The following is a conversation on the notion of “the cream rises to the top”.
I first publicly touched on this subject, albeit from a different angle, in 2009.
It would seem many – if not most – believed this is how the world works, particularly here in the United States. Head down, work hard, and you will climb the ladder of whatever domain you happen to be in.
Now, in light of recent events and movements in our country, that belief is on shaky ground and arguably naive.
But it seems that in the matter of sports, many still cling on to that notion.
A notion that hinges on the belief that it’s a strict meritocracy.
Well folks, at least in soccer – a fluid 11 v 11 team sport where one on one matchups are not nearly as influential in the win/loss outcome – this notion that the “cream rises to the top” insofar as individual players are concerned, also is a simplistic and naive view.
With that, the following discussion should provide some food for thought on the matter. It comes from a place of experience in both the youth and professional game, and not merely from a hypothetical or theoretical construction.
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“…if you have 2 players like that, it’s not that the cream is the one that rose to the top, it is the opinion of what is the cream by one or a handful of human beings and their opinion that elevated the player further…”
I agree. I think this is an important concept. Most folks would say, ‘yes, so we just need the right folks making those calls!”
How would you answer that?
I understand that’s like picking the investment manager that will beat the S&P 500 consistently. Good luck! I’ll stick with the S&P 500.
But, most folks don’t understand that. The idea is that even the most knowledgeable folks may be missing something. It might be in their own filters or it may just be a capacity issue, they may not have enough time to see all the talent.
So, while a more openly competitive environment isn’t perfect, it’s orders of magnitude better at letting the cream rise to the top.
gary kleiban says
As for your question, the simple answer is “yes, we need the ‘right folks making those calls'”.
Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.
A few things to consider:
1) First and foremost, unless a player is a universally undeniable outlier (think Messi), what is “the cream” isn’t obvious. One man’s cream is another man’s trash. So step one is defining what type of football one wants to play. That then narrows and drives the type of player profile sought out.
2) Now, presuming a particular player profile (driven by the desired team style of play) is defined, there is such a thing as a spectrum in expertise in people’s capacity to judge players. So when it comes to who should be identifying, selecting, and ultimately choosing which players to elevate, there is such a thing as a good and bad hire.
3) Depending what level one is discussing, it might be up to more than 1 person deciding which players to elevate. That introduces all kinds of dynamics.
So, it’s a messy thing.
This is why it’s imperative that the ecosystem be structured/regulated in such a way as to align incentives with sporting excellence. While of course no system is perfect, a better system ultimately yields better outcomes.
Our system in the United States, a closed ecosystem, is not aligned with sporting excellence.
Consequently, “the folks making the calls”, are bureaucrats above all else, with sporting excellence far lower on the priority list.