For those of you who don't read the New Yorker, there's a fascinating piece in the most recent issue about authenticating artworks. Before reading, know that it's really long, convoluted, there's a major twist about a third of the way through, and it's about the cloistered art dealer world of which few, if any, readers of this site have intimate knowledge. (I certainly don't.)
But also at it's core it's about something Malcolm Gladwell touched on in Blink, that a subject matter expert sometimes "just knows" when something is amiss -- or just right -- at a glance, even when she can't explain exactly what it is that gives her those feelings of rightness or wrongness.
There are three prime examples in my life when I've experienced this phenomenon: one in the entertainment world, and two in football.
When it comes to music, I'm sure just about everyone has heard a song for the first time and immediately understood that everyone they know would like it. For me, the most recent time this happened was with Train's "Hey, Soul Sister". You've all heard it on the radio, on MTV, everywhere. I heard it on some mid-day VH1 show and, even though I knew it was Train, a band with older dudes that hadn't had a hit in a while, and the primary instrument is a freaking ukulele, my stomach jumped, because there's something about the song that appealed to me and I knew, without even thinking about it, that it would appeal to a wide swath of the population.
Second, I have an oddly sharp ability to spot fake punts and field goals before they happen, both on TV and in person. I don't always see it before it happens, but when I do call it as the players line up, I'd guess I've been correct around 75% since I was in high school. I can't explain it. It's probably a combination of understanding the situations when fakes are likely, and sensing slight changes that add up to a trick play.
The final example is Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back. To be fair, lots of people thought he was going to be an excellent player -- after all, he was the 7th overall pick in the draft, and I'm also sure that based on his college performance plenty of other people thought he'd be the best player out of that draft. But I've never felt as strongly about an amateur prospect in football or basketball as I've felt about Peterson, and I told anyone who would listen that Peterson was going to change everything in the pros.
The thing is, though Peterson is among the top three running backs in the league, and I was "right" in the sense that among the glamor positions that casual fans would be able evaluate, Peterson is probably the best player from that draft, there's an argument to be made that Peterson is the fourth-best player from that first round, after Joe Thomas, Patrick Willis, and Darrelle Revis.
When have you had that feeling that you know something with an extreme intensity beyond what the apparent facts at hand would indicate?