## Friday, October 20, 2006

### Edmonton's hot hand over Saskatchewan ends after 29 seasons

In 2006, for the first time in 30 years, the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders will finish with a better record than the Edmonton Eskimos.

In
this article (link may expire), Brian Grest, a math teacher from the Saskatoon area, quotes the odds against 29 straight 50-50 underachievings at 536,870,912 to 1.

Actually, the correct odds are actually 536,870,911 to 1. But I bet that error is the reporter’s fault, not Grest’s. (Also, the reporter calls this “nearly half-a-billion to one” -- the word “nearly” seems kind of inappropriate here.)

A quick check of the CFL website shows that the two teams actually tied in the standings twice in that 29-year span. In both cases, the CFL website shows Edmonton ahead. The article says the Eskimos got the nod in
2004 based on points differential, which was the CFL tiebreaker rule. However, in 1988, it was the Saskatchewan that had the better differential. Maybe the tiebreaker rule was different then, but I’m too lazy to try to find out.

Mr. Grest seems he would have thought of ties, and I’m betting he got it right. But if we count ties as just ties, and they happen 5% of the time, the probability of 29 straight wins or ties is “only” 1 in 130,430,813. If ties happen twice in 29 years on average, the chance is 1 in 77,610,895.

Finally, I think we have a new winner of the “reporter attributing every mathematical fact to someone else, just in case” award:

“Grest calculated that, all things being equal, Edmonton has a one in two chance of finishing ahead of Saskatchewan in any given season.”

Not to mention that that the word “calculated” also seems kind of inappropriate here.

By the way, I don’t know whether 29 consecutive years of domination is exceedingly rare, or just plain rare. Did the Yankees ever finish ahead of anyone for 29 consecutive years? Maybe the A’s?