Thursday, July 2, 2009

Successful Football: Contrary to (blind) 'Faith'

With a generous hat tip to Carl Sagan and Dr. Michael Shermer here......

When we first start out, we can be rather credulous, and willing to believe or accept just about any idea we encounter, especially people in authority, former coaches, professional players, sportscasters, or the Internet. With a sea of information coming at us from all directions, how do we sift out the misinformation, bogus claims, right and wrong, and get down to the truth?

Often times we believe things because our brains are wired to find meaningful patterns (see last month) to help us with recognition (TT + lots of points + exciting + DI football = "I need to run air raid to score points" or "43 teams can stop the run, therefore only the 43 can stop the run"). Many patterns are real, and its good to know what those patterns are - that's called learning. We connect A to B (often times A really is connected to B). The problem becomes that a lot of patterns we see everyday are false (superstitious,emotional, not real).

Naturally, we look to find safety/comfort/confidence in the routine condition that we've always known or admired. The more reputable or esteemed the speaker or presenter, the more awestruck we may likely be to adhere to those ideas without question.

But how do you know if State U's schemes or philosophies or techniques are right or wrong?

You don't.

You shouldn't believe anyone based on authority, records, charisma, or whatever position they hold.

Here are ten challenges we should present ourselves with when encountering a new or old idea towards the game.

How reliable is the source of the claim?
Holes or liabilities are expected, nothing is bulletproof in the game. However, if the errors are all in one direction or lay heavily on one area, then we should think there is more than meets the eye here.
You'll find claims being made to always support a particular belief, an inherent bias.

Does the source make similar claims?
You likely find 'conservative' play-callers carry this thinking over into ALL phases of the game (or vis versa). Adhering to a mindset simply because it is a mindset, rather than following supporting data to determine their thinking. Be open enough to accept new ideas, but not so open that your brains fall out.

Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
Has it been vetted elsewhere? Can the results be replicated with other variables?

Does this fit with the way the real world works?
Think Nigerian Prince emails (use Jump Bands and your kids will turn into DI athletes). Does it pass the smell test? How fanciful is the belief and how much does it prey upon our desires?

Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
What is the counter argument? What other (ancillary) factors could be involved to explain the asserted results? What does a critical eye think of the claim?

Where does the preponderance of evidence point to?
Does it point directly to the claim, or somewhere else? What about the other evidence out there (does it explain it directly)? Much like solving a crime, does the evidence build a strong enough case for conviction?

Is the claimant playing by the fundamentals of the game?
Is logic and reason and real-world applications being utilized or are they just trying to 'make a case' for their particular claim?

Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
Are they providing reasoning for their conclusion or are they just denying evidence of the "other" way of thinking? ("Wing-T is sooo old school, no one wins with that anymore...")

Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
Anyone can find a few anomolies in the current way of thinking, but is there anything more than just basing an ideology off of the deficiencies of the former ("the 53 sucks against trips,...therefore you should never have a 5 man front"). Can this 'new' way provide an answer for the former holes and more?

Are personal beliefs (or insecurities) driving the claim?
Is bias the driving force behind the idea? Are pieces of data being ignored/amplified to satisfy ego?

Shoot holes in your program so your opponents can't

Being skeptical isn't lacking faith, and faith (in that which is unchallenged) is not confidence

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