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Math Geek Mom

What to expect… when your city is in the playoffs.

April 27, 2017
 
 

I recently taught the concept of “Expected Value.” This is the value that is found from an experiment indicating the payoff that one can expect to derive from that experiment. It is found by multiplying the possible outcomes by the probability of each outcome. While important, the concept of “expected utility” carries more weight in Economics, as it asks what value a person puts on the outcome of an experiment. If a person values a “sure bet” more than a random event with an expected value equal to that sure bet, then we say that the person is “risk adverse.” As you might guess, most people are risk adverse in many situations.

I found myself thinking of expected value recently, as once again, for the third year in a row, the Cleveland basketball team is involved in the end of the season playoffs. This time, however, I believe that we have some sense of what to expect from the next few weeks. We don’t know if they will once again win the championship, and certainly would not dare to do what it is rumored another city did in recent memory, making t-shirts proclaiming “back to back championships.” As much as Cleveland hopes that it will pull off such a feat, this city has spent too many years without any championship at all to jinx ourselves with a move of such hubris.

Last year, the final game that led to our championship played while my family was on vacation together. My 81 year old father, who had grown up in Brooklyn with the (Brooklyn) Dodgers often having a shot at a championship, took things much more in stride than did my family. He had a look of shock on his face as he watched the three of us scream and jump around the room, surely awaking vacationers in the condos near us. “They won! They won!” we yelled. It was the first time in over fifty years that people from Cleveland could say that about a major league sports team in a national championship tournament.

And now we are back, again. Last week provided us with a step forward in the 2017 championship, as we advanced to the next round. Against whom, we needed to wait to find out, but the next round will definitely include the Cleveland Cavaliers. For those who have not been able to experience Cleveland in a championship tournament, I wanted to take a second to explain what we can expect in the next few weeks.

There is something different about being in Cleveland when their sports teams are succeeding. People walk around with their heads held a little higher, with big smiles on their faces, and are, I perceive, just a little nicer to each other. In addition, it seems that no one wants to watch the games alone, and these are events to be savored, together.

The gatherings happen just about everywhere. In bars and homes, and most interesting, on a  “Jumbo Tron” in the stadium where games are played, when the team is playing elsewhere. Admission cost is low, and beer flows in what is otherwise a family event. Our parish even got into the party the last few years, with a tent and a large screen TV. Last year, when we were out of town for the final game, my daughter wished that she could have been here for the celebrations.

And there were celebrations, mostly civilized, and some planned. My daughter, who will not have many memories of failed seasons, made us promise her that the NEXT TIME they won, she could be there for the victory parade. Having just ended fifty years of no such parade, I said “yes.” Now I wonder if I was too quick to agree.

I grew up in Yankee territory, went to a college that regularly made it to NCAA basketball finals, and was in Washington, D.C. the year their football team won the super bowl. However, no championship will ever mean as much to me as the one that my adopted city of Cleveland won after fifty years of drought.

Have any of my readers ever been part of a championship celebration?

         Here we go again… Go CAVS!

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