Last night on Sunday Night Football we saw a coaching call that reminds me that every day decisions, whether they be in sports, or life, can generally be described as a horseplayer decision.
With the ball on his own 28 yard line, up by six and facing a 4th and two, Patriot coach Bill Belichick stunned the conventional football world by going for it. The pass was completed, but the ball slightly bobbled and the referee placed the ball just behind the sticks. Indy ball.
They would go on to score, and with only a few seconds left New England could not get the ball into field goal range. Victory was Indy's.
The press shows their true colors on this - when something goes right, they tend to over-hype praise. And when something goes wrong - they tend to over-hype criticism. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
Fortunately, we can mess around and check the numbers, like a bettor does when making a value decision on a horse in the 4th. What would you have bet the Patriots before the play? What would you have bet on Indy to win if they are stopped. What would you have bet on Indy if they receive the ball on a punt instead? What would you have bet the Pats, if Indy scores quickly and they needed a field goal to win?
Speaking with a professional bettor who runs these numbers better than I can, said "He [Belichick] made the right call because the odds favored him. It was probably around 60-40 call - at the very least a coin flip - and nothing out of the ordinary if you run the numbers." In effect, Belichick made a value bet.
If you read the papers today or listen to call-in shows about this, I would bet dollars to donuts you will read about a "blatantly stupid call" moreso than other more dispassionate opines, over and over again. Patriot fan "Vic from Long Island" will be calling for heads, but as horseplayers, it appears the decision was nothing more than debatable.
By the way, well before that play with New England up big, the Patriots traded at 1.01 at Betfair. If you would have taken a chance that Indy could come back and win you could have laid New England $100 and got back $10,000. Not a bad days work; and you might want to send Peyton Manning a Christmas card if you did.