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About That Curse August 21, 2011

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

The Hockey News has picked the Caps to win the Stanley Cup this year–old news by now–and the reaction here in Caps Nation seems to have been a collective “Oh Noes!”

I don’t think it’s warranted, to be honest. Whether or not the Caps skate the Cup next June will be decided on the ice next spring, not on the page this summer.

Look, predictions–and you can take this from someone who’s made one or two of them in his day–are nothing more than guesses. When you predict something, you take a look at the data in front of you, try to make sense of it, and take your best guess as to what’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if your data source is a mountain of hockey statistics, or a deck of tarot cards: in the end, all you’re doing is guessing. Regardless of your data source, guessing is all you can do.

And as an aside, I would suspect that applies to ANY data source, all the way up to the Akashic records. Even if you’re using some of the more advanced paranormal methods, you’d still be getting a look at the MOST LIKELY event. But you know what they say about what ultimately got lost for want of a nail. Small events can sometimes lead to drastic outcomes. In fact, if you haven’t seen “Sliding Doors,” put it on your Netflix queue if you want to see that concept played out on film. The point is, in a free-will universe–which is what I believe we live in–small actions in Game 1 of the regular season could conceivably have major repercussions in Series O of the playoffs. There are too many decisions, too many “what-if” scenarios before the season starts, to be able to say with absolute certitude that the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion will be this team or that. And I would say that’s even true of the more esoteric data sources. There are just too many free-will decisions ahead of us right now, to do anything more than make a best guess, regardless of data source.

Does that mean preseason predictions are useless? Certainly not! For one thing, they’re fun to make, and fun to criticize when others make them. Also, they give us a way to evaluate the offseason, and they give us something to discuss when we don’t have actual games to watch. They’re an interesting way to keep our attention on the game we love. So, why not?

Now, with regard to whether or not getting picked by The Hockey News has any sort of negative supernatural impact: I very seriously doubt it. If their preseason favorite historically doesn’t do well, then THN’s prognosticators may perhaps need to interpret their data sources differently. But I personally do not subscribe to the theory that one media outlet’s guess, by itself, is so spiritually malevolent that it can somehow render an entire hockey season worthless before it even starts.

Because that, ultimately, is what the idea of a “THN curse” reduces to.

Is THN’s track record with preseason picks all that great? Not really. But when you’re talking about a regular season composed of 1,230 games, each of which is filled with many, many free-will decisions, followed by four playoff rounds, best of seven, AGAIN filled with many, many free-will decisions, sooner or later, something unexpected is bound to occur. By definition, you can’t predict the unexpected. So, even if you’re reading your data perfectly, you can still get it wrong. (Been there, done that.) ESPECIALLY when you’re talking about the very long, very complex series of what-ifs that comprises an NHL season.

Consider, if you would, the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the ’67 expansion, but I don’t think anyone’s pointing to anything supernatural as the culprit. Now, they’re not very well-liked out of market, and that much ill will from other Canadian fans may indeed have some kind of spiritual impact. It’s hard to say for sure, but Toronto’s troubles seem by most accounts to be easily ascribed to the mundane. Put simply, I don’t think the Leafs are cursed; they’re just making the wrong choices.

Now, even if there were some kind of negative repercussions to being a preseason favorite of THN, what of it? Curses have a way of getting broken: just ask the Blackhawks about the history, and aftermath, of Pete Muldoon’s ouster in 1926.

Let me put this another way. I thought this is going to be our year before THN picked us, and I still think the same thing now. Again, I just can’t see the idea that one hockey publication’s educated guess, by itself, means that the entire upcoming hockey season in Washington is futile.

Now, if we all get panicky and start giving up on our team before the season even starts, we won’t be the spiritual support our team needs us to be. And that could make all the curse jibber-jabber become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that would be our decision, not THN’s. So let’s put the kibosh on all of this, right now, and dismiss this curse nonsense as merely the product of a slow news season in the NHL.

Believe, Caps Nation. You can do it.




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