Please pardon me while I temporarily divert from the challenges of daily life to talk about two completely unrelated and enjoyable phenomena.
First, I warned our head of marketing Betsy O’Rourke that I was going to take some license with our new marketing platform “The Sea is Calling. Answer it Royally.” My alternative version is “The Track is Calling. Answer it Early.” I realize most people wouldn’t associate a 5:30 a.m. workout session on the track with anything enjoyable. So I won’t go there. But I will say my evolution from rarely working out early in the morning to working out early nearly every morning has affected more than my running. I have found that the world between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. is a different place and interesting in its own right. Even in a metropolitan area there are sometimes plenty of stars to see. Sometimes there are possums waddling across the street or raccoons racing across. My vision of the iconic newspaper delivery boy has given way to the reality of a madman in a pickup truck who drives on both sides of the road depending on where he is going to flip the next paper, making it nearly impossible to know where to run to avoid him. And once I get to the track itself, I encounter an element of humanity with little in common except they all arrived early at the track. This is a sufficient connection to cause some complete strangers to say hello to one another. In the dark. Where else are you going to find that?
Second, there is the annual Goldstein family NFL playoff prediction competition. This is a family tradition that is at least 40 years old. No money is at stake, just pride. I will explain how it works but first I’m going to explain something else. When we started in the early 1970’s, all of the five contestants lived in the same house and watched the games on the same television. Today, this tradition causes the most communication within the family during the course of the year and (thanks to the internet) mitigates the geographical spread of the 11 competitors whose places of residence encompass Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Seattle and Nagoya, Japan. While it is not the same without my father in the role of commissioner and scorekeeper, I hope the tradition lives for many more years. I also recommend something like it to the readers and would be happy to hear about whatever family traditions any of you may wish to volunteer. Here is how it works:
Over the Wild Card and Division play-off weekends (total 8 games), the scoring approach is identical for each game. Each competitor predicts an exact score. When a game is over, the game is scored on 4 criteria: win/loss, point spread, home team points, away team points. If you picked the winner, 20 points for you. If you picked the loser, no points for you. For the point spread, 20 points are awarded to the person who predicted the spread closest to the actual spread regardless of whether the person picked the winner or not, 15 to the next closest, then 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 0 – 0 – 0. For the home team points and the away team points, the available points are 10 – 8 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 – 0 – 0 in each case. So for any given game a person could score anywhere from 0 to 60 points. The only difference between the first eight games and the two conference championship games is the available points in the latter games are doubled. The Super Bowl is worth triple points. In other words, the first 8 games are worth 8/15 of the total points and the last three games are worth 7/15. That means you can mess up several of the first eight games and still make a dramatic comeback by nailing the last three. And what better way to nail a game than to predict the exact score of the game, which in addition to bringing major, major bragging rights comes with a 50 point bonus? My guess is there has been a perfect prediction about once every two years, none more impressive than my brother Ben nailing the Giants 20 – 49ers 17 NFC Championship score this year. Note – one year I lost a perfect 20 – 10 prediction when the winning team took a safety at the end of the game. Ouch!
All of the above may seem like a lot, but you have a year to get ready and there’s really only one rule. You have to make your prediction before the game starts. Enjoy!