Monday, March 21, 2011

Repeat after me:
Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.


Well, the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament has come to a close and my bracket is out of the running. It wasn't complete garbage, more like mediocre with 31 correct predictions out of 48, but mediocre ain't gonna get you in the money.

You might think that predicting the outcomes of win-lose games would be a 50%-50% gamble, but in our set of 127 brackets, the average number of correct prediction was 30.8 of 48, or around 64%. One of the big reasons for the improvement over flat out guessing is seeding. When a #1 seed plays a #16, it's crazy to pick an upset. Likewise, #2 vs #15 is pretty much a done deal as well and #3 seeds went a perfect 4-0 in the first round as well. If you picked all the #1, #2 and #3 seeds to win in the first round, that's 12 correct predictions and just 36 more "tough" games to choose. If you go 50%-50% on the rest, that's 30 correct without getting very lucky or clever.


Let's switch to a guessing game that is much tougher to do and hard to figure the odds on mathematically. Alt.obituaries, a newsgroup I used to subscribe to when the Internets were young and so was I, has a deadpool each year. Before January 1, you have to submit a list of 40 famous people who you think will die before the next January 1.

I had never done this before because I don't actually care for predicting people will die, but now that I'm running The Other Blog, I figured I'd make a list of 40 out of the people marked for death and right soon by the vultures of the gossip world.

I'm not really doing this for fortune or fame. There is no entry fee and first prize is a bottle of Moxie, an East Coast brand of root beer.



I entered the deadpool under the nom de mort Brave Last Dave, a pun on the "Brave Last Days!" headline the tabloids use so often in cases like this. Given how badly the tabloids did in 2010, six correct out of sixty six predictions fatalities, I figured Brave Last Dave would be near the bottom of the standings all year long. But on Jan. 3, I got my first hit, in fact the first hit of the year, with Anne Francis, the lovely blond who starring in Forbidden Planet and Honey West. I started getting the idea that maybe I'd get about a hit a month and actually have a chance to get that free bottle of Moxie, favored fizzy drink of the now departed Ted Williams.

But since then... nothing. In February, the tabloids were absolutely certain Zsa Zsa Gabor and Miss Elizabeth Taylor would be on the other side of the lawn before the month was out, but Spring is about to sprung and both of those lovely women are still with us. Zsa Zsa is pretty stunning. 93 years old, broken hip, found in a pool of blood, leg amputated, infection set in so the leg was amputated even further, had a stroke and is still clinging to life.

I tell ya, that old bird is tougher than a two dollar steak.

The tabloids lean very heavily on former TV stars when they predict someone is going to die, so there was no chance I was going to get a hit with the recently deceased Secretary of State Warren Christopher or even Dodger great Duke Snider. They could have mentioned Jane Russell before she died, but that's aiming slightly older than their target demographic. It's much more about Mike Connors (still alive and best wishes) than it is about Michael Gough (recently deceased and best wishes to his family and friends).

Yes, Spring is nearly here and though there are many months left, I expect that if I'm ever going to have any Moxie, I'm going to have to buy it my own damn self.

1 comment:

MiriamHopkins said...

I actually do buy myself a Moxie, traditionally up to 48 hours after one of my picks is announced dead. But I have a side bet with another aodeadpooler, $5 per stiff the winner beats the other by, so maybe I'll have enough for a Moxie once a month in 2015...