Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stop me before I destroy another seeming NFL dynasty (not that I was necessarily doing so before)

I admit it’s gotten kind of tired for me to keep claiming roundabout responsibility for the outcomes of sporting events based on whether I held any belief in the winning team ahead of time—that is, as long as I didn’t think a team had a chance (genuinely convinced of that, not just pretending) they would win, or if I did think a team was going to win (again, genuinely convinced of that) they would lose—so I won’t say that I necessarily had anything to do with the Colts not making it to the Super Bowl. I will lay out the facts and allow you to decide for yourself.

We start a little over a year ago. The co-worker who sits next to me runs a playoff pool (which, for the purposes of any law enforcement personnel who may see this, is done only for entertainment purposes… uh yeah) which works thusly: Prior to the start of the NFL playoffs, you select which teams you think will win, all the way to the Super Bowl. Yes, you pick all your teams for four weeks before any games have been played. For each team you pick that wins, you get a certain number of points. In the wildcard games , each is worth 5 points (20 total possible); in the divisional games, each is worth 10 (40 total possible); in the championship games, each is worth 20 (40 possible); in the Super Bowl, the winner is worth 60. Whoever gets the most total points wins (the tie-breaker’s based on picking the total points scored in the big game), and with the increasing points as weeks progress it is possible to miss some early on but still have a chance, but without getting the Super Bowl winner it’s tough.

However, the trick with a system such as this is to try to pick some upsets, to guess at some teams that most of the other players wouldn’t pick. It’s more a matter of sneaking into victory by going against the grain, so your teams not only win but you’re the only one who has your particular set of winners.

Last year, to try to find that balance of unlikely winners, I went with the Packers and the Colts. That’s what I consciously chose as the two teams to advance to the Super Bowl. However, on a lark, I also went game by game, flipping a coin (heads for the home team, tails for the road team) to decide. The coin, by seeming random chance, selected (and I am not kidding) the Patriots and the Eagles, with the Patriots winning. A rather obvious way to go, and one many participants chose, which was partly why I didn’t do it.

For those of you who don’t remember last year’s playoffs, the Packers were out the first round, and the Colts were out in the second round, so I had no chance of winning the pool before it was even half over. The coin, however, got both teams that made it to the big game, and even “chose” the winner.

So I wasn’t even close to being as good as dumb luck.

This season, I’d been predicting the seemingly invincible Indianapolis Colts would win the Super Bowl as early as October; not a risky bit of prognostication, but what I really thought. Regarding other teams in the post-season, I really didn’t have a strong feeling, so I started out with the coin-flip method to see what results it gave. Its match-up in Detroit: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Seattle Seahawks.

Now, much like I believed the Colts would win I believed the Jaguars would not—they wouldn’t beat New England, nor Indianapolis, nor Denver. The entire NFC selections I could live with, and the other games in the AFC I was okay with the coin’s choices, but I did consciously change the games to having the Colts go to the Super Bowl. I’d touted them for some time, and was sticking with that.

Everything else was not my choice, other than choosing to go along with what the coin flips determined. The Colts were the only team with my real support. (I wasn’t, per se, rooting for them; I was merely believing in them.) So when I turned in my selections, it was more the coin’s just with my name on them. Many of the games the coin picked involved home teams (it was a heads-heavy period), which were usually the favorites, and which were ones that many of the other participants also chose.

Thus, my choices were largely the popular ones, and with three road teams winning (in what some consider upsets) in the opening wildcard games, I got only two of the four right. The Colts, having an opening week bye, hadn’t even played yet. However, I was already eliminated from winning.

Someone else in the pool had the exact same picks that I did for the remaining three weeks, but she (yes, a woman—and not a football fan at that) had gotten all four right the first week, so no matter how I’d do from then on, I’d end up 10 points behind her. So from the standpoint of wanting the Colts to win to keep my chances alive, I didn’t care. My “faith” in them was not based on whether they would win me anything, just they seemed really strong.

As you’re probably aware, the Colts lost their first game of the playoffs. Of the four games in that second weekend of the playoffs, I again got only two (Seattle and Denver), but really, the coin got those. (The coin did lose with the Bears; it wasn’t perfect even when I didn’t change its picks.)

When I went in to work the Monday after that game, my co-worker running the pool (whose Cowboys I’d kept out of the playoffs) looked at me and said I had jinxed the Colts by actually choosing them—although every other participant except one did the same. (It is true that about 75 percent of those in the pool had the Colts to go all the way.) I’m not saying that I did or did not jinx them. You decide for yourself.

I take some consolation in knowing that had I stuck with the coin’s picks with no alterations, I would have done even worse (I’d have gone only one-for-four the first week) initially. However, winning it all, the coin ultimately had… the Seahawks. Thus, although the poor showing early on probably would have put me in too much of a hole to come back, at least I’d still have a team that was in the game selected as the winner.

(Several participants did choose Seattle, and of them there’s two in the lead who’ll end up tied should that team win; only one, out of 40, chose Pittsburgh to go this far, but due to bad picks in prior weeks, even if the Steelers win, he’ll only end up tied with those two in the lead. Yeah, ain’t that a bitch.)

I’m reluctant to go on record with endorsing either team, because although I think the Steelers look strong, I am sympathetic toward the Seahawks. I’m not sure whether I’m “supporting” Pittsburgh while “rooting” for Seattle. Thus, if I do really jinx one team or another, it could go either way here; I fear this will be too confusing for whatever power it is that uses me as the reverse-basis for determining who gets to win. But more likely I don’t have any influence, and it’s all been coincidence—an uncanny amount of coincidence—thus far.

So no matter what happens on Super Bowl Sunday… it isn’t me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?