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Don’t be misled by popular assumptions

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webmaster | 02/04/13

Now that the Super Bowl is over for another year, we might look at a few assumptions about the game that may be true ... and then, again, may not. In their popular book “Freakonomics,” authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner take on assumptions we all believe to be true, but turn out not to be true at all.

Leavitt is a University of Chicago economist and Dubner is a journalist and book author.

For instance, the two take on political campaign spending, which is widely regarded, being in the billions, to be obscene. Calls go out every year for campaign-spending limits.

Yet, in comparison to other things, campaign spending may not be all that much. It is about the same as Americans spend annually on chewing gum, the authors report. While chewing gum is widely used (he wrote, as he chewed), there is no hue and cry for reform of chewing gum prices. I will tell you from personal experience, however, that chewing prices have been going up, so if you hear a hue or a cry about that, don’t be surprised.

“The conventional wisdom is often wrong,” they write, and that certainly was true of the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers, in the minds of football prophets hereabouts, at any rate, were favored to win. They didn’t.

They didn’t lose by the 22 points they were behind at the end of the first half, and their surge didn’t begin until the third quarter, after the lights went out for 34 minutes in the New Orleans Superdome.

Which brings us to another observation by Levitt and Dubner, which is that dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle causes.

The power outage meant the game had to stop, which in itself was dramatic, but after the lights came back on, so did the 49ers, who scored 17 points in just 4 1/2 minutes, and then another 8 points.

By the way, here’s another of the pair’s observations: Experts, in this case football seers, can be beat at their own game.


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