By Guest Contributor G.D., originally posted at PostBourgie
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.