From Gary West in today's Dallas Morning News:
In his 13 seasons, Joe DiMaggio was never thrown out advancing from first to third base. And that, nearly as much as the lifetime batting average of .325 and the famous hitting streak, hints at the source of DiMaggio’s greatness: intelligent judgment, which he made vivid with athleticism.
Frequently, it’s intelligence that distinguishes the great from the good athlete. Frequently, it’s intelligence that distinguishes the championship teams from the ruck.
. . .
Years ago, George Will cited as evidence of DiMaggio’s "genius" the Yankee Clipper’s perfect record of success in moving from first to third. Consistently good judgment made DiMaggio, in Will’s words, the "consummate professional" and one of baseball’s greatest players. But it’s true in every sport.
Why is Peyton Manning, named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player again, the best quarterback in the game? (Don’t say because of Tom Brady’s injury.) And why was Manning able to lead the Colts into the playoffs with nine consecutive victories?
Manning doesn’t have the best arm in the league. He’s never the best athlete on the field. But in terms of football judgment, he’s the smartest. And it’s his intelligence that enables him to control games.
What makes Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox an outstanding player and an MVP? It’s not just his .326 batting average; it’s his judgment. He struck out only 52 times last year in 653 official at-bats, and his stolen-base percentage was 95.2.
And is it coincidence that the quarterbacks who succeed in the NFL are generally the guys who stayed in school four or even five years — e.g., Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Eli and Peyton Manning? Probably not.
Intelligent judgment has always trumped mere athleticism. Tom Glavine simply knew how to pitch, Tony Gwynn how to hit, and Bart Starr how to pass, which is to say they played with intelligent judgment made vivid by athleticism.
At 6-10, he might not have been the most physically imposing player on the floor, but he blocked shots and gathered rebounds by the bushel partly because of his anticipation. He had infallible instincts. And, as Tony La Russa once pointed out, instincts are derived from an accumulation of knowledge.
"Athleticism and intelligence are both important for success," said Gil Brandt, the longtime vice president of the Cowboys who’s now with NFL.com. "We always tried to draft smart players, and I think that’s one of the reasons our teams were so good."
Charlie Waters, Brandt said, was the epitome of a smart player. A Cowboys safety throughout the 1970s, Waters played in five Super Bowls, making up for any deficiencies in athleticism with his intelligence.
That’s what a smart player does, Brandt said. The smart player adjusts to circumstances; when he loses one tool, he finds another that will enable him to do the job.
Tags: Intelligence, football