A few hours after Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the coronavirus and the sports world tilted off its axis, I hatched the idea for a daily column (or ESPN segment) that would educate viewers on the modern history of sport. For a few reasons: 1) first, I felt as if I had so much to learn and that I can’t be the only one and 2) If there’s one thing ESPN and SI and The Athletic, etc., desperately need this minute, it’s content.
I reached out to a few folks. Interest in the project was not exactly animated. And you may not be, either. Twenty years ago I worked on a series of sports books for a buddy of mine, Jim Buckley. They were aimed at teens and the idea was an annotated history of the 20th century in sports. Jim let me do the year 1900-1940 and I came away gobsmacked. History is fun! And I learned a lesson we all should know by now: It’s all been done.
Yesterday at my blue-collar job a fellow
inmate employee dropped a term I’d never heard: the Dunning-Kruger Effect. To define, it is “a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.”
In other words, ignorance is bliss.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!
Anyway, as my co-worker explained, the Dunning-Kruger Effect has the postulate of “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.” How much more you need to learn. I see a lot of Dunning-Kruger Effect happening at MAGA rallies, at Trump pressers, and also on Sports Twitter where people who cannot name more than three NBA players before Bird and Magic feel confident throwing around GOAT accolades. So I thought, Why not attack the Dunning-Kruger Effect right here, while we all have a little time?
We’ll start with the year 1869, not because that’s the first year of modern sports but because it’s the first year that sports began to matter in the USA. One thing I read while beginning my research that intrigued me: a good origin point for modern sports is 1830. Why? That’s the year the lawnmower was invented. Makes sense when you think about it.
We may begin today, may be tomorrow. We’ll see what time allows.