I don’t know how much money was lost yesterday because of the Super Bowl victory of the Giants over the Patriots, but I suspect that the upset involved a lot of money. Super Bowl XLII (BTW, do people really know their Roman numerals anymore?) was supposed to complete the Patriot’s “perfect season.” The Patriots even trademarked the line and variations on it to ensure they controlled the market for using it.
As a Giants fan, I was happy and had said in the weeks leading up to the game that the stats don’t really mean much more than what they are – stats; that’s why we play the game! If you were to fall for the hype, the Giants should have just sat at home and forfeited. Over and over, the media hype concluded that the so-called “greatest team ever” could not loose this game (another clue about the betting line being what it was!).
But it’s not just football’s Super Bowl and other sporting contests where this is a problem. Political contests are victims of the same kind of thinking. Phrases like “it’s a sure thing,” he or she is a “lock,” “no one can beat him or her,” “not worth the money to try to run,” and "they just isn't able to win" are all part of our political dialogue. Why bother having the election if all this so-called expert data is so accurate?
We have seen this problem already this year in the primaries, and of course, tomorrow’s Super Tuesday falls prey to the same thinking. Studies have shown that these reports in the media really do affect people. Why bother registering or voting, the winner is a foregone conclusion, some may believe. My one vote can’t change the outcome, others may complain.
Yet repeatedly, like last night’s Super Bowl, we are reminder why we play the game. Data is not supreme. We play the game because the underdog can in fact win. Human behavior is not and never has been a done deal. Stuff happens and underdogs do win. All sorts of things might explain why this happens, but it can never happen if we don’t accept this simple position – play the game and see who wins! Don’t let “them” tell us who the winner is! Let the efforts of the competitors answer the question, not the green eyeshade data manipulators!
Play the game!