November 16, 2009

Gladwell strikes back

From Gladwell.com:
Steven Pinker reviewed my new book "What the Dog Saw," in the New York Times Book Review this past Sunday. I sent the following letter to the editor in response:

It is always a pleasure to be reviewed by someone as accomplished as Stephen [sic] Pinker, even if—in his comments on “What the Dog Saw” [which you can buy here] (Nov. 15)—he is unhappy with my spelling (rightly!) and with the fact that I have not joined him on the lonely ice floe of IQ fundamentalism. But since football has been on my mind these days, I do want to make one small observation about his comments.

I would suggest that the reason Gladwell is choosing to make a big deal over Pinker calling BS on Gladwell's assertion that performance as an NFL quarterback "can't be predicted" is because Malcolm senses that this minor issue is characteristic of his entire career as the foremost conduit to the public of wrong ideas.

He goes on:
In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional.

"Not a reliable indicator" does not exactly get across what Malcolm actually wrote. Let's keep in mind that Malcolm's assertion in The New Yorker is quite uncompromising: there is no correlation:
This is the quarterback problem. There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they'll do once they're hired. ... The problem with picking quarterbacks is that [U. of Missouri quarterback] Chase Daniel's performance can't be predicted. The job he's being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won't. In fact, Berri and Simmons found no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft—that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance—and how well he played in the pros.

Pinker thinks of the term "can't be predicted" in the standard statistical sense of predictions not being better than random, that NFL teams are so bad at drafting quarterbacks that they might as well throw darts. Unsurprisingly, that's not true.

Gladwell is using it in the sense of, well, who knows?

Perhaps Gladwell is using "can't be predicted" to mean "can't always be predicted" -- as in, "How about that Ryan Leaf pick? Whattabout Tim Couch?" But everybody already knows that when it comes to drafting quarterbacks the glass is part empty as well as part full. So, if Malcolm comes out and tells the truth (NFL general managers are a lot better than random at drafting quarterbacks, but also lot worse than perfection), then he doesn't have much of a hook for his article.

But instead of Malcolm trying to laugh it off as him just being breezy and trying to hype his little magazine article, he instead gets all sanctimonious and tries to bring the hammer of academic authority down upon the head of Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology of Harvard U.

See, what makes Malcolm so successful as a speaker at sales conferences is that he believes his own hype. Many people can smell insincerity, but Malcolm is sincere. He believes whatever he's peddling, no matter how obviously wrong it is.

Malcolm goes on in his letter to the New York Times:
That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published the Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze forty years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance—in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs—they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 [what Malcolm means here is the 90 draft positions of 11 through 100] in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top ten positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. [You can read my January 29, 2009 posting here.] Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a marketing background who is best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people.

As a commenter below pointed out, Malcolm should be best known for his 1997 New Yorker article: The Sports Taboo: Why blacks are like boys and whites are like girls. (Actually, he should be: it's one of his better articles, back from when he was braver and poorer. In it, he, applies the same logic that got Larry Summers in so much trouble in 2005 to race. Unfortunately, like so many of Malcolm's ideas, it's wrong. )
Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl.

Why? It's a well-known measure of excellence for a single season. In my data set of 278 quarterbacks drafted during the Eighties and Nineties, there are 113 Pro Bowl selections, so the sample size is reasonably adequate.

The irony, however, is that the correlation between making the Pro Bowl and what draft pick a player was is less strong than the correlations for quite a few other important measures of accomplishment. That's not surprising. That's why I've emphasized Pro Bowls as measure recently -- because they are a more favorable measure for Malcolm's theory than most other plausible measures.

I've looked at the 278 quarterbacks drafted in the 1980s and 1990s, and here are the correlations between draft pick and various career statistics:

Draft and Pro Bowls: r = -0.33
Draft and Touchdown Passes: r = -0.45
Draft and Passing Yards: r = -0.48
Draft and Years Starting: r = -0.48
Draft and Games Played: r = -0.52

(The correlations are negative because, for example, Peyton Manning was picked #1 overall in his year and has, through 2008, 45,628 yards passing, while Randy Essington was picked #336 overall in his year and had 0 yards passing in his NFL career.)

So, the correlation between draft picks and Pro Bowls that Malcolm objected to turns out to be weaker than many other correlations, but it's still noticeable in real life.

(Are these correlations high or low? They're pretty normal for what you see in the social sciences. There is an old rule of thumb that correlations with an absolute value of 0.2 are low, 0.4 medium and 0.6 high.)
Pinker’s second source was a blog post [by Josh Millet, which you can read for yourself here], based on four years of data, written by someone who runs a pre-employment testing company, who also failed to appreciate—as far as I can tell (the key part of the blog post is only a paragraph long)—the distinction between aggregate and per-play performance. Pinker’s third source was an article in the Columbia Journalism Review [by Daniel Luzer, which you can read for yourself here], prompted by my essay, that made an argument partly based on a link to a blog called “Niners Nation” which in turn makes reference to a “study” of quarterbacks conducted by a fantasy football website. I have enormous respect for Professor Pinker, and his description of me as “minor genius” made even my mother blush. But maybe on the question of subjects like quarterbacks, we should agree that our differences owe less to what can be found in the scientific literature than they do to what can be found on Google.

What Berri is doing, in effect, by using his "per-play" measure is comparing quarterbacks taken at the top of the draft (most of whom get a lot of plays in the NFL) to those taken lower in the draft who turned out to be surprisingly better than expected, and thus get a lot of plays. He's essentially leaving out of his analysis all those lower drafted quarterbacks who turned out to be as mediocre as expected and thus didn't get many plays. In other words, his methodology is pre-rigged to produce the conclusion that Malcolm likes.

Through 2008, among quarterbacks drafted from 1980-1999, top ten draftees averaged 2,975 pass attempts in their careers. Quarterbacks drafted 11th to 100th averaged 1,470 attempts, a little less than half as much. And quarterbacks drafted 101st or higher averaged only 387 attempts.

So, Berri is more or less throwing away the lousier half of the sample of quarterbacks drafted 11th-100th (and totally ignoring all the quarterbacks drafted after 100) and comparing them to all the quarterbacks drafted in the top ten.

When you actually count everybody drafted, you get the following figures for career yardage (through 2008):

Drafted
Mean Yards Median Yards
Top 10 20,296 18,148
11-100 10,099 3,881
101+ 2,614 0

The differences between the mean and the median (50th percentile) point out that the higher drafted players tend to be safer bets. The quarterback at the 50th percentile among the top ten draftees of his year goes on to have a fairly impressive NFL career, throwing for 18,148 yards. (The median top ten quarterback of 1980-1999 in career yardage was Jim McMahon, who led the Chicago Bears to the 1985 Super Bowl title.)

In contrast, the 50th percentile of the 11th to 100th picks of his year only accumulates 21% as much career yardage. The median quarterbacks of the 11-100 group are Mark Herrmann and Chuck Long.

And the 50th percentile of 101st plus picks never completes a pass in the NFL).

So, the top ten quarterbacks drafted in the eighties and nineties tended to be safer bets, which has its value. (General managers in this decade, however, might have gotten overconfident from a pretty decent run of luck with high draft pick quarterbacks in the two previous decades.)

On the other hand, there are lots of diamonds in the semi-rough of the 11-100 group, such as Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and Boomer Esiason. And in the 101+ group, there are diamonds in the real rough like Mark Brunell, Trent Green, and Matt Hasselbeck. (And that's not to mention the undrafteds, like Kurt Warner.)

To expand on what I pointed out in the comments to Gladwell's blog post:

Malcolm, the reason your reputation has plummeted in recent years as your net worth has risen is that you are too trusting of academics. As you blogged on August 29, 2006:
I will confess to having a slightly reverential attitude toward academia. I'm the son of an academic. Much of my writing involves taking academic research and trying to translate it for a more general audience. And I've always believed that if you set out to write about the work of academic specialists, you have a responsibility to treat that work with respect-- to acknowledge your own ignorance and, where appropriate, defer to the greater expertise of others.

You shouldn't be in awe of David J. Berri, Associate Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. David J. Berri should be in awe of you, the (likely) highest-earning print journalist in America. You should make Professor Berri prove his theories to you by subjecting his ideas to rigorous reality checks.
You have to do the work.

But it's not that hard. The Internet is chock full of data. You just copy and paste it into Excel. Get your tax accountant to show you how to use Excel. I'm sure he owes you a favor by now.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

84 comments:

Anonymous said...

football question is not difficult


take the QBs drafted from the period of 1979-1999


analyze the relation between their QB ratings and draft position.


answer.




the answer will not be perfect, but one must have reasonable standards of evidence. of course qb rating doesn't "determine" that one player is better than another. but a strong relationship between draft ranking and rating ranking is enough to render gladwell's hypothesis implausible.

Theresa said...

What I said on Gladwell's blog:

Malcolm said: "Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a marketing background who is best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people."

I've read a lot of Sailer's stuff on IQ, and I think I can safely say that nowhere does he claim that "black people are intellectually inferior to white people."

What he does point out is that pretty much all IQ research shows that blacks ON AVERAGE (i.e. as a GROUP) have a lower AVERAGE IQ than whites. (He also points out that whites have a lower average IQ than East Asians.)

Your statement makes it sound as though Steve thinks that ALL black have lower IQs than ALL whites. I'm sure that he does not think that -- nor does any psychometrician worth his salt. Simply because that is not what the evidence tells us.

Richard Hoste said...

Pinker cites Sailer! Maybe he reads HBD Books, VDare and American Renaissance too. That would be cool.

Anonymous said...

So Steven Pinker does read you. I wonder how many other mainstream people read iSteve.

And wasn't it funny how Gladwell dismissed "igon value" as a misspelling? As everyone knows, that term can describe two very different phenomena: typos and being an ignoramus. If you spelled "Des Moines" as "Des Miones", you've made a typo. If you spelled it "Damoyn", then you just let your audience know something very interesting about you as a person.

Anonymous said...

Steve, At this level of production I may have to give again this year. I was hoping to ignore you, as I have the Metropolitian Opera since that unfortunate event when our generous contribution did not help in the slightest in getting extra tickets to Othello with the big PD for friends. Oh, the economy is bad, Good thing the press is not doing interviews with any unemployed people.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading Waugh's Scoop for the first time. The amazing thing about Mr. Gladwell is not only can he come across as having the same instincts and regard for the facts as a bunch of hacks exgaggerated for satiracal effect but that he can do this without the need to get a story out first against competition about a topic he has had never had a chance to think about before. Maybe the genius of Gladwell and of the accolades he gets is that of the satirest no matter how unitentional. commenters anonymous

Black Sea said...

Gladwell should have also asked Pinker whether to spell his first name "Steven" or "Stephen."

Switching back and forth is not the ideal solution to the problem.

Kevin said...

I imagine Mr. Gladwell won't keep the comments section on his blog very long.

RKU said...

Hmmm...

Wonder if they'll go after Pinker based on "association"...

And I'm pretty sure that Pinker's mentor is Chomsky, who might perhaps get drawn into the struggle.

This could get quite, quite interesting. After all, didn't Gettysburg start because the Confederates needed some shoes and thought the town might have them...

Veracitor said...

Riiiight. He's an "author," you're a "blogger." He's a poor speller, you're a racist. And Pinker is a lonely ice-bound IQ fundamentalist.*

I'm sending twice the price of Gladwell's crummy book to you, Steve.

*A nice quadruple-whack, that one, since all good NYT-reading liberals know that solitude is wicked (the clamor of the "community" is necessary to keep evil spirits--and independent thoughts--away), IQ is evil, "fundamentalism" is evil (not to mention anti-semitic), and "ice people" are monstrous (unlike those nice "sun people"), so to be stuck on the "lonely ice floe of IQ fundamentalism" is to shriek and gibber from the very nadir of Hell.

Svigor said...

Gladwell:

Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a marketing background who is best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people."

Theresa corrected the factual problems with Gladwell's statement. Obviously Gladwell's implied argument is Sailer's wrong about QBs because he mustn't be right about blacks. Yawn, been over this ground before.

I wonder, is there anyone who has said what Sailer's said about IQ and race who isn't "best known" for same? I suppose there are a couple of bigger taboos.

Anonymous said...

plus 1 on second anon

Middletown Girl said...

How come both Gladwell and Pinker are into the frizzy hair persona?

Couch Scientist said...

I think you should introduce Gladwell on your site, for the uninitiated, as journalist who is famous for thinking that black people are more like men than white people.

Praxis888 said...

Will Wilkinson just defended you on twitter (I think). Quote: "even racists can do math."

de Long said...

Steve Hsu continues to Gladwell debunking:

"What Pinker refers to as the major claim of Outliers: IQ above 120 doesn't matter, is easily shown to be false. Randomly selected eminent scientists have IQs much higher than 120 and also much higher than the average science PhD (120-130); math ability within the top percentile measured in childhood is predictive of future success in science and engineering; advanced education and a challenging career do not enhance adult IQs relative to childhood IQ.

So, accomplished scientists tend to have high IQs, and their IQs were already high before they became scientists -- the causality is clear. 10,000 hours of practice may be necessary but is certainly not sufficient to become a world class expert.

I recently remarked to a friend that many aspects of psychometrics which were well established by the 1950s now seem to have been completely forgotten due to political correctness. This leads to the jarring observation that recent social science articles (the kind that Gladwell is likely to cover) are sometimes completely wrong headed (even, contradicted by existing data of which the authors are unaware) whereas many 50 year old articles are clearly reasoned and correct. The data I cite in the links above comes from the Roe study of eminent scientists and the Terman longitudinal study of gifted individuals, both of which were conducted long ago, and the SMPY longitudinal study of mathematically precocious youth, which is ongoing. I've interacted with many social scientists whose worldview is inconsistent with the established results of these studies, of which they are unaware."



http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/post.aspx?bid=354&bpid=24410

James said...

It might be worth pointing out that r values below 0.5 are not strong correlations. Personally I wouldn't rely on them to make my case.

Black Sea said...

I wonder if Gladwell's corporate clients, who shell out ridiculous sums for his performances, will stop interviewing candidates for their highest level positions as a result of Gladwell's findings regarding "the quarteback problem." After all, "There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they'll do once they're hired. ..."

By the way, Gladwell claims, "The problem with picking quarterbacks is that [U. of Missouri quarterback] Chase Daniel's performance can't be predicted. The job he's being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won't."

Daniel was an undrafted free agent signed and later released by Washington. He was then signed to New Orlean's practice squad. He's now on their active roster, third on the depth chart. It seems like Daniel's (non) draft position isn't out of line with his performance to date, though admittedly, less than one season isn't much to go on.

Anonymous said...

Just had the following comment yanked from Gladwell's site:

"If Pinker had wanted to really take Gladwell to task he could have pointed to the claim about asian math success and rice cultivation.

This culture explanation for math success is easily disproven by transracial adoption studies. If Asian academic success was really due to some special set of academic values inculcated by Asian parents (something not demonstrated by the data to begin with), then why do Asians do better academically than whites even when they are raised by white parents?

Transracial, same-race adoptions, and the need for multiple measures of adolescent adjustment. (Burrow, Anthony L.; Finley, Gordon E.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Vol 74(4), Oct 2004, 577-583.

http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/004064.html

Theresa said...

Anon said: "And wasn't it funny how Gladwell dismissed "igon value" as a misspelling? As everyone knows, that term can describe two very different phenomena: typos and being an ignoramus."

I'm not even sure he understands what an average is, let alone an eigenvalue. %-/

Anonymous said...

Actually, I take it back - my comment regarding Asian math success is now appearing in the comments section.

Anonymous said...

"The job he's being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and* who won't."


True but empty.


I don't know who will win the 2050 Nobel prize in physics. But I do know that a star physics student at MIT is more LIKELY to win than Malcolm Gladwell or Steve Sailer.

sparkupthenight said...

I think what Gladwell did not take into consideration is that late-round quarterbacks usually aren't good enough to get on the field in the first place. A coach selects his quarterback based who gives the team the best chance to win.

Obviously, the gap between a late-round quarterback who's good enough to get on the field and a early-round quarterback who's good enough to make the field isn't going to be that large because both quarterbacks have already met a certain threshold of ability. The more important question is, "How many late-round quarterbacks are capable of being an NFL starter?" The decisions of the coaches, who have the most to gain or lose, would indicate: "Not many."

Holtz said...

Interesting to see other comments on the Emperor's lack of clothes:

"The next time you're about to pay Malcolm Gladwell $80k to speak at your company, read this first, and then decide.

In a manner that's vicious (and yet somehow restrained), Harvard professor Stephen Pinker goes after Gladwell, after reading through several of his essays:"

http://www.businessinsider.com/stephen-pinker-viciously-rips-malcolm-gladwell-in-the-nyt-2009-11

Anonymous said...

Steve -- PLEASE post the scatterplots for those correlations.

Nothing settles a technical argument like a good graph -- or in this case four graphs.

Anonymous said...

Part 1:

In the interest of fairness, we should point out that Gladwell's writing is illuminating in at least one respect: it serves as a paradigm example of eloquence devoid of reason. The lack of rigorous analysis in contemporary journalism is a problem that needs to be addressed, and we should thank Gladwell for highlighting the issue.



Take this passage, about Jimmy Cayne's passion for bridge and inclination to hire bridge players:


"Twenty years later, the scene was repeated with Warren Spector, who went on to become a co-president of the firm. Spector had been a bridge champion as a student, and Cayne somehow heard about it. “Suddenly, out of nowhere there’s a bridge player at Bear Stearns on the bond desk,” Cayne recalls. Spector tells Cohan, “He called me up and said, ‘Are you a bridge player?’ I said, ‘I used to be.’ So bridge was something that he, Ace, and I all shared and talked about.” As reports circulated that two of Bear Stearns’s hedge funds were going under—a failure that started the bank on its long, downward spiral into collapse—Spector and Cayne were attending the Spingold K.O. bridge tournament, in Nashville. The Wall Street Journal reported that, of the twenty-one workdays that month, Cayne was out of the office for nearly half of them.

It makes sense that there should be an affinity between bridge and the business of Wall Street. Bridge is a contest between teams, each of which competes over a “contract”—how many tricks they think they can win in a given hand. Winning requires knowledge of the cards, an accurate sense of probabilities, steely nerves, and the ability to assess an opponent’s psychology. Bridge is Wall Street in miniature, and the reason the light bulb went on when Greenberg looked at Cayne, and Cayne looked at Spector, is surely that they assumed that bridge skills could be transferred to the trading floor—that being good at the game version of Wall Street was a reasonable proxy for being good at the real-life version of Wall Street.

It isn’t, however. In bridge, there is such a thing as expertise unencumbered by bias. That’s because, as the psychologist Gideon Keren points out, bridge involves “related items with continuous feedback.” It has rules and boundaries and situations that repeat themselves and clear patterns that develop—and when a player makes a mistake of overconfidence he or she learns of the consequences of that mistake almost immediately. In other words, it’s a game. But running an investment bank is not, in this sense, a game: it is not a closed world with a limited set of possibilities. It is an open world where one day a calamity can happen that no one had dreamed could happen, and where you can make a mistake of overconfidence and not personally feel the consequences for years and years—if at all. Perhaps this is part of why we play games: there is something intoxicating about pure expertise, and the real mastery we can attain around a card table or behind the wheel of a racecar emboldens us when we move into the more complex realms. “I’m good at that. I must be good at this, too,” we tell ourselves, forgetting that in wars and on Wall Street there is no such thing as absolute expertise, that every step taken toward mastery brings with it an increased risk of mastery’s curse. Cayne must have come back from the Spingold bridge tournament fortified in his belief in his own infallibility. And the striking thing about his conversations with Cohan is that nothing that had happened since seemed to have shaken that belief."

Anonymous said...

Part 2:


Gladwell views Cayne hiring a bridge expert for a trading position as a mistake based on a false belief that bridge=wall street. He points out that bridge and wall street are, in fact, different. He ignores the obvious possibility: that isomorphism is not necessary for rational comparison.


If you're going to hire someone with no experience in something specific (like trading) it is helpful to look for demonstration of talent in other areas which may indicate aptitude in others. So, for example, I do not think that physics is math. But if I'm evaluating kids who have never taken a physics class, it would certainly be helpful to know how well they did in math classes.

The world is complex, you can't expect two things to be identical. That doesn't mean that it's not a good idea to hire a world class bridge or poker player. Someone who dominates bridge is clearly bright, focused, and competitive--traits necessary to become a great trader. It's an even better criteria when you compare it to alternatives. If you're in a position to hire people on Wall Street, it makes much more sense to hire a bridge superstar over a hundred kids whose major qualification is "3.7 GPA in Econ from Harvard/Stanford/MIT." World class achievement in an intellectual endeavor is the best possible predictor of success in a new intellectual field.


It would be irrational to hire a bridge player thinking that he must become a great trader because trading and bridge are exactly the same. But it's not irrational to prefer the bridge player over someone who is NOT a world class bridge player and is also NOT proved his worth as a trader.




This is why D.E. Shaw, one of the most successful hedge funds, doesn't hire MBAs. Getting an MBA is easy. Acquiring finance knowledge is easy. Brilliance is both rarer and more important than specific experience unless you're thinking only of the extreme short term.


"The D. E. Shaw group has made a conscious effort to build a carefully selected team of extraordinarily gifted professionals, each among the very best in his or her profession, rather than a larger group of highly competent but less obviously remarkable personnel. To this end, the firm continues to allocate an unusually large portion of its operating budget to the identification and recruitment of truly exceptional individuals who might significantly add to its capabilities. Hiring is extremely selective, with only one candidate in several hundred ultimately invited to join the firm.

Our staff includes a number of Rhodes, Fulbright, and Marshall Scholars, Putnam Fellows, and the winners of more than 20 medals in the International Math Olympiad. Current employees include the 2003 U.S. Women's Chess Champion, a Life Master bridge player, and a Jeopardy winner, along with a number of writers, athletes, musicians, and former professors. Over 100 of our employees hold Ph.D.s, almost 40 are entrepreneurs who previously founded their own companies, and approximately 20 percent are published authors whose work ranges from highly technical papers in specialized academic journals to award-winning mystery novels."

LemmusLemmus said...

Exactly what kind of a correlation did you use here? Pearson's r is not applicable.

Landru said...

Although usually a fluid writer and good storyteller, Gladwell often writes about ideas beyond his comprehension. Worse, he also frequently writes about things like football and used car salesmen which his gentle soul clearly has virtually no exposure to or intution about.

Gladwell's good writing and eye for sexy (often PC-themed) research fool many into assuming he also has an intellect capable of deep understanding. He doesn't. This is why Gladwell abdicates critical analysis of his pet theories to Assoc Prof at So Utah Univ, not due to naive trust as Steve suggests.

Gladwell's schick is lifting sexy-sounding university research which he rebrands with sphnix-like word play into trite folk wisdoms. Raised by professors in academia which he worships but could not honestly compete in makes Gladwell put academia too high on a pedestal. Being intellectually constrained by extreme-PC blinders doesn't help, but this is a secondary limitation.

What is even more annoying is dealing with SWPL, MBA, HR types that rave about Gladwell even more uncritically that Gladwell himself does for his pet academic. It's like living The Return of the Archons.

Landru said...

Decent people can ignore all ideas from Steve Sailer because Gladwell helpfully informs readers early on that Sailer is most famous for being a professional r**cist.

I bet the frontal lobes of most decent people shut off after coming across that pertinent remark even if their eyes continued over the rest of Gladwell's words.

Black Sea said...

Steve,

Of the 32 current starting QBs, the rounds in which they were taken in the draft are as follows:

Round 1: 18

Round 2: 3

Round 3: 2

Round 4: 2

Round 5: 0

Ropund 6: 3

Round 7: 1

FA: 3

I suppose that one of the salient points here is that more than half of the starting QBs are former first rounders. I'll post the same at Gladwell's site.

Anonymous said...

Steve, OT, but have you thought about doing an interview with Jim Giles? I know he's reached out to you about it. He's a good guy, and I think it'd be a good interview.

jody said...

this gladwell guy is in as much reality denial as don wassall, the old, out of touch racist who runs castefootball.

these dudes should sign themselves up for the flat earth society.

PRCalDude said...

And wasn't it funny how Gladwell dismissed "igon value" as a misspelling?

That was easily one of the most pathetic things I've seen from a mainstream pundit. It clearly denotes that he never got through lower division linear algebra.

Kudos on backhandedly insulting Gladwell's manhood in your comments. "Man-crush."

CMA said...

Hell, this post alone is worth a donation. And if Steven Pinker can overlook the occasional bone tossed to the rabid antisemites in the Sailerverse, I guess I can too....

Ron Mexico said...

If I may be so bold as to offer a word of advice, Sailer:
When you're right about something, you should try to be (or at least appear to be) gracious. That tends to confer an enormous rhetorical advantage.

I think you *are* trying; and I understand how galling it must be to be cavalierly dismissed as a racist; but you would win many more converts from whatever open-minded people visit MG's blog--first about football, then perhaps about other things--if you just resisted the temptation to say things like "make a fool of yourself in public." The snarky references to net worth are particularly unhelpful, since they smack of ressentiment.

How justified your frustration is is irrelevant; it's much sounder rhetorically--*when you're right*--to erase any traces of emotion (except, perhaps, the very faintest whiff of condescension) from your writing.
best wishes, &c.

rob said...

It might be worth pointing out that r values below 0.5 are not strong correlations. Personally I wouldn't rely on them to make my case.

Perhaps for making a case. What if you wanted you wanted to make a shitload of money? If I had could get r=.5 predicting roulette, I'm going to Vegas.

I don't follow football, but the idea that success as a quarterback can't be predicted is absurd on its face. Unless Gladwell thinks that randomly picking people of the street is just as good a selection mechanism as picking people who played quarterback on college teams, then he is lying.


He may retreat to a 'nuanced' position that he did not claim before. He will say that after however many prediction and selection screens have been made, the value of another screen is low. He will say that, and then he will claim to have discovered declining marginal utility. Gladwell, I'll sell you that argument for only 30K.

Anonymous said...

You know that when someone like Gladwell mentions some irrelevant information, such as Sailer's black/white IQ writings, in their attack/defense, they are running scared.

Tom Regan said...

It doesn't require any number crunching or academic treatises to realize that MG's argument is bunk.
If the guy picked at 100 in the draft is as good as the guy picked at 1, then why do they even have a draft? If that were true, then just give teams carte blanche to go out and sign whoever they like.
As Steve has remarked before, its the 'man bites dog' dynamic at work. MG is just another example of the snobbish regard for the counter-intuitive. After all, to believe in the obvious is no good, because the elite then has no means to put themselves on a higher intellectual plane than others.
It is by believing that day is night, that MG's arguments make sense, that crap smeared on canvas is art, that group differences can be overcome by political will etc etc that the elite can prove themselves to be better than those who don't see it. Empertor's New Clothes. MG is intellectually naked.

stari_momak said...

Is it just me, or have academic economists lost their way in the last 5 years or so. Its not like there isn't a lot actual economics questions out there -- you know, ones dealing with the production and distribution of goods using scarce resources. I suppose this paper sort of deals with that sort of question, but not way that is important to the real process of making a living for 99.9% of the population. Rather, these things, and the "freakonomics" school of research, are just exercises in STATA proficiency. I think James Q. Wilson said it best when reviewing Freakonomics -- "Did you know that real estate agents sell their own houses for more than they sell their clients' houses?"

As they say in the groves of academe -- tell us something we don't know.

Anonymous said...

"Steve, OT, but have you thought about doing an interview with Jim Giles? I know he's reached out to you about it. He's a good guy, and I think it'd be a good interview."

Jim Giles has an IQ of 95. He'll do bad things for white nationalism.

AMac said...

Malcolm Gladwell deserves a great deal of credit for running his blog's Comment section as he does.

Sailer has left four comments over at Gladwell's place; Steve Hsu also wrote in. These effectively rebut Gladwell's thesis. (Even if Sailer loses some points on style, per Ron Mexico supra.)

Gladwell is a class act for allowing his readers this unfettered access to his critics' ideas.

A recent instance of the tilted-comments-playing-field on an unrelated matter is described here. A minor but embarrassing error in the climate-change literature has gone uncorrected. A blogger dedicated to the AGW Consensus can't help but place limits on what the Bad Guys may say in his comments, even on this limited, technical matter.

liberalbiorealism said...

I think that Black Sea's observation (which I presume holds up reasonably well over any number of previous years) pretty much blows the Gladwell position out of the water. It would do so far more effectively than any of the other numbers I've seen mentioned.

And it really does go to the heart of the problem in making comparisons between higher and lower round picks for QB: there really are only a very, very small number of positions for QB in the NFL. The hard thing is to be used as QB on a regular basis at all, and particularly as a starting QB. If the career of a good QB averages say 10-15 years, then, on average, only about 2-3 players are selected per year who will achieve that distinction. I'd expect that there would be many, many more players selected per year for QB positions across all rounds. The real story is between those who make it in the league, and those who don't. That is the decision that is hardest and most crucial to make when evaluating players coming out of college.

Those QBs who in fact are used on any kind of regular basis in the NFL are those who have already distinguished themselves -- perhaps in practice, perhaps when used in a pinch as a backup. If they are competitive at that level, then they are in an exclusive cohort. It is not surprising that the records of those in that cohort who come from lower rounds might be roughly comparable to those from higher rounds: they must have exhibited roughly comparable performance to be in the cohort.

Nor is it surprising that there should be a number of lower round players who make it into starting QB positions. I'd certainly expect that the overall numbers of players selected in lower rounds for QB would be far greater than in, say, the first round in particular. I'd expect on the one hand that the probability of a player from lower rounds making starting QB (or even simply playing on any kind of regular basis as a QB) would be relatively low. Yet, on the other hand, given the overall numbers, in aggregate the number of players from the lower rounds who make it as QB can be quite significant.

I think the analysis that needs to be performed here is pretty obvious, given Black Sea's observation.

Anonymous said...

Settle it with a bet.

Gladwell gets 20 random guys from the 100:s downwards, you get the top 20 picks.

Whichever side performs best on some mutually agreed measure wins.

Without understanding football, something tells me Malcolm easily could get a few million bucks in action, even if he wants to get laid odds.

David said...

Malcolm's letter sounds like something Truth would write: totally inaccurate but full of sneering bravado, i.e. dumb.

If you peel back all the appeals to authority, the demonization of opponents, the phony (?) incomprehension ("as far as I can tell [the key part of the blog post is only a paragraph long]"), you have a guy out of his depth, who can't even spell his distinguished opponent's name consistently.

Is quarterback performance significantly less predictable than performance in other positions? If it isn't, then what's the point of purchase of Malcolm's article? The fact that everyone assumes recruiters do something worthwhile, so let's "challenge assumptions" and cock a snook at them by using "Academic Literature"? That's the MO of a 14-year-old boy. How old is Malcolm?

Pinker's "minor genius" comment shows the power of snappy patter and verbal eloquence. I'll bet he's rueing that comment now.

DCThrowback said...

This comment by RF Interference back in January is worth referencing again: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/01/can-you-predict-who-will-be-good-nfl.html?showComment=1233314100000#c8551831080896485355

The only thing dated in that comment is the future predicted success of Graham Harrell.

Further FO research indicates that an "average" NFL QB doesn't make his first pro Bowl until age 28. QBs get drafted at an age around 22. So, it takes at least 6 years (plus all the college starting time) to be able to read defenses at the top 20% level of your position. With NFL teams more than ever in "win now" mode, many QBs don't have the luxury of taking a few years (like Steve McNair, for example, had) to learn how defenses work, study film and then play. That would also be an interesting study, I think.

While there are many different metrics that qualify NFL QB-ing success, qb rating is just one metric (as is pro-bowls made). I happen to think yards/completion and yards/pass attempt are two of the best. But nothing is perfect. After watching Brady Quinn play last night, how you can effectively say whether or not Quinn is a good QB? He plays for a CLE team who can't protect him and throws to a bunch of mediocre players. Like most team games, so much of what effects a player's development is the environment that they play in. As Bill Parcells once said, "Players win games, organizations win championships." Brady took less $ money than the "market rate" to resign with New England. While Brady is talented and quite proficient, he's also in a great system that allows him to maximize his talents. If Matt Cassel can achieve success in that system* after just 5 games, who is to say that Brady Quinn or some other less talented QB cannot?

* Noted that having Randy Moss as a WR might be more effective than having a system, though that didn't seem to help Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo in Oakland. So maybe it's a just a perfect combination.

Anonymous said...

Why the fixation with qb? It seems that RB would be easier and includes fewer variables that play a role in the success of the player. The position is more instinctive and less technical.

As to the current Stanford running back, see Brad Muster. The Bears never new what to do with him. The NFL isn't good for tweeners.

Someguy

Dr Football said...

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight.

It's so obvious that drafting a QB is pretty much random that after Gladwell's article came out, GMs in the NFL collectively slapped themselves on the forehead, shouted "How could we be so stupid!", and henceforth stopped drafting QBs in the first round.

David Davenport said...

Barry Ritholz: If you don't like the CRA, then you're an ARA:

Ayn Rand: The Boring Bitch is Back


By Barry Ritholtz - November 15th, 2009, 2:00PM

There is a substantial take-down of pedantic bore Ayn Rand in GQ. They tease it thusly:

2009’s most influential author is a mirthless Russian-American who loves money, hates God, and swings a gigantic dick. She died in 1982, but her spawn soldier on. And the Great Recession is all their fault.

I love that because it is both funny and touches upon so many subtle truths; Here is a longer, funnier excerpt:

“This is because there are boys and girls among us who have never overcome the Randian infection. The Galt speech continues to ring in their ears for years like a maddening tinnitus, turning each of them into what next year’s Physicians’ Desk Reference will (undoubtedly) term an Ayn Rand Asshole (ARA). They constitute a relatively small percentage of Rand readers, these ARAs. But they make their reading count. Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. It’s metastasized. ...

...

You can the concentration of ARAs in a certain groupings. These are the folks who blame the CRA for the collapse of the economy; ARAs tend to be hardcore idealogues; many are rabidly partisan. All too many are deeply uninformed. They breathje co0gnitive dissonance they most people breathe oxygen. When confronted with facts, data, reality that challenge their ideology, they make up new facts.

I imagine that Freud would bluntly use Randian logic to note they inhabit a guise of superiority in part to compensate for vast and deeply felt inferiorities and insecurities. That’s right, those of you who feel compelled to talk about how big your junk is are typically are sporting selections from the wee person’s aisle.

Malcolm Gladwell is a guy who knows how to write compellingly readable stories. The takeaway in his book Outliers The Story of Success is quite unRandian — it is that luck plays an enormous factor in out-sized success. That is a factor the Randians prefer to ignore. ...


http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/

David Davenport said...

The MS Word 2000 spelling checker on the old box I'm typing on here marks "igon" as a misspelling or non-word.

Assuming that Mr. Gladblags and his minions or editors use a spelling checker, this implies that they thought "igon value" was a correctly spelled but rare, abstruse phrase, so they overrode their computers' spelling checkers.

In other words, Malcolm G. and his minions or editors are ignoramuses in regard to undergraduate mathematics.

-WG said...

Sailer--
Your arguments would be more credible if you didn't routinely cite your own work based on personal observations.

PRCalDude said...

See, what makes Malcolm so successful as a speaker at sales conferences is that he believes his own hype. Many people can smell insincerity, but Malcolm is sincere. He believes whatever he's peddling, no matter how obviously wrong it is.

Fake it 'til you make it!

Chief Seattle said...

"I wonder, is there anyone who has said what Sailer's said about IQ and race who isn't "best known" for same? I suppose there are a couple of bigger taboos."

Yes, or maybe just one. Certainly raping a 13 year old girl is a mere misdemeanor compared to mentioning IQ differences in polite society.

M. Möhling said...

Ron Mexico said...

"If I may be so bold as o offer a word of advice, Sailer: When you're right about something, you should try to be (or at least appear to be) gracious. That tends to confer an enormous rhetorical advantage."

So true--less is more. There isn't much sympathy for the devil, provided his last name is Sailer, so we cannot squander what little support and understanding we can muster with the good willing but timid.

Pat Shuff said...

Svigor said...

I wonder, is there anyone who has said what Sailer's said about IQ and race who isn't "best known" for same? I suppose there are a couple of bigger taboos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Au contraire, no taboo, it is plastered all over print and broadcast daily, between the lines or subtext, given the taking away from something largely dependent upon what is brought to it.

We only see what we know.

-Goethe

Some years back articles mentioning with alarm securitization, shadow banking, housing policy or arcane regulatory changes were simply skipped for having no relevance or interest within any framework of understanding.
We only saw what we knew despite it weren't so. Stevil has done a masterful job detailing the contributions of evolving housing policy to the debacle so that at least some going forward know what they're seeing. Ugh.

Pat Shuff said...

Ron Mexico said...

If I may be so bold as to offer a word of advice, Sailer:
When you're right about something, you should try to be (or at least appear to be) gracious. That tends to confer an enormous rhetorical advantage.

I think you *are* trying; and I understand how galling it must be to be cavalierly dismissed as a racist;

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Under what the late William F. Buckley, Jr. called “the prevailing structure of taboos,” some of the stuff we kick around on the H-Bd list, and some of what Steve blogs about at his own site and at VDARE, is outside the zone of polite discourse in mainstream-political circles. To the fiercer guardians of political correctness, in fact, Steve is a hate figure. The Southern Poverty Law Center has him under 24-hour watch (they call him “an unabashed bigot”), and transsexual websites have him marked as a leading transophobe, or whatever the term is.

...

So there is Steve, out on the fringes of the tribe, tapping away good-naturedly at his keyboard, diving into the surf of data to emerge a while later holding up some little pearl of insight. “Look, look what I found!” Nobody much pays attention. Establishment conservatives chunter away about marginal tax rates, stem cells, school vouchers, and elections in Afghanistan, while deep beneath their feet the earth shifts and cracks.

Keep at it, Steve. Crunch the data, dig up the quotes, show us how it all hangs together.

-the perspicaciously gloomy Derb


In polite journalism, regardless of how thoughtful and well
researched, the issues that Steve Sailer raises cannot be discussed at all.
I sometimes think Steve himself is blissfully unaware of all this.
He often reminds me of a gangly, goofy Labrador pup, bounding happily
into the living room eager to show off the latest filthy bone he’s dug up,
utterly oblivious to the universal shock, horror, and dogicidal glares.
And the truth is that Steve, in himself, is genuinely a moderate
and temperate personality.

--from Brimelow's preface to Prince



Maybe Stevil was off somewhere when the accepting admonition gene was handed out, apparently inured to castigation, villification, pillorying, unharmed by artillery of invective aimed for maximum damage in wounding or maiming at psychological, emotional levels to which most would be vulnerable.
Maybe used to it, comes with the territory.
Certainly an iconoclastic talent of unusual skill and insight, easily converted into society's various compensations if desired excepting wider recognition perhaps. Maybe the sacrifice or martyrdom impulse is linked with the missing or suppressing twisted encodings with other abilities to ignore or even be aware what for others is painful and paramount. Like wrongly anthropomorphizing the aforementioned dog that sniffs arses and eats awful things with apparent relish. Some of these rare breed idiots eschew or are blind to risk to the extent of having been bound to a stake and torched for speaking their minds however mistaken or not. Some of those have tended be valuable pointers of the way forward, of prescience in hindsight, if that's not too strong.

At any rate this first rate unsuccess likely won't be deterred from fates, to the glee and dismay from respective quarters.

eh said...

I'm not so sure how interesting or useful these pissing contests with Gladwell are. And it doesn't really help that the topic du jour -- quality of football quarterbacking, or some evaluation of same relative to draft position -- also seems rather unimportant (except possibly to a GM or coach responsible for their team's draft picks, and even then I wonder). If you look at the comments on Gladwell's post, he seems to have a fan base that is impervious to argument, and he himself always comes up with an 'Oh yeah?!' sort of answer. So even a well-reasoned refutation is a waste of time in the 'making friends and influencing people' sense.

Anonymous said...

BTW, frequent iSteve commenter "Truth" is actually Malcolm Gladwell.

David said...

> Your arguments would be more credible if you didn't routinely cite your own work <

LOL. Pathetic.

Steve Sailer said...

David says:

"Malcolm's letter sounds like something Truth would write:"

Truth knows more about sports and is wittier than Malcolm.

Acilius said...

"I'm not so sure how interesting or useful these pissing contests with Gladwell are." I think they're pretty useful when they occur at fundraising time. Good job getting Gladwell to publicize you just now, Steve!

Dutch Boy said...

Now that whites are dominating boxing I wonder if Mr. Gladwell still thinks whites are like girls?

David said...

> Truth knows more about sports and is wittier than Malcolm. <

More interesting and readable too, but this isn't saying much in my opinion.

Are his detractors too hard on Truth? Nah. And he can take it.

The Bear said...

Has anyone noticed that Vince Young -- the QB with the worst Wonderlic score EVER -- is 3-0 since taking over as a starter for the Tennessee Titans? Meanwhile Vanderbilt alum Jay Culter is a bust in Chicago.

AMac said...

A story tip for Gladwell from commenter Ray Sawhill:
- - - - - - - - - -
If Malcolm wants to show how truly resourceful and courageous a journalist he is, he'd write a piece about Steve Sailer -- go meet him, read his writing carefully, wrestle with its substance and the research it builds on, and look into (and give some thought to) the way Sailer has built up a following and has become (in a not-publicly-acknowledged way) quite influential.

I don't know about anyone else, but in recent years I've had numerous moments, when reading mainstream coverage of various hot and dicey topics, when I've found myself thinking, "Y'know, I bet this writer has been following Steve Sailer -- and wouldn't dare admit it in public."

The Sailer phenomenon is a good news story, no doubt about it. Go for it before someone else does.

Posted by: Ray Sawhill | November 17, 2009 at 10:04 AM

ricpic said...

One thing's for sure: no one who works at D. E. Shaw would ever be satisfied by a 2 cents plain.

Anonymous said...

This back and forth between Gladwell and Sailer on the importance of draft position to the the ultimate success of NFL QBs is not particularly revealing to anyone who knows anything about the NFL. In general, a consensus develops amongst GMs and other experts about the top college players. These players are drafted in the first couple of rounds. The likelihood that these players will be succesful is higher because everyone has had an opportunity to evaluate their performance over the course of their college careers. In that sense, these players can be said to be Proven. However, smart observers of football and the most successful GMs understand that there is no such thing as a 100% guarantee. Not all of the players that are drafted in the first round will be successful. Some will fail due to unforseen injuries, others will lose their desire to succeed after being granted large contracts, and others will simply not pan out. The most successful GMs understand that they can gain advantage on the competition if they have a very good college scouting system that can identify "hidden gems" like Leon Lett (Emporia College, 7th Round 1991 Draft)that a strong consensus has not developed around. I think the best example of this philosophy is the Steelers 1974 Draft - The Steelers grabbed WR Lynn Swann (from USC) in the first round, LB Jack Lambert (Kent State) in the second round, WR John Stallworth (Alabama A&M) in the fourth round and C Mike Webster (Wisconsin) in the fifth round. All four are in the HOF. This website has a list of other such all time drafts: http://nfldraft.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=801560

It seems to me that neither of you guys has blown the other way. In fact, you have simply have come to a draw -
1. Point for Steve - on average the most success (at least in terms of career success such as the Pro Bowl) will come to players drafted in the first or higher rounds .

2. Point for Malcolm - Despite point 1, there will be a significant number of players drafted in later rounds that will have more success than their cohorts at the same position who are drafted higher .

Consider the 1991 draft - the first two QBs taken were Dan McGwire (Marks 6'7 brother) and Todd Marinovich (an infamous drug addicted bust who, in fairness, did have his moments). The most successful QB of that draft is Brett Favre (1st pick of 2nd round). Also in that 1991 draft Wide Receiver Keenan McCardell (Houston Waltrip, UNLV, 17 seasons, 2 Pro Bowls) drafted in the 12th round had much more success in his career than Randall Hill (1st round Miami, Dolphins/Cards, Saints) or Wesley Carroll (1st Round,Saints/Browns).

Lesson - hire GMS and create football organizations that can effectively evaluate college talent and avoid relying solely on consensus opinion!! This is also how you make money in financial markets - use specialized knowledge to find and exploit undevalued assets!!!

MQ said...

Whenever someone ad hominem's Steve by saying he's a racist, iSteve fans show up and inevitably end up arguing that, no, Steve's not a racist, it's just that the evidence shows that black people *really are dumber*! That doesn't actually help, you know. Especially in a case like this where Steve is just arguing the plain obvious fact that high draft pick QBs do better than low draft pick QBs.

For another case of Gladwell getting his ass kicked on sports, see this comment on Gladwell's bullshit claim that basketball teams should run the press all the time. Actually, that entire comment thread is pretty funny if you know something about basketball. Gladwell readers reliably divide into two types -- people who aren't very familiar with the subject he's discussing, who are very impressed by his counterintuitive and interesting conclusions, storytelling skills, etc., and people who actually know the topic well, who are, like, "what the fuck...".

Observer said...

"Here is Gladwell’s response on his website. Steve Sailer makes an appearance in the comments, where he definitively presents the data for there being a correlation between QB draft rank and pro performance, and Gladwell solves the problem by calling him a racist, misrepresenting Sailer’s views, and refusing to respond to the data Sailer presents. Good job, Gladwell."



http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2009/11/pinker-on-gladwell/

Anonymous said...

This whole QB-igon value episode was like a little class trip. A lot of the regular commenters followed Steve's lead into hostile territory of Gladwell's blog. New people ended up being exposed to Steve and his fanbase as a result. I remember something similar with Talking Points Memo and a woman named Jade. Steve, you could do more of these. They're fun and probably useful. New people will be exposed to your ideas. Even if some of them can't think for themselves, they'll be impressed by the size of your following. Popularity is an argument in itself to some. You could even hit DailyKos, we'll back you up.

John Seiler said...

In a previous iSteve blog comment, I said the top criterion for QB excellence is winning the Super Bowl. Because the point of the game is to win the SB, not run up numbers. Let's see how draft picks factor into that. The greatest anomaly, of course, is Brady. Otherwise, it holds up well:

2009 SB QB winner: Roethlisberger, drafted 11th in 2004.
2008: Eli Manning, 1st in 2004.
2007: Peyton Manning, 1st in 2000.
2006: Roethlisberger.
2005: Brady, 199th in 2000.
2004: Brady.
2003: Johnson, 227th in 1992.
2002: Brady.
2001: Dilfer, 6th in 1994.
2000: Warner, undrafted in 1994.
1999: Elway, 1st in 1993.
1998: Elway.
1997: Favre, 33rd in 1991.
1996: Aikman, 1st in 1989.
1995: Young (Would have been 1st in 1984 with Bengals, but signed with USFL; 1st in supplemental draft).
1994: Aikman.
1993: Aikman.
1992: Rypien, 146th in 1986 (left college early).
1991: Hostetler, 59th in 1984.
1990: Montana, 82nd in 1979.

So, of the the last 20 Super Bowls, 8 were won by top draft picks, or 40%. 11 SBs were won by 1st-round picks, or 55%. And 12 SBs were won by those drafted in top 33, or 60%.

Quit a strong correlation, thus refuting Gladwell again. Of course, what keeps it interesting is great coaches taking a chance on lower draft picks: Belichek spotting Brady, or Walsh spotting Montana.

But I'd like to challenge Gladwell to a $1 bet: that the 2010 Super Bowl will be won by a 1st-round draft pick.

Malcolm?

Anonymous said...

Steve your earnestness is inspiring. After reading Pinker's critique of Gladwell, if I were to blog about the man from this day on it would always look like this:

"[link to relevant article(s) by/about Gladwell]

...Igon"

Anonymous said...

BTW, frequent iSteve commenter "Truth" is actually Malcolm Gladwell.

Thats a bit near the knuckle, we shouldnt descend into personal abuse like that.

Dont listen to them Truth, I know you are not MG.

Truth said...

"Truth knows more about sports and is wittier than Malcolm."

Awww; you guys know how to make a bruva feel all misty.

I can't tell you just how much it means to a "black nationalist" who "hates white people" to come on a white nationalist blog and get more love than guys like Svigor and Whiskey/T99.

jody said...

i would say elway was the best quarterback of all-time, and he was taken with the first pick in the 1983 draft.

he took the broncos to the superbowl 5 times. who else took their team 5 times? nobody. peyton manning won't be in the superbowl 5 times, and might not even win 2, and he'll retire as the best thrower of all-time.

the first 3 times elway went to the superbowl, the broncos had nothing. it was mainly elway dragging the team to the championship by himself. imagine if he had the team that bill polian has built for peyton manning - at the time, polian was busy building the buffalo bills.

Mark Time said...

"CMA said...Hell, this post alone is worth a donation. And if Steven Pinker can overlook the occasional bone tossed to the rabid antisemites in the Sailerverse, I guess I can too...."

You confuse cause and effect.

The reason people like Steve is that he analyzes facts, without appeal to emotion or ad-hominem attacks, that skewer the pervasive atmosphere of lies and rationalizations in the media and academia. He does this despite having the talent and energy to profit by adopting the party line. He cannot help it - he cannot tell a lie.

You, however, cannot embrace a few fundamental truths; Jews do control popular entertainment in the US, they do control all media, they do set the tone in academia, and they do unfailingly distort history to their own purposes.

They are the foremost and most influential and sophisticated practitioners of ad hominem attacks, character assassination, intellectual bullying, historical revisionism and appeals to emotion in the world today.

That these tactics are on the whole employed against gentiles of European heritage is hard to miss. Thus Steve's fascination with Mad Men - although he has not quite nailed it. More importantly, this is behind all the concern displayed on this site by Steve and commenters for the consequences of a pathetic and doctrinaire embrace of diversity and open borders. Which ethnic group most strongly supports those phenomena?

Jews are, in their characteristic way, attracted to the intellect displayed here, which is why they join in, despite their reservations about the light of truth being directed towards them and their behavior.

Feel free to rationalize away my comments or dismiss me another of your bete noires - you will only confirm my statements.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"the first 3 times elway went to the superbowl, the broncos had nothing."

Really? So the fabled "Orange Crush Defense" was a mere myth? I know nothing about football, but my brother talked about it all the time. He was just living in fantasyland?

Udolpho.com said...

it seems to me Gladwell did Steve a huge favor...being associated with a famous intellectual like Pinker isn't going to hurt Pinker as much as it's going to really help Steve...keep the fundraising going, traffic should get a boost (hey he spelled your name right)

keypusher said...

Curvaceous Carbon-Based Lifeform

"the first 3 times elway went to the superbowl, the broncos had nothing."

Really? So the fabled "Orange Crush Defense" was a mere myth? I know nothing about football, but my brother talked about it all the time. He was just living in fantasyland?


The Orange Crush defense was long before Elway, in 1977. The Broncos lost Super Bowl XII early in 1978 to the Cowboys, thanks to some horrible play by Craig Morton, the Broncos' quarterback. It was said that Morton, formerly with Dallas, "had finally won a Super Bowl for the Cowboys."

Another commenter:

And it doesn't really help that the topic du jour -- quality of football quarterbacking, or some evaluation of same relative to draft position -- also seems rather unimportant (except possibly to a GM or coach responsible for their team's draft picks, and even then I wonder).

Arguments like this are stalking horses for the more substantive arguments about things like IQ. Why do you suppose Gladwell makes them?

stari_momak said...

The funny thing about this argument is that it was started by a economics paper, and economics is all about opportunity costs. The rest is just statistics. Don't get me wrong, Galton, Spearman, Fisher, Pearson, these guys were genii. But mere statistics isn't economics. Perhaps the good professors did in fact take the Moneyball approach -- that the expected value from burning trades or draft picks to get a top QB isn't worth it -- that keeping your running back or left tackle or whatever was worth more than trading them to get a draft pick where you can draft Todd Marinovic. For all I know they did argue that - but you wouldn't know it from either Malcolm or Steve.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure how interesting or useful these pissing contests with Gladwell are.

Are you kidding? Think of the effect of seeing the establishment darling pummeled so effortlessly has on a half switched on reader from the other side. Here you've got this snake oiler being paid five figures to gush hot air while any one of, I don't know, fifty "wicked racist" blogmen could wipe the floor with him on the very topics that are supposedly his specialty.

David said...

> 1. Point for Steve - on average the most success (at least in terms of career success such as the Pro Bowl) will come to players drafted in the first or higher rounds .

2. Point for Malcolm - Despite point 1, there will be a significant number of players drafted in later rounds that will have more success than their cohorts at the same position who are drafted higher . <

Steve makes a substantive point: there's a connection between predicted and actual success in this field.

Malcolm merely revises the old saw that nothing is 100%.

It's worse than that. Actually, Malcolm is using the saw to deny the connection, on the grounds that if something isn't 100% predictable, then it isn't predictable at all and we should stop trying to predict it.

Huurrmmmmm, now why would a supporter of affirmative action and the multicult be making that argument, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

David
I'm the Anonymous that you are responding to. I'm not so sure that the connection between predicted (consensus opinion) and actual success for NFL players is as strong as you think that it is. I have a hard time believing that all of those Detroit Lion 1st Round Draft choices that turned into busts (Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Joey Harrington) would not have been more successful if they had been drafted by better organizations like the Patriots. I think organizations like the Steelers and Patriots turn late round draft choices into successes not only because their superior scouting organizations are able to uncover "hidden gems" but because the culture of success that exists in those organizations aids in the development of those later round choices. My gut tells me that if Brady had been drafted out of Michigan by the neartown Lions he would have had a MUCH different career trajectory.
Although Gladwell doesn't rigorously explore this angle in his essay, I think the analysis that he cites might impress upon certain owners (re: Al Davis, Dan Snyder)a significant "Moneyball" insight:

1. Yes, to a significant degree, success is a function of natural talent. However, the environment that the talent is cultivated and expressed in, is a significant variable in its success. If you have a crappy football coach and organization, it does not matter how much money you blow on high 1st round draft choices and highly sought after free agents. Your team can only be as succesful as the competence of the coaches and front office people that run things.

A. Foxman said...

It's a shame that those who post certain facts are called "rabid anti-semites". Typical word games and pre-emptive striking rolled into one. Straight out of the Hasbara Playbook.

I want to see a Gladwell piece devoted entirely to black NFL QB's. Their actual performance vs draft situation. Their pay vs performance. The publicity / praise received vs their actual performance.