Sunday, January 19, 2014

rocks and championships

Last night my buddy Ken and I went out for dinner to a new place.  When the server asked us if we wanted something to drink we both asked for scotch, on the rocks. His tastes are a little more sophisticated than mine so he had a single malt and I went with a blend.  She put the drinks down in front of us and moved on to another table.  The way she placed the glasses we could not tell which one was which. Ken sipped them both and took a guess but acknowledged he couldn't tell. The server came by and told us that his guess was wrong. Fact is, I drink scotch now and again and so does Ken. But we really couldn't tell the difference between the two.   The difference in cost was about five bananas.  We attributed our inability to see a distinction to the likelihood that we are philistines as opposed to any shenanigans at the bar.

After the meal we got the check and we intended to split it down the middle as we typically do when we dine.  I threw in my card, he threw in his. He picked up the bill, looked at it, and told me he saw something on it that he had never seen before.  And he told me that he guaranteed I had never seen it before.  I bit and said, "what?" And he placed the itemized bill in front of me.

There I saw the cost of my scotch, seven ducats--and then indented beneath it was the word "rocks" with a charge of two dollars. His scotch was 12 ducats--also with an accompanying charge of two bucks for "rocks."

We called over the server and asked if we could be reading this correctly.  "Is there really a two dollar charge for ice cubes?"  Her response, sounding as if she was only partly on board with the management decision, was that when they pour the booze over the ice they pour more than if it is "neat" and therefore they charge more.  To be fair in evaluating her explanation I might not have understood her message as what she was saying was difficult to comprehend through the fog of incredulity that hung in the space between where she was standing and where I was sitting.

Well we paid the bill, but could not believe it.  We wondered at the table and I have wondered since about the management decision making process that had as its result the charge.   Who thought that itemizing the ice would be a wise way to price a beverage.  And how could whoever thought that through believe that it would not seem curious to diners and might affect their take-away experience.
My sense is that the management thought process was grounded in knucklehead theory.  This is a phrase I just made up and let's say it refers to a series of notions that have no logical foundation yet are considered wise by those who spew them.

My sense is that some enterprises can survive using knucklehead theory.  A gym club that is the only such club in a region might get away with policies that are the residual of knucklehead theory. The lone taxi cab company in a town might be able to survive despite knucklehead decisions. And even a restaurant might survive-though I doubt it-if they have a series of poorly conceived policies.

Knucklehead theory can relate to the games that will be played today.  There are four teams left vying for the NFL championship.  These teams have survived because they do not operate on the basis of knucklehead theory.  Decisions about what offenses to run, who to play at various positions, how to scout other teams, the best practice regimen--all contribute to victories. And if a coach or general manager subscribe to knucklehead theory why then they will be like, say, the Detroit Lions who have never gone to a super bowl game, or the New York Jets who were last at a superbowl 44 years ago, or the Houston Texans who played this year as if they recruited from Chelm.

Teams like the Patriots and players like Peyton Manning make decisions that are thought out and are wise. Teams and players fail when they, metaphorically, charge for ice cubes based on some mind boggling set of notions.

I've written about this in the past, but I'll repeat here again, that an attraction of sport is that you cannot get away with knucklehead theory.  The four smartest teams in the NFL have survived. Smartest in terms of whom they recruited to play, how they planned for the game,  and how they make decisions during the course of the contests. It is no accident that two of the more cerebral quarterbacks in the history of football are combatants in the AFC championship game to be played in a few hours.  And it is no accident that this is the third time in three years that the cerebral Patriots are playing for a championship.

1 comment:

  1. I think your knucklehead theory is relevant, but the charge for ice was greed. I don't think your friendly neighborhood bar would try it. And not to sound paranoid, but your Scotch and Ken's may have been the same. I had a bar inventory business briefly and there are numerous shenanigans in the bar business by owners, managers, bartenders, and waitresses. Not all based on greed. There are a lot of people other than the customer who appreciate good scotch.