Sox are way out ahead, might as well blog

I’m watching the ball game. Manny Ramirez comes in to score from second. The Rockies throw to their catcher who tags Ramirez as he crosses the plate. It’s a photo finish, but Ramirez is called out, correctly. The two announcers dispute the call. One says, “so why did the umpire wait so long to make the call?” Z, sitting next to me, says “because he was waiting to see if the ball was in the glove, idiot.” Then I hear Joe Buck, the other announcer, saying, “because he was waiting to see if the ball was in the glove [idiot].” The point? Z called it, and I couldn’t ever, in a million years of watching baseball, have called it, I couldn’t have.

I understand baseball better than I understand any other sport. I get lots of its little intricacies. I have an intuitive sense of the game. I also watch basketball (which has a far greater aesthetic reach) and hockey (which is Canadian). I more or less get these sports too. I can get sports. But not as well as Z can.

This is spurring a series of thoughts I’ve had for a while. Remember how Larry Summers got fired had to resign for saying that men might be better at hard sciences than women? I never thought he deserved it. Because here’s what I think.

I think women are by and large smarter than men. Everyone knows that on average little girls are quicker on the uptake than little boys. Received wisdom says that boys eventually catch up. But what if they don’t? Personally I don’t see much evidence that they do, and adding up my whole life – where I’ve known lots of smart and dumb men, lots of smart and dumb women, and thought a lot about the ways in which I myself am smart and dumb, because everyone’s split — adding it all up, I tend to think that women as a group are measurably further up the intelligence line than men as a group. But, if this is the case, couldn’t it also be true that men’s intelligence is strung out more thinly and farther on the line, particularly when it comes to piddly little things like the ball in a glove or Fermat’s Theorem? If I’m right, why can’t Summers be right too? Or at least allowed to throw it out there.

As often when I post on big questions, I’m aware that there’s relevant literature. I’ve read a number of feminists on this issue, most relevantly Gilligan. I’m not making any claims that distinguish innate characteristics from socialization. I’m not writing to situate myself in the discourse, and I’m not using all the theory at my disposal. I’m providing a few raw thoughts. Meanwhile my estimate of little boys’ intelligence has gone up in proportion to how difficult I find it is to transform Plasma Blast Bumblebee into a Camaro. Read: I bought myself a toy the other day, a Transformer, one that some 4 year old boys have no trouble with, and I’m having a little trouble with it.

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7 thoughts on “Sox are way out ahead, might as well blog

  1. Right on! Girls think better! And continental girls think best of all — though my friend Bumblebee tells me plastical contentinal girls might have an edge over carbon-based ones. We girls read only the best thinkers — Derrida, Levinas, Heidegger — to learn the techniques of wordplay we need to be able to do what Drew Faust, the new President of Harvard, did: wait for a man to say something substantive and then tear it up publicly to get ahead.

  2. I’m not sure one way or the other about the larger question, but isn’t it quite possible that both the baseball and the transformer questions are answerable by considering What One Pays Attention To? Think of all the jokes in the ’80s about how our generation had to teach our parents to use VCRs … or, for that matter, a smart eight-year-old’s ability to put his or her parents to shame in whatever realm of trivial s/he has become expert … G is smarter than me about a good many things and vice versa, but I’m pretty sure that we can trace almost all of them to our underlying interests. (Baseball, for example, is his and not mine; but as a result it might very well be Squiss’s, too. She fell asleep while watching baseball pretty much every game of the League Championships and World Series, and currently knows more of the Sox by sight than I ever hope to.)

  3. Yes, the question is tied up with the question of focus — and focus, as you begin to imply, is largely a matter of socialization. I hope Squiss grows up to be able to out-call Joe Buck!

    I also have to ‘fess my bias, as follows. All the ways that I’m smart are connected to narrative (so I love baseball because it’s all story) and all the ways I’m peculiarly stupid are about details, the little things that allow you to finish what you started (so what I miss in baseball tends to be technicalities). So a lot of it here is just me, not my sex.

  4. Oh, and Andy, I’m glad you’ve revealed to the world that you’re a girl. I was thinking I’d have to say something about that soon. I guess you know a lot about false impressions — since you have a boy’s name and no hair, people must mistake you all the time. You have my sympathy, you poor thing! But, still, there’s no need to be mean. Because, honey, being mean makes your thinking sophistic. Summers is not “man.” Nor is Faust “woman.”

  5. I’m sure you know only Aristotelians observe the mean. I’m more Platonic than Aristotelian because he was into plastic. And when I spoke to Summers and Faust at her investiture, they were quite sure about which of them was man and which woman — so don’t go calling me a sophist!

  6. Andy (or whoever the heck is playing Andy): you’re cute, and getting comments from you makes me happy, but you always have to have the last word, don’t you? Sooo just like a girl.

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