Monday, January 28, 2008

Reasons to Believe

I don’t do predictions. I’m far more interested in making arguments based on the past than predictions for the future.

This is partly because I’m a history buff, and believe that all kinds of stupid things are said by people who are ignorant of the past. To believe that today’s political operatives are rougher than those of the past could only mean you know nothing about the blood-sport that was American politics from 1800 to the Civil War. To believe Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop ever can only mean you’ve never seen the back of Honus Wagner’s baseball card.

But it’s also because making predictions is a fool’s game. Even people who dedicate their lives to a particular topic are regularly embarrassed in their predictions. Monkeys throwing darts beat stock market experts. Economists can’t agree on whether a recession is coming. As for meteorologists…let’s just say I don’t cancel my tee time if the forecast is for rain.

Then there is the NFL. You can make a case that Dr. Z from Sports Illustrated is the most knowledgeable football writer in the world. Like him or not, nobody else combines his encyclopedic knowledge of football history with copious viewing of current game film. So how did Dr. Z do in his picks for the NFL season?

He thought the Bears, Panthers, Saints, Eagles, Bengals, Ravens, and Broncos would make the playoffs. He thought the Saints, would defeat the Chargers in the Super Bowl. He thought the Giants would go 6-10. And it’s not just Z. Vegas oddsmakers, who are better than anyone else at making sports predictions, predicted a Bears-Saints NFC Championship game. Neither team made the playoffs.

All this is my way of saying that I am not going to predict that the New York Football Giants are going to upset the undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday. I am, however, going to give you 5 reasons they have a chance:

1. Momentum
As stated previously, the Patriots are not the dominating team they were through the first 10 weeks of the season when they had 9 blowouts, and victories over the Colts and Cowboys. Since then they have dodged many bullets, including last week when only the timidity of Norv Turner prevented an injury-riddled Chargers team from knocking them off. The Giants, meanwhile, are playing their best football of the year.

2. 38-35.

3. Faith
For a big upset to happen, especially in a sport that rewards intensity, it is critical for the underdog to believe it can win. The Giants aren’t cocky – they understand the enormity of the task ahead of them. But 38-35, plus victories over the two best teams in the NFC, make them believe they can win.

4. Rest
On ESPN Radio this morning, Mike Greenberg said, “The 2 weeks off is favorable to the Patriots in every conceivable way.” And went on to talk about Belichick’s preparation, the Giants momentum slowing down, etc.

I completely disagree. The Giants have been playing must-win football games since the Redskins loss. They have been on the road for weeks. Big Blue desperately needed to rest, and desperately needed to get off a plane for a few days. The break enables them to do it without in any way slowing their momentum. Do you think they are going to forget what they’ve done in the last month?

5. Luck
Sports fans are reluctant to admit what a huge role luck plays in sports. Over time, naturally, the better teams prove themselves and the lesser teams lose. But in a single game, a single series, a single moment, anything can happen. Just ask these guys. Or these guys. Or these guys.

So, no predictions, but some reasons to believe. Unfortunately, Dr. Z just picked the Giants to win. So they may be doomed…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's precisely because they *theoretically* have a good chance of making a game of it that I'm all but positive that the Patriots are going to take it in what will be the most lopsided landslide in recent memory. Just cuz that seems to be the way the universe works.

Still, one can cling to one's hopes.

Hey, look at me, I'm talkin' about football.