Don’t Live By The Numbers

Rodney Edwards, Staff Writer

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Renowned statistician Nate Silver, tweeted on May 10th, “Cubs will win the World Series and, in exchange, President Trump will be elected 8 days later.”  While joking then, he and the entire nation were in disbelief when these unlikely events actually occurred.

In sports, one subject you can’t go far without hearing is probability. As sports, technology, and entertainment grow more popular by the season, analysts have nothing but the time and tools to judge whether a team has a great chance of winning a game, a division, or even a championship. Websites like fivethirtyeight.com  predict wins and losses based on record, skill level, and even home field advantage. Although the ability to predict and estimate grows more powerful as technology develops, many people are seeing these new figures and numbers as what will happen instead of what is likely to happen.

Yet 2016 has been anything but predictable; the improbable and the unlikely have occurred in stunning fashion one after another. Disbelief at these outcomes has been widespread.

The Golden State Warriors were a prime example. Going 73-9, the best record in NBA history, having the two time, first ever unanimous MVP Stephen Curry, and being called perfection by former NBA stars, the Warriors were predicted to win the 2016 NBA Championship easily. Coasting through the  Western Conference and getting a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the entire sports world believed they would win, with fivethirtyeight calculating that the Warriors would have 96% chance at winning the championship.

However, it didn’t happen. Through bad luck, hidden injuries, and just getting outplayed, the Cavaliers were able to fight back, win three games in a row, and claim the championship. Jaws dropped, all anyone could ask was: How?

It took 108 years for the Chicago Cubs to beat the odds and win a championship. For literally over a century their team was mocked, ridiculed, and downright humiliated for falling from a storied franchise to a running gag. Year after year, despite any change in talent, the Cubs’ hopes were dashed again and again.

Yet in 2016, they were finally in a portion to not only be great, but win it all. Getting into the World Series, many fans were prepared to rock not only the city, but the world with celebration. However, when the Cubs were down 1-3, many believed the winless era would never end. That all changed when one of the most eventful baseball games in history took place. In the tenth inning of the game, the Cubs were able to beat analysts such as Ken Woolums, who cited the their pitching wouldn’t perform nearly as well in the playoffs. They changed the odds.

Predictions, while useful, aren’t always accurate.  You can account for talent, weather, or any other factor, and still wind up with a different outcome. Analyzing what is likley to happen is important and most certainly useful, but hen we use predictions as evidence that something will happen rather than what may happen, we leave the improbable to be more likely to occur.

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Don’t Live By The Numbers