Indie Sport
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There's an old saying among the cognoscenti in Hollywood: when it comes to picking a winner, nobody knows anything.

Louis B. Mayer yanked the song "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz because he was certain that it slowed down the movie and wouldn't work with the film's star, Judy Garland, singing it in a barnyard. Miraculously, he was persuaded otherwise by executive producer Arthur Freed and the rest is history.

United Artists was so certain of Oscar-winning director Michael Cimino's cinematic ability that they permitted him to triple his allotted budget in the making of Heaven's Gate, a movie so lengthy and bad that it was described as the equivalent of a "four-hour walking tour of one's own living room." The film lasted one week in a New York theater, then led to the demise of UA.

Nobody knows anything.

It's an axiom that is every bit as applicable in the world of sport. Of the more than 3 million forecasts submitted to ESPN by bracketologists nationwide, only two correctly picked the winner in each of the first 48 games that have now whittled down the field to the Sweet 16 in this year's NCAA basketball tournament. The millions who failed to make the grade can rest assured, however, that the dynamic duo who nailed this perfecto simply employed a little sports proctology and pulled their predictions out of their posteriors.

With little sense of irony we deride the carnival fortune teller, while investing hours of time in sports pundits who expertly and pseudo-expertly parse the nuances of a given match-up down to the sub-atomic level, only to find that the contest turns on a slippery center-court decal, or a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm created by an underdog, or a bad piece of chicken consumed by a key player, or some other ineffable set of variables that can never be known.

But that's why we watch, isn't it?

What comes to mind when you think of the greatest moments you've witnessed in sports? It's the element of surprise. It's the sense of wonder and astonishment when performances materialize that are so unexpectedly magnificent they take your breath away. It's the deep satisfaction you feel when the precarious chasm between ambition and achievement has been bridged into the realization of a seemingly impossible goal.

Uncertainty about the outcome in sport is both the hook that pulls us in and the risk athletes take in their pursuit of victory. It's what separates sport so splendidly from the mundane drone of our largely predictable lives.

For the past week Indie Sport has spoofed our insatiable urge to forecast events in a series of posts, in which fictional "mascotologist" Slim Pickins predicted the Round 1 winners in this year's March Madness tournament based solely upon the characteristics of competing mascots (see previous Indie Sport posts, The Morning Buzz, et. al for a complete background on the ancient art of mascotology).

We hypothesized that Pickins' method would prove to be about as good-- or bad-- as any other in getting it right, and that actually seems to have been the case. Of the 49 games contested in Round 1, including the Mount Saint Mary's-Coppin State play-in game, Mr. Pickins divined the winner 39 times, an 80% success rate.

But readers who followed this thread also know that our in-house pundit demonstrated a strangely consistent ineptitude forecasting games involving Wildcats and dogs. In fact, his Achilles heel was so pronounced that when games involving these two mascots were factored out, Mr. Pickins' record ballooned to 34-3, a 92% success rate. All of this, of course, is nothing more than statistical hocus-pocus, for our guesses here at Indie Sport were nothing more than that-- guesses.

Nobody knows anything.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Indie Sport

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