HOW MANY CHANCES
A COACH talks to his basketball players,
huddled around the bench during a game.
Okay team, three seconds left. The way I see it, we've got
one chance: get the ball to Jimmy and have him hit a bucket to win the game.
What do you guys say?
I'll make it.
Coach, this is crazy!
You have a problem with Jimmy taking the last shot?
No, I think Jimmy has the best chance of hitting it. But ONE
chance? That's just not true, statistically speaking.
Well, it's our BEST chance, right?
Sure, sure! It's our BEST chance. But when dealing with
statistics, you can't disregard alternate cases -- classic false reasoning!
Like I could take the last shot -- that's another chance.
So you're saying that YOU want to take the shot?
Not at all! I'm a defensive specialist -- not suited to long
range shots. BUT that IS another chance.
I see, so we have two chances!
No we have at least FIVE chances -- any of us could
THEORETICALLY take the last shot.
Okay, fine, fine. Team, we have five chances left, one of
them significantly more likely to work out.
Hey don't forget the possibility of them fouling us.
They're not going to foul us.
No, but they COULD! Sure, it's unlikely. But one of their
players could decide last minute to foul whoever catches the inbound. That
would give someone two foul shots. That's another chance.
And that could happen to any of us!
Right! So that's another FIVE chances!
I'm starting to feel like we've got this in the bag!
Look! None of those things is going to happen! They're not
going to foul us, and no one except for Jimmy has a chance of hitting a tough
The team protests.
No, no, no. It's just we have SLIM chances! But those chances
still exist and have to be factored!
What if they forfeit!
Oooh! Another chance!
They're not going to forfeit!
We're up to eleven chances!
Guys, let's focus on getting the ball in Jimmy's hands.
What if there's an earthquake that cracks the court open and
makes it so we can't finish?
We could definitely appeal to re-play the game -- that's
This is Indiana, jackass! There hasn't been an earthquake
here in recorded history.
Yeah coach, you were trying to sell us short!
What's the matter coach, you don't believe in us?
Okay! Fine! Gather round. Guys, three seconds left. We have a
finite number of chances left. Of those chances, one stands out to me as more
likely than the others, that our best player gets to take the last shot,
preferably in a high-percentage shot situation, i.e. as close to their basket
That is statistcally sound!
Seconds later, an unprecedented tidal wave from Lake Erie
washed over Indiana, filling the gym with water and destroying both teams and
everyone in the stands. Though tragic, the real tragedy is no one will ever
know just how mathematically accurate that team of underdogs really was.