February 2, 2010

The Thinking Man's Games

Malcolm Gladwell dishes on sports figures from Gary Bettman to Bill Simmons to Tim Tebow.

Michael Gluckstadt

If there is one overarching hallmark of Malcolm Gladwell's writing style, it's his ability to scan across conventional categories and find the unlikeliest of relationships among disparate topics—a thematic microscope that teases out connections invisible to the naked eye. In his new collection of essays from the New Yorker, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, he compares satellite photos to mammograms and connects pit bulls to crime. But there is one field that the 46-year-old Gladwell has returned to time and again throughout his career, perhaps more than any other: sports.

From the January-born hockey players in the first chapter of Outliers to Jana Novotná's devastating Wimbledon collapse in the article "The Art of Failure" to girls' basketball in a more recent New Yorker story, Gladwell uses sports—at all levels—to delve into deeper psychological and sociological issues.

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