Ref, You Suck! [Against the Rules]

Pixabay: 27707. Free for commercial use; No attribution requiredMichael Lewis’s new podcast explores the arbiters of fairness—the refs—who function in all corners of our world: sports, courts, newsrooms, consumer products, art, and more. Lewis’s contention is that societal refs are under attack and less believed or trusted.

Ref, You Suck! kicks off the podcast by looking at sports refs in the NBA.  Lewis’s storytelling is good.  I don’t have a lot of interest in basketball, but I was engaged and learned stuff I found interesting, not even concerned about how it was going to tie in to the theme of unfairness and not playing by the rules.

But the theme was tied together in the final 10-minutes, when Lewis talked with Berkeley professor Dacher Keltner, who’s exploring whether “a sense of being privileged makes you disobey the rules of the road or the laws of the land.”

It’s this linking of Keltner’s studies of privileged rule-breakers to NBA-stars challenging refs that got me excited about the series.  I found the stories in each episode interesting;  sometimes oddball. But they all came from the perspective that fairness—the thing referees and arbiters are supposed to ensure—is under attack, because the authority of our refs and arbiters is under attack.  When that starts happening, the world feels rigged.

It’s a timely topic, well-told.

[One basketball thing I learned was the NBA has a Replay Center where off-court refs have access to high-power technology to review on-court plays a ref wants looked at. Another surprise was to learn a ref signals the Replay Center if they want a call reviewed by twirling their fingers in the air.]

Against the Rules is where “journalist and bestselling author Michael Lewis…takes a searing look at what’s happened to fairness—in financial markets, newsrooms, basketball games, courts of law, and much more. And he asks what’s happening to a world where everyone loves to hate the referee.”

Photo source: 27707 on Pixabay


Golf: A Good Walk Spoiled [Revisionist History]

Malcolm Gladwell hates golf.

He views golf as a pastime largely engaged in by rich, white men running large companies, played on vast swaths of private land—accessible only to wealthy people—in urban areas that are park-poor. And subsidized by the very people who can’t use the golf courses.

He hates it for socio-economic reasons. In his opinion, we should all hate it.

Gladwell is a runner; one of his runs is around the Brentwood Country Club, “a luxurious private golf and tennis club” in west Los Angeles. He and fellow runners hug a narrow track outside the course, blocked by fencing; he gazes upon the lush green lawns mostly devoid of people.  He gets curious; then riled up.

According to Gladwell, golf isn’t a harmless habit impacting only the player. It has consequences: it’s a sport 1) with the potential to lower company profits, that 2) denies cities desperately needed tax dollars.

Gladwell’s podcast drills in on these issues, fleshing each one out, with political snark tossed in along the way.  It appears to be about golf; but it’s really about equity and fairness.

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