watching football as per statistical probabilities

I’m watching the game — Seahawks versus Vikiings — with two others.  A man and a woman.  The man holds tightly to this sports watching ideology steeped at the axis of Vegas and Sabermetrics — hewing to statistics and probabilities.  He insists that the Seahawks oughta go for it on a fourth down at about mid-field.  My statement “I’d agree if the ball were any further down” — is met with a curt dismissal — he has the numbers on his side.  And who can argue with the numbers?  It’s all calculated out to a tee.

We bring out the obvious — the last call in last year’s Superbowl.  No, it doesn’t take Vegas sharpshooters to call that a bad call.  Statistically speaking.

We naturally all explode in a burst of cheers when Russell Wilson turns a botched snap and what should be a 20 yard loss into a 30 yard pass, setting up a touchdown.  Our Vegas Sabermetrics guy says “Now.  See.  That’s a champion.”  The woman here points out the obvious — had he botched that 20 yard loss even further, we’d be crying out a “WTF?”, Wilson is a basket-case.  I think I can come up some retro-active statistical play idea that hinges on a couple things … IF the ball can be picked up cleanly, and IF the quarterback can scramble into some safety, there will be a man open — in all probability — because the entire defense is right now converging on him.  So it’s good bit of high risk; high reward.  She next pulls out the play at the end of last year’s Superbowl, that had that been successful, we’d be claiming it as a good play.  “Still would be a bad move,” I say as Sabermetric guy nods sagely.

As the game comes to the end, the Vegas — Sabermetric Man craftily switches sides — his fandom of statistical probabilities out-weighing his fandom of Team Seahawks.  Fair enough, makes as much sense as anything else in spectator sports and the identity politics that it represents.  He says the Seahawks now don’t deserve to win; they deserve to lose — played too conservatively in the last series of downs.  So he’s laughing as we’re fretting as the Vikings easily go down the field and set up an easy chip-shot of a field goal — a goal any kicker in the NFL should be able to hit blind-folded, and with one leg missing.  I’m musing about the probabilities of Wilson getting the ball down the field in the 20 seconds that will follow this kick.  The other viewer sighs, “Hey.  Maybe he’ll miss it.”

Mr. Vegas Sabermetrics Man laughs.  “Yeah.  Right.  What are the odds?”

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