Interesting article today in Wall Street Journal about Golden State Warriors (subscription required) decision to build their team around the 3 point shot which the article calls taking advantage of a "market inefficiency" and an unusual idea "embraced by the data loving executives" and "The result is a basketball style no one has yet figured out how to defeat."
I am no expert on football, but this
reminds me of watching the early Belichick era in New England Patriots
football, noticing differences in game strategy between the Patriots and
other teams. In the early 2000s the Patriot defenders would try to
punch the football out of the grip of the
ball carrier instead of the traditional focus on immediate tackling to
minimize yardage gains. The Pats seemed do this long before the other
teams caught on. In football, the conservative play is always to go for
the consistent short term advantage at high probability rather than take
chances that could result in major loss. The natural human inclination
is to avoid big losses due to the pain, rather than take chances with
low probability of huge gain. Turning over the ball with the momentum
shift prevents the other team from scoring on that series and your team
gets a chance to score, possibly a touchdown on that turnover. This
punching out the football tactic eventually became a staple of the game
we watch today.
Instead of building an offense around quarterback
Tom Brady of tall, agile wide receivers, the Pats went on to build
around a combination including shorter, quick guys (Wes Welker, Julian
Edelman, Danny Amendola) who could dive sideways and low for the
reception -- hard to defend, plus tall, massive tight ends (Gronk and
others) who could outjump their defenders with their height, make the
catch, and, with their girth, barrel down the field for extra yards. By
building a different offense, that is, by playing a different game, you
do not need to compete with other teams as much for talent. You are
drafting different talent. Of course, there were many other reasons for
the Patriots success, but playing a different game was a constant,
including taking chances where other teams would not.
this changed in 2015. The Denver Broncos started winning games and
improbably remained undefeated through 7 games. Smart analysts decided
this would not continue throughout the season. The offense was
struggling to score touchdowns and it was not even clear who should be
the starting quarterback. With Manning starting QB in the playoffs, the
Broncos were the underdogs in both the AFC title game against the Pats
and the Super Bowl with the Panthers. Both opponents were favored
against the Broncos, but the Broncos defense was able to stymie the
offense and the Broncos beat both opponents.
New England Patriots, the winning tactics of the past came up short. The
Broncos defense overwhelmed the Patriots passing game by finding a key
weakness in the inability to protect the quarterback which eliminated of
the advantages of Tom Brady and the carefully selected receivers.
brings us to Donald Trump. As a businessman, it sometimes pays to be
apolitical, so he had contributed to both Democrats and Republicans as
many in business do, to gain access to whoever wins elections. But in
business he was more willing than most to try out different initiatives
in addition to the hotels and casinos - Trump steaks, Trump University,
sports teams, Miss Universe - actually the list goes on and on. He
could not help but notice that in the Republican Presidential races in
2008 and especially in 2012, there seemed to be a yearning for a
different kind of candidate. The formula for George W. Bush in 2000
seemed to be select a candidate whose primary qualification was a family
resemblance to the previous President Bush, along with the ability to
rely on strong Presidential advisers (back to the Ford administration),
and be willing to employ hardball tactics against opponents. Yet, in
2008 and 2012, there was a rotation of sorts among Republican hopefuls
who caught the popular imagination early on, but imploded upon further
media scrutiny, only to be replaced in the end by a more "establishment"
candidate. That was supposed to be the scene in 2015-2016 according to
the pundits. But to Trump, the winning formula consisted of an
over-the-top personality, willingness and skills to capitalize on
popular fears, anger and resentment, along with the ability to disarm
the establishment choice of a weak candidate. How tempting to run for the Republican nomination. So long as Jeb Bush
remained in the race, Trump continued to look good in contrast with the
weak candidate who was being foisted on the Party by the powers that be.
Romney, the failed candidate in 2012, injecting himself into the
discussion only brought to the foreground the "establishment" efforts to
defeat the more independent candidate Trump and continued to help the
Trump cause. Only now, with the Republican field diminished and no
strong establishment candidate to play against (given that Cruz is
really anti-establishment), do Trump's own weaknesses as a candidate
come to the fore.
One thing is clear. The key
ingredient of recent Republican campaigns in contrast with Democratic
campaigns has been to avoid directly addressing issues and realistic
policy options in favor of sweeping promises of simplistic solutions
along with appeals to fear and anger. Trump saw the opening to outdo
the Republican candidates at their own game and took advantage of it. This was a key element of the decision to run as a Republican.
There will be no going back in future Presidential races unless the Republican Party decides to change the rules of the game, that is, how their candidate is chosen, or the Republican candidates change the way they play the game.