September 3, 2013

"What we are watching when we watch élite sports, then, is a contest among wildly disparate groups of people..."

"... who approach the starting line with an uneven set of genetic endowments and natural advantages," writes Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, which is so elite it puts an accent on the "e" in "elite." But don't let that stop you from reading this! It shifts from talking about the legs of Kenyan runners — who are genetically adapted to a particular environment and have thus lucked into an advantage — and the drug users in baseball and bicycling. That's some sleight of hand.

5 comments:

Chuck said...

Malcolm Gladwell's writing about athletics, particularly sprinting, always gives him a chance to mention that he was a really great high school sprinter in Canada. He loves it.

Henry said...

You have to be careful reading Malcolm Gladwell. He's rather careless about the line between being an enthusiast and being a fabulist.

Maybe Alex Rodriguez looks at Tommy John—and at the fact that at least a third of current major-league pitchers have had the same surgery—and is genuinely baffled about why baseball has drawn a bright moral line between the performance-enhancing products of modern endocrinology and those offered by orthopedics.

Or maybe Alex Rodriguez took banned drugs, lied about it, attempted to buy the silence of the people who supplied him, and bedeviled his employer with lawyers to get more money because he is a dishonest cretin.

As for Lance Armstrong and his lies, his deceptions, his threats and manipulations? He makes Alex Rodriguez look like a choir boy.

ironrailsironweights said...

Anyone who says that there is no genetic element to sports success is completely wrong. Out of the 100 fastest men at the 100-meter sprint, IIRC 96 or 97 are of West African descent.

Peter

grackle said...

But how can a fantastic menagerie ever be a contest among equals?

Straw man argument. It's never a contest between "equals." That's why it's a contest in the first place: To prove who is the best.

What has to be "equal" is NOT the participants in a contest but rather the rules of the game(the same for all participants) and the playing field(favoring none over another).

As for drugs, allowing the use of them forces those athletes who would not partake otherwise to take them simply to remain competitive – a rankly unfair consequence. And if it ever comes to that I will stop supporting sports altogether.

Peter said...

No problem- the handicapper general will make us all equal.

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