I continue to be fascinated with both the press and general football fan reaction to the Bill Belichick 4th down decision in Sunday's game. As most know, the coach went for it on 4th down instead of punting. The visceral reaction to such a call (because it steps out of the mainstream) is "holy smokes he is nuts", but when we look deeper we find out that it might not be so nuts at all. I read this article this morning which cites a University football decision making software's take on the odds, based on historical numbers, called "Zeus".
"Zeus can simulate hundreds of thousands of possible outcomes of a specific scenario. Zeus determined the probability of a Patriots' victory was higher with Belichick going for the first down rather than punting and putting the game into the hands of his defense versus the Peyton Manning-led offense. But Zeus seems to be in a minority."
Then the article lists - based on "gut" mostly - reaction on the other side.
It reminds me back in the 1980's when super-trainers were starting to make noise. A horse with a poor speed figure, or who has never gone 158 before, would go 157 off a claim in a certain barn. Time and time again when this barn change (or barn changes like them) was made, old time handicappers would not believe it and constantly discount the barn change factor due to long held beliefs. The angle might go 10 for 21, yet the horses would consistently pay good money, and handicappers would continue to fade the move. It was too new, too different, and did not fit into their prism as a capper. Now, a generation later, trainer changes are perhaps the most overbet angle in racing.
We spoke a little bit about this phenomenon for handicapping in our "betting without validation" post while back, and I am amazed how much it goes on elsewhere. We see it in football, at work every day, in places like government who tend to make decisions based on history rather than real life today. The hand washing example has stuck with me since reading it.
Alan at Left at the Gate seems as interested as I am in decision making in racing and elsewhere, and posts up some notes on Horse of the Year voting (thanks for the linkback, and the fixing of my grammar, which needs to be done often in my five minute post writing). He takes a stand about the Breeders Cup, believing that owners should be pointing their horses towards it and treating it as a championship day:
Mike Watchmaker agrees with the above opinion, but adds: Rachel Alexandra should not be penalized for not competing in the Breeders' Cup.
Here, I respectfully disagree with the esteemed Racing Form columnist. Is it a "requirement," as in a "prerequisite?" No, certainly not.
So as long as the Breeders' Cup exists and bills itself as a championship event, it better damn well be a crucial determinant of the year-end awards. I believe that some judicial activism on the part of the voters to encourage intransigent owners who hold out for no other reason than to serve their own interests and ego is not only appropriate, but demanded.
I completely agree with this, and do as well for our end of year championship. We need to sell this game, and we need owners supporting Championship races. The best horses should be attending this event, if they are able. 3,000 people watched Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose. 60,000 people and millions worldwide watched Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup. We need the latter and one way to do it is to make sure these races are looked at as a 'must' for year end honours.
Last up on the decision making front, Andrew Cohen, CBS News dude and harness racing owner, has reiterated his desire to get something done in harness racing and if so, be the lead on such an effort. In the latest edition of Trot radio Andrew speaks about the game, suspensions and leadership from his perspective. Despite hearing over and over again that "this can not be done", I firmly believe it will be done; so I figure we might as well make a decision start now. I believe we are a lot closer to doing something than people think.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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