Saturday, May 2, 2009

notes on Sports Betting situations

This year the Pistons were swept in the playoffs.  They didn't cover the point spread for a single game.  They lost every game by at least ten points.

The Pistons.  I mean THE Pistons.  The franchise that year four years ago beat Kobe, Shaq, Malone, Gary Payton, and Phil Jackson for an NBA title.  Reduced to getting swept.  A footnote in the playoffs.  

Observers agree that they didn't put up a fight in a single game.  Rasheed Wallace was disengaged and didn't care.  Tayshuan Prince played horribly.  The team had a horrible season and will be losing some more keys players to free agency.  

But sports bettors and lines-makers kept expecting the Pistons to fight back.  And they never did.  

Was this predictable?  I think it definitely could have been.  After all, it was a major event, happened consistently, and after the fact some data becomes clearer and more visible.  Like how the Pistons genuinely struggled all season.  How they weren't very good.  How they had serious chemistry problem.  

So why was the spread so high?  Why had a team that always fought back, that never said die, decided to quit playing?  I don't know.  But I know it happened.  

And no one could believe it.  No one could believe that a dynasty was ending; and it wasn't ending with a bang, but a wimper.  People couldn't accept the change they saw with their eyes.

The problem with being a human is that we have imperfect memory.  If what we see doesn't agree with what we saw before, we just discount what we are seeing.  

We literally disbelieve our senses in order to stop a conflict in our reality.  If we had perfect memory, or complete knowledge, we would know that this his how team's runs end.  They get swept.  They know it.  A year after winning the title, the Heat were swept in the first round.  With virtually the same lineup.  They reached a level of fatigue, exhaustion, and simply couldn't compete with a younger, more fired up team.  Two years later the Pistons as we knew them wimpered out of the playoffs, losing to a younger, more aggressive team.  And they knew it.  They knew they couldn't win.  And they didn't bother fighting.  

Its this knowledge of defeat on the part of the loser that is so intriguing.  When teams give up.  When they've met their expectations for success and then give in to another team.  

It is this failure that I need to investigate.  The Knicks of 2007-2008.  The Clippers of 2008-2009.  A team that just lets itself get trampled.  Every once in a while they rise up to meet some new level of expectation that they have.  

Thats the key fact: the Piston's expectations for the season, the level of success that was acceptable for them, had changed.  And none of us knew it.  They were fighting to make the playoffs.  A team that won a championship, played in another Finals, and made six straight Eastern Finals, knew they weren't as good.  

They knew in their hearts they weren't making any waves.  So they just gave up.  

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