Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Shot Clock is the Wrong Choice for High School Hoops

After last week's news that in the 2022-23 academic year, state high school athletic associations will be permitted to add a shot clock, I fired off a quick blog post opposing the decision for a variety of reasons. After an engaging and fun Facebook exchange with some friends, I expanded my post into my column this week for The Villager. Here are my extended thoughts:

I don’t think I like the idea of a shot clock in high school basketball.

That potential change to the game was announced last week by the National Federation of State High School Associations which voted to permit state associations to adopt a shot clock for the 2022-23 school year. This progressive approach to basketball will not be good for the high school game, and it's just one more example that traditions matter, often as a hedge against frivolous, unnecessary change. Games should not just be about speeding up and pursuing more shots for pure entertainment. There’s so much more to the game, especially at younger levels, and focusing on a quickened pace to force more shots to produce more scoring simply misses the nuanced beauty of the sport.

In addition to compromising the fundamentals of the game, the shot clock in the teenage game will also harm the competitive balance which is so important in high school athletics. While the shot clock has certainly enhanced the college and pro games, it will hurt the high school leagues and exacerbate imbalance among schools. Thoughtful pacing, ball control, and even the often dreaded "slow down game" are competitive strategies many schools use to their advantage. In the spirit of competitiveness, deliberate pacing is a necessary tactic that smaller schools sometimes need. And this measured approach is no less significant in terms of athletics than the advantage some schools have simply by nature of larger pools of kids.

States will each have to make their own decision on the need and benefit of a shot clock, and it's to be expected that coaches and athletic directors will weigh in. In some states like Kentucky, the discussion is already in full force, and there are strong opinions on both sides. The cost of installing and managing the clocks is the greatest concern for most schools, as the shot clock would be just another unfunded mandate that most districts can’t afford. And, while some coaches and fans believe the change will speed up the game and create greater excitement with higher scores, many others are vocally opposed, arguing it’s going to lead to a sloppier game as less experienced players will increasingly force up rushed shots to beat the clock. Additionally, as one coach noted, “I just think that a shot clock would negate some of the things that coaches do to close the talent gap.”

I’ve never liked changes that appear to fix what isn’t broken, and some people believe the shot clock decision is an answer in search of a problem. The high school game is fine as it is, and there isn’t a rash of slow games that will suddenly be improved with the addition of a hurry up offense. I love high school hoops, even when it’s a slow-down defensive battle. And, in those situations, a better option would be for more athletically-talented teams to figure out a way to break the slow down, like breaking the press. Playing smarter and more creatively could avoid needing a shot clock. So, teams should figure out a way to pressure the stall, force turnovers, tie up the ball, and steal a possession. These are all options, and coaches just aren’t thinking creatively enough to solve the problem.

Every sports fan loves the classic basketball movie “Hoosiers,” and most would point to it as an example of the thrill that comes from fast-paced games. However, those who know the history of the game also know that there’d actually be no movie and no story if not for the slow down tactics of the underdog team. In the real game, the athletically outmatched Milan High School team actually stalled and held the ball for more than four minutes in the fourth quarter, which allowed them to run the thrilling buzzer beater shot in the last eighteen seconds to win the state championship. This great sports movie only exists because there was no shot clock.

Ultimately, the shift to a shot clock will only succeed in giving an advantage to teams who already have one, and it’s not a change the game needs. Obviously we can expect that large schools and dominant programs which have a pipeline of top athletes to succeed at the fast-paced level will desire the clock. Smaller schools who use strategy to counter and control superior size and athleticism will certainly oppose the change. The question will be whose benefit is valued and supported by the state associations. Let's hope prudence and a thoughtful approach to what's best for the game are the key influences on the decision.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Way Things Ought to have Been

On the passing of Rush Limbaugh, I thought back to my political coming-of-age in the Reagan era, and of course the first time I heard of this larger-than-life radio personality who was apparently becoming the voice of conservatism. At the time, I would have referred to myself as a conservative and a Republican, two terms which used to be somewhat synonymous but can barely recognize each other anymore. The basics of the conservatism that I knew had to do with the writings of George Will and a the ideas of Russell Kirk, though at that time I didn't yet know Kirk's writings or even his name. The basic idea that old things are generally preferable to new ones and that institutions matter as the foundation of civilized society were fairly basic starting points. 

And then along came Rush's first book The Way Things Ought to Be. The book and its soon to be iconic author were presented to me by a somewhat older friend who phrased the man and his book this way: "You know, he just makes sense." That sentiment, which was framed with all sincerity, was meant to imply that Limbaugh's book and his show and his criticisms and suggestions for society were the back-to-basics honest and objective answers to an increasingly complicated and politicized world. This guy simply cut through the nonsense and clarified complex societal challenges. He "just makes sense," and if our government and schools and businesses and towns and families listened to Rush, everything would be fine ... would be as it "ought to be." 

Oh, the naivety of youth and the American consumer.

It's a shame that Rush never became the conservative voice America actually needs. He had the microphone and the platform and the voice. Sadly, he lacked the insight, the prudence, the wisdom, and the conscience of a conservative. Rather than be a leader who could promote and sell the character of conservatism and its benefit to society, he chose instead to simply be an info-tainer. And, I guess that's not surprising, for he was really only ever a salesman and huckster who found a product he could peddle on his way to ostentatious wealth. Like Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, and Carlson after him, it was only ever a way to make a buck.

Conservatism and the legacies of Kirk and Goldwater and Reagan deserved so much better. With the conscience of a conservative, like Jack Kemp for example, Rush Limbaugh could have helped engineer a truly pragmatic and productive conservative movement that might have helped build a stronger, more egalitarian, and more unified country that was committed to growth and opportunity for all. Instead, the profitable divisiveness of the mid-nineties, orchestrated out of the election and re-election of Bill Clinton, played into and off of mistrust and doubt rather than hope and faith in America. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Should Our Kids Strive for Perfection?

The open-argument free response question on this year's in-person paper/pencil exam for AP English Lang & Comp asked students to consider the value of striving for perfection. As writer and teacher Carol Jago noted, it is quite an apt question for this generation of driven perfectionist kids. And I've been pondering how I might approach such an essay, for it seems fairly interesting on the surface level, but could also be challenging to really go deep on the topic.

I think I might begin by addressing the connotation of the word "striving." Certainly, we might concede that no one really every strives for mediocrity, though even that might be up for debate. All of us have to consider what we're willing to accept, as well as how much effort and at what cost we are willing to pursue levels of achievement. Years ago when I was in grad school, I recall a 300 or 400 level class that several of my cohort classmates took together along with a larger number of undergrads. We were shocked and a little miffed to hear the underclassmen say things like, "I only need a 'C' in the class," or "I'm only taking it pass/fail because I just need credit." That approach certainly compromised and diminished any sort of "striving" they were going to engage in.

And, of course, the literal definition and varied connotations or interpretations of "perfection" are also important to consider in answering College Board's question. We've all heard the advice to "never let the perfect be the enemy of the good," and no matter the task, we must accept some degree of imperfection. Right? Obviously, I don't want anything less than perfect from a doctor who is operating on me, though I must also concede the problem of just how nuanced that is. For students and their expectations of achievement, we should acknowledge that a top score of an 'A' in class or a '5' on the AP exam doesn't necessarily mean 100% perfection in answering questions. Even so-called "perfect scores" on the ACT or SAT actually allow for some missed questions.

In sports, we know that 100% is rarely if ever the bar for perfection. For example, life coaches and counselors are fond of reminding people that if you can hit the ball three times out of every ten in the major leagues, you are likely going to be an All Star. In baseball they even use the term to describe a masterful dominant pitching performance in that a "perfect game" is one where no hits or walks are allowed by a single pitcher. But that doesn't mean the opposing team didn't hit the ball at all. And is it more perfect for the pitcher to strike every batter out or to throw few pitches but allow contact which is smoothly fielded by his teammates for outs? It's an unanswerable question. Hall of Fame basketball stars don't make every shot or win every game. Perfection in that regard is always elusive.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

NBA's Greatest

 GOAT - Top 10

1. MJ
2. Kobe
3. --
Dr. J/Bill Russell/Tim Duncan
Lebron/Steph Curry

Friday, May 21, 2021

Multiple Paths to Learning Math

There has been much in the education news world lately about the decisions in Virginia regarding math sequencing and in California regarding state math standards. In the name of equity, the education leaders in both states seem intent on slowing and impeding math acceleration for advanced students and forcing all students to study math at the same pace. These decision not only fail to support equity and access, but are also flawed in their understanding of pedagogy and learning. Here are my thoughts from my column in The Villager:

All kids do not learn math at the same age, pace, and proficiency. In fact, educators know that literacy, math, and critical thinking skills are not age-specific. That is a key problem and inefficiency of the K12 one-size-fits-all education system. However, many schools adjust for learning needs through flexible acceleration and multiple pathways. As a result, not every kid is forced into or stuck back in Algebra I during their ninth grade year, even though it’s long been the standard course for high school freshmen. As an educator who has worked with many high achieving students, I've known kids in ninth grade to be ready for and successful in geometry, algebra II/trig, and even calculus. Clearly, one rigid course of study in math is not responsive to the authentic learning needs of students.

Thus, a decision by Virginia’s Department of Education that could "eliminate all math acceleration before eleventh grade" is a truly baffling and disappointing move. Providing one math class sequence with no chance of advancement before junior year will be insufficient to support learning, no matter how comprehensive the curriculum may be. It’s a step backward in education, even as it tries to rethink how schools can most effectively teach math to all kids. In schools around the world, math is often taught more holistically with concepts of numeracy, computation, algebra, geometry, and calculus embedded in lessons throughout all grades. And American schools may benefit from that curriculum and style of instruction. But Virginia’s proposal will not fix what isn’t actually broken.

Equally problematic is Virginia’s reasoning that they are holding kids back and providing one option all in the name of equity. For people who have spent a long time in education, for those who understand giftedness and advanced learning, and for those who work tirelessly to promote equitable opportunities for all students, the idea of treating every kid the same is outdated. There’s a clear distinction between equity and equality, and Virginia’s leaders greatly misunderstand it to the detriment of their kids. Equality is providing one path and treating everyone the same; equity is providing equal access to opportunity while providing multiple pathways to success and achievement.

The most obvious concern for parents and teachers is that students would either fall behind in a class they’re not ready for or be bored in a class on material they’ve already mastered. According to Charles Pyle, a Virginia education department spokesman, schools would address diverse learning needs and abilities by differentiating instruction, and doing so would expand “access to advanced mathematical learning” for gifted students. Of course, differentiation is probably the most difficult challenge for teachers, especially in classes of thirty or more students. It’s rarely done well, and the difference between factoring polynomials in algebra and taking derivatives in calculus is far too vast for one classroom.

Sadly, Virginia’s problematic plans are not an isolated case. California is following suit with similar changes to state standards that could ultimately limit advancement and disrupt learning. Wisconsin education professor Scott J. Peters has questioned the changes, pointing out how the move will hurt many minority students who are already advanced and in classes above their age and grade level. Currently in California, tens of thousands of kids of color are in accelerated classes, and the new guidelines would literally slow them down and stifle their learning. A move toward equity should result in kids having access to more opportunities. But in places like Virginia and California, the plan is to force every kid to be the same.

American journalist and curmudgeon H.L. Mencken once wrote, “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry.” The desire of some people to make all kids learn the same thing at the same time at the same pace is a chilling manifestation of Mencken’s warning. The job of any student is simply to reach his or her individual potential. Schools should adapt and respond to each child’s needs, as opposed to inflicting rigid ideas of what they will receive at specific and arbitrary age or grade levels.

Virginia and California are making a huge mistake in their misguided attempt to help kids. Let’s hope Colorado schools don’t make the same miscalculation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Country, Folk, and Jimmy Buffett

I've been thinking a lot about music genres lately, and it's mostly influenced by listening to Alex Rainbird Radio or Indie Folk Central while reading and writing about punk rock music for a paper I'm working on with the claim of Henry David Thoreau as America's original punk. As I ponder, I've been generating a fair amount of discussion on social media by posing questions such as why someone decided that Nirvana would be called grunge rather than punk. Another question was just how we define the genre of Jimmy Buffett's music, which started in Nashville and definitely has country roots. And finally, what's the difference between country and folk music, because while I know it when I hear it, I can't actually define the specifics.

As you can imagine, these sort of queries can generate quite animated debate and commentary.

Some descriptions of Jimmy Buffett include Caribbean country, ambient country lullabies, country rock pop. Rather surprisingly, a few people actually posited that JB could be filed under "bad music," and I had to admit that was the first I'd ever heard of not liking Buffett. While there is certainly a party time, novelty act tone to some of his songs such as "Cheeseburger in Paradise," others are richly crafted narratives and ballads that are not only interesting musically but also perfectly capture the storytelling quality so integral to the country music tradition. Some of those would be "A Pirate Looks at Forty," "He Went to Paris," and "Son of a Sailor."

And that, of course, leads me back to the country and folk question:  what's the difference?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Could a New New GOP Challenge the New GOP?

So, if a voter considers himself conservative and generally votes Republican but is dismayed by what has happened to the party in the past six months, or the past five years, or perhaps even since the time of Reagan, does he have options? People like Evan McMullin of Utah and as many as one-hundred Republican leaders, including former officials and legislators, believe a split from the party may be necessary and even feasible. The recent vote by the House GOP and minority leader Kevin McCarthy to replace Representative Lynn Cheney in her leadership role has accelerated discussions among Republicans and authentic conservatives about how to wrest control of the party from Donald Trump and his sycophants. 

I wonder.

Many people have appreciated the voice of dissent mounted by Evan McMullin since the rise of Trump, and much like his quixotic quest to deny the man of Mar-o-Lago the nomination, McMullin seems to believe there is hope for a new option or even a new party for conservatives. Of course, the viability of a third party to effectively challenge the two-party system is highly doubtful, just ask the Green and Libertarian parties. And in a political climate that practically depends on tribalism and demonization of the other side, it seems unlikely enough voters would risk losing elections to cleanse the party from the influence of Trump. 

So, I wonder.

Monday, May 17, 2021

High School Basketball Shot Clock?

I don’t think I like the idea of a shot clock in high school basketball, a potential change that was announced by the national federation last week. This progressive approach will not be good for the high school game, and it's just one more example that traditions and institutions matter, often as a hedge against frivolous and unnecessary change. Our games should not just be about speeding up and pursuing more points and more shots for pure entertainment. There is so much more to the game, especially at the younger levels, and focusing on quickened pace to force more shots to produce more scoring simply misses the nuanced beauty of sport.

While the addition of the shot clock most certainly contributes to and ultimately enhances the college and pro game, it will hurt the high school leagues and exacerbate imbalance among schools. Thoughtful pacing, ball control, and even the often dreaded "slow down game" are competitive strategies many schools use to their advantage. In the spirit of competitiveness, such deliberate pacing is a necessary tactic that smaller schools sometimes need. And this measured approach is no less significant in terms of athletics than the advantage some schools have simply by nature of larger pools of kids, and perhaps larger kids as a result. 

States will each have to make their own decision on the need and benefit of a shot clock, and it's to be expected that coaches and athletic directors are starting to weigh in on the option. Obviously we can expect that large schools and previously dominant programs which depend on a pipeline of top athletes to succeed at the fast-paced level will desire the clock. Smaller schools who use strategy to counter and control superior size and athleticism will certainly oppose the change. The question will be whose benefit is valued and supported by the state associations. Let's hope prudence and a thoughtful approach to what's best for the game are the key influences on the decision.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Let Kids Live, Learn, and Play Where They Want

After the NCAA recently and finally passed the one-time transfer rule, which allows all college athletes the opportunity to change schools one time in their four years without any penalty or loss of eligibility, my thoughts immediately turned to high school athletes and wondered why the same courtesy isn't extended by state high school athletic associations. It certainly should be. Here's my column for The Villager:

In 2013, a young man named Nathan Starks moved from Las Vegas to Colorado. A highly touted football player, he transferred from a private school in Nevada to Cherry Creek High School, where he planned to continue playing and hopefully draw attention from college programs. However, the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) forced him to sit out half the football season, declaring he lost eligibility because his move was athletically motivated.

Starks’ situation was not uncommon for high school and college athletes. Athletic associations have long prohibited student athletes from easily transferring from one school to another without penalty. Losing a year of eligibility is meant to deter athletes from moving around. In Starks’ case, however, it seems like a rather huge decision for a family to move to a different state just for sports. It also seems to be somewhat out of the jurisdiction of CHSAA to pass judgment.

In fact, an arbitrator agreed with the Starks family on appeal, shortening the penalty from a full season to six games. Regardless of the reason for the family’s move from state to state and school to school, my question is this: Who cares? Why should CHSAA have the right to tell a family where they can live, go to school, and play sports? If a family moves from one high school to another for better academics or a choir or the debate team or band or math curriculum or any other reason, the state has no concerns. But if parents make a choice motivated by athletic opportunities, CHSAA penalizes the kids. And that is not right.

Supporters of CHSAA’s vice-like control of a child’s school attendance and sports eligibility argue athletes will only choose big schools with winning programs, and that hurts competition while exploiting students. That concern seems excessive and unrealistic. The top five quarterbacks in the state will obviously want to attend five different schools because they don’t want competition for playing time. The same holds for the top point guards, 100-meter freestyle swimmers, soccer goalies, and on down the line. Clearly, in baseball the top five pitchers would never attend the same …., okay, wait a minute. That one might be valid. But you get my point.

For as long as there have been high school sports, there have been dominant programs and athletic powerhouses. Arbitrary restrictions on a family’s choice have not prevented the same five or ten teams from dominating numerous sports. And even if eligibility rules established a truly level playing field of equally competitive teams, it could still be argued the policy is an unconstitutional limit on freedom of movement and residence. At the very least, CHSAA’s policy seems to counter the state’s policy of open enrollment.

Granted, student athletes don’t lose eligibility if authorities determine the family made a “bona fide” move or if the student qualifies for a hardship waiver. That determination should not, however, be CHSAA’s decision. The nature of the move is a parenting issue and should be a private matter. Additionally, bona fide move exemptions may disproportionately favor more privileged families. Before CHSAA is allowed to continue its prohibitive practices, they should publicize the racial and socioeconomic metrics for families seeking and receiving approval of bona fide moves.

In addition to hardship waivers, how about access waivers? A student may choose to move because he has a greater chance of playing. What is wrong with that? Has CHSAA ever considered that lack of playing time could be a hardship? What if a kid might not start, play, or even make the team at one school, so he transfers to another where he has a chance. Not being able to play and be seen could be a hardship for a kid if it costs him a fair chance at a scholarship. Or perhaps it might just cost him the joy of sport.

On April 28, 2021, the NCAA Board of Directors ratified a new one-time transfer rule which cleared the way for immediate eligibility in all sanctioned sports following a change of school. Now, all student athletes receive a one-time transfer opportunity with no penalty or loss of eligibility. At the very least, CHSAA should offer the same courtesy to Colorado high school athletes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Today's Republican Party is not Conservative, and Conservatives would not be in today's GOP

The terms liberal and conservative are pretty familiar in contemporary America, and most people would claim to know exactly what they mean. However, when they use the terms, they more likely mean their perceptions of the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties. And, now the association of the word conservative with the Republicans is becoming problematic. In fact, the politics of the past twenty years, and certainly the politics of the past five have revealed that conservative does not mean Republican, as most people calling themselves Republican are decidedly not conservative. The expected vote by the GOP to remove Liz Cheney from her leadership position is only the most recent and obvious manifestation of the philosophical and ethical mess in the party of Reagan and Goldwater.

To even begin to understand what is meant by the term "conservative," and why Republicans are not it, we should look to the origins of the idea from the European neo-classical era, as well as its more recent American manifestation. The source for American conservatism has to begin with Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind in 1953 clarified the beliefs, which are distinctly different from policy positions, legal issues, constitutional norms, and campaign platforms. In a recent piece for the Imaginative Conservative, history professor and scholar Bradley Birzer explored the significance of "Russell Kirk Reconsidered," a most insightful and apt piece for the troubled GOP.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Sophia & Bill did it Again

After the sheer brilliance of the film Lost In Translation, you might expect that the director and actor would not want to mess with the success of that surprise hit. But you'd be wrong if that director happened to be Sophia Coppola and the actor was the legendary Bill Murray. While LIT was a surprisingly successful film for such an understated story and pared down directing, the magic between these two artists shouldn't have been. And now, like before with very little fanfare, Sophia and Bill have done it again with the movie On The Rocks. The story and directing are again aligned with the style that brought so much with so little to Lost in Translation, but OTR is not a remake or sequel or attempt to repackage the same old thing. It's a worthy follow-up, and I'd definitely watch a third film from these two.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Random Thoughts for a Thursday

A few thoughts, quips, and comments are on my mind this afternoon. Here are a few things to ponder:

PSA: Grandbabies is not a word. It’s grandchildren, grandson, granddaughter, grandchild

PSA: It’s anyway, not “anyways.” And if you say “any-who,” I’m not sure we can be friends.

I am honestly suspicious of anyone who doesn’t drink coffee.

I am proposing that the two-finger “peace” symbol shall now be known as the universal “I’m vaccinated” sign. When people meet up, they flash the “V-sign” to acknowledge and confirm. #VforVaccinated

Perhaps burning bridges is just a way of making sure you go forward in life and not backwards.

Not everyone is gifted. Everyone is not “brilliant in their own way.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Stolen Art, Fake Art, Is It Art? -- Lots of great documentaries on Netflix

Art makes for great stories, and sometimes the story is a piece of art unto itself.

That's certainly true on Netflix lately with the premiere of Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art. This documentary look at one of the largest art fraud cases in contemporary history is a fascinating look into the world of high-priced contemporary paintings. The question of "what is art" is always present when talking of the abstract expressionists like Rothko and Pollack, but that question becomes more intriguing when suspicion of art forgery enters the picture, and the question becomes not what is art, but how do you know for sure that art is authentic. 

Made You Look is a great piece of investigating filmmaking with a cast of characters who entertain as much as they beguile. One of the best is a young millennial art critic for the New York Times who opines about Ann Freedman, the curator of the esteemed Knoedler Gallery which bought and sold numerous fraudulent works, something to the effect of, "She either knew and was in on it, or she's just incredibly stupid." And that's not even the most shocking statement of the film. As one critic says, "You couldn't make this stuff up." The film is filled with an incredibly entertaining cast of characters, including the forger, the victim, the authenticator, the curator, and a seemingly endless list of experts who weigh in. It's simply a rich and colorful story that will beguile and amuse anyone with even a passing interest in the art world. 

And from a grand fraud scheme that was eventually uncovered to the greatest unsolved art heist of all time, Netflix also features a fascinating limited series, This Is a Robbery, which attempts to unravel the story of the 1991 theft of the Gardner Museum in Boston, a baffling crime the netted nearly a half billion dollars' worth of paintings, none of which have ever been recovered. The stories behind the stories behind the story of the Gardner Heist will mystify nearly anyone, especially because it seems impossible not only that the heist ever happened, but also that it's never been solved. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Listening to the Radio

I still listen to the radio in the car.

It might be one of the most GenX things I do, and I know it's starting to fade from common practice as everyone can now connect their phones with Spotify or Pandora of iTunes and play whatever they want. But it's scrolling through the radio stations that I love the most, not know what is coming up and always being surprised when the "deejay plays my favorite song." My radio dials go from jazz to alternative to country to classic rock to Eighties or Nineties hits to R&B to hip hop to modern pop and hit radio. I love the variety and diversity, and I listen to all the stations.

This morning I went out to the car to listen to the radio while I waited for my daughter who needed a ride to school. And the radio wouldn't work. Literally. The music would not play on any station. I was really bummed out. My daughter just laughed and told me to play from my phone. 

And that just misses the point entirely.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Michael Lewis Knows -- He's had a Premonition

Bestselling non-fiction writer Michael Lewis has always seemed to know where there's a story brewing before anyone else has any idea it will be a thing. From his earliest days uncovering and spilling all he knew about the finance industry in Liar's Poker, the Princeton grad just seems to have a premonition for the latest story of our times.

His latest work The Premonition: a Pandemic Story was practically written and published in real time as the coronavirus/Covid-19 public health catastrophe unfolded over the past fifteen months. And in producing his latest insightful non-fiction narrative, it might appear he knows something the rest of us don't. The reality is he simply listens to the people who do know, and he asks good questions. That angle has been part of what the WSJ calls "A Unified Theory of Michael Lewis."