April 1, 2007

The Odd Couple

NCAA Basketball Final: the Odd Couple -- Joakim NoahDefending champion Florida's most distinctive player is 22-year-old junior Joakim Noah, 6'11" 230 pounds, who is the son of the half-African French tennis player/singer Yannick Noah (who looks like Milli Vanilli) and a blonde model babe. Yannick's French mom was on France's national basketball team. Young Noah is the most boyish-looking (to the point of seeming almost girlish) power forward ever (see UCLA fans having fun with Noah and Photoshop here, but Noah's Florida had the last laugh again today). Yet, he's hyper-aggressive.
Greg Oden
In contrast, Ohio St.'s best known player is 19-year-old freshman Greg Oden, who is 7 feet tall and 280 pounds. Facially, he looks like he's 49 and just finished a 25-year sentence at San Quentin for killing the pimp who slashed him with a straight razor. I ran into the great Patrick Ewing when he was 38, and even that magnificent old warrior looked about a decade younger than Oden does at 19. When Oden showed up to high school as a 14-year-old ninth grader, his frightened classmates guessed he was 30. On the inside, however, he's kind of a nerdy guy (he took calculus as a senior in high school and enjoyed it) who mostly seems to play basketball because that's what you are supposed to do when you are 7 feet tall and 280 pounds of muscle and gristle.

Oden reminds me a little of another Ohio St. prodigy/oddity, football running back Robert Smith (not the Robert Smith who leads The Cure), who took a year off from football at Ohio St. because practice was getting in the way of his favorite classes. Smith, who looks to be about half white / half black, is a dedicated amateur astronomer. After he led the NFL in rushing in 2000, he retired at 28 because he had all the money he needed and he could still walk.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Corey said...

Steve, what is this thing you have with big black men?

I sympathise, though, that you, as an American, must suffer such primitive sports as baseball, American football and basketball.

jody said...

the NBA rule to keep 18 year old high school kids out of the league was the best new rule in decades.

both the NBA and college basketball were greatly improved.

Michael Farris said...

I'd say Noah gives me serious Amelie Mauresmo vibes, except she's more masculine.

SFG said...

Heh-heh-heh. Ever notice how the smart football player despises excess religiosity?

It would be fun to see if he goes into medical research and gets a Ph.D. The dude will get to sleep with the entire heterosexual female faculty.

Justin said...

Emotionally Oden makes Robert Parrish look like Rasheed Wallace. And he looks about ten years older than the young Shawn Kemp! It's amazing. Meanwhile if Joekim had a crewcut he'd be the great lost annoying talented-in-college Duke player.

Anonymous said...

SFG: He is probably on the down low,as I assume are you.

aceflyer said...

I noticed no links about Oden in Sailer's article, so I Googled and found this:


Ron Guhname said...

"I sympathise, though, that you, as an American, must suffer such primitive sports as baseball, American football and basketball."

Yeah right, and kicking a ball around or smacking one over a net is amazingly cerebral.

SFG said...

Anon: Can't tell the difference between nerds and gays? Neither like sports, but they're as different as night and day.

Svigor said...

Yeah right, and kicking a ball around or smacking one over a net is amazingly cerebral.

Yeah, which team sport is more cerebral than football again? Okay, make that team spectator sport. Most upper-class sports are a snooze to watch.

Justin said...

"Most upper-class sports are a snooze to watch."

Yeah--I question our esteemed host's golf fandom sometimes.

Anyway--we don't know what corey meant by a non-primitve sport but I hope he didn't mean soccer. If you replace the ball with a goat's head it's the kind of thing I can easily picture the Mongols doing on their off days.

Anonymous said...


American football is exceedingly complex. If you only knew. Watch Peyton Manning run the Colts offense sometime. His IQ is probably around 130 and he uses all of it. The linemen are assigined different block schemes on every play, and have "options" to block based on what the defesne does, or "zones" to block based on the same. All can be changed by a quarterbacks audible, then the center may make a different line call to the rest of the linemen before the snap "if he sees something". Know what a cover two zone is Corey?

How about the nuance between a soft man-to-man coverage, or a drop two?

Then you can start in on various blitz schemes, option routes for recievers who are given the freedom to change a route based on tight coverage, or on seeing a free safety playing zone drop off to give a linebacker aid with a tight end, or a back lately breaking out of the backfield.

Alabama's offense had something like 130 plays a few years back.

Football players can often bench press their body weight for 15 or more repetitions (years ago, I could do this) and squat over twice their bodyweight, while still having sprinter's speed and magnificent endurance, trained precisely to be able to "go hard" for 20 seconds at a time, and rest, 20 seconds, rest, etc. to coincide with the short bursts (downs) in which the game is played.

Dont even get me started on baseball, the real "thinking man's" game.

Sports are popular here in American because the sports we have are magnificent blends of mind and muscle and speed and coordination. If they were as dull as some Euro-weenie-ecosports, nobody would be interested.

Eric Clovis said...

I sympathise, though, that you, as an American, must suffer such primitive sports as baseball, American football and basketball."

As opposed to....soccer? That's for kids, female and otherwise. Actually Steve was correct in his assessment of it in reviewing soem soccer movie awhile ago: it makes little sense for a species with opposable thumbs.

Hockey? We have that too. Jai alai? Ditto somewhere. Curling? Rugby? What are you after?

America is the best team sports country in the world, overall.

Anonymous said...

Steve's covered this a while back but Soccer has NEVER found favor with Americans because it's too straightforward and boring.

Soccer gets down to luck and whatever team is in the better condition. There is not much strategy, coaching, in-game decision making. Superior conditioning and/or athletic skills make the difference.

Football is the most unlike Soccer because it's so specialized and therefore complex. You have huge offensive and defensive linemen, who can combine quickness with power, QBs who must be able to throw the ball quickly to the right guy or run or take the sack or throw it away etc while keeping mental maps of all the players in their heads (the most difficult position in all sports). Tough, large, physical TEs or RBs who catch the ball in traffic for short gains and tough tackles, RBs who are dink and weave guys (often small but powerful) who make you miss or the powerbacks who run over/through the tacklers, corners and Free Safeties and Strong Safeties who have to read every offensive play and be in just the right spot, etc. etc.

Football has a TON of specialized coaches because the game's that complex: QB coaches, line coaches, Running back coaches, Offensive and Defensive co-ordinators, etc. Guys don't spend hours watching game film for fun, but because that game is so complex it's the only way to win.

And most importantly, the best executing/coached team can win even over more gifted physical players.

The complexity (every fan an armchair coach) is why Football is the #1 sport in America (well along with the possibility that the better executing team can win even if they are smaller etc).

The problem with Basketball is that too much of the game has become like soccer: the better physically skilled/conditioned team wins in the end. A lot of the complexity on offense and defense has been drained out in favor of slam dunks and zero defense. Nike and the other shoe companies shoveling money at showboaters like Kobe Bryant who'd rather put up 50 points than win are part of the problem.

What's interesting though is the personalities. Steve's made a case that there's evolutionary/social pressure to be either nerd or "big man dynamic leader" but the case I think can be made that BOTH are required for success in the modern world.

A Peyton Manning or Oden has to have enough nerd qualities (Manning in particular because football is more complex i.e. nerdier than basketball) to focus intently on abstract issues in the sport (i.e. coverage, offense to match, clock in his head etc) and also the "big man" leadership qualities to make his team mates believe he can and will win with his play.

If you think about it, John Madden might be the nerdiest man in America. Oden might not be all that different from a lot of what would be considered overtly nerdy guys.

Anonymous said...

Washington Post profiles "the odd couple" today, two days after Steve did so.