Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Predictions Redux

Just saying...If you go to my 1/7 post entitled Predictions you will see that I picked four out of five of the games this weekend.  I was very wrong with Houston and Kansas City, but Pittsburgh (somehow) prevailed over Cincinnati, Seattle (miraculously) defeated Minnesota, Green Bay handled the Redskins, and Alabama--in a very good championship game--beat Clemson.

So, 80 %--a very good rate for a predictor.

The end of the Minnesota game is worth thinking about as it relates more to life than sports.

The teams, Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, played in subfreezing temperatures for close to 60 minutes.  The Vikings were trailing by one point with a few seconds to go, but were in a position to win if their kicker could put through a very easy twenty something yard field goal. This kicker, in the tundra, had kicked another short one previously in the game, and two long field goals in temperatures which must have made the football feel like a rock. So, to kick a 27 yard field goal would be nothing.

Travel back to 1970.  My brother and I were in Albany after an intramural game or practice.  Our late friend Kurt Legler had been the kicker for our team.  He showed us how easy it was to kick a short field goal.  We didn't think it was so easy, but after he showed us how to do it, we took a ball out and tried.  After a spell we were kicking them through with no problem.  It did seem to me impossible that someone could kick a ball through the goal posts from 40 or 50 yards away, but from close range, it really was simple.

A professional kicker can kick a short field goal in his sleep.  Sure there are 3000 pounds of beef coming at you, but your teammates can block them away.  If the ball is held right, kicking a short field goal should be automatic.

But what happens when 80,000 people are screaming for you, millions of people throughout the world are watching from their living room, and your team's entire 2015 season depends on whether or not you can kick it straight.

What happens is what makes us human can interfere.  The kicker for the Vikings can kick that ball through the goalposts 100 times out of 100 in practice from that range.  Take twenty steps back from your bathtub.  Take a bar of soap. Throw the bar of soap in the bathtub.  That is how easy it is.  But he got nervous. The kick was not even close. Yanked the ball way left.

So what does it mean for those outside of football?  I think two things. One is that we can sometimes choke in the clutch. That is, when it is important for us to be strong and do the right thing we can become nervous and choke. That is okay. We are human. Sometimes we will choke, but the thing is we can get up and try again. Give ourselves a second chance.  To cite another football example from the weekend. Brian Hoyer the quarterback for the Houston Texans played as bad as a quarterback could play on Saturday. Just awful.  He choked. He is much better than he played.  However, he can get back on the saddle, deal with the failure, and come back again.  As can Blair Walsh the kicker for the Vikings who missed the kick on Sunday.

The more insidious choice is to avoid situations where you might fail again.  Take a road that is less risky, avoid putting it on the line.  Then you, apparently, do not fail.  But you, actually, have failed, because you have not given yourself an opportunity to succeed at something you may really desire.   A lesson in sports is to pick yourself up and try again.  In other walks of life, I think what people often do is--after failure--not put themselves in a situation where they might fail again.

On a completely unrelated note, last night I went to a Chinese restaurant.  I was famished.  They brought out my dish and I started consuming with pleasure. I am halfway done, when a waitress comes over and says that my real waitress had brought out the wrong dish.  She puts down mine takes away the one I was eating.  I can barely tell the difference.  One was beef, one was chicken. Both were 90 percent vegetables.  The dinner came with ice cream. I asked for pistachio. They gave me vanilla before they realized that vanilla looked different than pistachio.

I hope the proprietors do not have a second business dispensing drugs to pharmacies.

Last point for betters: If you bet Pitt to win against the spread, you lost by a half a point. If you bet Alabama to win, you lost by a point, because of the "meaningless" touchdown Clemson scored with twelve seconds left.

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