James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, November 17, 2008

How the World Works, or "Sosa Hits His Grand Slams in Bunches"

This past weekend in both college and pro football was somewhat ho-hum overall, with no great shocks to the polls or standings. But it did provide:
  • the first tied game in six years with the Cincy-Philly 13-13 score;
  • the first 11-10 score in the history of the NFL, strangely achieved on the last play of the game on a call that's controversial only because of the heavy gambling interest in pointspreads, not because it has an impact on the standings.
  • Tennessee Titans achieving the relatively rare feat of going 10-0.
I'm not a betting man myself, but I will predict that one of the following three things will happen:
  • there will be another tied game this year;
  • there will be another 11-10 score this year or the next;
  • Tennessee will go 16-0 this season, following up on New England's 16-0 season last year.
But I have this caveat: the more widely-read this post becomes, the less likely any of these events will happen, for the very reason that I'm predicting them. After all, the Great Pumpkin doesn't come when you expect him, but when you don't. The obscure blogger, or astrologist (think of Jeanne Dixon and JFK) who happens to call it right may gain some notoriety, but in the long run U2 was correct about still having not found what we're looking for. We usually find, instead, what we're not looking for, or what we're looking for finds us in unexpected ways.

By 1998, someone may have predicted that 10-year veteran slugger Sammy Sosa would have hit a Grand Slam for once in his life. But he never did, until one night in 1998. And then he did so again the very next night. A good friend of mine was watching, and dashed off an email to the broadcast booth that satirized a common sports cliche. I believe it was then-Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone who read from it: "Sammy hits his Grand Slams in bunches."

This is how the world works. The unlikely is drawn to the unlikely. No number sequences appear random; one can spot a pattern or disturbing repition if the sample is large enough or one looks hard enough. I say the NFL was overdue for its first 11-10 score, and overdue for another tied game. That neither came up for so long suggests that either may come up again sooner than expected. The same goes for an undefeated regular season.

Some months ago while driving I stumbled up Ozzy on a mainstream classic rock radio station. He has "Crazy Train" and, at most, one or two other songs in irregular rotation at such stations. I noted that I hadn't heard him in a long time. The next day, I scanned the dial to that same station again and heard Ozzy again. Had it been the Guess Who, I'd have thought nothing of it; they have 6-8 songs in heavy rotation everywhere in the country.

This past Saturday, I heard Elton John do "Honky Cat" in its entirety on an oldies station, noting I hadn't heard that particular song in a while. Then I hit scan, and on the same ten-minute drive I encountered the intro to the same song on another station. I could have listened to almost all of it again by the time my drive was ended, if I was so inclined.

I'm convinced that life is full of these coincidences every moment of the day, and it's just that we don't have the information to be conscious of them, or we aren't conscious enough to recognize them.

For instance, a professional hitman named Chuck Harrelson once confessed to murdering JFK, then later recanted. He was married to the former Diane Lou Oswald at the time. The murder was pinned on one Lee Harvey Oswald, who, as we all know, was killed in custody. So, was Lee Harvey a relation of Diane Lou? Or did the somewhat obsure but not strange name, Oswald, suddenly appear twice at the same Presidential assassination scene by random chance?

My poor Google skills have yet to reveal an answer, having tried again today. But I say that if I hear of another tied game, 11-10 score, or undefeated season in the near future, I may well cut the Oswald angle some slack. Hey, Sosa hits Grand Slams in bunches, so perhaps Oswalds are associated with Presidential assassinations in bunches, at random. It would just be nice to know for sure.

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