Monday, March 22, 2010

Life lessons from basketball - because there has to be something useful to take out of this.

Face it, if it weren't for the fact that most of us have money riding on this NCAA basketball tournament, we wouldn't give a tinker's damn if Ohio beat Kansas or Purdue beat Pittsburgh. We like lotteries, and this is the biggest one in the country. It's even better because we don't have to declare taxes on the money we win (if) and we get to tell the people at work how smart we are, even though we don't know a wit about whether Kansas State is better than Baylor. All we know are the numbers.
A three-seed is supposed to beat a ten-seed and there's no way a 12 seed can beat a 5, unless you're Cornell - then you're a genius if you picked Cornell. However, if Ohio beats Kansas it's some sort of anomaly because there is no way Ohio should have won that game. Unless, of course, the NCAA committee who picks the seeds has made a grievous error, which is what we will claim, since we are too smart to think that Kansas could possibly lose.
We get wrapped up in numbers and what someone else tells us is valid, even though we have little first-hand knowledge of the facts. For most of us, the tournament is the first time we've seen many of these teams play. Funny how that doesn't stop us from being incredulous when a higher seed loses to a lower one. It's part of our inner bias and the way we trust experts to guide us through life. So much so, that we are willing to gamble our own money on what somebody else tells us is valid.
On a level playing field, if you had picked Ohio to beat Kansas you might have an argument, but doing so when one is placed 14th and the other first would make you something of a nitwit, in a sporting sense. I'd challenge anyone to analyze the Ohio basketball team and make an argument. They can't because they haven't seen them, and only know that they are third from the bottom in the Midwest as placed by the NCAA tournament committee.
Believing it makes you something of a boob. You can also apply this new found knowledge to other aspects of your life - somewhat more meaningful aspects than a basketball tournament - and I will leave you to determine to which of those you apply it.
Chances are, you have your own pre-determined 14 seeds and 1 seeds that surprise you with their success or failure.

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