Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Arthur Ashe - Developing a Winning Strategy

For today's sports analogy, we need to look back to Arthur Ashe's amazing performance in the 1975 Wimbledon championship, but first let's recap key takeaways from recent sports posts.
-Shirley Babashoff -how the US press, even with a tendency to favor the US team in any Olympics, got the underlying story so wrong despite the manly appearance and deep voices of the teenage East German swimmers. This points to the difficulty drawing inferences from the data when the most important data is hidden from view.

Making accusations of cheating seems to require a higher bar than calling a player a poor sport. Based on the evidence, Shirley appeared to be a bad sport - she did not have incontrovertible proof that the East Germans had been dieting on performance-enhancing cocktails - her inferences were based only on appearances, however compelling. Besides, the explanation that the East Germans had worked harder was in keeping with the 1970s trends and tone of some Olympic coverage.  That is , the East Germans women's program had been raised to the level of a men's program - tougher workouts, intensive weight training. In keeping with the popularity of behaviorism at the time, perhaps women only needed to work as hard as men to equal men in performance. Except that is not what was happening and the American female competitors suffered for it - not physically as the drugged up East Germans later suffered , but by the lack of recognition for their amazing athletic accomplishments.
Golden State/NE Patriots/Denver Broncos -how a team can improve its competitive chances by changing the style of game that they are playing, forcing their opponent to find a way to respond. Build a different type of offense while opponents are building their defense to play well against all teams, not just your team, or build a different type of much stronger defense, even at the expense of your offense.

The Arthur Ashe/Jimmy Connors match-up in the 1975 Wimbledon final is well known. Ashe, turning 32, was a star of the past who had never won Wimbledon, but made it to the final. Connors, the 22 year old brash upstart had reached the final with his power game and was heavily favored to win.  On the day of the final, Ashe got Connors a little off his game by wearing his US Davis Cup team jacket, a team that Connors had snubbed. Ashe played a completely different style in the final, slicing serves, mixing drop shots, lobs and carefully placed shots to the backhand to limit Connors' ability to maximize his power advantage. Even though Ashe was not playing his strongest style of game, he was able to change the dynamic of play enough to put Connors in a weakened position without enough time to keep his wits about him and adjust his own game. Connors relative inexperience surely played a part in the outcome.

For the current presidential election, the popular press keeps reminding us:
-The general election is not like the primaries. When the primaries are over, each of the winning candidates need to pivot to the general by changing their campaign tactics to move to the center of the political spectrum while holding on to the base in their own party

But as some pundits have pointed out, the formula for success in the Republican primaries has changed in recent decades to be more and more a matter of policy-free debate with the vacuum filled in with personal attack against opponents. Jeb Bush chided Donald Trump that "you can't bully your way to the presidency" which was a statement that sounded false as soon as he uttered it.

Can Trump bully his way to the presidency? Maybe.
If not, does he have to change his style? To what?
Can Hillary Clinton win the general election on the issues? Is there a way to defend herself against Trump's attacks? Does she need to attack very hard right now? In what way? What kinds of attacks would stick?

Preliminary signs suggest that Trump's bullying method with an ever so slight softening will continue in the months ahead and could even be successful, especially if Bernie supporters are bitter and new voter ID rules along with poll closures and limits on absentee ballots are a factor. Perhaps all he needs to do is keep Clinton on the defensive. He will have plenty of help from Republicans who want to get on board.

Clinton's current approach is not promising. There are no apparent knock out punches in the offing. The recent pivot to indicate that Bill will have a policy role on the economy is a bad move tactically - at just the time that Clinton needs to exhibit strength, Trump is saying what a bad guy Bill Clinton is. By drawing on her relationship with Bill, Hillary is offering up the possibility that she can't do it alone, being president, and needs her husband's help. At the same time this is a statement that maybe it is valid and somehow relevant for Trump to criticize Bill as a campaign tactic.

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