For a long time, I have been fascinated by “little books” – short, pithy pieces that explore a particular topic or phenomenon, uncovering its fundamental principles and operations.
The first to attract my attention was Henry Hazlitt’s 1961 classic, Economics in One Lesson. From a simple story about a broken pane of glass, Hazlitt adduces an entire theory of economics, explaining in easy, understandable terms a whole range of economic topics from supply and demand, to unemployment, to rent control, to tax policy — all in 143 pages!
Since then I have encountered several other “little books”: Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf, former Marine Corps commandant Alfred Gray’s Warfighting, and Longitude by Dava Sobel, to name a few. In each, the author uses clear, succinct, almost sparse language to render complex theory into simple principle and practice.
For example, in a series of one and two page chapters such as “Take Dead Aim,” “The Three Most Important Clubs,” and “The Right Elbow,” Penick elucidates the nature of golf and corresponding lessons of life. General Gray outlines the realities of the modern battlefield and how the modern Marine Corps wages war through surprise, shock, and rapid maneuver. Dava Sobel recounts the dangers of early navigation and how an English clockmaker invented the chronometer to precisely measure time at sea and thus determine one’s actual location.
better than a layup is my attempt to add to this collection — to write a “little book” on the nature of college basketball, exposing its underlying principles or laws and tracing the game’s historical evolution. Of course, instead of actually publishing a traditional book, I‘ve decided to present my views in the form of this blog site. In this way, I hope to encourage a “conversation” with you and other visitors to the site, adding to one another’s enjoyment of a great game.
better than a layup is premised on the following assertion: basketball is a game of exquisitely simple principles needlessly complicated by coaches seeking to control every aspect of the game and reinforced in their efforts by a legion of fawning television commentators and sports writers.
Today, despite the increased athleticism of its players, college basketball is a slower, less graceful, and lower scoring game than it was a generation ago. better than a layup will explore how this decline occurred and suggest ways to get the game back on track. In doing so, I will challenge much of what passes as conventional wisdom, replacing it with a series of simple, time-tested principles or laws that define the nature of the game and govern its play.
Before we get started, a caveat.
If this were a book, you and I – reader and writer – would find ourselves constrained by the very nature of printed text. The exposition of ideas would unfold in linear fashion, page after page without interuption or opportunity for conversation.. The communication would all be one way – words frozen in print, from me to you. A lecture.
But this is a blog site. The postings will occur irregularly with the ideas explored seemingly random, “out of sequence.” But there will be a “logic” to all that you find here if you hunt for it… and most importantly, an opportunty for conversation.
I welcome your reaction to my postings and the longer “essays” they may spawn. Please feel free to comment and to add your own insights and reflections.