Going Streaking

I was a little slow waking up this morning. I woke up with a nosebleed, actually. Consider it after effects from last night’s NFC Championship Game. I thought my suffering was purely emotional. Maybe it’s physical, too.

Despite the deflating loss by my Minnesota Vikings, I remain a fan. I liken it to philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s theory on why we’re willing to accept the unlikely and the impossible in literature — it’s the willful suspension of disbelief. Did I believe the Vikings would win last night or two weeks from now in the Super Bowl? It’s not that I believed they would, but rather that I wouldn’t allow myself to believe they wouldn’t. Very meta, I know.

My new thing is ESPN.com’s Streak for the Cash. If you haven’t heard, it’s a free game where participants predict the winner from a daily batch of games with hopes of compiling a long winning streak. The games usually last one month, and in that time, the person who earns the longest streak takes home the cash. This month, the bounty is $100,000. The current leader has a streak of 18 wins. I’m sitting on 5.

The Saints-Vikings game was on the docket yesterday, but I chose not to make a prediction. The easy money was on the Saints, but I couldn’t pick against the Vikings. Sports betting requires a firm emotional detachment. I chose to remain a conscientious objector. My streak could be sitting on 6.

Here’s the best and worst thing about Streak for the Cash: It will make you care about games you wouldn’t otherwise give a lick about. I made a pick in the Egypt vs. Cameroon game this morning, a semifinal matchup in a soccer league I’ve never heard of. Still, I spent a half-hour last night doing my research on a several obscure European Web sites. I feel confident Cameroon will win. But who can really know?

The idea we can guess how a game will turn out is part of that willful suspension of disbelief. A realist would say, “Anything can happen. Someone can get hurt. Someone can make a mistake. Someone can have an off performance.” All of these things are true. But it’s my belief sports fans and so-called “experts” use predictions and analysis as padding from the reality we can really never guess what will happen. That’s the best and worst thing about sports — the only thing you can ever predict is their will be a winner and a loser, and in some cases, a tie. The rest is left to chance, and sometimes, chance is harsh.

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