Less overthinking, more instinctive reasoning

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 5/18/22

Do you ever think about your decision-making process? I do. I mean, what else have I got to do, now that I’m retired?

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Less overthinking, more instinctive reasoning

Posted

Do you ever think about your decision-making process?

I do. I mean, what else have I got to do, now that I’m retired? But, I always did think about it, or at least I tried to. Sometimes, it helped me think through things, to question my preconceptions and work through if there was a better way to do things. Sometimes, it just caused paralysis by analysis.

I’m thinking about this right now, in large part, because of the current juxtaposition of, basically, six major sports in America right now. Basketball and hockey are in their playoff seasons, baseball is still in the early, everybody-still-has-hope phase of their season, football just wrapped up their rookie draft and are having their first team activities, and golf is ramping up to its second major tournament of the year. It’s a very exciting time.

But every one of these sports has, to some extent, been influenced by “analytics” — the deep study of numbers related to the game. Starting with the Oakland A’s in the late 90’s, much of sport has been dominated by analytics (glorified in the movie “Moneyball”), making it possible, sometimes, for teams with fewer resources to compete; but, in many ways, basically ruining the games.

Baseball is largely unwatchable these days, on the major league level: 4 hour games mostly spent watching pitchers and catchers play catch, with an occasional 430-foot home run. Basketball (except for the Nuggets and Warriors) is similar: 15 seconds of a guy pounding the ball into the floor until he decides to attack the rim and get fouled or jack up a 3-pointer. And golf has been so influenced by numbers (clubhead speed and spin rate) that great golfers like Rory McIlroy have completely altered their games to try to get an advantage, and others, like Bryson DeChambeau, have adopted swings which, while impressive — if he plays at Castle Pines, he may leave orbit — almost guarantee a limited career, cut short by back injuries. And pro football spends so much time looking at numbers before the draft that they manage an impressive 50% failure rate on 1st-round draft picks.

Paralysis by analysis.

There is, of course, another process, one espoused by the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell. In one episode of his podcast, “Revisionist History,” he talks about his hiring process for his group. It amounts to this: he has coffee with them. If he likes them, he hires them, with barely a look at the resume.

His logic — and it is the application of logic in a strictly Vulcan sense — is sound: if an extensive search and vetting process is going to result in a disappointingly low success rate, why waste the time? Take a nihilistic philosophical approach, put in place an automatic probationary period to test people, and run with first impressions.

Obviously, sports can’t run on a similar model. Though, to be fair, baseball has, essentially, had that approach to personnel for a century now: the minor league baseball system is exactly that sort of thing. And not everything can really work that way.

But, maybe the rest of the world would be better off if we did a little less overthinking and a little more instinctive reasoning. Think about politics (you thought I left off a sport, didn’t you?): how many stupid ideas are the obvious result of a focus group and a poll of sympathetic voters, when the average Joe on the street can tell you in an instant “that’s stupid”?

Which brings me to Colorado’s caucus and primary system. “Focus group poll of sympathetic voters,” writ large. Which is why everybody who is not on either outer 35% of the electoral spectrum will, I suspect, look at their ballots in November and shake their heads.

Do yourself a favor. Try to see these people in person… and make a judgment. If there’s a “crazy” vibe, don’t vote for them. Trust your instincts more than the political calculus.

Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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