November 28, 2009 9:14 PM

Offensive Play

Instead of participating in the insane Black Friday festivities, I opted to spoil myself silly with hours and hours of recreational reading this Thanksgiving. One rather lengthy article that I read was Offensive Play by Malcolm Gladwell. Pretty catchy title with a pretty catchy theme. I mean, who can ignore a piece of writing that eloquently connects football, dog fights and brain damage? Only a skillful writer could string together these three seemingly unrelated topics in such a way that informs the reader of a refreshing perspective which leaves him/her contemplating for days.

Quite nerdy I must say, but the sense of peacefulness and contentment which consumed me as I broadened my horizons through Gladwell's eyes was just so magical. Definitely the best booster I could take to prep myself for the long hours of suffering I'll experience in the next two weeks.

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from Offensive Play:

What happens at Best Friends represents, by any measure, an extravagant gesture. These are dogs that will never live a normal life. But the kind of crime embodied by dog fighting is so morally repellent that it demands an extravagant gesture in response. In a fighting dog, the quality that is prized above all others is the willingness to persevere, even in the face of injury and pain. A dog that will not do that is labeled a “cur,” and abandoned. A dog that keeps charging at its opponent is said to possess “gameness,” and game dogs are revered.

In one way or another, plenty of organizations select for gameness. The Marine Corps does so, and so does medicine, when it puts young doctors through the exhausting rigors of residency. But those who select for gameness have a responsibility not to abuse that trust: if you have men in your charge who would jump off a cliff for you, you cannot march them to the edge of the cliff—and dog fighting fails this test.


By painting the correlation football has with dog fighting, Gladwell eloquently sets up his argument about how football betrays the trust and loyalty of its players. Unfortunately, the American public has a difficult time seeing this betrayal because the ramifications of enduring "small car crashes" repeatedly on the fields usually surface decades after the game was won- and lost. Reading how professional football players are needlessly suffering from brain damage, personality changes, broken bones, herniated disks, etc. alarmed me. Clearly there is a need to rethink the values our society places upon football when even a teenage football star has tau accumulating in his brain!

On a happier note, I fell in love with Gladwell all over again while reading the paragraphs regarding the staining of brain cells to note the presence of tau and beta-amyloid proteins! This article addressed some pretty intense issues about life. Simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I received my much needed dose of 'science' recreational reading while learning an aspect of dog fighting and football that never crossed my mind before. I respect Gladwell immensely not because of his writing style, but of the brilliance in his versatile grasp of superficially different subjects. What a fine intellectual!


Amelia Nguyen | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (0)

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