Top positive review
Genetics still matters
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2020
While the book is thoroughly entertaining and packed with fascinating facts, it requires a suspension of disbelief. By the end, Syed also gets over
his head, attempting to turn the undeniable black athletic talent based on a pernicious racial prejudice not supported by science. Blacks are successful in sports because a racist society denies their advancement in any other area, he states. Yet, even in the last chapter, he swings from Eastern Africa, where a small area seems to have an unusually large number of champion long-distance runners, to West Africa and Jamaica where the short distance and sprinter talent is noticeable. Oh, yes, there is a gene, but everybody has the same gene. So what now?
I think he is going way overboard with the notion that genetics has nothing to do with any success; it is more of a lucky combination of thousands of hours of purposeful practice with a great coach, under the right circumstances, and a useful feedback loop. The nature argument is seemingly destroyed by the nurture argument. But, he seems to try too hard.
For example, how many short champion swimmers are out there? How many tall jockeys? How many tall motorcycle racers? Just the genetic distribution of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers have an immense impact on the type of success and athlete could achieve in different areas. Then there is the rich culture and advanced schooling of young Russian chess players. If anything, this symbolizes everything Syed advocates sans doping. Yet, the world champion is a Norwegian without any unique background or specific training like the Polgar sisters. Before him, it was an Indian player, also without any significant training infrastructure.
So enjoy the read, but know that genetics still matters.