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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weekend reading

1. Gus Malzahn's book on The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy. I've described Malzahn's theory before, and the basic principles are laid out in this book. Basically, for Malzahn, "no-huddle" means "ludicrous speed" and he proceeds accordingly. The book is light on Xs and Os but that's really a virtue; he wants to sell you on the no-huddle as it can be applied to other offenses, and in any event his Xs and Os are pretty straightforward. He wrote this when he was still a high school coach.

2. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. I didn't really think I'd enjoy this as much as I have. Tons of great anecdotes, though the science is better than Malcolm Gladwell (though both share The New Yorker style, which makes sense since both write frequently for the magazine). Neuroscience and behavioral economics have been much on my mind recently (no pun intended), and I intend to elaborate further on how I think their insights relate to football and my general disposition towards more rationality is better. I remain unconvinced that the non-quantitative, non-analytical approach to scouting, evaluating players, and decisionmaking in football in general is appropriate.

But football is the best of all sports for a reason: each play gives every coach and player the opportunity for a few brief moments to gather their thoughts and plan, but the ultimate results are all decided in the heat of the moment -- the quarterback cannot explain exactly why a player was open, but he doesn't have to. He turns, sees the receiver, and if it feels right, he throws it. He might not have time to break all that down analytically -- any more than the middle linebacker has time to explain why he thought the draw was a draw and not a pass play -- but the brain is sophisticated enough to give him the cues. Dopamine and all that good stuff. That said, our brain makes a lot of systematic errors, typically in the form of relying on certain heuristics, but they can often be overcome. Anyway, more on this later.

3. John Rawls's religion?

4. What makes us happy?

5. I got my copy of the The New Yorker summer fiction issue. Also check out this article whether creative writing should [can?] be taught.

6. Not reading, but a good place to waste several hours: lectures from the world's top scholars.

7. I haven't actually read it yet, but I keep seeing reviews for this book everywhere. (I have probably reached the tipping point of reviews; once you've read three or four of them in full it's hard to justify reading the stupid book, no matter how good it might be.) Anyway, quote:

This book grows out of an attempt to understand the greater sense of agency and competence I have always felt doing manual work, compared to other jobs that were officially recognized as "knowledge work." Perhaps most surprisingly, I often find manual work more engaging intellectually. This book is an attempt to understand why this should be so.

The book is Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford, a guy with a Ph.d. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago who runs a motorcycle repair shop (and writes books, obviously). (Ht Marginal Revolution.)


Jon said...

Gladwell's New Yorker article led me to take out a couple of library books on military history.

Jon said...

Sorry for the interruption. The two books are: How the South Would have won the Civil War : the fatal errors that led to Confederate defeat


General George Washington : a military life

I'm more familiar with the American Revolution than the Civil War so I find the latter easier to follow. I'm only part way through either book, but Gladwell was right in his article. Washington was a more conventional strategist than I recall from the last time I studied this some twenty-odd years ago.

Tyler said...

Heh, as an undergrad engineering student, some of those MIT lectures would've been great last semester. Solid list on the whole.

Tipwell said...

chris, Ive been doing some research of my own of malzhan's offense. I know most offensive types have a favorite play or concept they like to utilize,(I know spurrier used the smash concept at least 8 times a game sometimes) but I cant seem to find anything on gustav's fave. Was wondering if you had any idea from his book what his favorite passing concept or play would be

Chris said...

At Tulsa, Malzahn ran a lot of power, option, and counter schemes from kind of "power spread" sets with the QB in the pistol, a runningback and a kind of H-back/upback. He often also motioned a wideout back the RB on a kind of reverse motion as a fake or as a pitch man for option.

Off this he used play action to run basic combos like the deep cross I've discussed, as well as the "NCAA" play, with one receiver on a deep post, another on a deep square in at 15-20, and another on a shallow or drag.

There's obviously more but he did a nice job with that at Tulsa. All common stuff, just some cosmetics and extra tempo.

Anonymous said...

Academic Earth is awesome

Stan said...


-- Academic Earth is awesome.

-- Haven't seen the three level crossing route described as the "NCAA play". Is that yours or borrowed? I've seen a variety of other descriptions which reference how ubiquitous it is.

-- I'd love to see anything you might have on the pistol. It occurs to me that it may be the best of both worlds. There are some real advantages to having a downhill interior running game. It wouldn't seem that the shorter snap would cause many problems with the QB's mechanics. He can throw the quick throw a tad quicker and taking a drop stop to get a little more depth shouldn't be a problem.

And thanks again for your stuff. All good.


Oh, and Jon, now I've got to go check the Civil War book. In hindsight, it looks like the South was trying to draw to an inside straight or bluff. But Lincoln wasn't folding under any circumstances. No doubt the gray made errors, everyone does, but hard to see a win absent an incredible run of luck.