Saturday, October 04, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell update

When you watch a lot of games at different levels of expertise your perceptions of a sport changes. People play football for different reasons. The older you get, the more it is about recapturing or even rectifying your youth. Righting real or imagined wrongs or taking otherwise missed opportunities.

Woody Allen said 'I don't want to become immortal through my work. I want to become immortal by not dying.' And I'm with him. However, for many football players it is their ambition, their driving force to make some form of mark. Some lasting reminder. Even though many English Premier League players are immature in many ways, sustaining excellence is what they are about.

An acquaintance of mine (do you like that saying? it is almost Dickensian) Malcolm Gladwell is preparing the release of his next book. It is going to be called Outliers: The Story of Success. Malcolm and I were born in the same country in the same year, his family emigrated to Canada and mine Australia. The promo for the book says:
Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Of course I am interested what this very insightful person has to say about 'what it takes to be a great soccer player.' We did briefly discuss football, but at the time it wasn't his great passion.

Many football players, particularly the young who start because their parents want them to play sport, aren't going to make their mark through football. However, youth football has so many other benefits. It gets them away from the computer for a start. It may give them their first disciplined approach to exercise. For some it is their first shot at a way out - either as a distraction or the creation of opportunities - of a bad family life. For all, it trains in decision making, a skill they need no matter what they do.

In the A-League, I see young people who think they may make it, journeymen who have accepted that they like playing but they aren't going to, people in their mid-twenties who are still trying to go further (Socceroos or Europe), and older people (they are all under 40 so not really old) for whom either this is the best way for them to make a living or love the sport so much that they just can't give it up.

I have in my mind a blog with the working title of 'The Red Mist Descends'. I'll write it one day. It is about the people who play sport to control their mind or whose mind takes over under intense physical activity.

Anyway, I have got to go put my Gladwell pre-order in...

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