FIVE WORLD CUP ODDITIES
Every World Cup brings with it some oddities—the headbutt heard 'round the world, the hand of God, etc—but a World Cup in Russia is bound to be unforgettable. Here are five facts that I cannot get out of my head as planet earth feasts its eyes on futbol, futbol, futbol.
1. The Hot Foot Fallacy
Does a winning steak have predictive power over future results? Namely—if a random squad juices up midway through the World Cup, should you put money down on their success? In basketball, we call this "the hot hand fallacy," and the short answer is NYET. Human beings have a cognitive predisposition to underestimating chance. In 1985, University of Michigan researchers penned "The hot hand in basketball: On the misperception of random sequences," a study of whether or not a basketball player's chance of hitting a shot was greater following a hit versus a miss. The result? While players' expectations skewed positive, their actual chances of hitting did not change significantly...hence, reversion to the mean will always get you in the end. If your reserve-bin team goes on a tear, could your wallet score too? Don't bet on it.
2. Cat is the new Octopus
Paul the Octopus captured our hearts in 2010 with his terrifying World Cup predictive abilities (who cares about the hot foot fallacy when you have a hot-topus?) But was his demise the end of animal oracles? Absolutely not. Russia has a deaf, psychic cat named Achilles who has already correctly predicted the winner of the opening match. He even dressed in the national team kit. My favorite bit of this whole story, however, is the quote from The Hermitage's veterinarian Anna Kondratyeva: "[Achilles] loves his motherland and couldn’t vote otherwise.”
You have served the state well, comrade cat!
3. What Everyone Else Thinks
Do you know who else likes to predict World Cup outcomes? Banks and video game makers. In fact, the latter simulated the whole tournament—which begs the question why we even need a real one in the first place! EA Sports played an entire virtual World Cup already and have decided that France will defeat Germany when the fireworks flare. Commerzbank (HQ: Frankfurt) says nein; their data wonks predict that the home team will repeat. Goldman Sachs is putting their bets on Brazil, and frankly God has previously favored Argentina.
4. Starving for Soccer
Speaking of Argentina, prisoners in Buenos Aires have gone on a HUNGER STRIKE unless their TV is repaired to show World Cup matches. The inmates have faced the worst-timed three days of cable outages, and are appealing to a judge to get some screen time. Three days seems a bit short to trigger a hunger strike if you ask me, but I also studied Catalan for six months in college so that I could sing the Barcelona anthem at Camp Nou. Messi will do that to you.
5. World Cup Fashion Frenzy?
The Wall Street Journal surmises that World Cup fashion has dressed our men for the better. This is an interesting theory given some of the monstrosities I've seen on David Beckham, but Louis Vuitton man-purses do seem to have hit a more mainstream stride since the LV logo became the international calling card for footballer. By the way, have you seen some of the kits this year? Nigeria is on fire.