Scoop Jackson at ESPN thinks studying the athletic brain is worthless

By Dan Peterson

Yesterday we posted a link to Carl Zimmer’s article in Discover Magazine on the athletic brain and sporting intelligence.

Worth posting for the sake of contrast is Scoop Jackson’s response to that article on ESPN’s Page 2. Any new idea will meet with resistance, especially when that new idea a) is based on science that may be unfamiliar and b) threatens to change an institution/culture that can be stubbornly averse to change (i.e. sports).

Jackon’s objections to the idea of identifying, studying and assessing athletic intelligence run along the lines of:

1. The brains of athletes are not worth studying.

See, the problem is not in the solutions found, but in the cynicism outside the science world that makes it virtually impossible to believe that Kobe deciding whether to pull up from 3 or go to the hole is worth scientists from Rome, Australia, and the United States trying to figure out why he did one and not the other. It’s not that serious.

2. Thinking about decision-making and sports will ruin your enjoyment of sports:

Message to all sports fans: If you love sports for the beauty of sports, for the athletic brilliance and everything that comes with it, don’t read this article! Nothing against Carl Zimmer’s column (“The Brain”), but it will ruin sports for you. It will have you turn Jeter into Galileo, Nicklaus into Newton.

3. The idea that athletes have a specific and special type of intelligence hurts Scoop Jackson’s feelings (or something).

Now I’ve got to pretend to be smart, because apparently the players on the court are all geniuses and “more efficient” in thought than I’ll ever be.

All that time in the classroom, all that time in the library, all that studying of theories and theorems, all that tuition I’m still paying back. All for nothing.

We here at Axon Potential clearly aren’t in agreement with the take presented in the article, given what we’re all about, but read it and decide for yourself. In any event, if cognitive neuroscience continues to increase its influence in the sporting world, it is representative of the kind of backlash that is likely to be seen from some quarters.

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17 Responses to Scoop Jackson at ESPN thinks studying the athletic brain is worthless

  1. No offense to Scoop Jackson……but :)
    He doesn’t work with athletes. He simply reports on their achievements & their shortcomings.

    Obviously, he is an avid & passionate sports fan (particularly NBA basketball); but I wouldnt expect him to be overly appreciative of the neuroscience behind skill acquisition & refinement.
    Just as I am not overly concerned about what Dwight Howard will get on the NBA Free Agent market under a new CBA if there ever is one :)

    As a youth fitness practitioner, this concept while new & maybe a little unclear to most should be investigated further so that we may provide the best youth sports experience possible to the children of the US.
    It’s not about developing the next Tiger or Messi. It’s about keeping kids active, involved, and energized about their sport/activity of choice!

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