assuming that there’s something about a group of non-white kids from the inner city that usually makes them inherently bad at chess, so their triumph would be special. It’s reversed, but it fits into the same paradigm. So yes, I think everyone who had a problem with the Malcolm Gladwell story would take issue with your hypothetical one as well.

      • Lemmy C May 17, 2009 at 10:58 pm Reply

        I don’t see anyone making any assumptions about inherency. The assumptions themselvs are all “in the wild” – and those assumptions (the dominance of some activities by some groups) are backed by what we see when we watch basketball games and chess matches. I saw nothing in either Gladwell’s story nor my hypothetical story that confers some inherent native explanation for those dominances – the explanations could be variously historical, cultural, structural, or excluded altogether.

        Since I am arguing by hypothetical, there’s no way to know what someone’s instinctive reaction to the reverse story would be. I do know that films like “The Great Debaters” did exploit just the same sense of the underdog mapped onto racial difference. Of course the situation isn’t symmetrical (what is?) Yet I can’t help but feel that the squeamishness about this story is overblown: that it comes from a discomfort about any narratives that would recognize the possibility of African-American dominance in a cultural activity.

        • G.D. May 17, 2009 at 11:01 pm Reply

          Yet I can’t help but feel that the squeamishness about this story is overblown: that it comes from a discomfort about any narratives that would recognize the possibility of African-American dominance in a cultural activity.

          I must say, this is a very inspired reach.

          • Lemmy C May 17, 2009 at 11:22 pm Reply

            Thanks, I try –

            Sorry for the hit-and-run posting, but I’ll offer one more analogy comparison and let it go (unless people want more chat about this.)

            The US is the world-hegemonic nation-state right now. It’s not an underdog to anyone. When in foreign policy matters, the US takes the tone of a beleaguered victim of international harassment, we recognize that tone as disingenuous. We recognized the so-called “coalition of the willing” as a joke. We recognize asymmetrical power (one of the major themes of Gladwell’s piece, and a compelling one for reflecting on the history of tactics at the margins) when we see it.

            Yet, the US national women’s soccer team was definitely an underdog when Mia Hamm and her teammates beat the Chinese team for the FIFA World Cup in 1999, it was authentically a victory of underdogs – against national teams of people who could fairly have been said to have been “born with soccer balls at their feet.” One could have argued that the US victory was partially a consequence of the advantages created by Title IX. Yet I think we would consider that criticism inappropriate, a reluctance to recognize a real achievement.

        • t.o.a n May 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm Reply

          “These were born-with-a-basketball girls.”

          • Lemmy C May 17, 2009 at 11:24 pm Reply

            Funny, I read that like “born with a silver spoon” – when I see nativist/racist explanations, they usually refer to bodies, not sports equipment.

            • t.o.a n May 17, 2009 at 11:40 pm Reply

              So is your argument that it is not inherency that is being spoken about by Ranadivé or that the inherency he is speaking about is not a bad one?

              • Lemmy C May 17, 2009 at 11:50 pm Reply

                I read it as the former: the Ranadivé’s students came to the game later in their lives.

                My main stake in this is as a short man, though. I still have a Muggsy Bogues poster in my room. I gravitate toward underdog stories in basketball in that light.

  9. t.o.a n May 18, 2009 at 7:43 am Reply

    Lemmy C:

    I am not sure I believe that Ranadivé’s students came into the game later in life. How does Ranadivé’s know that these girls on the opposing team had been playing for a really long time? How do we know that the other girls on Ranadivé’s team, besides his daughter, had not been playing for a really long time? If he knew nothing of basketball before this how was he able to so accurately attest to the experience of all the girls on his team and all the girls on the other team?

    Additionally, I don’t believe this story or the other story in Gladwell’s article about a game of battle ship strategy really have anything to do with underdogs because in these two examples if we take the definition of underdog to be one that is at a disadvantage in neither case was there a disadvantage. You could argue that based on the fact that in both cases there is a perception that both teams should lose based on having less experience (as stated above, I am not convinced that the girls on Ranadivé’s team were less experienced), however, in what ever way having less experience would have put them at a disadvantage the sheer volume of resources that was available to both teams (How many people have access to a super computer or former professional athletes in the sport that they are competing?) more than make up for that. A truer title for Gladwell’s article would be “New and Innovative thinking with the Backing of Resources Beats Following the Rules of Engagement”.

    • young_ May 19, 2009 at 9:28 am Reply

      I completely agree. I thought that Gladwell relying so heavily on Ranadive’s self-serving narrative as his sole source of information was lazy at best and certainly irresponsible.

      I also agree with Lemmy C though, that (once again) some of us (myself included this time) have made some questionable logical leaps in alleging that an individual was saying racist things…

      • G.D. May 19, 2009 at 9:44 am Reply

        oh, jesus.

        • young_ May 19, 2009 at 9:52 am Reply

          Ha! Don’t be like that– we all make mistakes fam.

          • ladyfresshh May 27, 2009 at 11:46 am Reply

            you’re ducking and dodging… again

            • young_ May 27, 2009 at 11:52 am Reply

              Word? That explains it.

              • ladyfresshh May 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm Reply

                pretty much

                calling someone racist seems to greatly disturb you

                more so than the ignorant, lazy, irresponsible comments that are said

                you may want to redirect your energies

                • young_ May 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm Reply

                  You’re right that I take the term “racist” very seriously (and literally) and that it bothers me when I feel that people are throwing it around inaccurately or too casually. I think doing so is very counterproductive, so I try to push people when I think things are ambiguous.

                  Do you feel that people should treat all ignorant or irresponsible, racially-tinged comments as clear and irrefutable proof of racism? Is that a better use of one’s energies?

                  • young_ May 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm Reply

                    And for the record, I was correcting myself in the above comment. I too had initially read Ranadives’ quote as racist in a particularly disturbing, biologically-determinative way but changed my mind when I read Lemmy’s comments and thought more about Ranadive’s actual statements and their most plausible meanings and implications. Was this a waste of energy?

                    • ladyfresshh May 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

                      for you it may possibly be a waste
                      since your lean to to shy away from its application

                  • ladyfresshh May 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm Reply

                    again you seem to take the term more seriously than the comments that are actually made

                    and that is a problem

                    that to me is disingenuous

                    to assume that it is tossed around in accurately no less or casually to boot is quite arrogant

                    to think since this use does not fit your approved (and quite narrow) standard of what is to be considered racist remarks because you feel the use is ambiguous even though you have capitulated, though softly and after prolonged and repetitive back and forth

                    is again quite arrogant

                    it seems you are the one who needs to be pushed. to a wider understanding of how pervasive and subtle racism can be and easily it can come through seemingly innocuous commentary

                    i feel people should understand racism when it’s presented in all its forms and not shy away from the label, term or definition because they are uncomfortable with a broader definition and application of the term

                    and again a better use of you energies would be to recognize why the label is being applied, esp when it’s more than one person, esp when you find yourself agreeing and delve a bit further as to why this is so instead of fighting tooth and nail to what seems to many to be quite obvious

                    • young_ May 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

                      Your depiction of these discussions is pretty hilarious.

                      In your overly-simplistic racial worldview there seem to be people like you and those who agree with you who vigilantly and discerningly look for all subtle, ambiguous signs of possible racial biases or prejudices and attack accordingly and people like me who “fight tooth and nail” to protect racists, in defiance of all evidence and reason. Is that about right?

                      What baffles me is that you admit that the evidence of racism can be subtle and ambiguous but then react so strongly when people reasonably interpret it differently than you do.

                      But in all of this back and forth and your poetic/prose banter, you still haven’t explained what you think it means for something/someone to “be racist”. This would be a very useful initial step in a disagreement about whether someone’s racist because it would allow us to parse through our disagreements about the term and to consider whether the available evidence really fits that definition. Until then, you really haven’t given me much of a reason to think that you don’t use the term in a casual and potentially inaccurate way (and I’m sure that convincing me that is very low on your priorities in life, so it is what it is). But do you disagree that many people apply the term too casually?

                      Also, I still don’t know where you stand on the discussion in this thread- were Ranadive’s statements clearly racist to you? If so, how? Were Gladwell’s?

                    • G.D. May 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm

                      Can both of you please stop?

                      i’m tempted to delete this whole pointless exchange.

                    • young_ May 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

                      GD– please feel free to delete my comments in that exchange (and this comment too of course)… I was just reacting to being attacked…

  10. […] By Guest Contributor G.D., originally posted at PostBourgie […]

  11. David Cone May 27, 2009 at 9:50 pm Reply

    Gladwell’s piece on the Redwood girls’ team was cute. I can almost see Dakota Fanning in the movie with Denzel as Roger Craig.

    Sorry, but that’s NO underdog team if Roger Craig’s the trainer.

    Second, Gladwell’s premise, while certainly enjoyable to a jaded sports fan who automatically thinks pro basketball players, as a whole, are lazy but ironically that same fan who would throw a beer on a basketball for “not hustling/giving the fan his money’s worth” couldn’t do all that running and jumping and hit rim on a free throw if his life depended on it. So all the bellyaching about the fundamentals or lack of hustle or lack of floorburns, etc. is a bit, well, typical for Gladwell and Bill Simmons, but I’d hope regular folks that live in the real world could understand that.

    Good points up above about the nature of the pick-up game of basketball played outdoors on the asphalt. The reason that some guys that grew up in that type of game don’t shoot jumpshots well is that 1) outdoor courts sometimes have something called WIND and it will affect your jumper, so drive the ball to the bucket for a closer shot, 2) the court conditions aren’t always perfect outdoors–the rim could be bent up, down or at an angle, and the shooting background isn’t always conducive. There ARE anamolies like Chris Mullin who honed his game INDOORS at a gym at his Catholic school and THEN took his game to the street. No indoor court, no millions of jumpshots in a more controlled environment. Great points about the “lack” of floor burns. I submit to you that candy-asses like Gladwell and Simmons aren’t stupid enough to dive for a loose ball on asphalt. And, guess what, folks? Battier trying to draw a charge or hip-checking a guy Wojo style on asphalt will most certainly either cause an injury or cause the Dukie to get his butt beat.

    I think Gladwell’s article smacks of a sick paternalism that some NBA fans have about the game of basketball. They expect an aesthetically perfect game with high shooting percentages by both teams AND defense clingier than Kim Kardashian’s thong on her derriere. Getting both of those things at the same time isn’t a Constitutionally protected right. So fans that act all indignant when a game’s not aesthetically pleasing act like a caricature of Celtics fans in “Celtic Pride.” And it’s not very cute.

    Also, I find it interesting that Gladwell advocates a helter-skelter style of press-and-run game. There’s a term that style of play is called when black players play that style or when a black coach coaches it. I won’t recount it here, but you’ve all heard it before. N-word ball. And it wasn’t meant back then in a nice way. But Rick Pitino “invents” it as Gladwell opines and it’s a revelation? Puh-lease. Pitino stole that style from guys named McLendon, Jobe, and Thompson. I recommend that Gladwell look THOSE men up before he opens his mouth about basketball ever, ever again. It would be like me discovering his living room and planting my flag there while he eats his dinner.

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